I Only Want To Be With You, page 1
I Only Want to Be with You
A Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Published by Lisa Norato 2014
First published Five Star Publishing, December 2007
Cover Design by Dar Albert
I ONLY WANT TO BE WITH YOU
Copyright © 2007, 2014 by Lisa Norato.
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, or events or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, digital, photocopy, recording or any other means without the express written permission of the author.
I Only Want to Be with You
Life is definitely coming together for Marcella Tartaglia—New York City, an exciting publishing career, the BIG promotion. She’s on assignment in England and open to a fling, especially when the perfect hottie roars up on his motorcycle outside the church at her ex-boss’s wedding.
Too bad the Honorable William John Anthony Grafton Stafford doesn’t do flings. He’s a blue-blooded country vicar in want of a wife and a real danger to a woman life Marcella who can’t afford to lose her heart in England when her dreams are waiting for her an ocean away.
“Norato’s debut is sweet and sincere, a defanged Prada by way of a more innocent Bridget Jones.” -Publisher’s Weekly
This book is dedicated to my precious mother, Caroline Norato. The first person to teach me to read and inspire me with a love for books. Love always, blessings and peace.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Would an urban professional woman leave an exciting career with a major New York magazine publisher to settle in the English countryside as the wife of a vicar?
Yep, you bet she would.
Crazy, huh? Marcella Tartaglia didn’t comprehend such a match, having left her own small Italian neighborhood on Providence’s Federal Hill for the great adventure of working in New York. But hey, that didn’t mean she wasn’t all for the union.
In fact, she saluted the cupid who’d shot his arrow in this bizarre twist of kismet. She lifted her cocktail glass in his honor.
Tomorrow, when Senior Editor Lynne Graham married the Reverend Henry Swann, the position of Senior Decorating and Entertainment Editor at Gracious Living magazine would be up for grabs.
There was only one obvious choice for a replacement. Only one woman at the magazine possessed the creative genius, innovative thinking, and leadership skills needed to fill Lynne Graham’s sophisticated designer pumps. One woman, with her obsessive-compulsive work ethic and tireless dedication to organization and design, embodied the editorial integrity of Gracious Living magazine.
Me! Marcella thought with glee.
Modesty was not a virtue in the media, and Marcella expected to be offered the title as soon as she returned to Manhattan.
“Salute,” she toasted with a nudge to her traveling companion, a.k.a. best girlfriend, Sallie, who, listening to music, was paying absolutely no attention.
In private celebration, Marcella brought the martini glass to her lips and sampled her Potion for Passion. A blend of lemon vodka, Grand Marnier, and passion fruit juice, the cocktail had become her favorite since she and Sallie visited a certain midtown Manhattan lounge last spring.
But what happened here? Blah. This cocktail tasted more like a potion for nausea with a bitter citrus kick, and Marcella narrowed her gaze at the responsible party. The male flight attendant Brad had substituted pink grapefruit juice for the passion fruit.
Well, so much for the luxury of first class. Accommodations on board this British Airways Flight 0178 en route to Heathrow were courtesy of the magazine, because not only was Marcella flying across the pond to attend Lynne’s wedding, she was also on assignment.
Marcella had six pages to capture all those wedding details readers craved. Details to illustrate how a simple garden party could be turned into a romantic fantasy, in what would ultimately become a feature article in next June’s issue.
With the reception to be held in the gardens of a private Oxfordshire estate dating from 1635 and a theme to reflect the essence of a summer’s day, she didn’t find the task much of a challenge. But for obvious reasons, she wanted everything to be perfect.
Nothing was going to ruin her chances for this promotion.
She opened the organizer in her lap to review her notes for the zillionth time.
In addition to the usual photographs of the church, gardens, and traditional English fruitcake, she’d need Sallie to capture the finer details. Details like the feathery and lifelike paper butterflies that would serve as napkin rings on the reception tables and ornaments in the junior bridesmaids’ hair. Then there were the hand-stitched, lavender-filled pillows Lynne had commissioned as favors. Each pillow had been tied with a silk ribbon, hand-painted by special order with the couple’s name and wedding date.
Ah, and of course, the vintage tent for the children filled with parasols, pop guns, and crayons.
Lynne had certainly done a thorough job with the arrangements. More correctly, she’d assigned Marcella to do a thorough job, seeing as Marcella had been the one to track down and order most of this stuff. Further indication she deserved the promotion.
She was grateful for the opportunity. Still, she couldn’t help wonder aloud, “Is Lynne making the right decision in dropping everything to follow her man into a new life?”
Marcella waited for an answer. When silence continued to fill the air-conditioned cabin, she leaned back against the headrest and turned towards Sallie.
Sallie was bopping her head to music only she could hear.
Marcella gave her another nudge. “Hey, you’ve been ignoring me this whole flight. Pull that thing out of your ear and talk to me.”
