home has left him exhausted and uninspired, with little energy to pursue his
passion for graphic art. Until he meets Gemma Henare, a vivacious out-of-towner
from New Zealand. What begins as a one-night stand soon becomes a turning point
for Josh. He can’t get Gemma out of his head, even after she has left for home,
and finds himself throwing caution to the wind for the first time in his life.
It’s not long before Josh is headed to New Zealand with only a backpack, some
cash, and Gemma’s name to go on. But when he finally tracks her down, he finds
his adventure is only just beginning. Equally infatuated, Gemma leads him on a
whirlwind tour across the beautiful country, opening Josh up to life, lust,
love, and all the messy heartache in between. Because, when love drags you
somewhere, it might never let go—even when you know you have to say goodbye.
She lets me do it for a moment then she awkwardly clears her throat.
Don’t make me let go, I think. Please don’t make me let go.
The rustle in the bushes is back again. Gemma jerks her hand away, as if we’re about to be caught by Nick the Peeping Tom, as if we’re doing something wrong.
Are we doing something wrong?
Suddenly the air around us fills with squeals, and the rustling increases. The nearest bush to us at the base of the yard, near the fence, starts to move back and forth.
I stand up out of my chair to get a better look and see what looks to be little creatures waddling out of the bushes and heading for the side of the house. Once they hit a patch of light coming from the house, I can see what they are.
Little blue penguins.
“What the fuck?” I say softly, feeling like my mind has just imploded. “What the hell are those?”
“Little blue penguins,” she says proudly.
I turn to her in disbelief. “Are you serious?” I thought I was making that up. In my head.
She nods. “Yup. Little blue penguins.”
And she’s right. They’re about a foot high, miniature versions of the ones I’ve seen on TV, and they’re entirely blue in color. I thought it was just the darkness playing tricks on me but no, once they hit the light, you can see the color on their oily feathers.
“I don’t get it,” I say, watching as the last of their group quickly scampers out of sight. That might have been the cutest and weirdest thing I have ever seen.
“You never head of them?” she asks. “They probably have a burrow under the house. It’s actually quite common for beach houses.”
“Look, I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t do a whole lot of research about the country.”
“I can see that,” she says. “Well, how about that, then.”
“How about that,” I say, sitting back down. The penguins’ magical appearance has somehow taken Gemma’s heartbreaking story to another place, and she’s quick to jump on the transition. She tells me all about the interesting birdlife in New Zealand, from yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago Peninsula down south, to the Kea—cheeky green parrots that live in the snow-covered Alps. She’s animated as she tells me all she knows, and I absorb it like a sponge.
I drink my beer and she goes back to drinking hers, and before Nick, Amber, and the Irish show up all sloshed, she’s painted a beautiful picture of what’s to come. I can only hope I’ll continue to be part of the picture.
Don’t miss Karina’s next book, RACING THE SUN, on sale July 28th!