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Meant-To-Be Mother

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«Meant-To-Be Mother» - Элли Блейк

Single-father James Dillon's life is dedicated to his young son. Then a beautiful, stylish stranger appears on his doorstep and he can't ignore the magnetism between them.Siena Capuletti's homecoming was only meant to be fleeting–the mistakes of her past are still ruling her head. Yet as she spends time with gorgeous James and his adorable son, she knows she's losing her heart to them.Is she the jet-set career girl she's convinced herself she should be…or the bride and mother that she was clearly meant to be?
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Meant-To-Be Mother Ally Blake

Happy New Year!

I hope 2007 is going to be a great New Year for you. It certainly is going to be an exciting year for Harlequin Romance! We’ll be bringing you:

More of what you love!

From February, six Harlequin Romances will be hitting the shelves every month. You’ll find stories from your favorite authors, as well as some exciting new names, too!

A new date for your diary…

From February, you will find your Harlequin Romance books on sale from the middle of the month. (Instead of the beginning of the month.)

Most important, Harlequin Romance will continue to offer the kinds of stories you love—and more! From royalty to ranchers, bumps to babies, big cities to exotic desert kingdoms, these are emotional and uplifting stories, from the heart, for the heart!

So make a date with Harlequin Romance—in the middle of each month—and we promise it will be the most romantic date you’ll make!

Happy reading!

Kimberley Young

Senior Editor

Dear Reader,

When the tourism ads claim that Far North Queensland is beautiful one day, and perfect the next, they’re not kidding!

The area is dappled with waterfalls and tropical rain forests, miles of roadside banana plantations and crocodile-infested rivers, pristine white sandy beaches and the glorious blue-green waters of the Great Barrier Reef. And after holidaying in that part of the world last year, the premise for Meant-To-Be Mother was born.

Leisurely Cairns seemed a perfect place in which to drop my feisty, jet-setting heroine, Siena Capuletti, a woman who feeds off the frenetic pace of the city. Or if she had her way, it would be a different city every week. Surrounded by people reveling in the laid-back beach culture, she was bound to go a little stir-crazy.

All I had to do was throw James Dillon in her path—a man who warmed her faster that the North Queensland sun, whose smile was as tummy-tingling as the boat ride to Green Island—and just as worth the wait—and who had a better reason to stay in Cairns than Siena had to leave. Poor thing had no chance!

For more pictures and links to Web sites about the best holiday destination in the world, check out my Web site:

Happy reading,


Meant-To-Be Mother

Ally Blake

Having once been a professional cheerleader, Ally Blake’s motto is “Smile and the world smiles with you.” One way to make Ally smile is by sending her on holidays, especially to locations that inspire her writing. New York and Italy are by far her favorite destinations. Other things that make her smile are the gracious city of Melbourne, the gritty Collingwood football team and her gorgeous husband, Mark.

Reading romance novels was a smile-worthy pursuit from long back. So, with such valuable preparation already behind her, she wrote and sold her first book. Her career as a writer also gives her a perfectly reasonable excuse to indulge in her stationery addiction. That alone is enough to keep her grinning every day! Ally would love for you to visit her at her Web site,

“A Father in the Making by Ally Blake has emotional depth that shows the author’s growth and maturity in her craft. The humour and vitality of this novel is a joy to behold and I look forward to more. Not a single thing would I change of this story!”—

To my gorgeous genius of a godson, Lachlan. Hugs and kisses from your Auntie Ally.












SIENA CAPULETTI was going home.

And where for most people that would bring about happy thoughts of familiar faces, their own bed and their favourite pillow, the concept had poor Siena in a cold sweat.

Well, okay, so the wet clammy feeling could also have come from the fact that she had just been on the receiving end of a well-flung can of cola courtesy of a pouting kid in the aeroplane seat next to her.

But still…clammy was clammy. Uncomfortable. Hot and cold all at once. Nope. It was definitely thoughts of home making her feel that way.

Home just didn’t bring about warm and fuzzy feelings in Siena.

The splotch of insidious brown beverage inching its way across her Dolce and Gabbana skirt and matching jacket—the only ‘interview outfit’ she had packed for her short trip to her provincial home town—grew larger and overtook the proportion of clean cream tweed.

