Authors: Melinda De Ross
FALLING FOR ITALY
Melinda De Ross
A Melinda De Ross Book
Falling for Italy
Copyright © 2015 Melinda De Ross
Cover design by Classy Designs
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED:
This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
To my husband. I know this one is your favorite.
FALLING FOR ITALY
Melinda De Ross
Copyright © 2015
Part One—Snowflakes And Seduction
“But already my desire and my will
Were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed,
By the Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”
The recoil sent a pleasant wave of shock through her arm, but her posture never wavered. Neither did her aim. The gun seemed to be an extension of her hand and the barrel felt like the prolonging of her index finger. She fired another four rounds before removing the magazine and checking the pistol’s chamber.
She put the gun on the shooting desk, removed her earplugs and yellow shooting eyeglasses, then peeked through her telescope. She smiled. Only two shots in the
segment. The rest of twenty-eight were all grouped in the tiny
She pressed the button and the paper target slid toward her. She took it and analyzed it, studying the group of neat small holes that were a bit to the right from dead center. She ran a hand through her short black hair, recently cut into a bob that left her neck bare, then turned a screw on the side of the pistol, thus adjusting its aim so the shots would go perfect center—with a perfect execution, that is.
She had sensed the man standing behind her. Each time she reloaded with an efficient economy of movements, she studied him discretely from the corner of her eye, but she didn’t interrupt her training. The shooting range was otherwise deserted, just the way she liked it when she trained after lessons. However, this man had been watching her for at least fifteen minutes.
Now she turned to look at him. She tilted her head, liking what she saw. Tall, dark and hunky—her own version of the romantic cliché—popped into her mind. The man was over six foot tall and had an athletic build. She judged him to be around thirty, close to her own age. He wore what she assumed was a three thousand pounds black suit and a white shirt, open at the neck. His olive skin was clean shaven. Nearly black eyes watched her steadily from under well-shaped dark eyebrows. His black hair was cut very short, a look which suited him perfectly. The whole effect of this ensemble was breathtaking.
“What?” He frowned in confusion.
“Ah, just wishful thinking,” she joked, giving him a one-cornered smile. “He’s an actor. Ever heard of him?”
“No. Sorry to disappoint you,” the man said in a deep voice, and she detected an accent she couldn’t quite identify. “My name is Giovanni Coriola.”
“Italian, huh? And who said I was disappointed? Sonia Galsworthy.”
She offered her hand, adjusting once more her midnight-blue sweater, which left one shoulder carelessly and—okay, damn it—fashionably bare. Clothes were her only weakness besides guns, and she often bought uncomfortable things just because they looked great, like this sweater.
Giovanni followed her motion with his eyes, and then clasped her hand. His firm handshake lasted for a heartbeat too long, while his gaze never left hers.
“I know who you are, Miss Galsworthy. That’s why I’m here,” he replied in that rich, sexy-accented voice, encompassing the shooting range with a gesture. “I was told you’re the best target-shooting trainer in London.”
“That’s right. Need my services?”
“Yes, I do. I want to learn to shoot. Very well.”
Sonia looked him up and down before consulting her watch.
“Well, it’s almost closing time, but I could give you some pointers. Let’s start with the basics. Ditch the suit next time and dress in some casual clothes. Do you know anything about guns?”
“That they’re lethal,” he answered dryly.
“Good! That’s the first lesson.”
He smiled, allowing her to admire his perfect white teeth. He even had Daniel Sunjata’s dimples and sensual lips.
“Your ID, driver’s license and gun permit, if you have one,” she demanded.
He whistled in amazement at hearing this prompt order, and reached into his pocket for his wallet.
“You didn’t think I’d let just any maniac come in here and put a gun in his hands, so he can shoot me five times, reload and go on his merry way, did you? Do you own a gun?” she asked, while studying the papers he’d provided.
“Yes, I do.”
“Let me see it.”
“I would love to, but I left it at home. It would’ve been too much of a hassle to go through airport security armed. Perhaps you have something for me. To practice on.”
The insinuating voice suggesting a double entendre didn’t escape her. She lifted one of his hands into her own. Big, strong, no calluses but definitely not soft. Fighting the urge to further explore the texture of his palm, she said, “My gun is too small for you. Wait here.”
She went to one of the shelves and unlocked a case. From it, she removed a Glock 17, then went back and handed it to him. It was a classy, elegant gun—one of her favorites.
He took it and studied it curiously, fitting the handle into his hand. She noticed he wasn’t handling the gun awkwardly, like most people do, but with capable, unhesitant movements, which reflected a native determination.
“Room for seventeen rounds. Well balanced. Judging by the way you hold it, I can see it’s not the first time you put your hands on a gun. What else do you really know about this?” she asked him, adopting a
expression by propping a hand on her hip, which was a bit strangled by tight but fashionable jeans.
Giovanni watched her for a moment, and then began laughing.
“You do know your job, don’t you, Miss Galsworthy?”
Her eyes narrowed, realizing he was testing her.
Before she could give him a piece of her mind, he said, “I know enough about guns to smirk when I see those idiots in movies holding them tilted on one side and thinking they look cool. But I don’t know nearly enough to make
kind of statement.” He nodded toward her paper target. “Does that answer your question?”
Surprised, she burst out laughing.
“A guy after my own heart. Come here, show me what you can do.”
So saying, she put on a new target, and gave him earplugs and glasses.
“Are you right-handed?” she asked him, as she made room for him at the shooting desk.
“Okay. First rule—when you’re in a shooting range, always keep the muzzle toward the targets, and you only release the safety when you’re ready to begin training. Take the gun by the barrel with your left hand and arrange your right hand to have a firm grip on the handle. Your palm must fit perfectly on it. Your finger must rest easy on the trigger. When you stretch out your arm, you have to feel the gun as an extension of your hand.”
