Princes of the Outback Bundle

BOOK: Princes of the Outback Bundle
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Princes of the Outback Bundle
By Bronwyn Jameson

Outback Reunion
The Rugged Loner
The Rich Stranger
The Ruthless Groom

Outback Reunion

By Bronwyn Jameson

Chapter One

Dominic Mori first spotted the vehicle from the air as he made his approach to the Kameruka Downs airstrip. Not a station utility, he noted, but a citified four-by-four driving too cautiously for a local. In the Australian outback, thousands of miles from any self-respecting city, you noticed what didn’t belong.

Nic noticed and then he switched focus to his landing. Not that he needed to concentrate. The Carlisles’ new King Air was one sweet piece of machinery; landing it was a smooth contrast to some of the rattle-traps he’d flown recently.

At the hangar, Nic found his ride—a station ute driven by a young stockman named Jeremy—waiting. Once they were tearing back toward the spread of buildings that marked the heartbeat of the Carlisle family’s huge cattle station, he forgot about the other vehicle. He forgot everything other than the full-chested sense of homecoming.

Ironic really, given the time he’d dreamed of sprouting wings to escape the endless stretch of nothing. That was in the early years, after Joe Mori had dragged his three kids, belly-aching all the way, out here to work for the Carlisles. Personal chef to one of Australia’s wealthiest families was a sweet gig for Joe, but their outback home was a kick-in-the-nuts culture shock for a city-reared eleven-year-old.

Nic adapted. Eventually. His friendship with the Carlisles’ sons helped. So did learning that he
could
sprout wings. Every outback station had at least one plane. The Carlisles owned half a dozen, and Nic learned to fly before he learned to drive.

Those lessons were one of many things he owed Charles Carlisle. He only hoped the old man lived long enough to accept his repayment.

Remembering this morning’s hospital visit, Nic’s gut clenched. All the Carlisles were gathered at Charles’s bedside at a private hospital in Sydney—his wife, Maura, and their sons, Alex, Rafe and Tomas.

There’d been little Nic could do—just this one little favor, a token gesture to reassure them that all was well out here…that the tabloid media which shadowed their every move hadn’t made inroads into this last bastion of privacy.

“Where to, boss?” Jeremy slowed near the homestead, awaiting directions.

“Maura’s place.”

“You wanna take this truck?”

Nic did. Having a vehicle at his disposal for the few days of his visit was necessary given the isolation of Charles and Maura’s house. They’d built it when Tomas married, happily leaving the main homestead to their son and his new bride. Everyone called it Maura’s place, because she lived there year-round. Charles spent much of his time in Sydney, looking after his extensive business interests.

He was thinking about that—and about how Charles Carlisle wouldn’t be looking after any business interests now—when he noticed the strange vehicle again. Parked outside Maura’s place. The white four-by-four bore rental plates and a thick coating of outback dust. The dust belonged…the vehicle did not.

As he climbed out of his borrowed truck, Nic’s narrowed gaze scanned the house sitting still and quiet in the deepening twilight. As he crossed the wide expanse of lawn and took the flagstone steps onto the verandah, his senses went on high alert.

Slowly he opened the front door and walked inside. His boot heels creaked on the bare timber floor, the only sound fracturing the hush of silence. There was no sign of occupation…except for the camera on the coffee table.

If one of the tabloid paper scum had dared come into Maura’s house, he’d tear the
—Nic stopped in the doorway to a bedroom. The shades were partly drawn and it took him a second to adjust to the dimness, to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him.

“Holy shit,” he murmured, moving farther into the room, closer to the bed, to the sleeping woman.

She stirred slightly, enough that her red-gold hair caught the little remaining light—enough that the covers bared the smooth curve of her shoulder. Pale skin, delicate bones, familiar freckles…

Olivia.

What the hell was she doing out here? In Maura’s house? In his bed?

His insides jumped in response, then his whole body tightened in anticipation. He sat on the end of the bed and started pulling off his boots.

He was about to find out.

Chapter Two

Olivia Shay burrowed deeper into her dream. It was a nice place to be—the perfect escape from her dark sorrow after visiting Brooke’s grave.

She didn’t even mind when the dream changed tenor and took her to a place she’d sworn never to visit again. That sweet dream world enveloped her in heat and sensations so real she swore she could feel his breath on her face, the scent of his skin, his hands in her hair.

Those magical hands slid down her back, over her hips, curved around her buttocks…. With a low sigh, she snuggled closer to the source of all that heat. What did it matter when it was just a dream? An escape, an indulgence, a hundred luscious memories.

He always did know just how to touch her. Just like that. So perfect, so real.

Livvy’s eyelids fluttered open. A familiar pair of coal-dark eyes gazed into hers and her heart did a major stutter. A slow, sexy smile spread across the face peering down at her.

“Hey, Liv. Did I wake you?”

She bolted out of bed as if she’d been hit on the rump by a red-hot branding iron.

