the house on burra burra laneby jennie jones - chapter sampler

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    THE HOUSE ON

    Burra BurraLANE

    JENNIE JONES

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    DID YOU PURCHASE THIS BOOK WITHOUT A COVER?If you did, you should be aware it is stolen propertyas it was

    reported unsold and destroyed by a retailer.Neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment

    for this book.

    First Published 2013First Australian Paperback Edition 2014ISBN 978 174356774 6

    THE HOUSE ON BURRA BURRA LANE 2013 by Jennie JonesPhilippine Copyright 2013

    Australian Copyright 2013New Zealand Copyright 2013

    Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilisation of this work in wholeor in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now knownor hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or inany information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permissionof the publisher.

    This book is sold subject to the condition that shall not, by way of trade orotherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the priorconsent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which

    it is published and without a similar condition including this condition beingimposed on the subsequent purchaser.

    All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in anyform. This edition is published in arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A..

    This is a work of ction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either theproduct of the authors imagination or are used ctitiously, and any resemblanceto actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales isentirely coincidental.

    Published byHarlequin Mira

    An imprint of Harlequin Enterprises (Aust) Pty Ltd.Level 4, 132 Arthur StreetNORTH SYDNEY NSW 2060

    AUSTRALIA

    and TM are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its corporateafliates. Trademarks indicated with are registered in Australia, New Zealand,the United States Patent & Trademark Ofce and in other countries.

    Printed and bound in Australia by Grifn Press

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    14 Jennie Jones

    oclock on a Wednesday morning, she would have changed her

    T-shirt. At least.

    Dr Granger smelled of tree bark, fresh air, and sawdust. Please

    dont let her smell like the twenty chickens it had taken so long

    to catch earlier. Shed lived in New South Wales, Australia, all

    her life, but not the country parts. Everything was so rural.

    Entirely different to what shed envisioned when she left the

    energetic rush of Sydney.

    Swallows Fall, the Snowy Mountains. Population eighty sixon the sign. Eighty seven with Sammy, but no-one had changed

    the curvaceous six to a diagonal seven. No point complaining,

    they were difficult numbers to fudge, even for herand she was

    an artist.

    She glanced at Dr Grangers strong, ring-less fingers, then took

    her gaze off the capable bachelor hands. She was single by thesheer grace of her newly acquired independence and there wasnt

    a man on earth who was going to change that.

    Is everything alright? Dr Granger asked.

    His voice was a symphony of bass notes which made her want

    to listen harder and breathe in more. Im a little stressed, she

    said, looking into his blue eyes. Because of my chickens.

    His brow rose. Did you bring chickens too?

    No. Theyre at home.

    The immediate creases on his tanned face suggested a smile.

    He turned to the table, took hold of the scruff of Dukes neck and

    checked the felines gums.Sammy took the opportunity for a deeper review of the

    veterinary situation.

    Dr Grangers navy cotton shirt was wrinkled down the length

    of his well-developed back and tucked haphazardly into the

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    The House on Burra Burra Lane 15

    shirt collar. His sandy hair skimmed the back, a little tousled, as

    though the wind had caught hold of it.

    Have you noticed any signs of anxiety? he asked.

    No. Im fine. Shed dashed from city to country; hadnt found

    her feet yet. The ten acre homestead she owned needed more

    restoration than suggested by the photos. The pile of tools in

    her shed were stacked so high shed need a manual to figure

    out which did what, but determination sat between her shoulder

    blades like a backpack of courage.She would be a cultivator of the land and accept all countrified

    things that came her way. Snow, drought, isolation, wombats,

    wingless cockroaches

    Duke seems fine too, Dr Granger said. What are your

    concerns?

    About herself? Sammy grimaced. That was a long list.She gave herself a mental kick. Irrepressible.Reckless. Thats

    who Sammy was. Goodbye hurt and jaded Samantha, tied to

    those around her and never pleasing.

    He wanders from sunrise to sunset, she said. He did that

    in the city too but down here theres more space to get lost in.

    Duke wasnt used to the country either. I kept him inside for

    a week so hed acclimatise, and now he doesnt want to come

    home to me.

