But playing nanny to Gregory Finch's daughter wasn't exactly the Something Big Melissa had anticipated. And she would've turned down his job offer if it hadn't been for the family of fugitives she found hiding out in an abandoned cottage on Gregory's farm. They needed to stay hidden, and she was the only one who could help. Playing nanny is the perfect cover for Melissa until she can be sure these three lost souls are safe.
Except Gregory can never find out what she's doing.
And she can never let herself love a man she has to lie to. Besides, she can't find Something Big if she's busy taking care of Gregory and his sweet little girl.... Can she?
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August 07, 2007
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Excerpt from Nanny Makes Three by Joan Kilby
Melissa Cummings buzzed down Balderdash Road in her apple-green Volkswagen Beetle, flipping between stations in search of country music. A little Keith Urban would be nice, or Missy Higgins. All she could find were ads and news.
...fine and warm this autumn afternoon in Melbourne...
...woman and two children missing from their Ballarat home...
...two for one at Carpet Emporium...
Dappled light filtered through the towering gum trees that crowded the narrow road. Melissa rounded a bend and shrieked as a figure darted in front of the car. She swerved, barely missing a boy of about eight years old. She had a fleeting glimpse of carrot-red hair and a blue T-shirt before the kid, his small limbs churning, dived into the thick undergrowth.
Melissa brought the car to a skidding halt, her heart racing.
Where had the boy gone? Was he hurt?
In the rearview mirror she saw a toy fire engine lying on its side across the center line.
Slowly she reversed, winding down the window. "Hello, little boy? Are you all right?"
The hot afternoon was heavy with the throb of cicadas and the resinous scent of eucalyptus. A magpie lifted his black-and-white head and sent forth a liquid warble. Melissa gripped the wheel with one hand and worried at a hangnail on the other with her teeth. Had she actually hit the boy? She couldn't remember feeling any impact. But if he wasn't hurt, why hadn't he come out of the bushes? He could be lying in there, unable to move. What if he needed a doctor?
She turned off the engine and climbed out of the car.
Picking up the fire engine, she wobbled into the bush in her high heels. "Helloo," she sang out. "I'm coming."
Dear God, please don't let him be dead.
The dry grass brushed against her bare legs and left tiny seeds caught on the lace hem of her skirt. She forced herself to move steadily through the thick undergrowth. A trickle of perspiration dripped down her back beneath the sleeveless top. She crept to one side of a shrub and pulled back the leafy branches. A small boy, dirty and disheveled, peered up at her, clearly terrified.
"Thank goodness you're alive." Melissa held out his toy. "Are you hurt?"
The child snatched it from her hand and ran, only to stumble on a fallen limb hidden in the grass. He fell with a cry and rolled to one side, clutching his leg. Blood streamed from a gash on his shin.
At the sight of the blood, spots swam in front of Melissa's eyes. She was going to faint. Deep breath in, deep breath out. First--stop the bleeding. She couldn't even think until the boy's leg was bandaged.
"Don't worry," she said, as much to reassure herself as him. "I've got a first-aid kit in my car."
"Mum! Where are you?" The boy struggled to his feet, ignoring the blood still running down his leg. His ankle buckled under him.
"Josh!" A petite blond woman popped out from behind a bush a few yards away and pushed through the tall grass. She had a leather purse slung over her shoulder, and in her other hand she carried a plastic grocery bag. Her taupe linen top and khaki capri pants were smudged with dirt, and the scratches on her tanned calves were beaded with blood. When she reached the boy she threw her arms around him.
"Mummy!" A little girl of about six, with strawberry-blond hair, emerged from behind a large brushbox tree and waded through the grass to clutch at her mother's legs. Her bare arm below the sleeve of her pink T-shirt sported a cluster of dark purple bruises, and there was another dark bruise across her cheekbone and eye.
"Did you fall and hurt yourself, too?" Melissa started to reach out, but the girl shrank back. "There's a petrol station a few kilometers back. I could get some ice for that eye."
"Callie's fine." The woman curled a hand protectively around her daughter's shoulder as she urged the children back the way she'd come. "Josh'll be fine, too." The boy limped on his sprained ankle and the girl struggled to keep up, but neither made a peep.
Melissa frowned, confused by their reluctance to accept help. "His wound could get worse if you leave it," she insisted, picking her way among fallen logs and scrubby weeds after them. "Infection, tetanus, gangrene...you can't be too careful.You really should go to the hospital. I'd be happy to take you."
"Mum?" The boy stopped and leaned on his mother. His voice quavered and his chin wobbled as he fought back tears. "I could use a Band-Aid."
"Oh, Josh, darling." She hugged him tightly. "Of course you can have a Band-Aid." She turned to Melissa with a well-bred graciousness that not even soiled clothing could diminish. "Thank you for your kind offer of first aid, but no hospital, please."
"Okay," Melissa said carefully. What the heck was going on here? "I'm Melissa, by the way. What's your name?"
The woman hesitated, her hazel eyes searching Melissa's face. Finally she said, "I'm Diane. We'll come back out to the road."