Seaside Proposal Official Release Day and Book Giveaway!

It’s party time!!!

I’m thrilled that my sixth book, Seaside Proposal, officially releases today (May 5) in North America! To celebrate, I’m giving away a print copy (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) on my blog today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seaside Proposal, Zach and Billie’s story, is the third book in my Sydney series.

Seaside Proposal cover

BILLIE RADCLIFFE HAS A SECRET 

And she isn’t sharing it with anyone, including Zach Montford. Even though she feels an instant connection with the good-looking banker and youth leader, she’s wary of rejection. Besides she’s only in the close-knit beach community until she meets the one man who can fill in the blanks about her history.

Zach hopes his temporary stint with the church will help him decide whether to go into full-time ministry. Though his career plans are uncertain, he’s sure about his growing feelings for Billie. When a shocking revelation throws everything into question, Zach and Billie have a chance to put the past to rest…and walk into the future together.

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CHAPTER ONE Excerpt:

Billie Radcliffe walked barefoot on her timber deck and placed a glass of ice water on the large wooden outdoor table. She inhaled the salty sea breeze, propped her sunglasses on her nose and stared out at the vast expanse of ocean and the golden sand dunes of Sapphire Bay Beach.

The steady pounding of the pristine waves on the shore calmed her overactive mind. She lifted her long dark ponytail off her neck, perspiration clinging to her skin. It was hot enough to swim this afternoon after her sister, Julia, and her new brother-in-law, Sean, returned from their walk in the small township of Sapphire Bay.

During the three weeks since she’d moved into the beach house, Billie felt like she was living in a different universe. A world with a slower pace of life than Sydney. A place where she could relax and ponder the life-changing events of the past few months.

The doorbell chimed and she glanced at the time on her phone. Julia had a key, and her parents weren’t due to arrive for a few hours. They had left later this morning than planned and Billie hoped the Christmas Eve traffic on the Princes Highway wouldn’t slow their progress on the long drive south from Sydney.

Billie strolled through the spacious living room into the hall and front entrance, the cream floor tiles cool under her feet. She opened the door and her welcoming smile faltered on her lips.

A good-looking guy wearing shorts and a T-shirt stood on her doorstep. His brown hair was cropped short, military style, and he held a small suitcase. A backpack was slung over his broad shoulders, and a late model SUV sat on her drive.

Zach. Julia and Sean’s church friend. He didn’t look anything like the guy she had imagined.

He held out his hand. “I’m Zach, and you must be Billie.” His smile lit up his eyes, an intriguing dark blue with a hint of green reminiscent of the ocean behind her house.

She shook his hand, a tingle of awareness radiating up her bare arm. “Yes, I’m Billie. Please come in.” She let go of his hand and stepped back, realizing she’d held on longer than necessary. A smile tugged at her lips and she smoothed down the skirt of her cotton sundress, recovering her composure. “We weren’t expecting you until tonight.”

“My boss sent us home early.” Zach followed her into the living room, leaving his suitcase and bag beside the staircase next to the open plan kitchen.

She grinned and held his warm gaze. “Sounds like my kind of boss.”

His eyes sparkled. “He’s a good guy.”

Billie nodded and headed into the kitchen. “I’ve made pasta sauce for dinner. Julia and Sean will be back soon, and my parents should be here for dinner.” She opened the fridge. “Would you like a drink?”

“Water is fine, thanks.” He sat on a stool at the granite-topped island in the center of the modern kitchen.

“No problem.” She poured two glasses of water and added ice. Air-conditioning purred in the background, cooling the interior of the house. “Please make yourself at home, and I’ll show you to your room upstairs.”

“Thanks.” He sipped his water. “Have I interrupted your plans for the afternoon?”

“Not at all. The clinic where I work is closed until the New Year. I just finished wrapping all my Christmas presents, and I was going to read out on the deck.” A Christmas tree strung with fairy lights and ornaments stood tall in the far corner of the living room. Colorful presents were positioned around the base of the tree.

“Sounds like a nice afternoon.” He glanced around the kitchen. “Julia mentioned you’re a podiatrist.”

“Yes, I’m the feet lady.”

He raised an eyebrow. “That’s an interesting way to describe your job.”

She chuckled. “I’m used to being teased about my job, so now I tell everyone up front and get the awkwardness out of the way.”

“I like your attitude.”

She gave him a dazzling smile. “I think you can stay this week, now that you’ve passed the feet test.”

“I’m glad to hear it. And you have a great house.” He walked over to the sliding glass door, his gaze taking in the beach and ocean. “The view is magnificent.”

I know. I fell in love with this house the first time I saw it, when I visited for my job interview.” She sighed. “I’m going to miss living right next to the beach when I move back to Sydney.”

“Are you staying long?”

“Two more months. I need to return to my usual job in March when my new apartment is ready.”

“I’m only here until February, myself.”

“Are you staying in Riverwood?”

He nodded. “In a holiday apartment.”

“I commute into Riverwood for work. It’s a nice town—much bigger than Sapphire Bay.”

“But it doesn’t have a beach.”

“True.” She tipped her head to the side. “Do you work in Riverwood, too?” Julia had mentioned that Zach was a youth worker, and she hadn’t asked for further details. As a rule, Billie tried to avoid church people.

“Yes, at Riverwood Community Church.”

She nodded, her stomach tightening into a hard ball. At least he didn’t appear to recognize her. She didn’t want Julia to learn about her visits to Riverwood’s church.

Footsteps sounded at the front of the house. Julia and Sean appeared in the living room, holding hands and beaming like they were still on their honeymoon.

“Hey, Zach.” Julia gave Zach a brief hug. “Billie, I bought lettuce, although it has probably wilted in the heat.” She stowed the bag of lettuce in the fridge and wiped beads of perspiration off her brow. “It looks like it’s going to be hot tomorrow for Christmas Day.”

Billie smiled. “That’s why I live by the beach.”

Sean greeted Zach and followed his wife into the kitchen. “I’m going out for a surf soon. Anyone else coming?”

Julia planted a kiss on her husband’s cheek. “I’ll get changed, and join you on the beach.”

“Okay.” Sean kissed his wife, embracing her in a gentle hug. “I’ll get ready now.” He stepped away from Julia, his fingers entwined with hers for a moment before heading upstairs.

Billie rolled her eyes. Were her sister and Sean going to be like this for their entire week-long holiday? They had married less than a month ago, and recently returned from a ten-day honeymoon in Hawaii.

Zach drained his glass. “Well, I probably should get settled. I’m singing carols in Riverwood with the youth group before the Christmas Eve service later this evening.”

“Sounds great.” Julia turned to Billie. “Mom and Dad are coming with us to church tonight. What are you planning to do?”

Zach drew his brows together. “Isn’t Billie going, too?”

She cleared the lump in her throat. He had seen her at church. “Um, I don’t know—”

“Billie hasn’t been to church in years, except for weddings and special occasions,” Julia said.

