Dutch Courage is here! The fourth book in the Love in the Lowlands series is Char’s story.
When Nico runs Char over with his bike on the Greek island of Rhodes, Char looks up to find a Greek god staring down at her. Actually, Nico is Dutch, but she’s not being picky.
Two days in Greece turn into a long-distance relationship, but Char wants more than occasional visits. She gives up her life in Wisconsin and moves to Holland to be with Nico. Except when she arrives in Holland, Nico ghosts her.
She probably should have told him she was moving across the ocean to live in The Hague to be near him before giving up everything back home. She needs to figure out what to do pronto before her brand-spanking-new American friends in The Hague take over.
She just needs to gather a bit of Dutch Courage first.
What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite:
I lift my face to the sun and throw out my arms before twirling around in a circle.
“Isn’t this wonderful? The absolute best! Can you believe this weather? Why don’t we live here full-time? Back home, they’re in the middle of a spring snowstorm and here we are with the sun shining and blue skies.”
“It’s bad karma to rub the weather in people’s faces,” my sister, Robin, points out.
I let my arms drop and stick my tongue out at her. “Don’t be a Debbie Downer. I’m not rubbing it in anyone’s face. I’m merely commenting on how wonderful the weather here in Greece is and enjoying not being in cold Wisconsin.” I do an exaggerated shiver at the idea of being back home right now.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my home. There’s a lot to love. My family and friends are nearby. I have a great job that fulfills me even if it sounds corny to say so. And my apartment is absolutely adorable. But the weather? Yuck. A thousand times yuck.
I am not going to think about snow in April right now. I’m on the Greek island of Rhodes and not back home dealing with snow boots, shoveling the driveway, or having my fifteen-minute commute turn into a two-hour drama. I shake my head and push those thoughts right out of my mind.
“I don’t understand why we can’t be on the beach right now,” Robin whines.
“We have plenty of time to lay on the beach. I want to see this monastery.”
“Of course, you do.” Do I detect a fair bit of sarcasm coming from my dear sister? Why, yes. Yes, I do. “But why do we have to hike up this hill? We could have rented a car.”
We’re on our way to the Monastery of Filerimos. I’m absolutely dying to visit since the architecture is different than the usual monasteries in Greece. It was built by the Knights of Saint John in the 15th Century and constructed with stone in a Gothic style.
I wish I was an architect. But after two classes in architectural making at college, I realized I’m more into looking at pretty buildings than I am into designing them. I thought about studying art history, but my dad nearly had a coronary at the idea. Since he paid for my college education and I didn’t want to put him in an early grave, I chose to major in accounting.
“It’s great exercise. After we’ve done this hike, we’ll be able to eat and drink whatever we want all day long without feeling guilty. We can laze at the beach and do absolutely nothing while drinking those fancy cocktails you like.”
“I wouldn’t have felt guilty without doing this ten-mile hike,” she grumbles.
“It’s ten kilometers, not ten miles. There’s one point six miles in a kilometer making the hike slightly over six miles. Six point two miles to be exact. If I’m being truly accurate, it’s six point two one three seven miles.”
She shoves my shoulder. “Math nerd.”
“Being able to divide ten by one point six does not make me a math nerd.”
Truth is I am a bit of a math nerd. You have to at least like math to end up in accounting. Numbers, numbers, numbers – it’s what we do all day long every day of the year.
I thread my arm through her elbow. “Come on. I think this is the last curve before we see the monastery.”
We’re doing our best to hug the side of the road as we walk since there’s not much of a shoulder on this hilly road. As we follow the bend in the road, I hear shouting before a bike appears out of the blue.
“Watch out,” the biker shouts.
I push Robin to the side, but there’s no time for me to escape. The breaks on the bike squeal as the rider tries to stop his forward momentum, but it’s too late. He barrels right into me. I fly into the bush as the bike crashes on its side.
“Shit. Shit. Are you okay? How do you ask if you’re okay in Greek?”
“Ow! How the hell would I know?” I ask as I rub the shoulder I fell on. It feels wet. I pull my hand away to look at it and discover it’s covered in blood. Crap.
“Move out on my way, you big behemoth. Let me see my sister.”
“I was a scout. I know first aid,” he says as he examines at my shoulder. “Verdorie! You’re bleeding.”
I hold up my hand covered in blood. “No shit, Sherlock. What was your first clue?”
He chuckles. “An English woman with a sense of humor. I thought they didn’t exist.”
I glare at him. “I’m not English. I’m American, you imbecile.”
