'A beautiful read right through to the last page.' Rosalie

The sexiest millionaire.

I’m nervous before he arrives as his reputation precedes him. It’s exciting to meet a real millionaire. Not to mention that I did my research and saw the photos.

I see Du Rose striding across the car park, unmistakable in his Jackaroo hat with cowboy boots peeking from the bottom of well-fitted jeans. He’s gorgeous, but dangerous. I’m forbidden from mentioning his known association with the Triads or other big Auckland players. My editor warned me not to ask about his family. He told me in the pre-interview that Logan Du Rose is the type to walk away without a backward glance. If he feels I’ve overstepped the mark, my interview will never reach the printer.

millionaire

He ducks slightly as he walks in the door of the low-key cafe. I’m tucked away in the back of a shop selling animal feed, saddlery tack and farming items. It’s not millionaire territory but it’s where he asked to meet and I stand up to shake his hand. He doesn’t dress like a millionaire. My nose doesn’t make it much past the buttons on his chequered farm shirt. At well over six feet tall, he’s imposing in more ways than just his height. There’s a latent power rolling off his broad shoulders in waves; the authority and bearing of genuine mana. His hand engulfs mine, littered with scratches and healed wounds. Rumour has it he’s a haemophiliac. I know he won’t talk about it, so I don’t intend to bother asking.

He orders coffee with a low, resonant voice that has the waitress fluttering her eyelashes. Then he pays for mine as well. That’s class. He might be a millionaire but I expected to pay for both of us. He hitches his hat back on his head but doesn’t remove it. It acts as barrier between him and me.

“How tall are you?” I ask to start the ball rolling. Our readers are desperate to know. They want to know his shoe size too, but I know why that is. They’ll have to guess.

“Six feet four inches in my socks,” he answers and smiles as I struggle not to peer under the table. When Logan Du Rose smiles, an ugly scar under his right eye crinkles and gives him an aura of danger. I like it and feel my cheeks flush. He doesn’t smile often. I don’t know at that point I won’t see it again.

The Mountain Retreat

“Tell me about your hotel,” I say. “It just won a New Zealand Tourism award. What’s it like to have created one of the North Island’s top destinations?”

He sighs. “It’s been a long road. It took heaps of planning to get everything in place. It didn’t happen overnight.” He pauses for a moment and fiddles with a sachet of sugar. “It started with renovating the family home into somewhere people might want to stay. It operated as a conference centre for ten years before we converted the honeymoon suite and added other stuff. Since then we’ve held weddings and smaller events.”

“You say we, but you actually grew the business while you lived and worked in the UK,” I say. “How did you manage it from a distance?”

He shrugs and looks around for his coffee before answering. “It worked fine. I employed good managers and came home a few times a year. It was no biggie.”

He’s so casual I want to ask him about the other stuff, but I’m taking a risk because it’s personal. “Your parents ran it for you, I understand. They obviously did a good job.” I throw in the compliment in the hope that he won’t just walk away. His gorgeous grey eyes narrow and flash, but I convince myself it’s the sunlight.

“Yeah,” he replies with caution. “My parents ran the bloodstock business and homestead. They always had good local help and that’s the secret. A business stands or falls by its employees and mine have always been quality.”

I risk it. “I’m sorry about the death of your mother. It must have been tragic, especially before Christmas.” It’s like I’ve pressed the detonate button and he brings his feet square to the floor and puts his hands on his knees. One more personal question and he’ll follow through with his threat. He’ll leave. I daren’t ask my next question now. I know his father remarried the housekeeper within less than a year, but I won’t push my luck. I wanted to know how he replaced Miriam Du Rose as the backbone of the hotel business, but he’ll read too much into it.

“So tell me what your site offers tourists looking for a weekend break or a longer stay? Is it suitable for a family with children?”

