Friday, August 24







Denied
Author: Kinley Baker
 Shadowed Love Book# 2
Pages 280
Publication Date: July 2nd 2012
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press














Purchase here:  Amazon | B&N




 ~ Book Description  ~


When invaders brutally massacred the women and children of the Varner, Caleb witnessed loss and destruction on a scale few can comprehend. As the leader of a race on the brink of extinction, his only hope for survival is gaining acceptance into the Shadow Shifter Kingdom. Struggling with new customs, he meets Tabitha, a woman who challenges his limits.
Refused the right to join the king’s guard because of her gender, Tabitha must be stronger than the men to prove she deserves to be the first accepted female Warrior in the kingdom. She believes Caleb will help improve her abilities, until she learns her goals conflict with the foundation of his culture.
When the realm is attacked, Tabitha and Caleb must come together not only to fight, but to find the strength to win against an evil with the potential to destroy everything they revere most--including each other.





DENIED EXCERPT

Right before entering the next clearing, Caleb caught a flash of color contrasting against the green. He paused, moving aside a few leaves so he could peer through the opening. His attention caught on a tantalizing sight.

A woman moved in a dance of lethal grace with her eyes closed. She swung her blade with the skill of someone long trained. Challenging only the air around her, it was clear she strived to improve her form.

Her beauty was only enhanced by her bare, capable arms. The sleeveless shirt and pants she wore were nothing like the robes of the Shadow Shifters’ traditions. Her biceps and triceps flexed, illuminating well-formed muscles.

Amusement slid through him. This was the first time he’d ever seen a woman with a blade. And he couldn’t help but admire her. Part of him knew he should admire no female other than his aroha, his fated mate. But the other part of him was intrigued by this display of warrior patience.

The women of his people had never been trained in battle. It was Caleb who had failed to protect them. The female in front of him didn’t look like she needed protection, and the concept baffled him.
A man should always stand between a woman and a fight. And if they failed to protect as Caleb had his own people, then the man should carry that weight around forever, and the guilt, just as he did.
Need for redemption soaked into his veins. Perhaps he could help this female improve her form to make up for his other failures.

“You’re dropping your left side,” he said, moving out from behind his cover.
Her head whipped around, her sword following with force. The very tip aimed toward his heart. Five feet separated him from the lethal point. He was not yet in danger so his gaze trailed from the sharp blade to connect with her gaze.

Honey-colored eyes clashed with his. Awareness shot through him. He did his best to hide his response. His entire world shifted, the foundation reforming in the blink of a second. The change. The moment every man of the Varner desired. The finding. Of the one woman meant to be his mate.
How many times had he imagined this moment?

The warrior woman was his aroha. His body pulsed to life. For the first time his lust awakened in response to another, just as the old tales stated. His muscles tensed, everything inside him urging him to act, urging him to brand. He was ready to make her his.

The fire in her eyes held him back. As well as the vivid distinction that this woman with a sword was far from a delicate female of the Varner. From his experience the past two years and the difficulty of fumbling his way through foreign cultures for the same length of time, he knew it was better to keep his revelation to himself. For now. She might not sense the connection like he could, like the women of the Varner had been able to.

His fascination overwhelmed the new ache in his groin. She was extraordinary. He’d never seen another woman like her. Fierce and strong with steel in her gaze. Beautiful, mighty . . . his. The core of him roared that this miraculous creature belonged to him.
“Who are you?” She jabbed her blade forward an inch.

He barely kept from smiling at her demand. “You’re dropping your left side when you turn.”
Her chin jutted up. “Are you such a fine warrior that you feel yourself worthy of dispensing unsought advice?”

“Some would say.” He moved closer to her.
She tensed, but didn’t attack. Perhaps it was the foot and inches of his height advantage that stalled her.

The sun shining through the trees bestowed a glow off her light brown hair, giving her an ethereal aura. Strong features curved with womanhood invited him to touch.

His hand almost reached toward her before he stopped himself.

Every inch of him yearned to claim his woman, his destined mate, his aroha.

