"I love digging into my family history. Looking at photographs of my pioneering ancestors. Reading their names on the family tree that on one branch stretches back eight hundred years to English royalty. I've enjoyed many happy hours of research discovering snippets in century-old Australian newspapers and visiting old family sites in England. They're part of me and I'm a part of them.
But how would I feel if I discovered I was adopted now? As an adult? If my biological family was a mystery and that sense of belonging was ripped away? Before I'd finished Abby's story in Business in the Bedroom, I knew I had to create a sister to complete her happiness. Pregnant by the Playboy Tycoon was the result."
Anneliese Duffield, pampered daughter of a renowned heart surgeon, enjoys mixing with Melbourne's elite. When her mother dies, the shock of discovering she was adopted prompts her to leave home and drive to Surfers Paradise in search of a long lost sister.
Steve Anderson, her friend's brother, has business in Brisbane and insists on accompanying her cross-country. The long-simmering attraction is too strong to resist. But it's a holiday fling, right? - she knows commitment is the one thing Steve won't risk again. But deep down, Anneliese is a traditional girl so how will he react when she tells him her news?
Steve Anderson needed sleep. And the last thing he needed after a frustrating day investigating a glitch in a client’s security system was his resident night-time fantasy interrupting that sleep.
He scowled at the sporty Honda outside the family home he shared with his sister, Cindy, before parking his not-so-sporty business ute in the garage. Anneliese, daughter of Melbourne’s renowned heart surgeon, Dr Marcus Duffield had dropped by. Cindy’s best friend.
And sleep interrupter extraordinaire.
He passed the late-model silver vehicle on his way inside — an extravagant twenty-first birthday present from her parents — and scowled again, annoyed that he still remembered that evening so well.
They’d barely seen one another in those past three years — Anneliese had been overseas with her parents for eighteen months and he’d been frequently interstate on business. When they had, on the odd occasion, crossed paths, she’d made it blazingly clear she didn’t enjoy his company. But he’d seen her laughing and relaxed when she hadn’t known he was watching…and there was something about her besides the hot pull of lust. Something that always tied him up in knots…
Stabbing his key in the back door, he reminded himself she tied everyone up in knots because she didn’t possess an ounce of responsibility. Any resulting problems were sorted out by Mum and Dad.
But he could always smell the fragrance she left in the air. French, he imagined, and distinctively unique, as if she’d had it bottled exclusively. And perhaps she had — wouldn’t that be just like her? Whatever, it always seemed to lodge in his nostrils and settle beneath his skin like an itch he couldn’t scratch.
The pair were engrossed in conversation and cheesecake in the kitchen and oblivious to him. He warned himself he should keep walking, head straight to his room. Take a shower. Something. Anything. Instead, he leaned against the door frame and watched Anneliese.
Sharp cheekbones caught the kitchen light. Deep auburn hair, styled in a blunt chin-length bob, framed an oval face. Curves in all the right places. Perfection.
But it was her eyes that drew him. Not quite green, not quite blue. The colour of blue gums on a misty day. Eyes that could haunt his dreams.
If he let them.
Irritated because on too many occasions to count they’d done just that, he pushed away from the doorway with a brusque, “Hi.”
Anneliese’s head swivelled to face him, eyes wide and wary, which irritated him all over again, but he tried for amiable. “Can a hungry man get some of that?”
And yup, no prizes for guessing how she’d interpret that question, he realised, as soon as the words left his mouth, because just like that, her eyes cooled, her posture stiffened. The spoon slid from her mouth, leaving a smear of cream on her lower lip before he was aware he’d been watching her mouth pout into that little moue of surprise as he asked.
Another strike against him.
Unable to resist adding to her discomfort, he tapped his own lip on the corresponding spot, saw the tip of her tongue dart out and lick it off. Her gaze remained locked with his, like a stunned rabbit’s.
Cindy, completely oblivious, bounced out of her chair, her dark ponytail swinging, then reached up to kiss his cheek. “Of course you can. I was hoping you’d get here before Annie left. I’ll get another plate.”
And the view was clear again. Anneliese looked as sweet and innocent as icing on a wedding cake and he struggled against inappropriate images that fuelled his blood further. “How’s it going, Anneliese?”
She seemed to have trouble articulating his name. Her trade-mark perfume wafted to his nose like a summer-filled breeze. She was wearing well-tailored dark trousers and a soft-looking striped sweater in the colours of coconut ice. Gold highlights shone through her hair, courtesy of some expensive salon procedure, no doubt.
A flush tinged her cheeks and a frown formed between perfectly arched brows. She seemed to draw herself taller and retreat behind some kind of defence at the same time. “I better be go—”
“Don’t let me interrupt whatever you were discussing. It sounded important.” Steve held Anneliese’s eyes a moment longer, wondering what it would be like to break down that wall and — just once — see a smile directed at him that reached those eyes.
“Here you are. Passionfruit — your favourite.”
“Thanks, sis.” He remained standing as he took the plate Cindy held out to him. Carved off a mouthful of cheesecake from the box on the table with a spoon.
“And it is important.” Cindy addressed his comment. “Annie’s insisting on driving all the way to Surfers Paradise on Wednesday — alone — and I’m trying to talk her out of it.”
Steve caught Cindy’s concerned look. Good luck with that. From what he’d observed, Annie always got her own way. But he agreed with his sister — he didn’t like the thought of any woman driving across the continent on her own.
He told himself it wasn’t his problem, but it didn’t quite work. His jaw clenched in aggravation. “I imagine your father’s not keen on you driving half way across the country alone.”
“I’m twenty-four; old enough to make my own decisions.”
The cheesecake turned sour in Steve’s mouth. Some people were never old enough — make that mature enough. Didn’t it matter to Anneliese that her mother had died not five weeks ago and her father might need her here? Queensland’s Gold Coast was a bustling tourist strip — in his opinion not a place you’d go to contemplate your life or heal the hurts. And she should be doing those things here, with her father, not flitting off interstate.
He fought the impulse to sneer, scraped his spoon across the bottom of the cake box. “Some decisions should be made after careful consideration to others’ needs.” He schooled his voice to neutral except it didn’t come out the way he’d intended.
For a flicker of time he saw something deeper than pain cross those misty eyes, but he didn’t have time to ponder because Cindy spoke.
“Steve…” she said quietly, turning into him and touching his arm. “You know Annie’s dealing with serious personal issues right now. She’s fragile. Be gentle.”
His gaze slid over Anneliese’s curves beneath the soft sweater and his hands curled around the tingle. Gentle. He could imagine being gentle with Anneliese a little too vividly.
Cindy patted at his arm again. “I know you’re flying to Brisbane in the next week or two for work and I’ve come up with an idea… You’ve got reliable staff here to cover for you, so if you’re not in a hurry you could drive with Annie, look out for her…”
A choked sound bubbled up from Anneliese’s throat as he stared at Cindy. He was momentarily speechless. Obviously her friend was too. Look out for Anneliese? As in personal escort? He felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Just the two of them. All the way to Queensland.
"...a story of turmoil, upheaval and a search for family that the heroine never knew existed… Ms Oliver is a talented author whose characters bring charm and a warm glow to lives as it did for me while I read it and I'm sure it will for other readers too."