This week’s Romance Cafe features an inside look into Author Sarah Mayberry’s ‘All They Need’
Romance Cafe is an exciting new weekly series on Kmart Books where we introduce readers tothe world of series romance with sizzling content including free chapters, excerpts, video trailers and more. Simply, Romance Cafe gives readers a little taste of romance…
After all Melanie Porter has been through recently, it’s time to put her dreams first. And she starts by opening a vacation retreat outside of Melbourne. As she considers her next step, the unexpected happens. One of her guests—a friend—the very attractive Flynn Randall makes it clear he’s in pursuit.
Mel is definitely tempted. Who wouldn’t be?
But Flynn comes with strings that could derail her plans. First, he’s part of the world she eagerly left behind. Second, he’s ready for a commitment, while she’s still embracing life on her own.
A resolution seems impossible until Flynn proves that she’s still in the driver’s seat!
About the author:
Sarah Mayberry was born in Melbourne, Australia, and is the middle of three children. From the time that she first “stole” paper from kindergarten and stapled it together to make “books,” Sarah has always wanted to be a writer. In line with this ambition, on graduation from high school she completed a bachelor of arts degree majoring in professional writing, then sat down to write a book. When inspiration didn’t strike, she began to wonder if, perhaps, she needed to live some life first before writing about it.Sarah picked up a love of romance novels from both her grandmothers, and has submitted manuscripts to Harlequin many times over the years. She credits the invaluable story structuring experience she learned on Neighbours as the key to her eventual success — along with the patience of her fantastic editor, Wanda.
Eighteen months later
Mel Porter glanced up as she exited her house. A smile spread across her face as she took in the clear blue sky.
Despite the fact that it was barely June, Melbourne had been in the grip of winter for over a month—-including overcast skies, rain, bitterly cold wind, overnight frosts—and it had been particularly bad here on the Mornington Peninsula, where her turn-of-the-century farmhouse was located. Today, however, the weather gods had granted the huddled masses a
reprieve. The winter-bare liquid-amber tree in Mel’s front yard stretched its branches toward the sky as though worshipping the unexpected warmth. She wondered what the neighbors would say if she did the same.
She settled for turning her face to the sun and closing her eyes.
She’d never been a winter person. Summer was what it was all about as far as she was concerned. Long days at the beach, barbecues, zinc on noses and the smell of coconut-scented sunscreen… She couldn’t wait for the warmer weather.
Rubbing her hands together, she walked down the porch steps and across the driveway to the letterbox to collect the morning’s mail. She pulled out a number of smaller envelopes with transparent windows—bills, hip hip hooray—and one larger, thicker envelope. Curious, she turned it over.
Everything in her went still when she read the words typed across the top left corner. Wallingsworth and Kent, Lawyers.
She stared at the envelope for a long beat. Then she started walking to the house.
Strange, after waiting and waiting for this moment, it had snuck up on her.
She waited until she was standing at the battered wood counter in the kitchen before she tore open the envelope and pulled out its contents.
There was a short covering letter, but she didn’t bother reading it, simply flipped to the next page.
Divorce Order, the heading said in crisp black font, accompanied by an official looking seal from the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia.
Mel’s breath rushed out in a woosh.
There it is. It’s over. Finally.
Her knees felt a little weak and she rounded the counter and sank into one of the oak chairs she’d inherited from her grandmother.
Six years of marriage, gone. At thirty-one, she was single again. Free.
She blinked rapidly and tried to swallow past the lump in her throat. This was a good thing. She’d had a lucky escape. There could have been kids involved, it could have been so much messier and uglier. No way was she going to cry.
This was a good thing.
The urge to call her mother or her sister gripped her, but she resisted. She’d leaned on her family and friends enough in the past few months. They’d comforted her, held her hand while she negotiated to buy the old farmhouse and holiday cottages that now constituted her combined home and livelihood, pitched in whenever she needed help…
It was time to start standing on her own two feet.
