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Diana's Books

Yours to Cherish (PAPERBACK)

Yours to Cherish (PAPERBACK)

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Archaeologist Madeleine MacGillivray arrives in Akaroa, New Zealand, with a backpack and a story she refuses to tell.

Mysterious women are a weakness of Dr Gabriel Connelly’s—especially if they’re beautiful. But, despite an undeniable chemistry, Madeleine insists on remaining friends only.

However, Gabe has six months in which to change her mind; six months in which to unlock the mystery surrounding the lovely, mysterious Madeleine. But, after he discovers the truth, will he wish he hadn’t?

—Lantern Bay—


  1. Yours to Give
  2. Yours to Treasure
  3. Yours to Cherish
  4. Yours to Keep
  5. Yours Forever
  6. Yours to Love



Madeleine MacGillivray watched the departing bus lumber up the hill and over into the next valley, leaving behind a trail of dust. She shifted her rucksack on her shoulder and looked around. The sea was a pale shade of green in the early morning light, reflecting the color of the trees and open hillsides on the opposite side of Akaroa Harbor, the detail obliterated by the brilliant glare of the sun that had just emerged over the farther hills. It was a larger harbor than she’d imagined when he’d told her about it.
To her other side, the town was a mixture of old and new—a two-story colonial building with its rounded metal roof and white pillars and fretwork was freshly painted and still held the prime position overlooking the tree-lined harbor. Around it were ranged newer, single-story buildings which housed shops and cafés, set around paved pedestrian areas, dotted with umbrellas perched over café tables and terra cotta pots filled with fragrant lavender.
So this was it. Akaroa. The place she’d heard so much about. While the harbor and hills were bigger than she’d imagined, the town was smaller. Behind the shops that fringed the shoreline were the houses, some small, some grand, that rose around and above the bay, to the highest ridge. But that was it.
She grunted softly. Just showed how much the place had meant to him. He’d built it up when he’d recalled it, to something far more imposing. She could imagine him growing up here, his big personality dominating the small community, just as he’d been the center of her world. She felt a chill seep into her heart before she stopped it dead. She couldn’t think of that now.
She hitched the bag higher onto her shoulder and walked along the footpath. The town was a strange mixture of European charm—with its cute, cottagey veranda-shaded decks and brightly planted hanging baskets—and New Zealand drama. The pale, wheaty-green hills which sheltered Akaroa were the product of seismic activity, and appeared rumpled and creased as if a soft cloth had been pushed together. And the native trees—gnarled and spreading—were like huge, ancient, ungainly giants. Born in Denmark, she was accustomed to European charm and, having worked in the US, terrain shaped by seismic activity wasn’t new to her, but the whole picture combined into a landscape which was uniquely New Zealand.
It was still early, but there were already people around. Outside one café a woman was busy typing into a laptop, and a middle-aged man was getting stuck into a cooked breakfast which smelled divine. From across the road an old lady emerged carefully from a building whose front door opened directly onto the street.
As Maddy walked past the building, she noticed it was a doctor’s surgery. Below the sign, obscuring the doctor’s name, was a handwritten sign saying “Drowning in paperwork—Need help!” Brightly colored flowers decorated the sign.
The old lady laughed when she saw it and called out a name which Maddy couldn’t quite hear as she crossed the street. A taxi drew up outside the surgery, obscuring her view. Only the top of a man’s head, his golden curling hair bright in the morning sun, was visible to her. It was pretty hair. It was curl-it-around-your-fingers kind of hair. It was hair that tugged a little at her memory. She paused and turned a stand on which picture postcards were displayed. As the picturesque images of Akaroa whirled in her vision, her mind focused on the voice of the man with the curly hair. She couldn’t hear what he said, just his deep ironical tone. Whatever his words, it made the old lady laugh even louder. Other voices joined in as passers-by greeted them. They were both obviously well known to the community.
It seemed to take an age before the old lady was safely deposited into the taxi, but Maddy continued to wait. She had a curious desire to see what the rest of that golden-haired man with a deep voice looked like. But, by the time the taxi pulled away from the sidewalk, the door was closed and there was no golden-haired man in sight. And the sign was gone.
She shrugged and moved on.
There were more cafés and shops than she’d imagined advertising tours and events aimed at tourists. But not so many as to spoil its character. Her stomach growled at the smell of fresh baking and she looked around for its source. She hadn’t eaten since she’d got off the plane early that morning. She’d come straight to Akaroa—an hour out of Christchurch—on the bus, and was starving.
