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This without a doubt the funniest book I have ever written. Also the most romantic. And it definitely has characters you will not forget.
“Many will go back and read it again simply because they enjoy smiling.”
This was fun. You have something very special here. I know that your audience will love it and many will go back and read it again simply because they enjoy smiling. A most entertaining experience.
– Annette Rochelle Aben, GO YOU
My four-year-old daughter’s face appeared behind me in the mirror. I set down my electric shaver and turned around. “Yes, sweetie?”
The morning light streaming through the master bathroom window made her big blue eyes seem even bigger and bluer than usual, but she appeared slightly contemplative.
“The place we might be going . . . um . . .”
“Idaly.” Sienna pulled at the hem of her pajama top. “Will we be there all day?”
“Yep.” I leaned against the counter top and smiled. “If we get to go, we’re going to be there all day for a lot of days.”
“Yay!” She sprinted out of the room, headed for the stairs and SpongeBob on TV in the living room.
Mattie strolled in, sporting her fluffy robe. Her hair was wrapped up in a towel. “Which one of us is taking her to school today? My calendar says it’s you.”
I kissed my beautiful wife. “Nope. I have my big meeting today. It’s you. I sent you a reschedule notice.”
“Shit. I’m already going to be late for work.” She sighed. “Is Sienna getting excited about possibly going on a trip?”
“I’m not sure she fully gets it yet, so it’s hard to say.” My eyes moved over Mattie’s sultry figure. She always looked sexy right after a shower, even in a plain robe. “Speaking of hard . . .”
“No time for that. I told you, I’m already late.” She pulled the wrap from her head and let her blonde hair fall around her shoulders. “I showed Sienna where Italy was on the computer just now, and where it was in comparison to our house. She seemed to understand.”
I nodded, turning back to the mirror to finish shaving. “Well, she’s pretty smart for her age. I hope the weather there’s about the same as it is here. That would be nice.”
Mattie picked up a jar of moisturizer and leaned over the vanity, poking at her chin. “God, I’m getting fat.”
“I don’t see that. To me you are as beautiful as you were on our wedding day. Even beautifuller.”
“I’ve put on fifteen pounds since our wedding.” She frowned. “I’ve gained three pounds just since Christmas. None of my nice clothes fit.”
I set down the shaver. “But when you gain weight it all goes to your boobs.” Moving behind her, I nuzzled her neck, sliding my hands over the material of the robe. “Nobody complains about that. I sure don’t.”
She shook her head. “It’s all in my butt.”
“I like your butt. Besides, a woman should have curves.”
“Not curves that look like cottage cheese.”
I glanced at her reflection in the mirror. “Well, if you want to burn off a few hundred calories, I know a good way.”
“I said I don’t have time for that.” She opened a drawer and pulled out a small white tube. “I suppose I could buy clothes that fit during our trip. I hear the shopping’s nice in Milan.”
“Can’t.” I picked up my shaver. “I heard it was closed.”
She smirked. “They don’t close Milan.”
“They did. I’m pretty sure it said so on Wikipedia.”
“No, it didn’t.”
“Well give me a few minutes. It will.”
Mattie dug through a variety of colored bottles in the vanity drawer. “They don’t close the shops in Milan for anything, not even earthquakes.”
“No, they don’t. Darn it.” I moved behind her again and pushed my hips against her a few times. “Are you sure you can’t play? I can be quick.”
“Gee, that makes it sound extra appealing.” She flared her eyes for effect as she turned to kiss me. “Go close your big business deal. I’ll be here to celebrate tonight. We can take care of our business then.”
“Deal.” I grabbed my suitcoat and bounded down the stairs to start my fight with the hideous Atlanta commuter traffic. It took over an hour to get from our house in the ‘burbs to downtown, a distance of maybe fifteen miles.
And every person in every car hated every minute of it.
Somehow I managed to survive it again, and as I walked through the large glass doors of Creative Capital, my assistant popped up from her desk and handed me a shiny red can of Coke.
“Good morning, Michael. Happy anniversary!”
I stopped dead in my tracks. “Holy shit, is it September already?”
