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Authors: Tricia Stringer

Right As Rain

 

Right as Rain

TRICIA STRINGER

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

During my travels to research Right as Rain, I met many people and visited many wonderful places in South Australia's beautiful South East. In particular, I would like to thank Di & Graham Jenke and Erin & Pete Ballantyne for their generous hospitality and for their patient answering of my many questions about farming in their regions
.

My thanks to editor Glenda Downing for her skill and sense of humour and to Sue Brockhoff and the fantastic team at Harlequin Australia. There's so much to do in bringing forth a book and I take my hat off to you all. What a team! Thank you
.

To fellow writers who encourage along the way – from the CB group, to Fiona McIntosh and her first group of Sunflowers and my new writing buddies amongst the Romance Writers of Australia – a big thank you for your collegiate support and friendship
.

I am so lucky for the love of friends and family, near and far, who understand and encourage my writing life. Margie Arnold who is the quiet voice of reassurance, Sue Barlow and Kathy Snodgrass for some great road trips and Joy & Andrew Hilder who once again have the best spot for a writer to write. Thanks guys
.

To my children and their wonderful partners who buoy me up with their love and are so proud for me – as I am for them – and to my rock, Daryl, thank you
.

For Jared

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER 41

CHAPTER 42

CHAPTER 43

CHAPTER 44

CHAPTER 45

CHAPTER 46

CHAPTER 47

CHAPTER 48

CHAPTER 49

CHAPTER 50

CHAPTER 51

CHAPTER 52

CHAPTER 53

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHAPTER
1

A motorbike revved, rousing Mackenna from the deep fug of a dreamless sleep. She rolled over to the other side of the bed. It was empty but she knew she hadn't dreamt the events of the previous night. Adam Walker was a real man, and she was in love. Her heart skipped a beat and she smiled and stretched across the bed. The sheet settled around her as she became aware of the silence of the room.

She prised her eyes open enough to squint through the open bathroom door. It was empty. It was only a small motel room and even through sleepy eyes she could see his clothes were missing from the couch and both bike helmets were no longer on the table by the door. Adam was gone.

The bike revved again, the sound reverberated in the early morning quiet of a slumbering Queenstown. New Zealand's adventure capital was catching its breath in the brief pause between the last of the revellers finally finding their beds and the workers not yet ready to face the new day. Wide awake now, Mackenna flung back the sheet sending assorted tourist brochures and papers from the bedside cupboard to the floor. She gave only a quick glance to the mess before turning her attention to the window. On the street below, the motorbike burbled and the helmeted rider leant forward, glanced over his shoulder and roared down the street out of sight.

Her heart raced, but not like it had last night when she'd given in to Adam's caresses and taken him to her bed. Last night he'd been an attentive lover. She glanced at the clock by the bed. It was only just six o'clock. Why would he leave without saying anything? She chewed her lip. Surely her judgement wasn't that off? She'd rushed into relationships in the past and this time she'd been determined to take things more slowly and get to know Adam before leaping into bed with him. She'd kept her resolve for a few days. They'd spent the best part of a week together, being tourists and exploring the sights and activities on offer in Queenstown.

She pressed her forehead against the glass. The noise of the bike softened, as if the rider hesitated. She held her breath. The bike revved and revved again then roared away. She listened until the last burble of its engine faded and the street was quiet once again, then she flopped back onto the bed. Just because her past encounters had turned out to be with losers didn't mean Adam was one as well. She sat up quickly. Maybe he'd just gone to get something for breakfast to surprise her.

She dragged the bedclothes back from their pile on the floor and leant down to search for the skydiving brochures. Papers were scattered in all directions but she eventually found the one she was looking for and settled back against the pillows. Adam hadn't planned to skydive and it wasn't on Mackenna's list of must do's either, but they'd talked each other into it. That was the plan for today if the weather was okay.

By seven o'clock she'd studied the skydiving brochure for so long she knew every word on it. She dug her prepaid mobile phone from her bag. It was out of credit again. Because of its unreliability they'd always made set plans and hadn't used their phones, and Adam hadn't given her his number. She tossed the useless phone into a shopping bag along with all the brochures and made herself a coffee. At eight o'clock she had a shower and dressed and had another cup of coffee.

By the time nine o'clock came she realised there was no need for Adam to take both helmets for a trip to the shops. There was nothing of his left in the motel room. He wasn't coming back. The pain of rejection stabbed her like a knife and tears brimmed. In just one short week she had really believed he was the kind of man she could spend her life with. How that would work with him living in New Zealand and her in Australia she hadn't thought through yet.

