Review FALLEN ANGELS 4 angels
Come, Love Me Again is one of the most emotionally packed stories I’ve read in a while.
The exchanges between Rebecca and Hunter are powerful and sometimes gut wrenching. Their emotions are so raw and open that it is impossible not to feel them. Ms. Hilliger has portrayed the setting for this story in vivid detail, also. It fairly leaps off the page, and the cattle stations and the surrounding countryside are so vividly described that I could see everything in my mind. I felt like I stepped off the plane with the heroine and experienced everything she did. I was moved to tears by some of Hunter’s harshness toward her, especially when she tries to explain why she left him. This is a realistic story, and I enjoyed it very much.
.He snared her wrist in one powerful fist and pulled her to him.
Hunter Kincaid, the tall, striking, Australian cattle king still remembers, only too well, the girl who’d betrayed him in their youth, and he hates himself for still loving her…
“What do you want? Haven’t you done enough?” he hissed. Raw, untamed desires flaming through him and driven by naked longing, he’s but a step from taking her. “Don’t you know what I can do to you? What I want to do to you?”
Torn by twelve years of remorse, the lovely young Becky, quivers at the very touch of him.
She has returned from America and must tell him the truth -- why she’d been forced to betray him.
But the scars of betrayal burn deep in his soul and sex isn’t sufficient to expiate that pain – Hunter wants her to pay for past wounds. Let her suffer as he had. Her pain for his pain, her tears for his.
EXCERPT 1COME, LOVE ME AGAIN
BY ROMONA HILLIGER v. sensual
AVAILABLE AT Romance At Heart Publications E-Novels
ISBN#: 0-9785189-7-7 www.rahpubs.com/
COME, LOVE ME AGAIN Romona Hilliger
Ripping open the crisp white envelope, Rebecca Carson drew out the single sheet of paper and slowly unfolded it. By the time she was through reading the two short paragraphs, her hands were cold and her fingers trembling. For one heart-stopping moment, she looked over the lines that stood out the most.
Mr. Hunter Kincaid of Mandaljara Station, has made a
generous offer for the purchase of Emma Springs Station.
Becky’s memory spun back twelve years. “Mandaljara,” she murmured, the very name wrapping her in a magical cloak of euphoric memories.
Hunter Kincaid... painfully, she recalled the last time she’d ever seen him.
It had been twelve years since she’d set foot on Emma Springs. The 3,000 square kilometre cattle station sprawled through the untamed timelessness of Australia’s far north and adjoined Mandaljara, a property of similar size.
Twelve years since she’d stood before the boy who’d been her teenage love and allowed him to be branded a thief. Even now, her heart ached, remembering how she’d watched the light in his eyes die—twelve seconds for love to turn to hate...
If there was one thing she’d learnt about Hunter Kincaid, it was that he was a man, even then, to whom love and trust were sacred bonds, and the betrayal of either would demand vengeance.
Still holding the letter, she gazed down at it thoughtfully. Only a few weeks ago Uncle Howard had been killed in a road accident and, to her utter shock, had named her the sole beneficiary of Emma Springs, and now this. Tenderly, her fingers feathered the two words that comprised Hunter Kincaid’s name. Was this an omen that it was time to return to Australia to seek his forgiveness and at last, lay to rest her burden of guilt and remorse?
COME, LOVE ME AGAIN
BY ROMONA HILLIGER v. sensual
AVAILABLE AT Romance At Heart Publications E-Novels
ISBN#: 0-9785189-7-7 www.rahpubs.com/
Mandaljara Station. The Northern Territory of Australia.
Rebecca Carson stepped from the station wagon and took a deep breath to expel the nervous shiver that rode her spine.
A short distance away, men huddled in a group, talking and puffing on cigarettes,
while horses held in a temporary corral stamped their hooves, raising an almighty dust.
Becky knew they were waiting for Hunter Kincaid to arrive—so was she. She glanced toward the safety fence edging the cliffs and found herself walking up to it. A sense of wonder surged through her. Once more, she was gazing out at the stark grandeur of the vast Outback of Australia. Lying just below was the River Barton. Serene and easygoing in the Dry Season, now, in the Wet, it made a spectacular show, cutting a path through the rocks in a raging, turbulent torrent.
