Burning Down Montana – Chapter Six


Vesta stood on the porch of the ranch home of Grant Stone with a cup of coffee in her hands.    After being discharged from the hospital, she realized she didn’t want to necessarily just sit in a hotel room for the rest of her time in Montana.     She was never good at being stationary.    Moving from one job to the next was her thing, and she would normally have her cell phone in her hand right now, booking the next show.   Felix, had been a no show, and that wasn’t like him.     Vinny actually insisted that they go and see what the ranch was all about.

The wonderstruck look on her twin’s face screamed seven-year old and not their thirty-seven years of age.   She couldn’t resist.  Honestly, she was a little curious herself, the closest she’d been to a horse were the occasional mounted police on the Strip, but in her line of work, fireworks and animals don’t mix.

Brighton insisted on driving them over,  and it was two against one.  She had to admit, after a steak dinner surrounded by women she felt a kindred spirit with, she was glad she came.  Hearing the stories about how Samara and Layla came to the town captivated her.   They weren’t just some stay at home, kept women.  Samara, had been a top-notch financial analyst, but was the first to fall when cuts had to be made at her brokerage firm.    Layla’s tale of being a detective in one of America’s most dirty and corrupt cities reminded her so much of her own glass ceiling, wall, floor, door and every damn barrier she could think of when she went out for bids.   Although times have gotten better, it is indeed a grueling and slow climb to gain some measure of equality in what is deemed a typically male role.

However, here, it is almost as is this town was in some type of vortex.   The men, Chase, Grant, Brighton, Bradford all took care of the home, or the ranch, welcoming guests, and even cooking the meals while taking tours of the mountains.  Meanwhile,  Samara was elected to the town treasury not to mention advises the accounts of most of the stores in town.  Layla quickly became a deputy sheriff in town, and even the snarly Katrina, whose nickname “Wildcat” fit to a tee, was quickly escalating the ranks in the ATF.

Continue Reading – Click Here Burning Down Montana, Chapter Six

Advertisements

Burning Down Montana – Chapter 5


He didn’t know what caused her  abrupt change of mood, or what made her start calling him Thorn,  but he wasn’t going to let her shut him out so easily.

“Come then, put some slippers on your feet.”  When you have a twin as cold as Bradford, he knew exactly how to get through her cool façade.  He could see right through her and he knew that it would be asking too much to have her develop feelings for him, but he could also tell that is exactly what she was trying to prevent.  How I adore challenges.

He watched her movements as she slipped into the hospital socks.  Making sure there was a comfortable distance between them, he led them through the small hospital to the lounge.  He’d seen there was a seat by the window that had a majestic view of the snow capped mountains.   He’d hoped that the stillness of the mountains would bring peace to her mind and not make her want to close her mind to him.

Watching her closely to make sure she didn’t hurt the bandaged shoulder, Brighton didn’t want to offer her too much help.  If there was anything he’d learned from being around  strong women like Layla and Samara, is that if he offered too much help, he was going to get his head bitten off.

“So tell me about you,” he said as he slid into the seat opposite of her.    It was early enough in the morning where the sun began to rise high above the mountain tops, casting a golden glow over her skin.   I would love the opportunity to sit across from her on more mornings like this.    The restless feeling he’d grown to live with eased when he was in her presence.

“There isn’t much to tell.    I was born outside of Vegas, and have pretty much remained there.   I travel for work, and Vin is a pilot.”

“Oh there is more to you than that.   I noticed you didn’t drink your coffee, you cherished it.  What’s your favorite blend?”

“French.”

“French, bah…” Rolling his eyes mockingly and clutched his heart, “I’ll have to forget you said that.  You strike me as someone who would enjoy a Sumatra or Ethiopian blend.  They have more character and flavor notes.”

“Normally, you would be right, but when I need a swift kick in the guts to get my ass in gear, French is the only option.”

“Yes, the French are like that.”   She grinned at him.  Her smile was astounding.  Her cheeks actually dimpled when she did.  He wondered if those were laugh lines or scowl marks around her full lips.  He couldn’t help but to think about sucking on the plump bottom lip she’d bitten trying to not laugh out loud.