Samantha smiled. “It’s our anniversary, dum dum.” She leaned onto the corner of her desk and reached back for her coffee. “Ten years ago today I started here as your assistant and launched you on your path to success.”
“Damn, has it been that long?” I took a quick sip. Coca-Cola, cold and perfect. Sam was the best assistant, ever—even if getting a beverage for her boss was expressly mentioned as not part of her job requirements. I had to shake my head at the thought of ten years. “Time flies. You haven’t changed one bit, Samster.”
“I’m not sure that’s a compliment.” She held her cup out and I clinked the aluminum can against it. “Cheers.” We both took a long drink of our respective morning fuels. Sam cradled the cup to her waist, glancing down at the dark swirls. “Do you remember what you said to me that day?”
“That we probably shouldn’t work together because you drink too much coffee and I don’t drink any?”
She glared at me. “You said you could see I was going to help you become very successful.”
“Wow, I said that?” I gulped some more soda. “Sounds like a bad pickup line. You were fresh out of college.”
“And you had just gotten engaged to Mattie, as I recall.”
I put a hand in my pocket and leaned against the wall by her desk. “Ten years today, huh?”
“You know, when your buddies found out you were finally tying the knot, they set up a bachelor party. One of the strippers cancelled, so they asked me to fill in as a last-minute replacement.”
I nearly choked on my soda. “What!”
Sam walked around her desk and sat. “What a shame I don’t do tassels. Do you want your briefing papers for the chiefs or what?” She held some printouts in front of my face.
I gave her a mock sigh. “I guess I’ll take the briefing.” I snatched the reports from her hand. “Conference room?”
“Mm-hmm.” She nodded, diving back into her ceramic swimming pool of caffeine.
I took a step and stopped. “Oh, and could you take care of this for me?” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small, gift-wrapped rectangular box.
“Oh, you did remember!” She jumped up and grabbed it out of my hand.
I shrugged. “It’s nothing much.”
She tore into it like a kid at Christmas, then stopped and opened the box. “Oh, Mike. It’s beautiful!”
Sam held up the Cartier wristwatch and looked on as it sparkled in the light, then quickly fastened it around her wrist. She smiled, admiring it from all angles. I couldn’t help but grin. She was positively glowing. “Do you like it? Mattie helped pick it out.”
“I can tell. You certainly don’t have the taste for this.” She stood up and wrapped her arms around me. “It’s exquisite, Mike. I love it. You tell that lovely wife of yours that I owe her a thank you lunch. On you.”
“Of course ‘on me.’ What other kind of lunch do you two ever have?”
Sam released me to pick up her cell phone, wagging a finger. “Hey, I’m worth twice what you’re paying me. You’re getting off cheap with an occasional lunch.” She carefully aimed the phone’s camera at her watch. Facebook would be ablaze in a few minutes.
“Tell the chiefs. They set your salary. I just try to get you nice raises every year.”
“Try harder.” She glanced up from the photo shoot. “Grady Jackman got his assistant a Porsche.”
“No, he didn’t. It’s his Porsche, and he just lets her drive it sometimes.”
Sam clicked another picture. “I don’t get to drive your Porsche.”
“I don’t have a Porsche.”
“That’s my point. Nobody on this team is driving a Porsche.” She smiled up at me. “Get with it, you damned slacker.”
“Yeah, but . . .” I glanced at the briefing papers. “I think he’s banging her, Sam.”
She kept her eyes on the gift. “Really? Some girls have all the luck. He’s hot. Ish.” She turned to her computer.
“Yeah, ol’ Grady’s almost as good-looking as he thinks he is.” I chuckled.
“No comment.” She pointed down the hall. “Conference room. Don’t keep them waiting.”
“Okay. Happy anniversary, Sam.”
She swung around in her chair and gave me a big friendly grin. “Happy anniversary, Mike.” Then she raised her cup and winked. “Go get ‘em.”
I walked down the hall, passing the FedEx girl as she approached Sam’s desk. “Who is that?”
There was ice in Sam’s voice. “That’s my boss, Mr. Torino.”