She turned and retraced her steps. A young cowboy riding by smiled and touched his hat brim.
“You waiting to see the boss, Ma’am?”
“He’ll be along any minute. I'll tell him you're here.”
Becky returned the cheerful smile, unconsciously patting down her lightweight dress.
The simple lines of the ice-blue linen seemed appropriate for this meeting, and it went well with her burnished-gold hair…
The Toyota Hilux 2.8 hurtled out of the bush and came to a stop in the clearing where the men stood. Red dust slowly settled, the seconds came and went, but nothing happened.
The knot in her stomach tightened and her heart pounded as elation mingled with dread. The driver’s door opened and, with fluid movements, six-foot-four inches of broad-shouldered Australian male stepped out—Hunter Kincaid had arrived.
What a fine figure he cut, even in his casual working clothes. Wash-faded jeans tucked
into the tops of dusty cowboy boots and a black broad-brimmed cattleman’s hat shaded his face. The black sleeveless vest he wore emphasised his sun-goldened skin and hugged each muscle, toned and hardened by the nature of his work.
A relaxed camaraderie existed between Hunter and his men. They greeted him
robustly and gathered round as he started to speak. But, when the young cowboy stepped forward and said something, he stopped. He turned toward her and the blood drained from her
face—they'd made eye contact. With slow easy strides, he was closing the short distance between them and her heart fluttered. As he drew nearer, however, she could see he wore no smile of welcome as she'd hoped, just a cold hard expression. Perhaps she shouldn’t have come unannounced. He mightn’t have wanted to see her at all. At first, she thought she’d ring him from Emma Springs, sort of friendly and casual... but no, that wouldn't do, she knew she had to see him. It was more than his offer to buy Emma Springs; she yearned to see Hunter
face-to-face and make peace— but was coming here going to prove to be a mistake?
“Hello Hunter,” she said shakily, realising that the last time she’d said his name she had been fifteen and he, a shade off eighteen. Now that he stood here before her, she could barely speak. “It’s good to see you,” she smiled, scarcely believing she was actually looking at him.
He pushed his hat back a notch with his thumb, trying to equate this attractive young woman with the shy young girl he’d known. The enticing curves clearly defined beneath her dress made his pulse quicken and his gut tighten. “How are you, Becky?” he said, with a note of formality.
The sound of her name on his lips was like a sensuous touch and a tremor went
through her. “Very well, thank you,” she replied softly, watching him take off his aviator sunglasses. Her senses took a spin when she caught sight of those sapphire-blue eyes, eyes that could knock a woman dead at twenty paces. The familiar features were now magnificent with the strength of maturity—the adolescent had grown to a man.
“The manager at Emma Springs told me you didn’t live at the homestead anymore with your mother, so I just thought I’d come on out to your new house,” she said, her voice reflecting the strain that was creeping up on her.
“I see,” he said and put out a hand that dwarfed hers. The firm grip of his callused palm felt warm and comfortable, more than could be said for his icy tone. “I’m sorry about your Uncle Howard.”
She smiled her thanks and realised her hand was still in his. She wanted it to stay there, savouring the comfort of the same hand that had stroked her hair and smoothed away her tears. Reluctantly, she let go. His fingers went to rest idly on his hips, and she had to look up at him when he spoke. Was she really only as high as his chest? She must have been, even then—no wonder he used to tease her about it, his eyes twinkling with mischief and warmth.
No such warmth filled his eyes today.
“Your lawyer told me you’d be coming, but I had no idea I’d be included in the visit.
Anything in particular you wanted to see me about?”
For a moment, Becky staggered under this veiled hostility, and she struggled to ignore
it. Any hopes she had carried that the years might have mellowed his anger and pain were
quickly fading, and unsure of where to start, she said “I... I wanted to talk to you about a few things.”
He snapped a glance in her direction. “Like what?”
“The sale of Emma Springs, for one...” It sounded so lame and it was, but she was determined to talk to him, seek his forgiveness, and this might be the only chance. “I expected to deal with your mother, but it turns out it’s you I had to see. I was told that... that after your father died, you’d taken over Mandaljara.” She felt stupid for stumbling over her words and drew a deep breath to get a hold of herself.
