“Love is mysterious and cunning.
It finds you and lures you in.
There are spirits in the air who are the Keepers of Your Heart…
…and their timing is impeccable.
When it’s your moment, their voices will summon you.
But those whispers will demand your surrender…”
Nico Biviano, from Pisa, Italy, is the Italian member of Bel Homme. He’s a “primo baritono” who has performed in all the major operas around the world. His voice is highly-trained and pitch-perfect. Opera critics love him, and opera audiences can’t get enough of him.
So why does he step out of his comfort zone and join Teddy’s venture? He’s bored. He wants to perform in a totally different genre that attracts a more diverse group of fans. Mainly, though, he wants to meet as many new women as possible, and he knows that singers in the pop world have excellent opportunities there.
Until just lately, Nico was a carefree swinger known as “The Unattainable Sexy One.”
But six weeks ago at the wedding of the British member, Jamie, and his bride, Jessie, in Wiltshire, England, Nico met Jessie’s best friend, American singer/songwriter, Gina Madonni. Now he’s “The Confused One.” Falling in love is not in his plans.
Gina was raised in a series of foster homes after her mother died, and she never knew her father. She’s filled the void with an endless stream of meaningless men and dreams of making the Big Time. So falling in love now is not her immediate goal, either, but nothing and no one could have prepared her for the Italian tempest named Nico. Meeting him recently has thrown her into a rare emotional state of aroused turmoil. This is a man who could actually breach the stone wall that surrounds her heart.
Bel Homme is flying into Chicago for a sold-out concert. In this scene, Nico is sitting on their private plane, still trying to get his emotions under control when Gina once again shatters that goal…
Nico Biviano, the Italian member of the world-famous vocal group, Bel Homme, sat in his seat and stared out the window of their private plane as it headed to Chicago.
Gina Madonni was following him. She was after him. The American woman wouldn’t stay out of his head.
Maybe he needed an exorcist.
No, it was too late. She’d cast her powerful spell, and he didn’t want to be free of her possession. Even after six weeks, he was as curious and intrigued as ever about the redhead he’d met last month, which was a first for him because he loved all women, and it wasn’t his style to focus on one.
There’d certainly been plenty to choose from since he’d joined Bel Homme a year and a half ago. That name was French for “Beautiful Man.” At first, he’d thought it was a rather silly, pompous name, and it used to embarrass them all, but not anymore. Their female fans sure liked it—liked everything about them.
Bel Homme was number one in the world, and he was proud to be a part of it all.
The four of them had just begun their second world tour. Currently, they were performing in the United States, and they’d had sold-out concerts over the entire east coast. Now it was on to the Windy City, not too far from where Gina lived, and his heart speeded up at the thought. He shut his eyes and could still see her face. It was burned into his brain and had been for over a month.
Nico whispered the words. “Gina Madonni, you are stalking me.” He leaned his head on the window and rocked with the gentle sway of the plane. “Oh, tesoro…don’t stop.”
Reining in his melodramatic reflections, he glanced at the others scattered in seats around him. The plane transported quite a crowd this trip. Behind him sat their boss, Teddy Wilson, and his two assistants, Harriet and Bruno. Nico wondered why the three of them were along for the ride. There was something going on because they never traveled with the band.
Needing to move, he stood and wandered forward to the galley to get something to drink. He looked to his left and grinned at Bel Homme’s French member, Gabriel, and his pregnant wife, American-born Annie—who was also in charge of their group. They sat huddled together, both of them resting a hand on Annie’s lush, ripening belly even though she was only five months along. Her rapidly increasing size wasn’t surprising because her body held two babies inside. A movement under their palms had them both jumping and smiling at each other. Then Gabriel grabbed the back of her head and brought her forward for a lingering kiss. In a world of their own, Nico thought in tender amusement.
