Posting excerpts cos its an excerpt kind of season.
Here’s one from All About Sage.
The reception was informal, with finger foods and desserts, waiters serving champagne, and a jazz trio playing softly in the background.
Sage spent some time talking with Mrs Parker, Jack’s housekeeper, who was running through the details of a murderer who had appealed to a higher court for a retrial.
“So how do you know Robyn?” Mrs Parker asked when she’d finished listing the reasons why he was so clearly guilty and wasting taxpayer money on a joke retrial.
“We’re neighbours. She rented the house next door to me when her marriage broke up. We’ve been neighbours for just a couple of years but it feels like forever. We’ve become—” She held up her fingers knotted together. “Like that.”
“I see.” Mrs Parker nodded sympathetically. Strands of her wild grey hair escaped from her bun. “You lose your friend and you end up getting new neighbours. Good luck with that.”
Sage exhaled. Once Robyn had given notice to the landlord, the house had gone on the market. It had sold in a surprisingly short time, but then, houses priced at the lower end of the market were the type for first home buyers or investors looking to rent out. Robyn’s place qualified. It needed a lot of work.
Now she’d be living in luxury on Auckland’s North Shore, in Jack’s mansion.
“You’ll miss her a lot, won’t you?” Mrs Parker observed.
A lump settled in Sage’s throat. “I will. I already do.”
She noticed Ethan talking with Harriet, and wondered what state secrets Harriet was passing on. Hopefully nothing too embarrassing. Not that she cared what her daughter told him. She didn’t care what he thought of her. Didn’t care what he thought about anything, full stop.
Harriet suddenly stood on tiptoes, put her arms around Ethan and hugged him. She looked around, spotted Sage, and grabbed Ethan’s hand to drag him over.
“Mother, you’ll never guess, you will never guess,” she said.
“I’m sure you’re quite right.” Sage avoided looking at Ethan but she sensed him frowning. It was disconcerting. All the times she’d gone out with Barry, she’d never sensed anything.
“Ethan’s moving in,” Harriet announced. “To Robyn’s.”
For a moment Sage pictured him at Robyn’s new place, Jack’s mansion, and wondered why Ethan was moving in there when he already owned his own place somewhere.
The expression on Harriet’s face began to ring alarm bells and confused, she clarified, not looking at Ethan, “You did mean he’s moving into Jack’s place in Takapuna, right?”
Harriet rolled her eyes. “No, not to Jack’s. To Robyn’s place. Her old house. He’s going to be our neighbour.”
For a second, Sage’s mind went blank. Slowly, she looked at Ethan. He stood watching her. Waiting.
She swallowed hard. Focus, Sage. Focus.
“You’re doing what?” she said finally.
Harriet didn’t give him a chance to respond. “Ethan bought Robyn’s house. He’s going to renovate it and live in it at the same time. It’s a project.”
The fact suddenly hit home and Sage nearly staggered.
No. He couldn’t be. It was impossible. It could not be happening. She could not have this…this…Neanderthal living next door to her.
“You’re doing what?” she said again.
“I bought Rob’s house,” he told her smoothly.
Harriet had let go of his hand to take a flute of champagne from the passing waiter, and Sage knew she should tell her she was too young.
Instead, she stared into Ethan’s blue eyes. Amazing blue eyes. Probably contacts.
“Why?” she asked.
His eyebrows arched with amusement. “It’s called property investment. I’ll live in it for a couple of months, fix it up, then sell it.”
“You’re doing all the work,” she said disbelievingly.
“Not all. I draw the line at climbing on the roof and replacing the iron. I’ve got no death-wish for electrocution either.”
“So what is you living in it all about? Why would you do that when you’ve got your own place?”
“Avoids travelling time. Plus I’ve got friends coming up. They’re—” He stopped abruptly.
Probably ex-military, Sage surmised. SAS even. Jack had been very vague about Ethan’s background.