Her gaze found the clock on the kitchen wall and she gave a little start. She needed to get moving—she had guests arriving before lunch and she needed to clean Red Coat Cottage in preparation for their arrival.
She grabbed the keys on her way out the door and took the scenic route via the garden path to the first of the four cottages on her four-acre plot of land. The property had once been part of a vast orchard that had stretched along Port Phillip Bay from Mount Eliza to Mornington. The land had been broken up and sold off years ago for residential development, and Mel’s plot included the old manager’s residence as well as four of the compact workers cottages that had once housed the pickers and other laborers. The former owner had reconfigured the latter to appeal to vacationers, and when Mel bought the property six months ago she’d revamped all four cottages, updating the decor, kitchens and bathrooms so that they would appeal to a more affluent market.
At the time, her parents had said she was crazy, wasting money on antiques and fancy bathroom fixtures when the cottages had been attracting perfectly good business for many years as they were. But if there was one thing Mel knew about, it was people with money. She might never have been fully accepted by them, but she understood what they liked. She knew that if she wanted to increase the income from her business by attracting a wealthier client base, she needed shiny, imported things that screamed of luxury and exclusivity.
Once she’d renovated the cottages to a higher spec, her good friend Georgia—the only one of her so-called “friends” to maintain their relationship postseparation—had used her network of contacts to spread the news. Between word of mouth and the ads she’d been running in various publications, Mel was hoping she was in for a busy year.
She pondered today’s guests as she cleaned the bathroom. She’d met Flynn Randall a handful of times during her six years as Mrs. Owen Hunter. He’d always struck her as being halfway decent for someone who had been born with not just a silver spoon, but a whole cutlery service in his mouth. Owen had done his damnedest to turn their casual acquaintance into a friendship, but Flynn had perfected the knack of being friendly while somehow keeping people at a distance. A necessary evil, Mel imagined, when your family was amongst the richest in Australia.
Georgia had secured the Randall booking for her—she and Flynn were old friends—and Mel had already sent her flowers as a thank-you. Next time she made the trek into Melbourne she planned to take her friend out to lunch as well.
She gave the bathtub a final swipe with the sponge before stepping back and giving the room a last inspection. Everything looked good, so she moved into the kitchen. Once she’d finished there, she laid out fluffy white towels and made the bed with high-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. She arranged luxury-brand soaps and toiletries in the bathroom and hung matching robes on the back of the bedroom door. She fluffed the king-size quilt and arranged the down pillows, then spent ten minutes in the garden gathering a bouquet of flowers to go on the tallboy.
There was champagne in the fridge, along with Belgian chocolates and a selection of gourmet teas and coffees. The living room boasted the latest magazines—cars and business for male guests, home decoration and fashion for the women—and there was kindling and wood for anyone who wanted an open fire.
Mel did a last check to ensure everything was in place before locking the cottage and heading to the main house. It occurred to her that Owen would be horrified if he knew what she’d done with her divorce settlement. The thought made her smile grimly. The notion that his ex-wife routinely got down on her hands and knees to scrub away other people’s dirt would make his eyes roll back in his head.
Mel made a rude noise and offered a two-fingered “up yours” gesture to her absent ex as she crossed the rear lawn. She didn’t care what he thought anymore. It was one of the many blessings of being a divorced woman—along with having the whole bed to herself, never having to argue over whether the toilet seat belonged up or down and the luxury of reading into the small hours if the mood took her without having to worry about keeping her husband awake.
Oh, yeah. Divorced life is one big party.
Mel paused. She didn’t like the bitter note to her own thoughts. She’d fought hard to claw back her confidence and her sense of herself in recent months; she hated the thought that she might still be grieving the loss of her marriage in some secret part of her heart, that she might miss Owen in any shape or form.
Her marriage had been unhappy for a long time and very ugly toward the end. Her husband’s constant criticism had shaped her days and her nights. She’d bent over backward trying to please him—but it had never been enough. In hindsight, she’d come to understand that it never would have been.
