She never wants to get married. He does. To her.
The day Alessandra Rossi was born, her mammà died, and a loveless life with the father who blamed the newborn for her mother’s death followed. With the help of her oldest brother, Rafaele, Alessa moved away from home the moment she finished school—just like her other siblings had. Now sporting a degree in architectural history and archaeology, Alessa loves her job as a tour guide in the city of Rome—a place where she never fails to draw the attention of men. Not that Alessa cares. Fearing that the man she weds would be anything like her recently deceased father has Alessa vowing to remain single.
American missionary Michael Young has moved to Rome on a two-year mission trip. His temporary future in the country doesn’t stop him from spontaneously joining Alessa’s tour after spotting her outside the Colosseum. And being bold enough to tell her afterward that one day she’d be his wife. God had told him. And he believed Him. But Alessa shows no sign of interest in Michael.
Can anything sway the beautiful and headstrong Italian to fall in love? Can anyone convince her to put her faith and hope in the Heavenly Father, despite being raised by an earthly one who never loved her? Will her sister’s prompting, or a mysterious painting, or Michael himself change Alessa’s mind? About love. And about God.
First scene extract (prologue)
PERSPIRATION BEADED MICHAEL YOUNG’S BROW as he left the indoor court and headed for the showers. “Good game, guys. Good game.” He swiped at the moisture with his forearm. What on earth had made him think Americans were supposed to own the basketball courts? These Italians were certainly making him and Keith work hard to win.
Leaving Rome’s Centro Sportivo Santa Maria, he waved at his fellow American missionary, Keith, and their newfound friends.
“Arrivederci. See you at church on Sunday.” He smiled as he ambled up Via Labicana. Three converts so far, with hopefully more to come soon. Lorenzo would be next, of that he was certain. Not bad for the month he and Keith had been actively ministering among Italian students, using their skills on the court to befriend the locals. God was definitely at work in these students’ hearts, although some would prove to be more of a challenge to reach than others. Especially Matteo. The good-looking, bronzed Italian made no secret of the fact that he lived to satisfy the flesh alone, giving no thought to his eternal soul. But God had His perfect timing for Matteo. As He did with everything.
Keith was giving the post-basketball Bible study today. Michael needed to get back to Hope Center where he and several other missionaries worked and lived. Chiara had agreed to meet him there at three thirty. With only two more weeks until their big evangelism event at a popular piazza in the center of Rome, the group’s choreographer had offered him some private lessons. He couldn’t wait. He’d never taken part in a flash mob, let alone be the lead dancer. So many emotions roiled in his gut—nerves, excitement, fear.
He glanced at his watch—two forty-five—and hastened his pace. Up ahead, the Colosseum loomed. One of these fine days, he’d need to make time to visit the ancient amphitheater.
Why not now?
Michael chuckled. I can’t, Lord. You know that. Chiara…dance lessons…
The Colosseum cast him in shadow as he passed by. Breaking into the sunlight again, Michael stopped in his tracks at the flash of red that caught his eye. He hadn’t planned on taking a tour today—he couldn’t really. He only had forty-five minutes, but in that moment, all sense of reasoning vanished. Besides, wasn’t now God’s suggestion in the first place?
He veered left off the path into the crowded area. He’d apologize to his dance instructor later. Maybe he’d be lucky enough to still find her hanging around by the time he got back to the center.
Right. Fat chance of that happening. Chiara waited for no one. He’d probably face the fifty-year-old’s wrath next time he saw her. He drew in a deep breath then sighed, unable to shake the feeling that he needed to take his chances.
Michael strolled across to the small group gathered in front of the auburn-haired beauty. Dare he even ask?
“Perdono, how long is this tour?” he asked the uniformed tour-guide dressed in a burgundy polo shirt and black knee-length skirt, and Alessa engraved in black on her gold nametag.
With a smile she pointed the branded flag she held, its colors matching her clothing, toward the sign behind her. “One hour.”
Michael glanced at the Ancient Steps Tours’ board. What a stroke of luck. Or was it fate? The last English tour for the day was at three o’clock. Ten minutes more.
“Is it possible to join?”
Alessa eyed him, her gaze scanning the length of him as she raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have a booking?” She seemed surprised, taken aback that someone would even think they could join a tour of the age-old walls without having pre-booked and pre-paid.
