i 530d83f9160d5231

BOOK: i 530d83f9160d5231
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‘The baby you’ve had — is it mine?’

How typical of Cameron Adams! He’d been just as direct and intent on getting what he wanted a year ago, when he’d seduced Riona — and left.

Now he was back, and Riona faced a hard decision: let Cameron discover who really was Rory’s father and she would lose her beautiful child; if she lied to keep her son, then she risked seeing Cameron walk away once more.

a solution — but could Riona submit to Cameron’s demands in order to keep the two people she loved most?






First published in Great Britain 1993 by Mills & Boon Limited

Alison Fraser 1993

Australian copyright 1993

Philippine copyright 1993

This edition 1993

ISBN 0 263 78215 8


‘Is IT mine?’ were his very first words, when they met outside the vil age store.

Riona stood a moment, caught by memories. It had been over a year and she’d never expected to see him again. She wasn’t ready for this.

She murmured a faint ‘What?’ in response.

‘The baby you’ve had—is it mine?’ he repeated cool y.

No ‘It’s good to see you!’ No ‘How are you?’ Just straight to the point for Cameron Adams.

‘No, it isn’t.’ She gave him the answer he wanted.

It was a surprise that he even bothered adding, ‘Are you sure?’

She nodded.

They stood a moment longer, looking at each other, remembering...

Then Riona turned to walk away.

He blocked her path.

‘In that case—’ his lips formed a contemptuous curve ‘—I guess Fergus Ross is the lucky man.’

‘You can guess what you like,’ Riona threw back, and pushed past him.

He let her go and she hurried up the road, turning a couple of times to check he wasn’t fol owing. He remained outside the shop, watching her

retreat. He probably thought she was running away from him—and he was right.

She was out of breath when she reached Dr Macnab’s house. She rang the bel with some urgency.

‘He’s back, Doctor,’ she gasped as the door opened. ‘I just met him. At the store. He’s heard about Rory. I have to go—’

‘Now, calm down, lass,’ Dr Macnab advised, leading her inside. ‘You mean Cameron Adams?’

She nodded, before going to pick up the baby lying on the living-room carpet. He gave her a beautiful toothless smile.

‘Cameron knows about the lad here.’ Dr Macnab was clearly less distressed by the fact. ‘Then he must have come to help you. I was certain he

would. If only you’d let me write him—’

‘No, Doctor.’ Riona shook her head. ‘I don’t know why he’s come, but it’s not to help. More likely he’s scared I’l bring a paternity suit against him.’

‘Ah, Riona, lass.’ The old doctor sighed at her cynicism. ‘I can’t think that’s so. He took advantage of you, it’s true, but he’s not a bad man. Now he knows he’s fathered Rory—’

‘Actual y, he doesn’t,’ Riona stated, before the doctor’s optimism could carry him away.

‘But you said...’ Hamish Macnab tried to remember exactly what she had said.

‘Someone told him I’d had a baby,’ Riona explained. ‘He wanted to know if it was his. I said it wasn’t.’

The old man was plainly shocked.

‘I just told him what he wanted to hear, Doctor,’ Riona justified her actions. ‘You won’t tel him differently, wil you?’

‘I can’t. You know that.’ As her doctor, he couldn’t break a confidence, even if he wished to. ‘But, lass, you can’t hope to get away with it. He just has to see Rory...’

Riona frowned at this mention of the likeness between baby and father. She adored her son, but that was how she thought of him—
son, and nobody else’s.

‘I’l make sure he doesn’t.’ Her jaw set with determination as she dressed the baby in his outdoor clothes and went to put him in the carrier she


Dr Macnab stopped her, saying, ‘Come away, lass, I’l give you a lift.’

She accepted the offer. It was quite a walk back to her crofthouse and she didn’t want to risk a second meeting with Cameron Adams.

Unfortunately the doctor used the car journey to try and persuade her to tel the truth to the American. She listened politely and, on parting, agreed to think about it, knowing ful wel she wouldn’t. A year ago Cameron Adams had returned to Boston without a word or a backward glance. He’d left her with a breaking heart and a baby on the way. In time her heart had hardened and life now centred on her son; they needed no help from his father.