He got a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and opened it. While he leaned against the wall and took a long drink, he looked over at their British member, Jamie, and his pregnant wife, Jessie, the famous American psychic medium. They’d gotten married six weeks ago in England at—of all places—Stonehenge, and that’s where he’d met Gina.
She and Jessie were best friends, and Gina had been her attendant at the ceremony. Gina also managed Jessie’s office in Waukegan, Illinois, though not for long because Jessie had told him she was closing it up and remaining in England.
He took another sip of the cold water and wondered why Gina wasn’t more successful in her musical career. She was extremely talented. He loved the wedding song she’d written and sung for the couple. He couldn’t get the melody out of his mind, and he couldn’t get the memory of her out of his pores.
He wanted to know everything about her.
Cazzo, when it came to Gina, that’s all he did do—want.
He watched Jamie drop a kiss on Jessie’s hair and then rest his cheek against the golden spirals. The Brit was so in love. Nico was a little jealous, which surprised him. He’d always enjoyed his life the way it was: loose and trouble-free. He didn’t have to answer to anyone. Why was he feeling envy?
He needed to move and lose these odd thoughts, so he headed back and dropped in his seat. Looking across the aisle, he nodded at the American member of Bel Homme. “It’s getting quite domestic in this group of ours, isn’t it, Michael?”
“It sure is.” Mike grinned and stretched his six-and-a-half-foot frame in his plush leather seat. “There’s just the two of us left now to enjoy all those enthusiastic female fans.”
“I do love the women,” Nico acknowledged, turning the bill of his Yankees cap around so he could rest his head. The hat really belonged to Michael, but they all took turns wearing it.
“You’d better be careful,” Mike warned him. “Jamie says that cap has mystical powers. Whoever wears it falls in love.”
Thinking of Gina again, Nico wondered if maybe there was some truth to those words, but he wasn’t going to admit to any weakness. Yet. “Hmm,” he said. “It’s good to be in America, sì? Happy to be going to Illinois?”
“Yeah, I think Annie scheduled a couple days off there because of both Jessie and me.” Born and raised in Waukegan, he thought about going home. “I don’t really belong there anymore, but it’ll be nice to see my family again. My brother, Patrick, will—” Nico had stopped listening and gone back to staring out the window again, tapping his fingers on his armrest and shaking his foot up and down. Something was bothering the Italian. “You’re looking mighty scruffy this morning,” Mike commented. Nico was usually the fastidious one. Not today. His whiskers darkened his face so much, it looked dirty. “Everything okay?”
Nico studied his troubled limbs, realized what he was doing, and stilled. “Sì,” he replied, glancing over briefly before returning to stare out the window again, the white of the plane reminding him of Gina’s velvety skin color.
Michael didn’t believe him, but he let it go. “Drink some more water, dude. According to you, it’s the answer to everything.”
“Grazie…but no.” Nico lifted his bottle. “I’ve got some.”
Michael could see he wasn’t paying attention at all. “Yeah. Whatever, man.” He slumped in his seat and closed his eyes. It was going to be another long tour, and he needed his rest.
Pacing was everything.
Up front, Jessie lifted her head off Jamie’s shoulder and rubbed her hands over her face. “I have to pee,” she told him.
“You just went a few minutes ago,” Jamie said.
“Well, I have to go again.” She looked around in her seat for her cell phone, formulating a plan in her mind.
“Do all pregnant women go this much? Maybe you have an infection. Should you see a doctor? I’ll go ask Harriet if she knows any in Chicago.” He started to get up, but she grabbed his arm and pulled him back into his seat, still searching around her. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m looking for my phone—and get a grip, Dada. It’s perfectly normal.” Jessie turned to see if anything interesting was happening behind her, specifically concerning Nico, and saw him sitting there with a dreamy look on his face. Being a talented psychic, she knew why. He was thinking about Gina. She also knew that, right at this moment, Gina was thinking about him, too. Jessie kicked something on the floor and looked down: There it was. She picked up her cell phone and stuck it in her pocket, then leaned over and planted a kiss on Jamie’s cheek.
