It was two o’clock in the morning. The Ferrari sped through the night towards San Stefano in Tuscany. Attuned to the darkness surrounding him, his sombre mood overwhelming, Paolo drove the sleek, powerful sports car as though he was entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Driving always relieved his stress. But tonight it wasn’t stress that was invading his body and his mind; it was the shadowy memory of a woman – Venetia. Vulnerable, bewitching Venetia, who haunted every hour of his days and nights.
Paolo is British-born, but has made his home – and a significant fortune – in Italy. I couldn’t resist giving him the ultimate ‘boy toy’ for the setting and his wealth: a Ferrari.
Did you know?
- The Ferrari company, formed in 1929, was initially only involved in motor racing. The first road-legal car wasn’t manufactured until 1947.
- Founder Enzo Ferarri was a racing driver and entrepreneur, and he remained a key part of the Ferrari business until his death at the age of 90. The Enzo Ferrari was created in dedication to his memory.
- The Ferrari logo is a black stallion rearing up against a yellow background. This originates from a race Ferrari won back in 1923, when Countess Paolina suggested to him that painting such a horse on his car would bring him luck (it had worked for her son, Count Francesco Baracca, who had become a war hero for his valour in the air force).
- Ferraris are most usually red, a tradition that dates back to the 1920s when Italian cars racing in grand prix were assigned that colour. Today, red is still popular but you can choose other colours. (Paolo’s is blue.)
- The F50 was made to celebrate Ferrari’s half-centenary. The company made only 349, pricing each at $557,000.
- In September 2012, 964 Ferraris took to the track at Silverstone, England. More than $162 million worth of vehicle in one place!
For me, the Ferrari represents wealth, glamour, speed and joie de vivre, which makes, for Venetia, a thrilling juxtaposition to the beautiful Tuscan countryside:
The Ferrari climbed and twisted alarmingly along the rugged coastline, and through perched villages, on roads fringed with pink, yellow, and red wild flowers. Cars and buses roared past, racing and swerving round hairpin corners. The sun was as brilliant as ever, the air clear and stimulating, and everything was aflutter in the sunny breeze. The shimmering hillside, planted with olives and vines, sloped steeply down; beyond the motionless spires of cypresses stretched the blue and green hills of Tuscany. The hollows and little valleys were brimming up with whitish haze and the flat elder blossoms spread unmoving in the heat of this glorious day.
On the seaward side, they overlooked a necklace of small, sun-drenched, white sand beaches, separated by coves and craggy coral rock outcroppings. Viewed from far above, the shoreline was spectacular, with the great Tyrrhenian Sea stretching out beyond, sprinkled with islets and dotted with boats on its turquoise surface. The Ferrari tore past clusters of pastel-hued cottages framed by flowering trees, nestling in the hills that rose to windswept bluffs, where every turning had a picture-postcard view of sprawling green land, coloured villas and blue waters. Golden sunshine poured down, and Venetia’s face was bright with pleasure, chestnut curls flying across her face. She loved the feel of the wind in her hair and the smell of the sea.
But what happens when such a power beauty becomes a beast?
The road curved around the hillside and began to slope down to the promontory where the town nestled. The Ferrari started to pick up speed, hurtling round the bends.
‘Paolo, rallentare. You’re going too fast!’ Venetia glanced at him, worried.
‘I’m trying.’ Paolo slammed his foot down on the brakes but the car kept flying round the twists in the road, with Paolo swinging the steering wheel wildly in an attempt to keep control of the vehicle. ‘There’s something wrong with the brakes. Hold on tight, Venetia!’
There was nothing Paolo could do but try and stay with the unruly movements of the car, turning the wheel sharply this way and that. A truck loomed towards them round another corner, sounding its warning horn as it swerved to miss them. Paolo shifted down a gear and kept pumping the brakes as the car’s engine made a rebellious rasping noise. They raced through a short tunnel and out the other side to where the road was straightening. Venetia gasped. Far ahead she saw another herder, this time with a flock of goats, crossing the road.
‘Paolo, we’re going to hit them!’
‘No we’re not.’ He gritted his teeth and pushed the car down through another gear. The engine screamed as the Ferrari careened over to the opposite side of the road. Although they had slowed down slightly because the gradient was levelling off now, Paolo hit his horn repeatedly as they sped towards the goat herder, still at an alarming speed.
Venetia could hear her own cry of terror. Oh my God, we’re going to die, she thought, her knuckles white on the dashboard, sweat pouring down her neck.
I will leave you in suspense – author’s prerogative! – and with a quote from bestselling American author Dean Koontz which makes me smile: ‘I do give books as gifts sometimes, when people would rather have one than a new Ferrari.’ I admire a supercar, but would much prefer a new book!