A Love Like No Other
Release: December 16, 2011
Cover Artist: Delilah K. Stephans
Guiliana Domenico, a petite, red headed, thirty-year old divorcee with a volatile temper, is between jobs. One Friday night, she encounters a mysterious stranger who tells her to expect a call for an interview. She receives the call and agrees to an interview on Monday afternoon at a new agency in Washington D. C. The director, Giacomo Leoni, offers her a position but on a trial basis—which antagonizes her. Dr. Leoni, a handsome bachelor, is the only son of a Venetian Duke and an American mother. As the months pass, Guiliana discovers her physical attraction to him growing, despite her distrust of men . . . especially, Italian men. Although it’s difficult, she maintains her cool demeanor and Jake believes she has no interest in him—which pricks his male ego. The growing tension between them carries over into their professional relationship, straining Guiliana’s self-control. After two particularly stressful incidents, Guiliana again encounters the mysterious messenger and recognizes that they share an intense awareness of each other. As Christmas approaches, she realizes she’s in love with two different men: one she doesn’t completely trust; and the other who isn’t as he appears. On Christmas Eve Guiliana accepts her destiny.
Guiliana pushed through the revolving doors of the building not far from the Kennedy Center at twelve forty-five, and faced a guard through a bulletproof glass window.
“Good afternoon, I’m Dr. Domenico and I have a one o’clock appointment.”
“Yes, ma’am, you do,” the guard signaled to someone out of her line of sight. A man opened a side door and hailed her with enthusiasm.
“Doc G, good to see you, just like old times. Come this way, please.”
“Chuck, good to see you, too. Tell me, where am I?” She greeted the guard whom she’d first met when she joined Congressman Rodriguez’s staff. He’d been the chief of security at the Rayburn Building for the four years she’d worked there.
“Sorry, Doc, I can’t disclose that information—you know how it works—but you’ll find out soon enough.” Chuck apologized. “How’s life treating you and that brother of yours?”
“I’m fine and Marco’s great. He dropped me off so if you’re still on duty when I leave, you’ll have a chance to see him.”
They entered an office where a man in a dark suit sat at a computer terminal that faced the door.
“Dr. Domenico to see the Director,” Chuck's voice boomed into the stillness of the outer office. He turned to her, “I’ll see you when you’re finished here, Doc.”
Guiliana nodded to him and followed the other man into the inner office. Although smaller than she’d anticipated, the large-scale mahogany furnishings made the room shrink even more. A bank of televisions, each tuned to a different news program, sat on a credenza that stood along one wall. Jake Leoni sat behind the desk with his chair backed to the window, and the brilliant afternoon sun that shined into her eyes blinded Guiliana. He rose, came around the desk with the fluid grace of one of the larger felines, and held out his hand. When his fingers touched hers, she fought an instinctive urge to pull away.
“Dr. Domenico, welcome to the IAA. I’m Jake Leoni, and it’s nice to meet you. I believe I’m acquainted with your brother, although that isn’t official information, of course.”
Guiliana gave his hand a brief shake. Madonna mia, the man personified every woman’s secret dream. “How do you do, Dr. Leoni, and yes, you probably do know Marco. He’s very good at what he does, and he gets around.”
“Please sit down.” He gestured to a seating area out of the direct sunlight, which allowed her to study him in more detail. In appearance, he epitomized the Venetian aristocrat. His tall, lean build, broad shoulders, jet-black hair, and long-tailed ebony eyes called to mind, vivid images of Venice’s Byzantine past. Guiliana settled into the chair across from him.
The Director’s deep baritone voice interrupted her appraisal. “I’ve reviewed your resume and your experience, Dr. Domenico. Both are very impressive, but in truth, I’m afraid you’re over-educated and over-qualified for what I need in a Chief Administrative Officer, and my initial reason for agreeing to interview you is the fact that you are Marco’s sister. However, let’s talk about the qualifications I need in an AO, and then we can decide whether you want to join us.
“If we come to an agreement about the position, it will mean a major life change for you.” His comment echoed Marco’s words of seventy-two hours earlier. “From the day you report, you’ll be on call twenty-four/seven, and your private life, if you have time for one, will be under constant scrutiny. We would upgrade your clearances and assign a car and driver for your convenience if you wished.” He hesitated and his gaze raked her in a quizzical, inherently male assessment. “We’d also need to know about any of your personal relationships.”
Guiliana stiffened and her face colored a deep crimson. “Dr. Leoni, I make a studied effort never to place myself in any situation that compromises my professionalism or the security of my country. I’ll be happy to answer any questions,” she paused for emphasis, “your security manager has. Beyond that, my private life isn’t open for discussion with anyone else.”
Her embarrassment shifted to anger when she noted his brief appraising smile. In the next instant, she thought she’d imagined his reaction as his expression reflected only polite professionalism. Damn Italian male…every woman is a challenge.
“I don’t doubt your abilities to handle the job, but I’m concerned boredom will set in after a very short period of time. The present job description won’t allow you either the authority or the scope of your previous position.”
Guiliana kept her expression neutral, but she quailed inwardly. She needed a job and soon. This one would pay well, a consideration that outweighed its limitations.
“Since my previous position no longer exists, that’s a pointless comparison. All that matters is whether you feel I can handle the job.”
“Again, Dr. Domenico, my concern is the extent to which the position will hold your interest, not your qualifications.” He studied her through half-closed eyes for a minute before he came to a decision. “Why don’t we agree you’ll accept on a three-month trial basis? The provision allows both of us the option to make other arrangements if this doesn't work out.”
Guiliana held her breath and attempted to rein in her anger, but she knew her eyes flashed with temper and betrayed her agitation. What does he think I am—some twenty-one year old neophyte who needs a probationary period to prove myself? She nodded. “Your plan sounds sensible, Dr. Leoni. How soon shall I report for duty?”
“Shall we say next Monday? That’ll give all the interested parties the time to get the necessary documentation in place.”
“Fine, I’ll be here at eight next Monday.” Guiliana rose, but she didn’t extended her hand. “Thank you, I’m looking forward to joining the IAA.”