Instead of starting at the beginning of this tale, I'm going to introduce the two characters pictured at the end of this page - who, courtesy of a photo shoot starring Daniel Sobieray and Patrice Garza, will appear on the cover of the book, which is still in rough draft stage. Comments accepted at any time.
(Please note: both the story and the photo are at the "raw image" stage, so things may change in this chapter before we go to print)
Italy - April 2019
Marie parted from Kelly at the Airport in Marseille at the end of March, waving as she boarded and saying a little prayer that the populations in the cities Kelly was intending on visiting wouldn‘t overcome her special gift. Marie, who had known Kelly all through school and helped the empath during any classes they had together, had noted something during their visit. Kelly’s empathic abilities seemed stronger, somehow, as if she had developed her talents over the years they had been apart.
As the plane approached Rome, Kelly could feel the city as if it was an ocean wave of emotion, ebbing and flowing as they circled the airport. As the plane touched down, she built the blocks in her mind that would have to keep the emotions from overcoming her. She still wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming number of people in the streets as she collected her bags and hired a taxi to take her to the hotel
. Unable to sleep despite trying to numb herself to the emotional overflow, Kelly soon decided to give up on her idea of exploring Rome alone. There were just too many people, and with Easter coming up in just a couple of weeks, the city was already beginning to prepare for the influx of the faithful, coming to the Vatican City to celebrate the resurrection of their Lord in a mass with the Pope.
Kelly decided she needed a much smaller population to acclimate herself to the Italian way of life if she was to spend the month of April. A phone call to Jack gave her the place she should go: the Island of Capri, just off the coast of Sorrento. With Jack making the arrangement for her hotel, Kelly went to a local bus station and booked passage to the ferry that would take her to the island. When she thought she could handle the larger concentration of people, she would move on to visit Pompeii, then Venice, and finally, Verona. She fell in love with the island the moment she set foot on it, and after a good night’s sleep, she set out to explore the island, feeling less overcome by the emotions of the populace.
Kelly had set up her tripod and was trying to get the angle just so. The street in that she was on had beautiful flowers and benches along the rock wall, and she was going to try to get a picture of herself on the bench. As she stood up from adjusting the focus, she found herself face to face with a very handsome, but extremely angry Italian man. He was gesturing toward her camera as he shouted at her in his native tongue, and when he almost knocked over the tripod, she grabbed the camera and looked at him wide-eyed, unsure what he was angry about, but feeling both anger and disgust rolling off of him in waves. Her voice came out squeakier than she would have liked.
"I don't understand Italian, so I don't know what you're mad about. Do I need permission to take a photo of this wall?"
As if her words snapped off a switch inside his brain, he stood a moment blinking at her as his anger and disgust flipped immediately to confusion.
"You were not taking photograph of Stefan?" he asked in heavily accented English, and Kelly wondered silently who Stefan was.
"I was trying to take a photo of myself on that bench to email to my daughter." She explained, and the man had the decency to at least look ashamed of his behavior even though he was still a little suspicious underneath. His hands indicated the bench as he spoke.
"Go. Sit. I take the picture for you."
She sat on the bench trying to relax. He stood frowning at her instead of taking the photo.
"You are too stiff. You need to relax."
Kelly tried, but still couldn't seem to relax and pretend that the cameraman was someone she knew. Again, he stood frowning.
"No. Relax. Watch Stefan."
He sat on the bench, closed his eyes for just a moment, and gave her a sexy smile that all but said "I've been sitting here all day waiting for you to come join me!"
As he stood back up to return to the camera, Kelly suddenly recognized him. He was sporting a scruffy, unshaven look and his hair was mostly covered by a baseball cap, but she had seen his image on many posters around the town. She didn't know his name, but he appeared to be a fairly popular model.
She did her best to relax and give him the shot he was asking for, then gave him an awkward sounding "Thank you" when taking back her camera back off the tripod to pack it back into her camera bag. She was flustered, and didn’t grab the tripod as she started off.
Without a backward glance, she decided to return to the hotel and take a break for a bit before continuing to see the sights, not seeing the look of confusion that crossed the handsome man's face. She didn't notice that he picked the tripod up and started to follow her. When she paused outside the hotel for traffic, someone touched her arm and she gave a little squeak of fright. Stefan gave her an amused grin, but was winded, having only just managed to catch up with her because the light was against her.
"You left this." he told her, holding out her tripod. She thanked him, but when she started across the street, he held her back.
"I don't know your name."
There was something in his tone that made her realize that he was used to being fawned over, and some stubborn part of her refused to do so. With a tight smile, she looked him in the eye.
"I don't know yours, either. Why don't we leave it that way?"
The look on his face was priceless, and Kelly turned away. His hand on her arm stopped her again. Amusement was the primary emotion she felt from him as he apologized and introduced himself.
"Stefan Savoldi, at your service, and I am very sorry for the way I treated you before I realized that you weren't paparazzi."