The FedEx chick was undaunted. “Wow, he’s dreamy.”
“He’s also taken. With his wife. But there’s a ladies room right there if you need to go change your panties.”
I shook my head as I pushed open the conference room doors.
Dreamy. What nonsense.
The chiefs were all assembled. Larson and Cardewig were there, our big VPs who reported directly to the old lady. Jennifer Smith from legal sat with some of her crew. And all the way in the back, stuffed into a dour gray charcoal suit, was Marge Harriman herself.
Numbers were her stock in trade ever since the day she and her husband started the firm thirty years back. They were a formidable team, too. His big, lovable, teddy bear personality swept prospects off their feet, while Marge cut them to pieces with her financial prowess. After he died, the firm made fewer deals, but a lot more money.
I took it as a good sign that the old lady was attending. Usually she’d let the underlings take care of a meeting like this unless she was interested in moving forward—or killing it decisively.
The project seemed like a real winner to me, though. Tuscany’s tourism had jumped through the roof in recent years, mainly due to American romantic comedy movies set in the region, but so far nobody had figured out a way to capitalize off of it.
Until recently, when I did.
My last two projects made the firm a ton of money. Each took several years to complete, but nobody complained. Sam even said there were rumors that a partnership might be in the works for me. If that was true – and Samantha was rarely wrong about such things – then closing this deal would clinch partner for me.
And the project was so simple I was amazed that nobody had thought of it before.
Cardewig asked all the questions. What’s the game plan, Mike? What’s the return on investment? Larson rarely did anything but take notes.
The lawyers did whatever the fuck lawyers do in business meetings—be their quiet, boring selves, and think of reasons we shouldn’t do anything.
But everyone knew I was really pitching to the old lady. The veeps and lawyers might get to offer some input, but on a deal this size, Mrs. Harriman’s vote was the only one that mattered.
“It’s simple.” I handed them each a paper with a few brief lines of information on it. “Everybody knows Wayne Huizenga, currently the owner of the Miami Dolphins, and former executive of Waste Management, but in between he started a little company called Blockbuster Video.”
Heads nodded on lawyers and executives—but the old lady sat silent and still.
“Huizenga created Blockbuster with one clear vision in mind. In the early 1980’s, the video rental business was a collection of small mom and pop stores all over the country. He simply brought organization to the chaos. He talked all these independent owners into becoming partners in a bigger overall company, and together they made a huge franchise. They revolutionized the industry. For twenty years or longer, Blockbuster was the place to rent a video.”
“Blockbuster?” Cardewig snarled. “That’s a bit dated, isn’t it? And they went belly up.”
“Yeah, they did.” I nodded. “Advances in technology can undo anybody if they aren’t paying attention. But before they had problems, their business model made the owner a billionaire, and their company dominated the market for decades. So maybe we should consider it.”
The implied safety of a successful model to follow would give a backbone to any timid execs and get them to jump on my deal. Some of their smiles already told me they could see big dollar signs. The old lady was probably the only one still on the fence.
“Look.” I stood and walked back and forth in front of the board room table. “Tuscany is a quiet area in the Italian countryside where women want to go for beautiful scenery and relaxation. Wine tasting, strolling among the grape vines, eating fine dinners, dancing—a dream vacation.” I glanced around at the faces in the room. “That’s a term nobody here is familiar with, but apparently there are strange people who take these things called vacations.”
Laughter moved through the room.
“Anyway, it’s the video thing all over again. The hills are dotted with big, beautiful villas and restaurants, all owned by the locals. Mom and pop operators, all struggling to rent their little piece of paradise—and all competing with each other.”
A few bobbing heads; a few grins. So far, so good.
“Instead of coming in and building a big hotel—which the locals would hate and the Italian government would forbid—we simply buy up the existing rental villas. We buy the wineries and restaurants, too. Anything a vacationer would want to do, we have them do it through us. It would be like an all-inclusive Caribbean resort, but without the expense of building a big resort.”
“Resorts have always made us a lot of money.”
Nice try, Cardewig.
But I was ready.
