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Bella Terra Deception #2
September 6, 2011
Available in: Paperback, Audio, e-Book
Revenge at Bella Terra
Beautiful young author Chloë Conte’s first book zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists. Now, struggling to write her second mystery, she retreats to an isolated cottage in a private vineyard. But with his magnetic appeal and his fascinating tales of Bella Terra’s violent past, Eli Di Luca proves an irresistible distraction, and Chloë finds herself falling in love with a man she hardly knows. Soon she discovers that Eli has been keeping secrets from her, and the truth will bring more than heartbreak…it will put them both in mortal danger.
When murder and peril threaten, the only way Chloe can survive is to trust the man who has betrayed her…and that’s a price her stubborn heart may not be willing to pay.
Listen to an audio excerpt:
REVENGE AT BELLA TERRA finds young bestselling author Chloë Robinson struggling with her deadline and her father’s matchmaking attempts. What she doesn’t know is the man she’s about to meet, Eli Di Luca, is the perfect man for her, and her worst nightmare … because he’s the man her father bought her.
Chloë Robinson looked around at the quiet, two-lane road that ran through a remote part of Bella Valley, California. She looked at her bug-splattered blue Ford Focus. She looked at the right front tire, so flat it was resting on the rim.
Damned tire. Damned deadline.
She blamed everything on her deadline, on being late with her book, on having second book syndrome. She wouldn’t have driven over the nail if she wasn’t distracted by her plot, by being halfway through a book that seemed slow and clunky, weighed down with too many expectations. Her first book had written so easily, had been so much fun, and only when it hit the bestseller lists had Chloë realized that if she wanted a career writing books, she’d have to do it again. And again.
Yep. This was definitely the fault of her deadline.
And Eli Di Luca. It was his fault, too.
She sighed. And her own fault. What kind of fool was she to stand in front of her father and proclaim all she needed to finish this book was a quiet place to write?
She dragged her suitcases out of her trunk, stacked them beside the road, and found the spare, the jack, the tire iron.
Saying she needed a quiet place to write was just an excuse, and a stupid one, too. She didn’t expect him to take her seriously. But like a pudgy Italian whirlwind, he had come back with the invitation from Eli Di Luca to stay in his cottage on his estate and finish her book.
Papa said Di Luca was a fan. Papa obviously thought his daughter was an idiot.
She dug the spare out of the trunk and rolled it over onto the dusty shoulder of the road.
One quick trip to the internet showed her what she already knew — Eli Di Luca was a successful, handsome Italian, exactly the kind of guy her father had been flinging at her head.
A car slowed and stopped.
She tensed, stood, tried to look tall and tough.
A guy, who did not look tall and tough, called, “Looks like you know what you’re doing!”
“I do.” She did. Because eight years ago, when she’d taken driver’s training, her instructor had made her change a tire. She hadn’t done it since. She didn't know if she could loosen the lug nuts or get the jack to work right. But only an idiot would ask a strange man for help…
Not that he was offering. “Do you need me to call someone for you?”
“No, I already called.” Her smile was more of a baring of her teeth. The garage had said it would be two hours. The bastards. “I figured while I was waiting, I might as well give it a try.”
“Power on!” He rolled up his window and drove away.
“Yeah, thanks.” She wished she was back in Texas where some man would stop, swagger over and tell her to rest her pretty self while he changed her tire.
Okay. If she’d had this flat in west Texas, home of tarantulas and dust storms, she would have waited a long time before she even saw a man. But other than Mr. Power-On, it wasn’t as if they were coming out of the woodwork in California, either.
Men had their place in the world. Taking out the garbage. Opening jars. Fixing flats.
The irony of having a flat tire here, within two miles of her goal, did not escape her. What other reason — except being late on her deadline — could explain that kind of bad luck?
The deadline. Second book syndrome.
And her father.
