Authors: Marion Lennox
For a moment she forgot all about her anger. Whew!
His Royal Highness, Prince Marc of Broitenburg, dressed in royal regalia, was really something. But just plain Marc, casually dressed in jeans and an open-necked shirt, was something else entirely.
His hair was now ruffled and curled. His gray eyes were smiling, the laughter lines on his tanned face creasing into deep and delicious crinkles. His smile was questioning, and his eyes searched the room until he found the sleeping Henry.
Whew, indeed! He made her want to take a step back.
Or maybe he made her want to take a step forwardâ¦.
was born on an Australian dairy farm. She moved onâmostly because the cows weren't interested in her stories! Marion writes Medical Romance
novels as well as Harlequin Romance
books. Initially she used a different name for each category, so if you're looking for past books, search also for author Trisha David. In her nonwriting life Marion cares (haphazardly) for her husband, teenagers, dogs, cats, chickens and anyone else who lines up at her dinner table. She fights her rampant garden (she's losing) and her house dust (she's lost). She also travels, which she finds seriously addictive. As a teenager Marion was told she'd never get anywhere reading romance. Now romance is the basis of her stories. Her stories allow her to travel, and if ever there was an advertisement for following your dream, she'd be it! You can contact Marion at www.marionlennox.com
Congratulations to Marion Lennox on her 50th book!
3742âA MILLIONAIRE FOR MOLLY
3726âA ROYAL PROPOSITION
was up a tree when royalty arrived.
Royalty might be unusual, but being up a tree wasn't. Tamsin Dexter spent half her life up trees. She was one of Australia's youngest and brightest tree surgeons, and Tammy's passion was propagating, treating or, as a last resort, felling trees and planting new ones to take their place.
Employed by the Australian National Parks Service, Tammy was as usual, working in the remote bushland that she loved so much. She was part of a team, but today she was working happily and successfully alone.
She had nothing to do with royalty.
But someone was under her tree right now and he certainly looked like royalty. Or maybe he was a duke. Or maybe he wasn't royalty. Could he be an admiral or something?
Maybe she didn't know, she conceded. Tammy's working knowledge of royalty, dukes and admirals was strictly limited. Were admirals as young as this? Maybe not.
What the stranger was wearing probably wasn't an admiral's uniform, she decided as she checked him out more closely. He was dressed in a sleek, expensively cut suit, embellished with rows of braid, medals and tassels. He'd arrived in a gleaming limousine, which was now parked under the tree she was working on, and a uniformed chauffeur remained in the driving seat.
Someone else was climbing out of the car now. The second man was older, and wore no braid or medals, but he still looked like some sort of official.
Which of the pair looked more out of place? Tammy
couldn't decide. Royalty or official? It didn't matter, but she knew who looked the most interesting.
Royalty. Definitely royalty.
The man she'd decided was royalty was tall. He was well over six feet, she thought, though it was tricky to judge from so far above him. He was immaculately groomed with jet black hair, thickly waved and raked back. His hair looked carefully arranged to suit the official status of his uniform, but perhaps ungroomed it would be the sort of tousled thatch that Tammy infinitely preferred in her men.
She grinned at the direction her thoughts were taking. That was a laugh. Her men.
were a figment of her imagination.
Figment or not, this man looked great. Wonderful. He was strongly built and had a sort of chiselled look about him: like one of Rodin's statues. His bone structure was superbâintensely, wonderfully masculine.
What else? Some things were obvious. He certainly wasn't the sort who lived in the bush. Even without the royal regalia, he looked the type who'd be at home drinking cafÃ© latte, or sipping wine in trendy city bars, with a sleek little Lamborghini parked nearby.
She knew the type, and it wasn't her type at all. Cheap tea boiled on a campfire with a few eucalyptus leaves thrown in for flavour was more Tammy's style.
So, what on earth were these two men and their chauffeur doing here? She swung lazily back in her harness and considered.
The bureaucrat was about fiftyâtwenty years or so older than the royalty-typeâand he was podgy. He was wearing a dark suit and his shirt had a too-tight collar. In comparison the younger man looked smooth, intelligent and sophisticated.
What a pair! In combination they looked almost absurd.
Here they were, in the middle of the Australian bush, and they were dressed as if they were expecting a royal reception. And to receive them there was only Tammy, swinging thirty feet above their heads.
What did they want?