Her chin came up as she entered the kitchen. She regretted the failure of her marriage, but she knew she’d done her damnedest to save it and she wouldn’t go back if her life depended on it.
So, no, she didn’t miss her ex. A fairly important realization to acknowledge on this, of all days. A realization that surely called for a celebration.
She walked to the fridge and opened the freezer door. A box of her favorite Drumstick sundae cones was on top and she grabbed one and tore off the wrapper.
If she were still married, Owen would have warned her that she risked getting fat if she ate ice cream full stop, let alone for breakfast. She took a big, defiant bite.
After all, she only had to please herself now. And what a glorious thing that was.
Rosina answered the door, her face a mask of worry.
“Any change?” Flynn asked as he entered his parents’ house.
The housekeeper shook her head. “Nothing.”
Flynn nodded tightly and strode down the hallway. His father’s study was at the rear of the house, at the end of a short hall. The door was almost always open because, even when his father was hard at work, he always made time to talk. Today it was closed and his mother, Patricia, sat in a chair beside it, her usually stylish salt-and-pepper hair a disheveled mess, her face streaked with tears.
She stood the moment she saw him and walked into his open arms. “I’m so sorry for calling you over,” she said, her voice muffled by his shirt.
“We talked about this. We’re all in it together.”
“I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve begged, I’ve bullied, but he won’t unlock the door. I keep talking to him, making him answer because I’m so scared he’s going to do something… .”
He kissed her temple. “I’ll break the door down if I have to, don’t worry. But Dad wouldn’t do anything to hurt himself.”
“You don’t know that. He’s never locked himself in his study before, either. My God, this disease… If it was a person, I would hunt it down and kill it with my bare hands.”
Flynn could feel the grief and anger and fear coursing through her and he pressed another kiss to her temple. “We’ll sort this out.”
She nodded, then stepped back from his embrace. He watched her visibly pack away her emotions as she pulled a scrunched-up tissue from the cuff of her turtleneck sweater and blew her nose. By the time she’d finished she was once again in control.
That was the really great thing about Alzheimer’s disease—it affected entire families, not just individuals. It killed slowly, over years, and it wore loved ones down with its relentless attack. In the twelve months since his father had been formally diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, Flynn had watched his parents grapple to come to terms with what the future would hold. He’d seen them both rise to the occasion with humbling dignity, even while Flynn had quietly freaked out in private over the imminent loss of the man who was such an integral part of his life.
Somehow, they’d all hung in there. It wasn’t as though any of them had a choice, after all. Least of all his father.
Giving his mother a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder, Flynn rapped lightly on the study door. “Dad, it’s me. Can I come in?”
There was a short pause. “No.”
“Can I ask why?”
“Mom’s worried about you. We all are. Talk to us, Dad.”
Silence. His mother shook her head helplessly.
“Dad, if you don’t let me in, I’m going to have to break the door down.”
More silence. Flynn eyed the frame. The house was over a hundred years old, the doorjambs solid. It was going to take some effort, but it was doable.
“For God’s sake, just leave me alone.” There was so much despair and anguish in his father’s words.
Flynn exchanged glances with his mother. “Stand back from the door, Dad.”
His mother pressed her fingers to her mouth. Flynn stepped away far enough to give himself a run-up. He’d never kicked a door in before, but he figured that if he aimed his foot at the latch, something would have to give. Eventually.
He tensed his muscles, ready to power forward.
“Wait.” His father’s voice was resigned. Weary.
The key turned in the lock and the door opened an inch or two. Only a strip of his father’s face was visible through the opening.
Flynn’s mother swallowed audibly and Flynn squeezed her shoulder again. She gave him a watery half smile.
“You got him to open the door. That’s the important bit,” she said quietly. She sank onto her chair as Flynn entered the study.
“Shut the door,” his father barked the moment Flynn crossed the threshold.
Flynn complied and turned to regard his father. The older man stood behind his desk chair, both hands gripping the high leather backrest. His steel-gray hair was rumpled, his face pale with fatigue and anxiety. His blue eyes watched Flynn almost resentfully.
