What You See in the Stars (ebook)
What You See in the Stars (ebook)
A nerdy astronomer. A macho cowboy. And a heartache that neither could have seen in the stars…
Astronomer Rebecca Mayhew has a list of what her eventual husband will be like. It’s just how she does things. Nice, neat and orderly so as not to disturb the pain of her past which is buried deep.
Farmhand Morgan West has a past which is anything but nice and neat, and a present to match. That’s why he keeps moving on, never staying long in one place.
Trouble is, some things, like love, can derail the best laid plans. And when Rebecca falls hard for Morgan, her nice, neat orderly world unravels and secrets are revealed that have the potential to explode more than just their own worlds.
This emotional and suspenseful women’s fiction book will give you all the feels. Sit back, put your feet up and prepare to go on a journey with the Mackenzie brothers and their close friends as they fall in love. But don’t expect an easy road to their happy ever afters! There are intense emotions and unexpected twists and turns becase these macho men fall for strong women with minds of their own!
If you love women's fiction with no explicit sex scenes, The Mackenzies series is a great fit for you!
Note: This book was previously published as The Cowboy’s Craving. This new edition contains no profanity and mild sexual content only.
A Place Called Home
Secrets at Parata Bay
Escape to Shelter Springs
What You See in the Stars
Second Chance at Whisper Creek
Summer at the Lakehouse Café
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“Hi!” Rebecca Mayhew greeted Callum Mackenzie as she wove her way through the crowds of people who’d come to the Lakehouse Café to see her friend Gemma’s paintings.
Callum returned the greeting but Rebecca kept walking, not wanting to engage in conversation. Callum and Gemma’s relationship was going through a difficult patch and she hadn’t a clue what to say to her best friend’s husband. Give Rebecca a computer and a mathematical problem to solve and she’d get a result. But ask her to fathom the ins and outs of a relationship and she drew a blank every time. She smiled encouragingly at Callum and hoped that would be enough.
Then her gaze shifted to the handsome man beside him who had a look of open admiration on his face. A low whistle escaped lips that quirked into a smile. That must be Callum’s younger brother, James, whom she’d heard so much about. She looked behind her, wondering who he was looking at, shrugged and continued on her way toward a very pregnant Gemma who was resting on a stool. She passed Gemma one of the two long glasses of herb tea she was carrying.
“It looks like it’s going well, Gem.”
Gemma took a sip of her tea. “Much better than I imagined. I’ve sold out.”
Rebecca looked around at Gemma’s paintings—abstracts mainly, inspired by the Mackenzie Country—which hung on every available wall space. “I’m not surprised. They’re fantastic.”
“There’s even talk of an exhibition in Christchurch.”
“Well…” Rebecca hesitated, wondering why her friend looked so unhappy. “Isn’t that good news? You have enough material, right?”
Gemma gave a brief smile. “Yeah, of course.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
Gemma glanced through the crowd at Callum. “Nothing I can’t sort out.”
“Good. It’s about time. Not that I don’t like you staying at my place. It’s lovely. You’re the sister I never had.”
Gemma slipped her arm around her friend and gave her a hug. “Me too.” Then she burst into giggles on Rebecca’s shoulder.
“It’s Morgan. He’s here again. He was just looking over at you. He’s turned away now. Strange how he appears wherever you are. The only time I’ve ever seen him at the café is when you’re here. Funny that.”
“Shelter Springs is a small place.” But Rebecca frowned. She hadn’t thought it strange before but come to think of it, whenever she was away from the Mount John Observatory, she’d often catch sight of his dog first, go to pet her and then Morgan would appear. “I often see him around town. Not so surprising really, is it?”
“I know for a fact that the only time Morgan isn’t at Glencoe working his butt off is when he comes into town at a certain time every day. And who else’s schedule is as regular as clockwork?”
“Mine. Well, we have something in common then.”
Gemma sighed, exasperated. “He only comes in to town because he knows he’s going to see you heading to your stint in the Information Center.”
“I doubt it. It’s a long way to come just to nod at me, look uncomfortable and then disappear again.”
“Callum told me that Morgan won’t accept a permanent position but that he doesn’t seem in any hurry to leave either.” Gemma looked slyly at Rebecca. “I wonder why?”
Rebecca shrugged. “Because he likes it here?”
They both looked over to where Glencoe’s mysterious farm hand stood propped against the bar with a beer in his hand. He caught their eye, took a hasty swig and suddenly became absorbed in looking at one particular painting.
“He’s just looking at your paintings.”
Gemma sighed. “Oh, Becks, face it, you have an admirer, whether you want one or not.”
“I don’t mind having an admirer, so long as he’s the right sort of admirer.”
