Monday, November 24, 2014

Chapter 4 release of A Love Once Found

Victoria woke up the next morning to an overcast day. The sky outside looked glum and unwelcoming. Not a problem. She lazed around in bed a while longer, smiling as she enjoyed the plush quality of the comforter, all the while thinking about Mateo.
He was cute. He was wise. He seemed good hearted. But Victoria wanted to know more about her new friend today. Since the moment she decided to accept the fact that she was going to continue to see Mateo, Victoria felt almost giddy and was filled with anticipation for the upcoming day.
Into the shower she stepped and got herself ready for the day's adventure. With one last look out the hotel window, she took note of the sky and put on a hooded sweater to fend off any brisk wind that might greet her.
Once outside, Victoria waited no more than a minute when she heard a familiar sound. An old classic motorcycle roared up to the sidewalk where she stood, her new acquaintance at the throttle.
Mateo removed his helmet, his thick hair instantly blowing in the morning wind.   His eyes seemed to warm to a light caramel color as he gazed at Victoria standing before him. 
“Ciao Bella, I will be your tour guide for today."
Victoria just looked at him and after a moment of silence they both began to laugh.
"Is this where I can get the five cent tour?" questioned Victoria, as she cheekily cocked her head.
"Get on and I promise you it will be worth more than that," replied Mateo with his charming quarter smile.
She carefully got on the old bike, engine purring smoothly, and in moments they were on their way down the stone road.
First order of business was a small breakfast at a cafe two streets over. Mateo parked the bike, both walking briskly inside to get out of the wind and fetch a table.
"It’s breezy out today."
"It’s coming off the sea,” Mateo replied. “The wind is strong from the west and it carries a bit of cold.  How about I take you for a ride along the coast this morning? Maybe some lunch later on?" he asked with a raise of his eyebrow.
"Sounds great." 
They ate a couple of brioche and enjoyed an espresso.  Minutes later, Mateo had her on his bike and they rode off in search of more beautiful Italian scenery.
While they rode to the coast, Victoria clutched Mateo's torso. It was firm and sculpted. She had felt his abs under his jacket where she held onto him. He smelled nice. From time to time, she would close her eyes while holding him…maybe it was to make the ride more thrilling…or maybe it was so that she could take in his sweet smell as the wind carried it from his warm muscular body past her nose.
Victoria had extraordinary control over her senses. She could heighten them just by closing her eyes and focusing on whatever she touched, smelled or tasted. And for now, she indulged in her new friend in her own unique way, quietly and inconspicuously.
"Hey, look over there," Mateo yelled through his helmet.
Victoria opened her eyes with a start, jarring her out of the tranquil place she had just been.  She looked to where he was pointing and saw a spectacular view of the ocean inlet at La Spezia. Even under cloudy skies, the place looked so majestic with the gently rolling ocean waves hitting the shore barrier.
For the next few hours the little bike sped along the coast line and every so often they met a small town.  Victoria loved the winding roads of Fezzano, Terrizzo and Portovenere. Victoria grinned with indulgence taking in the exquisite scenery here and there, and watching the ocean disappear behind trees then reappear with distinct grandeur later on.
As Mateo had promised, they stopped for lunch at a small pasta venue and enjoyed a spaghetti meal before hopping back on the bike.  This time, Mateo decided to take her somewhere even more striking than the mainland.
He pulled into a harbor tour site, parked the Ducati and they boarded a small motorboat where the operator took them to an island called Isola Palmaria.  They spent the afternoon walking throughout the beautiful island which appeared to trap time.
As Victoria and Mateo meandered through the island’s small winding streets they got to know each other.  They exchanged questions, answers and beliefs. Few buildings were on the island, but the trees, natural beauty and old pathways made their long walks that afternoon very romantic. After a while, they sat on some large rocks and gazed out past the water to the harbor not far away.
"Italy is so beautiful. I don't want to leave," Victoria whispered.
"It certainly is a beautiful place," replied Mateo with a nod.  "That's why I love it here. I used to live in Spain, but once I moved out here, I didn't want to go back. There are too many beautiful places to see. The sight of each day casts a new painting...a new story."
Victoria looked up at Mateo. She was taken aback by his eyes.   They weren’t just beautiful; they possessed so much feeling, making her believe everything he had just said.  They captured her. He captured her.
Suddenly there was silence. It was like time had seized. He leaned closer to her, slowly looking into her eyes. Victoria returned his gaze, leaning in, and Mateo gently placed a single kiss on her soft lips.
It was incredible.
One kiss turned into two, then three. Mateo cradled her head in his warm hands and laid kiss after kiss, long and slow on her supple lips to her absolute enjoyment. Each kiss lasted longer than the one before.
All of a sudden there was a change in their surroundings. It began to rain.
“Aggh, let’s get out of here,” Victoria laughed as she put up her hood.
“Let’s not,” replied Mateo. “Have you ever kissed in the rain?” Victoria let out another laugh, but quickly realized he was perfectly serious.
