AMY’S TOUCH LYNNE WILDING A woman ahead of her time — and the two brothers who love her… After working as a nurse with Australian soldiers in World War I, Amy Carmichael settles in the little town of Gindaroo, South Australia. There she is reunited with one of her former patients, good-natured Danny McLean, and his moody brother Randall. The McLeans own Drovers Way, a sheep and cattle station just out of town. But Drovers Way is in trouble — and so is Amy. She has become engaged to Danny, but is dismayed to find that it is Randall for whom her feelings are strongest. And Randall is engaged to Elizabeth Walpole, the daughter of the McLean brothers’ greatest rival. In and around Gindaroo rumour is rife, and when Amy and Randall’s feelings for each other become obvious, it creates a feud between the Walpoles and McLeans that will have disastrous consequences … With unforgettable characters, vivid settings and a sure storyteller’s instinct, With unforgettable characters, vivid settings and a sure storyteller’s instinct, Lynne Wilding weaves a tale of love and choices set against the wide brown acres of the Australian landscape. Born and bred in Sydney, Lynne Wilding has worked in a variety of office jobs, and as a cabaret singer under the name of ‘Linda Gave’ in the 1960s. She began writing seriously in 1981, and her first novel, a romance titled The Sheikh, was published internationally in 1991. She has continued to write bestsellers, with such novels as Heart of the Outback and Whispers Through the Pines being outstanding successes. In 1991 Lynne became the inaugural President of Romance Writers of Australia Inc, which grew considerably thanks to her commitment and expertise. When not working, Lynne loves to read, garden and travel. Married to John, Lynne has two adult children, Karen and Brett, and granddaughters, Liah and Tara. Amy’s Touch is Lynne’s twelfth novel. Visit Lynne Wilding at her website: www.lynnewilding.com Also by Lynne Wilding and available from harpercollins: Heart of the Outback Whispers Through the Pines Turn Left at Bindi Creek This Time Forever 52 Waratah Avenue Love, Obsessions, Secrets and Lies: An Anthology (contributor) King of Cane Valley Outback Sunset Sundown Crossing Amy’s Touch LYNNE WILDING I HarperCollinsPublishers HarperCollinsPublishers First published in Australia in 2007 by HarperCollinsPublishers Australia Pty Limited ABN 36 009 913 517 www.harpercollins.com.au Copyright © Lynne Wilding 2007 The right of Lynne Wilding to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000. This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher. HarperCollinsPublishers 25 Ryde Road, Pymble, Sydney, NSW 2073, Australia 31 View Road, Glenfield, Auckland 10, New Zealand 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, London,W6 8JB, United Kingdom 2 Bloor Street East, 20th floor,Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8, Canada 10 East 53rd Street, New York NY 10022, USA National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Wilding, Lynne. Amy’s touch. ISBN 13:978 0 7322 8563 0 ISBN 10: 0 7322 8563 1 1. Man—woman relationships — Fiction. 2. Country life - Australia — Fiction. I.Title. A823.3 Cover image of nurse made up of image from www.wwlphotos.com/NursingStafF.html and images from Shutterstock Cover image of soldiers courtesy of Australian War Memorial Cover background texture and landscape by Darian Causby/Highway51.com.au Cover design by Darren Holt, HarperCollins Design Studio Typeset in 11 on 14 Sabon by Kirby Jones Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press on 70gsm Bulky Book Ivory To the medical and nursing staff of St George Private Hospital, Kogarah, Sydney, with much gratitude 5 4 3 2 1 07 08 09 10 PROLOGUE 30 APRIL 1874 The man squinted against the early-morning sunlight. He reined in his horse, lifted his battered wide-brimmed hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. ‘So hot,’ he muttered unnecessarily to no one but himself as he watched the herd of cattle mill forward. They kicked up a cloud of fine red dust that made him cough as he inhaled the minute particles. He hadn’t expected such severe heat in April. Back in Glasgow, where he’d left his wife and three children, it was spring and the days would still be bitterly cold. Now he was half a world away, in the Flinders Ranges in the colony of South Australia, looking for the parcel of land he had purchased ‘sight unseen’ almost a year ago. Scottish by birth and cautious by nature, Howard McLean was not