“The right sort. Okay, by that I take it you mean the kind of guy you’ve described on your list.”
“You’ve seen my list?”
“I’m sorry, but your notebook was lying there one day and I thought it was mine.”
“So you opened it and discovered my checklist for a husband.”
Gemma grinned and nodded. “I didn’t think people really did that.”
“Well I do. And I don’t see what’s so strange about it. If you’re buying a house you’d make a list of the things you want.”
“That’s a house. Not a man.”
“I don’t see the difference.”
“It is a long time since you’ve been out with someone,” laughed Gemma.
“Maybe. Anyway, my point is that Morgan West is hardly the sort of man who’d be on my list.”
“For one thing no one knows anything about him. He appeared out of nowhere and will probably disappear with equal swiftness. You can’t trust people like that.”
“Why not? That’s the way some people like it.”
“Maybe. But it’s not how I like it.”
Gemma shrugged. “You have to admit he’s built, though. Just like Callum is.”
Rebecca looked over at him. The mysterious Morgan West had his back to them. Even in the chill of the winter, Morgan was wearing only a faded shirt that hung from broad shoulders. He held the hat he usually wore in his hands, having raked back his golden curly hair off his face. It was too long—just like everything about Morgan West was “too” something.
“He’s certainly tall… And broad…”—she frowned—“and his shoulders are very wide.” She swallowed. “And I’ve never seen such large biceps before. They’re, well, they’re very… I don’t know what they are. They kind of make you want to touch them.”
Gemma followed her gaze. “I guess your astronomer colleagues don’t have the muscles country men have.” She looked at Callum who was making his way over to Morgan. “Like Callum. I think he had me from the first moment I saw his shirtsleeves rolled up. There’s something about a man who you know could physically manhandle you if you wanted him to.” She shook her head as she tried to re-focus.
Rebecca, too, sucked in a long calming breath. The thought of being manhandled—in the right way—by someone so much bigger and taller than her did strange things to her. “But… but,” she repeated more firmly, “muscles aren’t everything.”
“Aren’t they?” asked Gemma dreamily, her gaze still firmly on her husband.
“No, they’re not. Morgan hardly spoke to me at your hen night.”
“I don’t think a party is his natural habitat. And you have to take some of the responsibility for that. You hardly said a word to him either.”
“True. Parties aren’t my natural habitat either.”
“Why don’t you go and speak to him now?”
“No, he’s probably quite happy looking at the paintings.”
“Rebecca! He’s here to see you.”
“Do you really think so?”
“I know so. You don’t notice these things. But I do. Now, for goodness sake, put him out of his misery and go and say hello to him.”
Despite herself, she was tempted. There was something in the way his too-long hair fell over that collar…and those muscles… She sighed. “Then what?”
“Follow your instincts.”
“Instincts? Hm…” Following her instincts wasn’t something Rebecca could ever remember doing.
“Besides, why not have some fun with Morgan?”
“No,” said Rebecca indignantly. “I’m not having fun. I’m just going over to be friendly, to be polite.”
“Why? You’re not going out with your astronomer colleague, Martin, are you? He’s not here, is he?”
Rebecca went to push her glasses further on her nose from force of habit before she remembered that Gemma had persuaded her to replace them with contact lenses. “No. He’s at the observatory, but… it doesn’t seem right.”
“Don’t tell me. He scores highly on your husband list.”
“As a matter of fact, he does.”
Gemma sighed. “So, tell me what it is this Martin, whom I’ve never yet met, has that the ruggedly handsome Morgan doesn’t.”
Rebecca shrugged. “I can’t say exactly.” She glanced back at Morgan who was now talking to Callum. “I just know who I am when I’m with someone like Martin. But with Morgan…” She trailed off unable to explain how out of her depth she felt whenever he was near.
Gemma frowns. “Who you are? Don’t you know?” She narrowed her eyes. “Is this something to do with you being adopted?”
Rebecca waved her hand in confusion. Even if she could figure it all out herself, now wasn’t the time for deep soul-searching. “Probably,” she replied. “Anyway, Martin is reliable, he has a good sense of humor, and is good looking in a neat sort of way—”
Gemma held up her hand. “Stop right there! ‘A neat sort of way’? That’s it.” She gave Rebecca a little shove. “You need to get over there and have a close encounter with someone who’s good looking in a muscly sort of way. And if that’s not enough for you, check Morgan against your list. If he doesn’t measure up, then tell him you’re not interested.”
“It’s the only kind thing to do. He fancies you rotten and for some reason he can’t bring himself to make a move. So it’s up to you to sort it out. Once and for all.”
