At Last: Chapter Two

Hope you enjoyed Chapter One of At Last yesterday 🙂  As promised, here's Chapter Two.

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The delightful warmth of the morning sunshine washed over Gemma as she exited the hotel. With a contented smile, she walked over to one of the chaise lounges neatly arranged around the glorious outdoor pool of the resort. As she’d expected, the area was empty. After last night’s party, she wouldn’t be surprised if she was the first person up, apart from staff.

She’d left and gone to bed at around one in the morning, while the Christmas Eve festivities were still in full swing. Her nerves at performing last night must have taken their toll, and now that it was over, she was more relaxed but tired.

The brand new day gave her a burst of energy, though. She always looked forward to getting out and about in this wonderful place every morning, especially when everyone else was still asleep. She’d considered walking to the beach, which was a relaxing fifteen-minute trek through the rainforest from the main hotel. There was a long boardwalk through the trees, which ensured that no one who wanted to venture to the beach and back lost their way. But admittedly, she was yet to fully recover from last night, so lying outdoors by the poolside was good enough for today.

She sat on a comfortable lounge under the protection of a wide outdoor umbrella, waiting for the breakfast she’d ordered. She was tempted to bask in the sunshine, but she’d been too lazy to put sunscreen on this morning. The Australian sun could be harsh, especially during summer, so she’d better stay under a shade if she were to laze there for a long while like she’d planned.

She looked at the magazine in her hand and sighed. She’d found it outside her door that morning, and the headline had immediately grabbed her.

Where are Greg Carmichael and Gemma Aldwyn hiding?

There was a slightly fuzzy picture of her at Sydney’s Domestic Airport, with Greg by her side, talking on his phone. She rolled her eyes. She bet whoever took the photo must have also spotted the other guys with them, including Zach and Jeff. But the paparazzo had chosen to focus the lens only on her and Greg. She supposed concentrating on Greg Carmichael’s new ‘flavour of the month’ was juicier than running another story on Zach and Bec’s wedding, or Jeff and Sarah’s engagement. The readers must be getting bored with the repetition, and the magazines needed something else to garner interest.

She opened the pages and started reading. Guesses were made as to where she and Greg might be enjoying a romantic holiday. She snorted. Romantic, my ass. I wish.

With a shake of her head, she continued on. The article writer was convinced that they were at the Carmichael Sanctuary. After all, it was argued, not only was it tucked away in a secluded area of Serenade Bay, but the place was also notorious for being hard to get into. When someone uninvited or unexpected did succeed in stepping foot inside the gate of the vast property, the round-the-clock security team was quick to escort them out of the premises.

Even though the writer had guessed correctly, Gemma was relieved that they were indeed safe from snoops in this place. Apart from the almost-invisible but highly efficient security team, she’d discovered that the resort staff also helped in keeping the unwanted out of the Sanctuary—and out of Serenade Bay itself.

She’d spoken to a couple of workers who’d said that most of those employed by the Carmichaels were fiercely loyal. They were treated extraordinarily well, so they constantly did their bit to ensure the privacy of the guests. They quietly worked with the Serenade Bay locals—who were happy with the visitors’ patronage and generous tips—to sniff out possible undercover reporters or paparazzi, and report them to the security team. No wonder even billionaires and famous actors from all over the world chose to stay here sometimes.

Gemma got to the part of the article where it was mentioned that the father of one of her students had confirmed that she wasn’t resuming any piano lessons until February. This showed, said the writer, that there must be some truth to the rumour that things were getting serious between Greg and Gemma. Why else would they be having a long holiday together? And, of course, the writer had to include the requisite statement that hundreds of women’s hearts must be breaking at this news.

She snickered loudly. She always closed for lessons from mid-December till mid-February. It coincided with the school holidays, with the addition of a couple more weeks to enable the kids to settle into the back-to-school routine before starting their piano lessons again.

But she was relieved to know that there was nothing too concerning involving her students in the article. Still, she wouldn’t like it if uninvited photographers continued to hover around her studio. Parents of her students would be troubled if their own privacy and that of their kids were threatened.

