Read Vettori's Damsel in Distress (Harlequin Romance Large Print) Online

Authors: Liz Fielding

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Vettori's Damsel in Distress (Harlequin Romance Large Print)

BOOK: Vettori's Damsel in Distress (Harlequin Romance Large Print)
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Her Italian knight...

Angelica Amery has come to Milan for a fresh start, only to find that the bijou apartment she’d rented doesn’t exist! Taking refuge in a nearby café, she meets enigmatic but darkly handsome Dante Vettori, who comes to her rescue...

What else could Dante do? He feels responsible for Geli, and that’s before he kisses her! But soon this unconventional English girl is playing havoc with his complicated life and emotions, throwing into stark relief just how much Dante needs rescuing right back!

“You are lost, signora?” he asked.

In Italian, his voice was just about the sexiest thing she’d ever heard, but his perfect, lusciously accented English sent a shiver rippling down her spine that had nothing to do with the snow dripping from her hair. That was trickling between her breasts and turning to steam.

“I know exactly where I am, signor,” she said, looking into those lusciously dark eyes. To emphasize the point, she eased off the fine leather glove and tapped the piazza on the map with the tip of a crimson nail.

“No,” he repeated, and this time it wasn’t a question as, never taking his eyes from hers, he wrapped long fingers around her hand and moved her finger two inches to the right. “You are here.”

His hand was warm against her cold skin. On the surface everything was deceptively still, but inside, like a volcano on the point of blowing, she was liquid heat.

She fought the urge to swallow. “I am?”

Breathe, breathe...

Hoping she sounded a lot more in control than she was, she said, “One piazza looks very much like another on a map. Unfortunately, neither of them is where I was going.”

“And yet here you are.”

And yet here she was, falling into eyes as dark as the espresso in his cup.

Dear Reader,

Vettori’s Damsel in Distress
is the third of my books about the Amery sisters whose lives changed forever when they were given an ice cream van.

Two of them (Elle and Sorrel) have found their happy-ever-after, and now Geli, the youngest, determined to follow in her mother’s footsteps and live for the day, has arrived in Italy to pursue life, art, fashion and whatever else comes her way.

The Milan setting was inspired by an article I read in a magazine devoted to all things Italian, and the research was enormous fun. Gorgeous food, wonderful fashion—check out the book’s page on my Pinterest site—and the language.

And did you know that the collective noun for kittens is a kindle?

Happy reading.

Ciao,

Liz

VETTORI’S DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

Liz Fielding

Liz Fielding
was born with itchy feet. She made it to Zambia before her twenty-first birthday and, gathering her own special hero and a couple of children on the way, lived in Botswana, Kenya and Bahrain—with pauses for sightseeing pretty much everywhere in between. She now lives in the west of England, close to the Regency grandeur of Bath and the ancient mystery of Stonehenge, and these days leaves her pen to do the traveling.

For news of upcoming books, visit Liz’s website,
lizfielding.com
.

Books by Liz Fielding

HARLEQUIN KISS

Anything but Vanilla...
For His Eyes Only

HARLEQUIN® ROMANCE

Flirting with Italian
The Last Woman He’d Ever Date

This book is dedicated to the authors I hang out with online. They are the best support group in the world—always up for a brainstorming session when the plot wobbles, ready to celebrate the good stuff and reach out through cyberspace with comfort when fate lobs lemons.

They know who they are.

CHAPTER ONE

‘Life is like ice cream on a hot day. Enjoy it before it melts.’


from
Rosie’s Little Book of Ice Cream

I
T
WAS
LATE
and throwing down a sleety rain when Geli emerged from the Metro at Porta Garibaldi into the Milan night. Her plan had been to take a taxi for the last short leg of her journey but it was par for the course, on a day when everything had conspired to keep her from her destination, that there wasn’t one in sight.

Terrific.

The weather had been mild with a promise of spring in the air when she’d left Longbourne and, optimistically, she’d assumed Italy would be warmer; something to do with all those sun-soaked travel programmes on the television, no doubt. If she’d had the sense to check the local weather she’d have been wearing thermals instead of lace beneath her dress, leggings over her ultra-sheer black tights and a lot more than a lace choker around her neck.

Not the most practical outfit for travelling but she was going to Milan, style capital of Europe, where the inhabitants didn’t wear joggers unless they were jogging and policewomen wore high heels.

In her determination to make a fashionable impression she had overlooked the fact that Milan was in the north of Italy. Where there were mountains. And, apparently, sleet.

Okaaay...

According to the details she’d downloaded from the Internet, her apartment was no more than a ten-minute stroll from the Metro. She could handle a bit of sleet. In style.

She checked her map and, having orientated herself, she pulled the wide hood of her coat over ears that were beginning to tingle, shouldered her roomy leather tote and, hauling her suitcase behind her, set off.

New country, new start, new life.

Unlike her sisters, who were married, raising families and, with their rapidly expanding ice cream events business, had life all sewn up and sorted, she was throwing herself into the dark—literally.

