Belle Ami, who stopped by to share her new release, hooked me with the title and gorgeous cover. Take it away, Belle Ami!
Will her visions lead her to the truth?
I'm so excited to tell you about my new release, The Girl Who Knew da Vinci, which was released June 1st. It's a romantic suspense thriller with a supernatural twist. It's also the first book in my new OUT OF TIME Thriller Series.
Art historian Angela Renatus is haunted by dreams of Leonardo da Vinci and a mysterious painting of Giuliano Medici and his mistress Fioretta Gorini. A painting that, as far as the world knows, doesn't exist. Compelled by her visions, Angela is determined to find out the truth.
When Angela is contacted by art detective Alex Caine, she's shocked to learn that he too is seeking the same painting. Alex's client, a wealthy German financier, is determined to clear the name of his late uncle, Gerard Jaeger, an art historian, who went missing in Florence, during World War II. In letters written before his disappearance, the historian describes his love affair with a beautiful young Italian woman named Sophia Caro, and the discovery of an extraordinary painting by the great master himself-a painting depicting Giuliano and Fioretta.
Angela and Alex journey to Florence in search of the priceless treasure. Is it a lost da Vinci, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars, or a wild goose-chase that will only lead to a dead end? But someone else is searching for the elusive painting-Alberto Scordato is a powerful man in the art world and a sociopath who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even murder. Scordato knows something about Angela that even she doesn't know, something that could threaten both Angela and Alex's lives, forcing them into the crosshairs of fate.
Excerpt from The Girl Who Knew da Vinci
August 3, 1944
Sophia Caro was scared, but not half as scared as she should be. The world was at war and she was in love with a German officer. She covered her ears as another explosion rocked the building, pressing closer into the arms of her lover, Gerhard Jaeger. Had it only been a few hours? It felt like the Germans had been bombing for days.
“Florence will never be the same,” she whispered brokenly. After each detonation, the Uffizi Gallery strained and shuddered as if struck by an earthquake.
Gerhard held her tighter, shielding her with his body. “It will my darling, you’ll see.”
They planned to escape from Florence. Gerhard, who was no Nazi, would desert. If captured he’d be lined up before a firing squad. Adding to her worries were her brothers who were partisans fighting the Nazis. She and Gerhard were set to flee back home to her family vineyard in the Tuscan hills. She’d be lucky if her brothers didn’t shoot Gerhard first and ask questions later. Time had run out and the man she loved with her heart and soul was prepared to risk everything for her and their unborn child.
Another round of blasts shook the building. Huddling in the long central gallery of the Uffizi, dust and pieces of the frescoed ceiling rained down around them.
“The ceiling! What if the building collapses?” Sophia couldn’t control the panic that seized her. Blistering heat and falling debris made it impossible to breathe.
“We’ll be fine Sophia. The Uffizi has stood for nearly five hundred years. It will stand for another five hundred, I’m sure.” Gerhard kissed her forehead. “Longer than that bastard Hitler. It makes me ashamed and sick to be a German.”
Sophia lay her hand against his cheek. “You’re an academic, an art historian, not a soldier. You’d do anything to protect Florence’s art treasures. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.”
“Have I done enough?” Deep lines etched his face.
A massive blast brought another shower of plaster, covering them in a fine veil of white dust.
“Heaven help us. When will it stop?” Sophia buried her face in his chest.
“It won’t stop until the bridges are demolished. Even for the industrious Germans that could take most of the night.”
Sophia covered her ears to muffle another round of successive blasts. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” She crossed herself, wondering if God would listen to the pleas of a now-and-again Catholic. She felt a trickle of sweat roll down her cheek. Gerhard pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped it away.
“Amore mio, I promise you it will end by dawn. My contact, Deiter, assured me that the Ponte Vecchio will not be destroyed. When they’ve finished bringing down the rest of the bridges the explosions will cease. Then you and I will leave this nightmare of a war behind.”
A series of booms echoed again through the city and the reality of their situation returned. She held her stomach, protecting the small bump that protruded.
He covered her hand with his. “I hope you packed something substantial for our journey, my love. You need to keep up your strength for our child’s sake. Besides which,” he said, “I’d hate to be arrested for a grumbling stomach.”