“What’s that for?” he asked.
Jessie grinned and skimmed a fingertip up his thigh. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because love is in the air.” She stood. “I’ll be back in a minute. I’m going to go have some fun.” She winked. “After I have a nice purging tinkle.” As she passed by Nico, she psychically tuned in to him again: He was spinning an incredibly romantic fantasy. It included his tongue and Gina’s satiny skin. Oh yeah, this was going to be fun. She used the bathroom and washed her hands, weaving a little with the movement of the aircraft. She knew Gina was at the office, but she was outside in the backyard right now, talking to Mr. Borowski over the fence, so she’d miss this call and have to phone back. Perfect. Jessie dried her hands, then punched in the number and left a message. She came out and made her way back to the front. When she got to Nico, she dropped down next to him. “Hi there!”
Nico jumped. “Oh. Ciao, bella,” he said, shifting in his seat. “Everything okay?” As far as he could tell, she was always in the bathroom.
Jessie took a moment to process what he was really asking her. “Oh. Yeah. I had to go again. You know.” She sent him a weak smile, thinking he sure didn’t want to waste his time talking about her bladder if he could get lost in Gina’s voluptuous body instead. She’d accomplish her mission and leave. “Isn’t the sky pretty out there?” she asked, getting him to look away from her and out to where she was pointing.
Nico turned his head toward the window. “Sì,” he replied.
Quickly, Jessie slipped her phone out of her pocket and dropped it on the cushion. Then, making herself yawn, she blindly stuffed the phone in a little. “Ah…well, nice talking to you. I’m tired. I think I’ll go back and rest some more.” She patted him on the knee and split.
Nico whipped back and stared in confusion at her fast departure. “Sure, addio—bye.” Women. Sometimes even he didn’t understand them.
Gina sat at her desk and crossed off the first item on her “to-do” list for that day. She’d just talked to Mr. Borowski next door and made sure he was okay. His daughter was out of town until tomorrow, and she’d promised her she’d check on him.
Looking at the clock, she saw it was after eleven. She still had to go to the pharmacy for Mori O’Malley, who managed Jessie’s metaphysical gift shop, before she went over to Scott’s. Mori was fighting off the effects of a cold, and she’d closed up early and gone home.
Gina slumped, not wanting to go anywhere.
Scott was her boss and her boyfriend of the moment, though neither title really fit the role she’d personally assigned him in her life. Officially, he was her boss at the nightclub he owned where she sang every Saturday and Sunday night. And she was sleeping with him, so if he wasn’t her boyfriend, what other word would apply? And what would that make her if he wasn’t?
So, okay. He was her boyfriend.
It was a nice, safe, and socially acceptable term for yet another man in the long line of forgettable men who’d come and gone over the years.
She started drawing treble clef notes that morphed into big bold N’s and back to notes again. When she realized what she was doing, she threw down the pen. “Get a grip, you foolish girl.”
Unsettled, she got up and wandered over to Jessie’s “Miracle Bowl,” sitting on the table by the wall. Jessie’s clients used to fill it with their secret wishes and specific affirmations. Lately, it’d been filled with only hers. She picked up one of the little squares of paper next to it and wrote down her wish for the day: I want a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
She folded it in half and dropped it into the bowl, where it fell on the puffy pile of other folded papers. All of them held exactly that same intention. Every day she’d written it—and she’d emptied that bowl and filled it up more than once in the months since Jessie had been gone. She brushed away bits of dust on the Waterford crystal. “What am I doing? What do I think I’m doing?”
With a sigh, she picked up Bel Homme’s music disc lying there and brought it back with her to her desk. Dropping into her chair, she flipped the case over and looked at her favorite picture of him.
Nico Biviano was about as world-renown as you could get.
“God, I’m a teenage groupie.” A dreamer who lived on a cloud. Personal or professional, it didn’t matter. She wanted something she could never have. “No. Someone.”