Sallie rolled her eyes, then, with a patronizing sigh, turned off her music. “I always try to ignore you when you’ve got your head buried in that organizer.”
“I want to review some details.”
Sallie finger-combed the straight, honey-brown hair that flowed down her back. “Tell me tomorrow at the wedding.”
“I feel we should review a few things so we’ll both be clear about which images we’re trying to capture.”
“Look, you don’t interfere with my creative process, I won’t interfere with yours. I’m a spontaneous photographer. I see; I create. And right now, I don’t see anything art worthy but a flight attendant with a cute butt.”
Marcella sipped from her drink, frustrated by this lack of cooperation. Her taste buds cringed in horror, reminding her of her botched Potion for Passion.
“Yuck.” She swept the cocktail away from her, extending her arm into the aisle lest she make the mistake of sipping from it again. “Cute? Maybe, but he can’t mix a drink to save his life.” She pushed the overhead call button, then as the attendant emerged from the galley, said, “Excuse me, Brad, but could you please take this drink a
Brad hustled over to reclaim the glass and asked if there was anything else they needed before he brought the hot towels. Behind the polite smile and gracious manner, Marcella noted the interest in his eyes as he glanced back and forth between Sallie and herself.
But for their Amazonian stature, she and Sallie made for a sharp contrast. Brad had to be wondering how two such opposites had come to be traveling companions.
Marcella, with her short black curls and exotic look, wore a conservative, black linen suit over a chocolate brown shell and her tiger’s eye choker beads. Her figure, though still slim, was no longer the gangly thing it had been in childhood when she’d been tagged with a nickname of “Ragno” — the skinny, long-legged spider.
Sallie Madigan, photographer extraordinaire, on the other hand, was the all-American athletic type, fair and solidly built, never to be caught without her beloved Birkenstocks. Sallie had just made muster into first class with her low-rise capris, which she’d had to hike up over her backside to hide the butterfly tattoo on her left hip.
Years at the magazine, with Marcella styling countless photo shoots and Sallie photographing them, had brought them together. Now they were the best of friends, which was why they shared a comfortable, say-what’s-on-your-mind rapport.
Sallie reminded Brad about her vegan meal, thanking him with a smile that revealed none of the attraction she expressed earlier. Flirting had always come easily to the confident Sallie, but not so these days. Her heart was reserved for the jazz musician she was dating back in Manhattan.
At Brad’s departure, Marcella leaned across the armrest. “Sallie, I’ve been wondering. Do you think Lynne’s making a mistake? You know, giving up her career in New York to marry a … um, vicar?”
Sallie snickered. In her sassy tone, she said, “Marcella, in England, a vicar is just like any other working Joe. But you feel this guy might be too tame for Lynne? And this is an issue with you, why?”
Marcella drummed her fingers distractedly over the open pages of her organizer. She was stunned the day Lynne returned from visiting her family in England to announce she was engaged to her widowed college sweetheart.
With a shrug, she said, “Lynne’s a very independent woman, and this marriage … well, it just isn’t something I would have expected of her. Granted, Henry Swann may seem like the perfect man at the moment, but why wasn’t he the perfect man thirty years ago? Do you think, perhaps, as a fifty-something, Lynne feels her chance for a great love has passed? I mean, should we women settle for a man we believe might be good for us or hold out for that one true soul mate? Is it ever too late for fireworks?”
“Whoa, the age-old question springs eternal.”
“Well, this is all a little too deep to assimilate after an hour of zoning out on jazz, but here goes. The optimistic view is — no, it’s never too late. And if Lynne Graham wants to marry a vicar, who are we to question? Love very often comes as a surprise. It hits like a brick. It just happens. And when it does, it turns your whole world upside down. Like in the movie Moonstruck, when Ronny tells Loretta how love ruins everything, breaks your heart, makes things a mess… . I forget the rest, but you get the gist. Oh yeah, and he tells her the storybooks aren’t true.”
“Wait.” Marcella whipped out her pen. “Let me get this straight. Okay, now — storybooks are hogwash, but movies tell it like real life. Right.” She shook her head, pressing her fingertips to her temple. “That’s what I get for asking the opinion of an L.A. native. I do so need a real Passion.”
“Maybe you’ll meet someone at the wedding.”
“I meant the drink, Sallie. I need a real Potion for Passion cocktail. Not that nasty brew Brad served.”
Sallie laughed. “Relax, Marcella. You should be in celebration mode. With Lynne out of the picture, you now have the opportunity for that big break you’ve always dreamed of.”
She paused in consideration when suddenly her eyes narrowed into an intense and serious stare. “Marcella, is this about Lynne or you? As long as I’ve known you, it’s been career first, whether or not it’s allowed you time for a relationship. You do want this promotion, right? Or are you rethinking the whole single woman, professional lifestyle thing?” Her voice lowered to a whisper. “Are you worried about finding someone special?”