“And they will again. After a few years of doing business like this, we move in with the big guns. A resort, a spa, maybe a mall. All that countryside is undeveloped. The towns are small. There are no McDonald’s or WalMarts. Our new partners—the former villa owners—will love the income. The politicians will love the increase in jobs and tax base, and after a little time they’ll all want a piece of the big pie—the resort and its ancillary businesses.”
Cardewig smiled. “And the ones who don’t want to sell?”
It was almost too easy.
“Well, the Blockbuster group had a simple offer: work with us or compete against us. We’d be a gigantic force these locals couldn’t begin to deal with. Hell, the ones that don’t sign up will wither on the vine. We’ll pick their places up for a song later.”
“So . . .” A gravelly voice came from the back of the room. The old lady leaned forward in her chair. “We can afford to be a little . . . generous up front, and pick up deals on the back end.”
Her interest had been sparked.
“That’s right, Mrs. Harriman.”
Then I shut up. No point in overselling it. If she spoke at all, she was interested. If she spoke again, it would either be to approve the deal or kill it. I wanted to be sure she had the information she needed without saying anything else that might jeopardize things.
Right now, that meant keeping my mouth closed while I held my breath and waited.
The longest wait in the Creative Capital universe.
“Four weeks in Italy on the company’s dime! Wow. You lucky, lucky bastard!”
Driving Grady Jackman to the airport on my way home was a pain in the ass, but it was also an opportunity. He needed a ride, and volunteering to take him was the kind of in-house camaraderie that used to go over well at CC in the old days. Plus, Grady was a gossip. A good one. I don’t know how, but he always knew the latest info at the firm. If the rumor about me becoming a partner was real, he’d probably know. And he might spill it.
If he didn’t wreck us first. Seven lanes of midday traffic were challenging enough without having somebody repeatedly punching my arm while I tried to drive.
I kept that in mind as he let loose on me again. “You lucky motherfucker.”
“Thanks, Grady.” I tried to keep my car on the road. I was boxed into my lane, moving at racetrack speeds. Midday traffic was discernable from rush hour traffic because midday traffic actually moved. Fast. How I loved it. “Yeah. Pure luck. All the long hours and hard work didn’t play a role at all.”
“You know what I mean.” He settled back into his seat. “Italy in springtime. That rocks. God, the forecast here says we still might get some snow. Four weeks of the high life is coming to you, buddy.”
“It’s six weeks. Maybe more.”
Grady’s jaw dropped. “How’d you manage that? Six weeks paid vacation in Italy? Are you slipping the sausage to the old lady?”
“Wow, now that godawful image is in my head. Okay, first of all, it’s not a vacation. I’m taking my family the first two weeks, but I’ll be working. And I’m paying for that part myself. The company doesn’t start picking up the tab until week three.”
“Hey, call it what you want. I’ll take six weeks in Europe any day.” He chuckled. “The chicks are hot over there, Mikey. They all have great legs from walking everywhere.” Grady could barely keep himself strapped into the passenger seat. “There’s nothing like Italian micio, Mike. They’re crazy.”
“That’s . . . eloquent.” I snorted. “You know, my wife’s Italian, you bozo.”
“She is?” He frowned. “She’s got blonde hair and blue eyes.”
“In northern Italy, near Switzerland, they have blonde hair and blue eyes. That’s where her grandfather was born. Mattie is short for Martina.”
“Mattie’s Italian, huh?” He beamed. “Hey, then you know what I’m talking about!”
I winced. “That’s not where I was going with that.” I gripped the steering wheel, trying to maneuver around slower cars, but there was no way. The drivers in the lanes on either side weren’t giving an inch. “I keep forgetting what a psychotic sexual deviant you are.”
“Deviant? I’m a single guy trying to have fun.”
“Who’s been divorced more times than Larry King.”
“But I fucking own him on heart attacks.” Grady stroked his chin. “Italian women are all skinny, too, because they smoke constantly over there. Just like women in the rest of Europe.”
“I don’t care for smokers.”
“Neither do I, but thank God they do.” He laughed. “All that nicotine kills the appetite. For food, anyway. Smoking keeps ‘em slim, with lean legs and their big Italian boobs.”