“What’s going on, Dad?”
“Nothing. I want to be left alone. Is that too much to ask? Aren’t I entitled to privacy anymore? Do I have to lose that, too, as well as everything else?”
The gruff anger in his father’s voice was alien to Flynn. Adam Randall had always had high standards and he didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he’d never been a bully and he’d certainly never been a man who let his emotions rule him.
“No one wants to take anything away from you, Dad. We love you. We were worried about you. Can you understand that?”
“I’m not an imbecile!”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be patronizing. I want you to understand our point of view.”
His father stared at him, his eyes filling with tears. His chin wobbled and he took a quick, agitated breath.
“What’s going on, Dad?”
His father continued to stare at him for a long moment. Then he stepped out from behind the chair. The crotch of his navy trousers was dark with moisture.
Bone-deep empathy washed through Flynn as he lifted his gaze to his father’s anguished face.
“I was checking my email. I needed to go, but I wanted to check on something first. Then I just…lost track of things.”
Flynn could hear the shame in his father’s voice, but he didn’t know what to say. He knew how unmanly this must be, how terrified his father must feel to have lost control of his own body. He closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around his father.
“It doesn’t matter, Dad.”
His father hugged him so fiercely his body trembled with the effort. It was a moment before he spoke. “I don’t want your mother to see me like this. Not yet.” His voice was low and determined.
“She won’t care.”
After a long beat, Flynn released his father, stepping away to give him breathing room.
“I’ll get you a fresh pair of pants. Okay?”
His father nodded, dashing his knuckles across his eyes. Flynn exited the study. His mother rose to her feet.
“He’s okay,” he reassured her.
Her eyes were full of questions.
“He needs a clean pair of pants,” Flynn explained quietly.
Comprehension dawned. For a moment her face seemed to sag. Then her chin came up and she nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
She strode down the hallway, head high. Flynn rubbed the back of his neck and stared blankly at the framed Picasso sketch on the wall.
There were going to be many, many moments like this in the future. Too many to count. Bit by bit his father’s dignity would be chipped away. It was as inevitable as the sun rising every morning, and as unstoppable.
Flynn returned to the study. He found his father slumped in his office chair, his eyes closed.
“Won’t be a minute,” Flynn said.
His father nodded. Flynn’s chest hurt, watching him. Seeing how hard this was for him. There was a knock on the door. He opened it to find his mother armed with a towel, a fresh pair of boxer shorts and a pair of trousers.
“Thanks.” He shut the door again and handed the towel and clothes over to his father.
“I’ll be outside,” Flynn said.
His father nodded, his gaze fixed on the pile of clothes in his lap as Flynn left the room.
Five minutes later, his father emerged. His mother stood and the two of them simply stared at each other for a long moment. Flynn could see how much effort it took for his father to hold her gaze, but he didn’t look away. Not for a second. His mother closed the distance between them and took her husband’s face in both her hands.
“I love you, Adam Randall,” she said, her voice strong and clear. “No matter what. Okay?”
His father blinked rapidly. “I’m sorry.”
His mother shook her head. “You don’t need to apologize. Not to me.”
She stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his mouth. His father’s arms closed around her. Flynn turned away, using the excuse of checking his phone for messages to give them privacy.
“Come on, let’s have a cup of tea,” his mother said.
Flynn glanced surreptitiously as his watch. He and Hayley had been on the verge of leaving for their weekend away on the Mornington Peninsula when he’d received the panicked phone call from his mother. They had planned a leisurely drive along the bay before their appointment at midday to view the old Summerlea estate in Mount Eliza, but at this stage he was going to be lucky to make it at all.
He shrugged off the concern. His parents were more important than the opportunity to tour a piece of real estate, even if that piece of real estate was one of a kind. It was just a house and a garden at the end of the day.
He followed his parents into the conservatory and sank into one of the wicker chairs around the rustic table. Rosina appeared almost immediately, a tray of tea and banana bread in hand.
