Home > The Italian's Passionate Return (The Alfieri Saga #1)

The Italian's Passionate Return (The Alfieri Saga #1)
Author: Elizabeth Lennox

Elizabeth Lennox - The Alfieri Saga #1 - The Italian's Passionate Return

The Italian's Passionate Return (The Alfieri Saga #1)
Elizabeth Lennox



Chapter 1

“You’re not supposed to be here,” a small voice stated firmly.

Damien Alfieri looked around, seeing only the momma dog and a stall filled with what looked like a hundred puppies. Of course, it was probably only five or six fur-balls, but they were wiggling continuously and looked like a lot more.

When he spotted the black haired boy with brown eyes staring back at him, Damien was startled. There was something about the boy that caught and held his gaze, but he couldn’t quite figure out what was so…interesting about the boy.

“I apologize if I’m intruding on your solitude, young man,” he said, bowing formally but with humor in his eyes. The boy was holding – or trying to hold – two additional puppies. They were both licking the boy’s face, but they were wagging their little tails so hard they were about to fall out of his arms.

“What’s solitude?” the boy asked, his eyes changing from suspicious to curious as his mind tried to process the new word. Then he realized what he was doing and shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. You’re not supposed to be in here.” He looked behind Damien worriedly.

Damien instantly knew what was going through the boy’s mind. “Do your parents know that you’re out here?” he asked gently, but with an unspoken reprimand in his tone. He didn’t understand why he had included the scolding – he usually left children to their governesses or parents. He rarely had time to interact with children, especially one this young. He appeared to be six or seven, possibly eight years old with intelligent eyes and black, curly hair that was in desperate need of a trim.

“Dylan!” a feminine voice called from outside the barn. “Time for breakfast.”

The boy gripped one of the puppies closer, obviously not wanting to relinquish his treasure but unable to ignore the summons. “I gotta go,” he said with resignation and put the puppy down gently near his momma. “So do you,” he said and raced to the stall’s doors, slipping underneath. When he was standing outside the doorway, he looked up at the extremely tall stranger, his eyebrows pulled down into a frown. “You gotta go too. My momma doesn’t want strangers in her barn. She says it isn’t good.”

With that, the little boy sprinted out the barn door, straight for the small house that sat at the end of the driveway.

Damien chuckled, liking the little fellow instantly. There was a bark and Damien turned around, remembering the puppies and the whole reason he’d come out to this small farm. A puppy. With a sigh, he looked down at the puppies, his eyes trying to determine which his niece would like the most. Probably the cutest, but Damien was more inclined to choose the least wiggly of the bunch.

“A phone call, sir,” his driver said. Damien looked up from the puppies, irritated that business couldn’t wait for another ten minutes while he selected a puppy from the brood. But business rarely waited. It was normally what he liked about his work, but today, he wanted some time. He’d never slowed down before, preferring to move quickly and efficiently as he did his business around the world. But being here in the soft, rolling hills of central Virginia, he could see the attraction of a slower, easier lifestyle.

Inside the house, Dylan climbed up onto his stool and grabbed his spoon before taking a big bite of his oatmeal. “Guy in the barn,” he said. “Oh, and Andy’s birthday party is this weekend. I can go, right?”

Jemma put the last dish in the drying rack and sighed, wondering how she could scrape up enough money for a birthday present. If only Dylan weren’t so popular! The kid was charming and funny as well as frighteningly intelligent. But couldn’t he skip just a few of the birthday parties he was invited to? This would be the third one this month! There were only twenty-five kids in his class. How many of them knew her son well enough to really want him at their birthday party?

And then his first comment struck her. “A guy in the barn?” she asked, trying to clarify. “What do you mean?”

Dylan swallowed around the scoop of oatmeal, knowing he wasn’t allowed to talk with his mouth full. His mom was weird about things like that. “Yeah. Some guy. I think he wants one of the puppies.”

Jemma perked up at that news. Selling one of the puppies would be wonderful! They were pure-bred yellow labs. The proceeds from just one would allow her to buy groceries for the whole month.

“You stay and eat your breakfast,” she told him sternly, wiping her hands on the threadbare dishtowel. “I’ll go see what this guy wants.”

Dylan almost rolled his eyes, but he was too hungry to put much effort into the expression. “I told you, he wants to buy one of Momma Dog’s puppies.” He looked up at her when she had one hand on the doorknob. “You’re not going to, are you?” he asked, his eyes instantly displaying concern.

Jemma sighed, the weight of her son’s worry on her shoulders. “We talked about this, remember? I know you love Momma Dog’s puppies, but they need to find their own homes.”

Dylan’s food was forgotten as his worry over losing one of his playmates surfaced. “Yeah, but that was last week. No one came to buy a puppy, so I thought…”

Jemma’s heart ached for her young son. “Dylan, just because no one has come to buy them yet, doesn’t mean they all don’t need a good home. You can’t take care of six puppies plus Momma Dog and all of your other chores.”

His face took on a disgruntled expression as he thought through the options. “I could forget some of my other chores!” he exclaimed. “That would give me more time to take care of the puppies.”

Jemma almost laughed out loud at his excited expression. But she somehow found the strength to hold back. “I don’t think so, young man. Eat your breakfast,” she told him and opened the door. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

Jemma walked out of the house and headed towards the barn. She looked towards the front and saw the long, black limousine. Nervous, she hurried her pace. It wasn’t the luxury of the vehicle that caused her heart to start beating frantically. Her reputation as a horse and dog breeder had people from Washington, D.C., Richmond, and as far away as North Carolina and Ohio coming to her farm to buy horses or puppies. The animals loved her farm, enjoying the freedom of the outdoors and the wide, open spaces where they could run around and bark to their heart’s content. But there was something about this limousine that hurried her footsteps towards the barn, she looked back at the house to ensure that Dylan was out of sight.

She tried to compose herself before entering the barn. Her thoughts were crazy. There was no way the man waiting for her was….

Jemma stepped into the darker barn area and stopped cold. The tall, dangerous looking man standing there in front of the stall filled with Momma Dog and her puppies once again took her breath away. She couldn’t believe he was here, standing in her barn and looking….well, more dangerous! How had he found her? Why was he here? Goodness, he looked marvelous! She tried breathing, tried taking deep breaths to regain her equilibrium, but it was hard. Memories of that one night came back to her, haunting her, causing her whole body to tense with anticipation of what he could do to her, what he could make her body feel. It wasn’t possible, she told herself. There was no way this man, this one man who had so completely turned her world around, could be here, standing in her barn not ten feet from her.

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