She carried young Rory into the crofthouse and sat him in a bouncing cradle close to the old-fashioned range. When they weren’t out on the hil s,

they inhabited the kitchen, because it was the warmest room.

Rory had actual y been born in the house. He’d arrived a few weeks early, al owing no time to travel to hospital in Inverness, and Dr Macnab had

delivered him in the bedroom upstairs. He had been a healthy eight pounds, the birth had been relatively easy, and love for her son had flowed through her from the moment he’d been placed in her arms. Giving him up would have been impossible.

Yet keeping him sometimes seemed an act of selfishness. She looked round her shabby kitchen, furnished with an il -assorted col ection of sideboards and tables from her granny’s day. Some work had recently been done by the estate to try and eradicate damp in the wal s and warm up the cold stone floor with linoleum, but it was stil a shabby place. It made her realise how little she had to offer Rory. She didn’t even own the smal , cheerless house, and she barely eked a living from working the croft. She carried Rory with her when she herded the sheep, and, despite the doctor’s assurances, she worried that the fresh air was too bracing for a five-month-old baby.

It wasn’t just the practical difficulties, either. For herself, she could put up with the gossip and the disapproving looks, but what would happen when the boy was older? The peninsula of Invergair might cover a wide area, but its society was narrow. An il egitimate baby was stil a talking-point, especial y when the father’s identity was uncertain, and in time Rory would be the one to suffer. She had considered leaving the West Coast for Edinburgh, but she would have to find a place to stay and a job to do, and there wasn’t much cal for crofters in the city. So she stayed in Invergair, living the life of a virtual recluse.

Of course she couldn’t do that forever, couldn’t keep her son hidden away from curious eyes. She just hoped that, given time, the likeness to his

father would fade enough to pass unnoticed.

It seemed a vain hope, however, as she cradled her son in her arms. He had a shock of black hair, dark blue eyes and the hint of a dimple in his chin.

Al babies were born with blue eyes, she’d been told, but his would stay blue. She knew this because her son was a tiny replica of his father.

Cameron Adams. The thought of their meeting today sent a chil through her. His directness had always been disconcerting. Now it seemed brutal.

She supposed he’d been angry about the baby; he’d done his best to ensure there would be no consequences from their brief affair. Even as he’d talked of a future together, he’d known al along it would never be.

Riona’s mind slipped back once more to last summer. It had mainly been a good summer, warm and dry and sunny, but not on the June day they’d

met. Then it had been raining. She’d been returning from her weekly trip to Inverness and had caught the bus that went as far as Achnagair. She had started walking home the six more miles to Invergair, hoping for a lift from a local, when a car slid to a halt beside her. It was a posh car, a sleek black BMW. An electric window rol ed down and the driver leaned over the passenger-seat to speak to her. She stood a cautious step or two from the door.

‘Hey, kid, am I on the right road for Invergair?’ the driver cal ed to her.

She nodded in response, but didn’t volunteer more.

‘How far is it, do you reckon?’ he pursued.

She answered, ‘Six miles to the vil age,’ but was careful to keep her voice low. Dressed in jeans and hooded jacket, she’d been taken for a boy. It seemed wise to maintain the il usion.

‘So, it’s straight on?’ he concluded.

She nodded again, and, stepping back from the car, resumed walking.

Instead of driving on, however, he drew up in a layby slightly ahead of her, and, climbing out of the car, cal ed back, ‘You might as wel hitch a ride, kid.’

‘I...’ Riona hesitated, torn between saving herself the walk and the potential risk. She looked him up and down, struck first by his size. He was wel over six feet and looked muscular in build, despite expensively cut clothes. Riona knew little or nothing about designer labels, but she could stil recognise money even when it walked around in casual suede jackets and faded jeans.

He also happened to be the most attractive man Riona had ever met. Her eyes went from his clothes to his face and just stayed there. With thick

dark hair above straight dark brows, a long nose and square, unshaven jaw, he looked both handsome and dangerous. Then, al of a sudden, his hard,

beautiful mouth slanted into a half-smile and his dark blue eyes glittered with cynical amusement.

‘Do you want references, kid?’ he suggested at her lengthy scrutiny. ‘A ride, that’s al I’m offering. Take it or leave it.’

‘OK.’ Riona opened the passenger door and cautiously slid into the passenger seat, gripping her holdal to her.