“This is Italy,” she said with a quirk of her lips. “We aren’t going to die of starvation.” She looked around. “What have you done with the painting?”
“I had to cut it from its frame,” he said with a grimace. “I wrapped it in tissue paper and rolled it paint side out. Then I rolled it in lamb’s wool and fit it in a thick cardboard tube. I think it should be safe from the elements. My backpack is waterproof.”
She knew he’d do anything to keep her and their unborn child safe, but the painting worried her. It seemed to her an unnecessary risk to take a painting from the Uffizi, even if he meant only to keep it safe. It was a bone of contention between them.
“It’s twenty-seven kilometers south of Florence to my family’s vineyard in Montefioralle. I’m afraid much of it is uphill.”
“We’re young and strong, Sophia. If I have to carry you up a mountain, I will. It should take us about six hours to walk twenty-seven kilometers; we can manage that. Didn’t you say the area is famous for its Chianti?”
“The best Chianti and the most beautiful village in Italy. You will never want to leave.”
“Sounds like a good place to wait out the war, a glass of wine in hand, a bambino on my lap, and a goddess in my bed. The perfect place for us to begin our new life.” He drew her close and caressed her abdomen.
It seemed impossible that amid the chaos of war their child had been conceived. She hadn’t meant it to happen and feared he’d think she’d entrapped him. But when she told him, he was overjoyed, professing his excitement to be a father. She knew, then, that his love for her was true.
Sometime after dawn, the explosions ceased and the Uffizi Gallery grew quiet. Gerhard had kept his military uniform on until the last second. But now the die had been cast and it was time to escape. He discarded his uniform and donned the clothes of a civilian. Sophia straightened his collar while he stuffed the fake identity papers into his pocket.
“Well, Giorgio Bandini, accountant from Pisa, are you ready to begin the next phase of your life?”
He grabbed her around the waist and kissed her. “So long as I’m allowed to make love every night to the most desirable woman in the world. Shall we go, angelo mio.”
Sophia knew the Vasari Corridor like the back of her hand. If need be, she could walk it blindfolded. The concealed passageway above the bridge would be their escape route. She gave silent thanks to the clever Duke Cosimo I de’Medici who, in 1565, had ordered Giorgio Vasari to build the secret corridor. It allowed the Medici family to travel from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti in safety and privacy. During the five years Sophia had worked at the Uffizi, instead of walking the crowded Ponte Vecchio below, she’d chosen to walk the three-quarter mile from the Uffizi to the Pitti in privacy, just as the Medici family had.
Holding a candle for her, Gerhard followed her through the unmarked secret door near the Botticelli room and down a flight of stairs. She unlocked another door and, after he passed through it, she locked it behind her. The minute the door shut, it was as if the air changed. The eerie silence was disconcerting after the hours of continuous bombings.
“Don’t worry, it always feels like you’ve entered another world,” she said.
“Cooler. I’ll take it.” He shifted the heavy backpack to his other shoulder.
Taking his hand, she led him through the twists and turns of the corridor. “Before the war these walls were hung with Medici portraits. Now they’re hidden in storage vaults. The war has altered the world forever.”
“Not forever, amore mio."
More About the Author
Belle Ami writes intriguing romantic/suspense/thrillers with a teaspoon of sex. A self-confessed newsjunky she loves to create cutting-edge stories about politics, espionage, and redemptive love. She is a Kathryn McBride scholar of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Writing, cooking, spinning, hiking, boxing, and skiing are her passions.
She is the author of The Only One series, The One (#1), and The One & More (#2). Her third in the series titled One More Time is Not Enough, was published July 13th, 2016. She was honored to be included in the RWA LARA Christmas Anthology Holiday Ever After featuring her short story The Christmas Encounter. Her next series entitled The Tip of the Spear begins with Escape, published January 10, 2017. The sequel to Escape, entitled Vengeance was published September 12, 2017.
The Girl Who Knew da Vinci is her latest release. It’s an intriguing romance/paranormal/thriller. She is currently working on book three of The Tip of the Spear Series, titled Ransom.
She lives in Southern California with her husband, two children, a horse named Cindy Crawford, and her brilliant Chihuahua, Giorgio Armani. Connect with her here: