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Genre: Romantic Suspense
Heat level: Hot
Available at Amazon, Barnes &Noble (soon!), and other online retailers.
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 falling into the wrong hands and get justice for his brother and friend without betraying Halli and her family?
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.
She studied the picture. Something was different—one of the windows looked odd. Her attention snagged on a tall figure in the corner of the pane. Longish dark hair above a square jaw with a severe slash for a mouth. He raised a pair of binoculars to look across the bay. Her pulse jerked when he zeroed in and stared straight at her—
Tires squealed and an engine revved loud to her right. Halli jumped about a foot. Ben and Rachel! An uncharacteristic spurt of anger doubled her anxiety as she whirled around.
“I can’t believe you guys left—”
Words disappeared with the heart-stuttering realization that the shiny blue convertible half pulled onto the cobblestone sidewalk was not her brother and sister. And the man in the driver’s seat most certainly was not her brother.
Plain was the first word that came to mind when Trent Tomlin got a good, close-up look at the girl dressed in baggy black pants and an oversized black T-shirt. Except for her eyes. Almost the exact color of his car, they blazed with anger—if the shrill tone of her voice were any indication.
Because he couldn’t afford to waste a second, he slipped into his carefree, celebrity character while pushing up his Ray Bans to flash his trade-mark, million dollar grin past the two day’s worth of camouflaging scruff on his jaw.
“Hi.” Usually that’s all he needed. One…two…
Astonishment replaced anger.
“Oh my God. You’re Shain West.”
“Only in the movies, darlin’.”
That always got ‘em, too, the good-ol’-boy, southern drawl. Didn’t matter he’d been born and raised in northern Oregon, he had a natural talent for mimicking any accent. After just a few words, he easily placed her in mid-west
. American tourist. Perfect.
It also explained why she’d been video taping in the wrong place at the
wrong damn time. The opposite of his
brother, and if he could help it, the opposite outcome. United States
Her cheeks flushed. “Of course. I know your real name. Sorry. It’s just—I’m…ah…I’m…”
Hell, he’d better speed this up. “Can I give you a lift?”
“W-what?” She craned her head around, as if he might be speaking to someone else.
Resisting the urge to check over his shoulder, he kept his gaze trained on her. “You look lost. Hop in and I’ll give you a ride.”
Her throat convulsed, and though he wouldn’t have thought it possible, her blush deepened to crimson. A fleeting smile revealed even, white teeth.
“Oh, no. I mean, um, thank you, but no.”
She lifted a hand to tuck a strand of straight brown hair behind her ear as she searched back and forth along the road.
Pushing up to sit on the headrest, he prepared to turn on the superstar charm that had brought him such success at the box office.
“I’m waiting for my brother and sister,” she said before he could speak.
So that’s who’d driven off as he watched the scene unfold from one street above and behind her. He lifted a tense shoulder in a careless gesture. “Quick spin around town, and I’ll bring you right back. They’ll never know you were gone, sugar.”
Her eyebrows drew together above those deep blue eyes. Damn. He fought his own frown. Based on previous experience with star-struck women, she should’ve jumped in at the first invitation. Wasn’t it just his luck, this one had common sense.
Leaving the car running, he swung his legs over the door and rounded the front of the convertible. His heart thumped with each step as he tried to figure out the best way to get her out of this mess. It was one thing when he was following a script, but how the hell did one orchestrate a rescue in real life when the rescuee wouldn’t cooperate and he had no time to explain the danger? It’s not like he could play her the recording tucked in his pocket.
The girl backed away from his approach. He fought back rising apprehension and forced an easy smile.
“Look, I appreciate the offer, Shain, but—”
“Right.” Her blush deepened. “I know.
But I—” Trent
“I need you to get in the car.” As an afterthought, he added, “Please.”
He used her glance down the road as cover for his own. Still time, yet his control slipped. “Seriously. Get in.”
The sharp command widened her eyes. Suspicion darkened them to navy, and she took another step backward. Then her shoulders squared while her gaze narrowed with determination. “No.”
The right taillight on his Alfa Romeo exploded.
ducked reflexively as bits of plastic flew in all directions. Adrenaline spiked through him, but other than
a sharp reactive jerk, the girl just stood there holding her camera. Trent
lunged forward, grabbed her arm and hauled her toward the car. Trent
“Hey—let me go!” She pulled back with surprising strength.
He picked her up and shoved her head first into the passenger seat, then vaulted over her to slip behind the wheel. Heartbeat thundering in his ears, he gunned the gas with a sickening grinding of gears before the convertible shot out into traffic amidst screeching tires and blaring horns.
So, now that you know my most exciting vacation adventure from the top of the post, time to share yours!
Thanks so much for reading and have a great week!
Stacey Joy Netzel