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Authors: Stacey Joy Netzel

Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction

Lost in Italy

BOOK: Lost in Italy
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Lost In Italy

 

by

 

Stacey Joy Netzel

 

 

 

 

The best laid plans…

 

Halli Sanders spent two years planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy. Her itinerary did not include being stranded by her siblings, kidnapped by a sexy American movie star, dodging bullets, or fleeing criminals in a car chase around Lake Como. And that’s just in the first three hours.

 

…often go awry.

 

Trent Tomlin put his movie career on hold to investigate his brother’s murder-ruled-suicide at his Italian villa. He’s closing in on the suspects when an American tourist unwittingly films the murder of the retired cop helping him. The killers will stop at nothing to get the evidence—including holding Halli’s family as collateral.

 

Life’s a little different unscripted.

 

Thrust into the role of real-life hero, Trent finds himself falling for the Plain Jane whose beauty blossoms with every challenge they face. But how can he keep the evidence from the murderers to get justice
for his brother and friend without betraying Halli and her family?

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

First, a note to my readers...

 

My editor returned this manuscript to me with the words, “Great job, but the brother and sister ‘accidentally’ leaving the heroine behind seems a bit unrealistic and contrived for the benefit of your plot.”

 

My reply?  “I’m Halli...minus the movie star and the kidnapping.”  (and the murder)

 

Yes, to me, being left behind in Italy is (and was)
very
realistic.  Especially since it took my siblings ten minutes to even realize I wasn’t in the car with them.

 

Second, I’d like to clarify that Ben and Rachel were only inspired by my siblings, and are not mirror images of my real family.  My oldest sister is a red-head, and these days she could handle a vacation without her blow dryer.  I think.  Thankfully, though, we do share a great friendship just like Halli and Rachel.  (so no holding the above comment against me!)  And my brother... although he owns a motorcycle like Ben, in real life he speaks fluent Italian.  I’d like to tell you he’s as hot as Ben, but he’s my little brother so that’d just be weird.  Besides, Ben is a fictional secondary character and Trent is the real star of this book, so let

s move on.

 

Special thanks to my son Cody for the boat idea and the many brainstorming sessions as we drove up north.  To my brother Troy for his patient help with all my Italian related questions and for loving the book on the first read through even with all the emotional, romance stuff.  And to both my siblings, Bridgette and Troy, for leaving me all alone beside Lake Como, Italy back in 1997.  I got a whole book out of those twenty minutes.

 

Thanks to Donna, Jamie, and Dulcie for the writer’s weekends that helped shape the plot.  And last, but not least, I’d also like to thank my great editor Stacy D. Holmes, who challenged me to make this book the best it could be.

 

 

                                                              
Stacey

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

 

 

To Bridgette and Troy...for obvious reasons.

 

Love you guys!

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

 

About the Author

Other titles by Stac
e
y Joy Netzel
  (includes excerpts from Colorado Trust Series)

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

“For the love of God, Hal, we didn’t travel over ten hours for you to film swans.”

Halli Sanders ground her back molars together, ignored her sister Rachel, and zoomed her camera in on the flock of white birds across the water.  Graceful and serene, they stood out in stark contrast to the dark, shaded water of the small inlet her brother had parked near.  A shaky breath helped steady her hands.

“You guys wanted to stop, now I want to see if
Lake Como
,
Italy
and
Lake Como
,
WI
have more in common than their names,” she informed her sister and brother.

“Who cares?” Rachel moaned.  “And it was Ben’s bright idea to pull over, not mine.  I just want to find the hotel and shower away some of this jet lag.  And, we still have to find a converter for my hair dryer.”

Halli rolled her eyes and kept filming.  Yes, she was being snotty about it, but they’re the ones who threw away her meticulously planned itinerary so they could make impromptu stops like this.  Ben specifically had  insisted she lighten up, as if she’d chosen to become a control freak after their crazy, unstable years on the run with their parents.

The half dozen or so swans had floated into the sunlight, near a wooden dock in front of a stone villa.  She wondered who lived there.  The tabloids always talked about George Clooney’s house on
Lake
Como
in Italy and how he always had friends visiting—could this be it?  If it was, any number of stars could be there
right
now.