‘Relax, kid. Boys aren’t my thing,’ he said with a short laugh.

Riona felt herself blushing and was glad her jacket hood hid much of her face. She decided to keep it on.

He didn’t seem to notice. He set the car in motion before asking, ‘Are you from Invergair?’

‘Yes,’ she replied simply.

‘How big is the vil age?’

‘Not very.’

‘A one-horse town,’ he remarked in a drawl. ‘That’s what we’d cal it in the States.’

‘Real y.’ Riona sounded less than interested in what an American would cal Invergair.

Her reticence was noted, as he came back with a wry, ‘So tel me, are al the locals as gabby as you?’

‘I...’ Stuck for an answer, Riona glanced at him, then looked away as a mocking brow was lifted in her direction.

Of course he was right. She was being ungracious. Riona realised that. He hadn’t needed to offer her a lift. He didn’t even know she was a girl. It was she who was over-conscious of him as a man.

Silence descended until they approached the turn-off for Invergair, then she deepened her voice slightly to request, ‘Could you let me off here? My croft’s further on.’

He slowed down, saying, ‘How far?’

‘A mile or so.’ She nodded towards the road ahead.

‘Then I might as wel take you.’ He shrugged, and, before she could object, picked up speed once more.

‘Thanks,’ she murmured reluctantly. She didn’t want to be the recipient of such generosity, particularly when she’d been so churlish herself. ‘You

can drop me here, please,’ she said after they’d travel ed the further mile.

He slowed down again, but, seeing no sign of habitation, asked, ‘Where do you live, kid?’

‘On the hil .’ She pointed at the rough dirt track leading towards her croft, then found herself protesting, ‘No, don’t go up it!’

‘Why not?’ He’d already turned on to the track.

‘Wel ...’ Riona searched for a reason, other than an unwil ingness to let him see her home’... the track isn’t tarred. Your car might be damaged.’

‘So? It’s a rental.’ He casual y dismissed the gleamingly expensive motor car and continued up the rutted road to the crofthouse.

The rain had ceased and, as they reached the top of the bil , they had a clear view of her cottage. Built of rough stone and slate tiles, it could be described neither as cute nor quaint. It was a drab, plain building, with a kitchen and sitting-room downstairs, and two bedrooms in the attic. Round it was a dry stone wal , half fal ing down, and a garden that had gone to weed. The air of neglect was emphasised by the fact that it was deserted.

‘Where are your folks?’ the American asked as they drew to a halt and no one came out to greet them.

‘I haven’t any.’ Riona’s parents had died in an accident when she was too young to remember them. The grandfather who’d raised her had died in

the past year.

‘So who looks after you?’ he pursued, when she made to climb out of the car.

‘No one. I look after myself.’ Riona wondered how old he thought her.

He stared hard at her for the first time. She stared back. It was a mistake.

Before she could stop him, he pul ed down her hood and announced with some disbelief, ‘Hel , you’re a girl!’

Riona could hardly deny it. Under the hood, her blonde hair was bound in a long, thick plait, and, though she wore no make-up, her soft skin and the ful curve of her mouth made her utterly feminine.

‘Beautiful, too,’ he added under his breath.

Riona ignored it. Her grandfather had taught her to consider beauty a doubtful quality.

‘I’m also twenty and quite able to fend for myself, thank you,’ she announced rather briskly, and reached for the door-handle.

He caught her arm, detaining her. ‘You’re on your own here?’

Riona frowned at the question, not sure how to answer. He was stil a stranger and it didn’t seem too clever to admit to being alone.

‘Not real y,’ she eventual y said. ‘There’s Jo. He lives with me.’

‘Jo?’ He repeated the name, before guessing wrongly, ‘Your husband?’

Riona didn’t contradict him but her blush gave her away.

‘Not your husband,’ he concluded drily, before shrugging. ‘Never mind. Who gets married these days?’

If he was trying to save her embarrassment, he drew a scowl for his trouble. Riona didn’t need his approval for living with a man, especial y when

she wasn’t—Jo was her col ie dog.

‘Have I said something wrong?’ he continued at her hostile silence. ‘You want to get married and he doesn’t. Is that it?’

BOOK: i 530d83f9160d5231
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