Rebecca jumped off the stool and tugged her cardigan back into place. “Okay. I don’t believe he fancies me rotten, but if he does, it’s best that I don’t lead him on. Best I nip it in the bud before it becomes something more than it is.”
“Go,” grinned Gemma.
“Right.” She smiled wanly back and stepped forward into the crowd before she could give herself time to think.
She walked up behind him and looked up. She felt tiny. Close to, she could plainly see the bulge and swell of his muscles under his much-washed shirt—the checked material was thin in places. Then he lifted his beer bottle and his rolled-up shirtsleeve revealed a heavily tanned arm, sprinkled with blond hair and those muscles again. Gemma was right. At close quarters they had an even greater effect on her. She squeezed her hands tight, as her desire to reach out and touch them, to run her fingers over their shape and strength, became almost overwhelming. She swallowed. This was ridiculous. She had nothing to say to him. She’d leave. Just at that moment Callum caught sight of her.
“Rebecca! Come and keep Morgan company while I go see Gemma.”
Morgan swung around as if startled and there they were, pushed close to each other by the jostling crowd. And all Rebecca could think of was that she wanted to bury her nose in his chest and smell him. She shook her head, trying to quieten her beating heart.
“Hello again,” she said, wondering whether shaking hands would satisfy her need to touch him. She extended her hand but he made no move to take it, so she let it drop.
Morgan nodded in greeting and made some kind of grunt.
She’d have looked around for inspiration for something to say if her eyes weren’t level with his open shirt where she could see an equally tanned chest sprinkled with blond hairs. She felt the heat of a blush rise from somewhere deep within, warming her stomach, her neck and her cheeks. She never blushed. She took a deep breath and looked up and… wished she hadn’t. If she’d hoped that making eye contact would loosen her tongue, she’d been wrong. From a distance his eyes were usually narrowed. But here, so close, she could see they were a vivid blue. A beautiful baby blue that was accentuated by his tanned skin and was at odds with his rugged cowboy appearance.
“Oh,” she breathed.
He frowned. “Are you okay?”
She nodded. “Sure.”
“Like a drink?”
She needed something stronger than that. “A glass of white wine.”
He leaned through the crowds and plucked a glass off the tray from a passing waitress and handed it to her.
“Thank you.” She took a sip and another deep breath. This was going to be harder than she thought. “So… you’re here to see the paintings?”
“I’ve seen most of them in Gemma’s studio at Glencoe,” he said.
“Oh yes. Of course.”
“I suppose you’ve seen the paintings already, too.”
She nodded. “Yes, but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. A big day for Gemma.”
“I guess,” he muttered.
“But you’re not here for Gemma,” she said.
“I thought you’d be here.”
She should have guessed that, as a man of so few words, when he did finally speak he’d be totally direct. “Oh. Well, you were right. I’m here. So, did you want to tell me something?”
“Then why did you want to see me?” She took a hasty sip of wine.
He hesitated, glanced around as if looking for help, and returned his gaze to her and sighed. “I think you’re beautiful.”
She spluttered and choked on the wine. Morgan took her wine glass from her and patted her rather too firmly on the back as she continued to cough.
“I suppose.” She took back the wine glass from Morgan. “You don’t beat about the bush when it comes to saying what you think, do you?”
“I’m not into making noise for the sake of it. No point.”
“I guess you’re right. So… you think I’m beautiful.” She felt the color flood her cheeks again, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t remember anyone ever calling her beautiful before, except maybe her father when she was little, and that didn’t count.
“Yes. You are.” A flicker of a grin creased at the corners of his mouth. “In every way.”
“Yeah. I can’t stop looking at you. I guess you’ve noticed.”
“Well.” She shrugged, then laughed. “It’s been drawn to my attention.”
“Do you mind?”
She thought for a moment. She should mind. She’d come over to Morgan to let him down gently, to tell him she wasn’t the woman for him. “No,” she heard herself saying. And it was true. She didn’t. In fact, she positively liked the thought of him looking at her. The thought drove flutterings deep inside her. “No, I don’t.”
His eyes narrowed sexily and there was a corresponding jolt of pure lust which made her gasp. She swayed toward him and he stepped a little closer as if to meet her half way. He was so close now, as people mingled all around them, that she could smell the freshly laundered smell of his shirt, and something more… something mouth-wateringly male.
There was a whoop of laughter close by and the noise level rose. He dipped his head toward her. “Good,” he whispered in her ear. His breath warmed her neck and lower. It was all she could do to stop herself from pulling his head to hers so she could feel his breath against her mouth, in her mouth. But he withdrew and looked at her through eyes that, despite their narrowed gaze, seemed to look deep inside of her. And goodness only knew what he’d see there. She didn’t want him to see into the place where she was vulnerable, to the place where she didn’t even allow herself to look.
