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Diana Fraser

Summer at the Lakehouse Café (PAPERBACK)

Summer at the Lakehouse Café (PAPERBACK)

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A staunchly independent solo mum. A winemaker who has lost his family. A summer in which to learn to trust again.

Lizzi Burnett part owns and runs The Lakehouse Café. But when her abusive ex-husband wants her to sell unless she can pay him out, she’s determined that she’ll do it her way or not at all. Because she refuses to trust anyone with her or her daughter, Aimee’s, lives. She won’t even trust Pete, who she first meets emerging from the lake like a god—or at least like a kiwi Daniel Craig.

Pete has re-located to New Zealand’s Mackenzie country to start afresh. His family are all dead and he wants to move forward with his life… move forward with Lizzi and Aimee. But what he doesn’t realize is that the hurt he sees in Lizzi’s eyes is only a fraction of what lies hidden, deep inside her. And it’ll take a whole lot of soul-searching and loving to heal that…

This emotional and suspenseful women’s fiction book will give you all the feels. Sit back, put your feet up and prepare to go on a journey with the Mackenzie brothers and their close friends as they fall in love. But don’t expect an easy road to their happy ever afters! There are intense emotions and unexpected twists and turns because these macho men fall for strong women with minds of their own!

If you love women's fiction with no explicit sex scenes, The Mackenzies series is a great fit for you!

—The Mackenzies—

A Place Called Home
Secrets at Parata Bay
Escape to Shelter Springs
What you See in the Stars
Second Chance at Whisper Creek
Summer at the Lakehouse Café