God help her. She loved him. She really did. But her mother had warned her. When it came to women, he was a Neanderthal. He thought a woman should be married and producing children, particularly if that woman was his daughter and the children she would bear would be his grandchildren. Chloë intended to live the life she had worked so hard to make for herself. She did not want a husband he had bribed, begged or blackmailed to marry her.
She read the directions about how to place the jack, read them three times, knelt in the gravel and maneuvered it into place. Taking a breath, she started to raise that car. The way things were going, she’d be lucky if the car didn’t slide on this gravel, fall off the jack and crush her hands and at least one foot.
Hey! But at least if her fingers were broken, she wouldn’t have to finish the damned book!
That’s the way, Robinson. Look on the bright side.
When her father had given her a plane ticket from Austin to Santa Rosa, she debated telling him no, she wouldn’t go. But she had experience with his match-making schemes. He never gave up, and if she didn’t go to California, somehow Eli Di Luca would find his way to her.
Besides, right now, as Texas simmered under a blistering spring heat, California sounded pretty good. So she’d decided to go … but on her own terms.
She packed her car and started across country, determined to have an adventure. She’d driven across west Texas, into California and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, veered into the Central Valley, and finally into the wine country.
Her GPS instructed her to turn off and take the pass over the mountains and into Bella Valley … she’d almost died of terror. That road scared the pants off her. Going up. Going down. And then … she’d come around a sharp corner and there it was, Bella Valley, spread before her like some flashback to early California when people were scarce and the land drowsed under a loving sun. Wide oaks dotted the golden hills. Orchards and vineyards rode the rise and fall of every fold in the earth. In the distance, a town, Bella Terra, nestled beside a silver river that wound in wide loops through the bottom lands.
She didn’t care about Eli Di Luca, but right then and there, she fell in love with his home. She had almost called her father to tell him. But there was no point in encouraging him any further.
Anyway, she didn’t dare call him right now. He had not been happy about his baby girl driving two thousand miles by herself. He had predicted dire happenings. Like this flat tire.
Okay. The tire was off the ground. Should she have loosened the lug nuts first?
Crap. Yes. She should have.
She lowered the jack again and wrestled with the lug nuts. She bounced on the tire iron. How was she supposed to loosen them when some guy with an air compressor had tightened them?
If her father knew about this flat tire, he’d call Eli Di Luca who’d come to the rescue.
She wouldn’t mind if a Texan called her “little lady” and patronized her while he fixed her tire. Being rescued by one of the suitors Papa had found through Italian Lovers R Us would be seriously annoying.
No matter how much of a pain in the ass she found her father, she was still glad he was in her life. But between his machinations and becoming a successful author, she had become skittish about dating. She never knew whether the guy was going to talk about how he wanted to settle down and raise a large family or whether he was going to earnestly tell her he had a great plot for a book, and suggest she write it for him and they’d split the profits. In the end, she didn’t know which was worse: the guy who lunged at her with the intent of impregnating a rich man’s daughter or the guy who bored her silly explaining every detail of his story.
Hm. Her father should look for a guy who had a plot idea and also wanted to marry money. She would go out with him, he’d talk about his book until she was in a coma, then he could have his way with her at his leisure.
She grinned and carefully stacked the lug nuts in a pile, then went to work with the jack again.
No matter how much people who thought they could write when they had never tried annoyed her, she loved talking with other authors, published and unpublished, the ones who put their butts in their chairs day after day and wrote. If not for their knowledge and assistance, she would not realize she was suffering from second-book syndrome. According to authors who wrote lots of books, there was only one cure — to finish the book and start another. And another. So she would. Because she was tougher than she looked.
She had the car off the ground again, hadn’t she?
She tugged the flat off, carried it to the trunk, put it in. She put the spare on. Tightened the lug nuts. Lowered the jack.
She had changed the tire! She had changed the tire! Lifting her arms over her head, she did the victory dance. She was a goddess! A goddess!
…Of course, that’s when a winery tour bus full of people drove past, staring as if she were crazed.
She lowered her arms.
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