Her breakfast arrived, brought by Phoebe, a pretty and petite girl in her twenties. Guests were assigned a particular staff member responsible for managing all of their needs while at the resort. Phoebe was hers, and she’d grown to really like the woman in just a handful of days.

“Thanks, Phoebe. And Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Miss Aldwyn,” Phoebe answered cheerily. “Is there anything else I can do for you right now?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. It’s for you to remember to just call me Gemma. Please. I mean it.”

Phoebe smiled. “Sorry, Gemma. Force of habit.”

“It’s funny being called Miss Aldwyn by someone who’s almost the same age as me,” she said with a giggle. “It makes me feel old.”

Phoebe laughed with her. “Mrs. Carmichael said the same thing.”


“No. Mr. Zach’s wife, Rebecca.”

“There you go. Just call all of us by our first names. We’re not into being formal.”

“Neither are the Carmichaels, actually,” Phoebe said. “They say that the only reason they ask us to be formal is for the sake of some of the guests who expect it.”

“They’re great, aren’t they?”

“Yes, they are,” Phoebe answered, eyeing the magazine on Gemma's lap.

Gemma chuckled. “Would you believe the magazines think I’m Greg’s new girlfriend?”

“Uh… you’re not?”

“No,” she answered with a hint of disappointment. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Phoebe shrugged, giving her a polite smile.

“Anyway, I’m single,” Gemma continued. “And I’m supposed to find a guy to kiss by the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve or my best friends will refuse to kiss their men.”

“Really?” Phoebe asked, clearly intrigued.

Gemma sighed, not really minding sharing this with Phoebe. She felt the need to get this particular frustration off her chest. “Yeah. See, last year we made a pact to make the first move on men we like so when New Year’s Eve comes around, we’re with our potential forever-guy. Well, they insist I have time left, so I should try to find myself a guy to kiss. They say it’s for practice, because I actually haven’t asked even one guy out all year.”

“Sounds like a fun arrangement,” Phoebe commented.

“Yeah. In fact, I started the whole thing. But I’m the one who ended up doing nothing,” Gemma lamented.

“Why didn’t you? Ask a guy out, I mean. You’re very pretty. Surely, there were lots of men who would have loved to go out with you.”

“Two reasons. Either I wasn’t interested enough in them, or the ones I was attracted to weren’t commitment material.” Her mind flashed a picture of Greg in her head.

“For what it’s worth, one of the drivers likes you,” Phoebe said with a little laugh.

“Really? Which one?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you which one. He’s too shy to approach you. Besides, he doesn’t want to jeopardise his job. It would be very unprofessional if he did ask you out.”

“Yes,” Gemma agreed, thinking it was better not to go there.

“Anyway, isn’t Mr. Greg still single?”

Gemma couldn’t help the blush that rose to her face. “Unfortunately, he’s not interested in me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“But don’t tell him we talked about this,” she warned.

“Of course not,” Phoebe said, her eyes wide. “I won’t tell anyone else either. This is just between you and me.”

Gemma smiled her thanks, knowing Phoebe would keep her word. Being discreet about their guests was a non-negotiable requirement for anyone who worked at the Carmichael Sanctuary.

“Good morning, girls!”

They both looked and found Magda making her way to them, followed by a staff member carrying a tray. Gemma grinned, greeting the elderly lady warmly. She should have known Magda would be up earlier than the rest as well.

“May I join you for breakfast, Gemma?” Magda asked.

“Please! That would be lovely,” she answered delightedly.

Phoebe rearranged a chair and a table so Magda could sit close to Gemma.

“Thank you, girls,” Magda murmured, smiling widely at her employees.

Phoebe and her colleague beamed, then excused themselves after checking that neither Magda nor Gemma needed anything else.

“I see you’re reading that magazine,” Magda observed. “I’ve had a look at my copy this morning.”

“I’m glad it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after Greg told me last night that my students were affected. But I’m still a little concerned,” Gemma admitted.

“Unfortunately, unless we catch them breaking some law, we can’t stop them from hanging around in the public places outside your studio or your apartment.”

“My apartment?” she asked in surprise.

