The doorbell rang. Gently, Tiffany placed the shoes down and made her way to the door. After peering through the peephole, she smiled and flung open the door.
“Ciao bello. Come stai oggi?”
Simone’s eyes examined her from head to toe. Grasping her by the shoulder, he spun her gently around. “Wow, much better after seeing you. Good thing I never have students like you in my classes. Too distracting.”
She tapped him on the chest. “You’re such a tease. You didn’t even see me in my heels. I’ll knock before I go out.”
There was a spark in his hazel eyes. “Where are you going, dressed to kill? Out to break more hearts?”
She sighed. “I wish. I’m going to a party. The producer of a show I’m auditioning for will be there. I have to make a good impression.”
Simone raised an eyebrow. “Dressed like that, how could you not?” He reached for her hand. “It sounds to me like you need a good, home-cooked meal to strengthen you before the attack.”
Tiffany groaned. “Not again. I had to hold my breath to squeeze into this dress. Your cooking will bust the seams.”
“There’s nothing to you, Tiffany. I may not watch those shows, but I am an Italian male. I don’t think skeletal frames are any man’s ideal. Just a little. I promise not to force-feed you.” He smiled, setting off the crinkles around his eyes.
Tiffany could never resist Simone. He was like a big puppy dog. And since they’d been neighbors, he was more like a brother to her than her own brother had ever been. “Okay, you win. Lead the way.”
She allowed herself to be nudged next door. She’d been so many times to this apartment, a mirror image of her own, but so much more grown up. Good quality furniture, overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a fully equipped kitchen that Simone actually used on a daily basis. When Simone returned from the high school biology classes he taught, he went for a jog, then got to work in the kitchen. Heavenly aromas wafted from under his door every evening when she returned, while Tiffany wondered if she had enough lettuce left over in the fridge for a salad.
“I still haven’t gotten used to cooking for one.” He pulled a hot bakery tray from the oven.
Tiffany waited until he’d turned. “How’s Ramona? Have you spoken to her?” She knew Simone didn’t want to talk about it, while still wanting desperatelyto talk about it.
He turned his back to her again, placing bread slowly onto a plate. “She likes Chicago. She prefers e-mailing to calling or Skyping, says the sound of my voice makes her nostalgic. Makes her weaken her resolve about our deal.” His shoulders slouched.
Tiffany held back rather than slipping comforting arms around him.
“I hate how she calls it ‘our’ deal, when she’s the one who wanted to go to Chicago, free from all ties. I was willing to wait for her.”
Tiffany heard a sigh, but when Simone turned around he was smiling. She suspected his acting skills were far more developed than her own.
He placed the serving plate on the table with a flourish. “Crusty, homemade French bread, with melted gorgonzola and hazelnuts.”
“You’re freaking kidding me. You even bake your own bread?”
“Ah, ah, ah.” He slapped her hand playfully. “No profanity at this dinner table, Signorina Walker.”
“Oh, please.” Tiffany held up a steaming piece of baguette, smelling the melted gorgonzola. “Your English is so damned perfect and precise. You need to shake it up a bit, make it a bit more colorful.” She grinned. “That’s where I come in.”
“So you see? I lucked out with my choice of neighbor.”
“Ha!” Tiffany swallowed a bite. “Luck’s got nothing to do with it. Where else could we afford to live on two teacher’s salaries? A penthouse on Piazza di Spagna?”
Simone’s face clouded over. “Ramona’s company pays for some luxurious condo.”
He made a face and the word, on his lips, sounded vulgar.
“It overlooks Lake Michigan and the skyline. It has a gym and a twenty-four hour doorman.” He allowed his voice to grow soft. “She’s not coming back.”
Tiffany sighed and placed her hand over Simone’s. His hazel eyes looked so vulnerable. A lock of his thick, dark hair fell over his eyes, and she longed to brush it away. “No, she isn’t, Simone.”
“Yeah, I know.”
His voice sounded heartbreakingly sad. For the second time, Tiffany fought the urge to embrace him. “You need to get over her. There must be some gorgeous colleague at work. Cook her dinner and she’ll swoon.” She stroked his arm. “I can’t think of a better boyfriend than you.”
His gaze met hers. “Ramona didn’t think so. She couldn’t sprint away fast enough.”
“Ramona doesn’t know what she’s missing.”
One side of his mouth twitched up. “Then why aren’t you jumping me when you have the chance? I’m lonely and vulnerable.”
“I would, but I’m vain and shallow. I need a man in show business, with a fancy car and a yacht. Someone who’ll have the contacts to get me on TV.” She shrugged. “A high school biology teacher—no matter how sexy and adept in the kitchen he is—just won’t cut it.”
Simone laughed. “Fair enough. You’re more honest than my girlfriend. I mean, my ex.” He poured wine into her glass. The oven timer went off. “The lasagna is ready.”
by Kimberly Sullivan
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
One Eternal City. Three women. Three wishes. Three coins.
Emma, an American expat living in Rome for twenty years, can’t count on her ex-husband to help out with the kids when things get tough. Dario Rinaldi, famed plastic surgeon to the stars, is too busy gallivanting around Europe with young women to take an interest in his family.
Beautiful Tiffany, born and bred in Iowa, is desperate to get a spot as a dancer on an Italian television show. But is she willing to do whatever it takes to make her dreams of TV stardom come true?
Annarita, from an Italian-American family in Yonkers, teaches English to over-privileged Italians and regularly has her heart trampled by boyfriends all wrong for her. As her mother is always quick to point out, nothing has gone right for her since she moved to Italy. And she isn’t getting any younger, either.
Emma, Tiffany and Annarita all meet up by chance at a 1950s movie night while on a restorative holiday at a beach resort off-season. The triumphs and hardships of these three very different women become intertwined as they form an unlikely friendship and work to better their messy lives.
**On Sale for only $1.99 December 6th – 12th!!**
I write the women’s fiction stories I love to read, both contemporary and historic tales of women and the rich lives they lead along their journeys of self-discovery. A lifetime admirer and longtime resident of Italy, I’m often guilty of sneaking the bel paese into my stories.
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