Luca Dell'Oro has developed an unusual but successful event planning business. His specialty is Italian Weddings and Funerals, which is also the name of his highly sought-after Mendocino, California, business. He accepts an unusual assignment to fly to Rome, Italy, to cater a funeral for an Italian opera singer. Nothing goes right from the minute he accepts the assignment. Cookware goes missing and his most trusted employees mysteriously can't go with him, leaving him with a motley crew for a staff.
Luca is stunned to find the grieving widower happens to be a man Luca met and lost to the deceased woman--in sixteenth century Italy. Luca has good reasons for still being around. He's a vampire and all his recipes and magical ingredients have been carefully cultivated over the years. But just who the hell...or what the hell...is Franco Savelli and does he want Luca--or does he want to kill him?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release and re-edited title.
"I consider myself a first-rate people person," the extraordinarily large woman sitting in front of me said.
"What does that mean, exactly?"
Zaria von Tassel shifted her position, uncrossing and crossing her legs on my fourteenth century chaise, fanning her skirt as she did so. The movement almost hid the sight of the delicate furniture's wobble. Almost.
Oh. My. God.
She flashed me, giving me an unwelcome glimpse of her bare female parts. She was no Sharon Stone, and what I saw was not a pretty sight.
I thought I heard a crack but tried to ignore it. She wasn't fat, surprisingly, for an almost three-hundred pound woman. She was all muscle. I had to admit to a certain fascination. Her scent wafted over to me. I recognized it instantly and knew it was a special blend from a certain store that...
Zaria von Tassel rearranged her skirt, the pleats and frills falling just so. It was difficult to pinpoint her age but I put her in her late thirties. The scent of desperation was as strong as the perfume oil she wore.
"Well, Mr Dell'Oro, I do well with people. I am extremely skilled at handling them." She fixed me with a direct gaze.
My ear fell on the word 'extremely'. So far her skills with me were not special. Far from it. I began to suspect something... unusual about Zaria--and not just her very dark skin, vibrato voice, massive six-foot-three-inch frame, wild Afro, and her big, wide smile.
"In what ways do you... handle them?" I asked.
Zaria's intense gaze shifted into something else. Appreciation.
She knew I wanted the truth.
"Luca!" my best sous-chef, Domino, called from the kitchen.
"Excuse me, will you, please?"
Zaria nodded and I left her momentarily to poke my head into the kitchen. I was trusting her with my worldly goods, which she'd been contemplating in the living room the entire time we spoke.
"What's up?" I asked Domino, cringing at using such colloquialisms, but since I'd taken up living in California and making a very good living at it, I'd learned that to blend in, I had to speak like a native.
Domino's dark hair gleamed. A single strand fell out of her pristine ponytail. At the age of twenty-seven, she had the confidence of a seasoned chef, until a handsome man put his lips to her ear and coaxed her into committing culinary sins. And those sins had gotten her into trouble already today. I'd never seen a hair out of place on the woman before, so I knew she was rattled. She was very beautiful, the product of a Romanian mother, a French father, and boarding schools all over the northern hemisphere.
"It's the sfogliatelle," she said, handing me a lacy, lobster tail shaped cookie. She looked nervous, as well she should. We'd had a rare argument that morning because she'd dared to use margarine in my uncle's seventeenth-century recipe. Margarine! I was certain the entire City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, our nearest neighbors in the picturesque northern California town of Talmadge, Mendocino, had heard our angry shouts from miles away.
I always tell Domino that we at Italian Weddings and Funerals don't do margarine. When you're dead, you're beyond caring about calories, and on your wedding day, you shouldn't be counting them. I'd made her donate the entire early morning batch to a nearby homeless shelter. She'd dissolved in tears. I've never been the type of Italian man to be moved by a woman crying. And I wasn't when she threw herself around the kitchen in paroxysms of anxiety.
When the food van arrived to pick up the cookies, I was embarrassed to have our company name associated with such inferior food, but my discomfort wasn't anywhere near Domino's.
I'd been close to putting her on probation, but I didn't. The aggravation that particular emotional roller coaster would have caused me wasn't worth it. I knew I had a reputation for perfection and that my detractors said I was inclined to be exacting. I went through a lot of staff, but those who stayed knew me to be a kind and generous employer.
Cradling the cookie in the palm of my hand for a moment, I was pleased. So far, so good. I took a deep breath. I was angry that she'd had a private tête-à-tête with our client, movie star Keefe Hawk, who'd begged her not to use butter in our recipes.
I'd been able to smell the margarine and caught her in the act. I'd screamed at her. I'd told her countless times to always agree to what the client wanted but to cook things our own way.
"They can never tell the difference," I'd said.
I'd cut her off with a wave of my hand.
Reaching for a napkin, I saw her stiffen. I still had no idea what had possessed her to even listen to the guy, but I suspected her momentary lapse in judgment was the result of a mad, fierce celebrity crush.
She waited, looking petrified as I crumbled the cookie in my fingers. Color, texture, and smell were perfect. I brushed the last crumbs into the napkin and licked my fingertips. I never ate. I required no food to live, but lived to enjoy the taste of everything.
"Perfect, Domino." I was about to return to the living room when Keefe strolled into the kitchen in his swim suit. He had a fantastic body and he knew it. His shoulder-length brown hair hung long and wet, He was letting us have a lingering look at his lithe physique. I found it intriguing that he was getting married to a woman. The man radiated manic gaydar to me. Perhaps I simply craved what I saw outlined in his brief, clinging trunks. It had been way too long for me. - See more at: https://spsilverpublishing.com/italian-weddings-and-funerals-ebook-p-58911.html#sthash.bn716pnQ.dpuf