She sighed again.
Since when had any man made such an impression on her?
“No man has ever made me sigh.”
Sweeping her little finger over the area of tender skin under his nose, she accepted the reality of her feelings. “Not true now, Gina. It’s not true anymore.”
She thought back to when she’d met him at Jessie’s wedding. Six weeks ago something had happened to her heart. The block of ice surrounding it had begun to slowly melt. Her music was changing colors. Her songs wore softer hues, their words coming out in pretty syllables of sounds. She’d started to believe again in romantic stories that had happy endings.
One man, one small meeting, and she’d begun to shift inside, to wonder about possibilities again. If she doubted any of it, all she had to do was listen to the latest song she’d written.
“Oh, stop it.” She was such a sappy, silly girl.
She opened her desk drawer to put the disc away and saw the blinking light on the answering machine out of the corner of her eye. Pressing the button, she heard Jessie’s message. God, it would be so nice to talk to her right now.
She picked up the phone and punched in the number.
Back on the plane, Nico stared out the window. He rubbed his thumb across his fingertips, then idly skimmed it under his nose. He wanted her scent on all his fingers. He wet his lower lip, wanting to take her with his tongue.
Semi-hard now, he was in a state of highly pleasurable agony.
A phone softly rang.
Out of reflex, he checked the one attached to his belt, although he knew it wasn’t his ringtone. There was another muffled sound, and that’s when he noticed the phone half stuck in the edge of the seat cushion next to him. It took him a second to realize it must be Jessie’s, and he opened his mouth to call out to her but stopped. Povera piccola. He could see the top of her blonde head bent over, resting on Jamie’s shoulder again. The endearing little mother was sleeping. When it started to ring a third time, he put down his bottled water and grabbed it, then clicked it on. “Pronto,” he said. “Hello,” he added in English.
Gina’s words burst out when she heard the deep voice. “Jamie? What’s wrong? Is Jessie all right?” She realized then what that voice had said. Pronto. Italian. Oh, no. “Um, hello. Who’s this?” As if she didn’t know.
“Gina?” Grazie a Dio, it was her.
Well, she couldn’t play stupid forever. “Hello Nico,” she tossed out, hoping casual was the way it landed. “Yes, it’s me. I mean, this is Gina, returning Jessie’s call. Is she there?” Sobering again at new thoughts, she asked, “Is everything all right? Why are you answering her phone?”
Nico closed his eyes and listened to her voice as it flowed over him—creamy, rich, and smooth—and he relaxed into his seat. “Ciao, carina. Jessie was sitting next to me here on the plane a few minutes ago, and she must have dropped her phone. I answered because she’s up in front of me right now, sleeping on her new husband’s shoulder.” He chuckled. “When the lovely mother-to-be isn’t going to the bathroom, she’s sleeping, it seems.”
His breezy remark had Gina sitting back, old feelings of guilt and regret keeping her silent. When it came to pregnancy and babies, she always left the room. No words came now either.
“Tesoro, are you still there?” Nico asked.
Gina changed the subject. “Where are you right now?”
He looked out at white clouds floating by. “We’re over Illinois somewhere, heading to Chicago. We have a show there on Monday. Are you going to make the trip down to see it?”
“Probably, if I can get a ticket,” she lied, knowing she wouldn’t. Knowing a hundred tickets wouldn’t get her to see him again because he made her feel too vulnerable—but she wanted to. Oh, she wanted to. She sighed. Stop it. Quit sighing over the man. His voice in her ear dragged reality with it and bogged her down with insecurity. She realized she’d missed what he’d said. “What?” she asked, trying to catch up.
“I’ll make sure you have one, then. It will be nice to see you again.”
She measured his words, wondering if they were sincere. “Why?”
“Che?” Nico asked in Italian.
“What?” she asked to clarify.
