Sampler: Vain Pursuits by J.B. Hawker

Can an unexpected reunion with her first love in romantic Rome prevent this dream trip from becoming Bunny’s worst nightmare?

Romantic Italy, home of gondolas, art, pasta, pizza, and peril!

Bunny Elder and her sister take a dream trip to romantic Italy. Will these innocents abroad find their travel experience enchanting, exciting, or entirely alarming? What souvenirs will the sisters bring home…if they return, at all?

This second book in the Bunny Elder series, a B.R.A.G. Medallion award-winner, finds Bunny flying off to romantic Italy as a traveling companion to her newly widowed sister, Dolly Parton look-alike, Linda. She never suspects this trip to add a special Neapolitan nativity set to her sister’s collection will include smugglers, Italian mobsters, kidnapping, and death.

Can even an unexpected reunion with her first love prevent this dream trip from becoming Bunny’s worst nightmare?

J.B. Hawker

Sampler: Vain Pursuits

Max and the sisters were cornered against a retaining wall on the far side of the rooftop garden overlooking the back of the palace. They were obviously outmatched, but the encircling men merely looked on with menace. They did not attack, but it was clear that they were not going to allow the trio to leave.

“What’s this all about? What do you want with us?” Max demanded as Lucca jogged up.

“Good evening. You will be pleased to remain quietly. No more punching or running, eh?”

“Who are you? What do you want with us?” Max repeated.

“We merely want the return of the stolen statue and a bit of information. Give us what we want, and no harm will come to any of you,” Lucca replied, with feigned sincerity.

“What are you talking about? We haven’t stolen anything, and we obviously aren’t carrying any statue. Now, leave us alone. We are American citizens here on vacation. You must have us confused with some other folks.”

“Oh, there is no mistake, I assure you. Perhaps, signor, you are not part of this, but these women know what I say is true.”

Bunny finally overcame her shock at what was happening and spoke, “We most certainly do not know anything of the kind! We don’t know you and we do not know what you are talking about. Let us go, right now, or we will call the police.”

“La polizia, eh? I doubt that. You don’t want them involved any more than we do. Drop the act and tell us who sent you.”

“Lucca, scusi!” Roberto interrupted in a very loud whisper. “Remember what Parma said. The interrogation must wait for the capo.”

“Ah yes, thank you, Roberto.”

Turning back to his captives he growled, “But we will not wait here. It is much too public and there is a definite chill in the air. You will come with us, now, and we will make you comfortable in a more private location.”

Roberto moved to grab Taffy again to get the group moving. Just then, Taffy, who had propped her bag against the retaining wall, bent to pick it up. Acting upon reflex when the thug touched her, she reared back quickly, somehow managing to knock him off his feet and over the low wall.

With a wild cry, he fell to the pavement. His scream ending abruptly with a crunch of bones and the splat of his bulk impacting the concrete.

Max urged the women to take advantage of this distraction to run back across the rooftop to the other stairway. They managed to slip behind a small vine-covered supply shed before Lucca and his remaining men recovered from the unexpected death of their compatriot.

“Spread out! They are on this roof somewhere. They can’t have gotten far.”

Crouched down in their hiding place, Max and the women were gasping for breath and nearly paralyzed with fear.  What in the world was happening?

Bunny whispered to her sister, “How did you learn to do that! It wasn’t yoga, was it?”

“It was an accident! I was just getting my purse!” Taffy hissed.

“Shhh, you two. The men will be on us any second,” Max admonished the women.

He needed to think of some way to get them out of this mess, but his mind was blank. Maybe Bunny’s invisible sugar daddy in the clouds would like to step in with a miracle about now. He thought he could hear her murmuring a prayer under her breath. Max would gladly join her if he thought it would do any good.

“Oh, hell! God, if you are real, then how about some help here?” Max breathed.

“Max, look! All the men are over to the right by the arbor stairs. If we keep this shed between us and them, we might be able to get away.”

It seemed to be worth a try, so the three began creeping back toward the other side of the garden.

Inching along to avoid attracting attention was excruciating. Bunny wanted to run as she’d never run before. Her leg muscles were twitching and jumping, so that it was all she could do to keep from fleeing at top speed.

The trio had traversed over half the way to the exit stairs when Taffy’s bag bumped against a plant stand, sending a pot crashing to the pavement.

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