Magda glanced at her sharply. “I’m sorry, dear. I take it Greg hasn’t mentioned that bit yet?”

“No,” she said, her brows creasing.

Magda sighed. “He probably didn’t want you to worry about it since it’s Christmas. I’m sorry. I should have waited.”

“Uh… could you please tell me now?”

Magda took a sip from her teacup before responding. “After we left Sydney, Greg asked one of our security men to go to your apartment building and have a look around. And yes—someone’s been seen acting suspiciously, asking your neighbours if they know where you are. When he was questioned, he said he was just a fan who thinks you’re wonderful.”

“A fan? I’m not even a celebrity,” Gemma said with disbelief. “Was he a reporter or a paparazzo pretending to be a fan?”

“Security doesn’t think so. Apparently, this person was walking around carrying nothing but a stack of magazines with your picture on them. They said he was a little strange.”

Gemma inhaled deeply. She’d just recently moved to her apartment, which was only a couple of blocks away from her studio. She loved her place, and she’d felt safe there. Until now.

“We’ll have to assign a security detail for you.”

She looked at Magda in horror. “Oh no, Magda. That’s… that’s too much.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re expensive…” she whispered. And seriously, she was a nobody.

Magda smiled mirthlessly. “This is happening to you because of your association with us, Gemma. It’s the least we can do. And it would only be until we’re sure that no one dangerously unstable is stalking you. Unfortunately, past experience has taught us not to take these things lightly.”

“Maybe there’s another way. I’m really quite uncomfortable with the idea of a security detail.”

Magda pursed her lips. “I do have another idea. We’d need to handle this matter delicately, so it wouldn’t blow up in the media. We don’t want to create a whole lot of other mess or additional attention. So it would take some time to make the necessary checks quietly.”

Gemma nodded, wondering where Magda was leading.

“You’re not due to start seeing your students again until mid-February, right?”


“Why don’t you extend your stay here? Have an extra-long holiday and keep me company? Some of my friends are coming in January, staying until the end of February to celebrate my birthday. So I’ll be here for another two months myself. I don’t think you’ll get bored here. There are plenty of activities to do inside the Sanctuary, and the Serenade Bay town centre is just delightful. You could also visit the neighbouring towns. There are various music, art and food festivals happening at this time in the greater vicinity. And you can go shopping at quaint little shops you’ll never see in Sydney.”

Gemma’s mouth dropped open. It sounded like a fantastic, tempting idea. Another month and a half of living in luxury in this paradise would be heaven. But…

“Please don’t even think it’s too much, Gemma,” Magda said, reading her mind. “If you go home we won’t have a choice but to assign a security detail to watch you, which, as you said, would make you more uncomfortable. And yes, I’m trying to twist your arm here to make you say yes.”

Gemma laughed out loud.

“Say yes, please,” Magda cajoled. “It would make me feel better. Otherwise, I’ll keep worrying about you.”

Gemma took a deep breath. “If I stay, could I make it up to you by entertaining your guests? Properly, that is, as if I’m a hired entertainer with set times when I have to perform? I could talk to your activities director and work it out with her.”

Magda sighed, shaking her head with a smile on her face. “All right. If you’re too stubborn to accept this as a relaxing long break, you can be our in-house entertainer, or whatever you want to call yourself.”

“Thank you,” she said with a wide smile. “It’s all settled then. And I’m very excited.”

Generally, Gemma preferred not to have the spotlight on her. It was why she’d chosen piano teaching as a career rather than performing. But she noticed that most of the guests at the Carmichael Sanctuary did enjoy listening to her while she’d practised for her performance last night. This was a way of giving back to Magda and her family for letting her stay in this uber-exclusive resort for almost two months without paying a cent. Just because two of her best friends were now Carmichaels, it didn’t mean Gemma took for granted all the perks she got as a side effect of that close friendship. She was grateful, and entertaining their guests would be but a small token of her appreciation.

“Excellent!” Magda said with a pleased grin. “I’m sure Greg will be relieved by this, too. By the way, he’s staying here with us until February.”

“He is?” she asked, her heart beating faster.

