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For five long years, Kelly has been separated from her son, the Alp de Ciel heir, and has been fighting to get him back. But with her estranged husband's death, Kelly can finally reclaim little Matty.
Prince Regent Rafael de Boutaine wants mother and son to be reunited, but insists Kelly must embrace royal life.
Kelly will do anything for Matty, and returns to the palace. But as she gets to know Rafael, she starts to fall in love with the man behind the prince. Kelly is in danger of doing what she vowed to avoid at all costs: becoming a royal wife again.
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Marion Lennox is a country girl, born on an Australian dairy farm. She moved on, because the cows just weren't interested in her stories! Married to a `very special doctor', she has also written under the name Trisha David. She’s now stepped back from her `other’ career teaching statistics. Finally, she’s figured what's important and discovered the joys of baths, romance and chocolate. Preferably all at the same time! Marion is an international award winning author.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It was the end of a long day in the goldfields, and Kelly had personally found almost a teaspoon of gold. The slivers of precious metal were now dispersed into scores of glass vials, to be taken home as keepsakes of a journey back in time.
Her tourists were happy. She should be, too.
But she was wet. She was dressed in period costume and raincoats hadn't been invented in the eighteen-fifties. As the day had grown colder Kelly had directed her tour groups down the mines, but she'd been wet before she'd gone down and the cold had stayed with her. Now she emerged from underground, desperate to head to her little cottage on the hill, strip off her dungarees and leather boots and sink into a hot bath.
She might be a historian on what was the re-creation of a piece of the Australian goldfields but, when it came to the offer of a hot bath, Kelly was a thoroughly modern girl.
The park horses—a working team that tugged a coach round the diggings during the day—lumbered up the track towards the stables and she stood well back. Horses... Once she'd loved them, but even now, after all this time, she hated to go near them. She waited.
Once the horses passed she expected her way home to be clear, but there were always one or two tourists lagging behind, as eager to stay as she was eager to leave. She had to manoeuvre her way past a last couple. A man and a child. They seemed to have been waiting for the horses to pass so they could speak to her.
Who were they? She hadn't seen them on the tour and she'd surely have noticed. The guy was strikingly good-looking: tall, tanned, jet-black hair—aristocratic? It was an odd description, she thought, but it seemed strangely appropriate. He was lean and strongly boned. Almost...what was the word... aquiline?
The little boy—the man's son?—was similarly striking, with olive skin, glossy black curls and huge brown eyes. He looked about five years old, and the sight of him made Kelly's gut clench as it had clenched countless times over the past five years.
How many five-year-old boys were there in the world?
Could she ever move on?
Could this be her?
Rafael stared across the track at the slip of a girl waiting for the horses to pass. Princess Kellyn Marie de Boutaine of Alp de Ciel? The thought was laughable.
She was wet, bedraggled and smeared with mud. She was dressed like an eighteen-fifties gold-miner, only most eighteen-fifties gold-miners didn't have chestnut curls escaping from under their felt brimmed hats.
He'd read the report. This had to be her.
But this was harder than he'd thought.
Back home it had seemed relatively straightforward. He'd been appalled when he'd received the investigative report. Like the rest of the population of Alp de Ciel, he'd thought this woman was a...well, no fit mother for a prince. He'd thought she'd left of her own free will, as unwilling to commit to her new baby as her royal husband had been.
But what the report had told him...
He cast a glance down at the child at his side. If the report was true... If she'd been forced away...
He had to step forward. If he did only this one thing as Prince Regent, it had to be the righting of this huge injustice.
Mathieu was gripping his hand with a ferocity that betrayed his tension. They'd come all this way. The child couldn't be messed around.
The woman—Kellyn?—was about to leave. The park was about to close.
This had to be done now.
The horses were gone and yet they were still here. Man and child. Watching her.
'Can I help you?' Kelly managed, forcing forward her stock standard I'll-make-you-enjoy-your-experience-here-or-bust smile that most of the staff here practised eternally. 'Is there anything you need to know before we lock up for the night? I'm sorry, but we are closing.'
The rest of the group were moving away, making their way towards the exit. Pete, the elderly security guard, was leaning on the gates, waiting to close.
'I can give you a booklet with pictures of the diggings if you like,' she offered. She smiled down at the child, trying really hard not to think how like...how like...
No. That was the way of madness.
'I see you came late,' she said as the child didn't answer. 'If you like, we can stamp your tickets so you can come back tomorrow. It's not much extra.'
'I'd like to come back tomorrow,' the child said gravely, with the hint of a French accent in his voice. 'Can we, Uncle Rafael?'
'I'm not sure,' his uncle replied. 'I'm not actually sure this is who we're looking for. The guy on the gate...he said you were Kellyn Marie Fender.'
Her world stilled. There was something about this pair... There was something about the way this man was watching her...
'Y...yes,' she managed.