He studied her as though weighing up his next move. “In that case, I suppose we better go over to the house,” he said, not bothering to mask his reluctance. “But first, I have some instructions to give the men—we're breaking in horses today.”
“It’s alright. I’ll wait. I don’t mind,” she plunged on, reluctant to run the risk of
backing out. The way this conversation was headed, she might very well lose her nerve.
“If you go on to the house, you’ll find some garden chairs...” Starting to leave, he
called over his shoulder: “I shouldn’t be more than ten minutes.”
Becky watched his strong purposeful strides take him down the dirt road, back to
where the men still stood idly waiting, their loud raucous laughter a sign of their enjoyment of some free time.
Breaking in horses, he'd said. Her mind did a flashback. Horse-whispering, Uncle
Howard had called it when Hunter was handling the wild horses for Emma Springs. He
always had Hunter come over from Mandaljara for this particular purpose. He said Hunter had a way with animals.
It was there that they’d met. How sweet were the times when she’d perch herself up on the top rail of the corral so she could watch him. His shoulder-length hair hung thick and loose, flying wild like the manes of the stallions, while swathes of sinuous muscle in both youth and beast gleamed in the sun. She smiled, recalling how she’d shout praises and clap when success crowned his efforts, and they’d laugh together when he fell flat and lay sprawled in the dust. Now, seeing Hunter after so many years only stressed the fact that he’d
been the one person she’d ever felt close to. His bright conversation and engaging smile made him easy to like and lit up her dull everyday life. What a pity it had turned out this way.
Her gaze lazily scanned the familiar view. At least that was the same. Well away from cattle and fences, the strip of land along the cliffs was Mandaljara’s own picnic spot to where the Kincaid's had occasionally invited her along. It was to this place that Hunter and she had sometimes stolen away, to walk or just mess about with a dinghy and fishing gear on the river.
Gravel crunched in rhythm as footsteps came up the path and she turned. It was
Hunter, his tread heavy, like her heart, with every step. He saw her and stopped.
“I thought you’d be at the house,” he said.
“I preferred to wait here, enjoy the scenery. It's just as I remembered, only a bit
greener, and the river is so wild!”
“It’s what one expects in Wet Season,” he said absently and set a brisk pace along the
rough walking track to the house. “This way,” he called, but finding her lagging behind, he
slowed down and drew level with her.
The close proximity of walking beside him was wonderful. She felt as though they had never been apart and when her hand brushed his thigh, the feel of hard muscle under the
denim cloth shot an exquisite tingle up her arm. She wanted to touch him again, but Hunter walked a little apart, clearly avoiding any physical contact.
Nestled in a clearing in the gently hugging bush was a typical, tropical outback home.
Set a short distance from the cliffs, the structure was elevated on concrete piers and high
enough off the ground to accommodate two vehicles, a workshop, and barbecue entertaining area, all set in a concrete floor underneath. Upstairs, huge sliding doors opened onto the
surrounding veranda and breezes billowed the curtains like spinnakers on a yacht. He led her
along a paved path to where cane veranda chairs lay scattered around, and, tossing his hat
onto one of the chairs, indicated another. “Sit down, Becky,” he said, and strode to a trough to
wash his hands.
His formality was unnerving, making her uncomfortable. This was his home, she
thought, with equal measures of admiration and curiosity. What did it look like upstairs?
What furniture? What books? What anything? He hadn’t even asked her upstairs into his
living room. He’d kept her here, downstairs, as though she wasn’t worth the bother.
She missed the familiarity of the past, and she felt it like a blow. Instinctively, she
drew out the gold chain that hung low against her breasts, hoping that somehow it would soften her disappointment. She toyed with the pendant. One half of a two-part lover’s heart, it was a comfort when she needed it. Hunter had bought the pendant, had it engraved with their names, and they had exchanged the halves. He’d said it was to remind them that from the first day they’d set eyes on each other, their spirits had merged, soul mates forever. She replaced the tiny object and thought about just going, but that would be weak and achieve nothing. The time had come, the time she’d waited for, the time to make her peace. It wasn’t going to be easy, but at least she was here and that was a start.
He dragged up a chair and dropped into it; his lean strong fingers curving over the cane arms displayed short clean nails.
