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First Published 2013 First Australian Paperback Edition 2013 ISBN 978 174356461 5 NOBODY BUT HIM © 2013 by Victoria Purman Philippine Copyright 2013 Australian Copyright 2013 New Zealand Copyright 2013 Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilisation of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Harlequin® Mira®, Locked Bag 7002, Chatswood D.C. N.S.W., Australia 2067. This book is sold subject to the condition that shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published in arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Published by Harlequin® Mira® An imprint of Harlequin Enterprises (Aust) Pty Ltd. Level 4, 132 Arthur Street NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2060 AUSTRALIA ® and TM are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its corporate affiliates. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in Australia, New Zealand, the United States Patent & Trademark Office and in other countries. Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

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Dear Reader Who hasn’t harboured a secret fantasy about running away from it all to a sleepy beachside town, where summers never end and the coastal air blows the cobwebs from your mind, taking the stress and problems of city life with it? The fresh air, the long walks, the sun, the relaxed mood, that feeling that you’re on holidays all year round? What’s not to love! That’s something I wanted to explore in Nobody But Him. My characters are at a point in their lives where they have to make some big decisions about who they want to be, where they want to live and whether they’ll open their hearts to love. My fictional town of Middle Point is set on the very real and stunning coastline of South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s a place I know and adore and I hope I’ve captured just what makes it so special. As you turn the pages and get to know my characters, I hope you’ll let yourself be whisked away to the beach, smell the salt in the air and feel the warming sun on your face. This is the first book in my Boys of Summer trilogy and I hope you’ll enjoy the first story of Ry and Julia, who meet for the first time in fifteen years back in the place they found love one summer. I may be a writer, but I’m also a reader, and I know how hard it can be to find some precious time to escape into reading, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing Nobody But Him. The fact that you are holding a book in your hands with my name on the cover is still a miracle to me. The fact that you want to read it? A double bonus! I would love to hear from readers so please find me at www. victoriapurman.com, on facebook at Victoria Purman Author or on twitter @VictoriaPurman. Happy reading! Victoria

CHAPTER

1

‘Excuse me waitress!’ Caught between two dining chairs with a tray of half-empty glasses perched precariously in the air, Julia Jones stopped, drew in a breath and rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. Honest to God, I might be new at this hospitality game, but if I hear that one more time. She had a vision of tipping the slurry of warm beer all over the patron’s designer-denim-clad arse. Instead, Julia caught her temper in her throat, created a sickly smile and turned. ‘I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting.’ One look at the table of diners in front of her had her stifling a giggle. They appeared to have stepped straight out of the pages of ­ Country Life magazine. There was lots of tweed and corduroy and was she imagining it, or was that a designer trench coat draped on the back of an empty chair? She knew their type instinctively. Adelaide people, down in the South Australian coastal town of Middle Point for the weekend, who figured a trip out of the capital meant they had to dress for the part. Unfortunately for them, they got the wrong memo.

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This was the beach, not the country. Julia knew their wallets would be bulging from trust funds and successful jobs. Not that she was into crass generalisations or anything. They just saved time. Scanning the table she wondered which of the women sitting there had called her waitress. She figured it was the younger of the two, natural blonde hair, of course, pert, pretty, privileged, perfectly symmetrical features. The Princess. Julia hardened her smile. ‘I’ll just take these empties back to the bar and I’ll be right with you.’ She bumped her way from chair to chair through the crowded Saturday night dining room, taking care to steady her tray as she went. The happy and relaxed conversations of the other diners in the century old pub weren’t enough to drown out the hoity-toity complaints from what looked like Lord and Lady Muck and The Princess. ‘Can you believe the service here? That waitress was positively rude. Mum, did you see the look on her face?’ Julia could hear The Princess winding up for a full display of outraged condescension but gritted her teeth and kept walking. Blowing badly behaved tendrils of curly brown hair from her eyes, she approached the bar, behind which stood her best and oldest childhood friend Lizzie Blake, pouring a round of drinks. Lizzie’s wry smile revealed she’d heard everything. ‘Don’t let ’em get to you, Jools.’ Lizzie reached behind her for a chilled bottle of water. ‘You’re doing a brilliant job.’ Lizzie threw her a huge grin and a dramatic wink and handed her the tray of drinks she’d just prepared. ‘Here. Back you go.’ Julia narrowed her eyes and leaned on the bar. ‘This is all your fault, you know.’ ‘I know, I know, you are doing me a massive favour. If my regular waitress hadn’t come down with the worst flu of all time,’ Lizzie mimed quote marks in the air, ‘I wouldn’t have begged you for help.’ ‘If you weren’t my BFF, there’s no way I would’ve taken this gig serving drinks and food, however delicious, to wankers like the people at table thirteen.’

