A Secret Between Friends: A New Zealand Sexy Beach Romance (Treats to Tempt You Book 6) (9 page)

BOOK: A Secret Between Friends: A New Zealand Sexy Beach Romance (Treats to Tempt You Book 6)
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Genie stared at him. “Is that what you think I’m doing? Fucking hell, Beck. That’s some low opinion you have of me.”

“I don’t mean consciously,” he said hastily, “I know you wouldn’t set out to punish her, but she’s hurt you with her accusation, and you don’t take things lying down. Attack is the best form of defence, and don’t roll your eyes at me, lieutenant, because I know I’m right. You’ll want to make her pay, and Niall’s standing right in the way.”

She clenched her jaw, fighting against an unfamiliar surge of emotion. She loved Sinead and Garret as if they were her own parents. Beck was right—Sinead’s accusation had hurt. But did she want to get her own back? That thought hadn’t gone through her mind at all. The way she felt about Niall had nothing to do with Ciara, and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt either of them. The notion that her own brother thought her capable of such malevolence almost made her lip wobble.

“Hey.” He got up and came over to her, then bent and hugged her. “Fuck. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s all right.” She hadn’t cried in front of her brothers for years and she certainly wasn’t going to start now.

“It’s not. I’m a useless human being without a heart or a brain—Lord knows Josie told me often enough. Just ignore me. I’m a bitter old bachelor who wants to ruin everyone’s happiness.”

That made her laugh, and she buried her nose in the sleeve of his T-shirt. Then she recoiled. “Jeez. You really need a shower, and please change that top.”

He stood and ruffled her hair. “Yeah, yeah. All right. On my way.”

He walked off, and Genie went to get up, but her knee twinged, and she leaned back in the chair, suddenly tired. Fragments of doubt crept through her mind like shrapnel, refusing to be dislodged. Was she doing any of this in retaliation? Was she trying to show Sinead that if she couldn’t have their love, she’d damn well take Niall instead?

Her heart screamed no, she wasn’t that cruel, and she made herself remember the kiss on Waitangi Day, which had happened years before any of this had taken place.

But the shrapnel continued to niggle, and as she began to count the beads on her bracelet, her knee continued to throb.

 

Chapter Thirteen

Over the next few hours, Genie worked herself up into a tizz. She kept thinking she should call Niall and tell him their adventure was off, and then she’d feel a wave of disappointment that would make her put down the phone.

Even Edward commented on her absentmindedness as they sat playing Lego.

“Auntie Gin?”

“Hmm?”

“Is something wrong with your bracelet?”

She looked down at her arm, surprised to see her fingers playing with the beads. She hadn’t even realized she’d been doing it.

“No, sweetie.” She forced herself to leave the bracelet alone, leaned forward, and retrieved a red block to complete the robot’s head she’d been working on. “Here, all done—have you finished his body?”

“Her body,” Edward corrected, and clipped the oblong formed of black and green blocks onto its legs. “It’s a lady soldier robot.”

“You’ve made me,” Genie said in delight.

“She’s in cam’flage,” he said. “You can’t see her when she’s got her cam’flage on.”

Genie patted the floor around the robot. “Where’s she gone? She’s vanished!”

Edward gave a peal of laughter. “Silly Gin. You’re teasing me.”

“She’s not quite right.” Genie picked up a pole normally used for fixing wheels onto Lego trucks. “She needs a cane.” She went to fix it to the robot’s hand.

Edward looked at it and then pushed the pole away. “When you’re mended she’ll be all wrong.”

Her throat tightened. “I might not be mended, Teddy.” Sometimes, she was convinced she’d be buried with the damned cane.

“Does your leg hurt?”

She was sitting on the carpet next to him, legs stretched out, and she rested a hand on her knee. “Sometimes. It’s just stiff. It’s like replacing a broken part in a car with a new part—it takes a while for it to wear in.”

“Daddy said your truck went bang.”

“There was a bomb, yes.”

He finished an arm and fixed it to the robot’s shoulder. “Daddy said Ciara died when it went bang.”

“Yes,” Genie said softly, meeting Beck’s gaze as he came into the room and leaned on the doorjamb, listening.

“Mummy said she’s in heaven.” Edward clipped the other arm together.

“I hope so.”

“Will she have a hello?”

“A halo? Maybe.”

“And wings?”

Genie bit her lip hard. “I hope so.”