âMiss Dexter?' the bureaucrat called, and Tammy frowned. Miss Dexter? That was her. What were this lot doing looking for
âThis is ridiculous,' the royalty guy was saying. âThe sort of woman I'm looking for wouldn't be working in a place like this.'
Tammy thought about that and agreed wholeheartedly. How many Miss Dexters were there in the world? Thousands, she decided. These guys had wandered off a movie set and needed directions to find their way home.
âMiss Dexter?' the bureaucrat called again, this time more urgently.
But still Tammy didn't respond. She stared down at the men below, and as she did she felt her insides give an unfamiliar lurch. Maybe it was a premonition. Maybe they weren't in the wrong place at all.
Maybe they spelled trouble.
âMiss Dexter?' the bureaucrat called again, in a tone that said that this was his last try, and she took a deep breath.
âI'm up here. What can I do for you?'
The voice from above his head made Marc start.
The foreman down the road had told him Tamsin Dexter was working in this clearing and he'd reacted with disbelief. What on earth was one of Lara's family doing working in a place like this? He'd been wondering that pretty much constantly for the last twenty-four hours, when the private investigator he'd hired had told him where he could find her.
âI've found your Tamsin Dexter. She's twenty-seven,
she's single, and she's working as a tree surgeon with the Australian National Parks Service. She's currently working in the National Park behind Bundanoon. Bundanoon's on the Canberra-Sydney Highway, so if you take an hour or so after the Canberra reception you could find her.'
The private investigator had come with excellent credentials, but Marc had reacted with incredulity. How could a tree surgeon be sister to a woman such as Lara? It didn't make sense. It must be the wrong Tamsin Dexter, he'd decided, and he'd sworn in vexation at the potential waste of time. He needed to work fast.
But the government reception in Canberra had been unavoidable. As Broitenburg's Head of State, Marc would step on too many toes if he visited Australia and refused it. Soâ¦If he had to attend it wouldn't hurt to detour through Bundanoon and see if he could find the woman.
Now he stared upward, and it was as much as he could do not to gasp out loud.
Tamsin was slim and wiry andâ¦tough, he decided. Or maybe âserviceable' was the best way to describe her. She was dressed in workmanlike khaki overalls and ancient leather boots. The boots were the closest thing to him, swinging back and forth above his head. They were battered and torn, and the laces had been repaired with knot after knot.
What else? She was young and obviously superbly fit. Her riot of jet-black curls was caught back with a piece of twine. Curls spread out to tangle glossily around her shoulders. They looked as if they hadn't seen a brush for a week. Though that might be unfair. If he was hanging where she was maybe his hair would look tousled as well.
He forced his gaze to move on, assessing the whole package. Her skin was tanned and clearâ¦weathered, almost. Wide, clear eyes gazed calmly down at him and he found
himself wondering what colour they were. Brown, like her sister's? He couldn't tell from here.
But what he could see was a perfect likeness of Lara. Hell, even the similarity made his gut clench in anger.
The detective had been right. This was the Tamsin Dexter he'd been looking for. He'd found her.
âCan I help you?' She was looking down at them as if they were the odd ones outâwhich, considering their clothes, wasn't surprising. She was still swinging from her harness, reluctant to come down unless it was really necessary.
It was necessary.
âI need you,' he told her.
âYou're Tamsin Dexter?'
âYep.' Still she made no sign of descent. Her attitude said she had work to do and they were interfering with it.
âMiss Dexter, this is His Royal Highness, Marc, Prince Regent of Broitenburg,' Charles interrupted, tugging his collar in anxiety. He wasn't comfortable in this situation and it showed. âCould you please come down?'
What would the ramifications of being rude to royalty be? The two men watched as she clearly thought about it and decided her best option was to swing a while longer.
âHi,' she said at last to Marcâthe good-looking oneâand then she looked across to Charles. The podgy one with the sweaty collar. âIf your friend's a prince, who are you?'
âI'm Charles Debourier. I'm ambassador toâ'
âDon't tell me. Let me guess. Ambassador to Broitenburg?'
âAnd Broitenburg isâ¦umâ¦somewhere in Europe?' She grinned, a wide, white smile that was so totally different from Lara's careful painted smile that Marc caught his breath at the sight of it.
What was he thinking? She was too much like Lara to interest him, he told himself savagely, and he didn't have time to waste thinking about women. Especially this one.
âYou don't know where Broitenburg is?' Charles demanded, and the woman's smile widened. She had a huge advantage over themâthirty feet, in fact.