He told her to close her eyes and listen to the sound of the rain as it fell a little harder around them. He now sat behind her, both straddling the rocks. Victoria tried to tune into an unfamiliar situation, listening to her surroundings, feeling the autumn breeze on her face.
She felt Mateo’s hands again, slowly rubbing her arms from elbow to shoulder. His hands finally came to a stop as he moved his arms to embrace her. They sat there and welcomed the rain together. It was an unusual feeling for Victoria. She was used to being out of the rain at all times. Who wanted to be wet anyway?
Yet with her eyes closed, she inhaled the scent of the rain on the ocean as she felt the delicate contact of Mateo’s lips. He dotted the side of her neck with gentle kisses. He was casual but inviting with each gesture...the type of contact that would tease anyone looking for an impending gallant encounter.
Victoria’s senses were charged.  Somewhere in the back of her dulled mind, she experienced amazement as she felt the kiss of a man who stirred fervor in her soul. A fervor she didn’t know existed.  As drop after drop slashed against her face, she now understood a beautiful concept about life from Mateo. Sitting there in the rain emotionally elated, nothing mattered. Victoria’s ability to reason and deduce was lost. She could not explain what was going on, except that she enjoyed this carefree indulgence with another human being. It was wonderful.
Minutes later, the shower grew more intense.  Mateo gently hoisted Victoria to her feet. He didn’t want to completely soak his beautiful companion. They hastened back to the dock where they then boarded the now covered craft.
On the way back to the tour dock, Victoria held her hand out from under the little boat’s canopy and enjoyed the patter of rain drops on her hand.
Mateo repeatedly looked out across the slightly rolling waves of the pelted sea, then back at Victoria. He could not stop looking at her.
She was beautiful. She was innocent. He saw her as a wonderful young lady with a youthful spirit.  Yet he suspected this spirit was locked deeply, perhaps safely inside her heart and seen only through her eyes.  
Nearing the dock, Victoria looked toward Mateo.  As she pulled her hand in from the rain, she noticed something about him at that moment. Mateo’s eyes glistened with great depth. He suddenly noticed her looking at him and gave her a faint smile, before returning his gaze to the horizon.
       She wondered what was on his mind. It seemed as though Mateo’s eyes, beautiful that they were, wanted to speak to her. He had a way of looking at someone that could almost speak with a mere stare. His eyes were somehow connected with his soul.  Victoria would have been amazed to realize that this passionate man sitting just a few feet away, had found immense feelings for her.
The couple disembarked the little motorboat as the rain tapered off, and hopped on the Ducati one last time that evening.
“I hope you’re not feeling too cold from the rain,” said Mateo, as he started up the bike.
“Nah, a little rain never hurt anyone,” responded Victoria, looking cheerfully at her driver.  Once the little engine was warm, they rode leisurely along the country side back to her hotel.
At the hotel lobby, Victoria stepped off her ride and gently pulled off her helmet. She reached over and slowly turned the key on Mateo’s bike, killing the engine.
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
Victoria felt giddy.
“Why don’t you come in?” She slowly smiled at him. Mateo hesitated before answering. 
“I better not.”
Victoria went from all smiles to a state of embarrassment. She never flirted with someone so forwardly!  Ever! But after Mateo’s response, she felt foolish.
Victoria took a step back as she felt a blush spread across her cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” she whispered.
“Nothing” Mateo replied.
“Didn’t you enjoy today?” Victoria mumbled. This was what she had always hated about attraction.  Its consequences were never straightforward, the moods, emotions, perceptions.  She was starting to feel bitter.
Mateo took off his helmet and looked her straight in the eye. 
“Of course I did.” He paused before he continued.
“Victoria, I’m rather fond of you. But I can’t join you right now.” He looked away for a moment as if searching for the right words.
Victoria stared at his profile, completely confused.  She was not a master of psychology, but she just knew that there was something between them...even if it was only passion.   
Mateo finally turned to look at her.  He must have understood the expression on her face, for his eyes filled with remorse. 
“May I see you tomorrow after work? I’d like to have dinner with you.”
As she met his gaze, Victoria never felt so confused in her life.  It wasn’t his reaction that brought on this feeling, but hers.  She was torn between saying yes to his invitation and giving him a resounding no. 
Something wasn’t right.  This was not the Mateo she had spent a romantic day with.  The analyst inside her decided right then and there that she needed to accumulate more information.  There was more to this man then she realized.  But Victoria realized the mistake she made.  She let go too easily, giving the control to Mateo.  She wouldn’t be so stupid again.
Victoria’s eyes frosted slightly and she thought she saw Mateo faintly flinch. 
“Um, sure, why not,” she responded flippantly.  “But how about I pick you up,” she added, with a tight smile on her face.
“Thank you. Good night, Victoria,” Mateo responded quietly.
He leaned in for a kiss, but barely captured her cheek with his lips as she turned her face away. Mateo gave her a look of confusion, but it was quickly replaced with a look of understanding.  He gave her a fleeting smile, donned his helmet and was gone.