Zach met her gaze, his eyes brimming with questions. “Okay, maybe I was mistaken and Billie has a twin—”

“No, Zach is right.” Billie squared her shoulders, preparing for the inevitable interrogation from her sister. “I started going to the morning service at Riverwood a few weeks ago.”

Julia’s mouth gaped open. “You’re kidding. What brought about your change of heart? Are you bored living here by yourself?”

She stood taller, determined to deflect Julia’s questions. “No big deal, Jules. It was time, that’s all. I thought you’d be happy.” She kept her wide smile in place and held her secret close to her heart, not ready to share with her sister the inspiration behind her decision to return to church.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Contest terms and conditions:

Please complete the form below to enter the drawing to win a print copy of Seaside Proposal.

You can receive an extra entry in the drawing by signing up to receive email notifications when my new books release. Current subscribers to my email list will automatically receive an extra entry.

The maximum number of entries per person in the drawing is two. The winner will be announced in a comment on this blog post on Friday, May 22.

“Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.”

 

To receive an extra entry in the drawing, please subscribe to my email list. You will only receive an email when I have a new book releasing, and your personal information will not be disclosed to anyone or used for any other purposes.  The emails may contain special information and benefits for my email subscribers only.

http://www.narelleatkins.com/subscribe.html

Good luck in the drawing! More information on my book launch schedule and additional giveaways can be found here.

https://narelleatkins.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/seaside-proposal-online-book-launch-plus-book-giveaway

COVER ART COPYRIGHT © 2015 BY HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED
COVER ART USED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ® AND ™ ARE TRADEMARKS OWNED BY HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED OR ITS AFFILIATED COMPANIES, USED UNDER LICENSE.
COPYRIGHT© 2015 BY HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED
COVER COPY USED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED

Seaside Proposal Online Book Launch plus Book Giveaway!

I’m excited to announce that Seaside Proposal releases on Friday in ebook format, and on Tuesday, May 5, in print. To celebrate the launch of my sixth novel, and the third book in my Sydney series, I’m going to be posting on a few blogs and offering print book giveaways (worldwide, to anywhere The Book Depository will deliver).

Seaside Proposal cover

Next week on Tuesday, May 5, I’ll be giving away a print copy (worldwide) of Seaside Proposal right here on my blog. Please stop by on Tuesday to enter the drawing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Book Launch Schedule:

May 6: Australasian Christian Writers (worldwide print giveaway)

http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/

May 8 (USA time): Inspy Romance blog (worldwide print book giveaway)

http://www.inspyromance.com/

May 11-13 (USA time): Goodreads Author Q&A on Love Inspired Heartsong Presents Group

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/129196-love-inspired-heartsong-presents

May 13 (USA time): International Christian Fiction Writers (worldwide print giveaway)

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/

Additional book giveaways:

May 1-31: Goodreads giveaway. One print copy of Seaside Proposal (US, CA, UK, AU, NZ)

Closes May 3 (NZ time): Soul Inspirationz category romance giveaway, 1 print book, worldwide.

The lovely Ellie Whyte organises a monthly promotion of the Love Inspired range of books on Soul Inspirationz. Seaside Proposal is included in her May New Releases promotion and Rafflecopter giveaway.

http://soulinspirationz.com/2015/04/22/may-2015-category-fiction/

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the release of Seaside Proposal. And, good luck if you enter the book giveaways!

Winning Over the Heiress Official Release Day and Book Giveaway!

It’s party time!!!

I’m thrilled that my fifth book, Winning Over the Heiress, officially releases today (February 3) in North America! To celebrate, I’m giving away a print copy (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) on my blog today.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Winning Over the Heiress, Sean and Julia’s story, is the second book in my Sydney series.

Winning Over the Heiress cover

Can Sean Mitchell be redeemed? 

His new boss, Julia Radcliffe, isn’t so sure. A year ago, Sean walked out on his brother’s wedding—and her. Now the bad boy with the surfer good looks is back and determined to make a new life with Julia. She wonders whether she can truly trust that he’s a changed man.

It took time and faith, but Sean is finally on the right path. And his feelings for Julia have only grown stronger. But when Sean’s past threatens to jeopardize their future, can he convince Julia they both want the same thing—a love that can overcome every mistake?

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CHAPTER ONE Excerpt:

Julia Radcliffe signed on to the computer at the reception desk in the Beachside Community Church office, ready to start her workday by updating the member database. She tucked her auburn hair behind her ears and skimmed through the list of names, noting Cassie and Ryan Mitchell’s new Queensland address. They had recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary in their new waterfront home, which came complete with a private mooring for Ryan’s yacht.

An image popped into her head: Sean Mitchell, Ryan’s brother, dressed in a tux at her best friend’s wedding. Her face warmed at the memory of her encounter with Sean at the posh Sydney hotel. A year ago, he’d walked out on her at Cassie and Ryan’s wedding.

Julia sipped the latte she’d picked up at a Manly café on her way to work. Cassie claimed Sean, her old friend and brother-in-law, had changed. Was it possible for someone with Sean’s history to turn his life around that drastically in just eighteen months?

The phone rang, and she transferred the call to Simon, the assistant pastor. Simon was a great boss, and he’d helped her settle into her new office manager maternity-relief role. She was blessed to have the opportunity to work at her church and support the paid staff in their various ministries.

The automatic external sliding glass door opened. Liam, a guy she had dated last month, walked hand in hand through the reception area with a slender blonde girl.

Her stomach sank. No wonder he hadn’t called her after their second date.

Liam approached her desk. She greeted him, pasting a polite smile on her face. “Can I help you?”

“Sally and I have an appointment with Simon at nine.”

Julia nodded. “Please take a seat on the sofa. I’ll let him know you’re here.” She picked up the phone handset, professionalism overriding her curiosity. When had they started dating—before or after Julia’s second date with Liam a few weeks ago?

Simon didn’t answer his phone, and she swallowed hard, realizing she’d dialed the wrong extension. She pressed the correct number and, in a calm voice, told Simon his next appointment had arrived.

Liam sat close beside the blonde. They seemed co-cooned in their own little world, reading something together on his phone. He attended a different church, and had told Julia all about his plans for Bible college. Plans that now appeared to include his new girlfriend.

Julia slumped in her seat and logged back in to the database. Her French-manicured nails clicked on the keys as she entered Cassie and Ryan’s new address. Lord, will I ever meet my future husband? Should I quit dating and accept my lot in life as a single woman?

She pressed Enter to accept the final changes in the database. Liam and the blonde were now in Simon’s office. She glanced at the open sliding door, her pulse quickening.

Sean. What was he doing here? Dressed in a casual shirt and jeans, his gaze darted around the empty reception area before homing in on Julia.

She held her breath for a moment, catching the flicker of recognition lighting up his face. His hair had grown long. He looked like a surfer boy, with his golden tan and sandy locks that curled over his ears.

He stopped a few feet away from her desk. “Hey, Julia, I didn’t know you worked here.”

“I started only a couple of weeks ago.”

His smile widened. “Is Simon around?”

“You know Simon?”

