Jessica Hart

Inherited: Twins!

Release Date: 2001

Strong, silent Outback rancher Nat Masterman doesn’t know the first thing about babies! Yet he has just become the guardian of eight-month-old twins – and he has to go to London to collect them! Prue wishes she had never told her English family she would be bringing a gorgeous, rugged Australian home for her sister’s wedding. There is no such man! At least not until Prue meets Nat – and they decide to go to London together.


‘Would it make a big difference if you did have your fiancée with you?’

‘Not to me,’ he said, ‘ but to the Ashcrofts. I think it would have made it a lot easier for them to hand Laura’s children into the care of a couple. They would have been able to imagine Kathryn being a mother to their grandchildren but …’

Nat broke off and shrugged. ‘Well, it can’t be helped,’ he finished abruptly.

‘What if it could be helped?’ said Prue, and he looked at her in surprise.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, perhaps you should make sure the Ashcrofts do meet your fiancée.’

Nat’s face closed. ‘I can’t ask Kathryn to come with me,’ he said flatly.

‘I wasn’t thinking of her,’ said Prue. She took a deep breath. It was now or never. ‘I was thinking of me.’

At least she had the satisfaction of startling Nat. She had been wondering what it would take to shake him, and now she knew.


She moistened her lips. ‘I could be your fiancée,’ she said, quaking inwardly but determined not to show it. ‘Just pretend, of course,’ she added hastily as Nat opened his mouth. ‘The Ashcrofts wouldn’t recognise Kathryn, would they?’

‘No.’ Nat was watching her in wary amazement, but there seemed no reason not to answer her question. ‘They were in no state to take in anything I said after the funeral. I doubt if they would even remember her name.’

‘Well, then,’ said Prue. ‘If we told them that we were engaged, they would believe us. You could introduce me as your fiancée instead of a temporary nanny, and they would be much happier about handing over William and Daisy to the two of us, wouldn’t they?’

‘But I couldn’t ask you to take on a pretence like that, Prue,’ Nat objected. ‘You’ll be doing enough by helping me with William and Daisy on the plane.’

Prue got to her feet and went to stand by the verandah rail, with her back to him. She ran a finger along the worn wood. ‘The thing is,’ she confessed at last, ‘it would quite suit me to have a fiancé myself in London.’

There was a long pause. Prue closed her eyes, hearing her words still ringing in the silence, and wishing desperately that she could call them back.

It was too late for that now, though. She stayed very still, unable to turn round and meet Nat’s eyes, and in the end he came to join her at the rail. To her relief, he didn’t exclaim or laugh or stare. He just leant on the rail and looked out at the palm fronds.

‘I think you’d better explain,’ he said.

‘It’s my own fault,’ said Prue in a low voice. ‘I’ve been stupid, and I’ve got myself into a mess, and I thought you might be able to get me out of it – but I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to!’

‘Why don’t you tell me what it is, and then I’ll see what I can do?’ suggested Nat. calmly, and she turned round so that she was leaning back against the rail and didn’t have to watch his face while she told her pathetic story.

‘I’ve always been the odd one out in my family,’ she began with apparent irrelevance. ‘Cleo and Marisa – that’s my older sister – are very alike. They both very pretty, very clever, very popular. They’re good at everything they do.’ Prue smiled wryly. ‘And the worse thing is, they’re both wonderful. I love them dearly, but sometimes it’s hard being the ugly duckling of the family.’

Nat turned his head so that he could study her profile. She had a fine bone structure, and although he could see that her features weren’t classically perfect, they were put together with a quirkiness that had a charm all of its own and that would last much longer than superficial beauty.

‘No one could call you ugly,’ he said almost roughly, and she flushed.

‘Thank you,’ she said, but avoided his eyes. ‘I didn’t really mean that I was ugly in terms of looks, though. It’s more the way I never seem to fit into the family. It’s not that they don’t love me – I know they do – but they think I’m a bit odd. Cleo and Marisa are strictly city girls. Neither of them would know what to do with themselves in the outback.

‘Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love it here so much,’ she went on slowly, as the thought occurred to her for the first time. ‘I know that this is one place where neither of my sisters would come and outshine me.’

‘They couldn’t do that.’