“Alright, England, so what do you like to drink?”

“I grew up drinking tea with breakfast and lunch, but after being in Afghanistan and in America, I’ve come to enjoy the taste of coffee in the morning.  I suppose I would’ve gotten used to coffee if I lived in Vegas because I surely would never get a full night’s rest.”

“Mmmph, it was too quiet here, I barely slept all night.”  He watched as she moved her pawn forward.

“I can think of many ways to keep you up all night that would make you need sleep.” She crossed her arms in front of her and hitched her arched eyebrow at him.  “Hunting for nightcrawlers, counting stars, and crossing a desert come to mind.”

Continue Reading >>>>>  Burning Down Montana – Chapter 5

Burning Down Montana – Chapter Four


“So why did you have to thank me, England?”

“You’ve inspired me pet.  I’m here to sign up for the emergency responders.  According to Dr. Daniels, there’s an opening.” His smile, stretching from ear to ear, showed how enthused he was and his eyes danced with his announcement.   Boy he wears his emotions all over his face.  She couldn’t help but to be moved by his eagerness and returned his smile.

“So y’all have names for each other now?  She must really be grateful to you man, my twin doesn’t give out nicknames and she hates being called anything but Vesta.”   Vinny took a sip of his coffee without breaking eye contact with Brighton.    If Vinny had hair on his head, it would be standing up by now.   Her brother’s bald head was a beacon for determining what was going through his head, and right now, a vein was bulging on the right side of his dome.   I know that vein.  He’s going to strike first and ask questions later.    She knew she had to stop the standoff of male hormones or she was going to be in the middle of who knows what, but she knew family always stuck together, no matter what.

“Shut up Vin or I’ll let these strangers know what we called you when we were little.”  Turning her head back to Brighton, she noticed the twinkle of laughter in his eyes.  His eyes really are magnificent. 

Continue Reading Here Burning Down Montana – Chapter Four

Burning Down Montana – Chapter Two


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – COPYRIGHT

Vesta could smell.   She could smell the bleach,  the aerosol of linen and the stench of awful hospital food.  Hospitals, plainly, sucked, and she hated them.  She immediately wanted out.  In her mind, she could feel herself turning to move, as if she could walk away from the smell and the hospital.   Her body, however, didn’t respond quite the way she had imagined.  Her arms and legs hit metal.  Well son of a bitch.

“Are you trying to go somewhere pet?”  Ah, she could hear too, and she could hear a man with an English accent calling a her a fucking pet? She tried to turn toward the direction of the voice only to have searing pain tear through her left side.   She couldn’t scream,  but the pain was enough to spring tears to her eyes and she felt the salty water run down hehr cheeks.

“Ahh pet, don’t cry.    Don’t move either, its going to hurt.”   She could hear the voice had gotten closer,  and she was in no condition to protest as she felt large,  warm fingers swipe away the tears from her cheeks.  There was an odd comfort in his touch,  he must have been a doctor, no one had ever touched her and made her feel safe.   She opened her eyes, not that it did her any good as she couldn’t see past the thin layer of guaze.  The blinding flourescnet lights overhead made the doctor look like a very big blur.

“Oh my, damnit Vesta!”   at the sound of her brother’s voice, she wanted to turn and smile, but she held back, remembering what the last attempt to move did to her.

“Doc, what happened?”

“I’m not the doctor.”….

Continue reading at the link below…

https://nevealane.wordpress.com/burning-down-montana-chapter-one/burning-down-montana-chapter-two/

 

 

Last Chapters and Conclusion to Interviewing the Italian


Chapter Ten – To Hell With It
It didn’t take me long to figure out that August was blind. Sexy, alpha, but blind. I think that his cousin and ex-fiancé just made him look like a jack-ass. Then I felt bad for him. I got off the bed and looked down at him. His face was itched in lines of worry and perhaps realization.
Despite his tendencies to be Alpha male one minute and vulnerable the next, I found myself getting to know him, perhaps even falling for him a little bit. Maybe it was just better to leave now and cut my losses. I never mixed business with pleasure, and from the kiss that I did share with Augostino Romani, I would soon be looking for pleasure and damn the business part of it. I had to get out.

