Authors: Fiona McCallum
Meant To Be
Also by Fiona McCallum
The Button Jar Series:
Time Will Tell
Fiona McCallum lives in Adelaide, South Australia, and is a full-time novelist. She is the author of five Australian bestsellers:
Time Will Tell. Meant To Be
is her sixth novel and the third (and most likely final) in
The Button Jar
In loving memory of my nanna, Nancy Price â much treasured, long gone, but never forgotten.
Many thanks to Sue, Cristina, Michelle, and everyone at Harlequin Australia for turning my manuscripts into beautiful books, for all the wonderful support, and for continuing to make my dreams come true. Thanks also to editor Lachlan for his hard work and patience to make my writing the best it can be.
Thank you to Jane and the team at Morey Media for putting the word out, and to the media outlets, bloggers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and readers for all the amazing support. It really does mean so much to me to hear of people enjoying my stories.
Finally, huge thanks to friends Carole and Ken Wetherby, Mel Sabeeney, Arlene Somerville, NEL, and WTC for continuing to provide so much love and encouragement, and for being the best friends a person could ever hope to have. I am truly blessed.
âTrue friends are like diamonds, precious and rare. False friends are like autumn leaves, found everywhere.'
Emily lay in bed with Jake spooning against her. As the first rays of daylight slowly lit the room, she was wide awake. But he slept on, his strong arms around her and his deep breathing stroking her back in long warm whispers. She felt like leaping up and greeting the day, but couldn't bear to break the spell. Instead she lay there with a warm glow in her belly, thinking that she could quite possibly be the luckiest girl in the world.
She had a kind, gentle man who loved her and whom she loved in return, and she was so grateful to Simone for bringing about their reunion. The trip to Melbourne had changed everything. She was so glad she'd been there for Jake when he'd needed her. If only the circumstances had been different.
Death had been such a theme in her life recently â her gran's passing, John's fatal accident, and now the incident on Jake's work site â hopefully that was all behind her. She'd been through so much and survived, and she now knew she could get through anything else that came her way, especially with Jake by her side.
After all the financial stress, she no longer had to search for a job â at least for a while. Thanks to her inheritance from John and
the annual lease payments from Barbara and David on the land, and the income from the sheep, she was fine for the time being â and for life if she was careful.
Emily still felt a little guilty about how it had all come about, but at least she had the blessing of John's parents. She just hoped the Wattle Creek locals would be as understanding. A townie, a woman, inheriting a decent slice of prime land and everything with it was one thing, but how would they feel when they heard she'd moved a new man in just days after John's funeral?
Speaking of which.
She felt him stirring behind her.
âGood morning sleepyhead,' Jake said, kissing the back of her neck. She rolled over to face him, kissed him deeply in reply, and wrapped her arms around him.
âHmm,' she groaned as he pulled her towards him.
Later they lay entwined, just like they had last night before going to sleep. Emily could feel her breathing matching Jake's, their chests rising and falling together.
âGod, you smell good,' he said breathily.
âI was just thinking the same thing,' she said, smiling at him. âHow are you feeling? Did you sleep okay?'
After the flights from Melbourne, the long drive from Whyalla, and then David and Barbara staying on for dinner, they had both been exhausted. They had spent the next two days taking it easy, going on gentle strolls, and making a huge fuss of Grace, who Emily had missed terribly whilst she'd been away. The little border collie was such an important part of her life â they'd been through so much together in such a short amount of time.
âI slept okay. But I'm still pretty tired. I can't seem to shake it.'
Emily knew how debilitating grief could be.
âI've got to go into town to run some errands. Do you want to come along?' Emily asked.
After lingering over a big breakfast, they were standing side by side doing the dishes â her hands in pink rubber gloves beneath a thick layer of suds, his tea-towel-covered hand stuffed into a mug.
âIf you don't mind, I'd rather stay here. If that's okay?'
Once upon a time she'd have been hurt. âOf course it's okay, Jake. We've both lived alone long enough to not need another person to entertain us all the time. Although don't get me wrong, I do enjoy your company,' Emily added, starting to get a bit flustered. Isn't that what love was? Wanting to be with someone all the time?
