an excerpt

Chapter one

Pulling into one of the spaces he saw available in the hotel's designated car park, Zander switched off the engine and stretched luxuriantly. Not that a three-hour drive was particularly draining, but to make the most of the few days he'd stay in Taupo, Zander had left home early. Pre-breakfast early and I'm starving.

Easing from the car, Zander looked around. Okay, yeah, so I'm being cheeky, especially since I can't officially check in until two this afternoon, but the hotel's car park is almost empty. Just not very big. Not that he was fool enough to just leave the car there. If it wasn't registered with the hotel, then he risked being towed and that was not part of Zander's plans.

Arming himself with his best smile, Zander strode in and headed straight to reception. The dark-haired woman at the reception desk looked him over from top to toe, and then sat up a little straighter, matching his smile with one of her own.

If there was one thing Zander had learned while travelling, it was to make a good impression when booking into a hotel. Hotel staff were far more likely to take complaints--or requests--more seriously if you were well presented than if you rocked on up in shorts and jandals. In snug-fitting jeans, with a clean white T-shirt under a dark blue, unbuttoned shirt, Zander looked smart but casual.

"Hi. My name's Zander Henderson. I'm booked in for the next few days." Leaning closer, he dropped his voice. "I know I'm early, but I hoped I could leave my car here so I could get something to eat and I'll return to check in formally later. I've been on the road a few hours so I'm really hungry." Zander unashamedly added puppy dog eyes.

"Well, we don't normally allow it, but the car park is quite empty this morning, so I don't see there'll be a problem." The receptionist's voice had a distinctive lilt and Zander tilted his head.

"Do I detect a South African accent?"

"Yes." The woman's smile widened. "Have you been there?"

"Not yet. I have a few South African friends, though. It sounds a fascinating place to visit."

"Oh, it is." The woman leaned closer. "You must go. It's a wonderful place for a vacation."

"I'll make sure that I do." Zander leaned a little closer, so close their foreheads almost touched. "Now I know you'll say the hotel is the best place to have breakfast, but since I'm not a guest yet, where would you recommend?"

A few minutes later, armed with a couple of recommendations for good places to eat, Zander strode jauntily toward the main block of cafes and restaurants overlooking the lake.

The rest of the day passed quickly and enjoyably for Zander. He indulged in a mix of wandering leisurely around the town, walking briskly beside the lake, and selecting the places to visit that evening both for a meal and somewhere for a drink afterward.

He also indulged in a little in-house scoping by having a wine or coffee in those bars and restaurants which most appealed to him. Finally it was time for Zander to officially check in to his hotel.

Once he'd unpacked, he made good use of the small swimming pool and hot tub the hotel boasted in their back courtyard. Thoroughly relaxed and refreshed, he sauntered out ready for a meal and evening entertainment. I don't even have to worry about what time to come back. The key opens a door at the back of the hotel. I can come and go as I please. Perfect.