Yet, instead of walking out of the room and leaving him to his thoughts, I made a ghastly mistake. As if I was in some type of trance, my hands found their way to his hands, which were still buried in his hair. I couldn’t pull them back if I wanted to. The silken strands felt cool to my touch and I became lost. Moonlight streaming in the large bay window caught his eyes. I was glad I couldn’t see what color they were. They looked like small lakes in the man’s head, shining in the moonbeams. I sat down on the edge of the bed, my thigh resting next to his abdomen. I could feel that he had stopped breathing. He was probably wondering, just like I was wondering, what the hell am I doing?
He pulled his hands from underneath mine. Grabbing my wrists he pulled my hands to his chest. I could feel his heart beating a tattoo rhythm and his breathing hitched. I knew, really I did, that I shouldn’t be doing this but I didn’t want to stop.

“August, I…” I didn’t know what to say. I could tell him the woman in side of me was screaming for release but that scared me. No, I didn’t want to say anything. I watched as his sat up, still clutching my hands.

“Yvonne, this wasn’t supposed to happen. I didn’t want it to happen, but ever since that interview, I can’t stop thinking about it happening. So before I go any further there are some things that I have to tell you.” August sighed and let go of my hands. I know that tone of voice. It was the same tone of voice my mother got when she had to tell me our father packed his bags and left. I wasn’t going to like what August was going to say. My gut was in a g-force dive into my feet and I couldn’t stop the sinking feeling overwhelming me.

“I’m all ears.” I still needed to abate my desire for this man, but I wanted answers first. I tried to put a clamp on my desire as August started talking.

“I figured that my own cousin was the leak. I just didn’t think that Lucy would be involved in it. Lucy knows something about me that could probably take me down and make me never show my face again. If she thought I was on to her being involved, she would blackmail me.” August leaned back and stared at the ceiling. I could tell his was frustrated from his tense posture. I could also tell from the way he was clinging to my hands.

“Go on…” I said, wiggling my fingers a bit. He let my hands go and I put them in my lap.

“You see, Lucy knows something about me that could change my life as I know it. Raphael my cousin already knows.”

“What is it!” I screamed. I was never one for the dramatic, or suspense.

“I am not Augostino Romani.” He said with a whisper. I stopped. Everything stopped moving. As far as I knew, there was only one Augostino Romani and this man in front of me was it. Now the stranger was telling me that he wasn’t August?

“Come again?” It was all I could say.

“My name is Augostino Conti. My mother had an affair with my father, a very rich man in Italy, and they had me. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me. That is until his real wife died giving birth to her second son. Mother and son both died in labor, but to make himself feel better, my father, Piero Romani, came and took me from my mother. He gave me his name and I haven’t seen her since.” He sounded choked up.

“How old were you?”

“I was four. Raphael is my mother’s nephew. My true cousin. He knows who I really am.” August’s voice cracked and I could tell he was in pain. That type of pain I could relate to. That type of pain was human.

“So if you make your cousin out to be the leak, then he would expose you?”

“I am sure of it. Raphael said he had information on my mother. Apparently Piero paid her off pretty well for her trouble of birthing me, and Raphael made it seem as though she still missed me. I wanted to find her. Raphael said he knew where she was, but he needed to get out from under my father’s business. So I brought him here.”

“Has he told you where she is or how to get a hold of her?” I pitied him. All of this time, I greatly admired him, and really what he needed was a supportive ear. I was no better than all the other women that have launched themselves at him. I felt like an ass.

“No, and he has been holding out. I doubt that he will after I punched him.”

“So, you think that Lucy and Raphael would take you down because of your last name?”

“Yes! I know it!” August began to yell. He bolted off the bed and began to pace. “The name Romani means power. I probably wouldn’t even have all of this if my last name wasn’t Romani. It opened doors for me, I got into the university because of this name. Everything that I have would be a lie.”