“I swear, you’re psychic, Rosie,” his mother said.
Out of the corner of his eye, Flynn watched his father fiddling with the newspapers, aligning the stack of supplements into a neat pile. Flynn guessed that he was feeling self-conscious now that the crisis had passed, and very aware that Rosina must be privy to at least some of what had occurred.
“How is the Aurora development coming along?” his mother asked as she slid a brimming cup of tea toward Flynn.
It has been a little over a year now since Flynn had stepped in as CEO of the family business. He was still feeling his way, learning the ropes, but somehow he was managing to keep his head above water.
“It’s getting there. We’ve had to renegotiate a few contracts with suppliers thanks to the high Australian dollar, but we should be starting the groundwork on schedule.”
His father’s gaze was sharp as he eyed Flynn from across the table. “How has it affected the margins?”
They launched into a business discussion as his mother handed around slices of banana bread. His father was asking after the latest news from the sales department when his mother straightened in her chair.
“I just remembered—weren’t you and Hayley going away for the weekend?”
Flynn shrugged easily. “There’s no rush.”
“But you’re looking through Summerlea, aren’t you? I’m sure you told me you had an appointment with the real estate agent,” she said.
“It’s fine. I’ll reschedule.”
“What time is the appointment?” his father asked, looking at his watch.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t want you missing out because of my stupidity,” his father said.
Flynn frowned. “I’m not missing out, and you’re not stupid, Dad.”
“What time is your appointment?” his mother asked.
Flynn sighed. “Midday. But it’s really not a big deal. I was only taking a look at the old place out of curiosity.”
“Rubbish. You wouldn’t be going down there if you weren’t serious,” she said.
Flynn opened his mouth to protest but his mother fixed him with a knowing look. He lifted a shoulder.
“I’ll admit I was excited when I first heard the estate was on the market. But the agent said the house needs a ton of work, which probably means it’s a money pit.”
“If there is one thing we have plenty of, it’s money,” his father said dryly. He pointed toward the door. “Go.”
Flynn gave him an amused look. “I take it that’s an order?”
“It is. Don’t make me give it twice.”
Flynn pushed his chair back. “A guy could get a complex over this sort of rejection.”
“Call me and let me know if the garden is as magnificent as always,” his mother said. “And before you ask, that’s an order, too.”
“A joint dictatorship. Lovely.”
He kissed them both goodbye and ducked his head into the kitchen to say goodbye to Rosina before heading for the door. He phoned Hayley the moment he was in the car, aware she’d be wanting an update.
“Flynn. Is everything okay?” she asked immediately.
“All good. Dad was upset about something.”
“Thank God we hadn’t left already.”
“Speaking of which, I called the real estate agent and pushed our viewing back an hour.”
Flynn smiled as he negotiated a left-hand turn. “Have I told you lately that I don’t know what I’d do with-out you?”
“Hold that thought.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Can’t tell. It’s a secret.”
“Oh, well, in that case…”
“When do you think you’ll be home?”
“Then I’ll see you soon.”
She was waiting on the doorstep for him, her long auburn hair pulled into a ponytail. She was wearing a pair of skinny jeans, which she’d paired with a snowy white turtleneck and the tailored brown leather jacket he’d bought for her birthday, and she looked effortlessly elegant, as always. His overnight bag rested on the step beside her, as well as her own Louis Vuitton duffel.
“You packed for me,” he said as he got out of his car.
“Didn’t want to waste time,” she said with a smile and a shrug.
He ducked his head to kiss her. “Thanks.”
She rested a hand on his shoulder and smiled into his face, her brown eyes steady. He kissed her again, comforted as always by her no-nonsense calm. They’d known each other since they were children and had always been friends. Only in the past year had their relationship become something more, much to their respective parents’ delight.
“So. Are we going to go buy a house or not?” Hayley asked.
“Why does everyone keep talking as though it’s a done deal?”
“If you could see your face when you talk about Summerlea, you’d understand.”
Flynn gave her a skeptical look.