Her tone was reflective. “It’s nice to see you built your own house here, by the river.
You always said you would. Even the trees. The perfumed blooms of Frangipani alongside the Jacaranda with its canopy of mauve, just the way you planned.”
He made no response, but a tiny muscle in his jaw tightened as he listened to the
things they’d discussed when they’d sat here together, talking of their dreams.
She took the chair opposite him. “The manager at Emma Springs told me that since taking it over you’ve built Mandaljara up into one of the most prosperous in the area.”
“That was nice of David,” he said and shifted his sitting position to one that he found
more comfortable. With one ankle draped over the other knee, he rested his hands on his thighs. The masculine pose was far too distracting. Her fingers ached to follow her eyes along his powerful limbs, the broad span of his chest, his hair... but, when she found herself being viewed with cold disdain, she bowed her head to hide the glow as it began its slow seep into her cheeks.
“Can we cut the small talk?” he said, “I think you came to discuss Emma Springs.
Actually, I thought the lawyers were handling the sale.”
A bucket of ice water in her face would have been warmer, but taking into account the nature of the situation, she could hardly expect better. “They are, but I wanted to be here, too.”
He raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Oh? Why? Isn’t everything going to your
“It’s just fine,” she smiled awkwardly, suddenly floundering. “I... I just wanted to see
Emma Springs once more.”
“Sure.” He shrugged. “So, what’s that to me?”
Becky’s gaze lingered on him, and a sadness settled over her. She searched for the boy who’d loved her, but in this steel-edged man that boy was difficult to find.
He glanced at his watch, and Becky sensed his impatience. His tone, too, did little to quell her uneasiness. “You know, I really don’t have the time,” he said, “so if there’s nothing more...”
“There is. I...” Her words trailed unsteadily. She felt a little sick knowing she must get this right. So much depended on it. “It’s nothing to do with the sale,” she added hastily. “It’s something from our past.”
The flicker of a distant memory crept into his eyes, turning them to the hardness of quartz, but difficult as it was, she’d pretend they were still the sparkling, deep-blue pools of laughter she had known all those years ago.
His eyes narrowed and resentment drew taut the firm line of his jaw. “I see,” he said with deceptive calm, discouraging apologies. But she’d carried the burden of guilt for too long. They’d shared too much in the past to hide behind a mask of politeness. At all costs, she must make amends for the past.
“Hunter, I’m so sorry for what happened, but it was a long time ago. Now, I think it’s time to call a truce, be friends again—”
A short, scornful laugh cut her off. “My dear Becky, I don’t want to be your friend. If I never saw you again, it would do me just fine.”
Stunned at his savage reply, she felt a sharp retort spring to her tongue, but she held it. She’d come to make peace and, after all, his anger was understandable. Taking a moment to regain her composure and re-evaluate her situation, she fixed her gaze to the orange dust covering his boots, then up again to his face. “Well, that’s what I came to say—sorry! I—”
“‘Sorry’ nothing! After what you did? One word to justify and cancel out all the
humiliation heaped not only on me, but my parents as well? You’ve got to be kidding.”
Becky gasped at the rage that licked through his words, dragging up those painful memories, and she wondered if she could go on without drawing even more anger. Though her pride staggered alarmingly and she burned at his rebuke, she was determined to go on. “Hunter... it wasn’t the way you think, let me explain—” But her words died on her breath.
His eyes captured hers in a piercing gaze. “What’s to explain after so many years? You saw it all happen. You saw the police take me away, but you stood there and said nothing!”
“I know. You don’t have to remind me.” The breath ripped from her. “When I
returned to America, I tried to talk to you on the phone, to explain, but you weren’t there. I left a message on your answering-machine, but you never returned the call.”
“Did you really expect that I would?” he snapped.
She dropped her gaze. “No, I guess not.” All the pain churning up inside him made her feel helpless.
“I know it was all wrong, Hunter,” she said, her eyes seeking his, pleading for
understanding. “It was never my intention to deceive you.”
“Cut the garbage, Becky,” he hissed. “You don’t fool me. I’m not a love-struck bush kid anymore, in awe of the girl from that refined Carson family.” Though his voice was calm, his words barely veiled his contempt. “All the time you knew who the culprit was—and it sure as hell wasn’t me!”