“Ryan introduced us at church recently.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you were attending services here.” Sean had moved to Queensland with Ryan and Cassie not long after their wedding, and Ryan often travelled back to Sydney for work. Julia had chatted with Cassie on the phone last night, and she’d done her best to steer the conversation away from Sean.

His eyes, the exact color of the sky on a sunny day, sparkled. “I moved into Ryan’s old apartment last week, and he suggested I come here.”

“Okay.” Maybe Cassie was right and Sean did share her faith now. A dramatic turnaround from his attitude and behavior at the wedding. “Simon’s in a meeting, and he shouldn’t be too long.”

“No problem.” He remained standing by her desk.

She should tell him to take a seat—she had work to do—but her overflowing email account could wait. Why did she let his smile dominate her thoughts? She should be immune to his charm. “I love the harbor views from Ryan’s apartment.”

“Me, too. I can walk to the beach for my early-morning surf. Do you work here full-time?”

“Yes, I’m covering my friend’s maternity leave, and right now there’s more than enough work to keep me busy.” Some days she wondered if she’d ever get through the backlog of admin work she’d inherited.

“I bet it’s a nice change of pace from your stressful banking job in the city.”

“It sure is. My last couple of personal-assistant roles at the bank were crazy busy all the time, so I resigned from the bank when I got this job.”

“Really? That’s a big decision if this job is only temporary.”

“After eight years it was time for a change. I was only nineteen when I first started working there.”

“That’s a long time.” Sean’s phone beeped, and he checked the screen. “I’d better take a seat and let you get back to work.”

She nodded, and swallowed the dregs of her tepid coffee. Her gaze kept wandering in Sean’s direction as she checked her email. He flicked through a magazine, appearing more centered and relaxed than the last time she’d seen him.

Footsteps sounded in the hall, and Liam appeared with the blonde. She headed for the exit while Liam wandered to Julia’s desk.

She squared her shoulders, waiting for him to speak.

“Um, I should have called you,” Liam said.

“I can see you’ve been busy.”

A tinge of red shaded his face. “You’re a great girl, and you’ll meet the right guy one day.”

She groaned, her gaze sliding over to Sean.

Sean bent his head, studying an unopened magazine in his lap. He was close enough to hear every word.

She forced her mouth into a smile. “Well, then, I guess I should wish you all the best for Bible college.”

“Thanks. Sally’s waiting, I’d better go.” Liam turned away and hurried out of the building.

Sean met her gaze, his lips twitching in the direction of a smile. “His loss. You’re too good for him.”

More heat invaded her flushed face. “Did anyone ever tell you it’s rude to eavesdrop?”

He shrugged. “You’re better off without him.”

“You think so?”

“Yes.” His voice dropped an octave, a teasing lilt matching the playful glint in his eyes. “You’re way too good for him, but he’s not smart enough to work it out.”

Before she had a chance to respond, Simon appeared in the reception area. “Sean? I’m ready for you now.”

Sean jumped out of his seat, and the two men walked together down the hall toward Simon’s office.

Julia nibbled her lower lip. Sean’s flattering words and perceptive assessment of the Liam situation had soothed her battered heart. What else could happen to surprise her today?

Already this morning she’d found a letter regarding her adoption inquiry in her mailbox. The search for her birth mom had officially commenced, after the government agency had misplaced her initial application a few months earlier.

Fear curled in her belly. She loved her adoptive parents and Billie, her adopted younger sister. Billie had talked her into tracking down the location of her birth parents. Billie was keen to meet her birth mother, but Julia didn’t know if she was ready to meet the woman who had given her life. And then given her away.

Before long, Simon reappeared with Sean. She checked the time on her computer screen. What had they been discussing for the past hour? Not that it was any of her business. Instead, she should be thankful that Sean had found a church home.

“Have you taken your morning break?” Simon asked.

She shook her head. “I’m swamped with the news bulletin and website updates.” Her web skills were limited and she struggled to do basic text updates, let alone anything more complicated.

“You won’t have that problem for long,” Simon said.

She lifted a brow. “Who else is going to do it?” The church had advertised a new position for a website administrator last month. To her knowledge, they hadn’t found any suitable applicants.

Sean hung behind Simon like a shadow, checking out the office.

Simon smiled. “We have a plan, and I’ll let you know what’s going on when I bring back your latte and muffin.”

“Thanks, that sounds great.” She rummaged through her purse and handed over cash to Simon. They’d fallen into a routine of taking turns for the midmorning coffee run.

Simon left the building with Sean, walking outside into the sun-drenched paved courtyard.

She ran her fingers through her wavy hair, untangling a small knot. What was going on? It was as though Simon and Sean had become new best friends. Perplexed, she skimmed her email to see if she’d missed any news bulletin announcements.

Sean strolled beside Simon to the nearby café across the road, an energetic bounce in his step. His prayers for a new job had been answered this morning.

Simon halted at the pedestrian crossing. “Julia usually likes a tall latte with no sugar, although she occasionally wants a cappuccino. She likes her low-fat berry muffin heated, too. Blueberry is her favorite, followed by raspberry.”

“Okay, is this part of my job description?”

Simon laughed. “No, but she’s a hard worker, and we appreciate her willingness to fill the maternity-relief role. I assume you know Julia through Cassie.”

“We met at Ryan and Cassie’s wedding.” Julia had captivated his thoughts since he’d first glimpsed her walking down the aisle in the church. She’d worn a stunning bridesmaid dress, the silky fabric gliding over her curves. Filtered sunlight through the stained glass windows had brought out the red highlights in her glossy hair and bathed her pretty face in a soft glow.

“Weren’t you friends with Cassie years ago?”

Sean hung his head, distant memories of partying with Cassie leaving an unpleasant taste in his mouth. “Yes, but I met Cassie when I worked for her father’s company, and Cassie didn’t see much of Julia during that time.”

“That makes sense.”

Sean closed his eyes for a moment, thanking God he was a changed man and able to make amends for his past bad behavior. He’d made a number of enormous mistakes, leading to years of misery and heartache, which had culminated in a stint in a gambling rehab program not long before his brother’s wedding.

The lights changed, and he crossed the road with Simon, welcoming this new chapter in his life. The opportunity to work with Julia was an unexpected bonus.

Fifteen minutes later, Simon and Sean returned to the church office. Julia spun around in her seat, thanking Simon for her latte and muffin.

The men pulled out chairs from under a nearby desk, making themselves comfortable.

Sean leaned back in his seat opposite her, cradling a small coffee cup in his hands.

“What’s up?” She opened her muffin package and sipped her coffee, aware of Sean’s intense scrutiny.

“I have some news,” Simon said.

She swallowed a delicious piece of the warmed muffin, the sweet blueberry flavor lingering in her mouth. “Good news, I hope.”

Simon smiled. “Sean’s going to be working with us.”

She gulped down a mouthful of coffee, the hot liquid scalding her throat. “You’re kidding?”

Sean shook his head. “I start tomorrow.”

She widened her eyes. “How’s this going to work?”

“Sean’s the successful applicant for the website admin job.”

“Wow.” She turned to Sean. “I didn’t know you’d acquired IT qualifications.”

Sean shrugged. “I have all the prerequisite skills needed for the job.”

“Yes,” Simon said. “He’s also going to help you out with general admin and reception when you’re super busy.”

She slouched in her seat, her mind whirling. How had this happened? Why had the church chosen to employ Sean?

She sipped her latte, switching her attention back to Simon. “What hours will Sean be working?”

“He’ll be here full-time. You’ll be his supervisor.”

No way. Her fingers trembled, and she placed her coffee cup back on her desk. All day, five days a week. Sean would be in her work domain. He’d be her responsibility to manage.

She pursed her lips, staring at the spare desk, less than ten feet away from her own. “And where will Sean be working?”

“Right here with you,” Simon said. “We’ll all feel happier when we’re out of the office, knowing Sean is with you.”

She nodded, recalling the problems they’d experienced with a few rowdy visitors last week. “Do you want me to put aside the web updates for tomorrow?”

“Absolutely.” Simon ate the last of his muffin and tossed the scrunched-up paper bag into a nearby trash bin. He stood. “I have a meeting in ten minutes I need to prepare for.” He turned to Sean, his smile broad. “I’ll see you at nine tomorrow.”

Sean shook Simon’s outstretched hand. “You sure will.”

The assistant pastor headed down the hall toward his office, drinking his coffee.

Julia picked at her muffin. “Would you like a piece? I have plenty.”

“No, I’m good.”

“You won’t be joining us in our coffee-and-muffin run?”

“Probably not.” He stretched out his jeans-clad legs, his feet inches away from hers.

The phone rang and she excused herself to answer it. She handled the request from a church member, and swung back around to face Sean.

He drew his eyebrows together. “You didn’t know I’d applied for the job? I’m surprised Cassie didn’t tell you.”

She shook her head. “Congratulations, by the way. Ryan and Cassie must be happy to see you settled.”

“Actually, it was Ryan’s idea I apply for this job.”

“You didn’t want to stay in Queensland?”

“Nope. There weren’t any job vacancies in my field, and I couldn’t work for Cassie at the resort, either.”

She nodded. Cassie’s father would veto any attempt by Cassie or Ryan to reemploy Sean in any of his companies. Sean had embezzled a large sum of money and disappeared, losing touch with Cassie and his family. A few years later, he had come out of hiding and they had discovered he’d taken the money to finance his gambling addiction.

“Ryan figured a church would be a good work environment for me.”

“That’s logical.” She drank her latte, inhaling the comforting and familiar aroma. She should have guessed Ryan had lined up the job. Ryan and Cassie had done whatever they could to help Sean overcome his problems.

Sean rubbed his hand over his clean-shaven jaw, frown lines forming between his eyebrows. “Are you okay with this?”

“Of course.” She studied her fingernails, putting on a brave smile. “An extra pair of hands will make my life easier.”

Why did it have to be his hands? The unique scent of his earthy aftershave mingled with coffee surrounded her. How could she concentrate with him sitting close by all day?

He cleared his throat. “Why didn’t you return my call?”

Her mouth gaped, and she was captured by his compelling gaze that demanded answers. “I was busy helping my sister move into my apartment, and you moved interstate a few weeks later.”

“My phone number didn’t change.” He pushed a couple of unruly locks off his face. “Obviously I was wrong to think we could be friends—”

“No, that’s not true.” If only it were that simple.

He shook his head. “At the wedding, you were the one person who I thought understood me. You stood by Cassie when she was struggling to overcome her issues. I could have done with a friend last year.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Contest terms and conditions:

Please complete the form below to enter the drawing to win a print copy of Winning Over the Heiress.

You can receive an extra entry in the drawing by signing up to receive email notifications when my new books release. Current subscribers to my email list will automatically receive an extra entry.

The maximum number of entries per person in the drawing is two. The winner will be announced in a comment on this blog post on Tuesday, February 17.

“Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.”

 

To receive an extra entry in the drawing, please subscribe to my email list. You will only receive an email when I have a new book releasing, and your personal information will not be disclosed to anyone or used for any other purposes.  The emails may contain special information and benefits for my email subscribers only.

http://www.narelleatkins.com/subscribe.html

Good luck in the drawing! More information on my book launch schedule and additional giveaways can be found here.

https://narelleatkins.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/winning-over-the-heiress-online-book-launch-plus-book-giveaway

COVER ART COPYRIGHT © 2015 BY HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED
COVER ART USED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ® AND ™ ARE TRADEMARKS OWNED BY HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED OR ITS AFFILIATED COMPANIES, USED UNDER LICENSE.
COPYRIGHT© 2015 BY HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED
COVER COPY USED BY ARRANGEMENT WITH HARLEQUIN ENTERPRISES LIMITED

Winning Over the Heiress Online Book Launch plus Book Giveaway!

I’m excited to announce that Winning Over the Heiress releases on Sunday in ebook format, and on Tuesday, February 3, in print. To celebrate the launch of my fifth novel, and the second book in my Sydney series, I’m going to be visiting a few blogs and offering print book giveaways (worldwide, to anywhere The Book Depository will deliver).

Winning Over the Heiress cover

Next week on Tuesday, February 3, I’ll be giving away a print copy (worldwide) of Winning Over the Heiress right here on my blog. Please stop by on Tuesday to enter the drawing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Book Launch Schedule:

February 2 (USA time): Inspy Romance blog (worldwide print book giveaway)

http://www.inspyromance.com/

February 4: Australasian Christian Writers (worldwide print giveaway)

http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/

February 9-11 (USA time): Goodreads Author Q&A on Love Inspired Heartsong Presents Group

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/129196-love-inspired-heartsong-presents

February 11 (USA time): International Christian Fiction Writers (worldwide print giveaway)

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/

February 16 (USA time): Interview on Trish Perry’s blog (worldwide print giveaway)

http://trishperry.blogspot.com/

Additional book giveaways:

February 1-28: Goodreads giveaway. One print copy of Winning Over the Heiress (US, CA, UK, AU, NZ)

Closes January 28 (NZ time): Soul Inspirationz category romance giveaway, 1 print book, worldwide.

The lovely Ellie Whyte organises a monthly promotion of the Love Inspired range of books on Soul Inspirationz. Winning Over the Heiress is included in her February New Releases promotion and Rafflecopter giveaway.

http://soulinspirationz.com/2015/01/20/february-2015-category-fiction/

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the release of Winning Over the Heiress. And, good luck if you enter the book giveaways!

Her Tycoon Hero Official Release Day and Book Giveaway!

It’s party time!!!

I’m thrilled that my fourth book, Her Tycoon Hero, officially releases today (November 4) in North America! To celebrate, I’m giving away two print copies (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) on my blog today.

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Her Tycoon Hero, Ryan and Cassie’s story, is the first book in my Sydney series.

Her Tycoon Hero cover

Cassie Beaumont Believes in Second Chances

Set on proving to everyone that she’s no longer a party girl, Cassie is focused on her career as an event planner. But her dad’s top executive, Ryan Mitchell, proves to be a handsome distraction. Especially when someone from Cassie’s wild past tries to get her tangled in the life she’s worked hard to escape.

Ryan is taken with his boss’s beautiful daughter. But having been fooled by a brother who ran in her same circles, he is slow to trust. When Cassie’s newfound faith works its way into his heart, Ryan soon finds he wants to claim both her faith and Cassie as his own.

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CHAPTER ONE Excerpt:

Everything was in place for her sister’s engagement party.

Cassie Beaumont pulled out a stool from under the granite counter in a quiet corner of her father’s enormous kitchen, resting her weary body on the cushioned seat. Platters of gourmet appetizers filled the kitchen and the large round table in the breakfast nook. She’d given the caterers detailed instructions and they were ahead of schedule, preparing additional food at the island in the center of the kitchen. Everything was going brilliantly. Dad and Laura should be happy.

She twisted a lock of blond hair around her finger and glanced at the time illuminated on the microwave oven. Eight-fifteen. Guests had started arriving at eight.

The aroma of mini quiches fresh from the oven stirred her appetite. She’d only eaten a muesli bar for lunch, squeezed in between appointments. Her feet ached from rushing around at the hotel. Fridays were always hectic and today had been no exception. Snatching a few minutes to rest her feet felt like a precious gift.

Her father strode through the busy kitchen, coming to a halt a few feet in front of her. “Cassandra, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

She clenched her fists and tipped up her chin, pasting a smile on her face. What had she done wrong this time? “What’s up?”

John frowned, shoving his hands in the pockets of his conservative gray suit and lowering his voice. “Laura and Greg are expecting a big turnout. Do you have enough staff?”

“It’s all organized.” She’d made sure he would have no reason to worry. She’d scrutinized all the arrangements, leaving nothing to chance.

His gaze swept over his spacious kitchen. “Have you ordered enough food?”

She pointed to the trays of canapés lined up on the nearby table, keeping her tone even. “There’s a mountain of food ready to be served. I have it all under control.” Thankfully her competent catering staff couldn’t overhear their conversation.

“I expect this party to be perfect.” An icy tone permeated his low voice.

“It will be.” She held his gaze, refusing to be intimidated. She’d worked hard to pull this party together. Why couldn’t he acknowledge her efforts with a thank-you?

He leaned back against the counter and crossed his arms. “I told Laura she should have hired a professional party planner.”

“And what am I?” Pain flooded her heart and old insecurities resurfaced. Her professional role as an events manager for a five-star Sydney hotel wasn’t good enough for him. What would it take to convince him she’d changed? She was twenty-six years old and no longer the unreliable daughter with a drinking problem.

“I offered to pay top dollar for the right person.” He smoothed back the few remaining strands of gray hair on his balding head. “Instead I find you in the kitchen worrying about food.”

“Dad, I’m Laura’s maid of honor. She asked me to organize her party and it will be a big success.”

He snorted. “We’ll see. At least you’re not drinking on the job.”

Her jaw fell slack, his stinging words further damaging their fragile relationship. Did he want to push her away and out of his life forever?

She sucked in a deep breath, determined to prove him wrong. “I haven’t had a drink in nearly two years and my faith helps me to stay on track. Why can’t you believe me when I tell you I’m a different person now?”

“That’s what your grandmother used to say.”

She stood, placing her hands on her hips. “I’m not like Grandma.”

“She went to church every week and it never did her any good.”

“I’m dealing with my problems.” Her grandmother had struggled for many years with alcoholism and liver disease.

“You don’t need religion. You just need someone to keep you in line.”

Like a husband. His unspoken words cut open another raw wound. She straightened her spine, standing taller. “I’m doing okay on my own.”

“Why can’t you settle down like your sister?” His voice softened. “Is that too much to ask?”

She looked away, realizing she’d failed him again by her inability to find an appropriate man who met with his approval.

He uncrossed his arms and moved closer. “Why don’t you stop hiding in the kitchen and mingle with Greg and Laura’s friends? There must be a few good prospects here tonight.”

She stepped back, frowning. Did he mean Ryan Mitchell, his right-hand man at JB Management? Had Laura been talking to Dad behind her back? “I’m capable of finding my own dates and I don’t need help from you or anyone else.”

He looked down his nose and let out an exasperated sigh. “I hear you loud and clear. I really hope this religious conversion of yours fixes your problems, but you’d better not screw up tonight.” He threw his hands in the air and stormed out of the kitchen.

Her father’s anger tore at her heart. Cassie took a deep breath and counted to ten. Please Lord, give me patience.

She placed her trembling palms flat on the kitchen counter and blinked away her impending tears. Her family didn’t share her faith, and her difficult relationship with her father had deteriorated after she made the life-changing decision to become a Christian eighteen months ago.

She sucked in a steadying breath. Dad wanted to provide the best possible engagement party for Laura, his perfect daughter. She didn’t begrudge her sister’s close relationship with their father, but how could she improve her own relationship with him when they couldn’t manage to hold a civil conversation for five minutes? Her head hurt from hammering it against the unbreakable wall between them.

She’d had enough. Tomorrow she would update her résumé and apply for a position in North Queensland. The job—an executive events manager at an exclusive island resort—appealed to her for many reasons. Sunshine, sandy beaches and days spent diving around the reefs. What more could she want?

Cassie stared at her younger sister’s engagement cake. Would she ever meet the right man? She prayed for a husband who shared her faith and prioritized family over work. A man of honor and integrity, the exact opposite of Sean.

She shuddered, thankful she’d escaped Sean’s maze of lies.

Additional waiters arrived. Satisfied with progress on the catering front, she exited the kitchen to check out the party.

Her high heels tapped on the tiled floor as she strode into the spacious living room of her father’s waterfront mansion. A large number of the one hundred invited guests mingled indoors while a few others braved the cooler evening temperatures on the balcony.

Cassie gazed through a panoramic window, admiring the multimillion-dollar views of the city skyline and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Fairy lights strung around the gazebo next to the pool lit up the immaculate gardens in a soft glow.

Regret tainted her pleasure. She rarely visited her father’s home and she’d already broken her promise to Laura by arguing with Dad. Would she ever learn to control her tongue?

The soothing tones of the hired jazz quartet lifted her spirits. If she avoided her father for the rest of the evening, everything should be okay.

Her sister had enough to worry about tonight. Top of her list would be wondering if their divorced parents could peacefully coexist at the party.

She scanned the room and did a double take when she spotted her parents standing together. Her father made a comment and her mother laughed with him.

Wow. But could it last?

Cassie strolled through the open French doors and onto the balcony, looking for Laura. The breeze off the harbor cooled her bare arms and her new sapphire-blue evening gown swirled around her calves.

She stumbled on the pavers as she negotiated her way down the steps to the landscaped gardens. At least her ankle didn’t collapse. A few years ago she’d worn flimsy high-heeled sandals on a regular basis, often with disastrous consequences. She needed to take more care, although her sobriety made a big difference.

