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Authors: Margaret Way

Outback Bachelor

BOOK: Outback Bachelor
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Vibrant, exotic settings!
Powerful family dynasties!
Brooding Outback bachelors!
Spirited women who fight for the men they love!

MARGARET WAY

Loved around the world for her dramatic and daring, tempestuous and timeless novels.

If you haven’t joined the millions of women who love Margaret Way’s stories, try one now!

Praise for the author:

“Margaret Way has over 80 books in print; all with a few things in common: glorious scenery, strong characters, and a powerful style of writing that keeps the reader turning the pages to see how it will end.”

—Diane Grayson,
www.theromancereader.com

“With climactic scenes, dramatic imagery and bold characters, Margaret Way makes the Outback come alive.”


RT Book Reviews

MARGARET WAY
Outback Bachelor

Margaret Way
, a definite Leo, was born and raised in the subtropical River City of Brisbane, capital of the Sunshine State of Queensland. A Conservatorium-trained pianist, teacher, accompanist and vocal coach, she found her musical career came to an unexpected end when she took up writing—initially as a fun thing to do. She currently lives in a harborside apartment at beautiful Raby Bay, a thirty-minute drive from the state capital, where she loves dining alfresco on her plant-filled balcony, overlooking a translucent green marina filled with all manner of pleasure craft—from motor cruisers costing millions of dollars, and big, graceful yachts with carved masts standing tall against the cloudless blue sky, to little bay runabouts. No one and nothing is in a mad rush, and she finds the laid-back village atmosphere very conducive to her writing. With well over a hundred books to her credit, she still believes her best is yet to come.

PROLOGUE

T
HE
night before she was to make her sad journey back to Djinjara, after a self-imposed absence, Skye’s dreams were filled with vivid childhood memories of life on the great station. Those had been the halcyon days when Djinjara had been the centre of her universe, the days before she had become overpowered by the McGoverns, cattle barons prominent among the nation’s great landed families. Broderick McGovern had been master of Djinjara when she had been growing up; a man with tremendous obligations and responsibilities, greatly respected by all. Keefe, his elder son, had been the heir. Scott, next in line, the difficult one, burdened with sibling rivalry issues, always making it his business to stir up discord. Rachelle, the youngest, was rather good at stirring up trouble herself, but happily for the McGovern dynasty Keefe was everything he was supposed to be. And much more.

By the time she was five she had fallen totally under his spell. She couldn’t imagine life without Keefe in it! A deprived child, struggling with the loss of a mother and a mother’s love and guidance, she found Keefe to be a source of continual comfort, delight and admiration. He commanded her world. It was a role her hard-working, grieving father didn’t seem able to fill. At least not for a long time. Skye’s father, Jack McCory, was a man who had never come to terms with losing his beautiful young wife Cathy in childbirth. Thereafter, he lamented it would never have happened only Cathy had insisted on having her child on the station instead of at Base Hospital.

By such decisions was our fate determined.

In her early years Skye couldn’t understand her father’s deep melancholy, neither as a child could she be expected to, though she always tried to ease it by being a good girl and putting her mind to her lessons at the station school. Her teacher, Mrs. Lacey, always embarrassed her, instructing the other children, offspring of station employees,
“Let Skye be an example to you!”

With Mrs. Lacey, an excellent teacher, she could do no wrong.

“Why shouldn’t she praise you?”
Keefe commented lazily when she complained.
“You’re one bright little kid. And you’re really, really pretty!”
This with a playful tug on her blonde curls. Keefe was six years her senior. From age ten he had been sent as a boarder to his illustrious private school in Sydney. The times he was home on vacation were, therefore, doubly precious to her.

 

Times changed. People changed with them. It wasn’t unusual for the bonds of childhood not to survive into adulthood. By the time Keefe became a man he was no longer the Keefe who had laughed at her, listened to her, tolerated her showing-off, taken her up on his shoulders while she squealed her pleasure at the top of her lungs. The
adult
Keefe not only filled her with awe, he came close to daunting her. Even when he was looking straight at her she imagined he was looking
through
her. Something absolutely fundamental between them had changed. What made it all that much harder to bear was it seemed to happen overnight.