His fingers ached to touch her and make sure she was real. Even if it was only to correct her sword form. Could he really have found the woman he’d searched for all of his adulthood after thirty-three years of living? He needed to brush her skin and make sure he wasn’t fantasizing. Although he knew this must be real because he had never imagined a woman like her.

He closed the distance between them.

“What are you doing?”

“Showing you how to keep your side up.”

After hesitating, she finally lowered her blade. “They say we aren’t supposed to speak with men from the Varner. The villagers call you giants.”

“We aren’t much different from you. And I’ve never seen a female Shadow Shifter train with a sword. I don’t think you’re a woman who abides by the rules.”

Was that a flush in her cheeks? He moved around to direct her arm. When he hovered near her, his front almost touching her back, she glanced over her shoulder warily. He kept himself far enough away so she couldn’t feel the press of his male interest. He ignored the flustered feeling inching up his spine. He’d never been snared by a woman’s scent.

He wanted to inhale her natural fragrance and brand it to his memory. In this open area near the forest where so many aromas mingled, hers stood out—a citrus blend of foreign fruit mixed with the spicy scent of flesh dampened from exertion.

His fingers closed over her grip on the blade. He showed her how to turn without dropping her side.
“Perfect,” he said, unsure if he meant the improvement in her form or the feel of her soft flesh against his roughened palm. He freed her with reluctance.

With a little space between them, she tried again, flawlessly turning.

She frowned. “Thank you.”

“I am impressed by your skill.”

“It’s not enough.”






About the Author:

Kinley read her first romance novel at the age of thirteen and immediately fell in love with the hero. After focusing on nonfiction in high school and college, earning her a degree in creative writing, she returned to her first love and devoured hundreds of romance novels. When they stopped ending the way she wanted, she took the plunge into fiction.

Fantasizing about other men didn’t sit well with her after meeting her husband, so Kinley now writes happily-ever-afters for others. She lives with her husband and her dog, Joker, in the gloriously rainy Pacific Northwest. As a firm supporter of all supernatural lifestyles, she writes fantasy romance, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy.







Tuesday, August 21

Tour: What Kills Me Blog Giveaway



What Kills Me
Author: Wynne Channing
ebook: 209 Pages
Publication Date: June 6th 2012
Publisher: Jet & Jack Press
















 What Kills Me will be $0.99 at
Smashwords and Amazon during the blog tour




~ Book Description  ~


So when 17-year-old Axelia falls into a sacred well filled with blood and emerges a vampire, the immortal empire believes she is this legendary destroyer. Hunted by soldiers and mercenaries, Axelia and her reluctant ally, the vampire bladesmith Lucas, must battle to survive.

How will she convince the empire that she is just an innocent teenager-turned bloodsucker and not a creature of destruction? And if she cannot, can a vampire who is afraid of bugs summon the courage to fight a nation of immortals?






A human girl will be re-born a vampire. She will shed the blood of all who walk in darkness and bring about the death of the entire vampire race.

—Ancient vampire prophecy



Chapter 1

The sun’s down. I am so dead.

I walked out of the bakery with a box of cannoli balanced in my hands and when I saw the dark sky, my smile faded. I shouldered my way through the crowds and rushed into a piazza. The clock on the church tower read 9:25 p.m. I rounded the fountain in the center of the square, my flip flops slapping at my heels. I shifted my box of pastries so that it was under my arm like a football and quickened my pace.

Sofia is going to kill me. When I left the house at 7:30 p.m., I had told her that I’d be only twenty minutes. But I’d lost track of time wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, snapping pictures. So far, I wasn’t being a good guest in her home. Two days ago, I had accidentally used dishwasher soap in her laundry machine, producing a titanic bubble bath. This was not the way to redeem myself.

A few people sat on the stone stairs around the fountain. A bearded man plucked at a guitar and nodded his head. A woman reclined against her boyfriend, her hands on his knees as if they were the arms of a chair.

One young man stood alone on the top of the stairs. His hands were in the pockets of a charcoal coat with an asymmetrical zipper that cut across his chest. His face was backlit against the street lamps, but I knew that he was staring at me. He had such rigid posture that nothing but his head moved as he watched me cross the square.