“Who me?” Marcella burst, loud enough to attract Brad’s attention. “I hadn’t given it a thought. No, this is just me overanalyzing again, that’s all. Celebration mode, here I come.”
Marcella settled back in her roomy seat. She pushed the inside button to eject the footrest, then shut her organizer with a snap, zipping it closed. “After all, what do I care whether a magazine editor and an English vicar can make it work? It’s not like it’s my life.”
The following morning, over two hundred guests gathered at St. Cross Church, Oxfordshire, to witness the union of Lynne Graham to the Reverend Henry Swann. Already, the organist had played “O Perfect Love” three times. The ceremony was running late and a collective murmur drifted up from the filled pews.
Out in the foyer Sallie focused her Leica for one more shot of a hand-scribed brown envelope, opened and spilling over with dried delphinium petals. An envelope like this would be handed to each of the guests as they left the church, for confetti tossing at the bride and groom.
“Minor adjustment.” Marcella stepped into the shot. She scattered a few more dark purple petals across the opened envelope flap.
“Thank you, Editor of Anal.” Sallie shooed her out of the way, then zoomed in and took the photo. Behind her camera, her glossed lips curled in a satisfied smile. “Got it.”
They’d arrived an hour early. Sallie had already shot two rolls of film. Only a small percentage of those photographs would make it to the finished article, but Marcella was leaving nothing to chance on this assignment. “Guess we’d better get seated. I wonder what the delay is? Hey, Sallie, you don’t suppose Lynne’s having second—”
A thundering blast of motorcycle exhaust drowned out her voice. Insult seethed in Marcella. This lovely wedding morning, assaulted by motorcycle noise pollution. How dare anyone. She stormed out to the front steps of the ancient stone church, Sallie following behind, and watched as a large black and smoke motorcycle roared into the church lot.
The bike was ridden by a man in mirrored sunglasses, rolled-up shirt sleeves, and black dress trousers. He wove between the parked cars and stopped in the shade of a towering oak several feet away, where he hit the kickstand before turning off the ignition. Silence. Thank you.
Sallie let out a low whistle. “Whoa, a three-cylinder Triumph Thunderbird.”
Marcella lost interest in the motorcycle. Its well-dressed biker raked a hand through his windblown chestnut hair as he climbed off the seat. Sunshine dappled his head through the foliage, creating a prism of sienna, gold, and auburn light in the thick waves.
He stood facing the bike, his back to Marcella, and as he removed the sunglasses, she took this opportunity to check him out. His white wing-collar shirt stretched across broad, square shoulders and tapered to lean hips. She figured him for no less than six-three, if not taller.
At once, her opinion of him soared. She adored tall men. As the long-legged Ragno, who had towered over her peers in her small Italian neighborhood, she had developed quite an appreciation for men of generous stature.
Marcella moaned with the same enjoyment she experienced biting into a dark chocolate raspberry truffle. Yum.
She moistened her lips. To Sallie, she said, “I never realized you were into bikes.”
“I’ve done some riding,” Sallie admitted with a shrug. “I agree. That biker’s a bit of a triumph himself.”
Marcella smiled. “I wondered when you’d notice.”
He turned, and just as they prepared for their first glimpse of his face, he slipped a handkerchief from his back pocket and bent down to polish his shoes.
Marcella and Sallie exchan
They continued to observe. The instant he straightened and began to roll down the cuffs of his sleeves, Sallie raised her camera.
“What are you doing?” Marcella demanded although she already had a pretty good idea once she saw Sallie adjust the zoom on her Leica.
“Having a closer look. This is a ninety-millimeter lense.” Sallie’s smile grew as she brought her subject into focus. “Whoa.” She pressed the automatic shutter and clicked off a series of shots.
“Whoa? Again whoa? Whoa, what? Why’d you take his picture? Is he gorgeous? Let me see.” Marcella reached for the camera but Sallie waved her off.
Too late, anyway. The guy was now walking to the back of his bike where he unzipped a tote attached to a small luggage rack.
Sallie lowered her Leica, and the excitement on her face boosted Marcella’s anticipation to a frantic level.
Sallie let out a breath, then, “Awesome face. The guy has a totally awesome face.”
“I’m talking movie-star handsome. Classic features, an unassuming expression, intense eyes. Lots of character.”
Sallie’s articulate description excited Marcella, so much so she did a happy dance in her Sergio Rossi black stiletto mules. She turned for another eyeful, only to discover he was now shrugging into a knee-length suit jacket. She could see from his bearing, he had a confident, aristocratic air about him.
And was she hallucinating or was that a frock coat? On the seat of the motorcycle sat a black top hat. Huh? “Hey, what’d we miss?”
“It appears he’s getting dressed for a wedding.”
They watched him tie a perfect white cravat, then slip a pair of white gloves from out of the pocket of his morning coat. He pulled them on.
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