“I know you hate the idea of having a bad poker face, Flynn, but it’s true.”
“I haven’t seen Summerlea for at least ten years. The house is probably falling down. I’m going with no expectations at all.”
“Please. As if you care about the house. It’s all about the garden, admit it.”
He shrugged a little sheepishly. Summerlea was all about the garden for him, but that didn’t change the facts of the situation.
“It’s not practical. It’s too far out of town, too far from Mom and Dad,” he said, voicing the objection he hadn’t been able to raise with his parents earlier.
“You have been in love with this place since you were a kid. I’ve listened to you rave about how it’s Edna Walling’s last great garden design so many times I’ve lost count. Getting your hands on that garden would be a dream come true for you. If you want it, we’ll work it out. It’s that simple.”
He bent and grabbed both the bags. “We’ll see.”
Like his father, he had learned not to plan too far ahead these days.
As for dreams… Flynn had traded them in for responsibility a long time ago.
Mel was weeding the border of the rose garden in the backyard when she heard the sound of a car engine. She glanced over her shoulder, trowel in hand.
A vintage sports car cruised slowly up her driveway, its glossy black paint and chrome highlights glinting in the afternoon sun. The car disappeared around the bend in the drive and she stood, tugging off her gardening gloves.
She walked over to greet her guests, arriving at the parking bay as the driver’s door opened. Flynn Randall stepped out, his back to her. He seemed taller and his shoulders broader than she remembered—or maybe it was simply that he was wearing faded jeans and a sweater instead of a tuxedo or a suit. Men always seemed sleeker and neater in suits.
“Mr. Randall. Welcome,” she said in her cheeriest tone.
He turned to face her and she blinked in surprise as she gazed into his bright blue eyes. Again, she hadn’t remembered them being quite so…startling was the only word she could come up with. Although maybe piercing was more appropriate. Especially in contrast to his almost-black hair. She’d always been aware that he was attractive but now that she was standing only a few feet away from him for the first time in over a year, she was hit with the realization that he was a very, very handsome man. He was studying her as intently and it occurred to her that he probably didn’t remember her—they’d met only a handful of times and their exchanges had mostly consisted of polite small talk about nothing special. Hardly memorable stuff. She offered him her hand.
“Sorry. I’m Mel Porter. You probably don’t remember me, but I used to be married to Owen Hunter. We met a few times… .”
His hand, warm and large, slid into hers. “I remember you. How are things?” he asked, a smile curving his mouth.
She was a little thrown by how sincere his greeting was, as though he was genuinely glad to see her.
“I’m well, thanks. How about you?”
“Good, thanks. And it’s Flynn, by the way.”
He was still smiling and suddenly it hit her that he’d been at the Hollands’ midsummer party the night she’d fallen into the fountain. She glanced away, unable to maintain eye contact.
Owen had pointed out to her in no uncertain terms exactly how see-through her dress had become after her dunking. Flynn was probably remembering her hot pink panties and whatever else she’d had on display, as well as the raft of jokes that had circulated in the weeks after the party.
The passenger-side door opened and a slim, auburn-haired woman exited the car. Mel recognized her immediately. It was hard not to, since Hayley Stanhope had been one of the women her ex-husband had constantly encouraged Mel to befriend in the hope that it would further his political ambitions. The Stanhopes had been in banking for generations and no one had more pull in the upper crust of Melbourne society—except, perhaps, the Randalls.
“Sorry. My mother called as we turned into the driveway,” the other woman said apologetically. She smiled at Mel, her brown eyes warm as she offered her hand. “I’m Hayley Stanhope.”
“Mel Porter. Pleased to meet you.”
The other woman’s gaze flicked up and down Mel’s body in a lightning-quick assessment. Mel knew what the other woman was seeing—no labels, no jewelry worth mentioning, uncontrollable hair, faded cargos, a raggedy long-sleeved T-shirt. The old self–consciousness stole over her.
“I hope you’ll enjoy your stay here,” she said, tugging on the hem of her T-shirt.
