Title: Stealing Luca's Heart
Series: The Tetaris of New Zealand #1
Author: Ellie Lyons
Published: December 30th 2013 by Liquid Silver Books
Genre: contemporary romance
When Ally Edwards’ father, Cal, is injured in a suspicious hunting accident in New Zealand, she takes leave from her job as a University of Iowa economics instructor to rush down to be at her father’s bedside. When she arrives, she finds herself hosted by her father’s friends, the Tetari family, who welcome her into their home.
Luca Tetari, the eldest son, is not only a businessman in the family corporation, but also the team captain of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. Luca is the consummate player, skillful on the pitch and off, indulging his fans and beguiling everyone around him. But as she gets to know him, Ally discovers that Luca is far deeper as a person than his surface charm would indicate, and soon she finds herself falling in love.
But while Ally and Luca are realizing their new affections, the Tetari family and their land are under attack by unknown assailants. With a new “green” energy project in development, who is trying to take over their property, and how? Does this have anything to do with Cal’s injury? After all, if someone has hurt one person, mightn’t that same individual be willing to injure—or even kill—additional people to achieve his or her goals?
“Ally Edwards?” he yelled over the plane’s engines. He was wearing noise-canceling headphones, held a radio in his left hand, and looked very official. She nodded to him, and he motioned for her to follow him back down the stairs. She quickly retrieved her bag and went.
She’d know where to go once they landed, she got that now, but what in the world was going on? Why was she slipping out the back of the plane? What was up with this family? Didn’t they know how to text? She just needed to know what flight she was supposed to get on.
She stepped out onto the stairs and instantly felt the warmth of the sun and humid air. There were palm trees and other tropical-looking plants bordering the runway. What was that Jimmy Buffet song? Something about changes in latitude, changes in attitude? She swore she could feel her hair springing back into its natural waves.
The guy with the radio was waiting for her at the bottom of the staircase. Next to him stood a uniformed guard who was restraining a beagle. “Do you have your passport and declaration forms?”
She handed them over, watching him examine the papers and passport. The beagle eagerly sniffed her backpack. It dawned on her that she had her own private immigration officer. Now that was impressive. Perhaps she did have important friends, or her dad did.
“Are you bringing in any fruit or perishables?”
“How long do you plan on being in the country?”
Now that was a good question. “A couple of weeks.” Ally hoped that would be enough time for her dad to be healthy enough for the long trip back home.
“Have you been walking on any farmyards prior to your flight?”
“What?” Ally thought he was must be joking.
The guy didn’t smile. “You know…any agricultural material on your shoes?”
Now she got it. Did she have shit on her shoes? She knew she didn’t but did a quick check anyway and shook her head.
The man continued on. “We can’t have any contaminated soil coming into the country that could potentially threaten our farms. So, to maintain our bio-security standards, we must prevent the entry of pests and diseases into our country. We cannot risk endangering New Zealand’s agriculture and horticulture industries. If you have any animal or plant items with you, or packed in your luggage, you must declare it on your passenger arrival card.”
They really don’t mess around here. “No, I have nothing to declare.” As if she doubted herself, she performed another quick check of the bottom of her sneakers just in case and hoped to God that she didn’t have an apple in her backpack. No, she was positive she ate it.
He stamped her passport. “Good, welcome to New Zealand, Ms. Edwards. Please follow me.” The engines were on a manageable hum now as they walked around to the nose of the enormous plane and stopped. Standing next to a 747 was nothing short of amazing. There was a hive of activity from all the people swarming in to turn the plane over for its next flight. The baggage workers were busy unloading massive piles of luggage from their carts and placing them on a conveyer belt to make their way into the terminal.
“It will be just one moment,” said the man with the radio.
She nodded, unsure if she should ask him if he knew what she was supposed to do next. She decided
Nervous excitement suddenly sizzled through her system. Even under the green John Deere hat and aviator sunglasses she recognized him. Luca Tetari eased his body out of the cart and strode easily up to the immigration officer. They shook hands and exchanged greetings like old friends.
“Cheers, John, thanks for your help.” His rich voice held the New Zealand accent that she had always found fascinating. “I’d be happy to get you some box seats for the next match.”
“No, that’s all right. I’m glad I could help you out, Luca. We do this type of thing occasionally. Give Australia hell, will ya, in Christchurch? Hey, do you have time for a quick photo together?”
“Of course, it’s the least I can do,” Luca said warmly.
John took his phone out of his pocket, thrusting it toward her, nodding to suggest she take the photo.
Exhaling, she put down her backpack and wondered where on Earth she had actually landed. Be gracious, she reminded herself. This guy is paying for your flight. Luca put his arm on John’s shoulder and both grinned ear to ear as she snapped the picture. She handed the phone back and stood idly as John shook Luca’s hand once more, clearly very excited, and scurried back into the airport.