'Then we need to talk,' he said urgently and Kelly cast a frantic glance at Pete. She was suddenly terrified.
'I'm sorry,' she managed. 'The park's closing. Can you come back tomorrow?'
'This is a private matter.'
'What's a private matter?'
'Mathieu is a private matter,' he said softly, and he smiled ruefully down at the little boy by his side. 'Mathieu, this is the lady we've come to meet. I believe this lady is your mother.'
The world stopped. Just like that.
Death was the cessation of the heart beating and that was what it felt like. Nothing moved. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
She gazed at the man for a long moment, as if she were unable to break her gaze—as if she were unable to kick-start her heart. She felt frozen.
There'd been noises before—the cheerful clamour of tourists heading home. Now there was nothing. Her ears weren't hearing.
She put a hand out, fighting for balance in a world that had suddenly jerked at a crazy angle. She might fall. She had to get her heart to work if she wasn't to fall. She had to breathe.
The man's hands came out and caught her under the elbows, supporting her, holding her firm, forcing her to stay upright.
She fought to get her next breath.
Finally she found the strength to stand without support. She tugged away a little and he released her, watching her calmly as she took a couple of dazed steps back.
They were both watching her, man and boy. Both with that same calm, unjudging patience.
Could she see...could she see?
Maybe she could.
'Mathieu,' she breathed, and the child looked a question at the man and nodded gravely.
'Parlez-vous Anglais?' she asked for want of anything more sensible to ask, for she'd already had a demonstration that he did, and both man and boy nodded.
'Oui,' the little boy said again. He reclaimed his uncle's hand and held tight. 'My Aunt Laura says it's very important to know Anglais.'
'Mathieu,' she breathed again, and her knees started to buckle again. But this time she was more in control. She let them give, squatting so she was on the child's level. 'Tu est Mathieu. Mon...mon Mathieu.'
The little boy hesitated. He looked again at his uncle. Rafael nodded—gravely, definite—and the little boy looked again at Kelly.
He kept on looking. He was taking in every inch of her. He put a hand out to touch her dungarees, as if checking that they were real. He looked again at her face and his small chin wobbled.
'I don't know,' he whispered.
'You do know,'Rafael said gently. 'We've explained it to you.'
'But she doesn't look...'
Kelly had forgotten to breathe. It seemed the child was as terrified as she was. And as unbelieving. He blinked a couple of times and a tear rolled down his cheek, unchecked.
She had an urgent need to wipe it away. To touch him.
She mustn't. She mustn't even breathe. She had to wait.
And finally he came to a decision. He gulped a couple of times and gripped his uncle's hand as if it were a lifeline. But the look he gave her... There was desperate hope as well as terror.
'Uncle Rafael says you are my mama,' the child whispered.
And that was the end of her self-control. She, who'd sworn five years ago that she was done crying, that she'd never cry again, felt tears slip helplessly down her cheeks. She couldn't stop them—she had no idea how to even try. She couldn't think what to do, what to say. She simply squatted before her son and let the tears slip down her cheeks.
'Oi! Kelly.' It was Pete on the gate, concerned at her body language, concerned to get these stragglers out of the park. 'It's five past five,' he yelled.
Rafael glanced down at Kelly, who was past speaking, and then called to Pete, 'We're not tourists. We're friends of Kellyn's.'
'Kelly?' Pete called, doubtful, and Kelly somehow stopped gazing at Mathieu, gulped a couple of times and found the strength to answer.
'Lock up, Pete,' she called unsteadily. 'I'll let them out through the cottage.'
'You sure?' Pete sounded worried. The head of security was a burly sixty-year-old who lived and breathed this park. He also treated the park employees as family. Any minute now he'd demand to see Rafael's credentials and give Kelly a lecture on admitting strange men into her home.
'It's okay,' Kelly called, straightening and forcing her voice to sound a lot more sure than she felt. 'I know...I know these people.' Her voice fell away to a whisper. 'I know this child.'
The park—a restoration and re-enactment of life on the goldfields in the eighteen-fifties—had mine-shafts, camps, shops, hotels and also tiny homes. As much as possible it was a viable, self-supporting community and the homes were lived in.
Kelly's cottage was halfway up the hill. There were ten of these cottages in the park, and Kelly felt herself lucky to have one. It might not have mod cons but it had everything she needed and she could stay steeped in history and hardly ever step out into the real world.
Which was the way she liked it. She didn't think much of the outside world. Once, a lifetime ago, she'd ventured a long way out and been so badly hurt she might never venture out again.
Now she stepped through the front door of her cottage feeling as if her world were tipping. The warmth of her woodstove reached out to gr...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. New Softcover, Satisfaction Guaranteed, International Shipping, Photos available. Seller Inventory # SKU0239101
Book Description Harlequin, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373175329
Book Description Harlequin Romance, 2008. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373175329