Camille Taylor is a romantic suspense author and lives in Australia. She spends her time reading, writing and procrastinating on Pinterest looking at nail art, books, and cake decorating. She enjoys most genres, particularly romance and mysteries. She started writing at sixteen and is currently working on her Harbour Bay Series set in Australia. Camille is an incurable genealogist and has traced her heritage to England, Scotland, Ireland and Russia.
Excerpt from Bella Italia (Heavenly, Book 1)
His mother stopped beside him. “Quite the change, isn’t it?”
It was indeed. His gaze shifted back to Adelaide. She had put on weight, not a lot but it was a start. Her eyes no longer held dark circles beneath them and then of course there was that smile. He felt it all the way to his toes.
“That camera certainly did the trick. You should have seen her face, Antonio. My God what a wonderful sight to see.”
He was sorry he’d missed it. He’d also been scared to witness it which was why he’d sent it by courier and not delivered it by hand. But he was glad he had put a smile on Adelaide’s face—that was all that mattered. He only hoped what he had to say didn’t take it away.
“I have bad news. The trial has been pushed back.”
Dawn’s gaze drifted to Adelaide. “I don’t think she’ll be too concerned over that. She loves it here and everyone loves her.”
Antonio wondered who ‘everyone’ was. It sounded like a lot more than just his family. He frowned. Adelaide spotted him, her smile growing wider. His stomach flipped and his heart pounded.
She raced over, her sleek body graceful. Her clothes hugged her form, the jeans practically a second skin and the white blouse only seemed to highlight her high, firm breasts and narrow waist.
Adelaide launched herself into his body and wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing against him. Unprepared for the attack, Antonio had to take a step back to regain his balance otherwise he would’ve landed on his arse on the ground with her on top of him. His body reacted to the image. Damn. He had been trying so hard not to. He held her waist in his hands and shifted her just a bit to the right so she would never know just how happy he was to see her.
She pulled back much too soon for his liking and kissed first his left cheek then his right. “Thank you so much. You have no idea what it meant to me. Wait here.”
In the same breath, she zipped into the house, leaving him standing there with his mother. He blinked, slightly stunned.
“See what I mean and you did that for her.”
He scratched his cheek. “I did nothing.”
All he’d done was keep a promise. He refused to see beyond that.
Adelaide joined them a minute later and handed him a large roll of fifty and twenty euro notes. “Thank you again for the lovely thought but I don’t feel right accepting it, knowing how much it must’ve set you back. I hope it’s around how much you paid.”
He didn’t care about the money. Hadn’t even batted an eyelash as he’d handed over his credit card. All he’d been thinking was how much she would love the camera and how much he’d wanted to buy it for her. He’d chosen not to see it for what it represented—a connection between them. Something that would remain strong no matter the distance that separated them.
He was a fool. He’d known his reasons. There was no point trying to paint them any other way. His heart knew the truth and was always there to remind him.
He clamped his hand around the roll.
“Where did you get this?” Fear made his heart beat quicker, a liquid ice replacing his blood. If she had gone to an ATM nearby she could very well lead the Vincetti family right to her.
“I’ve been working—well, kind of. I’ve been taking photos of the landscape and selling them to tourists in Orvieto.”
“She is so talented, Antonio. Have you seen her work? Your father is going to use some of her photos for the new website. Some of our close friends have also requested portraits done and Addie has been developing them in her bathroom.”
“You’re not mad, are you?” Adelaide shifted her feet when he said nothing.
He shook his head, dazed as relief flooded him. “No I’m not mad. Surprised but not mad.”
“We’ve been careful, Tonio,” his mother assured him. “Everyone around here thinks Addie is a cousin of mine. None of them even know her last name.”
The rest of the tension left him. “Good, keep it that way. Although you do know what you’re doing is illegal right? Without a visa?”
Not that he cared but he felt obliged to point it out.
“The thought did cross my mind but then the Roma Polizia have requested me to stay here until the trial which has made me close my business down and lose my residence so I figure the government could just turn a blind eye to my activities.”
His whole body recoiled. “Jeez, Adelaide. Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve worked something out, had the Polizia pay your rent while you were here.”
Her shoulders rose and then fell. “It’s fine. Besides I’m not the same Addie as that girl was. When I go back home it’ll be a fresh start.”
