Bound by a Ring & a Secret
A mistaken identity…
…a proposal that changes everything!
Photographer Gianna is done with men. Retreating to her villa on the shore of Lake Como, Gianna is stunned to find gorgeous Dario renting her house! When Dario is mistaken for her long-gone fiancé, they realize a fake engagement could solve problems for them both. Pretending to be in love should be easy, but what happens when very real feelings start to grow?
“Bound by a Ring and a Secret is such a fun and enjoyable read by author Jennifer Faye. As always, the characters were well created and I enjoyed their development as the story unfolds.”
~ Splashes of Joy
“Jennifer Faye’s Bound by a Ring and a Secret is a fun romance to read. With my favorite trope, a delightful dog, and a great setting, it certainly kept me entertained from beginning to end, and I enjoyed seeing how Gianna and Dario managed their complicated situation.”
~ Hallie Reads
Read an Excerpt
Gianna Cappellini didn’t smile.
Today, the usual euphoria of returning to the small Italian village of Gemma was lacking. Whereas her home was normally her sanctuary—a place to settle in and unwind—this time it felt different. She felt different.
As the hired car moved closer to her destination, she wrung her hands as she stared out the back-seat window. It was a sunny June day without a cloud in the sky. As picturesque Lake Como came into view, she merely sighed in relief.
Her gaze momentarily strayed to her still bare ring finger. Another romance had ended in disaster. Looking back, how could it have ended any other way? She’d wanted so badly to be loved that she’d tried to be someone she wasn’t.
It hadn’t always been that way. In the beginning, she and Naldo had rebounded into each other after messy breakups. Naldo had flirted with her and she’d fallen hard for his not-so-original lines. Things turned serious quickly as they talked about their future—him continuing to host his hit television show while she stayed in the background working the camera as she followed him around the world.
And then suddenly he dumped her. There hadn’t been so much as a warning or a conversation. Just a simple, I can’t do this anymore. It’s over. And then he’d refused to speak to her. The jerk!
Her rosy glasses fell away as reality bumped hard into her. And she didn’t like what she saw. She had been so busy being congenial—so agreeable—with everything he said or did that she barely recognized herself. How did she lose herself? What had happened to all the things that were important to her?
But all that was behind her now—for the most part. Tonight, she’d get to sleep in her own comfy bed. Oh, how she’d missed it. There would be no more restless nights in a tent—no more roughing it on uneven ground. She didn’t even want to think about all the other luxuries she’d done without in the past several weeks.
And come tomorrow, she’d figure out what came next.
One of those things would be facing her cousin and explaining things. Thankfully, her cousin was the only person she’d confided in about her whirlwind romance and the expected engagement. And even then, she’d kept the details to the bare minimum, not even mentioning his famous name as she hadn’t wanted to jinx things before the engagement was made official with a diamond ring.
Now that the relationship had imploded, what would she say to her cousin? It was just one of those things. Or the truth: she had the worst luck where men were concerned.
The car dropped her off at the edge of the village, allowing her to stop by the market and pick up a few essentials before heading to the villa. She hadn’t been home in a little more than a month and during that time she’d used a local real-estate management service to rent out her place. She worked as a camerawoman for a nature channel and she’d come to rely on the extra funds from renting her house. It wasn’t ideal but it supplemented her savings. And those savings were what would keep her afloat until her agent found her a new gig.
After picking up cream for her coffee and a few other groceries, she paid and headed for the exit. Taped to the door, she noticed a flyer for Fiorire Botanical Gardens’ prestigious annual photography competition. Gianna had always wanted to enter but never had the time. The entry deadline was coming up. She tucked the information in the back of her mind.
She stepped out of the store with a sack of groceries in one hand and her luggage in the other. It was then that she realized in her haste to complete her errands she’d sent the car away and would now have to walk the rest of the way home. Not that it was far—perhaps a fifteen-minute walk, give or take a couple of minutes, depending on how fast she moved. But part of her travel was uphill on a bumpy dirt road. There were only a handful of villas on the dead-end road where she lived. Hers was the last one—
“Gianna?” came a distant voice.
She didn’t have to turn around to know who was calling her name. It was her cousin—the one person she’d really hoped to avoid. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her cousin. In truth, she loved Carla dearly. She was more like a sister than a cousin. But Gianna just wasn’t ready to admit that she’d failed at romance. Again.
Pretending she hadn’t heard her cousin, she kept moving in the opposite direction. Her steps were sure and quick. She forced herself to hold her head high though the guilt of her actions weighed on her.
