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Excerpt: Just Good Friends

Excerpt: Just Good Friends

Book 2: Escape to New Zealand

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Kate muttered the following Saturday afternoon as she descended the broad steps to Takapuna Beach. There was Koti at the foot of the stairs, his usual hoodie having failed to preserve his anonymity, having his picture taken with two young women.

“Should I go away and come back later?” she drawled as she approached the group, just as one of the excited women switched places with the photographer to allow yet another picture to be taken.

“Last one, girls,” Koti told them with a smile. “Got to go.”

Kate rolled her eyes as they walked across the broad beach toward the water’s edge. “That’s quite a fan club you’ve got there. Must be nice.”

“You think so?”

“Don’t tell me you don’t enjoy that. You sure seem to.”

“Comes with the territory,” he shrugged. “That doesn’t mean I always enjoy it.”

“Good spot here?” he turned to ask her as they neared the high-tide mark. “Want to swim to the point there, and back?” At her nod, he kicked off his flip-flops and pulled his hoodie and shirt over his head, dropping them with his towel onto the beach.

 “You’re kidding,” Kate said, staring at him.

“What? Bad spot?” he asked, confused. “I thought you said it was all right.”

“No. I mean, you. That’s just . . . that’s just ridiculous. Plus the tattoo, the pendant, everything. You’re like some kind of walking advertisement for New Zealand.”

“My tattoo isn’t ridiculous,” he said, genuinely offended now. “My moko honors my ancestors. My pendant isn’t ridiculous either. It’s not for decoration. You’re slagging off my mana now.”

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I didn’t mean to be offensive. I just meant, I’m getting it now. You always have that hoodie on, that’s all. I never realized what you looked like. A little blinded here. I’ve never seen anyone as ripped as that in real life.”

He sighed. “It’s how I look. I’m not going to apologize for it. I’ve been training and playing rugby most of my life, you know. And I’m Maori. I can’t help being big, or having some muscles. You’re just going to have to get over it.”

“Should have worn my sunglasses,” she muttered.

“Were you planning on dropping your own gear anytime soon, so we can get in the water?” he complained. “Freezing my arse off here.”

“No. I don’t think so,” she decided. “I’m seriously insecure, all of a sudden. Let’s forget it and go for coffee instead.”

“Piking out first time, eh,” he mocked. “Not up to the challenge. Reckon I’ve won already.”

Kate’s chin shot up. “You’re right. But don’t watch me take off my clothes. Look at Rangitoto or something for a minute. Because I’m embarrassed now.”

He turned his back with a sigh. “This is what’s ridiculous,” he told her over his shoulder. “I’ve seen you in your togs twice now, remember? I have a pretty good memory of what you look like, too.”

“I remember.” She adjusted her goggles and stepped out into the water. “I’m not your type. Too small and too dark. That’s OK. One of us being that beautiful is more than enough.”

She pushed off and started swimming before he could answer. Just as well, Koti decided as he followed. He wasn’t sure there was any good answer to that one. If he told her what he really thought, she’d probably poison his coffee. Or drown him.

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