The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop

BOOK: The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop
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Abby Clements is the author of three previous novels,
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe
, the bestselling
Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop and Amelia Grey’s Fireside Dream
. She lives in north London with her husband and son.

First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2015

A CBS COMPANY

Copyright © Abby Clements 2015

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.

No reproduction without permission.

® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.

The right of Abby Clements to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

1st Floor

222 Gray’s Inn Road

London WC1X 8HB

www.simonandschuster.co.uk

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney

Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-47113-703-7

eBook ISBN: 978-1-47113-704-4

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Typeset in Bembo by M Rules

Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

For my nieces, Penny and Eloise

Contents

Prologue

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Part Two

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Part Three

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Acknowledgements

Prologue

Friday, 7 November, 1.30 a.m.

Imogen was in a deep sleep, nestled into Finn’s chest, two duvets and a wool blanket covering them, when her mobile went off. The harsh ring cut into her dreams – she’d been night-swimming in warm seas, surrounded by the firefly-like scattered lights of phosphorescence, as if the starry skies were being reflected. For a while, she’d been back in Thailand – and, as she put a pillow over her head to silence the sound, she tried to go back there. The endless white-sand beaches, the fish and birds, the place that made her feel most alive, and where she’d been inspired to take the photos that had launched her career. The phone was still stubbornly ringing. Reluctantly, she removed the pillow and sat up. The frost on the bedroom window reminded her she was in Brighton, in the beachside house she shared with Finn, in the middle of a cold English winter, and she wrinkled her nose at the cruel reality.

She reached down to the floor, clumsily padding around with her hand. Squinting, she saw her brother-in-law Matteo’s name on the screen. A picture of her sister, Anna, came into her mind – tall, with long chestnut-brown hair, her willowy figure unbalanced lately by a large pregnancy bump – and her heart started to race.

‘Yes?’ Imogen said, taking the call.

‘It’s Anna,’ Matteo said. He quickly filled her in, his usual laidback demeanour replaced with a slightly panicked tone.

‘We’ll be there,’ Imogen assured him, awake now and full of excitement. She hung up and nudged Finn awake.

‘It’s happening,’ she said.

‘What’s happening?’ Finn asked. His sandy hair mussed and voice husky with sleep, Imogen felt drawn to him. In any other situation she would have been seriously tempted not to leave the bed. But this wasn’t any other situation – and the bolt of adrenaline rushing through her veins reminded her of that. This was her only sister – on the brink of the life-changing event they’d all been waiting for.

‘It’s Anna,’ she said breathlessly. ‘The baby’s coming.’

Finn raised himself up to sitting, and rubbed his eyes. ‘You’re serious?’

‘Of course I’m serious,’ Imogen said, getting up and hastily pulling on her jeans and sheepskin boots. ‘Get up,’ she said, throwing a sweatshirt in his direction. ‘That was Matteo. They need help.’ She tied her light-brown hair, sun-streaked from a recent trip away, up into a ponytail.

‘Right . . .’ Finn said, a concerned look on his face.

‘Not delivering the baby,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘At least that’s not the plan at the moment. They need a lift to the hospital. Apparently, the cab they called refused to take her.’

Imogen put some things into her handbag: some snacks, money, bottles of water – then saw that something was missing.

‘Have you seen the car keys?’ she asked Finn.

He seemed rooted to the spot. ‘The thing is . . . I thought Anna’s due date wasn’t until December?’

‘I guess when it’s time, it’s time,’ Imogen said, with a shrug. ‘Where are the keys? We need to get going.’

‘The car. I put it in for an MOT yesterday.’

‘You didn’t,’ Imogen said, her chest tight.

He nodded.

‘Oh, God! Anna’s relying on us to pick her up.’

‘There is one other option.’

‘You’re not thinking . . .’ Imogen said, reading his mind, her heart sinking.

‘It’s still here, from when we repainted it.’

Imogen raised an eyebrow. She looked out of the front window and saw the vintage ice cream van parked just a few feet away from their house, the pistachio-and-pink paintwork visible in the glow of a street lamp. She’d bought it for the shop – Vivien’s Heavenly Ice Cream Shop – that she and her sister had inherited from their grandmother and which Anna and Matteo now ran together. Imogen had left to focus on her photography, but she still helped out at the business from time to time, covering the occasional shift and looking after the van. The van might have become a popular feature at local food festivals – but Imogen was pretty sure her sister wouldn’t be pleased to see it that night.

‘It’s better than nothing,’ Finn said.

Imogen shook her head. ‘OK, let’s go. But Anna’s going to kill us.’

Imogen and Finn drove up the seafront in the early hours, the vintage ice cream van rattling as they gradually picked up speed. Ahead of them, the road was clear, sparkling with the frost that had gathered overnight.