While explaining, she pointed out the gun’s components and arranged his palm on the grip.
“Now, the correct shooting position. Spread your legs,” she instructed, getting behind him. “Most shooters keep their left hand in their pocket or clasping their belt, but not hanging there lightly. You need to have some tension in your left arm too; keep your left elbow close to your torso.”
She demonstrated as she spoke, positioning his arms and shoulders, as he stood docile and maybe a bit amused. His suit was quite thick, fit for the early December evening, but under the material she felt every muscle well defined and delineated. If he had a desk job, he took time to work out seriously.
She bit her lip, trying to concentrate on the job at hand.
“You saw me training. Just try to reproduce the position I had. Can you do that?”
He turned his head, looking at her from the corner of his dark eyes. A smile was tugging at his sensual mouth. Their faces were close enough that she felt his hot breath when he said, “Oh, I can reproduce anything, Miss Galsworthy.”
She looked at him fully, this time accepting the challenge.
“Is your mind always below your belt, Mister Coriola?” she asked coolly, despite the sensation of warmth spreading into her cheeks.
“Not usually. But now I’m on vacation, and I need to relax my mind. Call me Giovanni, please.”
“So you don’t live here in London?”
“No. I came here for my sister’s wedding, and perhaps for a prolonged vacation. I live in Tuscany. Florence, to be more exact.”
“I see. Well, let’s talk a bit about aiming and how to pull the trigger correctly.”
She talked him through the routine, pleased because he wasn’t a rookie, unfamiliar with the whole process. He loaded the gun himself under her coaching.
When he actually began shooting, his accuracy and smooth movements surprised her. He was a natural. After two dozen rounds or so, she pressed the button and the paper target glided toward them. The grouping of his shots was much wider than hers, but it was uniform and tidy.
“Great job,” she congratulated, as he discharged and secured the gun.
“Thank you. As you can see, there’s much to learn still, until I’ll be as good as you.”
She let out a short laugh.
“Darling, I don’t know anybody who is as good as me,” she said cockily, “but I admire people who have the guts to try. Why do you want to be a great shooter? Thinking of going pro?”
He checked the Glock one more time before handing it back to her.
“No. It’s just a hobby, but I want to be able to defend myself if ever the need arises. Of course, if that day would come, I wouldn’t need the tactic position or to exert finesse when squeezing the trigger.”
She cocked an eyebrow.
“True. But here I only teach professional target shooting as a sport, for competitive purposes only. We don’t encourage people shooting other people.”
She watched him inquisitively for a long moment.
“Do you live a dangerous life, Giovanni?”
He chuckled, sliding his hands into his pockets.
“Absolutely not. I own a software developing company. Most of the time, I shoot virtual villains for relaxation. I’m a good guy,” he stated winking.
“I’ll bet,” she replied in a slightly sarcastic tone, as his chocolate-colored eyes were riveted on her in a way that stirred sensations she didn’t remember ever having. She almost felt flustered—if that were possible. She busied herself by clearing up the desk. Then she put the Glock and her own Smith and Wesson into their cases, along with all their accessories. She locked everything away, grabbed her black leather coat—for which she’d bought matching boots that had cost a fortune—and turned to him.
“I assume you paid the fee at the front desk.”
“Of course,” he confirmed, slightly inclining his head. “I also booked another session for tomorrow afternoon, at three o’clock.”
“Well, okay then. After you.”
She opened the door, signaling him to get out first, so she could lock up behind them.
They walked side by side through the dark, deserted corridors until they reached the exit. While they headed to the parking lot, he asked, “How come you became a target-shooting trainer, Miss Galsworthy?”
“Sonia,” she corrected. “In answer to your question, I don’t quite know. Guns fascinate me. Ever since I was three and other girls played with dolls, I hung out with guys and built weapons of all kinds. When I was about ten, I got the brilliant idea to melt metal and make slingshot projectiles. I can see my folks even now, shaking their heads sadly, wondering where they went wrong, as I chased other children and shot them in the ass. I guess I was born with a gun flaw,” she concluded, shrugging.
His chest rumbled with a rich laugh, and she joined him. After a few moments, when their laughter subsided, he stopped to look down at her.
“You are by no means a flawed individual, Sonia. It’s true we’ve just met, but so far I’ve only noticed your qualities. Starting with your incredible beauty, continuing with that self-assured attitude… You’re a very attractive woman.”
Their smiles faded slowly, as they gazed at one another. Around them, early snowflakes fell in a slow, sinuous dance. Although it was barely six o’clock, it was nearly dark. The snow blanketed the ground and the cars surrounding them. It melted on her long leather coat, but she noticed that flakes were gathering on his suit and in his black hair. She wanted to brush them aside, gently. Before she could reach out a hand to touch him, a car slid by, signaling them to move aside.
“We’re getting in the way,” she said and lowered her gaze, feeling her cheeks warm, in contrast to the cold air.
“Where’s your car?”
She looked in confusion around the half-empty parking lot, then pointed to her red compact Volkswagen.
“There, I always park there.”
“What a coincidence.” He took her arm and headed in that direction. “Do you see the black Mercedes parked right next to yours? That’s mine—a rental, of course.”
“Really? That’s handy,” she remarked, studying the indecently expensive car. “You must be filthy rich to be able to afford to even rent this car, and to wear a three thousand pounds suit.”
He laughed again.
“It’s not three thousand. At least I don’t think so. Does it matter?”
They stopped between the two vehicles. Somehow, he’d managed to slide so close to her that her back was pressed against her car door and their clothes were touching.