She told herself she just needed a little time to settle in and get her bearings. Once she found the right words and was able to say them without feeling like an utter failure, she’d be able to face her rich, beautiful and successful cousin, who had her life totally together, including her pick of successful men. Why couldn’t she be more like her? More congenial? More beautiful? More whatever it was that made every man that met Carla immediately fall in love with her?
But none of that mattered anymore. Gianna was done with men. She’d lost herself in one too many relationships—dismissing what was important to her to make them happy—and she wasn’t going to let that happen again.
Outside of the village, Gianna lowered her head. She promised herself that she’d make this up to her cousin. With her gaze focused on the ruts that constituted a road, she continued trudging down the desolate lane that was surrounded by lush vegetation and trees. The suitcase’s little wheels rolled over the gravel, making a terrible racket. When a wheel got stuck, which happened repeatedly, she gave it a forceful yank.
At the end of the lane was her home; the stately pale pink villa with white trim and a terracotta roof that she’d inherited from her grandmother. Its beauty was timeless. It sat upon a hillside, providing a stunning view of Lake Como.
And what the villa lacked in modern style, it made up for with rustic charm. With seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, it was far too large for one person. And yet Gianna couldn’t imagine parting with it. Just like her grandmother, she loved it here.
A medium-sized dog with short light tan fur emerged from the bushes. It rushed into the lane, blocking her.
Gianna stopped. Now what?
Her grip on her luggage handle tightened. Her body tensed. She stared at the dog. He stared back at her. Then, drawing on the knowledge of animals she’d gained from working on nature documentaries, she averted her gaze ever so slightly. She didn’t want the dog to misinterpret her staring at him as a sign of aggression.
She searched her memory and was certain she’d never seen this dog before. She wasn’t sure if he was friendly or not. But they couldn’t just stand here trying not to stare at each other.
“Hi, boy.” She forced a smile.
His tail swished back and forth. That was a good sign.
The dog approached her. Gianna wasn’t sure what she should do, so she did nothing. Her heart continued to pound. As he drew nearer, her palms grew moist. He could probably sense her nervousness from a mile away. And yet his tail kept wagging as he grew closer.
And then he stopped in front of her. He sat down and gazed up at her. It was then that she noticed he had the kindest big brown eyes. She held out her hand to him and his dark nose sniffed it. She proceeded to run her hand over his head. He rubbed against her hand before dancing around in a circle.
It appeared they’d become fast friends. She breathed a sigh of relief. He might be rather big in size but she sensed by his bright eyes and his playful behavior that he wasn’t very old.
“Hi, buddy. What are you doing out here?” And then she realized how silly it was asking a dog a question. It wasn’t like he could answer her. But it seemed wrong not to speak to him, like she was ignoring him or something. “Do you have a collar?”
She knelt down and continued petting him. There was a depression in his fur as though he normally wore a collar, but there wasn’t one there now. Strange.
It was obvious he had a home—a home where he was cared for. His fur was clean and groomed. He was well fed. And he had manners. So that told her somewhere in this world, someone was searching for their four-footed friend. And most likely beside themselves with worry.
She slowly moved her hand to her pocket and then withdrew her phone. She didn’t want to make any sudden movements and startle the dog.
Her phone flashed that the battery was low. Hopefully, it’d hold out long enough to take a couple photos.
“I’m just going to take your picture. Hold still.”
He did everything but stay still. He sniffed her and then the camera. About the fifth try, she finally had a usable photo that she could post on social media in an attempt to find his human.
Gianna’s gaze met the dog’s. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you home. In the meantime, would you like to come home with me?”
She grabbed the handle on her suitcase and then looked at him. “Come on. We’ll go to my place and I’ll make a few phone calls. We’ll get you home in no time.”
She started walking because what else was she going to do? He was too big for her to carry. She really hoped he’d follow her. She didn’t like the thought of leaving him out here on his own. In a way, she felt responsible for him. She didn’t want anything to happen to him.
When she turned back, she found the dog was still sitting in the same spot. This wasn’t her problem, she told herself. She should just keep going. The dog probably knew his way home. But then she recalled his missing collar. What did it mean? Had someone dumped him on the side of the road? The thought made her heart sink down to her cute white sandals.
“I have food,” she said, hoping he would understand what she was saying. “Food. Are you hungry?”
He cocked his head to the side.
“Come on, boy. I’ll feed you.”
He got up and strolled over to her. She smiled. Apparently, he liked to eat. Thank goodness food was a universal language. They walked side by side for a bit. Then he ran ahead and she worried he’d run away.
“Puppy! Puppy, come back.”
He rounded the corner. With the heavy green vegetation, she wasn’t able to see where he’d gone. She tried to run after him, but her luggage got hung up in a rut. She had to stop and free it. By then she knew the dog would be long gone. She just hoped nothing happened to him.