The sun hadn’t yet risen above the mountains when Lizzi Burnett drove down the dusty track to the secluded bay. She parked at the very end of the track, where the lake—a pale blue in the early-morning light—was framed between stands of tall pine trees.
She lowered the window of her car and cut the engine. Lulled by the sound of lapping water and the honeyed fragrance of wild lupins and dried grass, she sighed and closed her eyes.
She loved these rare moments when she was alone with nothing but the pristine ring of mountains that cradled the Mackenzie basin, with the township of Shelter Springs and Shelter Lake at its center. High up in New Zealand’s South Island, the world felt fresh, beautiful and full of hope again, reminding her of how she’d felt when she was young, growing up by the sea. It seemed a long time ago.
She opened the car door, noting the rust which would have to last another year before she could afford to do anything about it, and closed it quietly, reluctant to disturb the birdsong.
Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she walked to the grassy bank above the small beach. She was wearing her swimming togs under her clothes and was about to undress when she paused and sat on the springy grass instead.
Maybe it was because she was tired, but she felt different this morning. She glanced across to the other side of the lake to her cottage beside The Lakehouse Café where she and her daughter lived. But Aimee wasn’t there this morning. She was staying at her grandfather’s house in Akaroa for the week. It meant Lizzi could devote her entire attention to the café. It also meant that she felt a yawning gap in her heart and life which she hadn’t anticipated.
Life was so busy that she thought she’d enjoy a few days on her own, focusing on what she needed to get done. And she had, but not without missing Aimee every second of every day.
She wondered how on earth she’d get on when Aimee was old enough to leave home. But even though that was years away—Aimee was only six—she knew. Once you had a child, they never left you, you never stopped worrying about them.
The sun peeped over the mountain and spread its rich light over the lake and the grassy plains, turning them to fire. The vision was so majestic, so ridiculous, Lizzi laughed and, instead of stripping and running into the water, she lay on the grass. The last wisps of clouds were already evaporating under what would be another scorching hot day.
She was so lucky. Aimee was safe. She was safe. And she loved her work, running the café. She plucked a piece of grass, popped it into her mouth and began chewing it as her mind wandered over what she had to do that day.
Suddenly she frowned. The soothing sound of the gentle waves breaking over the pebbles was overtaken by a rhythmic splash. She narrowed her eyes as she tried to place the cause. Not a bird—it was too rhythmic, and not the wind—it was too powerful. A wave of nausea washed over her and she sat up. She hated surprises, hated the unpredictable.
She didn’t see him to begin with. Then the light from the sun flashed on the white plume of water as an arm struck into the ice blue of the lake’s surface. The angle of the sun made it difficult to see clearly. It was followed by another and then another, as the swimmer came ever closer to the bay. She looked around in panic. It was her bay. She never saw anyone else here. She grabbed her bag, pulled on her cardigan and walked quickly toward the car, hoping to get there before the lone swimmer reached the beach.
She hurried across the few hundred yards which separated the grassy bank from her car, and opened the car door. She hesitated then. This was ridiculous. Why should her adrenaline surge at the thought of a stranger? Why should she dive straight away into a fight or flight response when she came across something she hadn’t predicted? She knew why. But she was sick of it. Sick of running, sick of being scared. It was these thoughts which made her turn to the swimmer. But it was what she saw next which made her stand stock-still.
A man rose up from the lake, the bright light of the sun nearly blinding her as it reflected off the water which ran in thick rivulets from his body. He waded toward her, thrusting forward with an energy and power which had her completely fixated. His leg muscles were long and taut, pushing the water out of his way, creating waves that rippled out across the lake as if he were a one-man tsunami.
He was wearing shorts which clung to his thighs and his hips, revealing every contour. She lifted her eyes to his stomach—which showed the kind of six-pack only seen on models—and to his chest and shoulders which had the breadth and strength of a swimmer. He swept his hair from his face and twisted around, looking up toward the mountains, whose white caps flamed like torches in the morning sun.
Lizzi licked her lips and drew in a deep breath. Who was this man with the looks of a god, or at least of Daniel Craig, and what was he doing out here, in the middle of nowhere—her nowhere to be precise?
He turned suddenly and saw her. She felt her cheeks flame as ruddy as the mountain tops as she realized how she appeared—standing, openly eyeing him up. A grin spread across his face, revealing even white teeth and dimples in his cheeks. Seemed he didn’t mind being eyed up.
He waved one tanned, strong arm. “Morning!”
“Morning!” she said, too huskily. She cleared her throat. “Good morning!” This time it sounded too loud in the stillness of the bay.
He continued toward her, his feet apparently unaware of the stones on which he was walking. She focused fixedly on his eyes. Damn! They were of a blue to compete with the sky. But she daren’t look anywhere else for fear she’d focus on that physique and not raise her eyes again.
