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One Hot Italian Summer
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After the death of her best friend and writing partner, Grace Harper is struggling both with grief, and with her next novel, the first one she’ll have to write alone.
Fortunately, her new powerhouse agent, the formidable Jana Lee, has a solution for her. She can stay at her villa in Tuscany for a month, soak in the sunshine, relax, and find her confidence again. After all, Jana has a lot riding on Grace’s next book, and the last thing she wants is for her reputation as a “super-agent” to be tarnished.
At first the villa is a dream come true for Grace – that is until Claudio Romano shows up one day with his ten-year old son, Vanni, in tow. Turns out, this is Claudio’s house, and Claudio happens to be her agent’s ex-husband from long ago. Thanks to their annual father and son bonding trip being cancelled, Claudio and Vanni are here to stay.
So is Grace.
With the three of them sharing the same house, Grace’s writing plans are thrown out the window. But even if she’s not pounding the keyboard, she’s still finding beauty and inspiration… in none other than Claudio. He’s unlike any man Grace has met before. He’s smart, charming, and wickedly sexy, plus a great father to Vanni. He’d be the perfect summer fling – if only he wasn’t completely off-limits.
But as the hot Italian summer wears on, Grace and Claudio are destined to succumb to the heat, no matter how hard they try to resist each other. One steamy encounter with Claudio could affect Grace’s chances of starting her career over.
Or he could be exactly what she needs.
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They say writing is the loneliest profession.
It’s said so often it’s become a bit of a cliché. I never really understood it, because, until now, it’s been the opposite for me. Writing has been the greatest journey, a dream career, a chance to be with my best friend day in and day out, working together to create something magical. It has never been lonely—it has never been anything but a shared discovery of the unknown. Me and Robyn against the world.
But now that world is unfamiliar to me. The lights have dimmed. It’s just a maze of shadows, hard to find your way in and impossible to get out.
And I’m standing in front of that dark maze, knowing I have to go it alone, knowing the journey I’m about to go on—if I can even open up my laptop most days—is going to be dark and strange and terribly sad. There is no joy here, only fear. Fear that I alone will not be able to find my way with Robyn gone.
I stare at the blank page before me, this bright, flashing thing that stares right back. It dares me to write a word. To start.
But I can’t.
I reach over and slam the laptop shut then push back my chair a few inches, the sound of the wood scraping on the floor loud and definite. I want to put distance between me and the work but I know I can’t do this forever. This is my career, the path I chose, and either I give up on it now and move on to something else, or I forge my way forward.
For now, though, I’m moving on.
Just for today.
Because it’s easier this way.
I sigh and get to my feet, stretching from side to side. You’d think I just put in hours of hard work from how sore I am, but the truth is I’ve been sitting here since this morning, just staring at the screen, lost in thought and often paralyzed by it.
It’s the end of May and I have a book due at the end of summer.
The first one I’ll have written on my own.
A book with what feels like the entire world riding on it.
Because my world is.
I walk over to my bedroom window and gaze out. From here, I can see Dean Cemetery and people walking along Dean Path, their brightly colored umbrellas popping against the monochromatic background. So far, spring has settled on Edinburgh in a grey mist, and I can’t remember the last time I saw the sun. It certainly hasn’t helped my mood, turning writer’s block into a solid concrete wall.
I sigh and rub my hands up and down my arms. The flat is drafty and damp, the kind that sticks to your bones. It’s the top level of a stone house, and I’ve been renting it since university. There are wood beams along the ceiling, one stone wall in the kitchen, and wind that whistles through the thin windows, bringing in the chill and the musky scent of the River Leith.
Also, it was this cemetery across the street that changed everything for me. I stumbled upon a gravestone that only gave a hint of a woman’s rich past and then my brain was off and running. A cozy mystery about an elderly lady who used to be a member of Scotland Yard and her long-lost American niece. Both of them teaming up to solve mysteries and fight crime while running a cat café.
Too scared to write alone, I approached Robyn, wondering if she’d want to write it with me. She said yes and the two of us jumped into it without a second thought.
I met Robyn Henry in my university’s creative writing class. I was studying history at the University of Edinburgh in a vain attempt to make my professor father proud, and decided to indulge in something more freeing. Though I’d often spent my childhood alone, I’d lose myself in books. They kept me company when I had no one, and I’d pen silly little stories to pass the time. A creative writing course made sense for me.
It made more sense when I met Robyn.
Robyn was unlike anyone I knew. I was shy and quiet, keeping tightly to myself, and she was loud, quirky, and gregarious. She took a liking to me, kept on bugging me to hang out with her, wanting to read my stories before anyone else. She saw something in me that many people dismissed, and in turn I was enthralled with her. I wanted to be just like her.
My mobile rings, jolting me out of my thoughts. Honestly, there’s only a few people who call me regularly and I have to say I don’t feel like talking to anyone at the moment.
I go to my bedside table where it’s charging and look at the number.