I dropped my gaze. The straps of my backpack dug into my shoulders and shifted my T-shirt. I tugged at the hem so that the Canadian flag was centered in the middle of my chest. He probably wants to rob me. My father had warned me about pickpockets in Rome. A few days before my trip, he had come into my room with a bulgy blue fanny pack: “To keep your valuables safe.”

From the corner of my eye I could still see the man’s face pointed in my direction, and I heard my best friend’s voice in my head. Zee, he’s checking you out. See if he’s hot. Ryka had encouraged me to have a summer fling. The only fling I’d ever had with a guy was when Felix Lewis flung me in the air during cheerleading tryouts. “Find someone and have fun,” but avoid the bad guys, she had said. She wanted me to keep my other valuables safe.

Pretending to look back at the clock, I glanced at the fountain. The guy was gone. I searched the piazza but didn’t see him. Too bad. He might have been cute. Would his trying to pick my back pocket count as second base?

I turned down a lane sandwiched between two square buildings and wove through a group of men in soccer jerseys. An old man in an undershirt and house slippers stood in the street with a dusty poodle, and I returned his sullen glare with a smile and a nod.

After walking several minutes, something seemed wrong. Okay, I remember passing this restaurant with the row of people eating on white linen tablecloths under white umbrellas. I remember this tight street with the parked cars on my left. But I don’t remember the street opening into a parking lot and this giant purple bush.

A mass of fuchsia flowers cascaded down the side of a building, like a purple monster arm, reaching for the ground with its branchy fingers. I would have remembered this. I doubled back through the dim streets but then couldn’t find my way to the piazza. Don’t panic.

I took a mental inventory of the contents of my bag: a journal, my wallet, my passport, my digital camera, a bottle of water. Of course, I didn’t take the note card with Sofia’s address and phone number on it. It’s on my dresser. Of course, I didn’t take a map. I could see Sofia’s round face, scrunched with disapproval, the creases on her frowning forehead. I performed a frustrated pirouette.

“Come on,” I said, exasperated with myself.

“Excuse me?” A voice said behind me.

I spun around, and there he was in the middle of the road. The guy from the fountain. I recognized his jacket and his tall, stiff stance.

“Sorry. I was talking to myself,” I said.

He took a step toward me and his face shocked me. He had high cheek bones and clean-shaven, pale skin. His deep-set blue eyes were in shadow under thick, dark eyebrows, but they were luminous.

I realized then that I was staring with my mouth ajar.

“You’re American?” he asked in his Italian accent.

“No, I’m from Winnipeg. It’s in Canada,” I said, pointing to my T-shirt. I glanced away, feeling weird that I had just directed his attention to my chest.

He nodded. “You are on vacation?”

“I’m living here for two months studying Italian.”

“Well then, welcome to Italia,” he said, and his pale pink lips smiled. “Do you like it here?”

“I’ve only been here for about a week and I love it.”

“What do you love most?” The word, “lah-ve,” filled his mouth thickly.

“I love the architecture, the food,” I said. “If I could eat gelato every day for the rest of my life, I would.”

“Then you must be sweet.”

His smile widened and I felt embarrassed. To quash my anxiety, I thrust my hand at him. “I’m Zee,” I said.

He seemed startled, tucking in his dimpled chin to gaze at my hand. “Zee?”

“My name is Axelia but everybody calls me Zee.”

“Paolo,” he said.

He slipped his smooth, cool hand into mine. I gripped his palm and shook it vigorously.

“Eggs-ee-lee-ah?” he said, pronouncing every syllable of my name. “I like it.”

“Thanks. I like it too.  It’s spelled A-X-E-L-I-A; but the X is soft. Though I hated it when I was young. In kindergarten, someone spread a totally untrue rumor that ‘Zee likes pee,’ and then, you know, at recess, it was always ‘Zee likes pee, Zee likes pee.’”

I laughed and when he didn’t join me, I cleared my throat to silence myself. “And I have no clue why I told you that story, since we just met.”

Oh, Zee. Always babbling when you’re nervous.

He cocked his head and studied my face. “Zee, would you like to go with me for a gelato?” he asked.