He executed a small bow and looked at her with a gleam in his eye. Kelly found herself reluctant to give her real name, having a strange feeling that he was under the influence of something, but unable to pinpoint it. How she missed her daughter at times like this, for Ree could have told what he was on and how long he was using it. Kelly let him see her reluctance in her facial expression.
"Kelly Starbird." she said sharply. Turning away again to see the walk light come back on, she said over her shoulder, "Now, if you'll excuse me...."
This time, he let her go, and she could tell without turning to look back that his eyes were on her. She felt his confusion before she felt him turning away. She didn't note that he continued to glance her way until she disappeared through the hotel doors.
For Stefan, speaking with a woman who didn't know him was a novelty. Speaking with a woman who didn't flirt with him was an even bigger novelty. Having a woman coldly turn her back and walk away usually only came about when he got into arguments with one of the lovers who didn't want to understand that they weren't "an item" any more.
That this American, Kelly Starbird, didn't show any recognition of his name, didn't flirt, and then turned and walked away as if he was just a regular man almost floored him. That had NEVER happened to him. Looking back at her hotel before he hailed a cab, he settled into the seat and gave his destination with a smile, then said the name she had given him.
For a tongue used to Italian, it seemed a harsh name for the lovely woman he had at first thought was someone trying to take a photo of him.
He hadn't really seen the woman at first, just the camera on the tripod, which had made him see red. When her dark head had lifted at his furious tirade and her golden eyes had focused on him, Stefan had been struck dumb for a moment. The combination of her slim frame, high cheekbones, and stunning eyes beneath the glossy black hair had been unexpected, and when she started to speak English, clearly American, and had not fawned over him in any way, he had been pleasantly surprised, enjoying the confrontation for the simple reason that it was something different.
He ignored the look the cab driver gave him as he spoke her name aloud for a second time, then wrinkled his strong patrician nose. He would have to give her a pet name before he went to see her again. He thought about that for the rest of the ride. What should he call the lady that was more fitting than her given name?
That she wouldn't want to see him again never crossed his mind, and he was planning on calling her his chosen pet name for her when he invited her dinner as an apology for his bad manners.
"La mia dolce." he murmured with a smile, and the cab driver looked at him again. It meant "my sweet", and he would call Kelly that when he went back to see if she would continue to treat him like he was a normal, ugly man. As they pulled up to the riding stable where the day's shoot was taking place, the smile faded from his lips and he tried to ready himself for the coming craziness of the shoots with the photographer he was working with. If he had his way, he would never work with the man again, but his agent typically ignored his requests and forced him to take jobs with temperamental people that he hated.
“It’s good for your career!” Christof would tell him, which meant it was expected Stefan would do it or be threatened that he would have to find another agent.
Before opening the door, he took several deep breaths, pasted a false smile on his face, and climbed out to the flash of multitudes of cameras, all getting photos to sell to magazines, newspapers and tabloids. The lovely life he had dreamt of when he got his first modeling job had deteriorated into a life he hated, working with people he didn't trust, and doing things to himself he couldn't understand for the sake of the job.
That was why Kelly was already special to him. The last time he had been treated like a normal person was when he was 11 years old, when his mother had sent a photograph to a model search.
Christof had approached them, and had taken total control of Stefan’s life.
He needed someone who treated him like a man rather than an supermodel because he needed help to get out of the business.
UPDATE 7/30/14: We have the central image of the book finished! The publisher now gets to add their edging and such, and it's ready to go to the printer!
Now I have to finish the rough draft, get it edited, and get it to the publisher!
(Yes, go ahead. You can either call me a slacker or remind me what happens when one gets the cart before the horse...)
Here is David's marvelous centerpiece in all it's naked glory at 300 dpi and ready for the next phase....
ADDENDUM AUGUST 17, 2014: The rough draft is finished and the first read through is taking place. Still hoping for a November/December release.
UPDATE OCTOBER 7, 2014: The editing is done, the files have gone to the reviewers for their feedback, and it looks like we're still on track for a release somewhere around Thanksgiving (November 27). Watch the space below for the official release date along with the final cover to watch for.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 6, 2014: AND WE'RE LIVE ON AMAZON!
You can now pre-order the Kindle version for the November 30th release HERE
The paperback and Nook versions have also been submitted and links will be given as soon as they go live as well.
Thank you SO much for your patience!
UPDATE NOVEMBER 8: The Nook version is live and can be purchased right away at this link: NOOK
The paperback proof has been ordered and should be in my hot little hands very soon.
If all went well, it will "go live" for pre-order on Amazon within the next week or so.
Update November 14. The book video trailer is up on You Tube.
The Video Introduction
November 30, 2014:
AND WE'RE OFF!
The book is now available on Amazon in paperback form Here
(though I don't understand why the date was back at the beginning of the month short of that's what the printer opted to do)......