Authors: Carolyn Keene
OU LOOK TERRIFIC
!” Claudia Beluggi exclaimed. She planted a kiss on each of Nancy Drew's cheeks, then did the same to Nancy's best friends, George Fayne and Bess Marvin. “Don't tell me you three got those tans in Geneva!”
George squinted into the sunlight and lifted her short, dark curls off her neck. “Actually, we took a detour on our way down from Geneva and stopped on the Italian Riviera,” she explained.
“Well, you will
relax here,” Claudia said, her black eyes glowing merrily. “Last night, when you called from your pensione, I promised I would show you every inch of Rome, and I mean it!”
Nancy grinned at the tall, slender girl. Claudia's long, wavy black hair looked great against the royal blue of her fitted minidress, and her warm smile was the same as Nancy remembered. Next
to Claudia, Nancy's khaki shorts, cotton tank top, and sneakers seemed veryÂ .Â .Â . American.
She, Bess, and George had met Claudia at an outdoor concert in Geneva at the beginning of their summer vacation in Europe. They had hit it off immediately with the bubbly Italian girl. When Claudia suggested that they spend some time in Rome, they had jumped at the chance.
“This place is great,” Nancy said now, looking around Piazza Navona, where she and her friends had come to meet Claudia. She had read in her guidebook that it was one of Rome's most popular hangouts. Laughter and conversations in different languages buzzed around them as crowds surged past. A lot of people had cameras and were obviously tourists, but there were also many groups of young people who were speaking Italian.
Bess nodded her agreement. “All these carved stone buildings are so much fancier and older than what we have at home. And your language sounds so romantic!” She giggled and added, “Too bad I can't understand a word of it.”
“That is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, by Bernini,” Claudia said, seeing George staring at the magnificent stone fountain at the center of the piazza. Four huge stone figures towered over the crowd. It was balanced at both ends of the piazza by smaller fountains.
“Pretty impressive,” George commented.
Bess's gaze had strayed to a string of street artists and craftspeople who had set up displays in the piazza. “Hey, check it out,” she said. The
vendors vied for the girls' attention, calling out as they walked along.
“If you want to shop, a good friend of mine makes unusual jewelry and sells it here,” Claudia told her. “Come, I will show you.”
The girls followed Claudia, pausing to inspect the jewelry and crafts at the stands they passed. Ornate gold jewelry hung from velvet boards on one of the tables, catching the light. Nancy leaned forward, admiring the intricate designs on the beads of one of the necklaces.
a deep voice spoke into Nancy's ear.
“Yes. I mean,
Nancy replied in Italian. When she turned toward the person who had offered to help her, she straightened in delight.
The young man was taller than average, and Nancy had to tilt her head up to look at his face. His wide, toothy smile stood out against his golden skin, and his raven eyes matched the color of his black, wavy hair exactly. He was gorgeous!
“Massimo!” Claudia kissed the young man on both cheeks with gusto. “Meet some new friends.” She turned to the girls. “Massimo Bianco, this is Nancy Drew, George Fayne, and Bess Marvin.”
“Nice to meet you,” Massimo said. When he saw Bess, his eyes lit up. Swiftly he bent and kissed her on both cheeks.
“That is how we greet friends in Rome,” he explained, his eyes dancing.
Nancy stifled a grin as Bess's face turned pink. Usually Bess was a complete flirt, but it looked as if she had met her match in Massimo.
“Massimo is an artist,” Claudia explained. “He made all this jewelry.”
“A student artist,” Massimo corrected. “I sell what I can in the summer and study the rest of the year.” His words flowed in a melodic Italian accent.
Bess was busy looking at a row of beaded gold-tone necklaces pinned to the velvet display. “Your work is very beautiful,” she commented. “Are they original designs?”
“Actually, the Etruscans made the designs first,” Massimo told her. “I just copy them from museums. The originals are more than two thousand years old.”
“The Etruscans?” Nancy repeated. She tried to think back to her European history class but drew a blank. “Who are they?”
“They lived in Tuscany in ancient times, before the Roman Empire came into being,” Claudia told the girls. “They were masters at jewelry-making, and with gold in particular.”
Massimo handed Bess a mirror and held one of the necklaces lightly against her neck. “It is perfect,” he said with satisfaction. “The blue stones match your eyes exactly.”
The necklace consisted of long and short gold-toned beads. Blue stones flashed in each of the three center beads, which were set off on either side by two longer, oblong beads that looked to Nancy like some kind of fruit. Two types of smaller beadsâsmall rosettes and beads covered in a sandy-textured finishâalternated to fill out the rest of the necklace.
“Wow,” Nancy commented. “That's beautiful.”
“I'll say,” Bess agreed. Smiling up at Massimo, she said, “I'll take it. But you said it's fake, right? You won't charge me all the money I have, will you?”
Massimo slipped the necklace into a paper bag and handed it to her. “Do you dance?” he asked without answering her question.
Bess wrinkled her nose and looked puzzled as she took the bag. “I love to dance. But what does that have to doâ”
“Then dance with me, and the necklace is yours,” Massimo said, cutting off Bess's question.
“Here?” Bess looked around the bustling piazza.
Massimo shook his head. “Not here,” he assured her. “But sometime before you leave Rome.”
