Architect Logan Cascini is on edge when the discovery of an ancient fresco brings Lucia Moretti back to Tuscany. He hasn’t seen his ex since they parted twelve years ago in the most heartbreaking of circumstances…
Facing Logan again unleashes a torrent of emotions that has Lucia’s normally calm and collected heart racing. Perhaps it’s time for Lucia to loosen her grip on the pain of the past and allow them both to rediscover the joy they shared together…
The Vineyards of Calanetti
Saying “I do” under the Tuscan sun…
This book was a 2016 RITA® Award Finalist
His Lost-and-Found Bride
“Signor! Signor, venire ora!”
Logan Cascini was on his feet in an instant.
As an architect who specialised in restoring old Italian buildings getting the call to help transform the Palazzo di Comparino’s chapel for a royal wedding was a dream come true. The property at the vineyard was sprawling and over the years areas had fallen into disrepair. His work was painstaking. He only employed the most specialist of builders, those who could truly recreate the past beauty of the historical chapel on the grounds and the main palazzo. Most of the buildings he worked on were listed and only traditional building methods could be used to restore them to their former glory.
Timescales were tight in order to try and get the chapel restored for the royal wedding of Prince Antonio of Halencia and his bride-to-be, Christina Rose. No expense was being spared – which was just as well considering he had twenty different master builders on site.
“Signor! Signor, venire ora!”
He left his desk in the main palazzo and rushed outside to the site of the chapel. His stomach was twisting. Please don’t let them have found anything that would hold up the build. The last thing he needed was some unexpected hundred-year-old bones or a hoard of Roman crockery or coins.
This was Italy. It wouldn’t be the first time something unexpected had turned up on a restoration project.
He reached the entrance to the ancient chapel. The first thing that struck him was the fact there was no noise. For the last few weeks, the sound of hammer on stone and the chatter of Italian voices had been constant. Now, every builder stood silently, all looking towards one of the walls.
The inside of the chapel had been redecorated over the years. Much of the original details and façade had been hidden. The walls had been covered first in dark, inlaid wood, and then – strangely – painted over with a variety of paints. Every time Logan came across such ‘improvements’ he cringed. Some were just a show of trends of the time – others were individual owners ideas of what made the building better. In restoration terms that usually meant that original wood and stone had been ripped away and replaced with poorer less durable materials. Sometimes the damage done was irreparable.
His eyes widened as he strode forward into the chapel. Light was streaming through the side windows and main door behind him. The small stained glass windows behind the altar were muted and in shadow. But that didn’t stop the explosion of riotous colour on the faraway wall.
A few of the builders had been tasked with pulling down the painted wooden panelling to expose the original walls underneath.
There had been no indication at all that this is what would be found.
Now, he understood the shouts. Now, he understood the silence.
Beneath the roughly pulled back wood emerged a beautiful fresco. So vibrant, the colours so fresh it looked as if it had just been painted.
Logan’s heart rate quickened as he reached the fresco. He started shaking his head as a smile fixed on his face.
This was amazing. It was one of the most traditional of frescos depicting the Madonna and child. Through his historical work Logan had seen hundreds of frescos. Even attending a private viewing of the most famous of all at the Sistine Chapel.
But the detail in this fresco was stunning and being up so close was such a gift. He could see every line, every brush stroke. The single hairs on Mary’s head, baby Jesus’s eyelashes, the downy hair on his skin, the tiny lines around Mary’s eyes.
Both heads in the fresco were turned upwards to the heavens where the clouds were parted, a beam of light illuminating their faces.
Part of the fresco was still obscured. Logan grabbed the nearest tool and pulled back the final pieces of broken wood, being careful not to touch the wall and leaving the whole fresco open to the viewers in the chapel.
It was the colour that was most spectacular. It seemed that the years behind the wood had been kind to the fresco. Most that he’d seen before had been dulled with age, eroded by touch, and a variety of weather or other elements. There had even been scientific studies about the effects of carbon dioxide on frescos. “Breathing out’ could cause harm.
