Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just for comparison

Remember I talked about the collage I had for Simone and Ryan? Just to remind you, this was it. Yeah, Ryan was the guy in the towel. That's why I'm so pleased that the artist captured his longer haired, surfer looks. (See yesterday's blog for their cover.)

Anyway, here, as promised, is an extract from Needed: Her Mr. Right out in the UK and North America in September...


Simone’s Diary – Day one

Arrived in Bangkok at 10.30 pm. Very hot and muggy. Tomorrow I enter China and I’m freaking out.

Am stressing about my fitness, wondering if the long bike rides each weekend and the daily slogs in the pool are enough preparation for cycling four hundred and fifty kilometres across the Himalayas. What if I can’t keep up with the others?

Everyone at work is convinced I’m crackers. I don’t expect them to understand why I need to do this, to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Problem is, tonight, I’m thinking maybe I AM crazy. I mean, fundraising for street kids aside, what am I trying to prove?

It’d be nice if I came up with an answer some time in the next twelve days.

1.00 am. Wandered off in search of a cute little bar for a drink or a snack, got totally lost and was propositioned by a middle aged tourist.

Arrived back here even more stressed. Can’t sleep. My hotel bed is so hard I might as well lie on the floor – the carpet and underlay are softer than this apology for a mattress.

I’m going to be tired, stressed and unfit for the start tomorrow.


Chapter One

“Journeys end in lovers meeting; every wise man’s son doth know.”

William Shakespeare

Jetlagged and dull-headed after his long flight from London to Sydney, Ryan Tanner was waiting in the Customs queue when he first saw the girl with the turn-and-stare legs.

He caught sight of her again, when he was pushing his luggage cart through the Arrivals hall.

The slim blonde in a belted, pink shift, with long, golden-brown legs and strappy, high-heeled sandals, was like a glowing hologram moving confidently through the drab tide of travellers dressed in predictable, look-alike, business suits or denim jeans.

But Ryan’s interest in her, although keen, was fleeting. Stunning as the girl was, she was a total stranger among thousands of strangers. Ryan had no idea where she’d come from or where she was heading. And his focus now was on getting home.

Home, after a year and a half in London. Home, after eighteen months of dreary British weather.

He’d spent a good part of the flight dreaming of sunshine and his first view of Bondi Beach – aquamarine surf breaking into white froth on yellow sand. But with his usual lousy luck, it was pouring rain in Sydney today. The view was obscured by grey clouds.

Now, head down against the sheeting rain, he left the terminal building and felt his mood sink from travel-weary-jaded to downright morose as he steered his unwieldy trolley piled with two suitcases, a bulky snowboard and a laptop.

There was, of course, a long queue at the taxi rank.

Ryan yawned and supposed he should have let someone know he was arriving this morning. But, after a twenty hour flight, he was too tired to bother with conversation, with the inevitable questions about London and the ugly row with his Fleet Street editor.

Besides, he felt scruffy, needed a shower. And a shave wouldn’t go astray, he thought, rubbing at the rough stubble on his jaw.

Then he saw the young woman again.

Fresh as a newly picked peach, she was standing ahead of him in the queue.

Wind, whipping across the street and under the awning, exposed enticing glimpses of her divine legs before she got control of her skirt.

He spent a pleasant moment wondering if she was a European tourist or an Australian coming home.

Three businessmen at the front of the queue climbed into the same taxi and Ryan shuffled forward, dragging his luggage trolley with him, pleased that the line was diminishing at a reasonable rate.

He thought about his comfortable, slightly shabby flat in Balmain and hoped that the tenants, who’d rented it while he was away, hadn’t treated it too badly.

He stole another quick glance at the girl, not that he made a habit of ogling attractive girls, but this one intrigued him. He tried to pin down the quality that grabbed his attention, apart from her legs.

Perhaps it was an impression of vitality and fitness, the way she stood, shoulders back, head high, suggesting can-do confidence without conceit. Her bulky backpack surprised him. She looked the type who would travel with expensive matching suitcases.