‘Excellent,’ she said under her breath.

Siena craned her head past the rows of seats as she flapped her sticky outfit away from her damp body. Where was a flight attendant when she needed one? Nowhere. That’s where.

It was a sign. She wasn’t meant to be heading to Cairns on that day seated on a plane; she ought to have been suited up in her usual baby-blue skirt suit, matching pillbox hat and beige high heels, working the aisle as a Cabin Director for MaxAir rather than finding herself at the mercy of one.

But when Maximillian Sned, the eccentric septuagenarian owner of MaxAir—the funky, cosmopolitan, fun-and-games airline for which she worked—had summoned her to meet him to discuss a ‘fabulous career move’—his words—at his palatial home north of Cairns, what choice had she had? Even though, if the rumour mill was correct, and let’s face it, it usually was, his offer was going to entail a fabulous move to Cairns to stay.

Double excellent.

A hard kick to the shins brought Siena back to the less than pleasant present.

Blithely ignoring the pint-sized, cola-flinging, kick-boxing champ to her left, Siena tried to remember the meditation class she had once taken—close your eyes, take deep calming breaths and think of a happy place. A beach hut in Hawaii? A Swiss ski resort? That shoe shop on Madison Avenue she couldn’t walk into without spending a week’s pay?

But Siena was surprised to find she could barely recollect the shapes and colours and sensation of being anywhere but the inside of a plane—

‘I am soooooo sorry it took me so long! We have a guy in the back row who can juggle soft drink cans. Seriously, soft drink cans! He was teaching me and I almost had it down.’

Siena opened one eye to find a perky, blonde, perfectly groomed flight attendant with ‘Jessica’ scrawled on to her name badge. She smiled prettily as she handed over a baby-blue box of MaxAir brand moist towels to Siena and another drink to the pouting kick-boxer at Siena’s side.

Her vague happy place feelings slipped away to naught as Siena realised her day was not about to get any better.

Seven years as a sky girl and Siena could read people at first glance. She knew which passenger would try to sneak an illegal cigarette puff in the bathroom, which one would be a white knuckle flyer who would need a Bloody Mary as soon as they took off, and which one would try to pinch every female bottom and thus would be fast shifted to a window seat.

Jessica had just given the kid beside her a new can of cola. Crayons and warm milk would have been the better option. Siena could read that Jessica was sweet but entirely hopeless.

She wondered briefly if she ought to let Maximillian know when she met him. But no. Siena didn’t do meddling. Growing up with a brother twelve years her senior shoving unwanted advice down her neck her whole life had cured her of that.

‘Now, Freddy,’ Jessica cooed, ‘this time we have a cool bendy straw in the can so you can suck it up without spilling a drop.’

Spilling? That whole move earlier had nothing do with spilling!

Once Freddy was sucking away, Jessica smiled at Siena in apology. ‘You look awfully familiar,’ she said. ‘Do we know each other?’

Here we go again…Siena was used to being recognised. For the past year her symmetrical, clear-skinned face had been smiling from billboards above motorways all over the country advertising the supreme, sassy, fun-in-the-air customer service one could expect from a MaxAir flight. For a small gig that had taken an hour in a photographic studio near her apartment in Melbourne, she suddenly feared it might well change the course of her life.

Would Max really offer the promotional gig on a full-time basis, thus meaning a permanent move to Cairns as everyone expected? If he insisted, would she really have to turn her back on the company that had completely moulded her since she left school?

Her identity, her friendships and her entire life were so intertwined with her job she so hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but then a move back to Cairns was utterly, sincerely, outright not an option…

‘Maybe from a work Christmas party,’ Siena said, telling the truth but skirting the issue all the same. ‘I’m a sky girl for Max too. On the international runs.’

‘Oh, okay!’ Jessica bubbled. ‘That must be it. Are you on annual leave or is it just a weekender to the beach?’

If she mentioned her job interview word would be all over the Far North Queensland operation before they hit the tarmac. ‘My brother and his family live in Cairns,’ Siena said. ‘They just had a new baby.’ She kept back the fact that she hadn’t ever met Rick’s four-year-old twins either.

‘Gee,’ Jessica said, and, ‘wow!’