“It’s a beauty,” he said.
“Certainly is.” She couldn’t disagree with that.
“Do you think it’ll last?”
What? Her face must have conveyed her confusion because he laughed and the sheer happiness she heard there brought a smile to her own lips.
“They’ve forecast rain later,” he explained.
“Oh,” she said as she suddenly realized what they were talking about. “They’re always forecasting rain to make the farmers more optimistic. But it usually doesn’t. Rain, I mean. Or,” she added as an afterthought as she tried to get her brain into gear, “make the farmers optimistic.”
Another heart-stopping grin. She had to ask.
“Where did you come from?” They were miles from Shelter Springs, and there were no other cars around. If he’d answered that he’d dropped from the sky in a parachute or emerged from the water itself, like some kind of lake spirit—the kind women dreamed of at night—she didn’t think she’d be surprised.
“I ran here.”
“Oh!” Turned out a rational explanation was more surprising.
He narrowed his eyes against the increasing brightness of the sun and indicated the motel a couple of miles away, low against the horizon, on the edge of Shelter Springs township. “I’m staying over at the motel with my mates. Thought I’d fit in an early morning run. And”—he glanced at the lake—“when I saw this inlet, I had to go for a swim. What an amazing place.” He turned to her suddenly. “Are you about to go for a swim?”
She flexed her hand on the door handle, as her mind raced over how to answer. “Yes. Well, I was. But, I don’t know. Probably not now.”
“It’s pretty cold, but good when you get in.”
She smiled. “After the first gasp you look up to the mountains, and you forget to be cold.”
He followed her gaze. “Takes you out of yourself. Makes you forget your problems.”
She stared at him. She couldn’t believe that someone that gorgeous could have any problems. Stupid thing to think. Good looks didn’t stop the world from dumping on you.
“So do you come here often?” He grinned and rolled his eyes. “The oldest chat-up line in the book.”
She narrowed her eyes and looked away. Was he flirting with her? She couldn’t remember the last time anyone had tried that. Maybe a few clichéd lines in the café, but nothing for real. She decided the best thing to do was ignore it.
“Yes, I like to come here when I can.” She nearly said when Aimee wasn’t with her. But that would be revealing too much. She’d learned over the years that you didn’t do that. That way lay trouble. “It’s close to town, but you feel like you’re away from it all. How about you? Visiting?”
“I’m here for a week, catching up with friends and hoping to do some business. I’m in the winery industry and looking around for new investments.”
“Well, there are a few wineries west of here which might interest you.”
“Yes, I’m looking at one today.”
“Which one?”
“Tussock Hills.”
“Ah, yes, I heard they were interested in selling up. Pretty remote though.”
He shrugged. “Remote doesn’t bother me. I live on Waiheke Island. My family has been there for generations.”
“Waiheke? I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s beautiful. Warm climate, beautiful place. And yet you want to move?”
“There’s more to a place than weather and scenery. There’s only me now. I’ve been looking for a new place to start things over. And this place appeals.” He glanced at her. “In a number of ways.”
She nodded. She, of all people, understood the urge to begin again. But she didn’t have the luxury of picking up her life, her child, and her job, and moving on. She had no money for one thing. And, for another, this was Aimee’s home.
“It looks like some of the land’s already been sold for development.” He gestured toward a long, low house that had been recently built on the lake front.
“Oh that. I’m hoping no one will buy it. I’ve never seen anyone there and it’s too far from Queenstown and Wanaka to be of interest to many.”
The man grunted as he took in the scene. “It’s got a great view.”
“It’s even better from the house.”
He glanced at her. “Is it?”
“Yeah. It’s built on a rise, and you can see across the lake, over toward the town and beyond.”
He grunted and ran up to the side of the house. “You’re right. You can even see Lonely Peak from here.”
“And Kairua Peak.”
“Kairua Peak? Which one’s that? Come and show me.”
Lizzi relaxed her grip on the door handle and pushed the door closed. Despite her wariness, she couldn’t resist the invitation; couldn’t resist the man, it would seem. She walked up to him, her only thoughts were of his tanned body, strong and masculine. She imagined how those muscles would feel under her fingertips, flexing in response to her touch. She looked away quickly and pointed to the mountain.
“It’s the peak directly behind that long ridge.”
“Oh, yes.”
But when she glanced at him, it was her he was looking at. He smiled again, and she felt something melt inside. Those warm blue eyes, that smile… So engaging, so good-humored and, so seductive… She looked away quickly. She should leave. Now.
When she looked back, he’d sat on the grass, his arms behind, supporting him, as he surveyed the view. She knew she should leave. This man was trouble. She knew what she had to do, but, instead, she sat a little distance from him and folded her legs beneath her. She plucked a long piece of grass and twisted it around her finger, refusing to listen to that warning voice in her head.
“If I had the money I’d buy this like a shot,” she said.
“A bit isolated. That wouldn’t worry you?”
“I like being on my own. But—” She stopped suddenly.
She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”
He frowned. “Aren’t you hot with that cardigan on?”
She plucked at the sleeve. It was ridiculous, but she’d got into the habit of covering up, after years of her ex-husband demanding it. She shrugged. “No. I’m fine.” But even as she said the words, the heat of the sun—or was it simply his proximity—caused a flush to her cheeks.