Whoa. Is this beautiful guy asking me out? Ryka would be celebrating with corniness: “He doesn’t want to steal your wallet. He wants to steal your heart.”

“Uh, thank you, Paolo,” I said, relishing the opportunity to use his name. “But I actually need to get home.”

“Where do you live?”

“Good question. I mean, I’m not sure. I’m a bit lost,” I said with a shrug and something in between a grin and a grimace. “It’s on a narrow street around here. There’s a café on the street. There’s a pizzeria. I know—every narrow street has a café and a pizzeria. And I don’t have a map or an address. I might just have to live on the streets, survive on cannoli, and sing for coins.”

“You sing?”

“Yes but I’m sure people will pay me to stop.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I will help you.”

“Oh, I remember!” I exclaimed. “There’s a white church on my street.”

“Via della Scala has a white church,” he said. “And a café and a pizzeria.”

“Via della Scala, that’s it!” I said.

He put his hand over his heart and bowed slightly. “May I have the honor of walking you there, Zee?”

“That would be lovely.”

As we walked back to Sofia’s apartment, I chattered to fill the silence. I told him about the laundry fiasco and about my Japanese housemate, Miyuki. At one point, I realized that I was nervously swinging the box of cannoli while I walked. Paolo kept his eyes on me while I looked everywhere else. His suede coat sleeve would brush my bare arm, giving me goose bumps.

“How old are you?” I said.

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“Me too,” he replied.

“I start university in the fall. I’m going to take general arts courses for now because I’m not sure what field I’d like to get into. My father’s an aerospace engineer and my big sister is studying mechanical engineering. But I almost failed physics and math in high school. So for the safety of mankind, I don’t think I should get a job building anything. I love taking pictures so maybe I could be a photographer. What do you do?”

“I’m a student.”

“What are you studying?”

“I’m a student of life,” he said. He pursed his lips when he smiled.

Was that code for unemployed?

“I see,” I said, instead. “And what have you learned so far?”

“I’ve learned that treasures present themselves when you least expect them,” he said. “And you? What has your life taught you?”

“That I shouldn’t walk around without a map,” I said. “And that dish soap doesn’t go in washers. Actually, I’m here because I want more life experience. I feel like I’ve been pretty sheltered in Winnipeg.”

“I’ve never been there. Is it nice?”

“Yes, but it gets cold.”

“Cold doesn’t bother me.”

“This cold would. Our winters are brutal. It’s so cold sometimes that my eyes water and then my wet eyelashes freeze together.”

He chuckled. His teeth were small and perfect. For a moment, I imagined walking with him through these streets, laughing and holding hands. I imagined him teaching me Italian. I imagined him kissing me. Then I could add “kissed a hot guy” to my experiences, right after “traveled outside of Winnipeg.”

Suddenly I recognized the square planters in front of Sofia’s apartment farther down the street.

“Thank God, we’ve found it!” I blurted. Then I turned to Paolo. “I didn’t mean thank God because I don’t like your company. You’re wonderful company in fact.”

“I also enjoyed your company.”

“Thank you so much. I owe you my life for helping me get back to Sofia’s.”

One side of his lips curled up. “Then repay me,” he said.

“Okay.” I channeled Ryka’s boldness. “I could buy you a gelato?”

“Yes. Let’s meet tomorrow at nine fifteen.”

“Where?” I asked. I could feel my cheeks flushing.

“Right here,” he said, pointing to the pizzeria to his left.

“Done,” I said. “It was nice meeting you.”

“Goodnight, Zee.”

“Goodnight, Paolo.”




Purchase here:



About the Author:




Wynne Channing is an award-winning national newspaper reporter and young adult novelist. She loves telling stories and as a journalist, she has interviewed everyone from Daniel Radcliffe and Hugh Jackman to the president of the Maldives and Duchess Sarah Ferguson. The closest she has come to interviewing a vampire is sitting down with True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard (he didn’t bite). She briefly considered calling her debut novel "Well" so then everyone would say: "Well written by Wynne Channing."