“Yes. You know how this place was already fully booked for the holidays before those lovebirds decided this is where they wanted their engagement party to be held?”

Gemma nodded. “I heard that some famous people got their bookings cancelled to make room for us.”

“Yes. In exchange for the inconvenience, they were offered a stay at any of our resorts for free at any time they choose. Anyway, there were some important business partners of ours who understandably were disappointed that they weren’t spending Christmas and New Year’s here like they’d wanted. We have to make them feel extra special after stuffing up their plans, and we’ve decided that one of my grandsons staying here to personally entertain them and strengthen business ties should do the trick. So Greg will work from here while we have important people around. Fortunately, most of them will be coming in January and February, so that works well. It’s nice to have one of my grandsons stay with me while I’m here, too.”

“Right,” Gemma responded, her breathing shallowing.

Wow. She could stay in this beautiful place until February. With Greg. Yippee!

Oh, shut up, Gemma.

***End of Chapter Two***

Hope you enjoyed that! Not long to go now before you can read the whole book 🙂

I'll send a reminder on January 6 so you can either check your devices for the book if you've pre-ordered, or check out the store links to get your copy before the discount finishes. (Price goes up from US$2.99 to US$3.99 approximately two days after release date.)

By the way, it's also now available for pre-order on Google Play. Here are the pre-order links again:

Amazon US | Other Amazon Stores | Apple | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

It will be available from January 6 on All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords and Scribd.

Till release day, take care and have fun!

Love, love, love,
Miranda xxx


Again (Time for Love Book 3) Out Now!

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It's the official Release Day for Again! It means it's now available to download and read from the different stores. Here are the links:

Amazon US|  Other Amazon Stores  |  Apple iTunes | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play  |  All Romance Ebooks  |  Smashwords

It will also be available in Scribd shortly.

Just a reminder that the special new release price of $2.99 will only be in place for three days, then it will go up to its regular price of $3.99 🙂 .

And also, Forever is 99cents for a limited time to celebrate the release of Again 🙂

Again Book Description

After being dumped for glamorous women by past boyfriends, Amanda Payne is convinced she just doesn’t have ‘it’. So when she stumbles upon a hunky Connor Reid at a party she is forced to crash, she is more surprised than anyone when he ends up in her hotel room that night. But that fantastic experience turns into a hurtful situation the very next day.

After years of travelling for his job, Connor Reid is staying put in one place to start his own business, and hopefully find a special someone. When women he’s never met before crash his work farewell party, a quiet Amanda stands out for him. But Amanda’s actions the day after indicates she might not be different from her player friends.

When their paths cross again, not only are they surprised to discover that they have mutual friends, but that they also live in the same beachside suburb. Equally shocking is the fact that their attraction for each other is still unbelievably strong. But do they have a future together when Amanda thinks Connor is just playing a game? And could Connor convince Amanda that he is not the kind of man she thinks he is?


Hope you enjoy Again. Happy reading!

Much love,
Miranda xxx


Finally Out Now!

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It's here! Finally (Time for Love Book 2) is now live.

I hope you enjoyed Chapter One and Chapter Two of this book. Without further ado, here are the links to the stores so you can read the rest of Sarah and Jeff's sweet and steamy love story:

Other Amazon Stores

Apple iTunes

Barnes and Noble

Google Play


All Romance Ebooks


I sincerely hope that this book finds its way to your heart. Enjoy :-).

Miranda xxx


Finally Chapter Two

How was Chapter One of Finally for you? Here's the continuation. Happy reading!


Sarah grinned as her laptop showed three girls crowding the screen.

“Finally, you two have deigned to come down from the clouds and video-call us!” Gemma Aldwin said.

“I know! After more than three weeks!” Amanda Payne agreed with a scowl.

“You better have a good excuse as to why this is the first call we got,” Brenna Ward said, narrowing her eyes.

“Sorry, we’ve been busy,” Sarah answered, thrilled to be chatting with her and Rebecca’s three other best friends. The five of them had known each other since they were eight years old. Twenty years later, they were still tightly knit and as close as sisters.