With little more than an Italian phrasebook and a head full of ideas, she was setting out to grab every experience that life offered her. If, as she crossed the railway bridge into the unknown, the thrill of nervous excitement that shot through her was edged with a ripple of apprehension, a shiver of fear—well, that was perfectly natural. She was the baby of the family.

She might be the one with the weird clothes, the ‘attitude’, but they knew it was all front; that this was her first time out in the world. Okay, she’d been to Italy before, but that was on a student study trip and she’d been with a group of people she knew. This time she was on her own, without the family safety net of loving hands reaching out to steady her if she stumbled. To catch her if she fell. Testing herself...

‘Scusi!’

‘Sorry...um...
scusi
...’ She steered her case to one side to let someone in a hurry pass her and then, as she looked up, she saw the colourful street art gleaming under the street lights—bright tropical scenes that lit up dull concrete—and caught her breath.

Despite the icy stuff stinging her face, excitement won out as she remembered why she had chosen Italy, Milan... Isola.

The minute she’d opened a magazine, seen the photographs, read about this enclave of artists, musicians, designers all doing their own thing, she’d been hooked. This was a place where she could spread her wings, explore her love of fashion, seek new ways of making art and maybe, just maybe fall in love. Nothing serious, not for keeps, but for fun.

Twenty minutes later, her face stiff with cold, the freezing stuff finding its way into a hood designed more for glamour than protection, and totally lost, the bounce had left her step.

She could almost see her oldest sister, Elle, shaking her head and saying,
You’re so impatient, Geli! Why didn’t you wait for a taxi?

Because it was an
adventure
! And the directions had been simple enough. She’d counted the turnings, checked the name of the street, turned right and her apartment should be there, right in front of her, on the corner.

Except it wasn’t.

Instead of the pink-painted five-storey house on the corner of a street of equally pretty houses that overlooked the twice-weekly market, she was faced with eight-feet-high wooden barriers surrounding a construction site.

No need to panic. Obviously she’d missed a turning. There had been a couple of narrow openings—more alleys than streets—that she’d thought were too small to be the turnings on her map. Obviously she was wrong.

She backtracked, recounted and headed down one just about wide enough to take a Fiat 500. It ended in a tiny courtyard piled up with crates and lit by a dim lamp over what looked like the back entrance to a shop. In the dark something moved, a box fell, and she beat a hasty retreat.

The few people about had their heads down and her,
‘Scusi...’
was blown away on wind that was driving the sleet, thicker now, into her face.

It was time to take another look at the map.

Ducking into the shelter of the doorway of a shuttered shop, she searched her tote for the powerful mini torch given to her by her explorer brother-in-law as a parting gift.

She’d reminded him that she was going to one of the world’s great cities rather than venturing into the jungle. His response was that in his experience there was little difference and as something wet and hairy brushed against her leg she let out a nervous shriek.

Make that one for the explorer.

A plaintive mew reassured her and the bright beam of her torch picked out a tiny kitten, wet fur sticking to its skin, cowering in the doorway.

‘Hey, sweetie,’ she said softly, reaching out to it, but it backed away nervously. She knew how it felt. ‘You’re much too little to be out by yourself on a night like this.’

The poor creature, wetter and certainly colder than she was, mewed pitifully in agreement. She’d bought a cheese sandwich on the plane but had been too churned up with nerves and excitement to eat it and she opened it up, broke a piece off and offered it to the kitten. Hunger beat fear and it snatched the food from her fingers, desperately licking at the butter.

Geli broke off another piece and then turned her attention to the simple street map. Clearly she’d taken a wrong turn and wandered into the commercial district, now closed for the night, but for the life of her couldn’t see where she’d gone wrong.

Phoning Signora Franco, her landlady, was not an option. The
signora
’s English was about on a par with her own Italian—enthusiastic, but short on delivery. What she needed was one of Isola’s famous cafés or bars, somewhere warm and dry with people who would know the area and, bracing herself to face to what was now whiter, more solid than mere sleet, she peered along the street.

Behind her, the kitten mewed and she sighed. There were a few lights on in upper floors but down here everything was shut up. The tiny creature was on its own and was too small to survive the night without shelter. The location might be new, but some things never changed.

Inevitably, having begged for help, the kitten panicked when she bent and scooped it up but she eased it into one of the concealed seam pockets hidden amongst the full layers of her coat.

She’d come back tomorrow and see if she could find someone who’d take responsibility for it but right now it was time to put her Italian to the test. She’d memorised the question and could rattle off ‘
Dov’è
Via Pepone?’
without a second thought. Understanding the answers might be more of a problem.

She stuffed her torch, along with the useless map, in her bag and began to retrace her steps back to the road from the station, this time carrying straight on instead of turning off.

In the photographs she’d seen it had been summer; there were open-air jazz concerts, the communal garden and collective ‘bring a dish’ lunches where every Tuesday the local people gathered to share food and reinforce the community ties. People sitting outside trendy cafés. Perfect.

This was the wrong time of day, the wrong time of year. Even the famous Milan ‘promenade’ was on hold but, encouraged by a sudden snatch of music—as if someone had opened a door very briefly—she hurried to the corner and there, on the far side of a piazza, lights shone through a steamy window.

