Castle of Dreams – Part Four

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the fourth and FINAL installment of the Violet Femmes round-robin story, Castle of Dreams.

First, I have to say how much FUN I had writing this. Jaye, Maria, and Michele gave me such great characters to work with and the rest of the story just seemed to write itself. I really only saw one way to wrap this up, but in talking with the other Femmes on Friday it seems everyone had different ideas of how it would all come together. We laughed about time travel (the cape!), the dead brother coming back to life, and someone longed for a secret baby. (That might have been me.)

If you haven’t read the other bits of the story, start there first:

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the finale. I tried to keep it as short as I could.

Joanna




“Quite a showpiece you’ve got there.” Amelia tipped her head towards the necklace. “You’d look right at home wearing that back in Jersey. But I wonder if the owner misses it much.”

Primma Donna, whose real name according to the dossier was Francesca Paladino, tried to look affronted. “Owner? I do not know what you are talking about. This necklace was a gift from Rafaele. He gave it to me while we were naked…in bed.”

Picturing PD and Rafaele together made Amelia want to punch something. But now was not the time. She recalled her training, pushed her emotions away, and schooled her features into a cool mask. “Is that so? Funny, I seem to remember that necklace coming up for auction at Sotheby’s not even three months ago. And the buyer was a Greek tycoon who is actually a U.S. citizen. Demitri Lachonaris. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”

Something flashed over Francesca’s face. Something like fear. Amelia almost laughed. Yeah, lady, I know all about your former lover Demitri and how you stole everything your greedy little hands could touch before you disappeared to Italy.

Francesca drew herself up. “I do not know what you are talking about, but I think it is time you pack up your bad hair, cheap shoes, and fake Fendi, and get the hell out of here.”

God, did this woman not know when to quit, or what? Francesca had no idea who she was messing with. Amelia had kicked so much ass in her hand-to-hand combat course that the instructors at Quantico had nicknamed her “The Karate Hottie.” No one puts this bambina in a corner.

Her body went on full alert. “Or?”

“I will make you very, very sorry, puttana.

“Ladies. Signorinas. Let us—”

Amelia sliced her hand through the air, cutting Rafaele off. She didn’t want to deal with him. Not just yet. “I think you, Francesca, will be the sorry one.” The other woman’s eyes widened a fraction. “Yes, I know all about you as well as the little scheme you’ve been pulling all over Europe. You and Rafaele thought you were so smart—but I’m here to stop you.” She reached behind her, to the small of her back, where her I.D. rested in the waistband of her skirt. With a flourish, she pulled it out and flipped it open. “Ever seen these letters before?” she smirked. “They stand for—”

Francesca spun around and darted into the hallway. Without missing a beat, Amelia broke into a run and gave chase. She sprinted down the long hall and kicked her legs hard—no easy feat in wedge sandals, thankyouverymuch. Just then she remembered her gun was back in her fake Fendi back in the library. Damn.

Francesca’s feet began flying up the staircase. Amelia stayed close—jeez, how many steps were there?—with no choice but to continue climbing. She hiked her skirt up to her waist and hurdled as many steps at a time as she could. Her heart smacked against her ribs but thanks to adrenaline and a double shot of espresso earlier, her body seemed invincible. Flo Jo had nothing on her.

Before the halfway point, Amelia had already gained on Francesca. “Stop! United States federal officer!”

A few more steps and Amelia knew she could catch her. Five more…three…now one. Taking a risk, Amelia propelled herself forward with everything she had. Her hands clutched giant handfuls of one fuscia silk shirt and Francesca tumbled down, tripping on the stairs, until Amelia landed right on top of her.

Panting for breath, Amelia quickly sat up, grabbed Francesca’s hands, and yanked them around her back. With one finger, she released the catch on her funky-looking bracelet, designed to serve as handcuffs in a pinch. Once Francesca’s hands were secured, Amelia leaned down. “Just so you know, these shoes were not cheap.” She tightened the cuffs, satisfied when the other woman gave a gasp.

Rafaele stood at the bottom of the steps, his sharp mahogany eyes focused on Amelia. “This is quite the surprise. I thought your degrees were in design and architecture?”

Really? After everything that had just happened, that’s what he wanted to ask about? She’d just outed the man and his girlfriend as international jewel thieves, for crying out loud. Her jaw clenched. “Yes, but I also have a degree in lying, cheating, grappa-swilling, jewel-thieving boyfriends.”

A slow smile spread over that handsome, tanned face. Her stomach warmed but she straightened her spine. She would not—repeat not—be writing letters to a federal inmate. No matter how gushy he made her feel.

He pulled something out of his back pocket, climbed the stairs to meet her. A billfold, similar to her own badge. He opened it and—wait, what? Her confusion obvious, he stated, “I am with the Guardia di Finanza. I’ve been trying to catch her for months. The diamond necklace, it was the final piece. I planned to take her into custody tomorrow but then you…” He waved a hand toward the stairs.

She gaped at him. Who was this man? They’d been intimate, sure…but had she ever really known him? “What are you, some kind of Italian James Bond?”