Michael shook his head, resisting the urge to pout or allow his eyes to beg. He doubted either would score him brownie points with this woman.
She shrugged. “Okay, I do have an unreserved place. That will be twenty euro.” She held out her hand.
This is the girl you’re going to marry, God’s voice whispered in his soul.
What, Lord, you can’t be serious?
Of course He was. Michael had learned from an early age that God never joked with him. Exactly why he’d obeyed and moved to Italy when his Lord had spoken.
He handed over the tour fee. Small price to pay for the chance to get to know the girl you were destined to marry.
For the next hour, Michael hung on her every word, and not just because she brought the place to life. For once, he didn’t have much to say, preferring to listen to the sound of her voice.
After the tour, everyone thanked her and the group dispersed. Michael watched as some pressed a gray five euro note into her palm. Pity he’d used up all the cash he had on hand.
Michael followed Alessa to her scooter. She was about to put her helmet on when she spotted him.
“Yes…?” She raised her perfectly penciled brow again with the single-worded question.
“Uh…” It took all his American gumption to utter the next few words. “I’m going to marry you one day.”
Maybe it was his accent, but Alessa didn’t seem to understand what he’d said to her. For a few seconds, she merely stared at him, seemingly astonished before bursting into laughter.
“In your wildest dreams.” And with that, she slid onto her little white Vespa and buzzed off up the road.
1. Tell us your name and a little bit about yourself? My name is Alessandra Rossi, but only my Nonna calls me that…and my oldest brother, Rafaele if he’s angry with me. To everyone else, I’m Alessa. Personally, I think the extra letters are just a waste of the alphabet—not to mention ink.
I’m 22 years old and I never knew my mamma—she died giving birth to me. My entire life, Papà blamed me for her death. That one tragic event shaped so much of me and who I am today…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
2. Tell us about where you live and why you choose to live there? I live in Roma, Italy. It was close enough to be able to visit my Nonna, and far enough away from my papà. With a degree in architectural history and archaeology, it’s the perfect place to eke out a living as a tour guide.
3. What is a quirk of your personality that most people wouldn't know? I’m an open book. There’s nothing I can think of that I hide. First thing people realize about me is that I LOVE food.
4. Name two things you would hate people to know about you? Like I said, no hidden skeletons in my closets, although I could take you somewhere in Roma where there are a lot of skeletons. On second thoughts, read Ti Amo and you can tag along with my sister, Sienna, and Michael.
5. Tell us about your special man. What makes him special? Michael Young is talented, creative, good-looking, well-built, and a great preacher. Besides the overall package from head to toe scoring a perfect ten, the man has moxie. He says what he wants to say, and that’s that. Not that all the above mattered to me when I first met him.
6. The first time you saw him, what did you think? Did you like him immediately, or did he have to grow on you? I couldn’t stand him at first. I thought he was a forward American. I was not happy with my sister when she invited him to tag along with us most places the weekend she was visiting me in Roma.
7. What would he hate people to know about him? He’s a tad claustrophobic—not crazy about confined spaces.
8. What is your favourite thing to eat and drink? Melanzana panini from the sandwich shop just outside my apartment building. The whole works complete with mortadella, mozzarella, salami, capicola, prosciutto, lettuce, tomato and the restaurant’s secret homemade Italian dressing. A sparkling water to wash it down with.
9. If you had to fight, what would be your weapon of choice and why? A menu because it’ll probably be the thing closest to my hand.
10. Pepsi or coke Neither.
11. Tea or coffee Espresso.
12. Elephant or tiger Elephant, because there is usually one in the room when I’m around
13. Roast dinner / burger and chips (fries for our US readers) or pizza Pizza, but only with very good friends, or my sweetheart.
14. Classical music or pop Pop.
15. Sunrise or sunset Both…they’re just the reverse of each other.
16. Walk or run Walk…I do a lot of that in my job, so I am partial to the pace.
17. Chocolate or crisps (chips for our US readers) Chocolate, especially Venchi.
18. What would you like on your epitaph? She made the world an interesting place.
A Novel Place to Fall in Love
USA Today bestselling author, MARION UECKERMANN’s passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest’s no longer so empty.
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