That’s it
, she told herself.  Focus on something other than the fact her plans had all been scrapped.  She did not want her anxiety issues ruining this vacation.  As long as she had Ben and Rachel, she’d be fine.

She allowed herself one last lingering look at the regal villa through the viewfinder.  The weathered stonework was beautiful, but the shiny, reflective windows captured her attention.  She loved large windows that let in natural light.  Wished she had them in her studio apartment overlooking the lake back home.

Ben ran interference behind her.  “We’ll go find the hotel first, then an electronics store, then we’ll find a place to eat.  Sound okay?”

“Yes, thank you,” Rachel agreed, her tone full of exaggerated drama.  “Let’s go, Hal.”


Fine
.  I’m coming.”  Halli took a step backward, but a movement in the windows caught her attention.  She paused and steadied the camera.  The front door to the villa burst open. As someone ran outside, the swans took flight, their startled cries echoing across the water.

Behind her, she heard car doors open.  Then Ben’s, “Oh, hurry up—there’s a break in traffic.”

Bam.  Bam.  Vrrooommm
.

The slamming doors made Halli glance over her shoulder.  She did a double take when the little blue car her brother had rented in
Milan
shot off the curb.


Hey—
”  She spun around, took a few steps, then stopped with a disbelieving laugh.  “Real funny, guys.”

Surely any second now, they’d give up the joke, pull to the side, and wait for her to catch up as they laughed their hilarious frickin’ heads off.

No brake lights.

No U-turn.

Nothing.

The blue car accelerated around the bend in the road and disappeared.

Her heart skipped a beat and her stomach sunk.  Muttering under her breath, she looked around self-consciously, doing her best to distract herself from the fact that she was suddenly all alone in a foreign country.  A dark-haired man across the street glanced her way with open curiosity.  Thankfully, he kept walking.  Cars cruised past; a couple kids on bikes; a woman on a moped.  Though the kids stopped a short distance away, no one paid her much attention over the next few minutes.

Well, sure. 
Lake Como
,
Italy
was probably used to lost tourists, what did they care?

No
,
you’re
not
lost
.  The adamant statement helped to steady her breathing.  That’s right.  Ben and Rachel would be back any moment.  She had nothing to worry about as long as she didn’t leave this spot.

The man across the street gave her a more thorough inspection and a chill trickled down her spine.  Halli averted her gaze and hugged her arms around her middle.  Her heart rate continued its steady acceleration.

Oh, she was going to kill them when they got back.  They’d pulled pranks in the past, but this one was cruel—especially her first time travelling overseas.  Why would they do this now?  Ben may live life with the motto “Rip the Band-Aid off”, but not Halli.  It had to be a joke, right?  It was either that, or they didn’t know she wasn’t in the car.  But how could anyone miss something like
that
?

If Ben’s phone wasn’t the only one equipped to make international calls, she’d call and give them a loud, extended piece of her mind.

Stop!  You’re going to be fine.
  There are plenty of people around and no one’s going to do anything in broad daylight.  She clutched the small travel purse hanging diagonal across her chest containing her passport. 
See?  If you need help, you can prove you’re a
US
citizen.

Not that she’d need to prove her citizenship.  Any minute the blue car would come back around the bend.  Any second even.

She stared down the road, counting seconds.

Seconds became minutes.

Maybe they
didn’t
know she’d been left behind.  What then?  How long before they came back?  Desperate to control the unrelenting apprehension no amount of silent talk would quell, Halli turned back to the lake as if she’d find answers somewhere across the water.

A lone swan near shore  reminded her of the camera still clutched in her hand.  The red light on the front reminded her she was still recording.  Ironically, the camera was part of the reason she was sitting here alone, and yet she’d completely forgotten about it.

She stopped the video and swiveled to take a seat on the cool ledge of stone that held the lake water at bay.  It was the  perfect vantage point to keep the loitering man across the street in sight.  A glance over her shoulder located where the other swans had landed a good distance from the villa’s dock.

She frowned and faced the lake.  Strange how that person had burst so suddenly from the villa.

The noon sun sat at a point that she had to squint and shade her eyes to see the structure’s stone walls across the small inlet of water.  Even then, it was too far away for the naked eye.  Flipping open the viewfinder as she lifted the camera, she waited for it to focus, then tried to zoom.  The low battery indicator flashed as she maxed the zoom.

BOOK: Lost in Italy
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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