Annie laughed and took his work-roughened hand. “You are one of the family, my friend. Now stop being foolish and come dance with me—you are after all the only one here of similar age to me, apart from Jo and Billy of course, and Billy would not be seen on the floor with me, he would be too discomforted.”
Jacob nodded and faced her, his arms held wide. “You look beautiful,” he said softly as she came into his arms.
“You look rather handsome yourself might I say.” She looked up into his eyes as she tried not to sound too flippant. “In fact, I have never seen you so handsomely garbed.”
He glanced down at his front and chuckled. “I feel as if I am an ugly emu dressed up to look like a swan. I thought I owed you the respect of at least trying to look presentable on such an auspicious day.”
He pulled her close as he said that, and Annie let herself lean against his tall frame. After a while, she realised that their feet hardly moved as they swayed to the music.
“Thank you,” she murmured. It took her a while to realise that the music had stopped and so had Jacob. She took a step back while he still held an arm across her back and her hand in his. Looking up at him, she saw a strange look in his eye, perhaps puzzlement.
“What?” she whispered, but he just shook his head. Then Annie realised that all the other guests had gone into the room where the buffet was being served. “Oh,” she said on an embarrassed laugh.
Jacob did not smile as he continued to look at her. Without further thought, Annie reached up, stood on tiptoe and pressed her mouth to his. Expecting him to push her away or perhaps laugh his head off, he enfolded her in his arms and deepened the kiss. As they clung to each other, everything around Annie disappeared and for all she cared they could have been the last two people on earth. Jacob’s kiss was unlike anything she had felt before, tingles going to every part of her body as heat engulfed her.
When he took a step back and gently pushed her away, saying, “I am sorry. That was no way for me to act,” Annie wanted to cry out.
Instead, she said, “I started it. You must think me a wanton.” She put both hands to her hot cheeks.
Annie would never know his answer to that, for a fuss coming from the other room made them both pull back.
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Annie’s Choices (Settlers Book 4) by Tricia McGill
In book 4 of the Settlers Series, we catch up with most members of the extended family from the previous three books. Annie at 18 is the eldest Carstairs girl. She has lived out at Bathurst west of the Blue Mountains, where she was born just after her Mama, Bella and Papa, Tiger settled there back in 1824. After visiting her brother Tim and his wife Jo just before Christmas 1843, Annie decides to stay in Port Philip, seeking adventure much as her brother did when he set out with Jo the previous year. Annie has inherited her mother’s independent streak, a character trait that sometimes leads her to make the wrong choices.
Jacob O’Quinn works for her brother, and the likeable young carpenter catches Annie’s eye. Jacob is quiet and reserved in his manner, having spent his life with his widowed mother. When handsome Zachary McDowell, the complete opposite to steady Jacob comes along, he sweeps Annie off her feet. Heedless of advice given by others, Annie makes a choice that turns out to be the worst she could ever make.
Restless, Annie decides to return to her home, and Jacob makes the decision to escort her. The journey back across the mountains proves to be a lot more eventful than she assumed it could ever be. The road itself may have seen improvements through the years but there will always be unexpected incidents to turn life around on its axis. A suspected murder brings the might of the law down on the shoulders of the young couple.