“I really am sorry.”
He felt awful. With all that was going on he hadn’t thought about what she was giving up and how it was affecting her life back home. He’d been too busy ignoring the fact that one day soon she would leave and he’d be left empty. He was selfish, thinking only of himself. It also stung that she hadn’t confided in him about her financial issues. He wasn’t sure how he could’ve helped but he would’ve made sure she didn’t suffer because of something completely out of her control.
She laid her hand on his arm and the touch went straight to his loins. Even with all that he had bouncing around his head she had a way of commandeering his thoughts until his mind narrowed to a singular purpose.
“It’s fine. I’ll be fine. Honest. Don’t worry about me. I’ve been down this road before. I’ll be back on top in no time.”
He swallowed hard. He’d let her be on top anytime. He willed his thoughts under control and tried to focus.
“I need to talk to you.” He took her arm and pulled her gently alongside of him until they were around the corner of the house and hidden from view. It wasn’t necessary to speak in private but he wanted this time with her. Just the two of them where he could indulge his fantasies.
The scent of lavender was strongest here, the tall stalks only a few feet away. A buzz grew louder as a swarm of bees pollinated the plants nearby. He focused on the woman before him that had begun to mean more to him than anyone in the past. It was more than just physical attraction, although he admitted that was a big part of it but it was also the woman beneath the surface. She constantly surprised him.
Letting out a deep breath, she leaned against the house and she looked up at him. “Let me guess, the trial?”
He nodded. Now that he knew what the cost was to her to wait, it annoyed him that the lawyers continued to push back the date. She’d given up so much in her pursuit of justice—more than anyone should have to. She would be going home to nothing. He had no idea what that was like—to start over. He’d always had his family to fall back on but Adelaide had no one. Was she scared? Terrified of the uncertainty? If so she hid it well. He couldn’t imagine what her life had been like bouncing around so many different homes but never belonging to one. Having no one to hold you in the dead of night and say that everything will be all right even if it wasn’t. It made him realise he took his family for granted and admire the woman before him even more.
She might’ve thought herself boring, predictable and weak but it took a certain type of person to continue on and push past the barriers that life threw at you. She’d not only adapted, she had embraced the change. Adelaide Montgomery was stronger than he’d originally thought.
She rested her hands over her stomach. “How much longer now?”
“They’re still deliberating. Lawyers you know fighting over what admissible and all that shit.”
“Well that’s good news then.” Her upbeat tone surprised him especially after everything he’d just learned.
He stepped forward. “It is?”
“Yes. I still have several portraits in my calendar to honour plus your father hasn’t decided on the final few pictures for the website.”
Antonio smiled and before he knew it his forehead was resting against hers. “You’re a special kind of girl, you know that.”
Her breath hitched and her gaze dropped to his lips and as if realising what she was doing jerked back up. She blushed. What was going through her mind? Could she see he was attracted to her? Was she just as attracted? A man could go out of his mind without answers. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t act on his desire no matter how much he wanted her. Or she him. She was his witness—a woman he’d promised he’d keep safe. Which included from himself. Not that he’d hurt her—at least not intentionally.
Nothing good could come of succumbing. They lived in different countries—on different continents. Hell, even different hemispheres.
“It’s nice to know.” Her voice wasn’t quite right. Was it his imagination or was it slightly husky?
Her pulse raced, visible to the eye. She wet her lips. His fingers tightened, the supple feel of her hips beneath his palms a surprise.
When did they get there? He had no memory of moving them. Adelaide’s eyes changed in reply, darkening. She trembled and sucked in a breath. His temperature spiked as once again her gaze flicked to his lips. Heat rose. Desire washed over him in waves, clouding his mind—his better judgement. He slid a hand over her rounded cheek, the denim a tease, hiding her from his touch. Adelaide’s lips parted. He tugged her against him, ready to devour her and she came willingly, or rather eagerly. He lowered his head, anticipation licking at his skin as he imagined her taste, of taking possession of those delectable lips and transporting them to another place.
A flirty giggle followed by heavy footsteps approaching broke the spell he’d been caught under. Antonio swallowed back a curse. He stepped back, his hands dropping to his hang by his side. His heart thumped in his chest as he realised what he’d been about to do and took another step away from her.