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Someone Like You

By:Victoria Purman

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my lovely readers who said they loved Nobody But Him and asked for more.

To my many male friends who read it - big hugs. This one is set over  summer, so I've thrown in some cricket action for you all. You're  welcome.

To Jessie Byrne for reading the first draft and providing excellent advice and guidance.

To Stephen. And to our boys - Ethan, Ned and Clancy  –  for being the best sons in the world.

Once again, to Emma and Vilma for being my biggest fans.

To my editor Jody Lee. Thank you for your middle of the night revelation  about that extra scene  –  you were SO right. Once again, you've made  this a much better book and I thank you sincerely.

To Sue Brockhoff, Cristina Lee and Lilia Kanna from Harlequin Australia.  My heartfelt thanks for your continuing support, encouragement and  reassuring words of wisdom.

And finally, to everyone else at team Harlequin. Thanks for everything you've done to help make my wildest dreams come true.




CHAPTER


1


Lizzie Blake gripped her fingers into a tight fist and raised her  knuckles to the salt-scarred front door. She stole a quick glance over  her shoulder, looking across the esplanade to the sparkling water of  Middle Point behind her. She tried to imagine the hot sand sizzling her  feet, the cool of the waves washing over her limbs and the roar of the  Southern Ocean in her ears.

She straightened her back, lifted her chin and muttered to herself. 'For  God's sake. Just get it over with. This is not brain surgery. Man up.  Or … should that be woman up?'

She halted, hearing a scraping noise from inside the house. He was  definitely in there. The man who'd moved in months before, when the wind  off the water had blown cold and the skies started out grey in the  mornings, hanging low until sunset. Time had passed. The weather had  turned; summer was only a few weeks away.

But the mystery man of Middle Point remained a recluse.

Lizzie felt a trickle of sweat slip down between her shoulder blades.  The sooner she got this over with, the sooner she could be back at work  in the air-conditioned cool of the Middle Point pub. She wasn't even  sure what she was doing here. Here being the not-so-welcome mat of a  modest, mint-green painted beach shack. It was weathered and worn, its  windows opaque with gritty streaks of sand, the yellowed grass in the  front yard resembling strewn hay instead of lush green.

It was a good question and she wasn't entirely sure she had an answer  that made any sense. In a moment of sentimental weakness that morning,  she'd promised Ry Blackburn she would make a delivery to his best  friend, Dan McSwaine. Ry was Lizzie's boss at the pub. And her best  friend Julia's fiancé. And Dan's next-door neighbour. Yes. Middle Point  was a small town.

She felt the weight of the calico bag in her hand, heavy with food:  kangaroo rendang, a crisp Asian salad and still-warm naan bread from the  specials menu. The spicy aromas teased her and she had half a mind to  tiptoe away and take it home for herself instead.

But no, she was on a promise to a friend and she wouldn't go back on it.  After three firm knocks, she planted her hand on her head to stop her  straw hat from blowing away in the north wind and waited. There was  another scrape of noise from inside, then footsteps and the door jerked  open in a whoosh.

Lizzie blinked.

What the hell's happened to Dan McSwaine?

Dan stared back at her. His lips were pinched into a tight line and his  jet-black hair hung over his forehead, pushed aside just enough so she  could see one washed-out green eye fixed directly on her.

Four months before, when she'd met Dan for the first time, he'd worn a  shit-eating grin, a cocky-as-hell attitude and a black leather jacket.  She did a quick stocktake of the man who was standing there, half-hidden  behind the door, glowering at her. He looked like he'd been dragged  eight ways through a blender. A faded blue T-shirt hung from his  shoulders and he appeared to be wearing  –  Lizzie glanced down to confirm  her suspicions  –  track pants.

Could this be the same man?

'What do you want, Elizabeth?'

At least she recognised the voice. It was deep with a rasp that she'd  thought sexy, once upon a time. Now he just sounded annoyed.

'Ry wants you to have this.' Lizzie lifted the calico bag between them.  'It's a dinner delivery direct from the Middle Point pub. On the house.'

