Nic Wilkinson is a responsible, organized, disciplined rugby player at the top of his game. Emma Martens is a sometimes-scattered, often-emotional, and always-broke would-be designer with a big chip on her shoulder where Nic’s concerned.
They have no history together, except one perfect week. Nothing in common anymore, except the most important thing of all.
Getting together again would be messy. Complicated. Scary. And, just maybe, worth every risk.
“Mum!” Zack burst in through the front door. “It was brilliant!” He kicked his shoes
off impatiently, dropped his rugby boots next to them before struggling out of his jacket. Nic
followed him in, grabbed the jacket and hung it on the brightly painted rack next to the door
when Zack would have dropped it on the floor.
Emma reached out for a hug that, Nic saw, the boy was still willing to give his mother,
at least here at home. Her eyes met Nic’s as she looked over her son’s head. How did she
always look so soft? So . . . pettable? She was wearing another sweater, that was all, he told his
troublesome libido. Another light, lacy one, prettily trimmed once again. A pale pink cardigan
with pearly shell buttons, edged in cream, over a long stretchy top and leggings. She looked like
an invitation to cuddle. Like the best blankie ever.
“Can Nic stay for dinner, Mum?” Zack asked excitedly, offering a welcome distraction
from his wayward train of thought. “He could help me tell you all the things we did. We’re
having spaghetti!” he told Nic. “It’s really good.”
“Can’t, mate. Sorry,” Nic put in hastily at Emma’s instinctive shake of the head. “But I’ll
have a glass of water, if one’s on offer.”
“Sit down,” Emma told him. “Please.”
Nic slipped off his own shoes before heading to the couch with Zack. “Cheers,” he said
as she came back from the kitchen to hand each of them a glass, then took her own seat in a
small armchair next to the couch, the only other option the little room offered.
“You look tired,” she said abruptly. “And bruised. Are you OK?”
“Just a bit confused on the sleep schedule, still,” Nic admitted. “I took a wee pill on the
flight home, but it never works that well.”
“It’s a long way, Mum,” Zack put in. “South Africa’s really far.”
Nic took a long drink of the cold water, looked around for something to set the glass
“Just put it down,” Emma told him.
“Don’t want to spoil this,” he said, looking more closely at the coffee table. The simple
rectangle had been transformed into a forest of ferns, with native birds peeping out from
underneath fronds, perched in trees. The parson-throated tui making a meal of red fruit, the
colorful, stumpy takahe on the forest floor, tiny fantails darting overhead.
“You can’t,” Emma assured him. “It’s all enamels. Everything in this house is pretty
“Did you find the ruru yet?” Zack asked him, leaning forward.
“Don’t tell me,” Nic said. “Let me look.” Zack watched him eagerly as he searched and
finally pointed triumphantly to a notch in a tree where the owl blended into the bark. “There.”
“You did this too, eh,” he asked Emma. “Nice.”
“I did everything. That’s my decorating theme. Things I made.”
“I like it,” he assured her. The warm colors of the lounge seemed to cocoon them. Two
walls were a rich caramel, the others a warm yellow. She didn’t even paint every wall in a
room the same color, he realized. Well, at least in the kitchen it was all the same. Purple. He
wondered what color her bedroom was. How it looked. And found himself wishing, against
every better impulse, that he could see it.