“I’m sure we will,” Hayley replied.
“I’ve put you in Red Coat Cottage,” Mel said, gesturing toward the cottage peeking through the screening shrubs she’d planted. “I’ll give you a quick tour then leave you to settle in. I live in the main house, so if you need anything, knock on the back door or give me a buzz on the phone.”
She was talking too fast and her palms were damp with sweat. She took a deep, calming breath as Flynn opened the trunk and pulled out two overnight bags, one an exclusive Louis Vuitton duffel, the other a well-worn leather number that looked as though it had seen an adventure or two.
She didn’t know what was wrong with her. She’d had wealthy guests before. So why was she feeling so edgy all of a sudden?
She took refuge in action, leading the way toward the cottage, unlocking the door and stepping to one side to allow Flynn and Hayley to precede her.
Flynn was too busy examining the big terra-cotta pot of roses positioned to the left of the door to pick up on her unspoken cue.
“Red Coat roses.” His gaze met hers, bright with interest. “You named the cottage after the rose, right?”
Mel stared at him, surprised he even knew the name of a David Austin rose, let alone that he could recognize one by appearance.
“That’s right. All the cottages are named after David Austin roses,” she said slowly. “Windrush, Pegasus, Tea Clipper.”
“Clever idea,” he said.
Hayley looked amused. “Trust Flynn to find something green to fixate on the moment he arrives.”
Mel smiled politely. Clearly, this was a private joke between the two of them. “The bedroom is the first door on the left.” She stepped a little closer to the wall as Flynn brushed past her, followed by his girlfriend. They both disappeared into the bedroom.
Mel waited in the hallway. Ten seconds later, Flynn returned.
“Lead on, MacDuff.”
She gathered by the other woman’s absence that Hayley would not be joining them. She led Flynn into the living room, explained how to adjust the flue on the chimney should they wish to use the fireplace, then showed him the kitchen and bathroom.
“All pretty self-explanatory. The instructions for the appliances are in the top drawer in the kitchen if you need them,” she said as they returned to the porch.
“Nice spec. Did you renovate this place yourself or was it done when you bought it?”
“I did it. It was a little tired and worn around the edges when I took possession.”
“You’ve done a great job.” His warm gaze traveled over her face, and for some inexplicable reason she could feel heat stealing into her cheeks.
“Thanks. That’s a pretty big compliment coming from a Randall.”
She hated the nervous note in her voice, hated the on-edge, eager-to-impress feeling in her chest. She didn’t need to impress this man. He might have more money and more social pull than God, but he wasn’t her friend, and he definitely wasn’t her husband.
She needed nothing from him. He was her guest. Nothing more, nothing less.
Flynn’s gaze ran over the front of the cottage. “I’m simply stating the obvious. You have good taste. ”
She was so surprised she let out a crack of incredulous laughter. “Can I have that in writing? My ex in-laws would be stunned.”
The moment the words were out of her mouth she regretted them—way too much information, and way too revealing of the bitterness she was still trying to move past. All of which was made worse by the fact that he actually knew Owen. Hell, he probably knew Owen’s parents, too.
She took a step away and jammed her hands into the pockets of her cargo pants. “I’ll leave you to it. No doubt you have heaps of things you want to do and see.”
She flashed him a tight smile before turning, putting her head down and walking briskly toward the main house. She didn’t slow her pace until she was around the bend and out of view of the cottage. Then she let her breath out on a sigh.
Stupid, but for some reason Flynn Randall and his girlfriend had really rattled her cage. She didn’t quite understand why. Maybe it was simply that they reminded her of a time when she’d been miserable and full of self-doubt and constantly aware of all her shortcomings. Or maybe she was like Pavlov’s dog, forever programmed to respond with quivering servility when in the company of her social betters.
Now that’s a depressing thought.
She shrugged off her disquiet. They were staying one night, and then they’d be gone. Depending on their movements, she probably wouldn’t even see them again until they checked out.
Right now, that felt like a very good thing.
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