But Siena could tell the girl wasn’t really listening. Siena only hoped for the airline’s sake that she was still new.

‘Okay then, well, happy trails,’ Jessica said, her eyes searching out the juggler in the back row again already.

‘Happy trails,’ Siena parroted back the MaxAir motto.

She watched Jessica bounce her way back down the skinny domestic aisle, her French tipped fingernails clawing on to the backs of passengers’ seats for balance and her blonde ponytail bouncing.

Siena blinked. It had been a long while since she had mastered the ability to walk an aisle in two-inch heels without needing a thing to help her balance.

She was a pro. A lifer.

Born to fly. Far far away…

If only Max saw that she could be more to the company than a smiling face on a billboard. If only the rumour mill had Max offering her Rome.

Siena sighed and slid further down in her seat. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Cool, cosmopolitan Rome was at the heart of the MaxAir international routes. The top of the heap. The pièce de résistance. Now that would be a fabulous career move.

The hum of the engine altered and Siena knew the plane was descending. She looked out the small window to see hilly green land undulating down to twisting white sands and deep blue water peeking back at her from between patchy white cloud cover. Tropical Cairns. Paradise. Home…

Siena peeled her clamped fingers from the armrests and shook life back into them.

Okay, you have a few minutes, now deep breathe and focus on happy thoughts.

As the overhead lights called for everyone to do up their seat belts, Siena toed her fake red Kelly handbag further under her seat. Shopping in Hong Kong was a happy place. Why hadn’t she conjured that thought? Next time. And she had a feeling she would be needing many of those next times over the coming weekend.

Out of the corner of her eye, Siena noticed that young Freddy was sitting staring at his open seat belt with one half in each of his hands as his cola balanced precariously between his knobbly knees. He had a cola moustache on his upper lip and beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. But her friendly neighbourhood flight attendant was nowhere to be seen.

What sort of parents deemed him independent enough to look out for himself at the age of five? She’d seen it time and again in her job and had never been able to understand such thought processes. She of all people knew just how such an assumption of early independence could turn the poor kid—hostile, erratic, doing anything and everything to get attention. To get discipline. To get a parent to tell him no.

She found herself experiencing an unexpected moment of empathy. Well, the kid hadn’t spilt anything on her in the last five minutes and she had to give him kudos for that.

‘Would you like me to help you with that?’ she found herself asking.

‘Yes, please,’ the boy said with a cherubic lisp.

Siena shuffled in her seat and took a hold of the two halves of the seat belt. The young boy lifted his thin arms and Siena had a whiff of something sweet like a mix of cola and biscuits.

When the belt clicked into place he gave a little sniff and Siena realised that two tracks of shiny tears were sliding down his cheeks. Oh, heck. A sniffly kid, and now tears? Was she being punished for something?

In the end empathy won out again. For the next fifteen minutes she talked the kid down from his cola high, and up from his lonely low, so that when the plane landed, and Jessica and her bouncing ponytail took him away, she was sure that he had been replaced by a completely different kid.

Siena waited until the plane was all but empty to grab her carry-on and suit bag containing her uniform for the working flight back to Melbourne on Saturday evening. She wasn’t in any hurry.

When she disembarked on to the tarmac the Far North Queensland heat hit her like a slap in the face. The air was thick, hot and wet. She could taste her own sweat on her lips. The tangy scent of the nearby sea hung heavy in the air. She could feel her dark curls frizzing by the second, her feet sweating in her designer shoes and the cola in her dress weighing her down as all evaporation ceased in the humid air.

Inside the thankfully air-conditioned terminal, a wiry silver-moustachioed man in a three-piece suit and hat in MaxAir’s incongruous powder-blue, completely unsuitable in the temperate climate, stood waiting with a sign reading ‘CAPULETTI’.

A driver? Max was pulling out the big guns. But, though it was a nice gesture, it only made Siena’s heart sink all the further.

‘I’m Siena Capuletti,’ she said, approaching slowly.

The man nodded. ‘Rufus,’ he said in a deep baritone. ‘Maximillian has asked that I be at your disposal for the weekend, Ms Capuletti.’