“Busy?” Gemma asked accusingly. “You sent us an email saying Magda’s perfectly fine, so the two of you have just been hanging around that ship having a good time. And where’s Bec?”

“Putting on her makeup for dinner.”

“Rebecca!” Brenna yelled.

Sarah laughed. “She can’t hear you. She’s in the en suite bathroom.”

“Just how big is your room that she can’t hear us?”

Sarah grinned. “I’ll show you.” She stood up and carried the laptop. She was in Zach’s suite—well, now Zach and Rebecca’s since Bec had moved her stuff here, leaving Sarah to enjoy the comfy room with the balcony that she and Rebecca had originally shared. She showed her friends the vast living area before walking toward the couple’s bedroom.

“Did Magda give you a suite?” Gemma asked in disbelief.

Sarah laughed. “Unfortunately for me, I don’t stay in here, but Bec does.”

Right that moment, Rebecca came out of the bathroom and waved to the camera. “Hi girls!”

“Something is obviously going on,” Brenna said. “What the hell are you doing in such a massive suite, Rebecca Andrews?”


“Oh. My. God,” Amanda said. “She’s back with Zach Carmichael.”

All at once, questions were fired by the three girls. Sarah walked back out to the living room, followed by a grinning Rebecca. She placed the laptop on the table as she and Bec sat together to face the others.

“I don’t believe this,” Brenna said. “How did it happen?”

Rebecca told them everything, with Sarah filling out interesting details here and there, while the others interjected with their comments and questions.

“And…” Rebecca said, getting to the end of her story, “we’re getting married.”

The stunned look on their best friends’ faces was so precious that Sarah quickly took a screen shot. The three then posed with happy, congratulatory expressions as Sarah captured another shot.

“Well, somebody fulfilled our group New Year’s resolution very quickly,” Gemma drawled.

They all laughed. A couple of months ago, in the fifth New Year’s Eve in a row that all five of them didn’t have someone to pash at the stroke of midnight, Gemma had suggested a group New Year’s resolution. As busy career women who each had their own share of painful pasts, they weren’t proactive when it came to finding a boyfriend. So they’d promised to make time for love. Importantly, they’d vowed to make the first move if a hot, decent, open-to-commitment guy showed up on their radar so they’d have a date for next New Year’s Eve. They were more than slightly tipsy when they’d made the pact, but they’d pinky-promised and there was no backing out.

“What about you, Sarah? You mentioned spending a lot of time with a guy named Ron in your email,” Brenna said.

“Uh, yeah,” Sarah responded hesitantly as Rebecca snickered.

“What?” the three asked curiously.

“She’s interested in someone else, not Ron,” Rebecca said.


“One of my future brothers-in-law—Jeff,” Rebecca supplied.


“I’m interested, as in I find him attractive, which we all know he is,” Sarah explained. “That doesn’t mean he’d be my New Year’s Resolution Guy. He doesn’t fit the bill.”

“What do you mean?” Rebecca asked.

“He’s commitment-phobic. He said he never wants to get married,” Sarah replied, telling them about the conversation with Jeff at the hot tub earlier.

“Really? That’s a shame,” Rebecca said. “It would be nice to have you for a sister-in-law.”

“Hey, aren’t we soul sisters already? Besides, didn’t you say he’s sleeping with Marilyn?”

“Not anymore. Apparently, their fling is over.”

“Oh really?” Sarah asked, pleased with that little piece of news.

“So now he’s free to have a one-night stand with you,” Rebecca joked.

“I wouldn’t mind that,” Sarah quipped.

“What?!” came another round of incredulous cries from the laptop.

“Since when have you become the one-night stand kind of girl?” Gemma demanded.

“Since I boarded this damned ship! I tell you, it does something to your libido. So, I’m thinking, why not forget my personal rules on land and enjoy myself while I’m here? I have to hurry though, as we only have three nights left at sea.”

“Isn’t that telling?” Rebecca mused. “You’ve been saying you wanted some casual sex since week one of this trip. The cruise is almost over and you still haven’t done anything about it. I’d say that’s proof you don’t really mean it.”

