Home > Just One Look (Escape to New Zealand, #14)(9)

Just One Look (Escape to New Zealand, #14)(9)
Author: Rosalind James

“Oh,” she said. “No. I’m doing a swap with a professor who’s coming to Georgia Tech on a visiting-scholar thing. We just box up our clothes and toiletries and so forth to make room, then move into each other’s places, drive each other’s cars, the works. Very efficient.”

“Sounds like an easy thing to scam,” he said. “What if he cleans out your place?”

“I checked with the university. He’s legit. We sent valuations—appraisals—and so forth. Credit checks, that sort of thing. We’re each paying for weekly housekeeping, and he’s even paying for somebody to mow the lawn, so it couldn’t be easier, really. His place is a little smaller, but it’s worth about the same as mine, because Auckland’s pricey. It’s in a very good neighborhood.”

“Uh-huh,” Darrell said. “If you say so. Well …” He stood up. “I guess that’s it, then. March fourth. Giving you exactly … one day there before you start work. Well, it’s your funeral.”

“No,” she said. “It’s my reboot.”

She wasn’t going to think about what her father had said. She didn’t need that information in her brain, or the sound of him saying, “If you do this, if you throw your career away, I wash my hands of you. Too much like your mother. You think you’ve convinced her to be rational, and there she goes, letting the emotion run away with her. Making the wrong choice, every time.”

The memory made her shoulders tense, and she relaxed them with an effort. Her father wasn’t here, and for better or worse, she’d made her choice. Her reboot was starting now. On an Uber trip through Auckland, with old names coming back to her through the years. Cabbage tree. Silver fern. Villa. Extinct volcano called Mount … Mount Something, that has a Maori name you’re supposed to call it instead.

She’d been so inwardly charmed, at eighteen, by the idea of a city built around fifty extinct volcanoes, the cones jutting up in the middle of the cityscape, little circles of green space. The city was so much bigger, though, sixteen years later. They were on a freeway now, and then going through a tunnel. Neither one had been here before, had they?

“You on holiday, then?” the driver, a tidy, spare man in his fifties, asked.

“No,” she said. “Here to work for a year.”

“Working holiday visa?” A glance in the rearview mirror at her T-shirt and jeans and somewhat rumpled state. “Nah, that’s not it,” he decided. “You don’t look the type to pack kiwifruit or milk cows.”

Also, she thought, I don’t look under thirty. Not remotely. Which was fine, because she wasn’t. She said, “I’m a surgeon.”

“A surgeon, eh.” Another rearview-mirror look, possibly because she was rumpled, and her hair was in a ponytail. She wanted to tell him that when you were in a surgical cap for most of the day, fashionable hair wasn’t necessarily at the top of your list. She also wanted to tell him to keep his eyes on the road. This tunnel was narrow.

“That’s something,” he said. “If I get in a smash, I could ask for you, that the idea?”

“Hopefully not,” she said. “Bad news for you if you have to do that. I’m a neurosurgeon. Brains and spines.”

“Oh.” He digested that a minute. “First time in New Zealand?”

“No. I spent Christmas here once. It was a long time ago, though.” She answered absently, looking out the window, because they were off the freeway—motorway—at last, driving through a commercial area.

This would be the start of Ponsonby, the fashionable inner suburb rising above the downtown area—the CBD. This would be home.

He said, “Nearly there. Got somebody to meet you?”

She thought, That’s a dangerous question to answer, and said, “My new house. For the next year, anyway.”

“Hope they’ll have a cup of tea for you,” he said. “It’s a long journey. Heaps of cafés in Ponsonby, though. You’ll be spoilt for choice, and if you’re a surgeon, you can probably afford it, eh. Try Dizengoff, maybe, about halfway down the main road. Always popular. Or Archie’s. Hard to see it, as it’s tucked away into an alley, but they do a good brekkie, I hear.”

So—not so much urban predation as New Zealand friendliness. The friendliness was confusing. She wasn’t used to it.

All the way up the hill to the top, the buildings older here. Shops lined both sides of the street, most still closed up tight this early on Sunday morning. The driver pointed at a place whose door was open, said, “Dizengoff,” and then turned onto a smaller street, full of trees and greenery, the houses set back from the street, and she thought, Nearly there.

One more turn, and a glint of blue in the distance. That would be the harbor, on the other side of the steep hill that dropped off below her house. She’d have a perfect view of it from both dining room and bedroom, and a deck where she could sit and watch the boats coming and going from the yacht harbor and the lights of the Harbour Bridge going on at dusk, not to mention seeing across to the North Shore. She hadn’t been able to believe her luck when she’d seen the pictures.

A few houses lined the seaward side of the little street, some coolly modern, others the older, chocolate-box villa type, all of them white. The driver stopped at a black metal number on a white wooden fence, jumped out, pulled her suitcase from the trunk, and said, “Here you are, then, love.”

“Thank you,” she said, then trundled her suitcase to the gate, unlatched it, and thought, You’ve done it now, Elizabeth. You’re here.

And stop worrying. Neurosurgery is neurosurgery, and neurosurgery is what you’re here to do.

The front door looked to be around the back. Made sense, since all the view was back there. She’d go in and take a shower. Unpack her suitcase. Open the doors onto her new deck and look at the ocean—whoops, the sea. The harbor. Whatever. Take a walk to shake off the stiffness and find something to eat, then do some grocery shopping and drive the route to the hospital so she’d be prepared in the morning.

It was a new place, but all it took was planning. She led an orderly life. New Zealand was an orderly place. It was perfect.

The body of the house sat behind a garage, and the whole thing seemed much smaller than it had looked in the pictures. But charming, she told herself, finding the key under the pot, exactly where Peter had told her it would be. Though there was a roar coming from somewhere, and from inside the house, she heard barking.

Loud barking.

Deep barking.

That would be her new dog.

 

 

5

 

 

A Few Wrinkles

 

 

“It’s a few wrinkles,” Elizabeth told herself. She’d have said it out loud, but she couldn’t quite manage it. That was because there was an enormous dog practically in her face.

It had happened in the second between the time she got the narrow front door open and dragged her big suitcase up over the sill. When she’d been hit between the eyes with … oh, a few things.

First: that the “beautiful Golden Retriever mix” was black, and there was no way a Golden Retriever was supposed to be this big. He had to weigh over a hundred pounds. Probably well over, but it was hard to tell under all the fur. Also, he was wagging a tail the size of a mop, doing a sort of happy dance around her, and bumping her in the legs in his excitement. Not in the knees, because he was too big for that. In the legs. He was the hairiest dog she’d ever seen, and his extremely large, blocky head came to her waist.

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