~ Giveaway ~


This giveaway is US & Canada ONLY




Enter for a chance to Win the following:
A ebook copy of What Kills Me & and this signed bookmark.








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Friday, August 24







Denied
Author: Kinley Baker
 Shadowed Love Book# 2
Pages 280
Publication Date: July 2nd 2012
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press














Purchase here:  Amazon | B&N




 ~ Book Description  ~


When invaders brutally massacred the women and children of the Varner, Caleb witnessed loss and destruction on a scale few can comprehend. As the leader of a race on the brink of extinction, his only hope for survival is gaining acceptance into the Shadow Shifter Kingdom. Struggling with new customs, he meets Tabitha, a woman who challenges his limits.
Refused the right to join the king’s guard because of her gender, Tabitha must be stronger than the men to prove she deserves to be the first accepted female Warrior in the kingdom. She believes Caleb will help improve her abilities, until she learns her goals conflict with the foundation of his culture.
When the realm is attacked, Tabitha and Caleb must come together not only to fight, but to find the strength to win against an evil with the potential to destroy everything they revere most--including each other.





DENIED EXCERPT

Right before entering the next clearing, Caleb caught a flash of color contrasting against the green. He paused, moving aside a few leaves so he could peer through the opening. His attention caught on a tantalizing sight.

A woman moved in a dance of lethal grace with her eyes closed. She swung her blade with the skill of someone long trained. Challenging only the air around her, it was clear she strived to improve her form.

Her beauty was only enhanced by her bare, capable arms. The sleeveless shirt and pants she wore were nothing like the robes of the Shadow Shifters’ traditions. Her biceps and triceps flexed, illuminating well-formed muscles.

Amusement slid through him. This was the first time he’d ever seen a woman with a blade. And he couldn’t help but admire her. Part of him knew he should admire no female other than his aroha, his fated mate. But the other part of him was intrigued by this display of warrior patience.

The women of his people had never been trained in battle. It was Caleb who had failed to protect them. The female in front of him didn’t look like she needed protection, and the concept baffled him.
A man should always stand between a woman and a fight. And if they failed to protect as Caleb had his own people, then the man should carry that weight around forever, and the guilt, just as he did.
Need for redemption soaked into his veins. Perhaps he could help this female improve her form to make up for his other failures.

“You’re dropping your left side,” he said, moving out from behind his cover.
Her head whipped around, her sword following with force. The very tip aimed toward his heart. Five feet separated him from the lethal point. He was not yet in danger so his gaze trailed from the sharp blade to connect with her gaze.

Honey-colored eyes clashed with his. Awareness shot through him. He did his best to hide his response. His entire world shifted, the foundation reforming in the blink of a second. The change. The moment every man of the Varner desired. The finding. Of the one woman meant to be his mate.
How many times had he imagined this moment?

The warrior woman was his aroha. His body pulsed to life. For the first time his lust awakened in response to another, just as the old tales stated. His muscles tensed, everything inside him urging him to act, urging him to brand. He was ready to make her his.

The fire in her eyes held him back. As well as the vivid distinction that this woman with a sword was far from a delicate female of the Varner. From his experience the past two years and the difficulty of fumbling his way through foreign cultures for the same length of time, he knew it was better to keep his revelation to himself. For now. She might not sense the connection like he could, like the women of the Varner had been able to.

His fascination overwhelmed the new ache in his groin. She was extraordinary. He’d never seen another woman like her. Fierce and strong with steel in her gaze. Beautiful, mighty . . . his. The core of him roared that this miraculous creature belonged to him.
“Who are you?” She jabbed her blade forward an inch.

He barely kept from smiling at her demand. “You’re dropping your left side when you turn.”
Her chin jutted up. “Are you such a fine warrior that you feel yourself worthy of dispensing unsought advice?”

“Some would say.” He moved closer to her.
She tensed, but didn’t attack. Perhaps it was the foot and inches of his height advantage that stalled her.

The sun shining through the trees bestowed a glow off her light brown hair, giving her an ethereal aura. Strong features curved with womanhood invited him to touch.

His hand almost reached toward her before he stopped himself.

Every inch of him yearned to claim his woman, his destined mate, his aroha.

