My romantic suspense, Playing to Win is set in New Zealand. During the course of the book my hero and heroine take a journey to Taupo, a childhood haunt of mine. Here are some photos of their journey to go with the text…
Kate listened to the ebb and flow of his voice and laughed as he painted colorful word pictures of a group of men and the close bonds between them. This man not only appealed to her senses, she liked him too.
There was little traffic on the road and none of the usual hold-ups due to road works. They passed Matamata and Waharoa with its small cafes and antique shop. Jersey cows grazed in lush green pastures while other herds ambled to the sheds for their afternoon milking.
“How about a stop in Tirau for a cup of coffee?” Kate asked.
“I like Tirau,” she confided when they sat at one of the outside tables. Relaxed, now with more space between them, she leaned back to enjoy the sun. “I enjoy browsing in the antique shops, and I always make time to look in the shop over there.” Kate pointed at one of Tirau’s landmarks. The entrance to the shop was a large sheep’s head made of corrugated iron. Through the gaping mouth or doors, shelves were crammed full of wool, soft sheepskins and hand-knitted sweaters. While they watched, a bus filled with tourists pulled up in the car park and the passengers descended on the staff.
“Yeah, I noticed it before. It’s impressive. The tourists seem to enjoy their visit.”
In the last shop, Kate lingered in front of a small pink music box. Not an expensive one but the type a young girl might fill with treasures. With a gentle finger, she pushed open the lid and the sweet strains of Swan Lake rippled through the shop while a ballerina twirled around and around. “I haven’t seen one of these in years.” She slid her teeth over her lower lip, disturbed by the bittersweet memories the tinkling tune evoked of her parents and happier times. “Not since…”
“Since?” Lane’s indulgent tone made her want to weep. He was so different from Steve.
“I used to have one almost exactly the same.” Until Steve broke it after he’d caught her smiling at one of his friends.
Lane appeared with several packages. “Do you want me to drive?”
Kate shook her head. “Thanks, but I’m happy driving.”
Gradually the scenery changed from farmland to pine plantations. Tree shelterbelts of a different species glowed in autumn colors ranging from green and gold to red and burgundy, protecting newly planted pines from strong winds.
“Nearly there,” Kate said as she drove through the outskirts of Taupo.
Lane peered toward the lake. “If we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of the mountains. There isn’t much cloud.”
Although early evening, they could make out the trio of mountains, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe across the large expanse of blue-black lake.
Kate let out a satisfied sigh. “This is one of my favorite views.”
They shared a smile. “I’d forgotten how beautiful the New Zealand scenery is,” Lane said. “I haven’t visited Taupo for years. Where is Adam and Danielle’s holiday home?”
“Tui Road,” Kate answered, negotiating traffic and the holiday pedestrians still thronging the streets. “You can’t see the mountains or the lake from their house, but it’s only a ten-minute walk to the water.”
SHELLEY’S NOTE: Unfortunately on the day I visited there was cloud!
Lane, who had walked over to a set of sliding doors to watch the boys, said suddenly, “John, I think we’re needed. The boys have snagged the kite in a tree.”
“But there’s only one tree in the reserve,” John said.
Kate moved to survey the scene. A bubble of laughter escaped. “The boys have caught the kite in it. It looks as though they’re deciding who retrieves the kite.”
John groaned. “Come on, Lane. Supervision required.”
Here is the blurb for Playing to Win:
The truth has many layers…
Professional rugby player, Lane Gerrard is used to women throwing themselves at him, but a scurrilous tabloid article naming him as father of a child sends his temper soaring. The woman he confronts doesn’t fit the blackmailer profile. Kate Alexander is attractive with an enchanting innocence, enticing. A total stranger. Her feistiness draws his unwilling admiration, but the child…he is the image of Lane.
Kate can’t deny her son’s similarity to the sexy man at her door but no way will she hand him over without a fight. Kate doesn’t possess money but she can shower her son with love. With public speculation rife, Kate reluctantly works with Lane to discover the truth. They grow closer as distrust slowly turns to mutual fascination, but the tabloid articles bring out a stalker. Mild pranks escalate into danger, and suddenly Lane realizes Kate is a woman he could love. With Kate and her son, he could have a family. Now, with his heart on the line, this is one game he’s playing to win…