Just Not Mine by Rosalind James
Date Published: June 5, 2014
Destiny has a way of sneaking up on you . . . or of smacking you in the face.
Hugh Latimer's coping with a few problems just now. A broken hand, missing the European rugby tour . . . and a half-brother and sister who are playing havoc with his love life. Instead of packing down in the scrum, he's driving the carpool to ballet--or forgetting it's his turn. When he hears his neighbor wailing out bad pop in the wee hours, it's the last straw.
Josie Pae Ata is a fortunate woman. A new house, good friends, a gorgeous boyfriend--oh, and stardom, too. Getting involved with her new neighbors would bring risks she doesn't need. But life has a way of changing the rules. And when you get more than you can handle, sometimes all you can do is hang on for the ride.
And then he was standing just the other side of the kitchen bench, and she was looking at the depth of his chest, being reminded about the size of his arms, and he was smiling at her, and her hands had stilled on her knife.
“Do the ballet run, then?” she asked him, forcing herself to start cutting through the dense orange flesh again.
“Yeh. I take it you finished the job? Get your swim?”
“Yeh.” She smiled herself. “Bet I had a better time.”
He laughed. “Bet you did. I was going to say I’d take the kids home, because we all need showers, but d’you need a hand here first?”
She needed to stop smiling at him. “Again, a hand’s what it’d be. Don’t think you could do too much with one.”
“I can do quite a lot with one,” he said, the look in his eyes letting her know exactly what he could do, and suddenly, her oven wasn’t the only thing warming up. All he was doing was standing there, and he was still sending tingles to places they had no business being, evoking every shivery, delicious sensation that the most heated on-screen kiss failed to arouse, and it took all the training she had not to show it.
She looked down again hastily, resumed her hacking progress. “Nah, got this. Go take your shower. Then come back and help me christen my new deck.”
He glanced sharply at her, opened his mouth to say something, then shut it, and she realized what she’d said and very nearly blushed. She never got flustered with men, and she’d worked with, dated, been chatted up for years by men infinitely more handsome, polished, and urbane than Hugh could dream of being, but she was flustered now.
All he said, though, was, “Right. See you in a bit. Hour or so OK? Enough time?”
“Perfect,” she said. “See you then.” And kept chopping her vegies, moving around her dark little kitchen in her bare feet, and did her best to pretend that this was about a thank-you and nothing more.
WHY NEW ZEALAND: My husband’s job as an engineer, and mine as a marketing consultant, have given us the opportunity to live in many different wonderful places in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. During the latest stint, 15 months living and working in Auckland, I fell in love with New Zealand: the beauty and diversity of the landscape (not to mention the seascapes), the Maori culture and its integration into the country’s life, and, perhaps more than anything, the people: modest, good-humored, unfailingly polite and hospitable, and so very funny. I wanted to share what I loved so much about the country with everyone I knew—and didn’t know!
THE BOOKS: We had traveled to Wellington to watch the final of the Rugby World Cup in a pub as the start of a North Island holiday. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the intensity of All Black fever that gripped the entire nation during the World Cup, and the stature of the players themselves at all times. I had never seen anything remotely like it. I started wondering what it would be like to be so intensely admired and instantly recognizable in a country that has zero tolerance for bad behavior—and how hard it would be to find the right partner in that kind of spotlight. And that is where JUST THIS ONCE was born—walking through the rhododendron gardens of Mt. Taranaki, two days after the World Cup final. Writing that first page was terrifying, but within weeks, I knew that I’d finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
WHEN I’M NOT WRITING: I raise bantam chickens, foster Labrador Retrievers, and try to remember to cook dinner for my long-suffering husband.