    Dr Grangers mouth curved, ever so slightly. I cant imagine

    why, he said softly.

    Oh that wasnt fair. Look at him, just look at him! Warhorseheight, body indestructible with strength, and the planes on his

    face a fascination of intelligence and warmth.

    Impossible he was flirting. She was dusty and dirty

    Im worried about him, she said. Hes my only friend. Without

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    16 Jennie Jones

    smile and slotting into the sophisticated wine bars with sharp,

    boys-only jokes. The vet surpassed anything she thought of as

    commonplace.

    Dr Granger swept his gaze around her face, his smile not full-

    blown but getting there. Ethan, he told her.

    It was hardly more than a quirk of a muscle next to his wide

    mouth but a girl could linger in the comfort. She plucked at the

    hem of her T-shirt. It had been clean at 7 am but it had taken

    over two hours to catch the chickens and tie the broken cooptogether, so when Duke came home shed grabbed him and run.

    Im sorry about the pig, she said, recalling the inquisitive face

    of its owner. I hope I didnt hurt him.

    Thats Ruby. Dr Granger straightened. Shes a three hundred

    pound Landrace pig. Its unlikely she even felt you.

    Three hundred pounds? The woman had her on a lead.Interesting idea, if you had the right temperament in a pig.

    Mrs Johnson, Rubys owner, Dr Granger said, checking Dukes

    undercarriage.

    I havent met everyone yet. I just arrived.

    Ten days.

    Yes! How did you know?

    He paused, gazed at her again. Its a small town, Miss Walker.

    More like a wilderness. Sammy looked down at her grass-

    stained track pants. The soil was easy to fork and turn which was

    good, considering her ten acres were covered in weeds, but what

    sort of statement did she make? Perhaps I should have changed,she murmured.

    We take our newcomers as we find them.

    Some relief then.

    Although youre the first in eighteen years so you might attract

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    The House on Burra Burra Lane 17

    She ran a hand through her hair. Morellys hardware store had

    been her main source of interaction with people so far. She was

    on, Hows your day going? terms with young Mr Morelly, although

    why he was labelled young she had no ideahe had to be sixty.

    Shed met a few townspeople at the post office counter in the

    grocers where she collected the bigger parcels of her artwork

    from a Sydney fashion house. She hadnt completely run away;

    she still needed an income.

    She breathed deeply, and glanced around the room.There was no surgical impact, apart from scrubbed white

    bench tops and the examination table. No medicinal or animal

    smells lingered on the jarrah furniture: the desk, the filing cabinet

    and the large bookcase overflowing with hardback volumes,

    paperback publications and stacked magazines.

    She looked through the window to the High Country farmland,dotted with snow gum trees, their wide branches spread to the sky,

    freed from the weight of winters heavy snow. Eucalyptus leaves

    spiralled in the spring breeze.

    The landscape blurred suddenly: a kaleidoscopic haze. She

    caught hold of the table.

    Dr Granger picked Duke up, plopped him quickly into the

    cat box, locked the lid, then cupped his hands beneath Sammys

    elbows. All right. Ive got you.

    Sorry. She grabbed his arms, forced smaller breaths until the

    turbulence washed away. Dont know what came over me.

    Miss Walker, is there a chance you might be pregnant?She stuttered a laugh. I sincerely hope not. That would keep

    her chained to Oliver for the rest of her life. Anyway, its been too

    long She closed her mouth. Fast.

    Dr Granger cleared his throat.

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    The House on Burra Burra Lane 19

    Im not sure where our conversation is going, Miss Walker,

    but I think youre feeling better.

    Sammy stepped back. He didnt want to laugh, apparently.

    Okay. Horrible when people pushed a person into something

    they didnt want to do. I do feel better. I can take huge breaths

    and stay upright. She heaved one in to prove it.

    He nodded, and turned. He picked up a pen at the counter

    along the wall and wrote something in a file. Your feline friend

    is fine, he said. Hes doing what cats do. You, however, ought tosee a real doctor.

