One of the exciting things about this ( and here, I expose just how egotistical I am) is that I love seeing my name bigger than the title.
I've had these little goals I hoped to achieve as an author and seeing my name featured like that was one of them. But actually, there's no reason for me to see this as an achievement, because it's not recognition of any success on my part. It's simply a decision our publishers have made for all the authors in the Romance line.
I, for one, am thrilled and grateful. It suggests confidence in the authors -- a clear statement from the powers that be that the author's name is an important part of the selling package.
The other difference for this book is the title. Not a cowboy, baby or bride in sight. Again, this is rather nice for a change. But it's also a bit of a gamble. This book has no obvious "hook" in the title (unless heart and outback are hooks) and is in a line up of six, alongside five books that cover the whole spectrum of romance hooks... sheikh, baby, pregnancy, rancher, prince & bride, so it will be interesting & scary to see how it sells.
Anyway, the thing that matters to me most is that I loved writing this book. After that, it's over to you, dear readers...
Here's another excerpt...
“What are you doing here?” Byrne demanded through gritted teeth. The strain of his ordeal showed in the haggard vertical lines that bracketed his mouth.
“I wanted to pay Riley a visit,” Fiona said carefully, and then, less easily, “I’m Fiona McLaren.”
“I know who you are. The nurse told me.”
He made no attempt to introduce himself.
“And you’re Riley’s father.” She said this calmly enough, but she felt as if she was walking through a minefield.
Byrne nodded, but his clear grey eyes glowered at her as if he wanted to add that it was none of her business.
Riley’s perky little voice broke into the bubble of tension. “Hello, Daddy.”
Byrne looked at his daughter and his face softened. He smiled at her, but it was such a bleak, struggling smile Fiona felt her heart break for him.
She said, “I only popped in for a brief visit.”
He showed no sign that he heard.
“Look what I got, Daddy.” Riley shook the dinosaur up at him. “This is Athengar. Fee – fee – this lady gave him to me.”
He slanted Fiona a black look and then sneered at the fluffy toy as if it were a dirty, flea infested rag. “Looks like a cross between a lizard and a wombat.”
“He’s a dinosaur,” Riley insisted, sounding offended. “He’s Athengar. He’s Dunkum’s new friend.”
Her father was less pleased than ever.
Fiona looked at the two of them, the warm, bubbly, brown-eyed child and the tall, handsome, stony-faced man with the attractive, lonesome cowboy aura. Until yesterday there’d been another. Tessa Drummond. They’d been part of a threesome. A happy, warm little family.
Jamie’s accident had changed all that.
She said, “I’ll go now.”
He nodded stiffly. “I think that would be best.”
Fiona swallowed, bent down and picked up her jacket and the empty plastic bag that had held the toy. She managed a tight smile. “Goodbye, Riley.”
T he little girl seemed tired suddenly and she cuddled the dinosaur close to her chest.
Fiona turned her attention to Byrne, looking him in the eye, hoping he might see her sincerity. “Goodbye, Mr. Drummond. Please accept my sympathy. I’m so sorry about your –” Just in time she remembered Riley. How much did this child know? “I’m sorry about the accident.”
The fierce movement of his throat suggested that he couldn’t have responded even if he’d wanted to.
She drew a swift breath, in a bid for control, but her own loss of Jamie was too new, too raw. She couldn’t be strong, couldn’t hold back a sudden fierce rush of grief. Her eyes filled with tears.
Byrne frowned fiercely, his eyes hard.
“Say goodbye to Athengar,” called Riley.
But Fiona couldn’t. It was a mistake to have come. She’d achieved nothing.
She left quickly without looking back.
Byrne found his voice just as Fiona disappeared. Through an opaque glass screen, he saw her silhouette freeze, and then she stepped backwards in an abrupt, jerky movement. And she was there again, framed in the doorway.
A snapshot from another world.
A redhead from the city in a slim beige skirt, a crisp white blouse, with tiny pearls at her ears and throat. Beige high-heel pumps and pale stockings emphasised her femininity. She held a silk lined jacket, hooked by a finger and swinging from her shoulder.
On the surface, she looked cool, classy and collected, but she couldn’t quite hide the vulnerability in her eyes. But when her gaze met his, her nose lifted, like an animal scenting danger. Her green eyes narrowed and cooled and she met his gaze levelly.
Only a raised eyebrow and very slightly parted lips hinted at the controlled curiosity with which she waited for him to speak.
Hell. For a fraught moment Byrne couldn’t damn well remember why he’d called her back. He felt flickers of panic as his mind scrambled through a nightmare of tangled thoughts. The accident. Tessa. Scamp. Oh, God. This redhead was the enemy. Related to the mongrel who –
No. It was something practical. Ah, yes. He remembered...
“The property,” he said at last. “What are you going to do with it?”
She frowned. “Do you mean my brother’s property? White Cliffs?”
“I – I’m not sure. I haven’t had time to think.”
She looked pale.
“Why do you need to know?” she asked.
“White Cliffs shares my boundary, but it’s been neglected. No fire breaks to speak of. A lot of the fences are in a bad way. I thought you ought to know it needs a bloody good clean up. And a decent manager.”
With a cool smile she said, “Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Drummond. If I don’t sell White Cliffs, I’ll find a very good manager to look after it.”
He scowled at her. “You’d better make sure it’s someone who really understands the cattle business. Not like your brother.”
She bristled visibly. Shoulders straightened, head high, she replied icily, “So you were unhappy with my brother’s – my late brother’s management of White Cliffs?”
“Out here we expect neighbours to pull their weight.”
“I don’t need to be lectured on good management. You’re worrying unnecessarily. I can assure you, one thing I’m very good at is hiring the right staff for specialised tasks.”
Byrne grunted. Bully for you.
He looked at Scamp, who was lying down again, curled in her cot with her thumb in her mouth. The doctors had warned him she would be sleepy for a day or two.
“Don’t you believe me, Mr. Drummond?”
Across the room Fiona McLaren’s emerald eyes challenged him.
But Byrne was exhausted. In no mood for a battle. Drained. Almost too tired to hate her.
He dropped his gaze and shrugged. “Time will tell.”
He was aware of her standing there, watching him for a long, drawn out moment, as if she wanted to retaliate. But he didn’t look her way again and after a bit she turned and left, and this time she kept going. Byrne heard her high heels tapping and snapping all the way down the corridor to the front desk. And beyond.
He hoped he would never have to see her again.