But this fresco hadn’t had any of that kind of exposure. It looked as fresh as the day it had been painted.
He’d hoped to restore this chapel to its former glory – he’d never expected to find something that would surpass all his expectations.
His hand reached out to touch the wall and he immediately pulled it back. It was almost magnetic – the pull of the fresco, the desire to touch it. He’d never seen one so vibrant. From the colour of Mary’s dark blue robe, to the white and yellow of the brilliant beam of light. The greens of the surrounding countryside, the pinky tones of Jesus’s skin, the ochre of the small stool in which she sat and the bright orange and red flowers depicted around them. It took his breath away.
“Signore? Signore? What will we do?”
Vito, one of the builders appeared at his elbow. His eyes wide, his face smeared with dirt. “Take the rest of the day off,” he said quickly. “All of you.” He turned around to face the rest of the staff. “Let me decide how to proceed. Come back tomorrow.”
There were a few nods. Most eyes were still transfixed on the wall.
There was a flurry at the entrance way. Louisa – the new owner of the palazzo appeared. “Logan? What’s going on? I heard shouts, is something…” her voice tailed off and her legs automatically propelled her forward.
Louisa Harrison was the American who’d inherited Palazzo di Comparino and hired him to renovate it, and the chapel back to their former beauty. She was hard to gage. Tall and slim, her long blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail and she was wearing yoga pants and a loose fitting top. Her brow was furrowed as she looked at the fresco and shook her head. “This was here?” She looked around at the debris on the floor, “Behind the panelling?”
He nodded while his brain tried to process all his thoughts. Louisa would have no idea what the implications of this could be.
She turned back to face him, her face beaming. “This is wonderful. It’s amazing. The colours are so fresh it’s as if the painter just put down his paintbrush today. I’ve never seen anything like this. Have you?”
He took a deep breath and chose his words carefully. “I’ve seen a few,” he gave a nod to the wall, “But none as spectacular as this.”
She was still smiling. It was the most animated he’d seen her since he got here. Louisa rarely talked to the tradesmen or contractors and when she did – it was all business. No personal stuff. He’d learned quickly that she was a woman with secrets and he still had no idea how she’d managed to inherit such a wonderful part of Italian history.
But her intentions seemed honourable. She’d hired him after going along with the request for a wedding venue from Prince Antonio. And with his growing reputation, thriving architecture business and natural curiosity there was no way he was going to turn down the opportunity to do these renovations.
“It will be the perfect backdrop for the wedding,” Louisa said quietly, her eyes still fixed on the fresco. “Won’t it?”
He swallowed. Exactly, how could he put this?
“It could be. I’ll need to make some calls.”
“Any new piece of art has to be reported and examined.”
She wrinkled her nose. “And a fresco falls under that category?”
He nodded. “A fresco, any uncovered relics, a mosaic, a tiled floor…” he waved his hand and gave a little smile. “We Italians like to keep our heritage safe. So much of it has already been lost.”
“And you know who to call? You can sort this all out?” He could almost hear her brain ticking over.
He gave a quick nod.
“Then I’ll leave it to you. Let me know if there are any problems.” She spun away and walked to the door.
Logan turned back to the wall and stood very still as he heard the quiet, retreating footsteps. The whole enormity of the discovery was beginning to unfurl within his brain.
He could almost see the millions of euros worth of plans for the Prince to marry here floating off down the nearby Chiana river.
In his wildest dreams, the Prince might get to marry his bride with this in the background. But Italian bureaucracy could be difficult. When it came to listed buildings and historic discoveries? Things were usually painstakingly slow.
He sucked in a deep breath. The air in the chapel was still but every little hair stood up on his arms as if a cool breeze had just fluttered over his skin. He knew exactly what this fresco would mean.
He knew exactly who he would have to contact. Who would have the expertise and credentials to say what should happen next. Italy’s Arts Heritage Board had a fresco expert who would be able to deal with this
Lucia Moretti. His ex.
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