‘Right. Well. Excellent.’ Siena moved into the flow of the crowd, making her way through the backwater ‘international’ terminal, along tracts of unfashionable carpet long since in need of updating. She kept Rufus, who’d insisted on taking her baggage, in the corner of her vision. He had a look about him that made Siena think that if she pointed at another passenger and said, ‘Kill,’ he wouldn’t have any trouble obeying.

‘I have to make a quick call,’ she told him just before they left the air-conditioning. Rufus stopped where he stood like a dog who had been told to stay, though he had all the warmth of a German Shepherd police dog.

Siena found a quiet corner and made the call she had been dreading for days.

‘Hello,’ her brother Rick’s deep voice rumbled.

For a moment she thought about hanging up. Why did she have to tell him she was back? It was a flying visit anyway. He didn’t even have her mobile number, so he wouldn’t even know it was her—

‘Anyone there?’ he asked, and Siena gave in.

‘Rick, it’s Siena.’

After a long pause he came back to her. ‘Well, well, well. Piccolo. It’s been some long while since I have heard your lovely voice.’

Rick’s passive aggressive comment was almost enough to have Siena switching off her phone and turning right around.

‘Una momento,’ Rick said, and she heard a crash of something kitcheny followed by the shouts of two young boys in the background. It gave her a moment to recollect herself.

‘Michael! Leo! Stop that,’ Rick’s voice cried somewhere near the phone. ‘Sit at the table and your mama will bring your cereal in a second. Sorry, Piccolo, breakfast is like a battle zone around here. So where are you today? Paris? London?’

Here goes… ‘I’m at the Cairns Airport.’

She was met with deathly silence. It seemed he was as shocked that she was back after all this time as she was.

‘Well, I’ll be…Our little bird has returned to the nest. Does this mean I get to see your pretty face for real, not just on those big posters near the airport?’

Siena closed her eyes and leant her forehead against her fist. ‘I’m here until Saturday evening, so, sure. Why not? I have a meeting with Maximillian tomorrow afternoon but, apart from that, this little bird is, well, as free as a bird.’

‘Great. Tell me which terminal and I’ll pick you up.’

‘No, it’s okay. I have a driver.’ She felt a mix of pride and stupidity in admitting as much and she cringed as she awaited Rick’s usual unimpressed laughter. But it never came.

‘But you are staying here,’ he said, not even a hint of a question in his commanding tone. ‘Tina can make up the spare room.’

She thought of the big king-sized bed and Egyptian cotton sheets that would be awaiting her at the suite Max had organised for her at the Novotel Resort in the beachside haven of Palm Cove, and imagined the chintz comforter, sagging single bed and recriminations no doubt awaiting her at the Capuletti home. Hmm, tough decision.

‘Come,’ he said, hearing her pause. ‘Stay with us. Please. I’m not asking the world of you, Siena, but it is more than time you met your nephews and niece.’

Siena used her spare hand to rub away her frown. It was the please that got her. She couldn’t remember a time when she had ever heard that word come from Rick. Ever. She was more used to: Do this. Be that. If you don’t, one of these days you’ll give poor Papa a heart attack…

‘Sure,’ she said, her throat tight with emotion. ‘But only for a couple of days. I’m in town on a purpose and this meeting tomorrow is really important—’

‘A couple of days would be wonderful, Piccolo.’

Siena nodded even though he couldn’t see her.

‘Do you have our new address?’ he asked.

Siena was embarrassed to realise she had no idea. She knew they had sold the family home a few years before. Her half of the money from its sale was still sitting untouched, unwelcome, gathering interest and dust, in a bank account. But she hadn’t a clue where they were living now.

‘You may as well give it to me again,’ she said, reaching into her handbag for her PDA.

Rick reeled off his suburban address in a new estate Siena hadn’t even heard of and she typed it in under his name. Well, it had been seven years since she’d lived there…

‘We’re heading off soon to take the kids to Tina’s mother’s for the day, then we both have to work, but we’ll leave you a key under the mat. Make yourself at home.’

Home. Again that small word clenched at deep dark places inside Siena’s chest as suppressed visions of the old family house took root in the corner of her mind.

‘I’ll see you later tonight?’ Rick asked.

‘See you then.’ She hung up and turned to find Rufus watching her quietly. He approached, making a dead-straight beeline through the departing crowd.

