About Sign of the Times by Susan Buchanan
Twelve people. Twelve star signs.
Sagittarius – Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.
Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?
Gemini – Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.
Libra – Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.
One event binds them all…
Whilst relaxing in his lounge, Holly hadn’t realised it had started to rain. It had been so warm when she had arrived. Cursing her light jacket and skirt, she jumped when he enveloped her in a large waterproof jacket. His touch was electric. She felt as if she’d accidentally bumped into a high voltage fence. Approaching her car, she unlocked it with the electronic key fob. He was beside her, a torch shining from beneath his waterproof. He walked slowly around the car and whistled, then dug the jack out of the boot and worked away silently. After five minutes, he looked up at Holly, who hadn’t dared interrupt him and told her it was no good. It wasn’t just the tyre that was punctured, the wheel was buckled. It would have to go to a garage.
Holly was at her wits’ end. What the hell was she meant to do now? She realised she was standing staring open-mouthed at this complete stranger. Eventually, she latched on to the idea that she would need to find a hotel nearby. She asked if he could recommend somewhere to stay. In typical Italian fashion, he gesticulated with his arms and told her that the nearest hotel was Il Giardino, but unfortunately it was twenty miles away. She couldn’t drive twenty miles with her wheel like that and besides the garage was only two miles away. She must stay the night here. There were many guest rooms in his house. Holly started to protest, but he silenced her, saying he would be offended if she didn’t accept and besides, what was the alternative? Smiling at her, he leaned forward slightly and said, “No need to be afraid. I am not some crazed madman.
Holly followed her host inside. She didn’t even know his name. Dawning on him, too, he said “Dario Barsacchi.” He offered his hand to Holly, which she accepted, saying “Holly Jameson. Where am I anyway?”
“This is Rosetto. It is around thirty kilometres from Pisa.” As Holly didn’t ask him anything else, he turned, passing the lounge and indicated a room on the left.
“That is where you will find me once you have settled in. Are you hungry?”
Holly was starving, but didn’t want to impose further. As if reading her mind, Dario said, “It’s no trouble. I am cooking for myself and it is always more pleasant to have company.”
Acknowledging his generosity with a barely discernible smile, Holly followed, as he ascended a marble staircase. Alabaster busts were positioned at intervals along the staircase. Holly tried to appear nonchalant, but was dying to see, as she passed, if they were members of Dario’s family. Some of the inscriptions were so worn it was impossible to read to whom they belonged. At the top of the staircase, Dario swept towards the left wing. It was dark in this corridor, but Dario pulled an object from behind a hidden alcove. He then scrambled around a little more and the next moment, there was light. It was an old oil lamp, encrusted with semi-precious stones.
Who is this guy? Holly found it odd that he should be knocking around in this stately home all on his own. She couldn’t deny it, the size and grandeur of this building made it obvious that this was the home of someone of standing. Leaning across her, Dario turned a key in the lock. He stepped into the room and laying the oil lamp down, beckoned Holly to enter.
“Wow!” She wasn’t sure what was more impressive, her host or this sumptuous room. In front of her there was a huge four poster bed, with full canopy. The ruby red hangings looked ridiculously expensive. An enormous, cast iron bath, occupied the middle of the room. Glancing round, she was surprised to see the furnishings were terribly feminine. There was a mahogany dressing table, several replica, Louis XVI chairs, at least she imagined they must be replicas, they couldn’t be real could they, a credenza, a roll top writing desk as well as a chaise longue. How decadent. She had always imagined having a chaise longue, although she knew they were terribly impractical, much better off with a squashy sofa from Laura Ashley. She decided she would have a little lie on it later.
Dario pointed to a room off the main chamber, which housed a bathroom with power shower and a dressing room. Such a strange mix, Holly thought, power showers, but oil lamps. She had noticed there was no electric lighting. After inviting her to use the telephone, Dario excused himself.
Holly thanked him for his kindness and he left. She really must start being more articulate. She would be spending the evening with this drop-dead gorgeous man and she couldn’t string two words together. It wasn’t even speaking Italian which was making her tongue-tied, more the fact that Dario was stirring emotions in her, which she didn’t want stirred, because of Tom. She loved Tom. Dario probably had a beautiful wife or a girlfriend who was a sultry sex goddess. It was true how much women let themselves get carried away, one date and they were planning the wedding. She hadn’t even been on a date with Dario, nor was ever likely to be, yet was already picturing their dark eyed, perfectly tanned children, with her flawless complexion and green eyes. Snapping back to reality, Holly called the hotel in Bibbiena.
Susan Buchanan lives in Central Scotland with her partner, Tony. Sign of the Times is her first novel, published Mar 2012. Her second novel is expected to be released late 2012.
Susan can be found here: