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The Prince's Outback Bride [Secure eReader]
eBook by Marion Lennox

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: The throne of Alp d'Estella lies empty: Prince Regent Max de Gautier travels to the Outback to find the next heir--eight-year-old orphan Marc. Max isn't expecting to be confronted by a feisty woman who is fiercely protective of her adopted family. Although Pippa is wary of this dashing prince, she cannot deny Marc his heritage--nor her attraction to Max--so she agrees to spend one month in his royal kingdom. Will it be enough to convince Pippa and the kids to stay--and for Max to make her his royal bride?

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Romance
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2007


15 Reader Ratings:
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CHAPTER ONE

A TRUCK had sunk in front of his car.

Wasn't Australia supposed to be a sunburned country? Maxsim de Gautier, Prince Regent of Alp d'Estella, had only been in Australia for six hours, but his overwhelming impression was that the country was fast turning into an inland sea.

But at least he'd found the farm, even though it wasn't what he'd expected. He'd envisaged a wealthy property, but the surrounding land was rough and stony. The farm gate he'd turned into had a faded sign hanging from the top bar reading 'Dreamtime'. In the pouring rain and in such surroundings the name sounded almost defiant.

And now he could drive no further. There was some sort of cattle-grid across the track leading from road to house. The grid had given way and a battered truck was stranded, halfway across.

That meant he'd have to walk the rest of the way. Or swim.

He could sit here until the rain stopped.

It might never stop. The Mercedes he'd hired was luxurious enough but he'd been driving for five hours and flying for twenty-four hours before that, and he didn't intend to sit here any longer.

Was there a back entrance to the farm? There must be if this truck was perpetually blocking the entrance. He rechecked the map supplied by the private investigators he'd employed to locate the child, but the map supplied him with one entrance only.

He'd come too far to let rain come between him and his goal. He'd have to get wet. Dammit, he shouldn't need to, he thought, his sense of humour reasserting itself. Wasn't royalty supposed to have minions who'd lie prone in puddles to save their prince from wet feet?

Where was a good minion when you needed one?

Nowhere. And he wasn't royalty, at least not royalty from the right side of the blanket.

Meanwhile it was a really dumb place to leave a truck. He pushed open the Mercedes door and was met with a deluge. The hire-car contained an umbrella but it was useless in such a torrent. He was soaked before the door was fully open, and the sleet almost blinded him. Nevertheless he turned purposefully towards the house. It was tricky stumbling over the cattle-grid, but he pushed on, glancing sideways into the truck as he passed.

And stopped. Stunned. It wasn't empty. The truck was a twoby-two seater and the back windows were fogged. The back seat seemed to be filled but he couldn't make out what was there. But he could see the front seat. There were six eyes looking out at him—eyes belonging to a woman and a child and a vast brown dog draped over the woman's knee. He stared in at them and they stared back, seemingly as stunned as he was.

This must be the Phillippa the investigators had talked of. But she was… different? The photograph he'd seen, found in a hunt of university archives, had been taken ten years ago. He'd studied it before he'd come. She was attractive, he'd decided, but not in the classic sense. The photograph had showed a smattering of freckles. Her burnt-red curls had looked as if they refused to be tamed. She was curvy rather than svelte, and her grin was more infectious than it was classically lovely. She and Gianetta had been at a university ball. The dress she'd been wearing had been simple, but it had had class.

But now… He recognised the freckles and the dusky red curls, but the face that looked at him was that of a woman who'd left the girl behind. Her face was gaunt, with huge shadows under her eyes. She looked as if she needed to sleep for a long, long time.

And the boy beside her? He had to be Marc. He was a black-haired, brown-eyed kid, dressed in a too-big red and yellow football guernsey. He looked as if he'd just had a growth spurt, skinny and all arms and legs.

He looked like Thiérry, Max thought, stunned. He looked like a de Gautier.

Max dredged up the memory of the report presented to him by the private investigators he'd hired before he came. 'The boy's guardian is Phillippa Donohue. They live on the farm in South Western Victoria that was owned by the boy's parents before they were killed in a car crash four years ago. We've done a preliminary check on the woman but there's not much to report. She qualified as a nurse but she hasn't practised for four years. Her university records state that her mother died when she was twelve. She went through university on a means-tested scholarship and you don't get one of those in Australia if there's any money. As to her circumstances now… We'd need to visit and find out, but it's a tiny farming community and anyone asking questions is bound to be noticed.'

So he knew little except this woman, as Marc's guardian, stood between him and what the people of Alp d'Estella needed.

He didn't know where to start.

She started. She reached over and wound the window a scant inch down so she could talk to him. Any lower and the rain would blast through and make the occupants of the truck as wet as he was.

'Are you out of your mind?' she demanded. 'You'll drown.'

This was hardly a warm welcome. Maybe she could invite him into the truck, he thought, but only fleetingly for it wasn't an option. Opening the door would mean they'd all be soaked.

'Where are you headed?' she asked. She obviously thought he'd stopped to ask directions. As she would. Visitors wouldn't make it here unless they badly wanted to come, and even then they were likely to miss the place. All he'd seen so far were sodden cows, the cattle-grid in which this truck was stuck, and a battered milkcan that obviously served as a mail box, stuck onto a post beside the gate. Fading lettering painted on the side said 'D & G Kettering'.

Copyright © 2007 by Marion Lennox


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