His fingers ached to touch her and make sure she was real. Even if it was only to correct her sword form. Could he really have found the woman he’d searched for all of his adulthood after thirty-three years of living? He needed to brush her skin and make sure he wasn’t fantasizing. Although he knew this must be real because he had never imagined a woman like her.

He closed the distance between them.

“What are you doing?”

“Showing you how to keep your side up.”

After hesitating, she finally lowered her blade. “They say we aren’t supposed to speak with men from the Varner. The villagers call you giants.”

“We aren’t much different from you. And I’ve never seen a female Shadow Shifter train with a sword. I don’t think you’re a woman who abides by the rules.”

Was that a flush in her cheeks? He moved around to direct her arm. When he hovered near her, his front almost touching her back, she glanced over her shoulder warily. He kept himself far enough away so she couldn’t feel the press of his male interest. He ignored the flustered feeling inching up his spine. He’d never been snared by a woman’s scent.

He wanted to inhale her natural fragrance and brand it to his memory. In this open area near the forest where so many aromas mingled, hers stood out—a citrus blend of foreign fruit mixed with the spicy scent of flesh dampened from exertion.

His fingers closed over her grip on the blade. He showed her how to turn without dropping her side.
“Perfect,” he said, unsure if he meant the improvement in her form or the feel of her soft flesh against his roughened palm. He freed her with reluctance.

With a little space between them, she tried again, flawlessly turning.

She frowned. “Thank you.”

“I am impressed by your skill.”

“It’s not enough.”






About the Author:

Kinley read her first romance novel at the age of thirteen and immediately fell in love with the hero. After focusing on nonfiction in high school and college, earning her a degree in creative writing, she returned to her first love and devoured hundreds of romance novels. When they stopped ending the way she wanted, she took the plunge into fiction.

Fantasizing about other men didn’t sit well with her after meeting her husband, so Kinley now writes happily-ever-afters for others. She lives with her husband and her dog, Joker, in the gloriously rainy Pacific Northwest. As a firm supporter of all supernatural lifestyles, she writes fantasy romance, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy.







Tuesday, August 21

Tour: What Kills Me Blog Giveaway



What Kills Me
Author: Wynne Channing
ebook: 209 Pages
Publication Date: June 6th 2012
Publisher: Jet & Jack Press
















 What Kills Me will be $0.99 at
Smashwords and Amazon during the blog tour




~ Book Description  ~


So when 17-year-old Axelia falls into a sacred well filled with blood and emerges a vampire, the immortal empire believes she is this legendary destroyer. Hunted by soldiers and mercenaries, Axelia and her reluctant ally, the vampire bladesmith Lucas, must battle to survive.

How will she convince the empire that she is just an innocent teenager-turned bloodsucker and not a creature of destruction? And if she cannot, can a vampire who is afraid of bugs summon the courage to fight a nation of immortals?






A human girl will be re-born a vampire. She will shed the blood of all who walk in darkness and bring about the death of the entire vampire race.

—Ancient vampire prophecy



Chapter 1

The sun’s down. I am so dead.

I walked out of the bakery with a box of cannoli balanced in my hands and when I saw the dark sky, my smile faded. I shouldered my way through the crowds and rushed into a piazza. The clock on the church tower read 9:25 p.m. I rounded the fountain in the center of the square, my flip flops slapping at my heels. I shifted my box of pastries so that it was under my arm like a football and quickened my pace.

Sofia is going to kill me. When I left the house at 7:30 p.m., I had told her that I’d be only twenty minutes. But I’d lost track of time wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, snapping pictures. So far, I wasn’t being a good guest in her home. Two days ago, I had accidentally used dishwasher soap in her laundry machine, producing a titanic bubble bath. This was not the way to redeem myself.

A few people sat on the stone stairs around the fountain. A bearded man plucked at a guitar and nodded his head. A woman reclined against her boyfriend, her hands on his knees as if they were the arms of a chair.

One young man stood alone on the top of the stairs. His hands were in the pockets of a charcoal coat with an asymmetrical zipper that cut across his chest. His face was backlit against the street lamps, but I knew that he was staring at me. He had such rigid posture that nothing but his head moved as he watched me cross the square.