‘Straight to Palm Cove, then, Ms Capuletti?’

‘Change of plan, Rufus. Unfortunately Palm Cove is going to be a no go.’

‘But Maximillian—’

‘I can always catch a cab if it’s too much trouble,’ she said, staring him down. Siena could read people in a heartbeat and, though she figured this guy had secrets she didn’t even want to know about, she knew that pleasing Max’s guests was now priority number one.

He raised one thick silver eyebrow, as though asking if she was going to be this stubborn all weekend. She grinned back at him.

For Siena stubborn was a promise.

An hour later Siena made plans for Rufus to pick her up the next day for her interview, took his business card in case she needed him for anything—car trips, tourist outings, dinner reservations, hits on annoying family members—and let herself into Rick’s home.

It was just as she had expected. Within the freshly painted walls of the brand new house lived ancient mismatched furniture from the old family home mixed with assorted Ikea decor. And there was an inherent scent of tomato pasta on the air.

Family pictures littered the top of their old piano, its keys yellowed by time. Memories crowded in on her as she remembered Rick forcing her to practice at that very piano every single night. While her friends had been at the mall or going to movies, from the day he’d become her legal guardian she had been chained to her weekly routine like a prisoner serving out a sentence for a heinous crime.

Siena lumbered up the stairs, dragging her small case into the obvious spare bedroom where she found a set of keys and a note reading: ‘The keys are for the green car. Dinner’s at seven.’

After changing into a thankfully cola-free filmy sleeveless black top and skinny dark designer jeans, she searched the Yellow Pages for the name of a dry cleaner. Grabbing her grimy suit and the keys for the green car—not wanting to bother poor Rufus for a quick trip to town, especially since she wasn’t entirely sure if she was partial to him or if she was slightly scared of him—she headed out.

The innocuous sounding green car turned out to be a great, hulking, Kermit-green, eight-cylinder Ute which looked so neat and sparkly clean it couldn’t have been used to haul anything more gritty and cumbersome than plants for Tina’s garden.

She started up the monster, took a few moments to familiarise herself with the feel of the pedals as it was the first right-hand-drive car she had driven in months, then backed out of the driveway.

She had to admit it was a beautiful day. Hot and sunny, like every day in Cairns—a huge tourist destination, poised on the edge of the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world. It really was paradise. For some. For others the hot air felt heavy, smothering, suffocating…

She switched on the air-conditioning, her breathing coming easier when the car smelt less like the past and more like the inside of a plane.

After about five minutes of driving Siena passed an intersection with an antique shop on one corner and an antiquated milk bar on the other and felt a massive wave of déjà vu.

Ignoring the map on the display of her PDA, she took a right turn down a familiar-feeling suburban street, shady with gigantic overhanging gum trees. The stillness of the place washed over her as she meandered deeper along the windy road past lovely large two-storey homes with gables and shutters and front porches and grassy front gardens. It was a picture postcard neighbourhood for a young family.

But familiarity soon morphed into prickly realisation.

This was her old street. The home she had lived in for the first eighteen years of her life. The home in which she had grown up as a late child with a bossy older brother and an absentee father…

She rumbled down the street in second gear. Piano music pealed from one house, making her feel giddy. She peered at numbers on letterboxes to draw her focus elsewhere.

And then she found it. Fourteen Apple Tree Drive. Even the street name was picture perfect. But she knew that the lives going on behind such façades weren’t anywhere near perfect.

A flash of movement loomed at the corner of her vision and she looked up from the letterbox to see a kid riding his bike out into the street.

Swearing loudly, she slammed on the brakes, the big car tugging and shuddering as she held on for all her might. But her unpractised arms couldn’t keep the car straight.

The wheels locked and skidded sideways and, with a crunching jolt, she mounted the kerb. The car slammed to a halt when it came face to face with a hundred-year-old tree in a mass of screeching tyres, grinding metal undercarriage on concrete gutter and the acrid smell of burnt rubber.

Siena’s shallow breaths couldn’t dull the sound of her thudding heart.

Then she remembered the kid on the bike. She looked through the windscreen.


She looked out the driver’s window, then craned her neck to see over her shoulder to the road behind.

Neither child nor bicycle were anywhere to be seen.


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