…Pained silence lay thick between them until he spoke, restraining his tone. “Let’s drop the subject. I haven't got all day and my men are waiting.”
Becky, overwhelmed by the entire sorry situation, sighed and desolation filled her
heart, her soul. There was no use trying to pursue this further. She came to her feet and drew herself up. She met his gaze levelly, even though the hard cold she saw there scared her. Her grey eyes deepened as her feelings reversed from pleading to absolute wrath. “Twelve years I’ve carried this guilt, and I came to make peace between us, not have a show-down with guns blazing!”
He sprang from his chair, knocking it over. In a step he seized her wrist and pulled her up close. The fingers of his free hand tilted her head back, leaving her no choice but to look up at those flashing blue eyes. Feeling his body tense and every muscle tighten, she trembled against him. He held her there, his mouth hovering over hers, his breath warm and sensuous on her lips.
“Now you listen to me, and get this straight! You think you’ll ease your conscience at my expense, well, I’m damned if I’m going to oblige you. If you have some notion that I’m suddenly going to get all noble, don’t hold your breath.”
He let go of her and she stepped back. She could hardly believe what she’d heard, every word a vicious sting.
His eyes pinned her, and his voice sank to a murmur. “Go away, Becky. Return to where you belong—go back to America.” An undercurrent of menace chilled his tone. “And if you don’t want to do that, make it easy on yourself—stay away from me.”
EXCERPT 2. COME, LOVE ME AGAIN.
BY ROMONA HILLIGER v. sensual
AVAILABLE AT Romance At Heart Publications E-Novels
ISBN#: 0-9785189-7-7 www.rahpubs.com/
Everyone had disappeared, and she found herself completely alone. Even Hunter walked right by her without saying a word as he made his way across the lawn. He joined some stockman who was sitting by himself. Becky decided to go home; there wasn’t much here for her to celebrate, anyway. She cast her eyes about hoping to catch a glimpse of Muriel, but she was nowhere to be seen. The line dance came to an end, and people drifted back to their chairs or the buffet.
“A tribute to the late John Denver, one of the greatest,” another announcement came from the stage as a lone musician got ready to sing during the intermission. Becky stopped to listen to what the young man was saying. His voice rose in awe of the singer. “John is dead, but his songs never will be,” he added, while he plucked a few stirring chords on his guitar. In a soft voice, he began: “You fill up my senses...”
Goosebumps broke out on Becky's skin and her eyes misted at the memory of each sweet line. From across the lawn Hunter's eyes held hers captive and, for a few breathless moments, they locked, then his gaze broke away.
“John Denver,” Becky whispered, willing him to look at her again. Didn’t he
remember? Of course, he would. The moment came rolling back. They’d been at Mandaljara listening to John Denver.
Annie’s song, he’d said, drawing her head back to rest on his arm. Now it’s Becky’s song. He’d lowered his head, whispering the words of a line. “Come, let me love you...”
Becky stared in disbelief as Hunter pushed himself up from the chair and strode away. He jammed his hands into his pockets and, his back toward her, he talked with some of the other men.
Real physical pain squeezed her heart as the last notes were dying. Come, love me again, and the magic was gone. Did he really not remember? Perhaps for him the flame of a teen love was now firmly extinguished. Apart from the few words in his office, he hadn’t spoken to her at all. All the way over from America, she'd wondered how Hunter would react to seeing her after so many years. Well she certainly had her answer to that. So what now of Hunter? There was a harsh remoteness about him, making him almost untouchable. The consequences of that fateful day were now truly fully realised, and the burden of disappointment and deep regret lay heavy in her heart.
What of her? Was it really possible that the embers of her childhood love had endured all these years, buried away with forgotten dreams? Had it really been waiting to be rekindled by that one special touch? It seemed incredible, but true.
Hunter returned to his chair across the lawn with a glass of beer in his hand. Amanda following behind, collapsed, and lay in beautiful disarray against him. Spilling some of the beer, she giggled. He put the glass down, sat her up, and, though their words didn’t carry, it was easy to see they were arguing. Amanda began crying and Hunter took her in his arms to dance. Amanda had the man, while Becky just had the tender memory of the boy he used to be.
Author website www.thewaterfront.net.au/romona