‘They could,’ said Prue. ‘It wouldn’t be deliberate, but they’re so beautiful and such fun, and they’ve got a sort of aura about them. They dazzle … I don’t really know how to explain it,’ she admitted helplessly, ‘but if Cleo, say, was here now, you wouldn’t notice me at all.’

Nat let his gaze rest on Prue’s averted face, on the dark, downcast lashes and the fine skin and the curve of her mouth. He found it very hard to believe that he would ever not notice her.

‘I suppose I hoped that by going away, I’d be the ugly duckling who turned into a swan,’ she was saying with a rueful smile. ‘I wanted to find a place where I belonged, and I wasn’t just poor old Prue with her funny ideas about living in the back of beyond.

‘And then one day, I had a letter from Cleo telling me all about the wedding and how everything was perfect for her and I … well, I wanted her to know that things could be perfect for me, too.’

Prue risked a glance at Nat to see how he was taking this stumbling story, but it was hard to read anything in those deep brown eyes. At least he was listening, though.

Surreptitiously moistening her lips, she made herself go on. ‘I was so in love with Ross, and the first time he kissed me, it was like a dream come true. I had to tell someone how wonderful he was, so I wrote back to Cleo and said that I’d met this fantastic man, and how happy I was.’

She flushed, remembering how she had poured her heart out to Cleo. ‘I suppose I got a bit carried away,’ she told Nat, shame-faced. ‘I was so sure that things would work out with Ross, that I hinted that I’d be getting married myself and that I might not come to the wedding alone.

‘It was just fantasy, I know, but there didn’t seem any harm in it. I knew what wedding would be like - full of cousins commiserating that my younger sister ws getting married before me, and aunts assuring me that it would be “your turn next, dear”, and all Cleo’s friends, wondering why I was wasting my life in outback.’ Prue pulled a face at the thought.

‘And then …’ She turned round and laid her hands on the rail, wondering if Nat would have any conception of what had driven her to do what she had done. ‘… then I let myself imagine what it would be like if I could walk into that wedding with Ross.

‘He would have been a sensation,’ she said a little sadly, remembering how vividly she had pictured the scene. Ross at her side, so handsome, so sexy, so different from the pallid city men. When he walked into the wedding he would have brought a whiff of wide horizons with him, an air of being ready to throw himself onto a horse at the slightest provocation and gallop off in a cloud of dust. No one would think of her as ‘poor old Prue’ if Ross were with her.

Prue sighed. ‘It was pathetic, I know, but there didn’t seem to be any harm in dreaming. The only trouble was that I’d posted my letter to Cleo before I began to realise that Ross wasn’t thinking along the same lines at all. The next thing I knew, Cleo had written back, agog for more details.

‘If I’d had any sense, I would have told her then that it didn’t look as if it was going to work out after all, but I just couldn’t.’ Prue looked at Nat, the silver eyes pleading for his understanding. ‘I couldn’t admit to Cleo that the love of my life had only lasted two weeks.

It was much easier to let her carry on thinking that I was blissfully happy, and tell her in a few months time that it hadn’t worked out after all.’

‘So Cleo and the rest of your family are still expecting you to turn up at the wedding with Ross?’ said Nat carefully, not sure that he was following the precise line of Prue’s reasoning. ‘Yes.’ Prue had suddenly run out of steam, and her shoulders slumped.

Nat was beginning to see where this was leading. ‘And you can’t ask Ross to go with you?’

‘How can I?’ she demanded. ‘I can’t think of a situation more guaranteed to make a man run a mile in the opposite direction than to ask him to pretend to be in love with you because you’ve told everyone that he already is!’

‘You’re asking me.’ It wasn’t even a question.

There was a short silence, and then Prue nodded.

‘It would be different with you,’ she tried to explain.


‘Because I’m not in love with you.’

He had asked for that, Nat thought wryly.

‘And you’re not in love with me,’ Prue hurried on. ‘I was going to tell Cleo that Ross was too busy on the station to come and hope that she believed me, but when you offered me the job as nanny, and I thought about the fact that we were going to be in London at the same time, it seemed meant somehow.

‘I’m desperate,’ she admitted, when Nat didn’t say anything. ‘I’ve got to go to the wedding, but now they’re all expecting me to roll up with a gorgeous Australian bloke, and I just wondered …’

‘If I would be Ross?’

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