He continued. “They need to use my place, so it works out. I can stay in the house, patch it up, and then flick it off.”
There was a feeling rising through her. Boiling blood. The last time she’d felt it this strongly had been when the local council transport planners had mandated that heritage pohutukawa trees be removed for a new motorway extension when it was clear to anyone with half a brain they could be retained. In the end, the trees had been saved, thanks to herself, Barry, and the Save Our Pohutukawa campaign.
She doubted Ethan gave a damn about pohutukawa trees.
And she doubted anything was going to save her from this…this…whatever the heck this situation was.
“Why that house?” she asked finally.
He took a glass of champagne from another passing waiter, took a sip, appeared to consider the taste. Seemed satisfied with it.
“Because,” he said, looking her in the eye, “it was a good price. It has a lot going for it.” He took another sip. “And I could do with the challenge. Something to do,” he added, then his mouth tightened. As if he regretted saying that. Admitting that.
“What is it you do, anyway?” she asked, curious. “For a day job.” All she’d known was that he was now in property development, but she hadn’t been sure if he actually worked on projects or just paid other people to make him money.
“I have a number of enterprises. I like challenge.”
“And renovating properties is one of those portfolios?”
He looked straight back at her. “It is now.”
She stiffened. “So you’ve never done this before?”
“Not to this extent. I normally start from scratch with bare land. But don’t worry. I’ve got Jack assisting on the architectural side and Robyn’s got ideas on what to do inside. Given she’s lived there for the past two years and has an eye for colour and design, she’s happy to help.”
Sage glanced across at Robyn. Her best friend. Her blissfully happy best friend. Robyn caught her staring and waved.
She waved back, and the minute Robyn looked away, Sage scowled. So Robyn had known Ethan was going to buy the place? And hadn’t told her?
To be fair, Robyn had been tied up with the wedding, and as soon as the announcement had hit the papers, her business had taken off, with orders for the clothing collection she could only have dreamt of a few months ago. But even so…
A sense of panic began to trickle through Sage, settled on her chest, settled inside her. As if her life was beginning to slip away.
What if the bouquet was right and Harriet did get married and moved away? Robyn had left—Robyn who had been her sanity these past couple of years. And now? Now that… that Ethanwas moving in next door, and she didn’t know for how long. He might say it was a few months, but it could be years. It was his house. He could stay there as long as he damn well liked.
My equilibrium is shot, she thought, and earth shifted underneath her in a very unsettling way.
“Steady.” Ethan reached out and gripped her upper arm. He looked at her closely. “Have you had too much to drink?”
“No.” She felt so out of sorts she didn’t even have the energy to retort. Woozy, she grabbed his arm and said, “I don’t know. Something just came over me.”
She was eye-level with his chest. She looked up to his face. He was looking down at her. The air between them seemed to disappear.
She sucked in a breath. The air can’t vanish, she told herself with forced calm. They were outside. There were trees everywhere. A harbour right in front of them. The air can’t vanish.
And now there was a look on Ethan’s face. In his eyes. She had the strangest thought it matched her own. Total confusion.
Then it vanished, and he dropped her arm. “You okay now?”
She reached for a glass of champagne from the ever-passing waiter.
Ethan gestured to the glass. “Should you be drinking any more?”
She stared in disbelief at him.
“Relax,” he said. “I’m kidding. I haven’t seen you drink even a drop.”
He held his own glass out to her. “But since you are now, let’s make a toast.”
She felt more normal. This was normal. This was life. Two mature – she mentally choked on that word – matureadults toasting their best friends.
“To Jack and Robyn,” she agreed.
His eyes narrowed. “I wasn’t thinking of the happy couple. I was thinking of toasting our new status. As neighbours.”
She kept the smile on her face. “Of course. Neighbours. How remiss of me to even consider toasting the happiness of our best friends.”
“They don’t need our toast.” He took a sip, his gaze never leaving hers. “But I get the feeling we might.”