The Sicilian's Bride. Carol Grace
“I’d say you’ve inherited your share of charm.”
Would she have said that yesterday? Before he bought her lunch, before she met his family, before she heard what he had to say about his ex-fiancée?
Dario smiled. A slow smile that spread to his intense blue eyes. Isabel’s heart thudded. If he touched her, her skin would sizzle. That was how hot she was.
The sound of the Puccini aria rose and filled the air. She didn’t know what the words meant, but she understood pure passion when she heard it and when she felt it. Isabel’s heart raced. The longing in the song matched the longing in her heart. A longing to hold and be held. To kiss and be kissed. That was all.
He was going to kiss her this time. She knew it.
Can you tell that I love Sicily, with its mysterious inland mountains, its trendy cities, its rumbling volcano and its wonderful beach resorts? If you have any doubt, you’ll be convinced of my love affair with this island when you read THE SICILIAN’S BRIDE. I’ve tried to capture a newcomer’s fascination with the scenery and the people by giving an American woman a Sicilian vineyard, which she inherits from an uncle she never knew. Then I’ve put an obstacle in her path to achieving her dream of finally finding a home of her own. That obstacle is a wealthy and hard-working winemaker who thinks he deserves to have her vineyard—not her.
When my family and I vacationed in Sicily a few years ago I said to myself, ‘I must set a book here.’ Thanks to Mills & Boon for giving me the chance to share my passion for the delicious and spicy pasta dishes eaten in charming coastside restaurants, for visits to cathedrals and palazzos, and best of all for the people of Sicily—warm-hearted, opinionated, and incredibly generous to foreigners like me.
CAROL GRACE has always been interested in travel and living abroad. She spent her junior year in college at the Sorbonne, and later toured the world on the hospital ship HOPE. She and her husband have lived and worked in Iran and Algeria. Carol says writing is another way of making her life exciting. Her office is her mountain-top home overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which she shares with her inventor husband. Her daughter is a lawyer and her son is an actor/writer. She’s written thirty books for Silhouette, and she also writes single titles. She’s thrilled to be writing for Mills & Boon® Romance. Check out her website—carolgracebooks.com—to find out more about Carol’s books. Come and blog with her fun-loving fellow authors at fogcitydivas.com
THE SICILIAN’S BRIDE
MILLS & BOON
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ISABEL MORRISON was lost. She’d been driving around on dirt roads for hours looking for the Monte Verde Vineyards. There were no signs at all out here in the country. The small rented Fiat was not equipped with GPS or air conditioning and she was sweltering in the September heat. She’d known it would be hot in Sicily, but not this hot.
No wonder there was no one around to ask directions. Only mad dogs and Englishmen were out in the noonday sun. And one American looking for her piece of the American dream, far far from home. All she wanted, all she’d ever wanted, was a home of her own.
The home she was looking for, if she ever found it, would be a place to start over. A place to put down roots at last. A place where no one knew what mistakes she’d made in the past. A place to earn a living growing grapes in a vineyard she’d inherited from an uncle she’d never known.
As an orphan, she’d been left on the doorstep of the home for foundlings with nothing but a basket and a blanket and a note asking the good sisters to take care of her. Which they had done, as best they could. She’d known nothing of an uncle. Least of all what he was doing in Sicily and why he’d left her a vineyard. All that mattered was that someone cared enough to leave her an inheritance—and what an inheritance! A home of her own. Not only that, but vineyards too.
She’d done everything she could before she’d left home: read a dozen guide books, taken Italian lessons and a short course in viticulture. She believed in being prepared and self-reliant. Being naive and too trusting had gotten her heart broken. Never again.
Now if only she could find the old villa—the Azienda—and the supposedly neglected vineyards on the Monte Verde Estate, she’d be in business. The business of settling in, growing grapes and producing the great little dessert wine, Amarado, that the place had once been known for.
According to the map the solicitor, Signore Delfino, had given her it should be right…over…there.
“I can have someone take you out there next week,” he’d said.
“Thank you, but I can’t wait until next week,” she’d answered. Next week? She’d been waiting all her life for a place she could call her own and now she couldn’t wait another day. She’d wondered if he was stalling. He’d tried to talk her into selling the place before she’d even seen it.
“I must advise you,” he’d said, “the property is in some disrepair from neglect. If you want my advice…” He cleared his throat. “You should sell it to a local family who are prepared to make you a generous offer. I can handle the details for you.” The way he’d said it indicated she’d be crazy to turn the offer down.
“Please tell the family I appreciate their interest, but the property is not for sale.” No matter how much they offered, she wouldn’t sell, and she’d find it on her own, thank you very much.
On one side of the road was a rushing stream lined with eucalyptus trees, and on the other side, golden wheat fields lay next to vines heavy with fruit. The air was heavy with the spicy smell of the trees and the scent of wheat drying in the sun. But she couldn’t figure out how to get to where she wanted to go.
Yes, it was hot and the air was dry. Yes, she was lost. But she was also nervous and scared at the prospect of actually turning grapes into wine that was good enough to sell in the upscale market. One thing at a time, she told herself. Maybe there would be a kindly old caretaker who would take her under his wing and show her how it’s done. He’d say, Your uncle talked about leaving the place to you. How you’d carry on the family tradition…Let me help you get started.
She smiled to herself, picturing the scene. One way she’d dealt with rejection in the past was to lose herself in an imaginary world, to the dismay of her teachers and foster parents who accused her of being a dreamer. It was her way of escaping the hard edges of reality.
As a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, she’d learned early on in life to have an escape route when life’s problems got too overwhelming. Another coping mechanism that had come in handy to was to act in a confident and self-assured manner, especially when