“Hmm. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just been waiting for Jeff…”

Rebecca frowned at her. “That doesn’t sound like wanting something casual, Sarah.”

“It is!” she insisted. “Just because I’m only looking for a one-off experience doesn’t mean I’ll settle for someone I’m not highly attracted to.”

“Or is this just another excuse to get yourself out of finding your New Year’s Resolution Guy?” Gemma asked.

“No. I’m still going to look for him. But what’s wrong with not wanting a serious relationship at this point? We have plenty of time before next New Year’s Eve.”

Rebecca put an arm around her and squeezed her tight. “Nothing at all, honey. Except that you said you really want to break the shackles of the past this year, and begged us to help you. You even said you’re sick and tired of being afraid to fall in love again.”

She sighed. “I am sick and tired of being afraid to fall in love again, and I am eager to meet my soulmate—whoever and wherever he is. I just hope I won’t be stupid enough to fall for a heartless, lying jerk again.”

“That was five years ago, Sarah. You’ve grown up since then,” Amanda said teasingly.

“Oh God, I certainly hope so,” she answered, theatrically posing in prayer.

“Getting back to Jeffrey Carmichael,” Brenna interjected. “You said you’re highly attracted to him. If he doesn’t do serious, doesn’t that make him dangerous then? Wouldn’t you be setting yourself up for hurt and disappointment?”

“I don’t think so,” Sarah replied. “Like I said, I’m only interested on a one-night stand with him. And why shouldn’t I go for someone I’m really in lust with?”

“But if you’re so into the guy, wouldn’t you find yourself wanting more than one night?” Brenna pressed.

“How would you choose a one-night stand guy then?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know. I’m too shy to have one. I imagine I’d have to be real drunk and real horny to have the guts to go through with it.”

“Sarah’s making this decision when she’s completely sober and… well, we don’t know if she’s feeling horny right now thinking of Jeff,” Gemma quipped.

Sarah flushed. “Thinking about him does kind of make me hot and bothered.”

“Oh God,” Gemma said with an eyeroll. “I do think Jeff is dangerous for you. Plus, like you said, he doesn’t fit the bill for your New Year’s Resolution Guy. So why bother with him?”

“But I don’t plan to find my New Year’s Resolution Guy on this ship,” Sarah said. “Look, I can’t remember the last time I’ve done something adventurous and out of the ordinary since that heartless jerk proposed to me, then had the hide to call me by his ex-girlfriend’s name in the middle of sex. For the first time in a long time, I just really want to let my hair down and experience something I’ve never done before. For whatever reason, that includes enjoying no-strings-attached sex—and it’s Jeff I want to do that with. I know it’s weird that I’m so stuck with this idea, but… it’s just there, taunting me.”

“I suppose out of the five of us, you’ve had the longest sex drought,” Gemma said. “Maybe you’re drunk with horniness.”

They all chuckled, then Sarah let out a big sigh. “You know what? Just because I want to do it doesn’t mean I’ll have the guts to ask for it. I might end this trip with my sex drought still unbroken.”

“If you really want to break the drought, is there anything you want me to do?” Rebecca asked. “Like give Jeff some hints that you’re interested in some casual sex with him?”

A picture of Rebecca whispering into Jeff’s ear popped into Sarah’s head. Her mind followed the scene her imagination created, and she watched Jeff’s eyes register surprise. Then his lips started to twist—into a… smirk. A smirk?!

She felt herself go red. The thought of Jeff rejecting her for a no-strings-attached romp proved way too uncomfortable and embarrassing. Hurtful, even.

“No, thanks, Bec. I want to be as subtle as I can about it. I’ll play it by ear and see what happens.” What she really wanted was for Jeff to suggest it. That way, she could avoid being rejected if he wasn’t interested.


Sarah took her seat next to Rebecca at the table for six in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. She, Bec and Zach were the first to arrive for a family dinner to celebrate Zach and Rebecca’s engagement. She felt both out of place and grateful. She wasn’t family, yet she was invited. Even Magda’s younger sister and friends who were with them on this cruise weren’t there. Magda had requested a dinner with only her grandsons, her future granddaughter-in-law and Sarah. Well, she supposed she was Rebecca’s “sister” for all intents and purposes.