âI've never been much interested in geography,' she told them. âAnd I left school at fifteen.'
Great. She was Lara's sister and illiterate besides. Marc's feelings of dismay intensified.
âBroitenburg's bordered by Austria on one side and Germany on the other,' Charles was saying, but Tammy was clearly unimpressed.
âOh, right. Come to think of it, I have heard of it. It's small, huh?'
âIt's an important country in its own right,' Charles snapped.
âI guess it must be, to send an ambassador to Australia.' She grinned again. âWell, it was nice to met you, Your Highness and Your Ambassadorship, and it was good of you to drop by, but I have a job to do before dusk.'
âI told you,' Marc said stiffly. âI need you.'
She'd been preparing to climb again, but she stopped at that. âWhy? Do you have trees in Broitenburg?'
âI'm not interested in job offers.'
She sounded as if she was serious, Marc thought incredulously. She sounded as if she seriously thought he'd travelled all the way to Australia and come to find her in this outlandish place, dressed in this ridiculous rig,
to ask her to look after some trees
He hated it. He hated this ornate, over-the-top uniform. He hated Charles's damned ostentatious car and his chauffeur. He hated royalty.
And the only way to get rid of it was via this chit of a girl.
âI'm not offering you a job,' he told her stiffly, and she stared.
âI'm here to ask you to sign some release papers,' Marc told her. âSo I can take your nephew back to Broitenburg where he belongs.'
The silence went on for so long that it became clear there was lots going on behind it. This was no void, for want of anything to say. This was a respite, where all could get their heads around what had been said.
Tammy had hauled herself up onto a branch and now she sat stock still, staring down as Marc stared back up at her.
She was accustomed to people hunting for her with job offersâwhich was crazy, as she didn't intend to leave Australia ever againâbut this was crazier still.
Charles discovered there were ants crawling over one of his shoes, and started shifting from foot to foot. He glanced up at Tammy and then at Marc before returning his gaze to the ants. Annoyed, or maybe to block out the silence, he started stomping on them.
His action gave Tammy more breathing space. âExcuse me, but those ants are protected,' Tammy said at last, almost conversationally, as though the previous words had not been said at all. âYou're in a National Park. The ants here have more rights than you do.'
Charles swore and shifted sideways. Onto more ants. He swore again, and cast an uncertain glance at Marc, and then, when Marc didn't speak, he shrugged and headed for the car. He'd done his job. He hadn't taken on an ambassadorship to stand under trees being bitten by ants.
âI said, I want to take your nephewâ' Marc said at last, and Tammy interrupted.
âI know what you said. But I don't know what you're talking about.'
Marc nodded. He'd expected as much. There'd been no wish to come to her sister's funeral. There'd been no contact made with the child. If it wasn't for the immigration authorities he could pick the little boy up and take him back to his country right now. She probably didn't even admit responsibility for him. At the thought of Henry's neglect, he felt his face darken with anger.
âIf you'd been in contact they would have told you I'd requested he be returned, but they need your consent.'
âUmâ¦' She was regarding him as if he was slightly off balance. âWho are
âThe child's nanny and the immigration authorities,' he snapped, and now he could control himself no longer. âYou can't object. You've shown yourself to be the world's worst custodian. If I hadn't been paying the nanny's salary he'd be in foster care right now. You and your sister and your motherâ¦you should be locked up, the three of you. Of all the uncaringâ'
He caught himself. Anger would achieve nothing, he told himself grimly. This woman didn't want the child. It was enough that she signed the papers and he could be done with the entire mess. âI'm sorry,' he said stiffly. âBut your sister's dead, your mother doesn't give a damn, and apparently neither do you. All I want is the release papers. You sign them for me, I'll take Henry back to Broitenburg, and you'll never see him again.'
Her look of confusion was absolute. âHenry?'
Hadn't she even bothered to remember the little boy's name? Marc thought back to the bereft little boy he'd left in Sydney and felt his anger rising all over again.
âI don't have a nephew.'
That took him aback. He stared up at her. âOf course you do.'
about it. You must have mistaken me for someone else. I only have one sisterâLaraâwho I haven't seen for years. That's the way we like it. Last time I saw Lara she was attached to a millionaire up on the Gold Coast, and if you're asking me if she has children I'd say you'd have to be joking. Lara would no sooner risk losing her gorgeous figure through childbearing than she would fly. Now, if you don't mindâ¦'