    No need. Im getting up earlier and working harder than ever

    before, thats all. And I just oh, I dont know He probably

    had a big, rumbling laugh. A real mans laugh. Its this country air,

    she said, a grin sneaking up on her mouth. Theres so much of it.

    Ethan hesitated, unsure if he should let his laugh loose or not.

    Was she goading him? Shed been trying to prise the smile from

    him; hed caught onto that, although at a snails pace.

    You must think Im a fruit loop, she said, and laughed as she

    swung a mass of rich brown hair over her shoulders. The colour

    matched the freckles sprinkled on her cheekbones. A couple

    danced on her nose too, or maybe it was just dust.

    Well, he said with a spontaneity that seemed to have caught a

    ride with his smile. Youre a very attractive fruit loop.

    Her eyes widened.

    Sorry, he mumbled. I was He rolled his hand. You know,playing along. He picked up the paperwork and slid it into a

    manila folder. Find some sense, man.

    She clasped her hands together. I didnt mean to be impolite.

    And I hope you dont think I was flirting. I wouldnt do that. Im

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    20 Jennie Jones

    was the colour of apricots, with the word FRESHsplashed across

    the front. The shirt sat a little skewed on her torso and he was

    trying his damndest not to concentrate on the curves beneath the

    letters R and H.

    There was something mischievous about the tilt of her chin.

    Stubborn too perhaps, and no matter how long it had been, he

    was pretty sure he still recognised flirting. But he wasnt going to

    ask her out, however tempting. She lived here, for the moment

    anyway. He hadnt placed a bet although there was a wager intown on how long shed stay, but she wouldnt know about that.

    He wasnt going to get close enough to tell her. Ethan Granger

    didnt go down romantic tracks that wound close to home. Hed had

    to remind himself of this every few seconds since shed launched

    at him over the pig, and in particular when shed been practically

    in his arms.He glanced down at his jeans. What was wrong with him?

    Dr Granger hadnt been down romantictracks in years.

    He brushed some dirt off his thigh. He hadnt had time to

    clean up after leaving a broodmare at the Smyth farm, when

    hed been called back to the surgery for Ruby and a strange

    conversation about his white coat.

    He pushed the front tail of his shirt further into his jeans. I

    apologise for being a bit untidy. I assure you Im definitely a vet,

    but Im a carpenter too. Furniture when I get the chance, but I

    also fix peoples porches, verandas and the like.

    Ive got a terrible porch, its falling to bits, she said withimmediate interest.

    I know. Keep mind in tune and gaze off FRESH.

    How do you know that?

    A knot tied itself in his stomach. The house has been empty

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    The House on Burra Burra Lane 21

    He lifted the cat box by its plastic handle and motioned she

    accompany him into the small reception area.

    Ruby snuffled at the floor, her bulbous white body quivering

    in her harness as she found something interesting to sniff at.

    Dog pee, Ethan thought, nodding at Mrs Johnson, who had

    Rubys lead linked in her fingers. Ill only be a moment, Mrs

    Johnson.

    Mrs J had her tweed-trousered legs crossed at the ankle, her silky

    headscarf tied tight beneath her chin, and her neighbourhood-watch gaze on the newcomer.

    Take your time, Ethan. Nice to see you two getting acquainted.

    Whats the cats name, Miss Walker?

    Duke. Hes a wanderer so I named him after John Wayne, the

    cowboy.

    I understand, Mrs J said, rattling Rubys lead, the tinkling bellon the harness telling the pig to come back to Mummys side. I

    dont have a cat but I like a cowboy sort of man. Someone big

    and strong, a little wild, a little hot.

    Ethan led a surprised Miss Walker towards the door, practically

    hearing her thoughts, figuring out what Mrs J had meant by the

    analogy of wandering cat and wild, hot man, as though it was

    some country-speak code for the lonely in town who ought to

    get together.

    How does she know my name? she whispered.

    He leaned closer. Small town.

    Of course. I keep forgetting. It feels colossal right now. Shestopped and looked up at him. Do you take on building work

    for anyone, or just friends?

    Well, normally He concentrated on the freckles on her

    nose, three of them. I dont have a lot of free time.