Dan didn't move. There was no sweep of his arm to invite her inside, out  of the still blazing early evening heat and the whipping wind. No smile  of welcome or acknowledgment. And he wasn't so much looking at her, as  through her, barely any recognition in his face that they were  acquaintances. Distant acquaintances, she corrected herself.         

     



 

Not a bad match, she realised. He didn't want her there and she didn't want to be there. Perfect.

'Here. Take it,' she said. 'It's food. Really good food.'

He wasn't to be tempted.

Lizzie pulled off her sunglasses and tipped her head back to take a good  look at him. Dark bags under his eyes were smudged like fading bruises  and his cheekbones anchored hollows where flesh should have been. And,  while beards were currently au courant in European fashion magazines and  on the skinny faces of alternative musicians, Lizzie decided his  grey-flecked version looked like he'd been stranded on a desert island  for three months.

Which was exactly how long it had been since his car accident. Bloody  hell. A wave of remorse at her rush to judge him rose up in her throat  and she swallowed it away.

And then she wasn't quite sure what to do. Dan had been through so much  in the past few months that it felt selfish to be annoyed with him. How  should she handle this stranger? For that's what he seemed to her now.  Her tongue tripped into jumpy overtime.

'Just take the food, Dan. It's really delicious. Or so the chef tells  me. It's been our most popular dinner order, which is crazy considering  it must still be thirty-five degrees out here. You'd better eat it while  it's hot, so here you go.' Lizzie looked down at the bag and held it  further towards him to indicate he should take it from her, but still he  didn't react. His tall body slumped against the doorway and his big  hand gripped the doorknob as if it was the only thing keeping him  upright.

Lizzie noticed a passing glance at the food before his eyes travelled  slowly up her body in a lazy trawl. Well, there was something about him  she did recognise. He'd looked at her like that before. And damn it if  it didn't have the same affect on her pulse.

'Take it away. I don't want it.' Dan reached up to his chin and rubbed his beard.

Lizzie clenched her teeth. Keeping her promise to Ry wasn't going to be  quite as straightforward as she'd imagined. How many kinds of stubborn  was Dan McSwaine anyway, she wondered. God forbid. What man in his right  mind would knock back a free meal?

She bit back her frustration and tried another approach. 'Well, now I've  got a problem. My boss  –  and your very stubborn best friend  –  wants me  to leave this with you since all you can cook is toast, apparently.'

Dan's eyes flashed and, for the first time, met hers.

'Ry thinks I've been living off toast?'

She didn't blink. 'Ry seems to think you're fading away.' Lizzie checked  for evidence. She hadn't quite noticed before that the faded blue  T-shirt was stretched tight over his broad shoulders and strong arms,  clinging to the muscles of his chest  –  and lower  –  as if the shirt was  wet. Fading away may have been a slight exaggeration.

'Tell Ry to back off.' Dan's voice was tight in his throat, as if it  hurt to share it with anyone else. 'No, fuck it, I'll tell him myself.'

And then he took a step in retreat and slammed the wooden door in  Lizzie's face. The force of it rattled the windows all along the front  of the little house.

Lizzie stared in disbelief. Asked herself if what had just happened had  actually just happened. Her first instinct was to push the door open and  unload every curse word she knew in response to his rudeness. She'd  worked in pubs a long time and had a ready supply of true-blue Aussie  expressions to choose from. Each of them quite satisfying.

But when that rush of blood to the head faded, and it only took a few  seconds, she decided to trust her second instinct, which was to leave  him alone.

She left the food on the front door mat and walked away, back along the esplanade to the pub.

Dan pushed aside the sheer curtain from the sea-sprayed front windows,  just enough to watch Elizabeth Blake's arse as she walked down his  driveway and onto the street. Her swaying curves were covered with a  simple white T-shirt and sand-coloured skirt and he knew the hat was  hiding hair cut short like a pixie's. It was blonde, he remembered, but  not the kind you got from a bottle. It was a kind of a golden blonde.  Maybe it was the southern sun that had given it that shiny glow.

And then he pulled himself up. Why are you thinking about the colour of  her goddamn hair, McSwaine? Hell, he might be a sorry-arse excuse for a  man at the moment, but he wasn't dead.

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