I dropped my gaze. The straps of my backpack dug into my shoulders and shifted my T-shirt. I tugged at the hem so that the Canadian flag was centered in the middle of my chest. He probably wants to rob me. My father had warned me about pickpockets in Rome. A few days before my trip, he had come into my room with a bulgy blue fanny pack: “To keep your valuables safe.”

From the corner of my eye I could still see the man’s face pointed in my direction, and I heard my best friend’s voice in my head. Zee, he’s checking you out. See if he’s hot. Ryka had encouraged me to have a summer fling. The only fling I’d ever had with a guy was when Felix Lewis flung me in the air during cheerleading tryouts. “Find someone and have fun,” but avoid the bad guys, she had said. She wanted me to keep my other valuables safe.

Pretending to look back at the clock, I glanced at the fountain. The guy was gone. I searched the piazza but didn’t see him. Too bad. He might have been cute. Would his trying to pick my back pocket count as second base?

I turned down a lane sandwiched between two square buildings and wove through a group of men in soccer jerseys. An old man in an undershirt and house slippers stood in the street with a dusty poodle, and I returned his sullen glare with a smile and a nod.

After walking several minutes, something seemed wrong. Okay, I remember passing this restaurant with the row of people eating on white linen tablecloths under white umbrellas. I remember this tight street with the parked cars on my left. But I don’t remember the street opening into a parking lot and this giant purple bush.

A mass of fuchsia flowers cascaded down the side of a building, like a purple monster arm, reaching for the ground with its branchy fingers. I would have remembered this. I doubled back through the dim streets but then couldn’t find my way to the piazza. Don’t panic.

I took a mental inventory of the contents of my bag: a journal, my wallet, my passport, my digital camera, a bottle of water. Of course, I didn’t take the note card with Sofia’s address and phone number on it. It’s on my dresser. Of course, I didn’t take a map. I could see Sofia’s round face, scrunched with disapproval, the creases on her frowning forehead. I performed a frustrated pirouette.

“Come on,” I said, exasperated with myself.

“Excuse me?” A voice said behind me.

I spun around, and there he was in the middle of the road. The guy from the fountain. I recognized his jacket and his tall, stiff stance.

“Sorry. I was talking to myself,” I said.

He took a step toward me and his face shocked me. He had high cheek bones and clean-shaven, pale skin. His deep-set blue eyes were in shadow under thick, dark eyebrows, but they were luminous.

I realized then that I was staring with my mouth ajar.

“You’re American?” he asked in his Italian accent.

“No, I’m from Winnipeg. It’s in Canada,” I said, pointing to my T-shirt. I glanced away, feeling weird that I had just directed his attention to my chest.

He nodded. “You are on vacation?”

“I’m living here for two months studying Italian.”

“Well then, welcome to Italia,” he said, and his pale pink lips smiled. “Do you like it here?”

“I’ve only been here for about a week and I love it.”

“What do you love most?” The word, “lah-ve,” filled his mouth thickly.

“I love the architecture, the food,” I said. “If I could eat gelato every day for the rest of my life, I would.”

“Then you must be sweet.”

His smile widened and I felt embarrassed. To quash my anxiety, I thrust my hand at him. “I’m Zee,” I said.

He seemed startled, tucking in his dimpled chin to gaze at my hand. “Zee?”

“My name is Axelia but everybody calls me Zee.”

“Paolo,” he said.

He slipped his smooth, cool hand into mine. I gripped his palm and shook it vigorously.

“Eggs-ee-lee-ah?” he said, pronouncing every syllable of my name. “I like it.”

“Thanks. I like it too.  It’s spelled A-X-E-L-I-A; but the X is soft. Though I hated it when I was young. In kindergarten, someone spread a totally untrue rumor that ‘Zee likes pee,’ and then, you know, at recess, it was always ‘Zee likes pee, Zee likes pee.’”

I laughed and when he didn’t join me, I cleared my throat to silence myself. “And I have no clue why I told you that story, since we just met.”

Oh, Zee. Always babbling when you’re nervous.

