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Excerpt: Just for Fun

Excerpt: Just for Fun

Book 4: Escape to New Zealand

Nic eased himself into the low-slung car in one quick movement and slammed the door. He took the turns automatically that would lead him back to the opulent house on Narrow Neck. His new house, that he’d been so proud of until tonight. So different from the dodgy little flat he’d just left. Emma’s flat.

Emma. How could she look the same, but seem so different? He could still remember the feel of her when she’d landed in his lap, that first time.

He’d been leaning back in his aisle seat in the small jet, headphones on and eyes closed, when he felt the lurch and sickening drop as the aircraft hit the air pocket. His eyes had snapped open and his hands gone up automatically to catch the girl who landed hard against him at the jolt, then lost her footing and fell, sprawling, across his lap.

“Oh! Sorry,” she squeaked, struggling to sit upright. He had his arms around her now as the plane lurched again. The “Fasten Seatbelt” sign came on with a ding, then the pilot’s voice over the intercom, asking passengers to return to their seats “just till we’ve got through these few bumps.”

Nic grabbed the girl close again and tugged the headphones off as the plane took another lurch. He couldn’t help but notice how good she felt against him, the soft curves of her under the thin white cotton sundress. Or the faintly floral scent of her honey-colored hair, the curls streaked with blonde. Or that she’d been crying.

“Think you’d better stay here a minute,” he said, reluctantly lifting her off his lap and sliding into the empty window seat as the aircraft continued to bounce. “Till we’re out of this.” He saw her grab unsteadily for the armrest and reached out to fasten her seatbelt. “There,” he said as he snapped the belt together around her, pulled it tight around the narrow waist. “Good as gold.”

She reached with both hands to wipe the tears away. Turned to him, big blue eyes still swimming with tears. Her soft little mouth, with its strongly defined cupid’s bow, trembled as she looked up at him.

“I’ve lost my shoe,” she told him tragically.

He looked down, saw one slender foot in its high-heeled, slip-on sandal, the other bare. Leaned over to check under her seat, fish out the other shoe. He slid it onto her foot, noticing while he was down there how slim her ankles were, and how smooth and firm her bare legs looked in the short sundress.

“Bad flight?” he asked her after he’d reluctantly returned to his upright position and resecured his seatbelt. “Scared of the bumps?”

“No.” She shook her head decisively, then kept shaking it. She was more than a bit drunk, he realized, as well as whatever else was wrong. And there was an accent. Something, he couldn’t tell quite what. “But this was a mistake. I shouldn’t have come. And I have to stay for a week.” The round blue eyes were looking more tragic than ever, and her mouth drooped. She looked like a kitten who’d just got some very bad news.

“A week in Fiji, eh. That is sad.  Wrong partner? Is that it?”

That started the tears again. “I’m on my honeymoon,” she got out. “My honeymoon. Can you believe that? I’m on my honeymoon?”

“Uh . . .nah.” Figured. “Hubby back there?”

“No. He’s not here. He’s not coming. We didn’t get married. Because he wants Karen Fuchs instead,” she said fiercely, her tears drying up at the thought. “But I’m prettier than Karen Fuchs. Don’t you think I am?”

“Never met Karen,” he pointed out. “But I’ll bet you’re prettier.” She was prettier than just about anyone, he reckoned, even in her current state.

She nodded with certainty. “I don’t have a pig nose, either.”

“You’ve got a beautiful nose,” he agreed solemnly. “Running a bit now, though.” He fished in his seatback pocket for the serviette he’d stuck in there earlier. “Here.”

“Thanks.” She wiped her nose, sniffed, then turned those eyes on him again. “He says Karen understands his work, because she’s getting her masters in engineering. That she can help him. They can sit around and solve equations together before bed,” she said, her mouth getting firmer and losing the tremble. “In their matching pajamas.”

“What are you? Eighteen, nineteen? Too young to get married anyway, aren’t you?”