I hated agitation, but August’s lopsided view of things made me want to yell right back.

“Stop that.” I yelled. “You are not made of your last name. You did the work, you got the grades, you developed your brand, and it had nothing to do with your name.”

“You’re biased. You have been following Romani Enterprises for years.”

“So! Do you think your ideas would have been less brilliant if they were named Conti Enterprises? You are still his son, despite what your birth certificate says. Why would they blackmail you?”

“If it came out that I wasn’t his second son that really died in child birth, all of my inheritance would be forfeit. I am illegitimate. I used the inheritance as seed money to start the company.”

“I see.” I didn’t know what to think. If he paid them off, they would come back for more. If he didn’t his company would forfeit its name, his father’s indiscretions would be exposed and August would feel like he lost.

“I had to tell you now. I feel like I have involved you too much as it is…” His voice trailed off.

“Can I ask you something?” Since August was airing his dirt, I felt like I had to get sure answers.

“Yes. Please.” He said. His voice losing some of the hard edge I had grown accustomed to.

“Why the interview set up and why did you ask me to be your personal journalist?”

I heard him give a sigh and watched as he came to sit next to me on the bed.

“Because I knew that if anyone could expose me for the real me that I am, it would be you.” He chuckled as he said it. Did I miss a private joke?

“Come again?”

“Like I said, I suspected Raphael as the leak. I also know that Raphael reads just about anything that you particularly write. You should hear him go on about the great Savannah Martin. So I figured if you found out about my parentage and aired it, it would beat Raphael to it, thus no blackmail. Then I met you and spending the day with you, I didn’t want to go through with it.”
“You didn’t want to go through using me, you mean?” I said. It was a hell of a situation to be in; I couldn’t tell if I was mad or flattered. I was just floored.

“Using you, exposing myself, being attracted to you… all of it. I can’t play this game anymore.”

I didn’t see him move. I just felt his hands grab my shoulders and the warmth of his lips close to mine. The moment I took to gasp in shock was apparently the only moment August needed. His lips clamped down on mine and I felt him lean into me. His fingers stroked a fire up and down my arms and I knew I was a goner. There would be no running away from this kiss. I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to run. I just wanted more, more of the drunk feeling he was giving me and more of August the human and not August my idol.

Chapter Eleven – To Everything….

I kissed him as if it was going to be the last thing I did. I felt his warm tongue invade the cavern on my mouth. The tip of his tongue traced my teeth. I had never felt anything like that and I felt a jolt of heat fire through me. His kiss was every bit as intoxicating as it was the first time, only this time, I wasn’t running. I kissed him back with the intensity I felt. Drowning in the taste of his full lips, I finally let my tongue brush his. It was an exciting duel. His tongue tasted of cloves and mint, an erotic mix that caused moisture to pool in my clenched pussy. I ran my fingers through his hair, pulling him closer to me, angling myself so I could feel his body weight on top of me.

Feeling euphoric, I let out a moan. He froze. I opened my eyes and found him searching my face with a huge question in his eyes.

I put my index finger on his chin and traced his kiss swollen lips with my thumb. Then cupping his cheek, I stroked his short, dark stubble and waited.

“Are you sure you can do this Yvonne? I never meant to…” I put my fingers to August’s lips.

“I never meant to either. I don’t ever do this. I can do this and I want to do this August. Take me, I’m yours.”

That was all the encouragement August needed. His gaze met mine I witnessed his transformation from an unsure man to a hungry wolf. His pupils got round and I sucked in a breath. It isn’t that I had never been with anyone, but I had never been with a man like August. He was experienced, and from what I could tell, passionate. Yet, I knew I needed this moment, and I wasn’t going to run from it. His hands began to run down my sides, feeling for the bottom of my tank top. His touch was hot to my cool skin, sending jolts through me every time his fingers grazed my skin. His lips found mine and this time the kiss was leisurely, but still intense. His tongue traced my lips; his soft spoken Italian endearments came out in rasps. His nose nuzzled my neck and he started to kiss and lick my neck, my shoulders, my arms and then my finger tips. He pulled each digit into his mouth and sucked each one with the same care.