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‘I owe you, Julia. Big time, obviously. What say I cook good old spaghetti bolognese tomorrow night? Would that make it up to you?’ ‘You’re playing dirty now.’ Julia managed a smile but couldn’t hide the tears welling in her eyes at the mention of her mother’s favourite recipe. She reached across to squeeze Lizzie’s hand. Lizzie squeezed hers right back. ‘Give me those drinks, you slave-driver.’ ‘You know how grateful I am for this, Jools. You’ve got me out of a really tight spot.’ ‘Yeah, yeah.’ Julia arched her eyebrows and smiled as she picked up the tray. ‘And I promise to be super careful so I don’t accidently drop them all in the lap of that pretty young thing over there.’ ‘Good girl,’ Lizzie smiled in reply and hurried off to take orders. The beachside pub was really humming. The winter long weekend had brought more people than usual to the town, everyone relishing the chance of an extra night away from suburbia to relax and take in the sea air. Half the tables were filled with local families in their jeans and warm jumpers, corralling their boisterous children. The regulars propped up the bar, their glasses leaving watery rings on the counter like signatures, while the weekend visitors dominated the end of the dining room closer to the fireplace. Julia took a second to glance around before asking herself for the tenth time: what the hell am I doing here? Two weeks before she’d been sitting in a stylish and dimly lit bistro in Melbourne with her work colleagues, drinking the finest Australian wine. Now she was serving it to the sort of people who’d made her life hell as a teenager in this town. People exactly like Lord and Lady Muck and their Princess, city people with enough spare cash for a holiday home and a couple of European cars. People who were increasingly snatching up every spare piece of land in the beachside strip, sucking up all the nice weather and the good times and fun on holidays and weekends, then leaving when the season turned. She’d spent every summer trying to avoid people like them. And now, here she was, their maidservant. She couldn’t deny that it grated. Big time.

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Julia glanced down at her prim white shirt, the boring kneelength black skirt, her black-stockinged legs and sensible black flatties. Black had always been her signature colour. It was so Melbourne. It was so not Middle Point. A cackle of laughter pulled her out of herself and snatches of conversation floated above the crowd to her as she made her way back to table thirteen. ‘Country service, honestly.’ The Princess’s voice was like fingernails down a blackboard. ‘I knew we should have gone into Victor Harbor.’ So why didn’t you? Julia said under her breath as she gripped the tray. ‘Really, Amanda, that’s enough.’ What was that? A male voice, a deep, interesting, admonishing male voice cut right through the complaining. Julia’s ears pricked up. Sexy guy, she decided. She manoeuvred to the table and tried to find the possessor of that growl. One look at Lord Muck, with his tan corduroy jacket complete with professorial leather elbow patches, enormous grey eyebrows and sagging cheeks, and she decided it couldn’t be him. There was another option to choose from. Mmm, maybe this guy? A very tall, very broad-shouldered man had moved in front of her and was heading back to his seat. Julia craned her neck to take in his full height, then let her eyes wander down the strong planes of his back, which was barely disguised under a fine knit black jumper. And, oh yes, there was a tight arse and long, long legs covered in dark denim. Eye candy. At last, she thought, and she let herself enjoy the view for a moment longer. Whoever he was, he was a way better alternative than most of the other blokes in the bar; the check-shirted, baseball-capped locals. Julia heard another harrumph of annoyance from the table and she snapped out of the perve fest real fast. Her defiance meter cranked up and, on a scale of one to ten, she was going Spinal Tap: the full eleven.

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11

‘So sorry to keep you waiting, ladies and gentlemen.’ With perhaps a little too much ironic emphasis on the ladies and gentlemen, and maybe a tad excessive in the fake English accent department, Julia lowered the tray onto the edge of the table, using her butt to wedge herself between the two women. ‘So, what do we have here? Champagne for the ladies? Our very best Australian bubbles for you both, none of that inferior French plonk.’ She placed the flutes carefully on the table and noticed The Princess was wide-eyed and red-cheeked. Julia hoped it was from embarrassment. ‘And now.’ She reached for one of the tumblers on her tray. ‘Aged Scotch whisky on ice. For this discerning gentlemen, I presume?’ Lord Muck smiled hesitantly at Julia and raised his finger in the air to indicate his choice. She gently placed it on the table and the ice cubes clinked together with a tinkle. ‘And finally, a soda water for the non-drinker — or tonight’s exceedingly generous designated driver.’ Julia took a couple of shimmying steps to reach the other end of the table and found great delight in focusing her gaze on the women, making sure they got every not-so-subtle nuance of her derision. ‘Well, congratulations to you, sir, for ensuring your friends get home safely. What a magnanimous gesture.’ She lifted the glass from her tray, condensation already making it a little slippery. ‘My name is waitress and if you need anything else, just whistle. You know how to do that, don’t you?’ She winked at the older man. ‘You just put your lips together and blow.’ Finally Julia turned her attention to Sexy Guy, who was about to sit down. He didn’t react, glancing down as he pulled his chair closer to the table. Once he’d sat down, he leaned back and looked up into her eyes. A shock of recognition hit her like a wave. A cold shiver iced its way up her spine, lodging in her throat and a bizarre buzzing in her ears suddenly blocked out all the bustling,

