Chapter 1

The Mediterranean sun warmed Christiana’s tanned skin as she swung open the window of her suite. It wasn’t hard to see why this area had such wonderful vineyards, great wines, and a steady stream of visitors. Chris was relaxed in her homeland far away from the reality of her life and Robert. She was hoping a short break and a lot of wine would help her identify the feelings she was having about him. Christiana Amalfi raised her long arms over her head as she stretched out the night’s sleep. Strands of her long dark hair fell softly against her high cheekbones and olive skin as she removed the band that had held them captive and shook out the night. She cupped the warm espresso mug room service had delivered. As she sipped the smooth liquid her mind began to wander back to Robert and that miserable text message. She hoped that a few days warming her bones would replace the cold memories that pained her and comfort her “stirrings” she had from the trip over.

The flight from JFK to Rome the day before had been really quite easy for a change. The normal fourteen-hour trip was only nine and they didn’t have a full plane. She and Clarissa had the first class cabin, and the flight was only about three quarters full. First class afforded accommodations for 16 and they had 12 to watch over on this leg of the flight. The two men in 4 “C” and “D,” occupied their time leaning closely to each other and whispering incessantly. It didn’t seem to bother the businessman in 4 “A” who was busying himself on his laptop for the majority of the flight. 3 “A” and “B” was occupied by a newly married couple and her parents had rested in 3 “C” and “D” for most of the flight. 2 “D,” 1 “B,” and 1 “C” and “D” had spent the flight eating, drinking, and reading. The one remaining passenger in first class would prove to be challenging without even trying. His looks weren’t sexiest man of the year looks, but they were captivating to Chris. She couldn’t keep her eyes from wandering in his direction during the flight; the man in 2 “A.” The olive skin stranger with the dark hair and thick Italian accent had ignited a fire in her she was sure he could see vividly in the dimmed light of the first class cabin. When he smiled her skin flushed, her heart raced, and her hands shook and beaded with moisture. The whole flight, every time she checked on him there was a flood of sensations. By the time the plane landed she was exhausted and relieved that it hadn’t been a fourteen-hour trip. She didn’t trust that she would have been able to control her animal instincts for five more hours. The one time their hands did brush lightly against each other, had nearly driven her over the edge. Just a touch had provoked the heat of desire in all the tender parts of her body.

“2A is hot!” Clar commented as she dropped off the empty champagne bottle from the newly weds.

“Did you show him how to control the A/C?” Chris asked.

“Oh, like you don’t have your eyes on that one.” Clar countered.

“Oh, I don’t know if he’s my type,” Chris continued. “Bulgari watch, Azari shirt and trousers, a bit much for an plane flight, don’t you think?”

Clar looked up from the lunch trays to see Chris glowing red and smiling. “Oh, I’m sure you’d like to take them off,” she shot back.

“Is it that obvious?” Chris asked.

“Oh, it’s that obvious.” “Maybe you should have a cold drink.” Clar held out the empty champagne bottle to egg her on.

“I’m really glad he’s not too demanding,” Chris said. “I can’t seem to keep it together today. I’m sure it’s just the thought of Robert and the text message, still bothering me.”

“I’ll take care of him the rest of the trip,” Clar offered. “You mind the newly weds and their parents.

Chris and Clarissa Piedmont had worked together for LombarItalia Air for years, flying the Rome, JFK, San Francisco and Hong Kong flights. The long flights and layovers in exotic places had made for a finely tuned team and great friends over time. It hadn’t started out so warm and fuzzy. Clar was clearly a “California Girl” and Chris was more than a bit jealous of her sun-bleached hair and athletic body. Clar could eat anything and never gain an ounce and Chris was always cheating her taste buds out of some delightful pleasure to remain the “standard” for LombarItalia Air. But boyfriend tales and woes and chocolate ice cream with raspberry sauce had bonded their friendship more solidly than any glue.

She had been there for Clar when her husband Tom died in the Tower One collapse. Her friend had been devastated and had waited for weeks to hear something, anything in the way of good news or bad about her high school sweetheart. She had been there with Clar and watched from Clar’s condo window as they cleaned up the tragedy. The sound of the trucks had become the “white noise” of life from Clar’s balcony. But as the time went by and the noise returned to the “normal” New York hum, Clar had accepted the fact that Tom was gone and Chris had helped her find a real estate agent to sell the Soho apartment that she and Tom had for five years. When they bought it they loved to sit on the cast-iron balcony and look at the towers. Without Tom and with the towers gone, it was a constant reminder for her of the loss and overwhelming pain.

It hadn’t taken long for Clar’s apartment to sell and she found another condo, in another part of town that was just perfect for her new life. It was a great remodeled pre-war 2-bedroom apartment close to Central Park and perfect for her active life. It seemed really expensive, but Clar loved the pool and the new apartment’s convenient location to the nightlife of New York. Enough time had past since her loss that she could sit on the small deck and watch the horse-drawn carriages carrying their precious cargo, lovers holding hands as they went for an evening ride. There was a full time “door man,” Henry, who had taken her under his wing and took care of the apartment while she was away. She was well on her way now that she’d moved on. Maybe the hunk in “2-A” was just what Clar needed, Chris thought.

Clar must have caught a glimpse of Chris daydreaming and thought it was something else. As she returned to the galley after tending to their “favorite” passenger she poked fun at Chris for her pouty look.

“Maybe we should both take him home and have some fun,” Clar prodded. “Could make for an interesting evening.”

Chris looked at Clar and began to respond to the invitation, when she realized what Clar had said. “Oh, you bet,” she responded. “I can barely keep my knees from knocking together when I walk by him. Just imagine how entertaining I’d be.”

Clar smiled, “well, first I was kidding and second what’s going on with you?”

“I have no idea,” Chris answered. “But I think I now understand ‘animal magnetism’.”