He relaxes and I unclench my fingers. “There’s a camper van park on the side of the mountain with electrical hook up facilities. We built communal bathrooms and cooking areas. Earlier this year we added a lounge with screens and seating. A manager lives on site so there’s no issue with noise or misbehaviour. We own acres of bush tracks which run through most of the property and offer guided walks, horse riding and extreme climbing. This year we started the picnic hamper service. You can go exploring and staff will deliver your lunch to just about anywhere on the property. We hire GPS devices so nobody needs to get lost unless they want to.” He raises his eyebrows and I feel myself tremble. I wonder what it might be like to get lost with Logan Du Rose.

He doesn’t miss a beat. “There’s a lake for fishing or swimming, a thermal hot spa for relaxing. The hotel is geared up for full catering or you can use it as a base and explore Auckland. We did our research and created packages to suit most visitors. No two people enjoy the same holiday.”

“Would you venture into the health and spa business?” I ask and he shakes his head.

“No.” He doesn’t offer a reason and I’m forced to accept his reply.

Horse Trekking with the Best

“I read in the appraisal of your facilities that the horse trekking is spectacular.”

Logan Du Rose nods with enthusiasm. “We’ve bred horses for generations, so it figures. The mountain is beautiful and most of the stock is homegrown. Visitors to New Zealand want to see the real thing. The best way to do it is on horseback. The property runs across to the mountain range above Port Waikato.” He cocks his head. “Hell of a view of the Tasman Sea from up there.”

A Heritage of Struggle

“So I’ve heard,” I say, but he doesn’t offer me a visit or a chance to see it. Pity. “Your Maori heritage is obviously very important to you.” I point to the ta moko tattoo showing through his sleeve and realise too late that I’ve touched on a raw spot. I know why he’s so touchy and hold my breath as he assesses my motives. It feels like he searches my soul through those perceptive grey eyes. I sigh with relief as he answers.

“It is. My kuia kept our place going against all the odds. The Du Roses allied with Maori during the Waikato wars and defended our birth right alongside iwi. She held onto it through a world war, a depression and the kind of racism nobody remembers anymore. My great-grandfather was a rangatira. I’ve honoured their memory by keeping the land and making it work for itself. What’s the alternative? Some big businessmen would love to see the mountain as a high end housing estate.”

It feels impossible to keep the question off my tongue. I know about the legal case he took last year. He saw off bulldozers and construction workers, keeping the land and a massive compensation settlement. He owns it all outright. The hardness of his jaw tells me not to go there. I manage not to.

“Are we done here?” He pushes his coffee cup away and I swallow the last of my herbal tea. I  have nothing to keep him talking. There are enough taboo subjects surrounding this man to fill a book. I nod. I’m an idiot. My editor will kill me.

Unasked Questions

I trail him around the store as he looks at saddles and tack. His hands are gentle as he strokes the leatherwork on a bridle. He puts items back where he found them, making sure they face front. I’ve heard about his OCD but it’s another banned subject. He thinks I don’t notice. Or maybe he knows I won’t dare ask. Two of his fingers look broken and badly healed. The haemophilia rises into my mind and I bite my tongue. It’s gone through every generation of the Du Roses so far. Another banned subject.

“I heard you play guitar,” I say and he looks at me with curiosity.

“Yeah,” he replies. Subject closed.

We look at more saddles and bridles towards the back of the store and he lifts down a pair of cute cowgirl boots. I give it a go. The interview is over anyway. “Are those for your wife?”

He nods and I watch his pupils dilate. This guy has hidden depths. He’s seen true love. “Yeah, she looks good in this stuff. She’s a stunner.”

“What’s your favourite dinner?”

He laughs, “A good old boil-up.”

“Does your wife make that?” I risk it and he pins me with a hard stare. Rumbled.

“No, of course not. She’s English. It’s a Maori dish.”

“Does your daughter ride yet?”

To my amazement, he nods his head with enthusiasm. “Yep. She sat up in the saddle with me at six weeks old. She’s born to ride.”