Suddenly, almost as if she’d felt his eyes on her, she turned and looked straight at him, and for electrifying seconds their gazes met and held.

Her eyes were dark – blue or brown, he couldn’t be sure – her brows darker than her hair and well defined. And as she looked at him, he could have sworn that her mild, slightly bored expression changed.

He sensed a tiny stirring of interest from her. A ripple. The briefest flicker at the corner of her mouth. The barest beginnings of a smile.

He decided to smile back and discovered he was already smiling. Had he been grinning like a fool?

And then it happened. A tremulous, gut-punching sense of connection with this girl seized him by the throat, drove air from his lungs.

But in the next breath her taxi arrived. The driver jumped out and grabbed her pack, grumbling noisily at having to leave the warmth of his cab and splash about in the rain. The girl slipped quickly into the back passenger seat. Ryan caught one final flash of her beautiful, bare legs before she shut the door.

The driver, a very glum fellow indeed, dumped her bulky backpack into the taxi’s boot. He already had a couple of boxes in there and he spent a bad tempered few minutes in the rain, shoving and cramming her pack, squeezing it mercilessly into the too small space.

At last, the bulky pack was squashed enough to allow him to slam the door, but as he did, something slipped from one of the pack’s side pockets and fell into the rain-filled gutter with a plop.

It was a small book.

“Hey, mister, you want this cab or not?”

Ryan turned, surprised to discover that other passengers had left and he’d reached the top of the queue. A taxi driver was scowling at him.

His eyes swivelled back to the book in the gutter. Her book. Small and thick with a brown leather cover of good quality. It looked like a diary or a one of those fancy planners many people can’t live without. And no one else seemed to have seen it fall.

“Just a sec.” Ryan waved violently to catch her driver’s attention. “Hey, you’ve dropped something!”

But it was too late.

The driver was already slipping behind the wheel. His door slammed and with an impatient, throaty roar, his cab shot out from the curb, ducked across two lanes and streaked off, leaving the girl’s book lying in the rain.

“Listen, mate, you either get in this cab, or step aside. You can’t hold up the bloody queue in this weather.”

But Ryan stared after the other cab, and at the book, lying in the gutter. If it wasn’t rescued quickly it would be ruined.

And why should he care?

Why should he, Ryan Tanner, a seen-it-all, done-it-all, travel-weary journalist, jeopardise his precious place in a taxi queue while he dived into pouring rain to retrieve an unknown stranger’s sodden book from the gutter?

He hadn’t the foggiest clue. It didn’t make any sense.

But then again, he’d always been a curious type, and he’d looked into the girl’s beautiful eyes…

So perhaps it made perfect sense.

Whatever… in the next unthinking, reckless split-second he grabbed his suitcase out of the driver’s hands, hurled it into the taxi’s boot and yelled, “We’ve got to follow that cab in the far lane!”

The driver’s jaw gaped. “You’re joking.”

“Never more serious, mate.” Ryan dashed for the gutter, shouting over his shoulder, “Get the other case and stow my snowboard in the back.”

As he scooped up the book, he was aware of a moment’s indecision behind him before the driver gave a strangely excited cry and leapt forward.

The snowboard was shoved into the back of the cab and the two men jerked their front doors open and leapt in, Ryan clutching his laptop. And the wet book.

The driver’s dark eyes were flashing with high excitement as he depressed the accelerator. He turned and grinned at Ryan. “I’ve been waiting twenty years for a chase!”

Ahead of them, the girl’s cab was still in sight – just. It was stopped at an intersection, but any second now the lights would change.


Anonymous said...

Oh I can see The Dress and you are right about the hair,too, but very cruel to torment us so!!

Liz Fielding said...

Terrific cover, Barb, and wonderful opening scenes. I can't wait to read it!

Barbara Hannay said...

I can't wait to read Reunited: Marriage in a Million, Liz. The reviewers are already raving. I'm sure it's another of your masterpieces.