She stepped away. “But, oh”—she looked at her watch—“it’s time I got going. Night shift at the Observatory, you know. It’s where I work.”
He nodded. “I know. You’re a star-gazer.”
“Oh, no. We don’t just gaze at stars. It’s very scientific. My project involves constructing theoretical models to show that the link between star formation and molecular clouds results from the correlation between chemical phase, shielding, and temperature.” She paused, wondering if she’d gotten carried away. In her enthusiasm for the subject, she often did. “It’s cutting edge stuff.”
He smiled. “I’m sure.”
“Do you, er, like stars?”
“Sure. As a kid I spent a lot of time looking at them. I used to make shapes of them.”
“What kind of shapes did you make?”
“Taniwhas, mainly. Maori monsters,” he elaborated, obviously thinking she wouldn’t know what they were.
“Oh,” Rebecca said, unable to prevent a certain disappointment. Because she also liked to make shapes from the stars—the geometric kind—and not one had ever been a taniwha. She sighed. “Anyway, I need to go. I’ll find Gemma and…” She looked around in vain. “Where is she?”
“You don’t have a lift home?”
“No. But that’s fine. It’s not far. I’ll walk.”
“I’ll drive you home.”
“Really, I don’t want to put you to any bother.”
“It’s no bother. Though I came with Callum so I’ll get his keys.” He looked around. “Looks like he’s gone too. I’ll walk you home instead.”
“I don’t want to put you out.”
“You won’t be. Remember, I’m here to look at you and I can do that for a little while longer if I walk you home.”
“I guess you can. But it’s a bit stalkerish, isn’t it?”
He frowned. “What? Me walking you home?”
“No, you wanting to look at me.”
“I don’t mean it in a weird way. I guess I’m saying I find you very attractive and I’d like to spend time with you. Does that sound less stalkerish?”
“Yes. That’s much better.”
“So, can I take you home?”
She glanced around for Gemma but couldn’t see her and turned back to Morgan and smiled. “Yes, that would be very nice. Thank you.”
Morgan took a step forward and the crowd seemed to part before him. He unhooked his coat from the old fashioned coat stand by the door. “Where’s your coat?”
She grimaced. “In Gemma’s car.”
“Here, take this. Really. I don’t feel the cold.”
She shouldn’t have, but for some reason she let him slip his coat around her shoulders. They walked out onto the road in silence. Rebecca looked around. “I wonder where Gemma’s gone. I really should say goodbye to her.
Morgan nodded toward Shelter lake where a couple stood under a lamp post. “Might be a good idea to give her and Callum a bit of space.”
“Oh, right! Hm! About time they sorted out their differences.”
They both looked at Callum and Gemma just as they kissed. “Looks like they’ve done that all right.” He looked at Rebecca and she could have sworn his gaze dropped to her lips. She licked them and he looked back into her eyes. “Here”—he held out his coat so she could slip her arms into the sleeves—“put the coat on properly. You’ll freeze.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Nah, I’m fine.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” she said, noticing that snow was beginning to fall. “It’s not far.”
They fell into step, Morgan slowing his to match her smaller strides.
“How often do you work nights?”
Thank goodness. A normal question which didn’t involve her either fantasizing about his body or racking her brains for what to say next. “Just a couple of nights a week. My main job is at the computer. I also do some community education work in town for tourists.”
“Wednesdays. When you go to the Tourist Information office.”
“Yes.” Gemma was right. He had been following her. It didn’t pay to think about. It made her feel dizzy. “But I miss being at the telescope. You can see everything then.”
“Must be magic.”
They turned the corner and her small cottage was up ahead. “Magic?” She shrugged under his massive jacket. “I don’t know about that. Fascinating though.”
She stopped at her picket fence and followed his gaze up to the starry sky.
“Looks pretty magical to me. Makes you believe in things you shouldn’t.”
She frowned. “I don’t usually star gaze without the telescope. Not much point.”
“Do you need a point to do things? Sure, they’ve helped me find my way around the bush at night but sometimes I just look at them because they’re just so damn pretty.”
It was her turn to smile. He was full of surprises. “Seems to be a habit of yours, looking at pretty things.”
She faltered then, as she realized she’d just called herself “pretty”. Not something she was in the habit of doing. Slowly he looked down at her. “All I do is look, sweetheart. No need to worry.”
“I wasn’t.” She looked away, embarrassed. “Worrying, I mean.”
He nodded. “Goodnight, then.” His face was shadowed from the street lamp by his hat. But as he turned she caught sight of the line of his jaw, strong and determined.
