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North Beach, San Francisco
I eyed the brunette in the sparkly underwear as she whipped her long hair and draped her tanned legs around the silver pole, sliding one stiletto-heeled foot up and down, up and down.
Her breasts, naked and swinging, were bigger than mine, but she was about the same size and weight. No stretch marks on her stomach or breasts, hips still slim. Childless. No thin white band on her ring finger. Single. Fake diamond studs. Not doing this for fun or to rebel against daddy. Fuchsia toenail polish. Definitely not from the Bay Area. Perfect white teeth and flawless skin. Not a crankster. No identifying tattoos.
She would do.
I slid three twenties under the strap of her G-string and told her to meet me in the private room at her break.
Waiting in the tiny, mirrored room, I rummaged around in my bag for a roach, but came up empty. Must have smoked it last night. At the bottom of my purse, my fingers brushed some loose shake so I licked them and stuck them back into my bag. I poked around until tiny green flecks stuck to the pads of my fingers, which I licked again. I was plucking a few stray flakes off my lipstick when she walked in, wiping tiny beads of sweat away from her temple with a small white towel.
She leaned back against the door and untied her short silky robe.
“Hey, honey. What’s your name?” she asked, fluffing her hair. My back was to her, but I didn’t take my eyes off her face in the mirror.
“Gia,” I said and smiled. Yes, she would do perfectly.
“I’m Desiree.” Sure you are. She sidled up to me, pressing her bare breast against my arm from behind, trailing her fingers down my lips as we watched ourselves in the floor-length mirror.
“It’s not what you think,” I said, gently pushing her away.
Ten minutes later we had a deal.
I slipped back into the night, ignoring the groups of men huddled on the neon sidewalks outside, smoking and cat calling everyone who looked like they might have a vagina—whether they were born that way or not.
The previous week …
The throbbing head pain keeping time with my heartbeat told me last night had been a doozy. Even if I didn’t remember any of it.
Without opening my eyes, I knew it was time to get up because I could hear the noisy gurgling of my Nespresso in the kitchen. The espresso machine was programmed to kick on at two every afternoon so that when I rolled out of bed hot coffee would be waiting. It was a rough life.
I stretched and yawned and then froze at the sound of clanging in my kitchen. As I yanked the covers up over my naked breasts and reached under my huge stack of pillows for my gun, a vague memory surfaced — a cute face, tight ass, and deft hands. I’d brought some guy home from the bar last night. I groaned. He should’ve been long gone. I put the gun back. If he was banging pots and pans around in the kitchen, he probably wasn’t a serial killer.
A curly-haired head peeked around the doorframe. “Hey, Gia. You hungry? It’ll be ready in a jiffy.”
I stared until his head withdrew. He whistled as he walked back to the kitchen. Jiffy? Whistling? That did it. This guy was way too polite and chipper to be my type. I closed my eyes trying to piece together what had happened the night before. I vaguely remembered Scott, the bartender at Anarchy, refusing to fill my glass again despite me wadding up hundred dollar bills and throwing them at him. How much had I had to drink? It must have been a lot because Scott had never cut me off before. The last thing I remembered was stomping off to find someone else to order my booze for me.
I must have found the guy who was now in my kitchen.
He seemed harmless. I shrugged on my kimono and tried to avoid looking into the mirrored doors on my closet as I walked past, but still managed to get a glimpse of a green-silk-robe-wearing witch with wild hair. I stopped in the bathroom to splash some water on my face, again avoiding the mirror. Relief washed over me when I spotted a neatly tied up condom in the metal trashcan. Time to face my houseguest.
I leaned on the doorframe leading into my small kitchen. The guy was putting slices of sourdough bread in my toaster. Eggs and milk were on the counter. Butter was sizzling in a frying pan on the stove. The guy was cute. But none of that mattered. I cleared my throat. He looked up and smiled.
“Listen …” I closed my eyes for a second. “I’m sure you’re really sweet. But you have to leave now.”
When I opened my eyes, his smile faded. I tried again. “I drank a lot last night. I don’t remember much but I do know that I probably did some things I shouldn’t have and it’s better if you leave. Now.”
“Hey, I’m a feminist,” he said, holding his palms out. “I don’t take advantage of drunk women. If anything, you talked me into it. I kept saying it probably wasn’t a good idea, but you insisted otherwise. You practically dragged me back here.”
I cringed. He was probably right. But I still needed to get rid of this nameless, chivalrous stranger.
“Like I said,” I began. “You seem like a really nice guy. But you need to go.”
“No problem.” He didn’t seem angry, only disappointed. For a brief second I felt a twinge of guilt, but quickly dismissed it. I needed to get this stranger out of my house immediately. Before I freaked out.
He grabbed a leather jacket off my dining room table. I noticed an empty wine bottle and two glasses on the table along with what looked like the remains of a pumpkin pie. Guess I had brought the party back here.
When I finally heard the door click closed, I sunk onto the chair on my balcony with a cup of espresso and a pack of Dunhills. I felt another stab of guilt remembering the guy’s face when I told him to leave. I consoled myself with the thought that he was too nice and therefore too good for me, anyway. I’d actually probably done him a favor by booting him out before he started to really like me.
I spent at least an hour sitting on my balcony, feet up on the rail in my fuzzy slippers, watching the fog burn off the bay until the Golden Gate Bridge came into view and beyond that the Marin headlands. If I looked over my shoulder, I could see the new span of the Bay Bridge stretching across the Bay, gleaming in the sunlight.
It looked like a good day to take my Ferrari out on the open road. It was one of those days where I needed to drive as fast as I could for as long as I could.
GIA IN THE CITY OF THE DEAD
Justice at any cost.
For her, vendetta is not a choice—it’s her destiny.
When Gia Valentina Santella’s parents died four years ago, she fled small-town Monterey to pursue the high life in the big city where she could smother her grief by playing house in a luxurious high-rise apartment with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Armed with a hefty inheritance, it didn’t take long for Gia to carve out an empty life for herself in San Francisco, slumming at art school, racing her red Ferrari up and down the coast, and getting hammered at the city’s finest establishments.
Then one day, a letter comes in the mail and everything changes. The death of Gia’s parents was no accident.
They were murdered.
Now, Gia must find who really killed her parents at the same time she’s frantically trying to keep one step ahead of the murderer who is now intent on making her his next victim.
Gia in the City of the Dead is the first book in the Gia Santella series of dark, page-turning suspense thrillers. If you like daring and unforgettable heroines and aren’t offended by a few “F” bombs, you’ll love this heart-pounding thriller kicking off an exciting new series.
This is another grippingly riveting drama from Ms. Belcamino that seeps into the crevices of my soul as I followed the trials and tribulation of her latest heroine.
Finding that her parent’s death was intentional, Gia is on a mission to find the person responsible and in her pursuit, those closest to her are in harm’s way as well. Family dynamics and self-discovery plays a part in this multi-plot, action-packed novel where every page turned intensified, especially when Gia faced the person responsible, and the truth set her free to be who she really was.
The author did a great job in staging this story where every scene, every clue, every dialogue, and every action was crucial to the outcome of this well-executed tale. Gia is vulnerable, yet strong and determined where finding the truth was paramount to her own existence. I do like that surprising twist that brought it all together and helped moved the drama to the conclusion befitting the person that Gia has become.
I enjoyed this debut novel and I can’t wait to read the next book and see what’s in store for Gia and her friends.
Kathy Reel’s The Reading Room
Whoa! Kristi Belcamino has done it! She has created yet another take-charge, intoxicating character who is a fierce protector of those she loves. The new girl in town is named Gia Valentina Santella, and she is smoking awesome. Belcamino’s first kick-ass series’ character was Gabriella Giovanni, and I have been such a fan of Gabriella that I was a bit skeptical of falling quickly for another contender. But, when this author writes, this reader falls, into storytelling and characters compelling to the core.
Gia Santella is adrift in the world. Drinking herself into oblivion, driving fast cars fast, one-night stands, and spending her well-endowed bank account as fast as she can. Living in San Francisco in a luxury apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, she is the quintessential Italian Princess, disconnected to any meaningful existence. The death of her beloved parents two years earlier has frozen the capacity of the twenty-three-year-old to move forward with her life. As it turns out, she must move backwards first anyway.
Having been told that her parents, who were living in Geneva at the time of their deaths, had died in a house fire, Gia is shocked back into the land of the living when a letter arrives from the coroner’s wife stating that the Santellas’ deaths were no accident. The letter makes it clear that Gia’s parents were murdered. This revelation comes right on the heels of a new death in her family, her estranged brother’s. The Santella family is slowly slipping into nonexistence, and Gia must use her physical training as a student of Budo karate and her plentiful intelligence to avoid becoming the last coffin in the crypt and finding out who murdered her family. Knowing who to trust is the first tangled web that Gia must unsnarl. However, even care must be taken with those she can trust, because the success of her mission could mean their deaths. Gia Santella begins a life on the run, searching for answers from Monterey to San Franciso to Geneva to Sicily and back to Colma, California that is the City of the Dead. There is not one dull moment in that search.
Kristi Belcamino has a gift, telling thrilling stories with all the excitement they demand. The plots, the action, the descriptions, the characters are all so brilliantly thought out and executed. I am ecstatic that readers have yet another prodigious protagonist and spectacular series to enjoy. Kudos to Kristi, again!