A Shore of Secrets
Can Abi learn to trust, and Giovanni to forgive?
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- Genre: Contemporary Romance
- Tags Romance, contemporary romance, women’s fiction, Italy, Venice, holiday resort, British heroine, secrecy, trust, travel, hot Italian, foreign romance, vacation, secrets,
- Release: May 24, 2013
- Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
- Pages 257
- ISBN 978-1-77127-330-5
- Price $5.95
‘Italia! Oh Italia! Thou who hast the fatal gift of beauty.’ Byron
And Venice is exquisite. Nor is the beauty confined to the place. Hotelier Giovanni Renaldi is tall, dark, and devilishly handsome. Yet holiday representative Abi seems immune to his charms. Crossed in love, she’s in no hurry to fall again. Plus his arrogance is so infuriating.
Surely the discomforting feelings he evokes can only be guilt at covering for his naive sister’s secret lover?
When passion finally wins through, the thrill of their lovemaking is soon wrecked. Giovanni, proud and fierce defender of his family since inheriting the role of patriarch, is enraged to learn Abi has colluded with his sister.
But Abi quickly discovers her secrecy is nothing compared to Giovanni’s. As the family’s closely guarded secrets begin to unfold, she is sucked against her will into their internal wrangling.
Is nothing what it seems in this clandestine community?
And can love triumph over the turmoil of scarred lives?
The entrance to the Casa Mia was to the right of the piazza, now buzzing with early evening activity as people spilled out to join in with the pre-dinner passeggiata. A slow-moving river of holidaymakers glided along the pedestrian-only shopping street, reputed to be the longest in Europe. From time to time, a group would dip out of the main flow to browse around one of the endless shops that lined the route. Others scanned menus on display outside the equally proliferate restaurants. Women in fine, tailored dresses and elegant gold jewellery promenaded arm-in-arm with designer-clad males. And then there was the younger set, exchanging playful banter, eager to show off their fashionable clothes. Families, too, strolled in convoy, at one in their low-key unfussy holiday attire. It was that type of resort. Nobody looked out of place.
She paused to retrieve the note from her bag and scrutinised the writing to check she had not misread anything.
“Hey, Abi!” A voice sounded from behind her.
Turning, she acknowledged the client with a bright, “Hi. Everything okay?”
“Great.” The woman’s low-cut dress revealed angry red strips across her breasts.
She hunched a resigned shrug, accustomed by now to her clients’ ingrained disregard for the strength of the sun. Despite repeated warnings, it was an endemic madness for which the farmacia had an endless supply of high-strength creams. Thank goodness. The added complication of clients with severe burns would make her job intolerable. In the event, life was not so bad.
A trail of deep, pink bougainvillea escaped from the dense curtain of colourful bracts enshrouding the entrance to the Casa Mia. Stooping to push it back, she allowed a small smile to curve her lips.
“Ciao.” A disembodied voice chimed the moment she stepped into the foyer.
She turned to acknowledge Francesca beaming a broad smile from over in the dining room. The young girl’s perfect, naturally white teeth dazzled even from a distance.
“Ciao,” Abi responded, her spirits lifted as ever. Francesca’s vitality bubbled over clear and bright, as refreshing as a mountain spring.
“Come stai? Okay?” With careless abandon, the young girl threw down a handful of cutlery and proceeded to lay the table.
"Così." Abi twitched a little shoulder shrug.
Stopping her frenetic activity, the Italian girl fixed an earnest gaze on her. The brown eyes were anxious, almost child-like, as if a dimmer switch turned down the light in the youthful face. "Problema?"
"I've come to meet Mr. Henderson." Abi swept the vicinity with vigilant eyes and then lobbed her a wink.
A discordant clatter of cutlery resonated through the air. Francesca was by her side in no time. "He is no happy?"
She grinned at the young girl, so fresh-faced and eager to please. Despite her best intentions, Francesca was like a butterfly—beautiful and graceful, always flitting here and there so you could never be certain what she was likely to do next.
"Francesca!" Another disembodied voice echoed from the depths of the dining room, this one harsh and impatient. "Tavola!"
"Un momento!" Rolling her eyes, Francesca blatantly disregarded the command.
"It's okay. Mr. Henderson knows I'm meeting him here. You go back to the tables and I’ll wait." An oblique smile played at the corner of Abi’s mouth, reassuring the younger girl, and she pulled Rosa’s note from her bag, creased into neat folds, despite its dog-eared state.
However, the voice was upon them before there was time to act. Giovanni's tall, dark form loomed out of the shadowy interior, the short sleeves of his crisp, white shirt a vivid contrast to his deep olive colouring.
"Francesca!" A spark of temper lit his eyes to flaming gold and, with a commanding nod, he ushered his sister back to her abandoned duties.
"Hallo." He turned to Abi, his annoyance curbed, and he adopted the cool, crisp, business-like manner that was his usual demeanour. "Can I help you?"
His tone was mild, yet when she lifted her gaze she was hit by the piercing intensity of his stare. Her heart gave a little leap.
"Thank you. I already have an appointment to meet Mr. Henderson here." Unsettled by the sensation of being scrutinised and assessed, she glanced aside. With a dry cough, she cleared her throat and endeavoured to regain the equilibrium he had destroyed. Her eyes shot back to him. “Actually, yes, you can help. Maybe you could explain what happened last night? I need to complete a full and accurate report. There are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment.”
He turned his watchful stare on her again. “It was nothing of any consequence. The fire alarm in the kitchen was triggered by some smoke from a pan.”
“At one o’clock in the morning?”
“Signor Donadini was making himself a snack. We hoteliers often have to eat at odd hours.” His manner remained bland, despite his obvious impatience.
“And the ambulance?”
“There was a minor mishap and the pan caught fire. Signor Donadini burnt his arm whilst putting it out and I insisted he should have the wound checked. There’s no need to make a drama of the situation.” Swiping the air with his hand as if to erase the words, he signalled the matter was closed. His body language defied her to question him further.
A surge of anger threatened Abi’s equilibrium again. She, and not he, should be in the role of assessor. Yet Giovanni oozed authority from every pore. Not for the first time in his presence, she found herself struggling to maintain a professional standing. She caught his ironic smile, as if he was enjoying her discomfort.
“Is that all?”
“Hmm...” Her tone was sceptical, conveying she was far from convinced, and her combative gaze clashed against his.
For a fleeting second, his eyes seemed to spark. What the hell went on behind them she couldn’t begin to imagine. The moment passed. With one bat of his long lashes, he renewed his assault with a stare so icy it would have frozen a geyser.