As promised, I’m back to introduce the ghost, Paolo.

If you’ve been to my website or signed up for my newsletter, you’ve seen this excerpt before. I debated on whether to post it again but as I searched and contemplated what the best way to introduce him would be, I kept coming back to this excerpt.

Now when we first meet Paolo in The Passenger, it’s 1945. He’s a battered old man. His jacket tattered at the elbows and cuffs. His hair dulled from need of a wash. His nose set at slant as if it had once been broken. He’s lived decades without his wife and son. He’s a man very much down on his luck but despite it all, the heart of the man we meet in this excerpt still exists inside of him.

And there’s not a better way to first lay eyes on him than through the memory of the woman who fell in love with at first sight.

In 1909, Paolo Clemente is a young man with his whole life set before him…


…Adriana was eighteen again, unmarried and back in Italy. The sun flamed bright on the Clemente vineyard. She watched the married women as they laughed and stomped barefoot in the season’s first harvested grapes. They held their long skirts up to their thighs, while the men, children and unwed women stood around and cheered them on.

Lorenzo Clemente stood to the side watching her. They were not allowed to speak in private and were always under the guard of her aunt’s hawk-like eyes. She stole a sideways glance at him and smiled. He was a gallant and comely man. His dark features rested well on his large frame. She could be content married to him. Any woman would do well to catch one of the Clemente heirs. If her father and his had their way, she’d be married to him within the year.

If her aunt was correct, she would learn to love him.

She inched away from her aunt. If only the old prude would have joined in the crush, she would have been set free.

“Where is she, little brother?” A man locked his arms around Lorenzo’s waist and lifted him off the ground.

“Put me down, Paolo,” Lorenzo said between his teeth. He laughed and broke from his brother’s grip when his feet hit the ground. “You’re the last person I would tell.” He grinned, yanking his buttoned down shirt straight. “A man would heed well to lock his woman in when you’re around.”

“Ah, that is why I use the element of surprise.”

Adriana edged closer. This new arrival interested her. This was the oldest of the three brothers—the one she’d been warned to avoid. He was one to ruin a woman’s virtue. Was that why no bride had been sought out for him? Just look at him. He was not a small man by any means, but he was built of lean lines and sinewy muscle—not at all like Lorenzo or the youngest brother Michael. Paolo’s features were sharper. He was an aristocrat made for Roman society, not to be the don of a country vineyard. What woman would not beat down the door for a chance at him?

“Adriana, come back here,” her aunt ordered.

Never one to do as she was told, she approached the men, taking several sideway steps, stopping to catch sight of Signora Clemente marching like a young girl in the grapes. All other times Adriana had seen her, the petite woman was soft spoken and reserved. It amazed her to see this frivolous side to the mistress of the vineyard. Adriana ran her hand along the table set with covered plates of food. It was a feast for the daylong harvest celebration. If her aunt thought she bided her time, waiting for refreshments, perhaps she could sneak away…

“Now this must be Adriana.”

She turned toward the brothers and her breath caught. Paolo leaned casually on Lorenzo’s shoulder. He wore a mischievous, lopsided grin. She had never found a man so…so appealing. “She is much too beautiful for you.” Paolo’s eyes didn’t leave her face.

Too young to have the sense to blush, she smiled at him. “And you, Signore, are much too bold to pay such compliments to a woman promised to another.” Adriana had always known what was meant to be hers at a first glance. The oldest of the Clemente brothers had been born for her. She would no longer be content to marry the middle brother.


©2007 Joie Lesin

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