Swimming out of the sluggish black took more effort than Charles counted on. He almost sank back into the comfort of gloom, but the voice wafting down the long, snug tunnel urged him to paddle back toward the light. Prying his lids open, he squinted at the blurry face above him.
So the angel hadn’t been a dream.
“Can you hear me?” she murmured, gilded curls falling around her face.
“Reading you loud and clear, babe.” He tried grinning though the result was meager at best. Voice raw against his throat, he tried again. “Ciao, bella.”
She beamed, and his heart’s dull pulse strengthened into a pounding anvil. “Hello,” she replied. “I am here to help you.”
Glancing down at the sullied rag in her hand, he frowned. “You’re a nurse.”
“I know a bit about nursing, si,” she replied, voice light and a bit breathy. “But mostly I am here to translate.”
Oh, yeah. Because this is Veneto. And I’m in serious trouble. “You don’t work for the Germans, do you?” he asked wearily.
Another smile bloomed. This time his heart simply hammered to a halt then flipped over and rebounded, banging with renewed vigor. “There are no Germans here. You are safe.”
She’d said that, hadn’t she? While he’d drifted. She’d pulled him out of the black, aimless sea with that breathy voice. Glancing down between them, he saw the hand covering his and turned his over to return the hold. “What’s your name, miss?”
“Lucille,” she murmured, intriguing green eyes dancing down to their joined fingers before they rose back to his. He detected the deepening color in her cheeks, but she didn’t let go. “My name is Lucille Renaldi.”
“Lucille Renaldi.” As names went, it was pretty damn perfect. “Miss or missus?”
Her brow creased in confusion. “Scusa?”
“Are you married?”
Surprise trickled over her face and even as her lips twitched in humor, her face’s rosy glow darkened farther. “No, I am not married.”
Jesus, how was this not a dream?
“Can you tell me what ails you?”
At the moment, it happened to be his groin—typically ahead of his brain after surfacing from a good, long nap. He doubted her nursing would go as far as that part of the anatomy though the image entertained all the same. “Well, my head’s drumming a good bit. But it’s the arm that’s worrying me.”
“Your arm?” Pursing her lips, she reached for his limp right hand. “May I?”
Yes. Please. Touch me. “Sure,” he said after studiously clearing his throat.
As she leaned across the bed, he noticed that the satin gown that made her look so angelic was stained with blood. He’d put his head in her lap, he remembered with a grimace, just before he’d conked out practically in her arms.
The image did nothing to salve his banged-up ego.
She smelled like peaches and roses, a heady combination he inhaled heartily as her gentle hand felt along his injured arm. American women didn’t smell this amazing. At least, he didn’t remember them that way.
Currently, calling up any face but Lucille Renaldi’s was a wasted effort. Even his dear mother’s face, a memory he usually had no trouble procuring, seemed farther than the long miles that separated him from the family farm near the Atlantic Coast.
“I should remove your jacket,” she explained, meeting his eyes again.
Better and better. “Sorry?”
“Your jacket,” she reiterated, a worry bar forming between her eyes as if she feared for his mind. “I’m afraid I can’t feel much through it. I’ll have to remove it to see if your arm is broken or not.”
“Sure.” He shifted to rear up but stopped when those sheened curls fell around him as she curled an arm underneath his shoulders to help him rise. Hell, when in Rome… The lightheadedness crawled back…though that might’ve been the effects of her perfume.
She helped him into a sitting position. Before his hand could lift an inch, her fingers latched onto the first button of his jacket.
A sharp voice called out in alarm behind her and her hands fumbled to a halt. They both looked around, and Charles saw the crowd filling the small bedroom. He frowned. None present looked approving. Two men in expensive suits and an older woman with eyes like cold, gleaming daggers aimed right at his traitorous heart.
Here to translate, Lucille had said. That would make the strangers the welcome wagon.
He cleared his throat and lifted his good hand in lame greeting. “Ciao.”
Lucille hammered out a stream of Italian. Raising his brow, he watched her Cupid’s bow mouth move and admired both the speed of her words and the romantic rhythm of her language.
Dennis had been dead on. Angels lived in Italy. And it looked like Lucille Renaldi was his.
Forever Amore was nominated for Best Book of 2009 by Long & Short Reviews which awarded the story a rare “Best Book” review:
“A dynamic war-time romance novel. The love of the two main characters…is wonderful, frank, and exciting. It is the age-old story of forbidden love. We feel very clearly the terror of invasion, the potential loss of family or home. The events here make the people who lived and struggled in World War II seem a finer sort than ordinary humanity. This makes this story, this lovely romance, all the more moving. There are so many scenes worth noting, that I fear this would become novel in its discussion. Suffice to say this features everything from dogfights to intimacy, love to desperation. Williams has a particularly poetic turn of phrase and has brought the romantic back to romance.”
The Baker City Herald describes Forever Amore as “A beautiful love story woven with suspense to make you race through the page!” Coffee Time Romance adds, “The setting of Italy during World War II is an exciting one filled with political intrigue and danger from all sides. The author has brought the era to life and filled it with some memorable characters…from the first page to the last one.”
Get your copy of Forever Amore in paperback or ebook at Black Lyon Publishing
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To read more excerpts and info on Forever Amore, visit me on the web at http://www.amberleighwilliams.com