Her sister stood in the gazebo, her sleek dark brown hair flowing loose around her shoulders. Surrounded by friends, she held her left hand in the air and showed off her large diamond solitaire engagement ring. The joy on Laura’s face spoke volumes about her love for her future husband.

A twinge of envy filled Cassie. She stamped out her uncharitable thoughts when Laura waved and raced over to her.

“Has Ryan arrived yet?” Laura asked. “I’m dying to introduce you to him.”

Cassie rolled her eyes. “How would I know?”

“Maybe he’s inside.” Laura tilted her head sideways. “Greg said he was snowed under with work.”

“I’m sure Ryan will turn up soon.” He sounded like a younger version of Dad, boring and obsessed with work. Not her type.

“He’d better, considering he’s going to be the best man at our wedding.”

“Stop fretting. You’re supposed to be enjoying a fun night.”

“Okay, but I know you’ll like Ryan.” Laura’s blue eyes sparkled. “He’s gorgeous and a very good catch.”

Cassie shrugged. Laura’s romantic notion of the maid of honor and best man falling in love was not going to happen.

“You two are perfect for each other,” Laura continued. “He recently moved back to Sydney after a three-year stint in London. Did I tell you he once dated an Aussie model?”

Cassie lifted a brow. A few years ago she might have been impressed, but now she couldn’t care less. “Have you forgotten he’s Sean’s older brother?”

“Sean’s long gone, and it’s not like you dated him or anything.” Laura waved away Cassie’s concerns. “You’re Ryan’s type and you should go for it.”

“What? How do you know his type?”

“Greg may have mentioned that Ryan’s partial to blue-eyed blondes. Trust me—he’s a class above the last few guys you’ve dated.”

Cassie squirmed. “Life isn’t all about money. I’m looking for someone who shares my faith.”

“Maybe he believes in God, but who cares?” Laura flicked her brunette locks back over her shoulder. “I don’t get why you’re so hung up on religion.”

She bit back a sharp retort. Let it go. Now wasn’t the time to have this conversation. “Mom and Dad appear to be getting on okay.” She relayed the scene she’d witnessed a few minutes earlier.

“You’re kidding!” A huge smile broke out on her sister’s face. “It’s about time they buried the hatchet.”

Cassie nodded. “Look, Greg’s waving at you to join him by the pool. We can talk later.” She hugged Laura before heading indoors.

Cassie meandered through the throng of guests gathered in the living room, greeting several aunts, uncles and cousins as she made her way back to the kitchen. Her parents congregated with their respective relations on opposite sides of the room. One pleasant conversation was progress and had exceeded her expectations.

A quick perusal of the kitchen reassured her that everything was fine. Happy with the caterers, she selected an iced tea from a passing waiter and returned to the living room.

A man appeared at the entrance of the room. He stood tall, with dark brown hair cropped short against his collar but styled longer at the front, sweeping back off his broad forehead. She was too far away to discern the color of his eyes but close enough to feel his commanding presence. Other heads turned his way, but he seemed oblivious to all the speculative glances.

Her gaze collided with his and a jolt of pure awareness shot through her. Something about him seemed familiar.

The crowd shifted, breaking their connection. She searched the doorway, unable to see him.

What had she been thinking, letting a handsome stranger set her pulse racing? She took a sip from her glass, her first impression of him lingering in her mind like the tangy lemon flavor of her iced tea.

Then it hit her. Could he be Ryan? The general shape of his head and jawline showed an uncanny resemblance to Sean.

She selected a mini quiche from a passing waiter and her future brother-in-law joined her.

“Thanks for organizing our party,” Greg said. “You’ve done a fantastic job.”

“My pleasure.” She popped the warm pastry in her mouth.

“Your Dad’s house is amazing and it’s great he let us hold the party here.”

She nodded, savoring the superb flavor of the quiche. “He’s happy to entertain as long as someone else does the catering.”

Greg grinned, glancing over her shoulder. “Here comes Laura with Ryan.”

Cassie spun around and gasped. A shiver of anticipation hurtled up her spine as her gaze once again locked with his. His light gray eyes complemented his tanned complexion.

She dragged her gaze away and tried to focus her attention on her sister. A mischievous glint flickered in Laura’s eyes as she made the introductions.

“Hi.” Cassie shook the hand Ryan offered, his grasp warm and firm.

Ryan smiled. “Good to see you again.”

It took a few moments for his words to sink in. She drew her brows together. “We’ve met before?”

“Please excuse us.” Laura grabbed hold of Greg’s arm. “It’s nearly time for the speeches and cake so we’ll leave you two to chat.”

Ryan watched Greg and Laura disappear into the crowd. “We met a few years ago at a party.” He looked her straight in the eye. “Sean introduced us and, if I remember correctly, you gave me an enthusiastic hug.”

She lowered her lashes, shame cloaking her. Her partying days were a blur she’d rather forget.

“You were wearing a little black dress.” A smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. “My brother kept you close by his side all night.”

She cringed. Could things get any more embarrassing? She’d thrown the figure-hugging dress in the trash long ago. “Sean and I went to lots of parties.” She frowned. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember.”

“No worries.” He stepped closer, lowering his deep voice to a whisper. “You’re more beautiful than I remember.”

“Thanks.” Her cheeks heated and she switched her attention to his silk tie. Conservative hues of blue and green. Had he chosen the tie especially for tonight or had he been wearing it all day at the office?

She inhaled a deep breath. Why did she feel such a powerful connection with Sean’s brother?

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“It’s a little awkward not remembering we’d met before.”

“Okay, I confess I have an unfair advantage. Your father has a photo of you and Laura on his desk.”

Did Dad display her photo to keep up appearances? Or did he care about her despite his abrupt attitude?

A ray of hope lighted inside her. Lord, please help me find a way to mend my relationship with Dad.

Curiosity drove her to ask the one question burning in her mind. “How’s Sean doing?”

A dark look shadowed his face. “I’ve no idea. You’re the last person to see him before he left the country. Even my parents haven’t heard from him in over two years.”

“Really? He hasn’t contacted anyone?”

Ryan nodded, his mouth set in a grim line.

She sipped the remainder of her tea, struggling to understand why she had once contemplated Sean’s crazy idea of turning their friendship into a more serious relationship. Not that they’d have stood a chance. Her drinking problems combined with his irresponsible actions had destroyed any potential for a healthy relationship or future together.

The passing of time and a clear head had revealed Sean’s character flaws. But they’d been close friends, inseparable before he’d left, and she’d known another side of him. She couldn’t forget or dismiss from her mind the many times he’d been caring and considerate.

“Ryan, I’m sorry about how everything turned out with Sean. I’d hoped he’d sorted himself out by now.”

“My brother chose his life path and he has to live with the consequences.”

Her father didn’t let her forget her troubled past. The consequences seemed never ending.

Ryan’s eyes softened as he met her gaze. “Do you keep in touch with any of Sean’s friends?”

“Not anymore.” She twirled a lock of hair around her finger. “I avoid the party scene.”

“Have you heard anything about Sean’s whereabouts?”

She shook her head. “I’m not interested in seeing him again.”