Jake let out a sigh. âIt's not that I don't want to spend time with you. I do. But I'm just not used to having someone else around all the time.'
âYou've probably only just got used to living alone. And I wouldn't mind betting you've quite enjoyed being independent,' he said, looking at her sympathetically. âSo, can we make a pact? Can we agree that it's okay to spend time apart without getting all paranoid about why? That it's not a sign there's something wrong between us?'
âI guess,' Emily said, not quite convinced.
Where is this coming from? Maybe he's had a clingy girlfriend before.
âI don't mean to sound pushy, but I once had a girlfriend who came to stay and insisted on spending every second of every day together. It drove me nuts.'
âSorry. The only peace I got was in the loo,' he said with a gentle smile.
âIt's fine, Jake, we all need our space,' she said.
âSo it's a pact?'
âAs long as we also agree that if one of us has a problem â big or small â we discuss it,' Emily said. âI don't want to end up where we were last time.'
âOkay,' Jake said.
âAnd while we're on ground rulesâ¦' Emily continued.
âUh-oh, here we go,' Jake said, smiling at her.
Emily flicked a handful of suds at his chest.
âI'm being serious,' she said. âI want you to feel at home; come and go as you please. But it would be helpful to know what meals you will and won't be here for.'
âNow you're making me sound like a boarder.' He went behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and nuzzled at her neck. âI mean it when I say I love you. I'm serious about us, about this working out, even though it's so new. I only meant I want to be free to head off for a walk on my own if I want to. I might not even want to.'
âI love you too. And I mean it when I say I want you to feel at home â what's mine is yours. Honestly, you should feel free to use the car, internet, phone; whatever you need.'
They finished the last few dishes and then sat at the table to write up a shopping list. Jake gave her some money towards expenses, which she very reluctantly accepted, and she handed him the spare key to the sliding glass door.
âRight, last chance to change your mind,' Emily said, collecting her handbag and keys from the bench. âSure you don't want to visit the thriving metropolis?'
âI'll pass, thanks,' Jake said, getting up and going over to her. âI
looking forward to getting to know the area, but I don't think I'm ready to become the talk of the town just yet. I know what small towns can be like. I might just go for a stroll. Maybe take a few shots. I'm planning on being here for a while, so there's no rush â for anything.' He gave her a peck on the lips. âHave fun.'
âYou too. Gracie, you look after Jake for me while I'm gone,' she said, bending down to ruffle the border collie's ears.
Jake was standing at the glass door when she backed out of the shed and drove off. She returned his wave and the kisses he blew her.
Before driving to town, Emily drove a short way up the road to run a quick errand. David had put the sheep on the stubble in the paddock over from the cottage ruins, where she and Jake could keep an eye on them. She'd promised to check the trough each day. Under their lease agreement, David was taking care of them in exchange for a profit share, but there was no point in him driving down just to check that a trough had water in it.
After satisfying herself that all looked well with the trough and the sheep, she did a U-turn and headed off to Wattle Creek.
Emily collected her mail and paid a couple of bills at the post office, and visited the newsagent to get
for Jake. Being Thursday, Wattle Creek was swarming with people â well, as busy as a district of two thousand people could get. Tuesdays and Thursdays were the main shopping days, thanks to the delivery of fresh fruit and veg. Emily had to go around the block twice to find a park halfway between the bank and the supermarket where she could just pull in â she was no good at reverse parallel parking.
As she walked the aisles, every second person stopped her to enquire if it was true that Donald and Trevor's cousin, Tara Wickham, had turfed her out of the house she had an arrangement with them to buy. âAnd is it true that you've moved back to the farm?'
âYes,' Emily said. There was no point in being evasive. When asked how John's parents, Thora and Gerald, were doing, she replied, As well as can be expected,' whilst kicking herself for her forgetfulness. She'd been in touch with Gerald by phone about
John's estate, but hadn't seen them since the funeral. And they'd been so good to her the day she'd gone out and told them the truth about her and John. She vowed to keep in touch.