“I am not,” she said indignantly. “I’m 21. And I have a degree.”

“But not in engineering? Not up to Karen’s standard, eh.”

“In Fine Arts. Which isn’t easy.” She glared at him. “Just because it’s not engineering, doesn’t mean it’s easy.”

“No worries,” he said hastily. “I’m not judging. Didn’t finish Uni myself, so I’d be the last.”

“Anyway,” she said glumly. “I’m supposed to be married now. He said I should go on the honeymoon. Because the bookings are nonrefundable. Because he got a deal.” She glared again. “Isn’t that romantic? Nonrefundable?”

“Couldn’t find someone else to go with you?” Nic hazarded.

“On my honeymoon?” she asked incredulously. “I was supposed to be with my husband. Look at my hair,” she demanded. “Look!”

“Uh . . . something wrong with it? Looks good to me.”

“It’s highlighted. It took hours. Do you know what I’ve done this week? I had a facial, and a body scrub, and a wrap.” She ticked the items off on her fingers. “And my hair. I had my brows and lashes done, and I had a manicure and a pedicure, and I had everything waxed. I got a Brazilian waxAnd it hurt. For nothing.”

That got his attention. Every part of him. He’d bet it looked choice. And he’d like to see it.

“And Karen Fuchs doesn’t shave her legs. Would you want to go to bed with somebody who didn’t shave her legs? Or her armpits? Instead of me?”

“Nah,” he answered honestly.

“You’d choose me, right?” she demanded.

“Yeh. Yeh. I’d choose you,” he agreed. In a heartbeat. Well, as long as she wasn’t crying. Maybe. He wasn’t sure even that would matter.

She gave a satisfied nod.

“So this bloke wasn’t any real loss, then,” Nic said. “Seeing as he was blind, and had no taste. And he’s, what, an engineer?”

“An Assistant Professor of Sanitary Engineering,” she said gloomily.

He had to laugh. “Sounds dead sexy. Too old for you, too.”

“How old are you?” she demanded.

“Twenty-two,” he grinned. “How old was—whoever he was?”

“David. Twenty-eight. That seemed like a good idea. I thought, OK, he’s boring, maybe. But he’s older, settled. Responsible. Good for me. And he’s safe. Ha. What a joke that turned out to be.”

“Why d’you want to be safe?” he asked with real surprise.

She looked surprised in her turn. “Doesn’t everybody want to be safe?”

“I don’t. I want to have every adventure there is. The more unsafe, the better.”

“Then you’re not an engineer,” she said firmly.

He laughed again at that. “About as far from it as you could get, I reckon. I’m a rugby player.”

“Are you really?” She stared at him in fascination. “How come you’re going to Fiji? For a game?”

“Nah. Holiday. Off to England to play, in a week or so. Decided at the last minute to have a bit of a holiday in the Islands before I turn into a bloody Pom in the frozen north. No refundable booking, though. Just turning up and taking my chance.”

“Better than me,” she said glumly. “You might even find somebody to hang out with. What I am going to do, at a honeymoon resort by myself? Not that I know what I’d have been doing with David,” she added in another burst of candor. “You’re supposed to be getting shagged up, down, and sideways on your honeymoon, right?”

Nic choked a bit at that. “I’ve heard,” he managed. 

“Yeah,” she said. “I’ve heard too. Oh, well.” She sighed. “I brought books. It was never going to be that kind of honeymoon anyway.”

“The more I hear,” Nic offered, “the more I think you got off easy.”

“You think?”

“Would he have packed books too?” he demanded.

“Yeah. He did. And some work. I saw. Before he told me, I mean. That I was going alone.”

“Maybe you should take me with you, instead,” he suggested with a grin. “We could have a non-honeymoon. Put some of that waxing to use. Because I didn’t bring any work. Or any books. And I’m fairly sure I could deliver on the up, down, and sideways bit. Give you everything you want.”

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