It occurred to me that I had willingly trapped myself in a car with some sort of hormonally crazed man-child.
“And they all wear the latest fashions because Milan’s right there. Big spike heels and boots and—oh, dude, the yoga pants.”
“What the hell are yoga pants?” I did a quick check in the rear view mirror to ensure we weren’t about to be mowed down by an eighteen wheeler that seemed to be in love with my bumper.
“Have you been in solitary confinement for the last twenty years? Yoga pants are like thin sweat pants, only better. On the right girl, you can tell if a dime is heads or tails.”
“That’s hardly a selling point. Most sweat pants are big and baggy. Mine have holes in the knees. But I think I know what you’re talking about. I just didn’t know what they were called.”
Grady shook his head. “It’s like the pants are freaking spray painted onto the women’s legs over there, man. You’ll love it.”
The owner of the monstrous truck grille that filled my mirror must have believed that riding my bumper would increase my speed higher than the 90 miles per hour we were already doing. And he was right. Better to get an expensive speeding ticket than to become a grease spot on I-75.
“I’m telling you, Mike, a dog is not a man’s best friend. Yoga pants are.” He gazed out the window. “Dogs ain’t got a booty like a twenty-five-year-old former model in spandex, that’s for sure.”
“This is why none of your coworkers want to give you a ride to the airport, Grady.” I huffed. “And you’re almost fifty. Don’t you think twenty-five is a little young?”
“Are you kidding?” He turned to look at me. “Twenty-five-year-olds are flexible. As in, twisty pretzel sex that’ll blow your mind the way only a twenty-five-year-old can—and sometimes it means an open mind about certain things.”
“Don’t elaborate.” I waved a hand at him, chuckling. “If this trucker ends up squashing us under his big rig, I don’t want to have to explain to Saint Peter why, as a married guy, my last Earthly thoughts were about twisty pretzel sex with twenty-five-year-olds.”
“I notice you didn’t say happily married.”
“That was implied. Happily married.”
“Okay, but back in the day, Old Mikey was quite a tail chaser.”
“Back in the day was about fifteen years ago. Now, Old Mikey’s dead and buried.”
“Maybe.” A wide smile spread across his face. “But you have a point. Why go chasing it when there’s plenty of talent working right in our office? In fact, I should probably call Sammy when I get back into town. Make sure she doesn’t get lonely.”
“Didn’t any of those sexual harassment presentations from HR sink in?”
He shrugged. “Hey, a man has needs.”
I nodded, pursing my lips. “You’re right. A man does have needs. Like a car. A Porsche, say.” I glared at him. “Which he could use to drive himself to the airport—if he didn’t lend it to his assistant all the time.”
“Hey, I’m trying to tap that, man.”
Now I was wanting the truck to take us out. Half of us, anyway. Can you hit that side of my car, please? I took a deep breath. “I need Sam focused on my project while I’m over in Italy.”
Grady’s face drew serious. “You know, if you pull that thing off, you’re a partner, right? I mean, no ifs ands or buts. Partner. Her draft pick finally pays off.”
Bingo. That’s what I was waiting for.
I faked a sigh. “That’d be nice, but I have to close the deals with a lot of locals first. And that won’t be easy.” The errant trucker had eased back, seeming to finally acknowledge a safe distance between moving vehicles.
Into which another car quickly slipped—right onto my rear bumper again.
I glanced at Grady. “I wasn’t Marge’s pick, anyway. Mr. Harriman brought me in. We used to do deals together when I was with the Miller Group. He recruited me away.”
Grady rubbed his chin. “That was before my time.”
“He used to take me on calls with him, showed me things.” I smiled. “Hey, you like gossip. You wanna hear some shit? Henry used to have these big parties at their house. He’d play piano while Marge sang.” I chuckled. “‘Margie girl’—that’s what he used to call her.”
“Large Marge sang?”
I nodded. “Hard to believe, huh? But oh, yeah. And everybody used to go, too. The big dogs, the new guys, the receptionist, everybody. But . . . that all changed.”
