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Excerpt: Just Say (Hell) No

Excerpt: Just Say (Hell) No

Book 11: Escape to New Zealand

It wasn’t much effort to catch up. His legs were about twice as long as hers. She was all the way into the reserve, though, by the time he got close on the shadowy path. A tui called from somewhere to the left, the liquid notes answered by another bird on the right. A mate, or a rival, because this one was showing off. Clicks, then cackles and groans, the sound nearly eerie here amongst the fern trees and palms draping the reserve in cool shade.

Ahead of him, the girl looked tense. The running was new, probably. Felt too hard. That had to be it, considering the speed she was going. He caught up and said, “Excuse me.”

She whirled on him so fast, he started running backward out of habit.

“I have mace!” she announced, all but baring her teeth.

Oh. She’d heard him coming up behind her. He blinked, realized he was still jogging backward, stopped, and said, “Uh . . . no, you don’t. But no worries. You don’t need it.” There wasn’t room to conceal more than a car key in that kit she was wearing. A flippy little zebra-print skirt, and a black sports bra that dipped low enough in front to show some cleavage. She was a curvy little thing and no mistake. Not that he was looking. She was advancing on him like the stroppiest terrier in the litter, and despite her aggression, he could see the fear underneath.

First the pub, and now this. He didn’t scare women. He was careful. He put up both palms and said again, “No worries.”

She seemed taken aback for an instant, but she recovered fast. “I’m not worried,” she said. “But you should be.” A hint of a Maori accent there. He considered explaining that he liked blondes, but she opened her hand, and bloody hell, but she did have a tiny metal canister laced between her fingers, together with her keys. An older couple was coming toward them with a Golden Retriever on a leash, and Marko had a sudden flash of his photo in another newspaper. Staggering around, tears streaming from his eyes, maced on a bush track after attacking a jogger. That would be a good look.

Brilliant.

He said, “Gidday” to the couple, who nodded back at him with a “Morning” and a curious look at his new non-friend, who was on her toes, clearly deciding whether to stand her ground or make a run for it.

She apparently decided, because she told him, “Make it easy on yourself. Keep running.”

The older couple hesitated, then turned back. Wonderful.

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