Nanny Holly O'Mara has formed a close bond with her late cousin's little twins. When their estranged father, rough, rugged Australian cattleman Gray Kidman, arrives to take them home to the outback, Holly senses that he is out of his depth.
Holly soon falls for mysterious Gray. Seeing him light up his children's world makes her spirits leap and even begins to heal her own emotional bruises. Yet something is making Gray push her away....With her help, will he find the courage to love again?
They were asleep. At last.
Holly held her breath as she closed the storybook, then backed out of the children's room with the stealth of a special ops soldier.
The caution was necessary. Really. These kids could sleep soundly through the familiar blast of car horns and sirens from the busy New York street below, but the tiniest squeak from within the apartment could rouse them to instant panicking wakefulness.
This evening, to Holly's relief, neither child stirred. They lay perfectly still in their matching bunk beds. In striped pyjamas, one dark head and one fair, they clutched their favourite fluffy toys—a kangaroo for Josh, a koala for Anna—and their eyes remained blessedly closed.
Holly reached the doorway without a mishap and quickly flicked the light switch, plunging the room into darkness. For once there were no responding squawks or protests. Just sweet, blissful silence.
She tiptoed down the hall...and the silence continued.
Fannnntastic. With a little luck, tonight would be a good night. No wet beds. No nightmares. In the past month there'd only been a handful of good nights. But, before Holly could even think about letting out a sigh of relief, her cellphone rang. No-o-o!
With the speed of a baseball short stop, she dived across the room, snatched the phone from the coffee table and darted into her bedroom, closing the door quickly but softly behind her.
The phone's screen identified the caller. Her boyfriend, Brandon. Wonderful.
'Hi, Brand,' she whispered.
No squeaks emanated from the bedroom down the hall and she sank gratefully onto the bed.
'Holly, why are you whispering?'
'I've just got the twins to sleep.'
'Oh, right.' Brandon gave an audible sigh. 'How are they coping this week?'
'A little better.'
Great wasn't quite the word Holly would have chosen to describe the small improvement in the children's progress, but of course she wouldn't correct Brandon. He'd given her fabulous support during the funeral and its aftermath.
'I got your message,' he said.
'Right. Thanks for calling back.' Holly took a moment to relax into the pillows and she deliberately lightened her tone. 'So, what do you think? Can you wangle a leave pass for this weekend?'
She crossed her fingers as she waited for his answer. Please come, Brand. I need you.
Brandon's family owned a dairy farm in Vermont and his dad's health wasn't the best, so the responsibility of running the enterprise had fallen squarely on Brandon's shoulders.
So, yes—it was asking a lot to expect him to get away to New York again so soon. Last month, after Holly's cousin Chelsea's sudden and tragic death, he'd taken almost a whole week off to be with her and to help with the children.
That was pretty amazing, actually. Holly had been touched and surprised. Since she'd moved away from Vermont to study in New York, she'd come to accept that if she wanted to see her boyfriend it was up to her to make the effort. She'd grown up on a dairy farm, too, so she understood the demands and she'd been prepared to be the one who did all the travelling. Even so, she'd only been able to see Brandon a handful of times in this past year.
If he came this weekend, she would make sure they had time alone together. She and Brandon had been an item since high school, almost six years. Very soon now, she would be finished with her studies, Anna and Josh would be settled in Australia with their father, and she was looking forward to going home to Vermont to settle down with Brand.
She could so easily picture their lives together—Brandon with his dairy herd, while she worked in the local school, the two of them balancing...