“Niall said Ciara wouldn’t have a harp because she was tone deaf.” He looked up in surprise as both Genie and Beck burst out laughing. “What?” he asked, puzzled.

“Nothing, sweetie.” Genie kissed him. “I love you.”

“I love you too, Auntie Gin.” He looked up and waved at the window. “It’s Niall.”

Genie pushed herself to her feet and picked up her cane as the door opened. “Thanks for letting me play,” she told her nephew.

“See you later, alligator,” Edward said.

Genie grinned. “In a while, crocodile.”

“Stay loose, mongoose,” Beck added.


Hasta manana
, iguana.” Niall came forward to give Edward a high five.

Genie laughed. “I haven’t heard that one.”

“I get all the best lines.” He winked at her, and that one gesture made all her doubts disappear. What was she worried about? Terrible things happened to people every day—she had first-hand experience of that. She had to make the most of the good things in her life, of which Niall Brennan was currently top of the list.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Yep.” She picked up her bag and shouldered it. “Have a great day, you two.”

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Beck said.

Genie glared at him. Niall just grinned.

She waved goodbye to Edward, then followed Niall out and down to his car. After dumping her bag in the back, she got into the passenger seat, tucking the cane between them.

“Did you tell Beck where we’re going?” Niall got in the driver’s side and started the engine.

“Not as such.”

He pulled away and then glanced across at her. “He okay with it?”

“None of his business.”

He shrugged. “Fair enough. Long as he’s not going to come after me with a shotgun.”

She laughed. “If he does, I’m sure I can take him out.”

“I’m sure you can too. I bet you know fifty different ways to kill a man.”

“Not quite, but luckily I only need one.”

He chuckled, and she let her gaze linger on him, drinking him in. His eyes flicked over to her. “What?”

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Niall Brennan.”

A look of surprise crossed his features briefly before it was replaced with the usual wry curve of his lips. He gestured to his T-shirt. “What, in this old thing?”

She smiled. He wore yet another pair of old, faded jeans and a light green T-shirt a similar color to his eyes with a black line drawing of the Maori warrior that bore the same name as his ship, Tangaroa. He had a band made from plaited thin leather strips around his left wrist, and a watch on his right, even though he was right-handed—cack-handed, she’d always called him. Under his T-shirt, a black tattoo curled around his left upper arm—she couldn’t see it, but she knew it was there.

But it wasn’t just his clothing that attracted her—it was his tanned, muscular arms, his spiky, sun-bleached hair, and the casual, relaxed air he always exuded. He was an easy man to be with, someone who rarely passed judgment on others. She couldn’t think of anyone she’d rather spend the afternoon with.

“You don’t look so bad yourself,” he said.

She looked down at the white T and jeans. “Pretty ordinary, I’d say, but what to wear seemed the least of my worries today.”

He laughed. “Yeah. You still want to go through with it?”

“Yep. You?”

“Absolutely.” He slowed the car and began to head down the hill toward the car ferry across to Russell.

“Aren’t you nervous?” She knew the words betrayed her own apprehension, but she was taken aback by his apparent lack of anxiety about stripping off in public.

“Nah. Like I said, not my first time.”

She frowned at him, trying to work out what lay beneath his admission. Last time they’d talked about it, she’d assumed he’d been referring to getting changed out of his wetsuit. Then she realized. “Oh! You’ve done it before.” His answering grin told her she’d guessed right. “With Tamsin?” She had to suppress a twinge of jealousy, which surprised her. She thought she’d got over that long ago.

But he shook his head. “Tamsin would never go on a nudist beach. I went with Beck and Danny when we did our big OE after uni.” Many Kiwis did their Overseas Experience at that age, travelling around the world as a treat for all those years of study. “We were in the south coast of Spain and ended up at a naturist resort in Andalusia. The whole village is nudist. They were advertising for summer help so the three of us worked there for a couple of weeks.”

“Really?” Genie was fascinated. “I never knew that!”

“We weren’t about to tell everyone. We’d never have heard the end of it. But it was fun.”

“What was it like? Did you have to be nude the whole time?”

“Staff didn’t have to, although you could if you wanted to. To be honest, if you walked around with clothes on, you looked odd. After a couple of days we just stripped and got used to it.”

“I can’t imagine spending a whole holiday naked,” she admitted.

