A World Made New
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The Venetian Masquerades Series
Genre Romantic Suspense
Release March 29, 2013
Editor Carrie RO
Line Editor Greta Gunselman
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
“Do you ever wonder where the nice women are?” International playboy Alessandro Falconieri’s question to his good friend and colleague, Jason Peters, couldn’t be more prophetic. He should be careful what he wishes. Sandro gets his answer when he acquires the Venetian villa once owned by his mother’s family from his cousin, Girardo Paladino. During the renovations, the contractor uncovers a sealed room—one that has kept its secrets for generations. Alessandro calls on his cousin now elevated to the rank of Monsignor and still on loan to the Vatican. Girardo engages cultural anthropologist, Doctor Siena Jordan, to lend her expertise for a price. Siena’s crystal blue eyes hint at secrets, but her face is a mask of calm serenity—one that cloaks her pain. Siena discovers the clue to unravel the puzzle, but will its solution provide a common meeting ground—or drive them further apart?
Music swelled, a complicated succession of trilled notes in a minor key filling the empty recesses of the entry hall, its crescendo echoing off the hard stone surfaces. Siena halted in mid-step. The piano concerto could only issue from one source—the expert keyboarding of a master. All assurances to the contrary, Alessandro Falconieri was in residence at the villa. Faced with the choice between curiosity and retreat, Siena tossed a mental coin and curiosity won. She cleared a nervous tickle from her throat and mounted the staircase toward the music room that she’d discovered during her tour of exploration the previous day. A rueful shake of her head confessed the thought the composer would appear during her stay hadn’t figured in her calculations. She entered without knocking and caught her breath at the sight of the man sitting on a stool at the Steinway. His half-closed eyes and the intensity of his concentration on the music only added to his physical aura. Not that it needs any help. So golden Apollo must have appeared when the muse was upon him.
Alessandro’s surprise at her sudden appearance caused his hand to still mid-stroke on the Steinway’s keyboard. He swiveled on the bench and gazed at her in silence.
“I beg your pardon. I didn’t intend to interrupt.” Siena’s words came out in a rush.
“No need… To beg my pardon that is.” His eyes swept over her in a brief glance of pure masculine appraisal.
Caution gave Siena’s smile the coolness people in the past mistook for unfriendliness. “I am extremely grateful I came to visit.”
His eyes again roamed the face and figure of the petite woman facing him. He watch her eyes freeze to crystal ice.
“Are you expected?” The ice slid from her eyes to her voice.
“Apparently not, but after all, I’m Falconieri and known for doing the unexpected.” He shrugged his shoulders in a self-deprecatory manner as if disclaiming the reputation.
She merely raised an eyebrow in astonishment. “Does your staff know you’ve arrived, or should I alert them to your…presence for dinner?”
“I’ve already taken care of the housekeeping details. I plan to stay for a few days. Now that we have the formalities out of the way, perhaps you’ll tell me what progress you’ve made on our…discovery.”
Siena took a step back and forced herself to relax the muscles of her shoulders, which she tightened unconsciously at his announcement. The sudden thought the composer was the one paying her fees, not the Monsignor, caused her to re-evaluate her dismay at his sudden appearance. “I’ll be happy to give you my initial findings, but perhaps you’d rather I wait until you’ve finished…” her words tapered off. Practicing, composing—how should I refer to what I interrupted?
He rose from the bench, crossed the room, and placed a hand at the small of her back. She stiffened at the unexpectedness of his gesture. He removed his hand and gazed down at the briefcase she held in her left hand. “You’ve just returned. Forgive me. Why don’t I have Franco bring us something cold to drink—say in fifteen minutes?”
“That would be lovely, Mr. Falconieri. I’ll meet you on the loggia.” Siena nodded once in his direction and beat a dignified, albeit hurried retreat.
* * * *
Alessandro stared at her departing figure. Her hasty exit took on the appearance of flight. He looked at the image of himself reflected in the Venetian mirror placed over the marble mantle of the fireplace to see if he’d grown horns and a pointed tail in the last fifteen minutes. A tall, handsome man, his brown hair streaked with golden highlights that complemented the golden tone of his tanned face, gazed back at him. Nope, nothing there to cause a panicked exodus. The paparazzi doesn’t do me any favors, but they have never accused me of waylaying unsuspecting victims either. What gives? He shrugged off the feeling of distaste thinking about the vagrancies of the press always caused and went in search of Franco. Both the hour and the circumstances called for wine and some late afternoon canapés.
* * * *
In the bath adjoining her room, Siena splashed her face with cold water, brushed out her tangle of blonde curls, and refreshed her light makeup. With her armor in place, she picked up the notes she’d made at the library, descended the stairs, and found her way to the south loggia. Alessandro stood at the railing directing Franco to place a tray containing cold San Pellegrino, a carafe of a straw-colored wine, and a plate of canapés on the small table set between two carved marble chairs. She noted the bright floral print pillows that cushioned the hard seats.
“Doctor Jordan, perhaps we could start over. Let me introduce myself. I am Alessandro Falconieri and I am delighted you agreed to give me the benefit of your expertise.” A polite, charming smile sparkled in the depths of his dark blue eyes.
Thrown off balance, Siena stared at him for a minute in consternation before her sense of the ridiculous surfaced. “How are you, Mr. Falconieri? I am happy to make your acquaintance and the benefit of my expertise is all yours—for a price of course.”
“Touché.” He gestured to one of the chairs. “Please, sit and let me pour you something to drink. Will you have sparkling water or a glass of wine?”
She stole a quick look at her watch. “Since lunch can’t be far off, I’ll have both, thank you.” She waited while he poured her drinks and then settled his long, well-built body in the other chair.
“Now, tell me. What are your initial impressions?”