“Goodnight,” she called out but he was already walking away. She didn’t want him to leave like that. Not without knowing how she was feeling. “Morgan!”
He stopped and slowly turned around. He didn’t say anything, just waited for her to speak again.
She went running up to him, slipped out of his coat and handed it to him. “Thank you. For the coat. For the walk home.”
“And… if you wanted to, you know, come and look at me again, some time, that would be fine.”
He grinned. “It sure would.”
He walked away, his footsteps muffled on the slowly accumulating snow. She waited until he turned the corner and then suddenly aware of the shivers that were beginning to course uncontrollably through her, returned to her gate and walked up the short path to her front door.
Before she went inside she glanced upward. The stars that people came from all over the world to see in the Mackenzie Country’s dark sky were indecently bright and abundant. And for a moment she looked at them through Morgan’s eyes and they became mysterious, unfathomable, and magical. But then she spotted the pulsating red giant star of Mira and she made a mental note to catch up on the latest research paper on the pulsations and shock waves produced by low mass supergiant stars.
She went inside the small cottage, still warm from the damped down fire. She briefly paused as she passed the spare room where Gemma had been staying. It looked like she wouldn’t be back tonight. And would no doubt be moving back to Glencoe. It hadn’t been easy for either Gemma or Callum but Rebecca was glad they’d made it up. Not just for the baby’s sake but for their own. She knew they loved each other. But she also knew the course of love rarely ran smoothly.
She walked into her bedroom, set down her bag and opened her notebook to the page at the back, where her list was.
For years she’d been so focused on her studies and work that she hadn’t wanted a serious relationship. But Gemma’s pregnancy had stirred Rebecca’s own maternal instincts and she’d done what she always did in response to a problem—made a list.
She glanced through the ten points that she required of a potential mate.
1. Self-confident (but not arrogant)
2. Respectful of women and feminists
3. Good career
4. Careful with money
5. Tall (but not too tall)
6. Steady and responsible
8. Good conversationalist
10. Of neat build (not too slim and not too broad)
All reasonable, or necessary. She wanted someone who would fit in. Someone much like herself. Except taller of course. But not too tall. A logical list. If only people had a more scientific approach she was sure there would be fewer separations, fewer unhappy marriages like her own parents who still lived separate lives in their terraced house in Manchester. No, her list was the only rational approach to finding a husband.
Suddenly the line of Morgan’s jaw, lit by the streetlamp, filled her mind, giving her stomach a little flip of desire. This was swiftly followed by her memory of his back, the soft, well-worn shirt pulled across his broad shoulders as he reached over to pick up a beer. And those muscles.
She swallowed. And doodled beside point 10. She hesitated only a moment before crossing it out. Adding ‘Strong physique’ instead. She’d simply got it wrong. Hadn’t considered it sufficiently. Now she’d seen the kind of physique she liked, she could alter her requirements.
Nothing was ever set in stone, after all. Maybe there was room in her life for someone a little different to the man on her list. Maybe she should tweak her list a little over the next few weeks. It’s what scientists did with a good hypothesis. Nothing wrong with that.
She was sweet, Morgan thought as he walked back to the café. Sweet and way out of his league. Still, as he’d told her, he was just looking, just passing the time of day with her. Nothing more. He’d be moving on in a few months. Just as he always did. Didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate her company from time to time.
He smiled as he remembered the way she spoke. There was no pretense about her like there was with other women. She meant what she said—direct. But it also made her vulnerable. He stopped walking and frowned. He didn’t like to think of her as vulnerable.
“What’s up, mate?”
He turned to see Callum leaning against the lamppost, alone now. “Nothing. Ready to go?”
Callum shook his head. “I’m waiting for Gemma. She’s coming back with us to Glencoe.”
“Good. I’m pleased for you. She’s a good woman.”
Callum grinned. “High praise from you.” He paused. “Thanks for staying on to fill the manager’s role. Are you sure you won’t take on the role long term?”
“No. I’ll be moving on as soon as you get someone to replace me.”
Morgan shrugged. “Just on. Something always turns up.”
Callum shook his head. “Always moving, eh?”
“It’s the way I like it.”
“Fair enough. Would you mind driving the truck home?”
“Sure, no problem.”
Callum tossed Morgan the keys and pushed himself off the post and walked to the café door as Gemma stepped out. “See you later. Tomorrow.” He grinned and greeted Gemma with a lingering kiss.
Morgan turned away abruptly, opened the door of the Glencoe truck and jumped in. He revved the engine, drowning out the laughter of the happy couple as they lingered in the falling snow.
Yeah, he’d be moving on… just as he always did.