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He bent his head to kiss her.

Holly was taken completely by surprise, but it felt so good she was immediately riveted and all her fears seemed to melt away.

Then some common sense prevailed and she drew away a little.

‘We shouldn’t be doing this,’ she whispered.

‘We’ve been wanting to do it all day,’ he countered.

‘I—’ She swallowed. ‘But the thing is, I’m here to do a job, and I really need to concentrate on that. So…’ She managed to look up at him humorously. ‘Thanks for being here, otherwise I could have really freaked out! But now I’ll say goodnight.’

He released her promptly, although with a crooked little smile. ‘All right. Don’t switch the light on until you’re closed in.’ He turned away and left her.

Holly closed herself into the cabin and stood in the dark for a long moment with her hand to her mouth.

The Socialite and the Cattle King


Lindsay Armstrong

The Socialite and the Cattle King - fb3_img_img_54e637d2-57f8-527f-9540-8a6b7db663c6.jpg


About the Author

LINDSAY ARMSTRONG was born in South Africa, but now lives in Australia with her New Zealand-born husband and their five children. They have lived in nearly every state of Australia, and have tried their hand at some unusual—for them—occupations, such as farming and horse-training—all grist to the mill for a writer! Lindsay started writing romances when their youngest child began school and she was left feeling at a loose end. She is still doing it and loving it.

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Chapter One

HOLLY HARDING had the world at her feet—or she should have had.

The only child of wealthy parents—although her father had died—she could have rested on her laurels and fulfilled her mother’s dearest ambition for her, that she settle down and make an appropriate, although of course happy, marriage.

Holly, however, had other ideas. Not that she was against wedlock in general, but she knew she wasn’t ready for it. Sometimes she doubted she ever would be, but she went out of her way not to dwell on the reason for that…

Instead, she concentrated on her career. She was a journalist, although occasionally she partook of the social scene so dear to her mother’s heart; Sylvia Harding was a well-known socialite. It was on two such occasions that Holly had encountered Brett Wyndham, with disastrous consequences.

‘A masked fancy-dress ball and a charity lunch? You must be out of your mind,’ Brett Wyndham said to his sister Sue.

He’d just flown in from India, on a delayed flight that had also been diverted, so he was tired and irritable. His sister’s plans for his social life did not appear to improve his mood.

‘Oh, they’re not so bad,’ Sue said. She was in her late twenties, dark-haired like her brother, but petite and pretty—quite unlike her brother. She was also looking a bit pale and strained, whilst trying to strike an enthusiastic note. ‘And it is a good cause—the lunch, anyway. What’s wrong with raising money for animal shelters? I thought that might appeal to you. I mean, I know they may only be cats and dogs…’

Brett said wearily, ‘I can’t stand them. I can’t stand the food, I can’t stand the women—’

‘The women?’ Sue interrupted with a frown. ‘You don’t usually have a problem there. What’s wrong with them?’

Brett opened his mouth to say, They are usually the most ferociously groomed set of women you’ve ever seen in your life, from their dyed hair, their fake eyelashes, their plucked eyebrows, their fake nails and tans; they’re ghastly. But he didn’t say it. Although she didn’t have a fake tan or fake eyelashes, his sister was exquisitely groomed and most expensively dressed.

He shrugged. ‘Their perfume alone is enough to give me hay fever,’ he said moodily instead. ‘And, honestly, I have a problem with the concept of turning fund-raising into society events that bring out all the social climbers and publicity seekers.’ He stopped and shook his head.

‘Brett, please!’

But Brett Wyndham was not to be placated. ‘As for masked fancy-dress balls,’ he went on, ‘I can’t stand the fools men make of themselves. And the women; something about being disguised, or thinking they are, seems to bring out the worst in them.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, beloved,’ he said dryly, ‘They develop almost predator-like tendencies.’ For the first time a glint of humour lit his dark eyes. ‘You need to be particularly careful or you can find yourself shackled, roped and on the way to the altar.’

Sue smiled. ‘I don’t think you would ever have that problem.’

He shrugged. ‘Then there’s Mark and Aria’s wedding coming up shortly—the reason I’m home, anyway.’ Mark was their brother. ‘I’ve no idea what’s planned but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of partying involved.’

Sue’s smile faded as she nodded, and tears came to her eyes.

Brett frowned down at her. ‘Susie? What’s wrong?’

‘I’ve left Brendan.’ Brendan was her husband of three years. ‘I found out he was being unfaithful to me.’

Brett closed his eyes briefly. He could have said, I told you so, but he didn’t. He put his arms around his sister instead.

‘You were right about him.’ Sue wept. ‘I think all he was after was my money.’

‘I guess we have to make our own mistakes.’

‘Yes, but I feel so stupid. And—’ she gulped back some tears ‘—I feel everyone must be laughing at me. Apparently it was no big secret. I was the last person to know,’ she said tragically.

‘It’s often the way.’

‘It may be, but it doesn’t make it any easier.’

‘Are you still in love with him?’ Brett queried.

‘No! Well, how could I be?’

Brett smiled absently.

‘But one thing I do know,’ Sue said with utter conviction. ‘I refuse to go into a decline, I refuse to run away and hide and I refuse to be a laughing stock!’


But his sister overrode him, with tears in her eyes still, but determination too. ‘I’m patron of the Animal Shelter Society so I will be at the lunch. The ball is one of the festivities planned for the Winter Racing Carnival; I’m on the committee, so I’ll be there too, and I’ll make sure everyone knows who I am! But—’ she sagged a little against him ‘I—would dearly love some moral support.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Mike Rafferty said to his boss, Brett Wyndham.

They were in Brett’s apartment high above the Brisbane River and the elegant curves of the William Jolly Bridge. Sue, who’d insisted on picking him up from the airport, had just left.

‘You heard,’ Brett replied shortly.

‘Well, I thought I did. You asked me to make a note of the fact that you were going to a charity lunch tomorrow and a masked fancy-dress ball on Friday night. I just couldn’t believe my ears.’

‘Don’t make too big a thing of this, Mike,’ Brett warned. ‘I’m not in the mood.’

‘Of course not. They could even be—quite enjoyable.’

Brett cast him a dark glance and got up to walk over to the window with his familiar long-legged prowl. With his short, ruffled dark hair, blue shadows on his jaw, a kind of eagle intensity about his dark eyes, his cargo pants and black sweatshirt, his height and broad shoulders, he could have been anything.

What did come to mind was a trained-to-perfection daredevil member of a SWAT team.

In fact, Brett Wyndham was a vet and he specialized in saving endangered species, the more dangerous the better, such as the black rhino, elephants and tigers.