“Sì, that’s what I said. Now, what did you ask me?”
“Why?” Gina asked again.
He held the phone out and stared at it. He was very good with English, but her question stumped him, and now he was really confused, having lost track of their words. Usually adept with the language, he was learning she scrambled his brains, and he didn’t like that weakness, however harmless it was. “Yes,” he came back, a bit impatiently. Was it him or was it her? Could she be drinking this early in the day? “I mean, why wouldn’t I? Of course, I’ll get you a ticket. I’ll be happy to.”
Gina thought this was the dumbest conversation she’d ever had with someone. “Are you drinking?”
Nico didn’t know what surprised him more. The fact she’d mimicked his thought, or the fact she could honestly think he was drinking before noon. “Of course not,” he bit out. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he chuckled over this ludicrous exchange. “Merda, you’re hard work,” he mumbled.
“What’s so funny?” she asked. Was he laughing at her?
“Let us start over. Us,” he explained. “We are funny. The way we are misunderstanding each other.”
Realizing how ridiculous she was acting, Gina rested her chin on her palm. “All right. I can admit it. I just feel a little off-center around you, that’s all.”
“You don’t strike me as the kind of woman who loses control.”
“You’ve got that right,” she muttered, thinking of all the men who’d told her she’d never thaw.
Gina sighed again but figured she’d give herself this one. As far as she was concerned, he could speak in Italian forever, whether or not she could comprehend his words at all. To her ears, his language sounded beautiful and warranted a million sighs. “I love when you talk like that,” she confided. “I bet I’d like it even if you said something that wasn’t nice.”
He smiled into the phone, his voice going deeper all by itself. “You like dirty talk, sì?”
“I don’t know,” she said around a quick grin. “Say something dirty.”
“Voglio leccarti la spalla.”
“Mmm, that sounds pretty, not dirty. What did you say?”
“I want to lick your shoulder.” That was the truth. He’d been wanting to all morning.
Gina swiped her damp forehead. God, he was good. “That was pretty dirty,” she said, her smile feeling as shaky as her middle now. “Actually, it was just pretty.”
She straightened. “You do?”
In that case, she panicked. “Listen, tell Jessie I called, and I’ll talk to her soon.” She went to hang up—
“Wait!” Nico said.
Gina lifted her hair off her clammy neck. “What?”
“Say something naughty to me in English,” he coaxed her, not wanting to let her go and needing to know what she’d do. “Ti scongiuro, Gina,” he added silkily. “Pretty please.”
It came out before Gina could stop it. “I want to lick you back.”
Nico swallowed. Well, he wasn’t semi-hard anymore. No, he was all the way hard and throbbing, and he wanted more. If his voice was gruff with longing, it was sincere. “Where, amore?”
“All over.” Oh, God! Did she really just say that to him? She was a raving lunatic! She was no match for this guy. “I’ve got to run. The other line is ringing.” What other line? She cut their connection.
Nico grinned full-out as he clicked off Jessie’s phone. He’d certainly flustered sweet Gina. Knowing that was almost as good as being with her, and he yearned to have her back again so he could go on feeling this sizzle they created between them. He moaned softly and rubbed his hand over his eyes. “Oddio.” His desire for this woman was so staggering, just hearing her voice had his body quaking. Never in his life had someone left him feeling this weak.
He tossed the phone and the baseball cap on the empty seat, then shifted around and readjusted himself. Picking up his bottled water, he took a long drink.
What was happening to him?
He had no clue how to handle this. He only knew he wanted to be off this plane and inside her.
Resigned, he stared out the window again—not only lonelier now, but sinking deeper into uncharted pain.
Coming soon to Amazon.com!
About the Author:
Cindy Irish writes Contemporary, Paranormal, and Speculative romance fiction. She’s a member of The Authors Guild, Romance Writers of America, as well as the Mid-Michigan and Greater Detroit RWA chapters.
Cindy lives in Michigan with her family.