Normally I'd be all apologies about how long it's taken - I'm British, it's an automatic reflex to apologise for anything and everything. But I'm rather pleased I took my time. That I absorbed everything during my time in Lucca, Tuscany. That I did drink most of their wine, and use their olive oil on my hair (sooooooo gooooooooood!). That I allowed myself to be swayed by Hank and the romance of Italy to give my best to Durante and Ella's tale. And you will find bits of me all over this story. Make sure your ereader has one of those screen protectors...
So here we are, and if you're not sold - have a read of the blurb and this little snippet to see who's wandering the hills of Lucca with the farmer and his bird.
Verde Bianco Rosso on Amazon
Verde Bianco Rosso on All Romance eBooks
Eau de blurb
Widow. Sister. Mother. All those labels hung from Emmanuella Harrison, like the 'A' of shame. After so many years of playing it straight, she'd forgotten who the real Ella was. Sometimes, whenever she managed to make the severe Durante Da Canaveze smile, the sparkle of the woman she'd been a long time ago ignited in her. But the Mother label needed to be first and foremost. No messing around with sexy farmers. Farmers! Just farmers. None of that. All right, maybe a little bit of messing around. The tip doesn't count.
The moment Ella drifted into Tuscany, Durante started to doubt the wisdom of his years of self-imposed solitude. With every teasing grin, backless dress and playful conversation, he fell more and more deeply under her spell. As dazzled as he is by her, Durante is convinced his history is enough to not deserve anyone, let alone someone like Ella.
And yet, without the labels, without the barriers, without being afraid of what may be, no two people will ever be as perfect for each other.
The penultimate story in the Italian Knights Series is all about blunt children, loud mouthed opinionated, family members, redemption in farming olives and how love can make one forgive even the most off-key of voices.
Eau de excerpt
He woke with the weighty sense of self-disappointment. He’d done something silly last night before he’d passed out. Even though his body vehemently disagreed with him on the assessment, it had been silly to kiss Ella. It should have been a surprise that he remembered, but no amount of drugs would take away what Ella’s lips felt like on his. Talking in the cold light of day would make sense.
It was half six in the morning. He’d overslept, and right through not only his natural body clock, but that of his actual alarm.
He showered in ice-cold water to eliminate the stubbornness of his hard-on. There was no time to indulge in getting rid of it the old-fashioned way. He didn’t bother to shave, and instead threw on clean clothes.
A knock on Ella’s door found the guest room empty. He could, however, smell coffee.
Surprised that she was already awake, Durante made his way down the stairs. Ella glanced up from her own cup as soon as he walked in. She does not look like an angel, he warned himself. Get hold of yourself, man…
“Morning,” she said, cheekiness in her tone.
“Those are some drugs, eh?” she teased.
“Ella…” he began, but she spoke over him.
“You had five calls. I’ve taken messages, but I’d call down to the groves first. They seemed to think I’ve killed you in some sort of ceremony for witchcraft.”
He closed his eyes. They could manage without him for five minutes, goddammit. An unspoken realisation that this was what their life would be like if that kiss was more than just a drug-addled error. Him mollifying his workers. Her on her own.
“Can I give you a lift to the town?”
“I’ve got my bike,” she reminded him gently. “Coffee, muffins, and waffles. Only because I saw you’ve got a waffle iron and it hasn’t come out of the packaging.” She put her cup in the dishwasher and hopped off the chair. “Nice place you’ve got here.”
“Come for a tour,” he offered, feeling there was an opportunity that was slipping through his grasp. “Wine, cheese, and olives. I’ll even smile.”
Ella touched his arm as she passed. “You hate tourists. See you later.”
He rubbed his cotton-covered chest as if he could wipe away the disappointment of being so close to starting something. What was so crushing about ‘just for now’ compared to ‘never-ever’? He knew the difference now. With a shake of his head, he flipped through the messages, written partly in shorthand, but all in Italian.
Clever, exceptionally talented woman.
A call to the groves calmed any immediate nerves. They were expecting a delivery of expensive truffles to add another flavour to a selection of their matured olive oil. The temperature gauge in the fermentation rooms wasn’t reading correctly. Durante made several calls, and within half an hour, all was resolved.
The temperature gauge issue concerned him. Fermentation of the grapes was such a delicate process and if the coolness in the vats were not maintained, the bottles for this year would be a write-off. But the engineer who worked regularly for him was exceptional and would have no issue readjusting the machinery if need be.
Durante would find his way down to the rooms once he’d finished his messages. The others were from the tour company to ensure they were expected and would be arriving in two hours’ time.
The last message was from his brother, Massimo. That could never be good.
“What’s the matter?”
“Hello to you, too,” Massimo said dryly. “I wanted to say thank you for shipping the wine. Are your supplies drained?”
“By you, no. Although your Sofia gave it a go.”
“She does like a drink. Speaking of surprising women, who was that delightful young lady who answered my call?”
Durante could feel himself blushing. “Just a friend.”
“You do not have female friends. As a matter of fact, I do not believe you have any friends at all.”
“And what category would you place Belinda Afriyie?”
“My woman,” Massimo replied without hesitation or embarrassment. “Would you not agree?”
“I don’t know. You didn’t hang around for me to make a full assessment. She’s not Mary Alice.”
“I know.” The relief in his voice was unmistakable. “How many men are fortunate enough to receive a second chance? In any event, let us return to the topic of your delightful young woman.”
God, sometimes Massimo was like a dog with a bone. “Your progeny poisoned me. She drove me home. That’s all.”
“You are lying,” his brother said, and—damn him—there was a grin in his voice. “She was permitted inside the fortress.”
“Did you want something else, Massimo? I need to work.”
“No. Nothing else. I am here when you are ready to tell the truth.”
“To you? The master of artifice? I’ll pass that to the left,” Durante sneered. “Call me when Belinda has you chained somewhere repenting for your sins.”
“Ciao, Durante,” Massimo said, laughing.
He hung up and picked up the rest of his breakfast muffin. He’d had no idea he had poppy seeds in his pantry. Ella really was talented. He wished he knew what he could give to her. Without that, he doubted she’d give even the smallest part of herself to any man.