Luca turned his attention to Ally. He pulled his sunglasses off, revealing brilliant eyes the color of green sea glass underneath dark lashes. Her breath caught while she scanned his face. Damn, those internet photos didn’t do him justice.
He walked toward her and held out his hand. “Ally, I’m Luca Tetari. First off, I can’t tell you how very sorry our family is about your dad. I can only imagine how worried you are.”
Ally smiled politely. “It’s nice to meet you, Luca. I’m glad to finally be here to see how he’s doing.” She felt her palm start to sweat and wasn’t sure if it was because of the temperature or the man holding it. She gently pulled her hand away.
“I can imagine. We’ve seen that Cal is taken care of. Your dad, man, he’s a tough bird. I think he would’ve taken the bullet out himself if he hadn’t passed out first.”
“My dad passed out?” she exclaimed, taking a step back. She knew she still didn’t know the full extent of his injuries, but hearing it from him was upsetting.
As if realizing his mistake, he countered, “But he’s doing better. My mum’s down there, and believe me, she’s got things under control. What do you say we get out of here, and I can fill you in on the plane?”
“I’m ready.” Luca reached out to take her backpack from her, but she shook her head. “No, I’ve got it. Thank you.”
“Hey, sorry about sneaking you out the back of the plane, but I really didn’t want the hassle of crowds today,” he said, turning to her and placing his hand on her shoulder. “Believe it or not—and my guess would be ‘or not’—this was a lot easier than navigating through the airport with us trying to get your bag and hopping on a commercial flight.”
She studied him, wondering what that was supposed to mean. Luca must have read her expression because he nodded behind them toward the airport glass windows. Ally followed his gaze and immediately recognized the flight attendant she had been sitting next to staring in her direction along with dozens of other people. All of them had their noses up against the gate windows, and some were even taking pictures.
“What can I say,” he said, shrugging. “I play rugby and kiwis love their rugby.”
She was beginning to think that this attention wasn’t solely because he played rugby. “Wow, maybe I should get my picture taken with you too?” she teased.
Luca shook his head, giving her a full, unguarded smile. “I only pose for All Black fans. I am simply your chauffeur today.” He waved his hand, motioning for her to get into the baggage cart.
She was aware of him watching her as they both climbed into the cart. She held on while he navigated around the airport chaos, stopping abruptly in front of a private jet. This just keeps getting better and better, she decided, looking from Luca to the plane. A lovely lady with a short cap of red hair and wearing a gray pantsuit with a logo on the breast of the jacket hustled down the steps.
“This doesn’t look like a commercial flight,” she said, turning to Luca. There was amusement on his face when he glanced briefly over to her.
“Ally, this is Sue,” Luca explained, jumping out of the cart and reaching for her suitcase. “She’ll help you get settled on board, and I’ll be up in just a minute. I’ll just get your bag stored.”
She decided it might just be easier to do as she was told as she stepped out of the cart with her backpack and followed Sue up the steps. She’d put up with all the fancy Tetaris until her dad was able to travel. Ally hoped Tara would be able to fly down soon. She really should send another text to her when she had the chance. When she reached the top of the steps, she turned around, glancing down at Luca. He had the cell phone to his ear and casually looked up, meeting her gaze. He gave her a thin smile and turned away to talk into his phone. Ally hesitated on the steps as she listened to his conversation.
“Hey, Mum, it’s Luca.”
She may have prejudged this guy. Luca Tetari seemed like a nice guy. Actually, a nice, very rich guy. Damn. She immediately decided he was a little too smooth for her taste and boarded the plane.
Luca shifted the phone to his other ear as he glanced up to the plane’s door and the shapely figure moving inside. He pushed Ally’s bag into the jet’s storage area and then slammed the cargo hold shut. “She’s on our plane now. I told her things were under control on the hospital front.”
He finished his conversation with his mum, who gave him Cal’s update. She had asked how Ally was doing. Luca’s first thought on Ally wasn’t the answer a guy shared with his mother. He waved back to the pilot who signaled that take-off was in five
He was told Ally was a college instructor, but with that body he was definitely envisioning something else. Cal had completely neglected to mention what Ally looked like in all these years. Man, was I ever misled. Who could blame Cal for being protective? I’ve never been to college, but I thought Ally would be a studious, intellectual type, sporting thick glasses, not a sports cap.
She doesn’t seem to know or care who I am. Not only is she an absolute stunner, but those large eyes hold some spunk. “Very interesting,” he said, climbing the steps.
I quite loved getting to know the main characters in this tale quite well. They are much more than simply their relationship with one another. They were well rounded individuals who had full lives. Neither are perfect but both are true to who they are. And, I mean really, I fell in love with Luca. How could Ally have done any less? The supporting cast was perfect for this story. Lyons developed them in a manner that made them realistic and the perfect balance to the main characters. The family feel to the story as a whole. I was left wondering what Sean’s deal was. Everyone kept saying he had ‘issues’ but they were never defined or stated outright.
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