He pulled me towards his chest, until my legs wrapped around his torso. Looking into my eyes, August stared at me for what seemed like an eternity.

“Don’t flinch.” His low aroused voice shook me out of my stupor. Before I could even ask, August took his two hands and ripped the flimsy tank top in two down the center. My modest breasts poked out as if they had been caged.

“You know I could have taken that off right?” I chuckled. That chuckle quickly released into a groan as August dove in between my breasts. I didn’t see anything funny about the pleasurable torture he was administering to my breasts. He sucked a tip into his mouth, bit down gently, and then caressed the bitten nipple with his tongue. His alternating on each nipple and the pain of his bite combined with the pleasure of his soothing tongue sent me into orgasm. I let out a low moan as I felt the edges of the universe begin to fold in on me. I never thought that I would have an orgasm from someone playing with my breasts, but August did it and I couldn’t have felt more complete. We were just getting started, and that elusive orgasm was already out of the way. I had never ‘finished’ during sex in my past, but August brought me to the big O before we even had intercourse! I smiled to myself as I let his hands wander over my body. The intense feeling in the pit of my stomach began to build again. I needed to do something or I was going to pass out before we got t the good stuff. I began tugging at his shirt, pulling it over his torso and letting my fingertips graze his taught skin. I heard his sharp intake of breath and smiled. At least he was affected as much by this encounter as I was. After pulling the damn shirt over his head, we were finally chest to chest, making skin to skin contact. His heat was scorching my flesh, but I didn’t care. He was the only one that was going to soothe the fire in the pit of my belly.

I ran my fingers over his chest, down his abs and to his pants buckle. I didn’t want to wait. I unbuttoned his pants and he arched a little off the bed so I could get them off. I unlocked my legs from around him and the idea hit me. It wasn’t graceful sliding off his lap, but I finally got my long limbs into a kneeling position in between his spread legs. I kissed the lines of his torso, gentle tugging his pants down. As I got to the band of his boxer briefs, I took in a deep breath. Moving lower I spotted the target, rock hard and needing attention. Slowly, I began to blow on August’s marble like cock through the satin material of his underwear. It began to jerk towards my mouth, but I was not in a rush. I had never been so aroused and I wasn’t going to miss a single moment.

I let my tongue quickly lick the tip as I pulled his pants all the way off. It was time to get rid of the other barrier. I took a seam of his underwear and looked at him. I smiled, slow, seductively and his eyes got big.

“Don’t flinch,” I said my voice raspy as I tugged and tore his underwear from his body. I could feel his belly shake as he chuckled. You want be laughing long, Mr. Romani. I licked my lips and in one swift movement I had most of August’s length in my mouth, my tongue running circles around the sensitive ‘v’ underneath his head. Pursing my lips as if I was sucking on a straw, I tried to suck in as much of his gorgeous tan cock as I could. His hips bucked and arched off the bed. I let my tongue caress the bulging vein on the underside of his thick cock. The taste was sweet and salty, an inebriating mix of sex and male assaulted my nose and I thought for a moment I was about to catapult myself into another orgasm.
I felt his hands on my shoulders just as I was moving my head up and down his shaft.

“Dio, belissima, please stop. I won’t last.” He grabbed my head and gently pulled my head away from his throbbing cock. It came out of my mouth with a pop. Gently gripping my head, he pulled me up to his lips for a kiss. As our lips found each other again, August maneuvered so I was lying underneath him. I felt his fingers in the band of my shorts and I knew what was coming. I heard the rip and felt the fabric drop from my heated core.

Tearing my head away to gasp for air, I had to regain some sense.
“If we keep this up, we are going to need to buy a new wardrobe August.”