Their respective roles became blindingly clear.

She could never, not
ever
, enter Keefe McGovern’s adult world.

Despite her strenuous efforts to distance herself, and make her own way in life, Keefe continued to live on in her mind and her dreams. He was her shooting star, with all a star’s grandeur. Not with the best will in the world could she change that. Obsessions, unlike many friendships, remained constant.

 

It had been devastation of a kind after she had made the break to go to university. It had become very important for her to separate herself from the McGoverns. Separate from Keefe, her hero. Even the thought made her weep, but her tears fell silently down the walls of her heart.

Keefe! Oh, Keefe!

Had
it
really happened those few years ago, or had she imagined it all?
Remember
. Oh, yes it had happened.

No young men she had met thereafter—and she had met many who were attracted to her—could measure up to Keefe. Now twenty-four she was making a success of her life even if she continued to feel deeply obligated to the McGoverns. Their interest in her had secured her bright future. McGovern money had paid for her expensive education. Her father explained years later that Lady McGovern, grandmother to Keefe, Scott and Rachelle, had insisted that fact be keep quiet.

“Skye is not to know. But she’s such a clever child she must be given the best possible chance in life.”

Although Lady McGovern had always been a majestic figure, as aloof as royalty, in all truth she had been oddly protective of a lowly employee’s young daughter. That alone had caused the ever-deepening rift between Rachelle and herself. Rachelle had a jealous nature. She loved both her brothers, but it was Keefe she adored. It was Keefe’s attention Rachelle always fought for. If it were true that some mothers couldn’t give up their sons to girlfriends and wives, it was equally true that some sisters were unwilling to take a back seat in their brother’s affections. Rachelle hung in there, determined Skye would never be allowed to stake a claim on the family. Skye was always
“the pushy little daughter of—can you believe—a station hand? Always trying to ingratiate yourself with our family.”
Reading between the lines, that meant Rachelle’s adored brother, Keefe. These were just a couple of the insults Rachelle tossed off like barbed arrows.

Over time, the insults worsened.

“You’re to be pitied. You may be chocolate-box pretty, but you’re so disadvantaged by your background. You’ll never be accepted into our world. So don’t even try!”
The tone Rachelle employed was so caustic she might have been trying to skin the younger girl alive. Skye learned early in life all about jealousy. It was to her credit such jealousy hadn’t crushed her. Rather, the reverse. She learned to stand up for herself. McGovern wealth, status and their pastoral empire gave them uncommon power. They certainly had power over her. Even in her dreams Keefe and Djinjara didn’t let go.

 

As she lay sleeping on that heated and stormy November evening, with the air-conditioner running full blast, she became trapped in that idyllic past as images began to flood her mind. So vivid were they, they brought into play all five of her senses. She could actually
smell
things,
feel
things,
hear
things,
taste
things. She could
see
all the rich colours, observe the legions of tiny emerald and gold budgies that flew overhead in their perfect squadron formations. It was stunning how clearly she was able to open a window on the past, a traveller in time…

She was five and back on Djinjara. Her father Jack was then a Djinjara stockman, later a leading hand, rising to overseer by the time she was ten. It was around about puberty that life abruptly became
different.
Suddenly out of nowhere she felt the weight of strange longings; an urgency and a hunger for sight and sound of Keefe, a pressing need for his company. She only saw him when they came together in the school vacations. It was way too long in between. What she was feeling, had she known it, was desire, but she was too young to recognise it. That was as well, for it was ill advised. Whatever Skye desired, it was never going to happen. Her intuitive response was to modify her warm, open manner to avoid embarrassing herself and, God forbid, Keefe.

In the academic year following her twelfth birthday she was stunned to learn she was to be sent away to Rachelle’s prestigious girl’s school. She had never thought such a thing could happen. The fees alone were way, way beyond her father’s modest means; the choice of such a college not even considered by a parent in Jack McCory’s position in life. This was a school for the social elite.

