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A secret prenuptial honeymoon, a hot air balloon safari, and a plot to kill the US president all come together at a Vatican wedding.
The hiss close to my ear and an unpleasant odor sent a spike of adrenalin tingling along my nerves. Gagging and shuddering with revulsion, I opened my eyes to an open maw full of sharp, yellow teeth and long incisors surrounded by a nimbus of grayish hair a few inches from my face.
A blue and red nose surrounded by a thick mane. Close-set beady yellow eyes. Stinky monkey breath.
With a screech of alarm, I jerked backwards, the sudden motion wrenching my body out of the crotch of the tree. I tumbled, ass over teakettle, down the trunk, bumping and scraping my arms and legs along the rough bark.
I hit the ground with a resounding thud and remained there on my stomach, whimpering while the baboon peered down from the high branches grunting and hissing in triumph.
Above me, high in the distance the red, green, and black balloon drifted farther away. My heart pounded with fear as I watched it diminish in size. Then I dragged myself into a sitting position and struggled to free the backpack which had twisted around me in the fall. In my mind, I replayed what had happened, step by step.
I had been foolish to lean out of the basket. No question there. But as I thought about it, I reached the only possible conclusion.
Peter tipped me out of there on purpose. The realization left me breathless and without resources. Why would he do such a thing?
I blew out a long breath and fumbled in the backpack for my water bottle. I took a deep swig and swallowed my panic along with the tepid but refreshing water. Even if my cell phone, which had preceded me in reaching the ground, had died a premature death in the fall, even if I couldn't find it, the internal GPS would continue to send its signal.
Whatever Peter's motive, before they'd gone far, Will would force him to land the balloon whether he wanted to or not. Will would come looking for me. Until then, I needed a somewhat safe place in the vicinity, out of the sun, where I could hang out for a while. Encouraged, I recapped the bottle and put it away.
A loud screech from nearby caused my breath to catch. My head jerked, and I shifted my gaze across the meadow. There, about fifty feet away, two dark-brown baboons tussled in the undergrowth, one smaller, one much larger. The small one screeched and clutched something in one hand, trying to fend off the other. The bulky aggressor smacked it in the head. With a cry, the little one skittered away, loping toward me with the large male in hot pursuit, both of them howling.
Holy poop. They're coming right at me.
R. Ann Siracusa is a California girl who earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, then went immediately to Rome, Italy. On her first day there, she met an Italian policeman at the Fountain of Love, and the rest is history. Instead of a degree from the University of Rome, she got a husband, and they've been married going on fifty years. In Rome, she worked for as an architect and planner for a land development company for several years until she and her husband moved to the US.
Now retired, she combines her passions—world travel and writing—into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh. Her most recent release from Breathless Press, All For A Blast Of Hot Air, is the fifth book in a five book romantic suspense series, Tour Director Extraordinaire.
Jillian: How often to you get lost in a story?
Ann: I'd say about fifteen percent of the books I read keep me enthralled. Writing has spoiled reading for me a little, since I tend to edit and analyze everything now. When I don't do that and read right over the errors and problems (if any), I'm lost in the story.
Jillian: Who’s your favorite cartoon character?
Ann: As far as comic strips go, I always liked Hagar the Horrible and Pogo [I'm really dating myself, aren't I?].
Jillian: Where do you read and how often?
Ann: My favorite time and place to read is on a rainy day when I don't have to do anything or go anywhere, sitting in front of a fire in the fireplace with a glass of wine (or hot chocolate).
Since this doesn't happen often enough, I most frequently read in bed, in waiting rooms of Doctors' offices, or in the bathtub [at home – not in the doctor's waiting room]. I read in spurts; sometimes I read book after book in rapid succession, then not at all for a week or two. It depends a lot on whether I'm reading for relaxation or information and what else is going on in my life. When I'm judging finalists in writing contests, for example, I don't have the energy to read for pleasure.
Jillian: What sound or noise do you love?
Ann: Soft rain and the waves moving in and out at the beach are among my favorites.
Jillian: Describe your favorite kind of hero to read/write?
Ann: I tend to like the Alpha males when they have some inner vulnerability; men who are slightly over-the-top toward the unbelievable side.
Personally, I believe that women—no matter how good they are at writing the male point-of-view—still create male characters the way women want them to be, not how they are. Men just don't think the same way, and it always shows. But...who wants to read about men who burp, fart, think about sex every six seconds, and can find the mayonnaise in the refrigerator even when it's right in front of their eyes?
Jillian: Who’s your favorite villain?
Ann: Anthony Hopkins as Hannible Lecter
Jillian: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Ann: If we're talking about a first draft, I put it away for a few weeks to a month (during this I'd start the next book), then print it and read it straight through in print without stopping or commenting [for continuity and pacing and thematic statement]. Then I read it through a second time, marking up the manuscript, and start rewriting and editing.
Jillian: What question are you never asked in interviews, but wish you were?
Ann: Easy. Heh-heh! How do you stay so beautiful? LOL I'm sure you can figure out why it's never asked.
Jillian: Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?
Ann: These days, it's hot coffee with sweetener and creamer, but I never drank it until I was in my mid-thirties. I like both hot and iced tea, also, and take it with nothing in it.
Jillian: What does it mean to love someone?
Ann: To me, it means putting that someone's welfare and best interests before your own. You've got that person's back, and you'll do anything for that him/her.
Ann has a question for commenters: What foreign country or other culture would you like to read about? Leave a comment and your e-mail address, and you'll be entered in a drawing for the first two e-books of the Tour Director Extraordinaire series: All For A Dead Man's Leg and All For A Fist Full Of Ashes.
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***Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. If an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is available, the author may utilize that option for International participants. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.