“Or you could just not wear any clothes around me for the rest of your life.” He growled in my neck. I was too far gone in passion for the brevity of August’s words to hit me at that moment. It was his three fingers caressing my nether lips that threw everything into a spiral. His index finger was teasing my clit like a pearl in oil while his middle digit worked in and out of my tight walls. My inner core sucked at his finger, pulling it deeper and his urgency taking me higher.

“You are so tight belissima,” August’s throaty baritone sounded far away. “How long has it been?”
My pussy walls clinched again as his fingers kept stoking the fire into a raging inferno. What did he even ask me? I smiled to myself as I remembered the question.

“Ahhhhhh…” I moaned bucking my hips under August’s touch. His pace was quickening and I was about to fall over the precipice again.

“How long?” His finger’s stilled as August asked me again.

“Around four years.” I panted, writhing as August’s fingers held perfectly still inside of my wet folds.

August groaned deep and positioned himself in between my legs. He leaned over me and my legs instinctively wrapped around his torso. He positioned his head at my entrance, my insides already clutching in anticipation of his nice cock invading the space.

Bracing himself on his arms, August began to push. The beginning was almost painful and I felt like a virgin again. The head of his cock was fully inside of me as he leaned closer to me. I could feel the warmth of his breath in my ear and I heard his soft whisper: “Forgive me belissima”.

His hips plunged forward and I felt a searing hot pain on my walls. His girth completely stretched my walls. I bit down on my bottom lip to keep from crying out. He held still for only a moment, and then he pulled slowly out. As slowly as he pulled out, his hips strained to go back in at the same lethargic pace. In an instant, I was on the precipice again. As I felt August’s chest rub against mine, I noticed that I was beginning to sweat in between my breasts. I needed release. I put my feet on the bed and arched my back to meet August’s slow thrusts with thrusts of my own. August reared up on the impact. He grabbed my hips and the leisurely pace was gone. He pulled me into him, matching our thrusts and finally pushing me over the edge.
“August, I’m going to…” I panted, trying desperately to catch a breath that seemed to elude my lungs.

“Yes, bellisima, come for me.” As if at his command, my pussy clinched around his dick and my juices flowed. I arched my back and let out a low howl as my orgasm crashed around me.
August pulled out completely and grabbed his cock. I watched as his large hands grasped his cock and one, two strokes and his seed began to shoot on my belly. White and stringy, several spurts landed side by side. He groaned and rolled to his side. I took my fingers and drew some circles in the semen he deposited on my stomach.

He was looking down at me, some of the dazed passion dulled by our orgasms.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you were on anything and I didn’t have a condom with me.” He kissed my forehead gingerly and went to the bathroom. I listened to the water running and it was lulling me to sleep. I jumped when I felt a steaming cloth touched my stomach. I watched August through half lidded eyes as he washed my stomach with gentle caresses and light touches. As he finished up and toss the cloth on the nightstand, I watched his movements. For the first time since I met him, he looked content. He gathered me into his arms, pressing my back into his chest. Pulling the covers over us and throwing his legs over mine, August snuggled in and began a rhythmic breathing sound. Listening to his breathing I realized that I was in love with August Romani.

Shit.

Conclusion

I didn’t have time to even think about sneaking out of the bed. August was up and out before my eyes opened. If it weren’t for the slight soreness I felt in between my legs, I would have thought that I dreamed about having sex with August. It wasn’t a dream. I knew it wasn’t a dream when I heard the door open and spied August coming into the room with jeans, sans shirt and a tray. I sat up, covering my naked form with the sheet and tried to get used to this different side of August. He was smiling. It was a crooked smile, almost a self conscience smile, with his upper lip hitched just a little, but it was a smile nonetheless, and I was captivated.
“Good morning sweetheart. Breakfast is served.” August voice sounded boyish, almost light. And it was the first time he hadn’t barked or growled. Then I remembered, he hadn’t had sex in two years. Having sex would take the bite out of any man. My ears reddened as I remembered our ‘coupling’ last night. I didn’t know what else to call it, it was more than just sex but it was less than a slow sensual encounter.

