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But as the long summer days slowly began to fade, Holly discovered that within the walls of this home and in the heart of the man she was coming to love, hid some dark secrets--secrets that would finally set ...
But as the long summer days slowly began to fade, Holly discovered that within the walls of this home and in the heart of the man she was coming to love, hid some dark secrets--secrets that would finally set them all free...
The soft vibration of the speeding train seemed to be part of her thoughts. It was five minutes late but she should still reach Rome in time to get to the airport and catch her plane home.
Just a hundred miles to Rome"that's not much really"unless the police saw me get on this train.
Had anyone seen her? She'd hurried, keeping her head down, trying to get lost in the crowd. Nobody had troubled her so far, but it was too soon to feel safe.
Perhaps she would never feel truly safe again. The man she had loved and trusted had betrayed her, throwing her to the wolves to save his own skin. Even if she managed to keep her freedom, the world had changed, becoming ugly and bitter, like the inside of her own mind.
Somebody eased past her in the corridor and she turned hastily away, staring out of the window to conceal her face. Outside, the Italian countryside, bathed in the glowing colours of summer, rushed by, but she was barely aware of its beauty. Only her fear existed.
When she next looked, she could see two uniformed men at the end of the corridor.
She must escape before they reached her. Edge away slowly. Don't attract attention. Try to look casual.
She wondered exactly what kind of description of her they had: Name, Sarah Conroy, but answers only to Holly; a young woman in her late twenties, tall, perhaps a little too slim, with light brown hair, cut short, blue eyes and a face with nothing special about it: a face that hadn't lived very much.
Nondescript.Yes, that was the word for her, and for thefirst time she was glad. It might save her now.
Here was the end of the carriage.A short step and she was in the next one. It was first class, divided into compartments. But each one had the blinds down and it was too risky to take shelter in one of them without some idea of what she would find.
Without warning, the blind beside her flew up and she found herself staring straight at a little girl. She was about eight years old and in a childish temper. That was all Holly had time to take in before making a lightning decision.
It took a split-second to open the door, dart inside and pull the blind down again.
In the corner a young woman looked up from her book and opened her mouth, but Holly just managed to get in first.
"Please don't make a sound. I need your help desperately."
She realised too late that she was speaking English. They wouldn't understand a word. But before she could call on her unreliable Italian the child broke in speaking English.
"Good afternoon, signorina," she said with quaint formality, "I am very happy to meet you."
Her temper had vanished as if by magic. She was smiling as, with perfect self-possession, she offered one small hand. Dazed, Holly took it in her own.
"How"how do you do?" she murmured mechanically.
"I am very well, thank you,"the child responded carefully. "My name is Liza Fallucci. What is your name, please?"
"Holly," she said slowly, trying to understand what was happening.
"Are you English?" "Yes, I am English." "I am very glad you are English."
She was beaming as though she really was glad, as if someone had given her a big, beautiful gift.
The train slowed suddenly and the child nearly fell. The young woman put out a hand to steady her.
"Careful, piccina. You're still not steady on your feet."
Now Holly saw clearly what she had missed before. The little girl was unable to walk properly. One leg was encased in a support, and as she moved she reached out to hold on to the seats.
"I'm all right, Berta," she insisted. Berta smiled. "You always say that, but you want to do too much too soon. I'm here to help you."
"I don't want to be helped," Liza told her stubbornly.
She tried to haul herself up onto a seat, but slithered off and was only saved from falling by Holly's hand. Instead of throwing it off, Liza used it to steady herself, and even allowed Holly to assist her as she wriggled to safety.
Berta gave a wry grimace, but the child's snub did not seem to trouble her. She was in her twenties, robustly built with a cheerful, goodnatured face.
"I'm sorry," Holly began to say. "Is all right," Berta assured her in careful English. "The piccina is often cross with me, but"she hates to be an invalid. I am her nurse."
"I don't need a nurse," Liza insisted. "I'm well now."
Her chin set mulishly, and even in her agitation Holly knew a flash of amusement. This little one had a will of her own. But for the moment she was a lifeline.
Berta began to protest. "Forse, ma" "Berta, why do you speak Italian?" Liza demanded. "This lady is English and she doesn't understand you."
"I understand some Italian," Holly began to say, but Liza interrupted her too.
"No, no, the English never understand foreign languages," she declared imperiously. "We will speak English." She scowled at Berta, evidently commanding her to keep quiet.
"How do you know English people are no use at foreign languages?" Holly asked.
"My Mamma told me so. She was English and she could speak Italian but only because she'd been here for so long. She and Poppa spoke both languages."
"That must be why your English is so good." Liza beamed. "Mamma and I used to speak it all the time." "Used to?" "The Signora dead," Berta said softly.