‘Could you check that text?’ Imogen said, pointing at her mobile buzzing on the dashboard.

Finn read it. ‘“
Contractions two mins apart. Where are you
?” That last bit was in capitals, by the way.’

Imogen thought of her sister, waiting there for them to arrive. Anna, her older sister, always calm, controlled and together – she was heading right into the unknown. Anna had always been there for Imogen, with wise words and a listening ear while Imogen emerged from another drama. Now, Anna was the one who needed support. Imogen put her foot down on the gas, and the speedometer creaked up another two notches. She could see her sister’s apartment building in the distance, an imposing Victorian block overlooking the sea. ‘Tell her we’re almost there.’

‘Done,’ Finn said. ‘Smiley face?’

‘I don’t think so,’ Imogen said.

A few moments later, Imogen and Finn pulled up outside her sister’s building. Anna and Matteo were standing in the main doorway, a large bag at their feet. Matteo, tall and dark, with a thick coat to guard against the cold, waved over. He put his arm around Anna’s shoulders as he led her carefully down the stairs. She had one hand resting on her bump, and her face paled when she saw the van. Imogen opened the door and hopped out.

‘We’re not all going in that,’ Anna said, shaking her head.

‘No, of course not,’ Imogen said. ‘We won’t all fit. Finn can meet us there, right?’

‘Sure,’ Finn said.

‘But I’m afraid
you
are,’ Imogen said. She put out a hand to help her sister into the passenger seat. ‘Come on, let’s get you to the hospital, so I can meet my new niece or nephew.’

‘No way, Imo,’ Anna protested, her eyes bright with fury. ‘Matteo – tell her.’ She fell silent and drew in her breath. ‘Uhhhhhhhh.’ With the pressure of another contraction, Anna gripped Matteo’s hand tightly.

‘Anna, love, I think we should get in,’ Matteo said.

‘You’re in the right place,’ the midwife reassured Anna. ‘And, the way everything’s looking, it won’t be long till you meet your little one.’

‘Right,’ Anna said, her cheeks flushed pink, and her hands gripping the side of the hospital bed in her private room on the labour ward. Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, damp strands clinging to the sides of her face. ‘That’s good. I think.’

‘Of course it’s good,’ Imogen said, meeting the midwife’s eye. ‘Keep going, Anna. You’re nearly there.’

‘Do you have a birth plan?’ the midwife asked.

‘Matteo,’ Anna called over. He was standing over by the window on his mobile phone.



, Mamma . . . in the hospital.’

‘Matteo . . .’ she said, more insistently this time.

He covered the mouthpiece. ‘Mum wanted to know if you’d tried the pineapple. I told her that was what got this all started.’

‘The birth plan,’ she hissed.

He said something in Italian, then put the phone on the side. ‘Yes,’ he said, rifling through the hospital bag and taking out the folded sheet of paper. He passed it to the midwife. ‘Here you go.’

A female voice called out from his phone, and he picked it up again. ‘No, Mamma . . .’


Hang up the phone
,’ Anna said firmly.

He held up a finger to signal he needed a moment.

‘Tell him to stop talking to his mother, or I will kill him,’ Anna whispered to her sister.

‘I think you’d better put the phone down,’ Imogen said.

Matteo put the phone away. ‘Sorry. She’s just excited, that’s all.’

‘Oh, Christ!’ Anna said, straining and holding her back now. ‘Can I have some pain relief?’

‘Are you sure?’ Matteo said. ‘I brought that lavender along. Or I could give you a massage? Like you wanted?’

Anna gave him a steely glare. ‘No lavender,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘And don’t you
dare
touch me.’

Imogen was startled at seeing the sudden change in her polite, gentle sister.

‘OK,’ Matteo said. He got closer to his girlfriend and held her hand tightly in his, kissing her gently on the head. ‘I’m a bit nervous, I guess,’ he said.


You’re
nervous?’ Anna said.

‘Are you getting her some kind of pain relief?’ Imogen asked the midwife.

‘Not much point now,’ the midwife said. ‘I can see the baby’s head.’

Imogen took her sister’s hand, and held it gently. Anna looked at her, her warm brown eyes wide, and – for the first time that Imogen had ever seen – full of panic. Imogen desperately wanted to be able to take the pain away, to swap places with her sister and go through it for her.

‘I can’t do it, Imogen,’ Anna said, her eyes brimming with tears. ‘I really don’t think I can do it.’

She gripped Imogen’s hand tightly.

‘You can,’ Imogen said to her, calmly and softly, stroking her hair back from her face. ‘Anna, you can do it. Let’s meet this baby.’

BOOK: The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop
12.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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