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happy sounds of the pub. It seemed like forever before she realised she’d actually forgotten to breathe. Dirty blonde hair, short and ruffled. A tanned face. A strong jaw shaded with growth, hiding the small scar on his left cheek she knew to be there. And the sapphire blue eyes that had once buckled her knees. The switch was imperceptible to anyone else at the table, but his expression transformed in a blink from smiling to steely. His full lips drew together and disappeared into a tight scowl. All Julia’s Melbourne bravado drained away and pooled in her feet like she was wearing big cement boots. ‘Ry.’ It came out before she could think, softer and breathier than she would have liked. ‘Thanks for the drink,’ he replied, his voice gravel. He averted his eyes and studied the menu with intense concentration. Julia shakily placed his drink on the table before him, spilling it so a dribble of soda water wet her fingers. If he noticed, he didn’t look up as she walked with trembling knees back to the bar. ‘Ryan?’ Amanda’s perfectly French-manicured hand on his arm was insistent and he shook it off. He raked his fingers through his hair and felt a familiar ache in his jaw. ‘How do you know that awful waitress?’ Her carefully enunciated vowels hit him like a cold shower. ‘Excuse me.’ Ry pushed back his chair, stood to his full, imposing height and scanned the room. As he headed towards the bar, manoeuvring in and around the crowded tables, he realised she’d disappeared. He swore under his breath, realising he had no clue what he would have said to her if he’d found her. At the bar, Lizzie had her hand on the beer tap, expertly filling a glass with pale ale. She lifted her head. ‘Another drink?’ ‘No. No, thank you.’ Ry hesitated. Rubbed his jaw to release the tension. ‘That new waitress who just served my table, the one with the chestnut hair, curly, about this tall?’ He held up a flat palm to his shoulder.

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13

Lizzie bit her lip and shrugged. ‘I’m sorry, Ry, I didn’t have time to tell you. You know our young waitress, Kimberley, with the pierced eyebrow and the pink hair? She called in sick at the last minute and Julia’s done me a huge favour by covering her shift tonight. You know Saturday night is our busiest, right?’ ‘It doesn’t take a degree in hotel management to know that Saturday night is busy in a pub, Lizzie,’ he replied, his mouth a grimace. Then he paused, shaking his head a little. ‘Wait a minute . . . how the hell do you know her?’ Lizzie put the beer on the bar, before staring back at him like he was crazy. ‘She’s my best friend. She’s saved our bacon tonight.’ Ry could see the question in Lizzie’s eyes but he wasn’t about to give her any explanation. She hesitated before asking, ‘Why, do you want her number or something?’ ‘Shit no,’ he said quickly, adamantly. Not in a million years. ‘Don’t tell me she misbehaved.’ ‘No, she didn’t misbehave.’ In fact, Ry thought, he might have acted in exactly the same way if he’d worn the brunt of the sly digs and rudeness from his table. But there was only one thing to do. No question. He squared his shoulders and looked Lizzie in the eye. ‘Pay her what she’s earned and some extra for her inconvenience but I don’t want her back here.’ He turned and strode back to the table, leaving Lizzie openmouthed in his wake. ‘Blackburn, is everything all right?’ His friend and architect David Winter sipped his scotch and raised his enormous grey eyebrows in concern. For the first time, Ry realised they looked like hairy caterpillars lurking on his forehead. ‘Sorry about that everyone. Just a minor crisis behind the bar that needed sorting out.’ He forced a smile. ‘Everyone ready to order?’ ‘Yes, we’re starved! But let’s try to get someone else to serve us.’ Amanda propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on

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her interlinked fingers. She threw Ry a huge smile and tossed her hair, giggling at her own joke. Ry turned away from her. ‘So David, tell me about the plans. Have you had the surveyors in yet?’ Ry made sure to smile and nod at the appropriate intervals as David began describing, in great detail, the topography of the Fleurieu Peninsula and the implications for any housing development. Ry made sure to smile and nod because not one single syllable of what David was saying was making any sense. He might as well have been speaking Norwegian. The evening had gone straight to hell, and Ry knew he was trapped at the table with his architect, David’s wife Annie and their daughter Amanda, who was now gazing into his eyes and laughing way too loud. As he watched them chatter and make decisions about dinner, debate the relative merits of the kangaroo fillet or the Asian-inspired crispy fish, his mind was a million miles and fifteen years back. Surfing, sunscreen, salty chips and sex. Julia Jones.

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