an impulsive man, but he had behaved that way the day he’d read the advertisement about prime land for sale in the Australian colony; partly because it had come at a time when he had been frustrated beyond measure with the lack of progress of the small farm his family had owned for two generations at Braemar — two days’ travel by horse and cart from Glasgow. Making a living, feeding, clothing and horse and cart from Glasgow. Making a living, feeding, clothing and trying to educate his family was a day-to-day struggle and he was tired of it. He had talked it over with his wife, Mary, then scraped together enough pounds for a deposit and set in chain a series of events that would change his and his family’s lives forever, in a country far removed from their experience. The land here was so different from the hills and dales of Scotland. Studying the terrain, his interested gaze was distracted by a rider skirting the western perimeter of the one hundred head of Hereford cattle they’d been droving for more days than he cared to count, from stockyards in Adelaide, north-west and slightly towards the ten thousand acres of virgin bush near the farming village of Gindaroo. The rider, his nephew, Angus Scotten, had taken to horses and the Australian bush as a duck did to water, enjoying himself immensely as he pushed the herd along. A gangly fifteen-year-old, Angus had been glad to put his schooling behind him to accompany his mother, Heather, and father, Hamish, on what he hoped would be a great adventure. Howard gave a manly snort, then promptly sneezed. Great adventure! It might be that to Angus, but it was the greatest gamble Howard had ever taken, and one he had to win. Which was why he would be happier once he saw the purchased land with his own eyes. would be happier once he saw the purchased land with his own eyes. Only then would he be sure that he had made the right decision. Far behind the herd, his sister, Heather, drove the wagon that held provisions, farming equipment and building goods purchased in Adelaide. Behind her came her husband, Hamish, shepherding a mixed flock of fifty ewes, lambs and two rams. Howard’s hazel eyes scanned the horizon and the bush around him, looking for the ‘signposts’ described in the title deed. He had memorised them so he didn’t have to unfold the legal paper that described the parcel of land every time he thought they might be getting close to it. Yesterday, before they’d made camp for the night, they had skirted the fledgling village of Gindaroo, so, according to his calculations, his parcel of land couldn’t be too far away. Urging his horse forward, his right hand delved into his trouser pocket and brought out an ex-army compass. He checked the direction and gave a nod of approval. They were heading the right way, and the banks of the Boolcunda Creek should be just ahead … somewhere. A movement caught his attention at the front of the herd. The lead steer had broken away from the others and was heading over to the right at a brisk pace. Then a change in the tone of the cattle’s lowing alerted Howard that the herd was shifting direction. His newly Howard that the herd was shifting direction. His newly freckled, sunburnt forehead puckered in a frown. Why? As the cattle’s meanderings picked up pace, the answer came to him. Water. The cattle smelled water and wanted to get to it. Suddenly he grinned. Water! Boolcunda Creek. Cupping his hands around his mouth he yelled to Angus, who was trying to turn the herd back onto their original line, ‘Let them have their head, laddie. I think we’ve found the creek.’ And sure enough, there were his ‘signposts’. Howard recognised them as soon as he sighted the creek through the trees. To the left was a craggy, reddish-brown three-humped hill, and after fording the water, which was less than a foot deep, and riding up the bank for a better view, he came upon a wide, sloping valley, heavily wooded in parts, with a cluster of roundish boulders on the eastern side. All of which had been accurately described in his paperwork. The land looked fine for grazing cattle and sheep, even with the grass tall and yellow from the summer heat. Dismounting, he knelt and dug his fingers into the grass until they penetrated beneath. Grabbing a clump of earth, he held it up to his face to smell and study it. The soil was good, and crops would grow here if the annual rainfall was decent. His grin widened with satisfaction, after which, being the good Methodist that he was, he said a prayer of thanks.