He inclines his head. “My apologies. Now, do you have any bandages with you? We need to clean the wound and cover it.”
“Yes, of course, I do. I always carry a package of bandages and antibiotic crème with me while I’m hiking in the wilds of Greece.”
He smiles. “Excellent.”
“I’m being sarcastic. Don’t they have sarcasm in Greece?”
“Oh, I’m not Greek. I’m Dutch. Nicolaas de Ruiter at your service.” He does a little bow.
Despite my shoulder burning something fierce, I take a moment to check out the man. He has dark wavy hair I want to run my hands through to see if it’s as soft as it looks. My hands itch to touch his olive-toned skin to discover if the color is natural or the result of suntanning on the beach. His eyes are dark brown and, despite the circumstances, sparkling with mirth. I don’t know what he thinks is amusing, but I want to find out.
I’m forgiving myself for thinking he was Greek because he most definitely looks Greek. In fact, he looks like a man you’d find on the cover of some vacation romance novel set in Greece.
“I’m Charlotte. You can call me Char or Charlotte, but never Charlie.” I wrinkle my nose. “Charlie is a boy’s name. And the woman leaning over your shoulder is my sister Robin. We’re on vacation.”
“Is the introduction hour over now?” Robin asks. “Maybe we can take care of your shoulder. You know, the one that’s bleeding.” Sarcasm runs in our family.
Before I have a chance to respond, Nicolaas stands and whips off his t-shirt. Now, this is the picture you’ll find on the cover of a romance novel. A sexy romance novel. Wowzer! Someone works out. I lift my hand to touch the ridges of his six-pack abs, but then I remember I literally met this man less than five minutes ago. No touching allowed, Char.
“Here,” he says and places his t-shirt against my bleeding shoulder.
“Ouch! Take it easy. Looking like a Greek god doesn’t give you all-healing powers you know.”
“You think I look like a Greek god? I may not be Greek but for you, I can pretend.” He winks.
Robin shoves him out of the way. “Maybe we should clean the wound first, lady killer.” She peels the t-shirt away and lifts her water bottle to douse me. I raise my hands to stop her.
“Let’s wait to clean the wound until we’re somewhere I can take my shirt off.” I’m wearing a white tank top. There’s no way she can clean my shoulder without it getting wet. The whole word doesn’t need to get a look at my bra.
Nicolaas wiggles his eyebrows at me. “I can take your top off for you.”
I shove him away. “Creep.”
“I’m merely trying to help.”
A bike skids to a stop next to us. “Wat is er gebeurd?”
Nicolaas motions to the man on the bike. “This is my friend Guus.”
I glance over at the man, but I’m having a hard time looking away from Nicolaas’ bare chest. I notice there’s a smattering of dark hair near his belly button, but otherwise, his chest is devoid of hair. I do love a man who doesn’t have too much chest hair. Miles of smooth skin for my hands to explore.
“We need to get you back to the hotel to clean your wound.” Robin’s words break my trance.
Yes, Charlotte, maybe you should concentrate on being injured instead of drooling over some guy you just met. Some guy who is the reason you’re injured in the first place.
“Okay,” I say and stumble to my feet with Nicolaas’ help.
“Come on. I’ll take you on my bike.”
My eyes widen. He has got to be kidding me. “I’m not getting on that death trap!”
He places his hands over his heart and flutters his lashes. “I’m wounded. A dutchman’s bike is sacred.”
I roll my eyes. “Whatever. I’m not riding on the handlebars.”
“It’s too far to walk back with you injured,” Robin points out.
“Here.” Nicolaas shoves the bike my way. “You can take my bike. I’ll walk back and pick my bike up at your hotel later.”
I bite my lip and study the bike. I haven’t been on one since I was a teenager. And the road is steep as all get out. Trust me, I know. I walked up it.
“Come on,” he pushes, “it’s the least I can do since I ran into you and all.” He’s not wrong.
I guess biking is better than walking. I grab hold of the handlebars. “Thank you,” I say before telling him the name of the hotel where we’re staying and hop on the bike.
“Hey! What about me?” Robin shouts before I can leave.
Guus grunts. “Here. Take my bike.”
I offer Nicolaas his shirt, but he cringes when he sees his white t-shirt is now stained red. “It’s fine. You keep it.”
The bike wobbles as I start pedaling. I tighten my grip on the handlebars. I can do this. There’s a reason for the saying it’s like riding a bike after all.
“See you later,” I shout at Nicolaas and Guus, but I don’t look back. I don’t trust myself to not wipe out if I look anywhere but straight in front of me. One accident is my limit for the day.