“Really?” he said wryly. “I’d hate to see what you wore in winter.”
“More of the same.” She looked at him and grinned. “Three layers deep. And some.”
He grunted a laugh. “Shame.”
“It’s always a shame to cover up something—or someone—beautiful.”
“Oh.” She turned away.
“Sorry,” he said, looking anywhere but at her. “I didn’t mean to be personal, to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just a fact.”
Was it? It had been years since she’d felt beautiful, since she’d believed anyone who’d told her that. Years in which she’d ignored her physical self. She rose and folded her arms. “I’d best be off.”
He also stood. “What time is it?”
Without thinking she pulled up her sleeve to check her watch. “Nearly seven-thirty.” She caught his gaze, looking at her forearm, white from the lack of sun.
“You really do like to cover up, don’t you?” He smiled, but there was a curiosity in his eyes. “Is that why you come to a remote spot to swim?”
For a few moments, she couldn’t take her eyes off his—his blue eyes seemed more violet now, warmer, full of interest.
She tried to shake her head, but there was something in his gaze which stopped her, something which demanded the truth. Or at least a semblance of it. “Habit. It’s silly really.” She gnawed her lip and then made a decision. Let him see. She was sick of hiding. Still holding his gaze, she pushed up both sleeves and held them out. “I’ve a few burns I’m self-conscious of.”
Her cheeks flushed as she focused on her arms, not wanting to see his reaction. The burns weren’t extensive, but what they did was make people ask questions, questions she didn’t want to answer.
“How did they happen?”
She still focused on her arms. “Accidents. Accidents happen sometimes.”
He nodded and then, to her surprise, he reached out and gently, so gently, it was like the touch of a feather against her skin, he swept up her arm, moving over the shiny scar tissue, gently over the ridges of puckered skin. She felt an echo of the sensation—sometimes acute, sometimes numbed by the nerve damage—deep inside her body, in places which had no right to respond to his touch.
His eyes followed the movement of his finger, which hovered briefly over her wrist, before pulling away. “Accidents do happen. But not like that.”
She looked at him sharply. How on earth did he know? Not that she was prepared to ask. Not that she was prepared to continue the conversation. She wanted it out in the open and it was. Trouble was, his response had been more unsettling than hiding her scars from him.
“I’m in the hospitality industry. Accidents happen there,” she said, deliberately vague.
“Sure.” He shook his head again, contradicting his response.
Her phone went and she took it from her bag and shaded the glare with her hand to see the message. She smiled at Aimee’s message. “It’s my daughter. She wants me to call her.” When she saw the reaction on his face, part of her wished she hadn’t spoken.
“You have a daughter? How old is she?”
“You’re lucky. Must be great.”
“It… has its moments.”
“Anyway, you call her. I need to get back.” He extended his hand. She took it and tried to suppress the charge of lust which shot through her at the warmth and pressure of his hand around hers. “It was great meeting you.” He moved away too soon and pulled on his running shoes.
“And you.” She smiled briefly, trying to adjust to this sudden withdrawal of interest. “Enjoy the rest of your stay. When—” She managed to stop herself from asking when he’d be leaving.
“Sorry?” He turned.
She shook her head. “Nothing. Anyhow, I’d best be off.”
He shrugged on his t-shirt. His shorts had dried off a little but still clung teasingly to his shape.
“I don’t know your name,” she called out as he picked up pace.
He turned and ran backward for a few paces. “I guess not!” He grinned and continued on his way.
She’d taken a risk, showing her scars. She’d thought from his response that he hadn’t been sickened by what he’d seen. But it seemed she was wrong. Seemed he couldn’t get away from her fast enough and that he had no interest in knowing her name or any intention of seeing her again.
She looked away from the sight of him running along the track to the highway, and strode to the water’s edge, pulling her cardigan and dress off as she went. She tossed them to one side, kicked her shoes off and ran into the water and dived, her body brushing the stony bed before emerging into the sunlight. Her body was numb from the sudden blast of cool water. If only she could numb her heart with equal ease.

Pete ran along the path, unable to wipe a grin from his face. He’d recognized her straight away from the photo her brother had shown him. But the photo had nothing on the real woman. When he’d first seen her, he’d thought he’d drowned and gone to heaven. That chestnut hair that fell in waves around her face, that bright smile, those brown eyes that melted and caressed you. They had the same effect as chocolate—irresistible and, he feared, addictive.
And then her scars. If she was trying to put him off, she’d failed. His experience in the army had shown him many things: self-inflicted harm, harm inflicted by others, and accidental harm. And her scars were definitely not accidental. They’d done nothing more than intrigue him, and move him. Somehow their contrast to her beauty had simply made her appear more beautiful.
And then there was the expression on her face as he’d left. No, he hadn’t done the predictable thing and asked her out, even though he could see she was expecting it. He hadn’t asked to see her again because there was no need. He’d be seeing her in a few hours, even if she didn’t know it.

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