She picked up her camera and found the picture she'd taken of them yesterday, the two of them leaning in. They both looked so happy. Another stab of pain jabbed her chest. He was just another guy having some fun. What an idiot she'd been to think it would amount to anything more than a holiday romance.

At least no-one else knew about Adam. What happened on holiday stayed on holiday. It was never said exactly, but her parents expected her to find a bloke and get married. Up until now she'd not had much luck with that. No-one had measured up, until Adam. He was a chef on holiday, a kind of busman's holiday, and had been filling in a couple of shifts for a mate. She'd been mesmerised by his deep brown eyes, his tight dark curls and his ready smile. His quirky New Zealand accent, softened by the influence of his Australian mother, was warm and charming. Their attraction had been instant.

What a fool she was. She didn't know much about him at all. She didn't even know where it was he had been cooking. The tears threatened again. She dashed to the bathroom and doused her face in cold water. It was time to move on. She had other things to do, rather than mope over another loser of a guy. She hesitated, reluctant even with his desertion to think of Adam so harshly. At the sight of her puffy-faced reflection in the mirror, she drew in a breath and pulled back her shoulders.

“Time to get back to work, Mackenna,” she told herself and began to pack her bags.

“Your husband is out of theatre, Mrs Birch.”

Louise dragged her gaze away from the window looking out over the hospital roof and turned to the nurse.

“How . . . how is he?” Her mouth was dry, making her tongue stick as she forced the words out.

“He's doing fine. Doctor will be in to see you as soon as he's finished in theatre.”

Left alone, Louise sank onto the one chair in the room as her legs went to jelly under her. No matter how many times they told her angiograms were routine, she knew things could go wrong. She put on a brave face for her husband's sake but, left alone, her thoughts terrorised her.

She looked down at the large white envelope protruding from the handbag she gripped with both hands. While Lyle had been in theatre she'd gone to collect the papers they'd signed the day before. She opened the envelope and slid out the crisp white sheets. They'd had plenty of thinking time over the last month and a new will had been necessary. The previous one had been done before they'd had children, so an update was long overdue. Something they should have attended to before this. Somehow life was always too busy.

She flicked some stray hairs behind her ear. They'd argued over the wording and it had left them both uncomfortable. Arguments were a rare thing in their married life. Lyle had always been in charge of the farm and her domain was the house. In difficult situations one acquiesced to the other, depending on the circumstance, and they'd made a good partnership.

This was quite different, of course. Making decisions about property and livelihoods in the event of someone's death wasn't an easy thing. Lyle hadn't wanted it set out in the way Louise had demanded, but he had wavered and she'd taken advantage of his weakened health to press home her point. A pang of guilt coursed through her. She pushed it away. This was for the best. Lyle would be on his feet again soon and everything would return to normal . . . but just in case.

She dropped the papers onto the bedside cupboard and began to pace the small room. The first lot of stents were meant to fix the problem but Lyle kept getting pains. She'd thought it was the anxiety the doctor had said was natural after a heart attack, but Lyle had insisted it was more than that. Perhaps there was something the doctor was keeping from them. Why was Lyle still getting pain? Would the doctor be able to fix it this time? She stopped as the door opened and her husband was wheeled back into the room.

He gave her a small thumbs-up, and she kept out of the way while the nurses settled him in his bed.

“Doc reckons he's fixed it this time, Lou,” Lyle said as soon as the nurses had gone.

“That's a relief.”

“He'll be in to see us later.”

Louise picked up his hand and squeezed it. “You'll be much better soon.”

He cleared his throat. “I'm as dry as a chip.”

She reached for his glass and he spotted the envelope.

“That our wills?” he asked.

“I went out while you were in theatre.”

Lyle sighed. “I'm still not – ”

“I don't want you to worry about it.” Louise cut him off. “We're doing the right thing.”

“I'm not so sure, love,” he mumbled and licked his lips.

Louise offered him a sip of water. He closed his eyes.

“The angio wasn't a very pleasant experience. Hope they won't need to do it again in a hurry.”

She brushed gently at his cheek. He lifted a hand to pat hers but kept his eyes closed. He looked like he'd been through the wringer. She slipped the envelope back into her bag. There was no need to worry him about them now. What was done was done.

Hugh hesitated at the back door. After the big noise of his homecoming dinner last night the house was very quiet. Three older brothers, their wives and children made for a rowdy assembly when they all got together. His mum loved it. She was in her element with them all seated around the family table, but not Hugh. He was often the butt of his brothers' jokes and no longer at ease with his father. For Hugh a family gathering wasn't a scene of enjoyment, more one of endurance but he did it for his mother. He'd been home two months earlier for Christmas and had barely stayed for twenty-four hours on that visit.

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