He nodded. “You’ve done a great job organizing this party.”

“I haven’t done much.” She loosened her grip on her glass, thankful he’d changed the subject. “The caterers and waiters have done most of the work.”

“They deserve a bonus.” He removed his jacket and draped it back over his shoulder, emphasizing the broad expanse of his chest.

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Contest terms and conditions:

Please complete the form below to enter the drawing to win one of two print copies of Her Tycoon Hero.

You can receive an extra entry in the drawing by signing up to receive email notifications when my new books release. Current subscribers to my email list will automatically receive an extra entry.

The maximum number of entries per person in the drawing is two. The winners will be announced in a comment on this blog post on Tuesday, November 18.

“Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.”

 

To receive an extra entry in the drawing, please subscribe to my email list. You will only receive an email when I have a new book releasing, and your personal information will not be disclosed to anyone or used for any other purposes.  The emails may contain special information and benefits for my email subscribers only.

http://www.narelleatkins.com/subscribe.html

Good luck in the drawing! More information on my book launch schedule and additional giveaways can be found here.

https://narelleatkins.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/her-tycoon-hero-online-book-launch-plus-book-giveaway

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Her Tycoon Hero Online Book Launch plus Book Giveaway!

I’m excited to announce that Her Tycoon Hero releases on Saturday in ebook format, and on Tuesday, November 4, in print. To celebrate the launch of my fourth novel, and the first book in my new Sydney series, I’m going to be visiting a few blogs and offering print book giveaways (worldwide, to anywhere The Book Depository will deliver).

Her Tycoon Hero cover

Next week on Tuesday, November 4, I’ll be giving away two print copies (worldwide) of Her Tycoon Hero right here on my blog. Please stop by on Tuesday to enter the drawing.

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My Book Launch Schedule:

October 24 (USA time): Christian Author Network (CAN) blog

http://christianauthorsnetwork.com/tips-from-the-pros-narelle-atkins/

October 27 (USA time): Munce Newsletter Author Spotlight

http://mtlmagazine.com/mtl-newsletter-22/

October 29 (USA time): International Christian Fiction Writers (worldwide print giveaway)

http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/hometown-settings-plus-book-giveaway.html/

November 1 (USA time): Inspy Romance blog (worldwide print book giveaway)

http://www.inspyromance.com/contemporary-romance-in-urban-settings-plus-book-giveaway/

November 3: Ink Dots blog (worldwide print giveaway)

http://dorothyadamek.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/narelle-atkins-her-tycoon-hero.html

November 3: Foreign Affaire blog (worldwide print giveaway during November)

http://foreignaffaire.com/2014/11/03/book-and-author-of-november-her-tycoon-hero-by-narelle-atkins/

November 4 (USA time): Divine Detour blog

http://kathyharrisbooks.com/blog/narelle-atkins-her-tycoon-hero/

November 5: Australasian Christian Writers (worldwide print giveaway)

http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/issue-based-christian-fiction-plus-book.html

November 5: Robin Lee Hatcher blog

http://www.robinleehatcher.com/christian-fiction-wednesday-11-05-14/

November 24-26 (USA time): Goodreads Author Q&A on Love Inspired Heartsong Presents Group

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/129196-love-inspired-heartsong-presents

Additional book giveaways:

November 1-30: Goodreads giveaway. One print copy of Her Tycoon Hero (US, CA, UK, AU, NZ)

Closes October 29: Soul Inspirationz category romance giveaway, 2 print books, worldwide.

The lovely Ellie Whyte organises a monthly promotion of the Love Inspired range of books on Soul Inspirationz. Her Tycoon Hero is included in her August New Releases promotion and Rafflecopter giveaway.

http://www.christianfictionsite.com/blog/november-2014-releases-in-category-fiction

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the release of Her Tycoon Hero. And, good luck if you enter the book giveaways!

The Doctor’s Return Official Release Day plus Book Giveaway!

It’s party time!!!

I’m thrilled that my third book, The Doctor’s Return, officially releases today (August 5) in North America! To celebrate, I’m giving away two print copies (worldwide, wherever The Book Depository delivers) on my blog today.

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The Doctor’s Return, Luke and Megan’s story, is the third book in my Snowgum Creek series. Luke is the town doctor and Ben’s brother from The Nurse’s Perfect Match (Book 2). Megan is Jack’s sister and Kate’s best friend from Falling for the Farmer (Book 1). A reunion romance, the story starts when Megan returns to Snowgum Creek.

The Doctors Return cover

Megan Bradley Is Putting Down Roots 

After years spent traveling the globe, she never expected to be back in her hometown sharing an office with her former sweetheart, Dr. Luke Morton. Megan is focused on building her business, and doesn’t have time to dwell on past mistakes. But she can’t ignore her feelings for the handsome doctor who works down the hall.

Luke is afraid to trust his heart to Megan, knowing she may not stay for long. But as they work together, their romance quickly rekindles. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes her way, Luke must free Megan to choose between a big-city career or love and family…right there in Snowgum Creek.

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CHAPTER ONE Excerpt:

Megan Bradley inhaled the sweet perfume of a champagne rose in her sister-in-law’s garden. “Kate, I love your roses. Jack has outdone himself this time.”

Kate smiled. “A belated wedding present but definitely worth the wait.”

Megan’s brother had planted the rose garden along one side of the newly built home on the family apple farm in Snowgum Creek. After a number of delays, the house had been completed a couple of months ago, but Kate’s debilitating morning sickness had postponed their Saturday lunch housewarming until today.

Megan stretched out the muscles in her back, stiff after yesterday’s long drive from Sydney. Family and friends gathered on the spacious wooden deck at the back of the sandy brick house overlooking the Snowy Mountains. Only one person was missing—her brother’s best friend, Luke Morton. She needed to summon the courage to talk to Luke soon.

She lifted her arms above her head, releasing tension in her shoulders. “As much as I’d love to hide away and chat, we should mingle with your guests.”

Kate nodded. “I’ve been ordered to take it easy. Your mom and Aunt Doris have taken over my kitchen, and Jack is in charge of our new outdoor grill.”

Megan straightened the hem of her lilac shirt. “They won’t stop fussing over you until the baby arrives.” She grinned. “I can’t wait to meet my little nephew or niece.”

Kate placed her hand on her slightly rounded abdomen. “Hopefully bub won’t arrive early. I’d like some time to get settled in the house first.”

A black Jeep meandered along a narrow dirt track leading to the house. Megan sucked in a deep breath, her pulse skyrocketing.
Kate lifted a brow. “I told you Luke was coming.”

“I know.” A busy doctor, Luke Morton had probably been delayed at the Snowgum Creek Medical Clinic. “I need to ask Jack something.” She strode toward the back deck, away from Luke, who had parked his Jeep under a gum tree near the front of the house.

Kate followed close on her heels. “You can’t run away from him forever.”

“I’m not running.” She frowned. Who was she kidding? She’d spent eight years trying to forget the events that had transpired the last time she’d seen him. “And I will talk to him today.” Assuming he was willing to talk to her.