He cocked his head and studied my face. “Zee, would you like to go with me for a gelato?” he asked.

Whoa. Is this beautiful guy asking me out? Ryka would be celebrating with corniness: “He doesn’t want to steal your wallet. He wants to steal your heart.”

“Uh, thank you, Paolo,” I said, relishing the opportunity to use his name. “But I actually need to get home.”

“Where do you live?”

“Good question. I mean, I’m not sure. I’m a bit lost,” I said with a shrug and something in between a grin and a grimace. “It’s on a narrow street around here. There’s a café on the street. There’s a pizzeria. I know—every narrow street has a café and a pizzeria. And I don’t have a map or an address. I might just have to live on the streets, survive on cannoli, and sing for coins.”

“You sing?”

“Yes but I’m sure people will pay me to stop.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I will help you.”

“Oh, I remember!” I exclaimed. “There’s a white church on my street.”

“Via della Scala has a white church,” he said. “And a café and a pizzeria.”

“Via della Scala, that’s it!” I said.

He put his hand over his heart and bowed slightly. “May I have the honor of walking you there, Zee?”

“That would be lovely.”

As we walked back to Sofia’s apartment, I chattered to fill the silence. I told him about the laundry fiasco and about my Japanese housemate, Miyuki. At one point, I realized that I was nervously swinging the box of cannoli while I walked. Paolo kept his eyes on me while I looked everywhere else. His suede coat sleeve would brush my bare arm, giving me goose bumps.

“How old are you?” I said.

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“Me too,” he replied.

“I start university in the fall. I’m going to take general arts courses for now because I’m not sure what field I’d like to get into. My father’s an aerospace engineer and my big sister is studying mechanical engineering. But I almost failed physics and math in high school. So for the safety of mankind, I don’t think I should get a job building anything. I love taking pictures so maybe I could be a photographer. What do you do?”

“I’m a student.”

“What are you studying?”

“I’m a student of life,” he said. He pursed his lips when he smiled.

Was that code for unemployed?

“I see,” I said, instead. “And what have you learned so far?”

“I’ve learned that treasures present themselves when you least expect them,” he said. “And you? What has your life taught you?”

“That I shouldn’t walk around without a map,” I said. “And that dish soap doesn’t go in washers. Actually, I’m here because I want more life experience. I feel like I’ve been pretty sheltered in Winnipeg.”

“I’ve never been there. Is it nice?”

“Yes, but it gets cold.”

“Cold doesn’t bother me.”

“This cold would. Our winters are brutal. It’s so cold sometimes that my eyes water and then my wet eyelashes freeze together.”

He chuckled. His teeth were small and perfect. For a moment, I imagined walking with him through these streets, laughing and holding hands. I imagined him teaching me Italian. I imagined him kissing me. Then I could add “kissed a hot guy” to my experiences, right after “traveled outside of Winnipeg.”

Suddenly I recognized the square planters in front of Sofia’s apartment farther down the street.

“Thank God, we’ve found it!” I blurted. Then I turned to Paolo. “I didn’t mean thank God because I don’t like your company. You’re wonderful company in fact.”

“I also enjoyed your company.”

“Thank you so much. I owe you my life for helping me get back to Sofia’s.”

One side of his lips curled up. “Then repay me,” he said.

“Okay.” I channeled Ryka’s boldness. “I could buy you a gelato?”

“Yes. Let’s meet tomorrow at nine fifteen.”

“Where?” I asked. I could feel my cheeks flushing.

“Right here,” he said, pointing to the pizzeria to his left.

“Done,” I said. “It was nice meeting you.”

“Goodnight, Zee.”

“Goodnight, Paolo.”




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About the Author:




Wynne Channing is an award-winning national newspaper reporter and young adult novelist. She loves telling stories and as a journalist, she has interviewed everyone from Daniel Radcliffe and Hugh Jackman to the president of the Maldives and Duchess Sarah Ferguson. The closest she has come to interviewing a vampire is sitting down with True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard (he didn’t bite). She briefly considered calling her debut novel "Well" so then everyone would say: "Well written by Wynne Channing."






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