After a warm bath, Victoria sat out on her hotel balcony sipping a green tea. She was replaying the day’s earlier events over and over in her head.  Who does he think I am? she asked herself.
Victoria looked out at the moonlit sky. She gazed at the hundreds of stars dotting the heavens above. It was sensational.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t truly appreciate the evening scenery above her.
Victoria finished her tea and walked back into her room.  She removed the elastic from her hair and slipped into bed.  Her room was quiet. Only the sound of her voice in her head cut the silence.

Just then her eyes opened. She got it! Victoria now understood why Mateo didn’t accept her invite into her room. She had developed feelings for a gentleman. Relieved to find an answer for her emotional curiosity, Victoria slept soundly that night.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Sneek Peek at Chapter 3: An unexpected encounter...

Chapter 3

The next morning brought rain, prompting Victoria to stay in bed a little while longer. She listened to the water tap on the window and the sound of bicycle wheels and sandals splashing through puddle dotted roads.
After a hot bath, Victoria stepped over to the window and peered outside. By this time the rain had stopped, but her mind seemed fixed on the memory of her encounter the day before.
She quickly shook off the feeling of curiosity, which she often referred to as childish.  Besides Victoria was determined to keep the promise she made to herself the night before.  So she threw on a light jacket in case the rain would later return and headed out into Pisa.
She boarded an excursion bus into Rome. She had always wanted to visit the majesty of God’s earthly post. After the bus ride, Victoria spent several hours walking through Rome, snapping pictures of precious landmarks. She stood in awe at the striking emotion cast by the size of the great Coliseum, where Julius Caesar and the Romans witnessed fierce battles. Victoria took a walk through the Imperial Forums, the historical center of the city where the Temple of Peace stood in ruins. She later marvelled at the proficient architecture of the Pantheon, built 1800 years earlier by the Emperor Hadrian. Italy, without a doubt, carried an engaging presentation of its exciting history.
The last and most personally important stop for Victoria was the Vatican. There she spent a long time wandering through St. Peter’s Square, admiring mankind’s manifestation of faith in Christ. The entire time in the Vatican, she felt connected to everything around her. It was soothing and peaceful.
Victoria thought about her family on the other side of the world. She remembered specific events growing up, most notably the laughter of playful family times. She remembered the day she left home to pursue her career and live on her own. Her parents cried for her. They loved and supported her. Their little girl had grown to become a beautiful, caring and respected woman. They had done well, for their daughter Victoria always kept in touch and always helped them at a moment’s notice.
Looking at the Basilica, Victoria said a short prayer and gave thanks for all the wonderful opportunities and successes in her life. The most inspiring thing about Victoria was that she had always been a person of sound mind, which was one of her most valuable qualities.
As the afternoon turned into evening, the pleased but tired tourist boarded the bus back to her hotel in Pisa. On the ride back, the Italian music played on the drive to Rome was replaced with an arrangement of more recognizable music at the request of one of the passengers. Looking through the window at the scrolling countryside, Victoria heard a familiar song over the speakers. She smiled and sang along in her head to one of her favorite songs.
I will take you by the hand, show you the way, for my heart believes in you…
Charles London was one of her favorite singers. The personality he injected into each song reflected his adaptability, a personal quality Victoria took pride in. The singer could be tranquil and emotional one minute, then hard hitting and passionate the next.
The bus finally arrived at the hotel and Victoria stepped off and headed up to her room. She was famished. On the way past the front desk, she stopped and asked the clerk if she could get a cab in twenty minutes to take her back to the promenade by the ocean to seek out another fantastic restaurant for dinner. The clerk nodded and told her that he would call her room once the cab had arrived.
After a quick shower, Victoria slipped into a comfortable and light sundress. She pinned part of her hair up, hoping to feel the breeze off the ocean during her walk that warm evening. On went a pair of comfortable sandals and she headed down to the waiting cab.
Victoria was in love with Italy. She had been to quite a few places on earth, but no vacation had immersed her as deeply in culture, history and intrigue.
Intrigue was, in fact, one of her fears. It was her double edged sword. Although it brought her excitement, she found it childish. Victoria considered intrigue to be a slightly open door, with an unclear picture of what lay beyond. By not being able to see what lay ahead, she often felt anxious and uncomfortable. She knew of friends who embraced intrigue, eager to find what lay ahead. But to Victoria uncertainty, or anything which she could not grasp by means of careful calculations and proven theories, often led to shaky outcomes. At times, this hindrance would keep Victoria from enjoying spontaneity in her life. It was one of the reasons for this trip. 
Victoria knew that personal growth was necessary.  Of course, a quick love affair in Italy was not what she had in mind.  Victoria closed her eyes, willing herself to not think about him.  What the hell is wrong with me, anyway? she angrily mused.
In minutes, the cab rolled swiftly down Via Tullio and Victoria could see the ocean once again. She travelled further down the road than the day before.  This was far enough she thought and then signaled the driver to stop.
“Grazie,” she said tipping the cabby, and exited onto the promenade.
Although she didn’t want to take long to find a place to eat, Victoria couldn’t help but walk further and further along, inhaling the delicious scents emerging from each restaurant on the strip. Finally, she wandered into a pizzeria and consumed a generous amount of authentic Italian pizza from the establishment’s beautiful wood fired oven. She could not get over the flavor of Italian food, from sweet to spicy and completely delicious.  Victoria was certainly eating like a queen during her vacation.