Bess started to protest, but Massimo held up a hand to stop her. “Nancy, George, you must pick something, too, so Bess will not argue.”
George shook her head. “Your work is beautiful, but it's not my style.”
To Nancy's surprise, Massimo nodded his agreement. “You are right,” he said. “You need something simple but elegant. Perhaps in silver.” He turned to Nancy. “And I think copper for you,” he said, reaching out to touch her red-gold hair. “For your beautiful hair.”
This guy is quite a charmer, Nancy thought, but he did seem nice, and Bess was certainly enjoying his compliments. “Bess, I think you'd better thank Massimo,” Nancy said quickly, “and we should
get moving. Otherwise we'll bankrupt this poor guy.”
As another tourist came over to the display the girls said goodbye to Massimo and moved on.
“I think we will be seeing a lot more of Massimo,” Claudia said as they reached the edge of the piazza. “We have been friends since we were children. He is really a great guy.”
“Do you think he likes me?” Bess asked anxiously. “I mean, do all Italian guys treat girls that way? It's so romantic!”
“Here we go again,” George whispered to Nancy. “He's a hunk. She's in love.”
Claudia hooked her arm with Bess's and assured her, “He is not like that with every girl. I am sure he likes you.”
“I know what's coming next,” George said, trying to keep a straight face. Mimicking Bess's voice, she said, “He's
“Well, he is,” Bess insisted as the other girls laughed.
“Speaking of romance,” Claudia said, looking at Nancy, “what happened with that blond guy I saw you with in Geneva? His name was Mick, right?”
“Mick Devlin,” George said, nodding. “The Australian mystery man who was after Nancy. We left him heartbroken in Geneva.”
Nancy felt the familiar blush rising to her cheeks. It seemed to come over her whenever Mick's name came up. “We were really just good friends,” she said.
Bess raised one eyebrow. “Very good friends,”
she said. More gently she added, “And from that dreamy look you get at the mention of his name, I think he's not the only one a little heartbroken.”
A retort sprang to Nancy's lips, but she stifled it. She did miss Mick sometimes, she had to admit. It was more than just the few sizzling kisses they had shared. There was something about Mick that was really special. But she couldn't stay in Geneva just to see where the romance was going. Especially when she didn't even know where things stood with Ned Nickerson, her longtime boyfriend back home.
“Sorry I brought it up,” Claudia said, giving Nancy a sympathetic smile. She changed the subject, saying, “I was thinking that we should go to via Condotti today. It is near the Spanish Steps and the hottest place to shop in Rome. I told Sandro we would meet him there for lunch.”
“Sandro?” Nancy asked. “Another date for Bess?”
“I hope not,” Claudia said indignantly. “Sandro Fiorello is
Claudia guided the girls onto a bus, pointing out some of Rome's famous sights as they rode along. “You will love via Condotti,” she said as the girls got off at their stop. “I work part-time here this summer in a store called Preziosi.”
“Preziosi?” Nancy repeated. “That means precious, right? So I guess you must sell some really good stuff.”
Claudia said, smiling. “But everything on via Condotti is worth seeing.”
Claudia was right. Via Condotti was a wide,
cobbled street lined with Rome's most luxurious shops. Luscious leather goods and shoes caught the girls' eyes as they passed store windows. Even the shoppers seemed more elegant than the crowds the girls had seen at Piazza Navona.
“Look at that!” Bess said, stopping outside a shop window and pointing to a flared silk dress with bright geometric designs on it. “We have to go in there.”
“Only if you want to spend a lot of money,” Claudia warned. “The prices are outrageous. If you wait until we get to Preziosi, I can get you a discount on leather goods and beautiful accessories. We don't sell clothing, however.”
The girls couldn't resist going inside the store. When the saleslady told Bess the price of the dress Nancy mentally converted the Italian lire to American dollars. Her mouth dropped open. “Bess, that's over four hundred dollars,” she said in an undertone.
“Uh, thanks but no thanks,” Bess said, hurriedly pulling her friends back out into the hot summer air. “From now on I'm just looking!”
A short while later Claudia stopped in front of an elegant stone doorway with a wrought-iron gate. “Here we are,” she announced to Nancy, Bess, and George. She ushered the girls into a small boutique. Several glass cases of jewelry were placed against one wall, and scarves hung artistically from bars around the room. Leather items such as handbags, belts, and wallets were displayed on separate shelves opposite the jewelry.
“This is Maria,” Claudia said, introducing Nancy,
Bess, and George to a plump, middle-aged woman who was chatting on the telephone near the cashier. Keeping the telephone to her ear, the woman smiled and waved at the girls.
“Maria, aren't those new necklaces on display yet?” Claudia asked after taking a brief look at the jewelry cases. Maria shrugged and shook her head.
“I wanted to show you some more of Massimo's Etruscan necklaces,” Claudia explained to the girls. “Sandro dropped them off for Massimo yesterday.”
“Massimo sells his work at Preziosi?” Bess asked. “Looking at these prices, now I'm really embarrassed that I got my necklace for free.”
Grinning at Bess, George said, “You must have really made an impression on him.”
Claudia excused herself to go to the back room. “I thought Paola would have put them out, but I don't see them. They must still be in the back.” She disappeared through a door against one wall.