Liza did not reply to this in words, but Holly felt the sudden tightening of the little hand on hers, and she squeezed back.
After a moment, Liza said, "She promised to take me to England. I mean to go one day."
"I think you'll like it," Holly assured her. "Tell me about England. What is it like? Is it very big?"
"About the same size as Italy." "Do you know Portsmouth?" "A little. It's on the south coast and I come from the Midlands."
"But you do know it?" Liza persisted eagerly. "I've spent some time there." "Did you see the boats?" "Yes, and I went sailing," Holly replied. "Mamma lived in Portsmouth. She liked sailing. She said it was the loveliest feeling in the world."
"It is. Having the wind in your face, feeling the boat move under you"
"Tell me," Liza begged. "Tell me all about it." It was hard to speak light-heartedly when she was full of dread, and her mind was on whatever was happening further down the train. But she forced herself to do it. It was her only chance, yet it was more than that. The child's shining eyes showed that this meant the world to her, and Holly was swept by a sudden determination to give her whatever happiness she could.
Her memories were vague but she embellished them, inventing where she had to, trying to bolster the illusion that the little girl wanted. She had found someone who reminded her, however tenuously, of her dead mother and happier times. Not for anything would Holly have spoiled it for her.
Now and then Liza would interrupt, asking about a new word, and practising until she was sure she had it. She was a quick learner and never needed to be told twice.
Suddenly Berta began to grow agitated, looking at the door. Seeing her, Holly too began to worry.
"I was just wondering when the judge would be returning," Berta said.
Holly grew tense. "Judge?" she asked. "Liza's father is Judge Matteo Fallucci. He is visiting a friend in another compartment. I thought he" she struggled for the words "perhaps" return by now. I can't wait. I need," she dropped her voice to a modest whisper, "gabinetto."
"Yes, but" "You will stay with the piccina per un momento, si? Grazie."
She rushed out as she spoke, leaving Holly no option but to stay.
She began to feel desperate. How long would she be trapped here? She had hoped to be safe, but it seemed she'd jumped out of the fryingpan, into the fire.
"You will stay?" Liza echoed. "Just for a moment" "No, stay for always." "I wish I could, I really do, but I have to go. When Berta comes back"
"I hope she never comes back,"Liza said sulkily. "Why? Is she unkind to you?" "No, she means to be kind, butâ€¦' Liza gave an eloquent shrug. "I can't talk to her. She doesn't understand. She thinks if I eat my food and do my exercises"that's all there is. If I try to talk aboutâ€¦about things, she just stares."
That had been Holly's impression of Berta too; well-meaning but unsubtle. It hadn't seemed to occur to her that she should not have left the child with a stranger, even for a moment.
But perhaps she'd hurried and, even now, was on her way back. Meaning just to take a quick look, Holly turned to the door and ran straight into the man standing there.
She hadn't heard him enter, and didn't know how long he'd been there. She collided with him before she saw him, and had an instant impression of a hard, unyielding body towering over her.
"Who are you?"he demanded sharply in Italian. "What are you doing here?"
"Signore" Suddenly she couldn't breathe. "Who are you?" he said again in a harsh voice. It was Liza who came to her rescue, limping forward and saying hurriedly, "No, Poppa, the signorina is English, so we only speak English." She took Holly's hand, saying firmly, "She comes from Portsmouth, like Mamma. And she's my friend."
A change came over him. With an odd feeling, Holly remembered how Liza, too, had changed. She had become joyful, while this man seemed to flinch. Yet they were reacting to the same thing. It was a mystery.
Liza drew her back to the seat, keeping hold of her hand as if to say that her new friend was under her protection. Even though she was so young, her strength of will was clear. She had probably inherited it from her father, Holly thought.
He eyed Holly coldly. "You turn up in my compartment, and I'm expected to accept your presence with equanimity?"
"I'm"just an English tourist,"she said carefully. "I think I begin to understand. There's a commotion further down the train. But I imagine you know that."
She faced him. "Yes, I do know." "And no doubt it has something to do with your sudden appearance here. No, don't answer. I can make up my own mind."
Posted April 9, 2012
I have never written a review but needed to on this book
The heroine, Holly was such a courageous woman and the empathy that she showed for Matteo and his daughter was so moving. The character's were flawed which made this book so real.
Holly was on the lam from the police, Matteo (a judge) helped her because he needed her help with his daughter who was suffering from the loss of her mother and trying to heal from a train crash. He had his secrets, his own private hell and felt his life had been a lie.
I really loved this book.
Posted January 23, 2010
No text was provided for this review.
Posted January 7, 2010
No text was provided for this review.