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    22 Jennie Jones

    trying to charge extra because of the fuel costs. I thought Id give

    it a go myself but I dont know where to start. Ive got a pickaxe

    though.

    She was slight, not frail, but he couldnt envisage her hefting

    a nail gun over her shoulder as she dragged stumps, joists and

    wooden decking behind her.

    He gripped the cat box hard. How about three oclock

    tomorrow afternoon?

    Really? A velvet sparkle lit her eyes. Youll take a look?What was he doing? She lived a five minute drive from where he

    was standing, in a house he dreaded. Well, Ill a look. Well

    see

    Thank you, Dr Granger, thank you. She held her hand out.

    He switched Dukes box to his left hand. Ethan, he said, trying

    not to squash the bones in her hand. You can forget the doctorpart. I wont be bringing my you know my white coat. He

    smiled, hoping it covered his awkwardness.

    Im sorry about that, she said. And about collapsing on you

    too. Ive never come close to fainting before.

    He didnt have to look over his shoulder to see Mrs Js internal

    antenna pop up. It all but crackled as she tuned in.

    It was no trouble catching you. Just take things easy for the

    rest of the day.

    Samantha Walker, she said. Sometimes Im called Sammy.

    He nodded. He had no idea what hed call her except one hell

    of a shock.The pig oinked.

    He glanced over his shoulder. Ill be right with you, Mrs

    Johnson.

    No rush, Ethan. Mrs J waved him back to what he was doing.

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    The House on Burra Burra Lane 23

    Really?

    Doe eyes; too soft, too engaging. There should be clarity in this

    somewhere. Hed been shocked into a simple case of unexpected

    desire that shed started when well, he wasnt sure how this

    had begun. To hell with it. Get with it, for once. He caught her

    fingers in his before they slipped from his hand. Miss Walker,

    are we going to do anything about this attraction?

    He waited.

    No, she whispered.Are we sure?

    She pulled her hand from his. I really didnt mean to

    I thought Id ask the question, since weve both

    admitted attraction.

    I was joking.

    Joking? A shot of hurt punctured his chest. Right of course.So was I.

    He walked past her.

    Not joking exactly, she said as she followed him outside.

    No, really, its fine. He stood next to her ancient canary-yellow

    SUV.

    She pulled keys from the back pocket of her track pants and

    beeped the remote.

    Ethan slid the cat box into the back of the vehicle, closed the

    door, moved to the drivers door and opened it for her.

    She hesitated before getting in. Ive embarrassed us both. This

    is not the best time for me and I babbled on without thinking.She tilted her head. I do that sometimes.

    She gave him a little smile but her gaze was filled with concern.

    Ethan took a breath. She wasnt the only one whod messed

    up. It hadnt been fair of him to make a play in the first place,

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    24 Jennie Jones

    Well start over, he said. Tomorrow. Three oclock. And

    theyd make it businesslike.

    Thank you.

    No problem. He pressed his lips to a tight smile.

    She hooked her hip onto the seat, swivelled her legs in, and

    fired the engine. He closed the door for her and stepped back as

    she drove off.

    What the hell had just happened?

    Wheres your assistant vet?Ethan swung around to Mrs J. Gone west. Ive advertised for

    another. I dont expect an influx of applicants in a hurry though.

    So youre on your own again?

    He nodded. It wasnt as though he couldnt cope. Wasnt as

    if he didnt usually have to. Plenty of vets with big business on

    their minds operated within a hundred and twenty kilometreradius, which was fine by him. He had enough to keep him

    occupied and didnt need much for contentment. His major

    investment outside of the surgery was his brand new cobalt-blue

    utility truck.

    Got your bet placed? Mrs J lowered her voice as though the

    sheep in the field behind the surgery might spread the rumour

    before she did.

    Ethan thrust his hands into his pockets. I dont usually bat the

    breeze, Mrs J.

    Its not idle talk, Ethan. Theres a serious bet down. Havent

    figured out why its such a big deal though. She paused. Been along time since you set foot inside the gate on Burra Burra Lane,

    hasnt it?

    That damned house. He should have kept it or burnt it to

    the ground twelve years ago.

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