Megan left Kate chatting with friends and walked over to her brother. Jack stood near the grill on the far side of the deck, a broad smile covering his tanned face. She was glad he’d married her best friend a few years ago, and that he now looked forward to becoming a father later this year.

She breathed in the tantalizing aroma of barbecued beef. “Something smells good.” Rib-eye steaks sizzled on the grill.

Jack nodded. “Lunch is nearly ready.” He turned over a couple of steaks. “How are you?”

She pasted a bright smile on her face. “I’m fine. A bit tired from the drive yesterday.” She’d arrived after dinner, exhausted from her last-minute rush yesterday morning to pack up all her belongings in her Chatswood apartment.

“How long are you visiting with Mom and Dad?”

“I’m not sure.” Her family was unaware of her potential job opportunities and the strong possibility she might live in Snowgum Creek for the next twelve months. The longest period she would live in one place since she’d completed her exercise physiology studies in Sydney eight years before.

His lips formed a wry smile. “Luke is heading our way.”

Megan spun around and flicked her long dark hair back over her shoulders. Luke’s golden-brown eyes met her gaze, his face devoid of emotion as he wove his way through the guests gathering around tables on the deck.

She wiped clammy hands down the sides of her designer-label black fitted pants, holding his gaze and refusing to look away first. Her heart danced to a faster beat as old feelings, long forgotten, washed over her. He was leaner and fitter than she remembered, decked out in a casual shirt and jeans. His face had matured and his honey-brown hair was cropped short. No surprise he was considered the most eligible bachelor in Snowgum Creek.

Jack stepped forward and shook Luke’s hand, stealing his attention. “Glad you could make it.”

“Sorry I’m late. I had to fit in a couple of extra patients.”

“No worries, we’re just about to sit down and eat.”

Luke turned to Megan, his intense gaze searching her face. “It’s been a long time.”

“Yep.” She nibbled her lower lip, words escaping her. He still had the ability to scatter her thoughts.

Jack cleared his throat. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Luke nodded. “Do you need me to do anything?”

“Can you watch the grill? We’re putting the meat platters on the tables.”

“No problem.” Luke picked up an empty white ceramic platter.

“Thanks.” Jack stepped away from the grill. “I think we’re organized and ready to serve lunch.”

Her brother headed indoors and an awkward silence followed Jack’s departure. Luke filled a couple of platters with juicy steaks and she distributed the platters to nearby tables.

She lingered beside the grill. “Is there anything else I can do?”

“No, I think we’re all right.” He added a row of steaks to the grill. “You’re looking well.” Luke’s eyes softened, his velvet voice sending her pulse into overdrive.

“Thanks.” She twisted a lock of hair around her finger. “I hear you’ve taken over Dr. Davidson’s medical clinic.”

“He retired last year, and the clinic provided a great opportunity to move back home from Sunny Ridge.”

“That makes sense.” His dream eight years ago had been to finish med school and own a medical clinic in Snowgum Creek. A dream she hadn’t shared. Her yearning had been to travel and explore the world.

“I’m glad to be back. Snowgum Creek is a thriving town, unlike many small towns in this region.”

“Kate said Sunny Ridge is booming, too.”

“It has experienced significant growth over the last decade.” He checked the remaining steaks on the grill. “Did you know Sunny Ridge is now officially classified as a city?”

“Really?” She inspected her fingernails. They’d need a manicure if she helped Jack and his workers pick the last of the apple crop next week. “I heard your medical clinic is expanding.”

“Yes. It keeps me busy. My schedule this morning was jam-packed and I ran overtime.”

“Is that normal?”

“Sometimes. It depends on the day.”

Jack returned and Luke handed over the cooking utensils.

“Thanks.” Jack smiled. “You two should sit down and enjoy lunch.”

Luke turned toward her, indicating two spare seats at a nearby table. “Would you like to join me?”

“Sure.” He held out a chair and she slipped into the wooden seat. How many times had they practiced this ritual during their four-year relationship in college?

Luke sat beside her and together they served their lunch of steak, salad and crusty French bread rolls. Megan made small talk with a couple of Jack’s friends who she hadn’t seen in years. Her short visits back home over the past eleven years hadn’t included catching up with the townsfolk. Luke seemed at ease beside her, chatting with the other guests.

His forearm brushed against her elbow and she tensed, aware of his presence only inches away. She concentrated on her lunch, her traitorous heart liking his close proximity. The moment everyone at their table had finished, she stood and started clearing their plates.

“I’ll help.” Luke collected a few empty platters and walked with her to the kitchen.

Alone with Luke, she focused on loading the plates and cutlery into the dishwasher.

He leaned back against the kitchen counter, arms crossed over his muscular chest. “Are you here for the weekend or longer?”

“I haven’t decided.”

“Did you take leave from work?”

She shook her head. “I’m between jobs at the moment. Please pass on my congratulations to Ben and Amy, by the way.”
“I will. They arrived back from their honeymoon a few weeks ago.”

“Where did they go?”

“Batemans Bay, one of Ben’s favorite fishing spots. They were supposed to be here today but my niece is sick with a cold.”
“I hope she gets well soon.” She pulled out the top rack, already half-full with cups and glasses. “Um, can we talk?”

“Sure, what about?”

“No, not here. Can we go somewhere where we won’t be overheard?”

He raised an eyebrow. “It has taken you long enough to finally decide to talk.”

Touché. She lowered her lashes, knowing she had hurt him. At least he was prepared to talk.

“How about a walk in the orchards?” he asked.

Like old times. How often had they snuck away into the orchards? Her cheeks flushed as memories of her final year of high school invaded her thoughts.

She squared her shoulders. “I’ll finish cleaning the kitchen first.”

“I’ll meet you at my Jeep in ten minutes.” A smile curved up the corners of his lips. “If we’re not discreet, the gossips will have us married off by the end of the afternoon.”

“True, they don’t need any encouragement.”

“See you soon.” He left the kitchen, his boots tapping on the wooden floorboards as he headed toward the veranda.

She filled the top rack with cups and bowls from the sink and switched on the dishwasher. Luke seemed okay with her temporary return to Snowgum Creek, but was he prepared to make this a more permanent arrangement? Could she convince him to rent her a consulting room in his medical clinic?

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Contest terms and conditions:

Please complete the form below to enter the drawing to win one of two print copies of The Doctor’s Return.

You can receive an extra entry in the drawing by signing up to receive email notifications when my new books release. Current subscribers to my email list will automatically receive an extra entry.

The maximum number of entries per person in the drawing is two. The winners will be announced in a comment on this blog post on Tuesday, August 19.

“Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.”

 

To receive an extra entry in the drawing, please subscribe to my email list. You will only receive an email when I have a new book releasing, and your personal information will not be disclosed to anyone or used for any other purposes.  The emails may contain special information and benefits for my email subscribers only.

http://www.narelleatkins.com/subscribe.html

Good luck in the drawing! More information on my book launch schedule and additional giveaways can be found here.

https://narelleatkins.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/the-doctors-return-online-book-launch-plus-book-giveaway

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