Authors: Doris O'Connor
Copyright© 2013 Doris O’Connor
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Karyn White
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
With thanks to NaNoWriMo, where the Giovanni were born and this writer realized she was a panster.
And a big thank you to all you lovely readers who waited patiently for this next
I am truly thankful for all of you.
The Giovanni Clan, 3
Copyright © 2013
~Fear, it paralyses you, invades every pore of your body and mind, until you cannot think, cannot breathe, cannot move~
Stood under the steady stream of hot water, Giorgio Giovanni shut his eyes and let the water soothe his aching muscles, after yet another sleepless night. He'd thought he was over her, that he'd finally beaten his obsession, but it was useless. After the initial shock of the phone call had worn off, he'd set to work to find her, mindful of the promises he'd made to the better one of the twins. It had proven a futile exercise. Jemima Donavan had disappeared off the face of the earth, or so it seemed. For the second time in ten years, she'd successfully disappeared. Sure, he might have been able to find her back then, but he'd thought himself lucky to have escaped her clutches. Back then, he couldn't have cared less what had happened to her. Now—too much was at stake.
The insistent ringing of the telephone broke through his brooding thoughts and he swore under his breath.
Stepping out of the shower, he wrapped a towel around his lean hips. He flicked his slightly too long strands of wet, black hair off his face, and scowled at the phone trying to buzz itself of the vanity unit.
He rescued the smart phone before it clattered onto the marble tiles of his en-suite bathroom, and his expression darkened when he read the display.
The single word sliced through the humid air like a whip with its terse command, and Giorgio's grip on the shower cubicle tightened. The knuckles of his hand turned white, and his dark eyebrows drew together in a murderous frown, as he listened to the hastily delivered words tumbling down the phone.
"Si. Grazie, dottore."
He clicked the phone off and ran a hand over his morning stubble. His eyes closed, he shook his head to clear the unexpected fog of emotion. So, she was awake at last.
About damn time.
Another face swam into his mind. A worried, female voice pleading down the phone.
"Please, Giorgio, if you know anything, please. You've got to help. With your connections you can find her, right? I'm worried. Marco says not to, but I know something is wrong. Don't ask me to explain it. I just know she's in trouble. I know I have no right to ask this of you, but please, she's my sister."
He swore again. A loud string of vicious Italian swear words that reverberated around the steamed up room, and would have earned him a clout around the ears from Mamma G, had she heard him. And there was the other reason for his annoyance.
How his aunt had found out the ins and outs of his relationship with Jemima he had no idea, but she clearly had.
"You will do what is right for this family, boy. There has been enough drama. I expect you to put this right in any way you can. Failure is not an option."
He wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror with a hand towel and frowned at his expression. Was it any wonder sleep eluded him these days? With both his cousins happily married, Mamma G had set her sights on him. Living in Italy had given him some leeway up 'til now, but his time was up. She expected him to marry and start producing bambinos. He bit back a harsh laugh. He was one up at least, as for the other…
why did there have to be two of them? And why was his cousin married to the better one? The ghost of a smile crossed his stern features as he thought of Elise and Marco. After a turbulent first year of marriage they were blissfully happy, with a houseful of foster kids. Forcing Elise and his cousin together had to have been the only good thing the devious Jemima had ever done in her life, albeit without meaning to.
Elise's flamboyant twin sister left a trail of destruction behind wherever she set foot. This time, at least, she had brought that destruction to her own life, and had it just been her, Giorgio would have left her to rot in the newest, tangled web, she'd created. Call it Karma, but the little harlot deserved everything coming to her. Giorgio crunched his teeth and willed his temper to subside. They said she had amnesia, couldn't remember who she was, or where she was—a byproduct of the blow to the head she'd received in the car accident that left her lying in a ditch.
Giorgio's finely honed instincts smelled a rat. That stretch of road was completely straight, visibility excellent even at night time, and Jemima was not known for her understated dress sense. She would have stood out like a beacon on that road, and there had been no skid marks. The driver had simply run her off the road, and left her for dead.