“Dammitalltoblazes, Dominic Mori! What are you doing?”

And what are you doing
here
?

He propped himself up in the bed and turned on the bedside lamp. Livvy wished he hadn’t. Now she could see what she’d been nuzzling up against.

Six-and-a-bit feet of hard, dark and handsome. Oh, and the world’s finest chest, bare all the way to where the sheet pooled below his waist.

Had he stripped all the way to the skin?

Face warm, her gaze snapped back to his…and found him looking her over. In a way that reminded her that she’d stripped down to underwear before crawling into bed. And that she hadn’t miraculously covered up in the meantime.

Livvy grabbed the first thing at hand—a shirt, which smelled disturbingly like the man stretched out in her bed. Since the shirt fell almost to her knees, it would do for the time being. She finished buttoning. “You haven’t answered my question.”

“What am I doing right now?” His voice was as slow and sexy as his smile. As dark and hot as his eyes. Damn him. “I’m lying here wishing you hadn’t bolted out of this bed.”

“I was asleep.”

“I noticed.”

“You took advantage!”

“Not as much as I’d have liked.”

Their eyes met in a clash of heat and memories. Not of the last five or ten minutes, but of the many, many times she’d let him take advantage. And the equal number of times she’d acted as seducer.

Lordy, she only needed to walk into a room and see him, just like this, to get turned on. With his arms folded behind his head, showing off the strong curve of his biceps and the softer line of his underarm…

She had to get out of the bedroom—her, plus Dominic Mori, plus nearby bed, had only ever resulted in one thing.

Not that the one thing hadn’t been good. For three years, on and off, every time he’d returned from wherever far-off place he’d been trying to kill himself in a beat-up bush plane, it had been wonderful. Incredible, synapse-frying, heart-stopping magic.

But after her sister’s death had shattered her world, everything had changed. She couldn’t do the more-off-than-on sex-on-call relationship anymore. He knew that. She’d poured it all out in a four-page letter six months ago. He had no business coming back and acting as if everything was hunky-dory.

It wasn’t hunky-dory. It was over.

Quickly, she gathered up her clothes and stalked to the door. “I’m going to get dressed. Once you’ve done the same, I’ll see you in the kitchen and you can tell me what the blazes you think you’re doing in my bed!”

Chapter Three

Nic puzzled over her question while he showered and dressed. Wasn’t the answer obvious? He hadn’t seen her in six-and-a-half months and then there she was—in bed, in her underwear.

In the kitchen—no longer in her underwear, dammit!—she paced impatiently, turning when he appeared in the doorway to fire off another question.

“What are you doing here at Kameruka, anyway?”

Nic leaned his hips against the kitchen island. “You know about Charles?”

She nodded. “Any change in his condition?”

“Every day he’s slipping.”
Every day a bit closer to the end
. “They asked me to come and check up on things. Especially here at Maura’s.”

“And Maura didn’t tell you that I’d be here?”

“She knew?”

“I spoke to her more than a week ago. She invited me to stay here. When she was called away to Sydney, she said not to change my plans.”

Nic watched her fuss with the coffeemaker for several seconds while he put those pieces together. “She didn’t say a word to me. About you being here.”

“Am I expected to believe you just happened upon me?”

“I expect,” he said slowly as the final piece clicked into place, “you to believe I was set up.”

“By Maura?”

“No, by Rafe.” Shaking his head slowly, Nic expelled a rueful
huh
of appreciation. This was exactly Rafe Carlisle’s style. His friend just loved to play games. “Now that I think about it, it was Rafe who asked me to fly out here. He even suggested I camp here at Maura’s.”

Which begged the question…

“What are you doing here, Liv?”

“Visiting Brooke.”

She said it simply, a matter-of-fact statement. But he saw the slight lift of her chin. The stiffness in her posture. The glassy sheen in her eyes.

“Ah, Liv, I’m sorry, honey.”

He started to reach for her, wanting to offer comfort, but she held up both hands, warding him off. “It’s been a tough day, okay. Please don’t make it any worse.”

“Would me holding you make it worse?”

“Yes.”

Nic didn’t pretend to understand women, especially when they got all emotional, but Liv’s answer struck him as wrong. And her behavior since his arrival was all kinds of wrong. Sure, coming out here had to be tough. But that wasn’t it—that wasn’t all.

“What’s going on, Liv?”

“I told you—tough day. I drove all the way from Darwin without stopping because I wanted to get here while it was still light. My mother wanted a photo of the headstone. She won’t come out here. It’s too far, too hard on her.”

“And not too hard on you?”

“It was necessary…and not just because of the picture.” She drew a shaky breath. Rubbed her hands up and down her arms as if to chase away a chill. “I won’t be able to get back here for a while. I’m going away. To Los Angeles.”

“On holiday?”

“No.” She lifted her chin and met his eyes. “Grant offered me a job with his production company. I’ve decided to take it.”

BOOK: Princes of the Outback Bundle
8.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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