This book almost didn’t get written! I so loved doing the research that I would have quite happily spent all my time on that 🙂 But – as you can see – I did manage to tear myself away, and start to write. And I was glad I did, because my archaeologist heroine gets to explore the beautiful island of Sicily, and solve a mystery. And, to complete my writing bliss, she does so with the help of a handsome doctor!
The building shone white in the sunshine, a line of tall palm trees announcing that this was a place of some importance. Rose Palmer gripped her son’s hand, walking through the wide entrance doors and into a spacious reception area, refreshingly cool after the heat of the afternoon.
A building like this showed intent. Any archaeologist would tell you that buildings gave an insight into what a community thought was important, and Rose was no exception. The high ceilings and clean lines were a clear statement that the work that went on here was both vital and serious.
She hung on tight to William’s hand, for fear of losing him in amongst the melee of people who criss-crossed the space. She couldn’t see a reception desk, and she supposed the best thing to do was to ask someone. Easier said than done. Everyone seemed too intent on getting wherever they were going to stop and give directions.
‘Scusi…’ A woman in a white top that bore the insignia of the hospital stopped, and smilingly asked her something in Italian. Hopefully she wasn’t in need of directions too.
‘Inglese.’ Rose proffered the piece of paper that her friend Elena had given her, with details of William’s appointment, written in Italian.
‘Ah. Sì…’ The woman scanned the paper and shot a brilliant smile at William. Rose was getting used to the way that Sicilians always reserved their brightest smiles for young children, and so was her son. William reached up, and the woman took his small hand in hers.
‘Terzo piano…’ The woman gestured towards the lift and then thought better of it. Taking a pen from her pocket, she walked over to a water dispenser, leaning on the side of it to draw on the paper, smiling at William as she did so. Then she proffered the hand-drawn map, holding up her thumb and two fingers and pointing to the lift to indicate that Rose should go to the third floor.
Third floor, turn right and then the second on the left. She got it. Rose nodded and smiled and thanked the woman falteringly in Italian. William waved goodbye, and the woman responded cheerily, watching her all the way to the lift.
Upstairs, the corridors were less grand and more utilitarian. Rose followed her map, and found herself in a small, comfortable waiting room. A receptionist scanned her written directions and waved her towards the rows of chairs, before picking up her phone.
Rose made her way to the far corner, and sat down. She would rather have flown back to England to do this, but Elena and her husband would have none of it. All of the visiting archaeologists working at the dig were covered by private health insurance and this hospital was one of the best in the world. They would make the appointment for her and request a translator, and William would be in good hands. She was a guest on the island, and anything less would be considered as a lapse in hospitality.
And the one thing that Rose had learned very quickly was that you faulted Sicilian hospitality at your peril. So she’d accepted the offer and driven here, privately deciding that if the language barrier turned out to be more than she or William could cope with, she’d find an excuse to be on the first plane back home for a couple of days.
Someone laughed, and Rose looked up to see a man chatting with the receptionist. Her face was animated, smiling up at him in the way that women did when someone they liked also happened to be breath-catchingly handsome.
And even by the rigorous standards of the island this man was handsome. Straight, dark hair, grazing his collar. Smooth olive skin, high cheekbones and lips that were meant to smile. Rose couldn’t see his eyes, but she imagined them chocolate brown.
Only a man so immaculate could have got away with that jacket. Dark cream, obviously linen—on anyone less perfect it would have looked rumpled. But on him it seemed as if every crease had been carefully chosen and styled, to make the most of his broad shoulders and the slim lines of his hips.
Suddenly he turned, looking straight at her. His eyes were brown. Dark, seventy per cent cocoa, with a hint of bite. Rose dropped her gaze, embarrassed to be caught staring.
‘Mrs Palmer?’ He’d walked over and dropped into a chair opposite her. His voice was like chocolate, too.
‘Ms Palmer.’ It was a convenient halfway house for a single woman with a child. ‘Um… Parla Inglese?’
He grinned and Rose felt her ears start to burn. ‘Yes, I speak English. I’m Matteo Di Salvo, and I’m here to translate for Dr Garfagnini. He’s the paediatric specialist who’ll be seeing William today.’
Perfect. His English was clear and almost unaccented, although the slight difference in tempo made it sound seductive. Or perhaps that was just the way he spoke. Seductive just about summed him up.
Rose took a breath, trying to concentrate on the practicalities. ‘Thank you. You’re the interpreter here?’
‘No, I’m a doctor. Our interpreter is busy with some English tourists in the emergency department…’ He gave a shrug, which indicated that the matter shouldn’t be given a second thought. ‘Dr Garfagnini is running a few minutes late, and I wondered if I might take the opportunity to get to know William a little.’
Handsome and kind. And he spoke English. This man was a bit too good to be true.
‘Thank you so much, Dr Di Salvo. I appreciate it.’ Rose remembered that a handshake was usual in these circumstances and held out her hand.
‘Matteo, please…’ The caress of his fingers was just as alluring as the rest of him.
‘Rose.’ She snatched her hand from his, feeling her cheeks burn, and curled her arm around her son.