She peered in the window of a small café. Freshly baked loaves, whose glaze was enriched by the early morning rays of the sun, filled the window. Together with the pastries, they could have graced the most sophisticated French patisserie. Then a woman appeared and slipped a tray into the window, filled with melt-in-your-mouth croissants, the warm chocolate oozing out of the ends. The woman looked up, caught her eye and smiled. Maddy smiled back hesitantly. It didn’t pay to catch people’s eye in some of the places where she’d traveled, and she’d developed a caution with people which he’d used to tease her about. Now she was here, in his hometown, she understood his amusement. It was the kind of place where trust was more in evidence than suspicion. And the woman in the café was no exception. Her smile hadn’t faded, despite Maddy’s wariness.
Instinct told her to leave, but he’d insisted she come here if anything ever happened to him, and she’d promised him she would, never in a million years imagining she’d have to keep her promise so soon, if ever. So here she was, forcing herself not to run away at the sight of a warm smile. She swallowed, pulled her bag more securely over her shoulder and walked into the shop.
The old-fashioned doorbell jingled, and Maddy stepped into another world.
“Hi!” the woman called out, as she made her way back behind the counter. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
Maddy nodded. “Yes. Arrived this morning.”
“Staying long?”
Maddy hesitated, trying to fight the need to leave, to run away from this woman whose interest she really didn’t want. “A few months. Or more,” she added quietly. She didn’t want to go around admitting that she’d committed herself to staying six months in Akaroa. People would ask questions, and that was one of the conditions she’d agreed to. No one must know.
“Ah, I thought you had a different look about you. When I saw you I thought to myself, that’s not someone who’s just passing through.” The woman grabbed a paper bag. “Would you like some of chef’s baking? I’d offer you mine, but it’s an acquired taste, so I’ve been told.” She grinned disarmingly, once more. “What would you like?”
Maddy looked longingly at the pies, whose flaky pastry lifted at the edges, promising succulent meat within, as she mentally converted the New Zealand dollars to US. She didn’t have much money and, until she found a job, she had to be careful. She selected one of the smaller pies. “How much is this?”
The woman watched Maddy open with a click the well-used leather purse where she kept her loose change. “On the house.” The woman stretched over and plucked a still-warm chocolate croissant. “Here and take one of these too.”
Maddy opened her eyes wide with surprise and then frowned. “It’s okay, I can pay.”
“I’m sure you can. That’s not why I’m offering.” The woman popped the croissant into a second bag. “Consider it a welcome to Akaroa. I hope you enjoy your stay.” She passed over the bag, and waved away Maddy’s collection of coins. “So, have you traveled far?”
“From Amsterdam, via the US.”
“That’s about as far as you can get!” The woman tilted her head to one side. “So you’re going to be sight-seeing for a few months?” She laughed. “I’m not sure we have that much to offer!”
Maddy was dying to take a bite out of the pie, but restrained herself. The woman was kind. She shrugged. “I thought I’d look around for a job. I have a temporary work visa,” she added quickly, accustomed to people wary of illegal employment.
“What is it you do?”
She swallowed hard, trying to stop her mouth from watering. “Anything. I can wait at tables, answer phones. I know a few languages, and I’ve done barista work. I can turn my hand to anything.” One more inhalation of the pie and she couldn’t wait any longer. She took a bite and closed her eyes as the flavors of the meat pie filled her mouth.
The woman cocked her head to one side. “Really? I’d have put you down for something brainy like, I don’t know, something hard and sciency.”
Maddy nearly choked at the woman’s accurate observation. She swallowed, and then coughed.
The woman grinned. “I’m right, aren’t I? I’m always right about people. My sisters reckon I have a sixth sense.” She stuck out a hand. “I’m Amber.”
Maddy gripped the hand. “Madeleine MacGillivray, but everyone calls me Maddy. It’s lovely to meet you, Amber.”
Amber moved around the counter and hesitated. Maddy braced herself for more questions. Amber didn’t strike her as the kind of woman who worried too much about privacy. The inquisition was about to begin. She mentally rehearsed her answers to how she knew about Akaroa and what had drawn her here for more than just a brief visit. Instead Amber gestured to the coffee machine. “Would you like a coffee to go with that pie?”
Maddy let a long breath escape. “That would be great. It’s been a long time since the plane.”
“So… you’ve just arrived in today.”
“Yeah. I’m pretty tired. They were longer flights than I imagined.”
“It’s the price you have to pay for living in paradise.” Amber smiled again and poured two coffees. “Mind if I join you for five minutes?”