“After he died?”
“Yeah.” I stared out over the roadway. “It was a fast year. I never had a mentor like him before. Henry was a good guy. One of a kind.”
Grady propped his elbow on the armrest and rubbed his neck. “Hey, and now you’re about to be one of the big dogs, Mikey. That’s why cheap ass Marge is ponying up the dough and sending you across the pond. She sure wouldn’t trust Zimmerman with something this big. Not yet, anyway.”
“Who, Cole Zimmerman?” I frowned at Grady. “He’s a hack.”
“Zimm’s deals make money.” He grinned. “Not as much as yours, but he’s an up-and-comer.”
“He’s had a few nice deals, but they’re small potatoes.”
“He’s what you were a decade ago and he’s half your age. The old lady has her eye on him.”
I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. “I guess I haven’t been paying attention to office gossip like I should have.” I eased the car into the lane for the airport entrance. A moment later we were in a crowded line of cars maneuvering to drop off passengers. “This is your stop. Which carrier, Japan Airlines?”
“Yep. Tokyo, home of little boobies and tight booties.”
“Try not to cause an international incident.” I pulled up to the curb.
“See ya in a few weeks.” He unclipped his seat belt and opened the door.
“Okay, goodbye.” I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see somebody get out of my car.
He leaned back in. “In Italy, they say ‘Ciao.’ Like dog chow.”
“Great. Got it. Ciao. Now go. I need to go get my car cleaned so Mattie doesn’t get an STD the next time she sits in that seat.”
As I drove off, a headache forming in my temples, his words echoed in my head.
You’ll see what I mean when you get to Italy. Old Mikey will ride again.
My phone pinged. Half a dozen missed calls. Poor reception near the airport. Typical. When I got a good signal again, I checked messages.
“Hi honey. Sorry I missed you. Listen, do you remember my best friend from high school, Deidra? She’s in town so I’m going to meet her for dinner after work. Mom will pick up Sienna from school. I’ll call you later.”
Another late night. No mention if she got my message about going to Italy.
It took forever to get to Joanie’s. Luckily, Grandma always managed to get Sienna fed and bathed. She was wide awake when I picked her up, but by the time we got home she was fast asleep. I popped her into her bed with her favorite Pooh blanket and turned on her night light.
I turned to see the half-open, sleepy blue eyes. “What’s up, sweetie?
“Is it time to go to Idaly?”
I smiled. “Not yet. Soon, though.”
I leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Night, night, termite.”
“Night, night, Dad.”
She was asleep before I closed her bedroom door.
After downing a beer and a microwaved plate of Sienna’s chicken nuggets, I sat down at my computer. A few hours later, the driveway lit up with Mattie’s headlights.
A quick glance at the wall clock showed 11:27.
I leaned back in my desk chair and scooped up our slumbering poodle. Otherwise, Billy would start barking when he heard my wife’s car, and that would wake Sienna up. Then she’d want to come downstairs to see Mommy. It would be hours before the house was quiet again. No way.
Billy barely lifted his head as I picked him up and headed to the back door. Seconds later, the garage door was closing and he was squirming to go greet Mattie. I cracked open the door and let him go pounce on her.
She carried him, rubbing his head as she entered the house. “Is Sienna still up?”
I closed the door behind her. “If you’d been here by 9:30, you might have had a chance. 11:30? No way.”
If we had a vice with our daughter—aside from spoiling her rotten—it was letting her stay up late. Whenever Mattie worked past bedtime, Sienna would fight hard to stay awake so she could say good night. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. If I left all the lights on and put on cartoons, she might stay awake all night. But with school in the morning, and Mommy coming in pretty late this time, that wasn’t a good idea.
I helped Mattie with her heavy computer bag and purse. “How’d it go with Deidra?”
“Not so good.” We walked to the kitchen. “Remember when Deidra was in town a few weeks ago for her daughter’s dance team competition? Sienna and I went.”
I didn’t. “Sure.”
Mattie shook her head. “She and Alex got divorced.”
“Oh, no.” Alex must have been her husband, then.