“It’s liberating. Everyone usually equates nudity with sex, and people assume resorts like that are going to be full of single busty blondes or James Bond-type guys lying around on loungers displaying themselves, but the truth is it’s mostly families and couples, all ages, rather than singles on the pull. It’s just a way of life for some people.”

He slowed the car and stopped in the queue awaiting the ferry. They could already see the boat, only minutes away, gliding across the water toward them.

Everyone equates nudity with sex.
Genie understood why. Alone or with a partner behind closed doors was the only time she’d ever taken off all her clothes. But today she was going to be stripping and walking along the beach. She’d be doing it in front of people. And she’d be doing it with Niall. How could she not think about sex when she contemplated being naked next to him?

The ferry docked, lowered its tail panel that turned into a ramp, and the cars on board slowly disembarked. The ferry assistant then waved them on. Niall parked up near the front of the ferry and turned off the engine.

They got out and walked over to the side of the boat, and looked down into the clear water.

“Can you swim without clothes at this place?” Genie asked.

“Of course. All part of the experience.” He grinned.

The sun was bright on the water, and he’d put on a pair of black shades. She couldn’t see his eyes, but she guessed there was more than a hint of humor twinkling in them behind the sunglasses. He was finding this all very amusing.

Well, she’d soon put a stop to that.

“What about…” She gestured at his jeans.

His eyebrows rose above his sunglasses. “What?”

“You know.”

“No. You’re going to have to explain.”

The last car pulled onto the ferry and parked. The assistant lifted the tail plate, and without further ado, the boat set off the short distance to the peninsula across the water.

She hooked her cane on the side of the boat and leaned on the rail. “You’ve implied nudist beaches are nothing to do with sex. But what happens if a sexy girl walks in front of you? She’s completely naked, great figure, generous breasts, nice ass. Can you honestly tell me you wouldn’t look?”

“I’d avert my eyes.”

“Yeah, right,” she scoffed.

“I would! It’s not done to stare.”

“Even so. Are you honestly telling me you’ve never once got turned on? It’s not as easy for you guys to hide it.”

He smiled. “That’s what towels are for.”

“What, you hang one on there like a peg?”

They both laughed. “No,” he said wryly, “but there are discreet ways of covering it up.”

“So it does happen?”

He shrugged. “Like I said, after a while you disassociate nakedness from sex.”

She leaned over the side and looked down, watching fish swimming beneath the boat. “I wonder why it was on Ciara’s list? Did you tell her about Spain?”

“She found a leaflet I’d picked up on the resort. I guess she liked the idea.”

Genie said nothing, concentrating on the green water. Ciara had never mentioned it before. After discovering that she hadn’t told her about Niall’s break up, it was odd to feel there was something else Ciara hadn’t shared with her. She’d thought they’d talked about everything, although of course you could never completely know another person. But how many other secrets had her best friend kept from her? And why?

They fell quiet for a while, watching the beautiful view, the houses scattered across the hills on the other side of the bay, the boats threading through the water. Was Niall also wondering why Ciara had kept secrets from her?

It wasn’t long before they arrived, and they got back in the car and left the ferry to climb the hill toward Russell. Niall avoided the small town though, and headed for the other side of the peninsula. The road wound through thick bush filled with arching palms and graceful ferns, which thinned out as they approached the coast again. He turned off toward the resort, which consisted of a long, low central building housing the main reception and restaurant, and a number of rectangular buildings scattered along the edge of the beach with a gorgeous view across the bay.

“I’m amazed we were able to get in.” Genie got out and retrieved her cane. “I would have thought it was fully booked at his time of year.”

“They had a late cancellation,” he admitted. “Come on.” He lifted out a couple of bags, and Genie shouldered hers.

They checked in and then made their way down to their lodge. Niall unlocked the door and stood back to let her through, and Genie walked into the large, cool front room whose huge windows overlooked the grassy bank that led to the beach and then the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

“Oh wow.” She stood, stunned, for a moment.

“I’ll take the back room.” He disappeared behind her and emerged without his bag. “You can have the front bedroom that overlooks the beach.”

“Okay, thank you.” He wasn’t assuming they’d be sharing a room, then. Her stomach fluttered.

He took off his sunglasses and studied her for a moment. “You want to catch something to eat before we head out?”

“No, I’m good thanks.”

“All right.” He smiled. “I’ll meet you on the deck.”


Sans
clothes?” she asked faintly.

BOOK: A Secret Between Friends: A New Zealand Sexy Beach Romance (Treats to Tempt You Book 6)
4.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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