Clearly, Jemima had pissed off the wrong people, and until he knew what exactly she was involved in, he'd have to be on his guard. Lucky for her that he took his vows seriously, even if they meant nothing to her.
He shook his head in disgust at the besotted fool he'd once been, as unbidden memories swamped him. Never again would he be taken in by a pretty face.
Verona—Ten years prior
The screech of brakes echoed around the little plaza. A string of Italian curses followed, overlaid by even more colorful English swear words aimed at the driver of the little Fiat. The elderly man hung out of the window, gesticulating madly at the tourist he'd almost run over. The little, dark blonde bundle of curves flipped him the finger and aimed her Doc Martin clad foot at the side of the driver's door. The driver sped off with another curse, leaving a flutter of colorful paper behind.
The perfectly aimed high kick had given everyone in the plaza a perfect view of purple, lacy underwear as the lime green belt like excuse for her skirt flew up. Giorgio's smile deepened at the flash of creamy, pale skin of inner thighs that belonged to perfectly shaped, slim legs. The owner of those legs stood still for a minute, her full lips tightly pinched together, as she surveyed the scene of devastation around her. Arms on gently flared hips, her impressive cleavage rose and fell in her agitation, and threatened to burst over the top of her tightly cinched leather Basque. Rainbow chains of jewelry completed the bizarre outfit.
Madonna, eat your heart out.
At first glance Giorgio had her pegged for some sort of hooker, but looking closer he amended that silent judgment. The papers now settling all round her, were pieces of artwork—watercolors and black and white sketches—some of them ruined from the tires of the car, others curled at the edges—the puddles on the cobbled stones of the plaza now a mix of rainbow rivulets of water. He winced at the ruin of undoubted hours of work.
Sure enough, the young woman hunkered down on her haunches in an attempt to rescue as many of the pieces as she could, but it was useless. A gust of wind scattered the papers further. Like tumbleweed they tossed along the ground. One flew up in his face, and Giorgio scanned it with a low, appreciative whistle. She was good. Very good. His mind made up, he abandoned his espresso and joined her in the desperate hunt.
By the time he'd gathered an armful, the first few, fat drops of yet another downpour stopped them both.
"I don't fucking believe it! What next? Trust me to come to Italy and get nothing but fucking rain and stupid dimwits who've won their driver's license in the fucking lottery." The honeyed tones washed over him, and he had to suppress another smile at the discrepancy between the words and the cultured English accent.
"I fail to see what's so bloody funny? Are ye just gonna stand there, staring down my cleavage, or are you gonna actually help me? Blasted Italian male idiots." The accent slipped again, into something more like the colloquial English Giorgio was used to from visiting his cousins in London. It seemed the young lady in front of him had many talents. Chocolate brown eyes glared daggers at him, and she pushed the wet strands of her hair off her face with an impatient wave of her hand and a muttered, "Men!"
She hoisted the plastic folder of her work higher up her waist, and he couldn't be sure whether it was tears or the now steadily falling rain that caused the wetness on her face. Without saying a word he grasped her elbow and steered her under the cover of the nearest shop canopy. The shop itself was closed for lunch, and they had to huddle together to hide from the sheet of rain now pelting the plaza.
"Jesus, if I wanted rain, I could have stayed in London." She shrieked as another gust of wind blew the rain under their shelter, and Giorgio's free arm went 'round her waist instinctively to draw her closer into his warmth. The other still clutched the artwork he'd managed to grab before rain stopped play. The temperature had dropped dramatically with the storm, and soaked through as she was, she must be getting cold. This close to her he could see the gooseflesh breaking out on her exposed skin.
"Did you get caught in the earlier downpour, too?" he asked. Her eyes widened in surprise, and Giorgio suppressed another grin. "
I speak English, and this blasted Italian male idiot heard every word of your earlier outburst. And for the record, this idiot did not win his driver's license, though I grant you I can't be too sure about the other fellows you encountered."