After dinner, she walked back along the promenade and window shopped. She entered the odd store and looked over trinkets and souvenirs. A few establishments later, she came upon an outdoor bar of sorts where she decided to give her feet a rest and enjoy a glass of wine.
Sitting at the bar, she ordered a white Trebbiano and returned her attention to the ocean. She spent the next half hour sipping and listening. The crash of the Tyrrhenian Sea against the breakwater became a slow rolling symphony to her ears. The evening was beautiful, and after another cup of wine, Victoria enjoyed a few more steps north on Via Tullio before calling a cab.
A few minutes later, Victoria neared the Ristorante Cliffe. She instantly remembered the palatial meal she enjoyed there. Perhaps she would decide to return there tomorrow for an equally satisfying lunch.
Victoria looked out at the water to behold the sunset. In her line of sight, she saw the cement bench where she had conversed with her first real acquaintance in Italy, and her eyes quickly focused on a man who now sat there.
It was Mateo! Victoria’s heart skipped a beat and without thinking, she turned away and resumed the intense struggle that gnawed at her mind the night before.
Victoria just walk away! she sternly told herself.  She couldn’t move her feet which felt anchored to the road.  Victoria was mystified by the fact that she didn’t want to leave, in fact she wanted to do exactly what her feelings desired and talk to Mateo.
What?  This is crazy!  I do not do things like this!  Are you kidding, Victoria?  It’s just talking, for heaven’s sake!  I think I can just talk to the guy! She yelled at her inner self. 
Victoria took a deep breath and attempted to muster up her skills of cold calculation.  Ok, girl, so you like this guy.  True, you’ve only known him for a few hours and yes, the feelings are ridiculously intense.  But you’re only in Italy for another few days and you’ll be gone.  It’s just talking.
All of a sudden, Victoria felt a firm hand on her shoulder, causing her to yell and swiftly turn around. 
Victoria felt all of the air in her lungs leave her body and for the first time in her life, she didn’t know what to say.
“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m fine. It’s nice to see you again,” she replied, hoping he wouldn’t hear the slight tremor in her voice.  All she could seem to focus on was the beautiful brown of his eyes. Did she notice that yesterday?
“Have a seat.” He gestured to the bench.  “Where is your Vespa? Don’t tell me it’s flooded again,” he remarked.
“No no. I gave it back. I only rented it for the day.”
“Why would you... Oh! Are you not from here?”
“No,” Victoria replied. “I’m here on vacation. Just taking in Italy, It’s so beautiful. Actually, it’s amazing that I’ve seen you a second time. What a coincidence. Honestly, what’s the chance I’d see you in the exact same place twenty four hours later?” They both chuckled.
“Actually, I spend many evenings on this bench in the nice weather.” He looked out at the ocean and nodded to Victoria.
“To most people, it’s just the sky, but to me the sunsets are more beautiful than anything I care to look at. Each time I see the sun go down, I look for new detail in the sky, in the clouds.”
“Wow. I’ve never thought of that before,” replied Victoria. Her unease was quickly dissipating and she felt herself becoming engrossed in this interesting man’s words.
They both gazed out at the water for perhaps a minute in silence, but it felt far longer. As Mateo continued to look out into the blue, Victoria lost the struggle raging inside and turned her eyes to Mateo.  She couldn’t believe he was more handsome than yesterday.  The sun was reflected in his eyes and the setting sun cast a shadow on his face, defining its striking detail.  This man wasn’t handsome, she thought, he was beautiful.
As the sun crept below the horizon, Mateo turned to Victoria and asked her a question. 
“How are you getting home?”
“I’m going to grab a cab in a few minutes.”
“Don’t spend your money, Victoria. Let me drive you back.”
Victoria paused, accepting the fact that she didn’t want to say goodbye just yet, so she replied.
“Sure. Thanks.”
They boarded the Ducati once again and Mateo took Victoria back to her hotel in no time. After thanking him once again, Victoria started toward the hotel doors.  She stopped in midstride when she heard Mateo’s voice behind her.
“Hey, tomorrow is my day off and I was wondering, would you like me to show you around a few places?”
Victoria paused once again. She was again unsure...but only once more, she would throw caution to the wind. 
“Sure. I’ll be up at eight.”
“I’ll be here at nine. See you then.”  His eyes crinkled in a smile before he whispered, “Good night Victoria.”
Waving him off, she suddenly noticed how very tired she was and did not waste time heading to bed. She pulled up the covers and snuggled in, but after a couple of minutes she realized she could not meet her slumber. Annoyed, she lay on her back trying to assess why she couldn’t sleep.
Quickly, she realized that it was the notion of how she felt about Mateo, the mysterious man who arrested her curiosity with the luminous depth of his brown eyes.
I can’t believe how much I keep thinking about this guy, she pondered, now staring out the window into the night.
Victoria hated the thought of analyzing the effects of emotion. It warped her judgment. It was unclear. At times it could yield impulsiveness, yet other times it could send any human through a hurricane of sentiments.
Victoria had a track record of impressive self control. She was professional and precise. Not, she thought, like this fellow who seemed rather too laid back, sitting on benches day in and day out with no apparent ambition.
Well, so he can make cannolis. Big deal! she joked.
Victoria accepted long ago that she may never fall in love, let alone with this good looking man! Yet after her evaluation of the matter, her mind lay uneasy with thought.
The problem was there was something about the sincerity in his voice, the brilliance in his gaze. The care he displayed as he helped her with the scooter. The sense of security she felt, clutching him as they sped through the streets on his motorcycle. This is as far as Victoria could interpret the feelings she had for Mateo. After a long pause, she finally found closure to her unease.
So what! I’m on Vacation in Italy! I’m going to enjoy myself for once in my life!