“Sure,” said Maddy surprised, as she followed Amber to a nearby table.
“So tell me, what kind of job are you looking for?”
“Anything really. Recently I’ve worked in hotels—cleaning, admin, reception, whatever is required.” It was on the tip of her tongue to tell Amber what her real profession was. But that was too much, too soon. “So…” Maddy looked around the café, desperate for a change in subject. “Is this your café ?”
“No. I just work here. It gives me enough money to allow me to follow my passion.”
“Which is?”
“Art. I love creating things. Installations, paintings, sculpture, glasswork. You name it, I’ll have a go at creating it.”
“That’s amazing. I’m always in awe of artists. I can’t imagine how they can come up with things. The few times I’ve tried, it looks like a child has created it. Actually, I’m doing children a disservice. But it looks nothing like I imagine.”
“I guess there’s a place for all of us, isn’t there?” Amber grinned. “I don’t know of any waitressing jobs going. Is there anything else you could turn your hand to? I know someone who needs help with office work.”
“Accounts, that sort of thing? Sure. I know spreadsheets inside out.”
Amber slammed her hand on the table, making Maddy jump. “I have just the job for you! This person needs help; he’s hopelessly disorganized, paperwork everywhere. I reckon probably everyone in the town owes him money.” She jumped up. “Stay there. I have a phone call to make.”
Maddy didn’t need further persuading and began to make serious in-roads into the pie. The food and coffee soon improved her spirits and, when Amber slid into the seat opposite again, unable to suppress a grin, Maddy felt cautiously optimistic.
“I’ve got you a job!”
“You’ve got me a what?”
“A job! Or an interview for one. I have to warn you that he doesn’t think he needs help, but at least he’s agreed to see you.” She giggled. “I put a sign on his door last night. I try it from time to time. I wonder if it’s still there. It usually doesn’t last long.” She sat back with a self-satisfied smile. “And somehow, I reckon he’ll take one look at you and be more than happy to employ you. And not just because it’ll take the pressure off him from the family.”
Maddy couldn’t quite bring herself to match the brightness of the smile. Amber’s implication that this man would employ her based on her looks alone made her feel uncomfortable. “What can I say? Thank you so much.”
“No problem. Now, do you have anywhere to stay?”
Maddy shook her head and waited. Somehow she thought Amber might have a solution to this problem too. She didn’t have to wait long. Amber scribbled something on the back of the café’s business card and pushed it across the table with a triumphant look. “There’s a small backpackers’ hostel down the road. It’s run by Floriana—although only call her that if you want a black look—and if you care to help out there I’m sure she’ll give you a good deal.” She plucked one of the postcards that sat on the table and scribbled a note. “Take this to Flo.”
Maddy took the note from her, noting the beautifully formed words. “Not many people write notes, now.”
“I don’t like cell phones. They destroy the atmosphere.”
Maddy grinned. “You mean the radio waves?”
Amber shrugged. “No, just the atmosphere. It feels better without them. The vibe is different.”
Maddy looked around the small café and had to agree. The vibe of the café was peaceful. And Amber was most definitely unusual. “I think I’m going to like it here.”
“Good. Akaroa could always do with more permanent residents.”
Maddy suddenly felt alarmed. “Oh, I’ll be gone by winter.” She bit her lip to stop herself from saying anything further.
Amber tilted her head to one side. “Like a migrating bird.” The doorbell jangled, and she finished her coffee. “Enjoy your breakfast, I’d best get on.”
Amber bounced across the café to serve another customer, her red ponytail swinging down the back of her black t-shirt. Maddy took another bite of her pie and looked out the window across the harbor, calm and unruffled under the morning sun, toward the far hills. And she suddenly realized that, for the first time since he’d died, she felt soothed. Whether it was the town itself, cradled in the hills next to such a beautiful harbor, or Amber’s warmth and generosity, or the fact that it was his hometown, she couldn’t have said. The pie was also a contender, she thought, as she took another bite. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was. She finished the pie and decided to save the croissant until later. She didn’t know when she’d be eating again. She drank the last of her coffee and returned the mug to Amber.
“Thanks so much for everything. You’ve been very kind.”
“I hope you enjoy your stay, Maddy, however long you decide to make it. It’s peaceful here and, if you don’t mind me saying, you look as if you could do with a little peace.”
Maddy raised her eyebrows in surprise. She wasn’t in the habit of communicating with strangers, and she’d said more to Amber than usual. There was something about the petite redhead that seemed to make small talk pointless.
“All the best with the job, and Flo.”
“Thanks.” She pulled the rucksack onto her shoulder. “So, when is my interview for the job?”