“Hello, darlings,” Magda said as she arrived with Greg.

Sarah couldn’t help but be secretly pleased that Magda sat next to Zach while Greg took the other seat next to Magda. That meant Jeff would have to sit next to her when he arrived. Good.

She made small talk with Greg, who was just as utterly good-looking as his two brothers. Funny, though, that even with similar levels of hunkiness, only one brother could raise her body temperature. Speaking of that particular brother, where was he?

“I wonder what’s keeping Jeffrey,” Magda murmured. “I hope he hasn’t forgotten we were all going to have dinner tonight.”

“I’ll give him a call,” Greg said, pulling out his phone.

“No need. Here he comes,” Zach said.

“Hey, all. Sorry to keep you waiting.” Jeff took his seat, grinning at Sarah as he did so.

“I was worried you’d forgotten about dinner with us, Jeffrey,” Magda said.

“Of course not, Gran. But I bumped into Grand-Auntie Miriam and your friends, and I had to engage in some chit-chat.” He turned to Zach and Rebecca. “I didn’t mention your engagement to them. I thought you might want to make the announcement yourselves.”

The couple nodded their thanks.

“There’ll be another opportunity for them to celebrate with us when Zach and Rebecca have their engagement party,” Magda said. “That is, if they’re having one. Are you?” she asked the two.

“Engagement party?” Rebecca asked with a hint of trepidation. “Do we want one?” she added to Zach.

“Oh, I hope you consider having one,” Magda said pleadingly, hopeful excitement written all over her face. “Wouldn’t you want to share the good news with all your family and friends?”

Rebecca laughed and smiled fondly at Magda. “Okay, we’ll have one.”

“I actually have something in mind, but I haven’t discussed it with Bec yet,” Zach said.

“What’s that?” Rebecca asked.

“How big do you want our engagement party to be?”

“I’d prefer just family and friends,” Rebecca said shyly.

“Well, then, I have a great idea. The extension and refurbishment of our small country hotel in the Hunter Valley are in their final stages. Before we reopen it to the public in a month and a half, we could put the services through a dry run. Holding our engagement party there would be perfect. Our guests could stay overnight. There are now thirty rooms and five suites in total, so if we’re only having a few people, we should be able to accommodate them all at Magda’s Place.”

Sarah noticed that Magda was holding her breath, trying valiantly to contain her excitement while waiting for Rebecca’s answer. Sarah bit her tongue to keep from chuckling out loud at Magda’s childlike delight.

“That sounds wonderful,” Rebecca answered with a bright smile. “I can’t wait.”

“Me neither,” Magda quipped, making them all laugh out loud.

While Sarah and Rebecca were looking after Magda while she recovered from her hip replacement surgery, Magda had told them about their boutique country hotel that her late husband had named in her honour. Magda’s Place, situated in the grounds of the Carmichael vineyard and winery, was the part of their business that Magda was most interested in. Apparently, Magda had played a big part in designing the interior of the building, and had chosen the decor herself. She’d have a ball if her grandson’s engagement party would be held there.

Sarah was looking forward to it too. She’d love to check out their vineyard and winery.

“I love your shiraz,” she said with a sigh. “Now I’ll get to see how it ends up in the bottle. That is, if it’s allowed,” she added hurriedly.

“I’ll take you behind the scenes in the winery,” Jeff offered.

“Oh, will you?” Sarah asked excitedly. “That would be great!”

“You can even try everything we produce,” Jeff said.

“Everything? I might get drunk during your wine tasting tour,” she joked.

“Are you a happy drunk or a sad drunk?”

She chuckled. “A happy drunk. When I start giggling uncontrollably for no reason, that’s when you know I’m at my limit.”

“Well then, you definitely must try everything we produce.”

Sarah giggled, inexplicably happy. Geez, she wasn’t even drunk yet and she was already acting like it. It must be the effect Jeffrey Carmichael had on her.

Oh darn. He was dangerous. But the realisation only served to excite her more.


Finally–available from May 27th.

I'll be back shortly with the links to the stores :-).