She turned over and fell asleep.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Victoria: One Woman's Eyes

The central character in A Love Once Found is Victoria, a thirty something urban professional with a strong attitude for success and an empty heart in the world of love.

Victoria is the dynamic character, around which the more static personas of three men capture her attention and take her through a roller coaster of emotions at different times in her life. In just over a year, Victoria struggles to set aside her professionalism when she comes face to face with her feelings for the opposite sex. These encounters tease her emotions and send her through her best times and her worst.

I chose a character like Victoria to highlight the fact that no one is perfect. Even though some of us believe we have we want: the car, the home, the toys, the riches...we are not at all happy in the end. There is still that little piece of us that feels cold without the warmth of another soul to enjoy in life. 
Victoria is a smart, caring, proper woman who has found success in many ways that we could desire. But her worst challenge has always been to find answers to those inexplicable emotions one wades through when in love. Throughout my novel, Victoria is put to the test, reflecting, growing, and adapting in her desire to find the perfect man with which to spend her life. She finds likely candidates, but has to look deep within herself, analyse her wants and needs and find feasibility in a relationship when she hasn't even learned who she truly is yet.

A Love Once Found is a wonderful visit into a confident love struck woman's mind. The reader gets to feel her pain, laugh along with her during the jovial moments, and unearth the realms of love waiting deep within her heart.

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