“No. He’s…shorter.”

Amelia laughed, then sobered. “All this time, the Feds have been after you and…you’re not a thief?”

“No, nor am I a teacher. I was in New Jersey, undercover, on a case. When it finished, the Guardia ordered me home. I could not tell you the truth, and I hope you will forgive me—especially since you were not exactly truthful with me yourself.”

She sagged, relieved. For months, she’d thought she’d fallen in love with a criminal. But first, she had a job to do. Tilting her head, she spoke in the mic taped to her chest. “Yellow team, I have the perp in custody. Stand down. And turn my damn mic off.” She waited a beat, then looked at Rafaele. “So us? Was that a lie as well?”

“No. I meant what I said.” He dropped down onto the step below her. “Francesca was not my fiancée. It’s only been you, Amelia, since I left. I love you. I want you here by my side. I’ll quit the Guardia and grow grapes, if that’s what you want.” He found her hand, linked their fingers. “Don’t leave me, dolcezza.

“You two make me sick!” Francesca spat, still face down on the stairs.

“Shut up, or I will shoot you and make it look like an accident!” Amelia turned back to Rafaele. “Even when I thought you were a thief, I loved you. It broke my heart to think of arresting you, but I had no choice. Let me just say, I’ve never been happier to receive bad intelligence.” She gave him a sly glance full of mischief. “You must be very good to have fooled the FBI for so long.”

With a tug on her hand, Rafaele snagged her right up against his broad chest. “Oh, cara, you have no idea.”

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16 Comments

  1. Maya

     /  June 24, 2012

    Perfect ending (IMHO). Now just go back and write the rest of this brilliant idea. You probably have 5k here, only 85 left. The Femmes developed the characters quickly and made me want more from the start.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Maya! Glad you liked the series. It was a lot of fun. I’ll leave it to one of the others to expound on it. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jenna Blue

     /  June 24, 2012

    Too fun! I laughed out loud, and loved your solution, Joanna! Agree with Maya: all you 4 need to do is make this the conclusion, and add a solid Octo ahead! : )
    PS: glad you posted a smidge early!

    Reply
  3. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  June 24, 2012

    Jodi…laughing out loud! I love the “Karate Hottie” and the grappa swilling boyfriend! “And these shoes were NOT cheap!” so funny!

    What a blast this was! We have to do it again in a few months!

    Jaye

    Reply
    • Yea! Glad you liked it. I can’t claim credit for Karate Hottie — apparently there is a woman MMA fighter with that nickname (hello, Michele?). But I thought it was appropriate here.

      I agree about doing it again. Maybe October, when we’re all busy with the conference?

      Reply
  4. Great ending, Joanna! I like this line. “Yes, but I also have a degree in lying, cheating, grappa-swilling, jewel-thieving boyfriends.” Great ending considering all the plot lines we through at you.

    This was fun. I’m up for doing it again.

    Reply
  5. Nicole Doran

     /  June 25, 2012

    Fantastic! Amelia’s personality was great. Loved her internals on running in wedge sandals…so funny. Great job all. I think those two should work together again…the “Karate Hottie and the Grappa-Guardia” fighting crime..one grape at a time…just a thought. -okay – sneaking out to get more coffee now….have a good week all!!
    Nicole

    Reply
    • Thanks, Nicole! Glad you liked it. They were easy to write, once the other three Femmes did the hard work of setting it all up. Have a great week!

      Reply
  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  June 25, 2012

    What fun! Nice conclusion to their HEA following the previous twists. I agree that you ladies managed to develop these characters and a rich backstory quickly. Laughed out loud a few times…”No one puts this bambina in a corner,” “Shut up, or I will shoot you and make it look like an accident!” I also loved Ameila’s struggle between love and duty. Well done!

    Reply
    • Hi RoseAnn! Glad it made you laugh. It’s so hard to know whether I just think something is funny–or whether it really is funny. 🙂 Because the other three ladies had done such a great job with the set up, I had the easy job of wrapping it all up. Have a great week!

      Reply
  7. Hi Joanna, hmm I posted last night but it seems to be lost in cyberspace. I love the line about not putting bambina in a corner. Perfect conclusion. Nice job. This is where I’d have taken the story, but you did it 0h-so-brilliantly. Michele

    Reply
    • I know — it really was the only logical conclusion where you’d come out of it still liking the hero and the heroine. I really hadn’t considered a zombie brother-in-law or magic travel cape, though. It would have been fun to transport them back in time.!

      Reply
  8. hieubietusa

     /  June 25, 2012

    Ok..what happens…is he returning to his old way of life(undercover in NJ? Now, that is original.) Do they stay together—run away from their present situations? What?!…is their a Part

    Reply
    • Hi Joe! I’ll let you use your imagination as to what happens in the HEA. I ran long as it was and, while I love a good epilogue, I didn’t want to ramble. I sort of saw them living in the castle, growing wine together but still taking time out to fight crime — a la Hart to Hart (the 80s show with Robert Wagoner).

      Reply

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