It took Skye years to find out the McGoverns had paid the fees. But back then, to make her father proud, she had worked very hard, graduating five years later with a top score. That score had enabled her to go to the university of her choice and study law. Her driving interest had become women’s affairs. She wanted to be in a position to help women facing serious legal problems, especially women facing such problems alone.

 

In her dream that hot, humid night, she was a child again, standing transfixed, holding fast to Keefe’s hand. They were looking out on an enchanted world of wildflowers. Never in her short life had she seen such an extraordinary spectacle! It was so beautiful it made her heart ache.

“The miracle after years of drought!”
Keefe’s voice lifted on a note of pride and elation.
“The desert wildflowers have arrived, little buddy!”
He often called her “little buddy” in those days. It was like real affection flowed between her and this Outback prince. That year, when she turned five, the flowers were out in their millions. They came in the wake of a major cyclone in the tropical Far North. The run-off floodwaters poured in great torrents down the interior’s Three Rivers System. They reached right into the Red Heart, spilling out of the infinite maze of intricate, interlocking waterways of the Channel Country, bringing great rejoicing even though station after station was left stranded in an inland sea.

In her dream, the flowers blazed their way across the great golden spinifex plains, climbed the fiery red pyramids of the sand dunes, spread right to the feet of the distant hills that always appeared to her child’s eye like ruined castles full of mystery and past splendours. The flowers were dazzling white, bright yellow, all the pinks and oranges, mauve into violet, vibrant reds, their colours dancing in the breeze. They were the loveliest creations she had ever seen, their beauty hazy under the golden desert sun.

“Thought you might like to see them.”
Keefe smiled down at her, pleased with her evident excitement, an excitement he shared. Marvellously handsome and clever, he was home for the long Christmas-New Year vacation.

“Oh, Keefe, it’s
magic!”
She clapped her hands, transported out of herself with joy. Even at that age she felt deeply.
“Thank you, thank you, for bringing me.”

“No need to thank me. I knew how much you’d love it. You’re our little Outback princess.”

In retrospect it was a very strange thing for him to say, though as a five-year-old she accepted it as a joke. In return she gave him her purest little girl smile, thrilled and excited he had thought of her. Really, she was just another little kid on the station, yet he had actually come in search of her, taking her up before him on his beautiful, fleet-footed thoroughbred mare, Noor, one of the finest in Djinjara’s stables. Keefe could ride her. Keefe could ride anything. He was tall for his age, with the promise of attaining over six feet in manhood.

In her dream he was holding firmly to her hand lest she run excitedly into the shimmering sea of paper daisies that could easily shelter a dragon lizard that might not take kindly to being disturbed. Keefe was there to protect her as well as show her the wild flowers. He was no ordinary boy. He didn’t look it. He didn’t sound it. Even then he had been one of those people with enormous charisma. And why not? He was Keefe McGovern, heir to Djinjara.

Her father was often required to go away on long musters, leaving Skye for days, sometimes weeks. She was almost an orphan, except everyone on the station looked out for her. She even had a nanny called Lena, a gentle, mission-educated aboriginal lady appointed by Lady McGovern, stern matriarch of the family. When her father was away on those long musters Lady McGovern allowed her and Lena to stay at the Big House. That was the name everyone on the station called Djinjara homestead. It was a
palace,
so grand and immense! She and her dad lived in a little bungalow that would have just about fitted into Djinjara’
s
entrance hall. Her dad had impressed on her that it was a “great honour” to be allowed to stay at the Big House. So she had to be a good girl.

It was easy. No one upset or frightened her. Well…Rachelle did, but she was finding her way around that. There was something nasty about Rachelle, two years her senior. But even though she was little, Rachelle didn’t intimidate her. It was her duty to be a good, brave girl and not worry her father, who worked so hard.

 

In her dreamscape she was weaving her small fingers in and out of Keefe’s strong brown hand.
“I really love you, Keefe.”

He smiled, his light eyes like diamonds against his tanned skin.
“I know, little buddy.”

“Will you marry me when I grow up?”

At this point Skye woke abruptly. It was then the tears came.

BOOK: Outback Bachelor
11.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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