Upon lowering her gaze, she saw a black pickup truck pull up on the street in front of her. A tall, suntanned man stepped out. He slammed the truck door shut, and a long wisp of black hair fell out of the leather strap that held it back.
When he faced her, her heart shuddered.
Paolo shot to his feet and trembled where he stood.
The man approached, walking with a slight falter.
Elizabeth's limbs went numb, and she gathered all her strength to keep from sliding off the bench into the dirt or from reaching for Paolo's hand. She uncrossed her legs, planted her black shoes firmly on the ground, and stood as well. She tightened her grip on the leather handle of her bag.
"Elizabeth Reilly?" The man's voice, though attractive, lacked the charm of Paolo's accent. He'd either been born in America or immigrated at a very young age.
"Yes, that's me." Trying not to glance at Paolo, she held out her unsteady hand to the man who now stood in front of her.
Ignoring it, he asked, "So you're a friend of Paolo Clemente?"
"Yes," she said. "We knew each other in Boston. B...before he died." She fisted her hand and then lowered it. Lying wasn't going to be so easy.
She wished Paolo would say something. At least mention who this man might be. Of all the times to be quiet, the ghost had to pick now.
The stranger raised his eyebrow and asked, "Did you tell Marco he died recently?"
She gulped. "Yes...unfortunately."
"Unfortunately?" He glanced at her single bag. "Is that all you have?"
"What do you mean?" She looked down to hide her heat-flushed cheeks.
"Clothing. Do all your things fit in that small bag?"
Were all the Clementes so condescending? No wonder Paolo had agreed to leave Italy. She gazed up into the stranger's striking coffee-colored eyes. "No. My things are unpacked in my room."
He turned and motioned to the inn's door. "Let's get them then."
"Excuse me?" she asked.
"Shall we get your clothes? Pack them in your suitcase? My father's been missing for over thirty years."
He walked away from her and headed toward the front door. "I don't plan to drive back and forth into town so that you can tell me where the hell he's been."
Elizabeth turned toward Paolo then. His face blanched stark white. "Paolo?" she mouthed and reached for him. He backed away, shaking his head, and then releasing a hoarse groan, he vanished.
Don't go, she wanted to scream but instead turned and hurried after the stranger. She needed answers.
"Your father?" Elizabeth asked. All warmth left her face as she reined up beside him. "I'm sorry. Who are you?"
He froze. "Giovanni Clemente," he said clearly.
Elizabeth's heart stopped. Giovanni? I thought he was dead. My Lord, Paolo, you told me your son died. "No, you can't be Giovanni."
"Well, I am." His face went blank as he stared at her. "Why would I lie about that?"
This can't be. She stumbled forward into him and dropped her bag to the ground.
"Miss Reilly, are you okay?" He caught her elbow and steadied her, then glanced down at his hand and pulled it away.
Elizabeth backed away from him in two swift steps, trying to make sense of this turn in events. Her heartbeat returned to a rapid thumping. Heat swirled into her belly. "I just need to sit, I think."
"You'll have some time to sit once we get your things," he said and cleared his throat. "The ride to the vineyard will take us half an hour."