It was Café Rosa, famous for jazz, cocktails and being a hangout of local artists who used the walls as a gallery. More relieved than she cared to admit, she slithered across the cobbles and pushed open the door.

She was immediately swathed in warmth, the rich scent of luscious food and cool music from a combo on a tiny stage in the corner mingling with bursts of steam from the expresso machine. Tables of all shapes and sizes were filled with people eating, drinking, gossiping, and a tall dark-haired man was leaning against the counter talking to the barista.

If the scene had been posed by the Italian Tourist Board it couldn’t have been more perfect and, despite the cold, she felt a happy little rush of anticipation.

A few people had turned when the door opened and the chatter died away until the only sound was the low thrum of a double bass.

The man standing at the bar, curious about what had caught everyone’s attention, half turned and anticipation whooshed off the scale in an atavistic charge of raw desire; instant, bone-deep need for a man before you heard his voice, felt his touch, knew his name.

For a moment, while she remembered how to breathe, it felt as if someone had pressed the pause button on the scene, freezing the moment in soft focus. Muted colours reflected in polished steel, lights shimmering off the bottles and glasses behind the bar, her face reflected, ghost-like, behind the advertisement on a mirror. And Mr Italy with his kiss-me mouth and come-to-bed eyes.

Forget the thick dark hair and cheekbones sharp enough to write their own modelling contract, it was those chocolate-dark eyes that held her transfixed. If they had been looking out of a tourist poster there would be a stampede to book holidays in Italy.

He straightened, drawing attention to the way his hair curled onto his neck, a pair of scandalously broad shoulders, strong wrists emerging from folded-back cuffs.

‘Signora...’
he murmured as he moved back a little to make room for her at the counter and, oh, joy, his voice matched the face, the body.

She might have passed out for lack of oxygen at that moment but a tall, athletic-looking blonde placed a tiny cup of espresso in front of him before—apparently unaware that she was serving a god—turning to her.

‘Sta nevicando? E brutto tempo.’

What?

Oh...

Flustered at being confronted with phrases that hadn’t featured so far on the Italian course she’d downloaded onto her iPod, she took the safe option and, having sucked in a snowflake that was clinging to her lip, she lowered her hood. The chatter gradually resumed and, finally getting a
move it
message through to her legs, she parked her suitcase and crossed to the bar.

‘Cosa prendi, signora?’

Oh, whew, something she understood. ‘Um...
Vorrai un espresso...s’il vous plait...
’ Her answer emerged in a mangled mixture of English, Italian and French. ‘No... I mean...’
Oh, heck.

The blonde grinned. ‘Don’t worry. I got the gist,’ she replied, her English spiced with an Australian accent.

‘Oh, thank goodness you’re English. No! Sorry, Australian—’ Achingly conscious of the man leaning against the counter, an impressive thigh stretching the cloth of his jeans just inches from her hip, she attempted to recover the cool, sophisticated woman of the world image with which she’d intended to storm Milan. ‘Shall I go out, walk around the block and try that again?’

The woman grinned. ‘Stay right where you are. I’ll get that espresso. You’ve just arrived in Isola?’ she asked as she measured the coffee.

‘In Isola, in Milan, in Italy. I’ve been working on my Italian—I picked some up when I spent a month in Tuscany as a student—but I learned French at school and it seems to be my brain’s foreign language default setting when I panic.’

Her brain was too busy drooling over Mr Italy to give a toot.

‘Give it a week,’ the woman said. ‘Can I get you anything else?’

‘A side order of directions?’ she asked hopefully, doing her best to ignore the fact that it wasn’t just her brain; her entire body was responding on a visceral level to the overdose of pheromones wafting in her direction. It was like being bombarded by butterflies. Naked...

She was doing her level best not to stare at him.

Was he looking at her?

‘You are lost,
signora
?’ he asked.

In Italian, his voice was just about the sexiest thing she’d ever heard, but his perfect, lusciously accented English sent a shiver rippling down her spine that had nothing to do with the snow dripping from her hair. That was trickling between her breasts and turning to steam.

She took a breath and, doing her best to remember why she was there, said, ‘Not lost exactly...’ Retrieving the apartment details from her tote, she placed it, map side up, on the counter and turned to him, intending to explain what had happened. He was definitely looking and, confronted with those eyes, the questioning kink of his brow, language of any description deserted her.

‘No?’ he prompted.

Clearly he was used to women losing the power of speech in his presence. From the relaxed way he was leaning against the bar, to eyes that, with one look made her feel as if he owned her, everything about him screamed danger.

First day in Isola and she could imagine having a lot of fun with Mr Italy and, from the way he was looking at her, he was thinking much the same thing about her.

Was that how it had been for her mother that first time? One look from some brawny roustabout at the annual village fair and she’d been toast?

‘I know exactly where I am,
signor
,’ she said, looking into those lusciously dark eyes. To emphasise the point she eased off the fine leather glove that had done little to keep her hand warm and tapped the piazza with the tip of a crimson nail.

BOOK: Vettori's Damsel in Distress (Harlequin Romance Large Print)
13.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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