“I knew something was wrong that day, but she didn’t want to get into it.” Mattie looked at me with tired eyes. “I don’t think she wanted to discuss it in front of her kids.”
I leaned on the counter, nodding. “That’s fair. How did it happen?”
Now I remembered. Alex was a pretty important guy at his company. I waited to hear about how Deidra did something nice like surprise him with lunch at his office—and caught him on top of his secretary.
“She said they just grew apart.”
That surprised me. “After twenty years of marriage, huh? Wow.”
Mattie went to the wine refrigerator and pulled out a bottle. “She said he was always working, and she had so many things going on with her work, and the kids . . . One day she realized they were only roommates.” She poured herself a big glass of wine and sat down at the table. “From then, a few years of holding it together for the kids’ sake. Once Sadie got out of high school, that was it.”
I sat down across from her. “That’s rough. Is she okay?”
“Oh, she already has a new guy she’s seeing. He’s an executive at a technology company.” She took a deep drink from her glass. “Deidra’s a survivor. She always lands on her feet.”
“No offense, but it sounds a little fast.”
“No, it’s been coming for a while. They both knew for a long time.”
She yawned. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” She peered into my office. “You still working?”
“Oh, that’s right. You got the big Italian deal.” She yawned again. “Well, I want to hear all about it in the morning. Don’t stay up too late.”
She shuffled past me with her glass of wine, stopping to grab the bottle, and made her way to the stairs. Billy trotted along behind her.
When I went back into my office, there was a new text message from Sam. I know you’re still up looking at my amazing reports on Italy. Go to bed.
The lady knew me too well. I messaged back. Can’t sleep.
Her reply was immediate. Too excited about Italy?
I sat back in my chair, typing while rocking. Among other things.
You’re lucky. There’s a lot to do.
I smiled. Is there? Mattie has us going to Rome for three days. Rome should be about a three hour trip. Coliseum, Parthenon, Vatican, done.
A smiley face accompanied her next reply. You mean Pantheon. The Parthenon is in Greece.
I shrugged. Two hours, then.
The staircase and hallway darkened as the bedroom lights went out. I stared at Sam’s new message on my screen. Gee, you have high standards. What about museums, aqueduct?
Shaking my head, I typed. Googled all that already. I’m good. But gotta keep the Mrs. happy.
Happy wife, happy life!
I thought about that for a moment. Guess so.
The conversation seemed to have run its course. Sam seemed to sense it, too. Okay. U seem tired. Remember you have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.
I nodded. Thanks. Talk later.
I turned off my office lights and grabbed the remote to watch Sports Center, rocking way back in my chair. The story about Deidra and Alex really weighed on me. Twenty years of marriage, gone. Now the poor schmuck didn’t even live in his own house and only saw his kids every other weekend.
How did that happen? They had a passionate marriage once, like Mattie and I—but kids can change that. They worked long hours like we did . . . Was it lack of focus? Poor communication? How does “roommates” happen? Sam was already giving me crap about emailing my wife all the time about family stuff.
If it could happen to them, it could happen to us.
But I had been handed the biggest assignment in my life. What the hell could I do about any of that other stuff now?
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“Funny, Sexy, Heartbreaking, Hilarious”
In Poggibonsi, Dan Alatorre tells a compelling and hilarious story while giving its serious and heartfelt themes fair treatment. Protagonist Mike Torino is a hard-working family man who is struggling in his marriage, and when temptation looms on a business trip in Italy, he can’t help but indulge. His winding and sometimes bumbling misadventure leads him on a journey that ends only when he discovers what is truly important to him.
Funny, sexy, and at times heartbreaking, Poggibonsi is much more than a riotous romp. It’s an exploration into what makes us human and drives us through life.
– Allison Maruska, The Fourth Descendant and Project Renovatio trilogy
Poggibonsi is disarmingly charming; a laugh-out-loud, bumbling romp through lust and love in central Italy. Alatorre captures the breathtaking romance of the novel’s namesake perfectly, peeling back each layer of story until all that remains is genuine, raw emotion. An outrageously funny, guilty pleasure of a read.
– J. A. Allen, Old Souls