“He usually comes here for lunch. He’s a creature of habit. Be here at one, and you’ll see him. And after six, he’ll probably be eating his usual chips or whatever in the local pub, or at his house. You’ll be able to catch him there later if it’s easier.” She scribbled down the address.
Maddy didn’t look at the card, just slipped it into the back of her rucksack. “Thanks so much for everything. I didn’t expect to have found food, a job and a place to stay within the first hour of my arrival!”
Amber laughed and, disconcertingly, stepped forward and gave Maddy a hug. It was just a brief one, but it shocked her. She did her best not to get close to people. Looking like she did, most people felt she was aloof, standoffish, and she didn’t do anything to contradict that impression. But for some reason, Amber wasn’t to be put off.
Maddy stepped back. She could see in Amber’s eyes that she had registered Maddy’s shock, and Amber smiled reassuringly. “I’ll see you at lunchtime then.”
“Sure,” said Maddy, fiddling with the straps on her bag. “Sure,” she repeated, standing up straight and forcing a smile on her face. She hated being touched. It made her feel vulnerable.
Amber’s grin widened. “Give me one more ‘sure,’ and I’ll begin to doubt you.”
Maddy’s forced smile turned into a natural one. It seemed Amber wasn’t to be put off by anything. She was a force of nature. “I’ll see you later.” She hitched her rucksack onto her back
“Maddy!” Amber called. Maddy turned around. Amber had followed her and was leaning against the counter, her arms crossed, watching her.
“Yes?” She wondered for a terrible moment if she’d misunderstood and owed some money after all.
“Why are you here? Sorry, I’m curious.”
Maddy kept herself to herself, and always had done, until she’d met him on a rainy afternoon in Amsterdam and he’d teased her out of her shell. But she was firmly back in it again now. However, she owed this woman the truth, or at least a part of it. “I’m keeping a promise to someone.”
Amber frowned. “Sounds intriguing.”
Maddy shrugged. “Not really. It’s just a promise.” Maddy hoped that Amber would leave it at that.
“Promises are important. Anyhow, have a great day and say ‘hi’ to Gabe for me.”
Gabe? Amber hadn’t mentioned the person’s name before and, as Maddy walked out the door, the name stuck in her head. She felt for the card, but it was zipped up tight and out of reach. She must have put it in the back pocket of her rucksack. She’d check later. Gabe? She repeated it to herself. It wasn’t an unusual name, she supposed. Gabriel, Gabe. But still.
Maddy closed the door quietly, trying to minimize the brassy jangle of the bell which cut through the quiet of the early morning. She walked down the steps of the café and across the road so she could enjoy the beauty of the harbor on her walk to the backpackers’ which was situated at the farther end of a curve of the bay. A light mist lay on the water which was a soft grayish green, reflecting the color of the hills on the far side of the harbor and the diffused light in the sky above. There was not a breath of wind: it was as if the morning was holding its breath, waiting to see what would come of Maddy MacGillivray’s visit to the other side of the world. She was beginning to feel curious, too, now that she’d eaten and regained some courage. Which was just as well, she reflected, because she sure needed courage now.
She looked around for a bench or table, hidden from sight of the café. She needed to be somewhere private before checking. She found a lone bench under the shade of a pohutukawa tree. She swung her heavy rucksack onto the wooden seat, sat down beside it, and pulled out the card. She looked across the sweep of the bay toward the opposite side of the harbor. It had a pale, early morning gleam which reflected the light too brightly, making it hard to see beyond the surface. The colors of the hills, the pier jutting out into the water and the line of colonial houses behind her which edged the beach road, were affected by the bright gleam, taking the edge off the color, bleaching it with its brilliance. It felt strangely unreal, tapping the card in her hand as her mind returned to Amsterdam and her last moments with the man who’d cast a spell on her. He was gone now, but the spell remained.
He’d told her to come. He’d told her she had to stay for six months; he’d told her to seek out Gabe. Was this the same man? How could it be? What sort of world was it that everything lined up neatly for her? Not the sort she was used to, for sure. But ever since she’d landed in New Zealand things seemed to have fallen into place. She’d been met with nothing but friendliness and kindness—particularly in Akaroa, particularly with Amber.
So. She tapped the card, drew a deep breath and turned it over in her hand. “Gabe Connelly” it read.
She sucked in a jerky breath. Dr. Gabe Connelly. She bit her lip as she slid the card back in her pocket. She’d thought she’d come here, stick around for the six months she’d promised, and make a desultory attempt to make contact with Gabe Connelly, just as she’d promised to do. But not do anything more than that. Looked like fate had other ideas.

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