My brows knit. “How did your wife feel about that?”

His eyes flash with mischief. “Not happy.” I figure that’s an understatement. I’d be crazy about the danger, but it’s clear this man answers to no one.

“Does she have her own horse yet?” I ask. It’s a stupid question as I know the child isn’t two. I’m grasping at straws.

He nods and fingers the trim of an expensive saddle. “I’ve chosen a foal for her. He’s stationbred. They’ll learn together. For the moment she rides with me or Hana. She can sit up on her own but doesn’t have much control.”

I’m stunned. “Your affinity with the land; is it nature or nurture? Did someone teach you respect or is it something you always knew?”

“Both,” he replies and his grey irises turn the colour of granite for a moment. He puts the boots on the counter and draws out a wad of cash. “If you respect it, it will respect you.” He looks at me and I feel something deeper in play. When he leans toward me, I smell hay and summer sunshine on his clothes and skin. “The tangata whenua deserve the best we can give them. Some of them died to preserve what we have left.” He accepts the bag containing the boots from the cashier and shoves the receipt in his back pocket.  “You gonna let me go home now?” he asks. His tone is polite but forceful, the cadence lifting at the end of the sentence. A question but not a question.

Lost Opportunity

All I can do is nod and let him leave. He offers me his hand to shake again and my heart flutters as I realise I’d rather press noses with him in a hongi. I don’t want to let him go. His handshake is strong and fills me with a sense of safety.

He strides from the store clutching his gift with obvious care. The expensive ute he climbs into is spattered with mud from driving off road. The encounter leaves me feeling empty. I spent half an hour with him, yet know nothing more than my research told me. He’s a millionaire and the sexiest man I’ll ever meet.

I wince at the questions I didn’t get to ask. He’s spent twenty years teaching, both in New Zealand and abroad and I didn’t mention it. He’s widely travelled and highly academic. Until the court case, he kept his multi millionaire status a secret. Rumour says he first met his wife at fourteen on a short trip overseas. They didn’t meet again until twenty-six years later. The rumours must be wrong. Who’d let someone like him escape for that long?

I wanted to ask him about his birth father and his daughter’s namesake. They crafted him into the man he is now. Someone should shake their hands. Not that anyone could now.

I’m left with an impression of a powerful man who loves his family and owes a debt of loyalty to his heritage. He referred to the tangata whenua, the people of the land. His ancestors. The way he wants to impress them makes me feel as though they’re watching. That’s a new concept for a white New Zealander of European heritage.

He made a huge impact on me and he did it with the smallest action. It wasn’t the sense of threat when I strayed into topics he didn’t want me to, or his short, clipped answers. It wasn’t his stunning good looks or formidable reputation.

He made it when he picked up the boots for his wife. Real, genuine, love. I saw what makes Logan Du Rose tick and it’s not money, land or possessions. It’s her. Hana Du Rose is one lucky woman.

Facing the Music

I make the call to my editor and he sounds excited. My palms sweat. “Did you tell him?” he demands. “How does he feel about being voted New Zealand’s sexiest millionaire by our readers?”

I close my eyes and swallow. “Stoked,” I answer, forming the lie on my lips. “Real stoked.”

There’s a pause and then I hear him exhale in temper. He swears down the line about men who turn his best reporters to mush. He yells, “If you want a job doing well, do it yourself.” Then he swears again and terminates the call. I keep the phone against my ear, listening to the silence. Du Rose’s ute speeds along the on-ramp of the expressway and disappears out of sight.

I wonder if his mountain retreat has any vacancies. I think I just got fired.

K T Bowes is the author of The Hana Du Rose Mysteries set in New Zealand.
There are 9 books featuring Logan Du Rose and you can check them out
HERE.

If you want to read about Logan’s teenage encounter with Hana, you can grab that for 99c HERE

If you’d rather jump right into the series with About Hana, that’s free on all platforms HERE

 

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