August placed the tray on my lap and sat across from me. I felt the journalistic itch of wanting to rattle off a million questions, but somehow, some part of me was content in just sipping the orange juice and staring at August as he watched me eat.

I quirked and eyebrow at him as I stabbed a piece of cantaloupe with a fork.

“Aren’t you hungry?” I held the juicy fruit to his mouth and watched as his pink lips wrapped around my fork. I smiled as he chewed the food thoughtfully, and I watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. We sat in silence as I fed him bits and pieces of what was on the plate. I didn’t know what to say but I think we both knew that the dynamics of this ‘relationship’ had changed.
I finished eating and removed the tray. I grabbed a robe and sat up with my legs crossed.

“So, do you want to address the elephant in the room or should I?” I said, looking at August’s gaze.

“I love that about you.” I started at his statement. He held up his hand and shook his head. “Please, there is a lot to talk about and I think that you want to hear it before you decide on us.” He took a deep breath and I felt myself bracing again. Why did I feel like he was going to drop the elephant on me?

“It isn’t simple really. But I will try to make you understand. Yvonne, I think I have been following your career just as much as you have followed mine. I have read everything that you have published. I was determined to meet you sooner or later after reading your application to the scholarship foundation. It just wasn’t time yet. But I felt like I could tell you anything. When I set up that interview, I wanted to see if my gut was right.”

“As far as the leak, I was pretty sure that it was Raphael, but I figured it would be a good way to see if we were compatible. To see if you thought the same way I did, if I could trust you. So I set up the interview, the personal journalist thing right after I broke it off with Lucy. And the mistress thing, ” He paused. “I didn’t want to show up to the embassy dinner alone.”
“Can I ask one question August?” I asked, crossing my arms in front of me. I wasn’t sure if I should have been pissed or flattered. He nodded. “This business about your father, your last name, all that, is it true?”

“Yes, that is all true. Even Adriano doesn’t know that I am not that brother that died in childbirth. I am his brother, but by a different mother.” August looked pained at the admission. Maybe one day I could get him to tell Adriano.

“Ok, so tell me why your inheritance would be forfeit if you came out about your mother now?”

“Because the inheritance was set up by Adriano’s mother family. All the money that my father had at the time came from them. The name is power, but there was no money until my father married her. Piero Romani had the name, she had the money. If they were to find out they would make sure I would give the inheritance back. But I don’t want put them through that.”
That had my wheels churning, but I needed him to keep talking.

“So what about Lucy?”

“It was like I told you, I was never in love with Lucy. She didn’t demand too much and it was uncomplicated. But then I caught her with other men. And I knew that I didn’t love her. And the first thing I did was pick up a Savannah Martin article. Perhaps it is a family trait, but I think we, Adriano, Raphael, and myself all had a soft spot for you. Raphael thinks your brilliant and Adriano likes that you are straight to the point. But I fell in love with what wasn’t written in the lines. You had this passion about whatever you were writing about. After Lucy and I fell out, I told myself it was finally time to meet you. Lucky I had a leak at the time.” He smiled and I couldn’t help but to laugh.

“You know, a girl could let that go to her head.” He smiled and picked my hands up in his.

“I know it seems crazy. But there is something I have to do before we go any further.” He said, he voice dropping to a serious tone.

“Well do it.” I said. I didn’t think it could get any crazier. It did.

“You’re fired.” August said.

I started laughing. I couldn’t help it.

“I am glad you fired me August, because I was about to quit.”

****Months Later****

I closed the laptop on my manuscript. I was finally finished. I had written about August, but August Romani, the man, and not the myth; and I used my real name. After I sent the interview to my editor, I left the magazine. It was my last great interview. When my editor read it, he asked me if it was all true and if August was going to let me say anything about the leak, his broken engagement and his new love, Yvonne Mason.

I laughed and told him that August helped me write it. That was the truth. After August ‘fired’ me, I was free to really write about him as he wanted to be known. He really wasn’t the arrogant bastard that most of the press called him. He spent most of the time trying to keep people from knowing his secret of his birth.
At my urging, August finally told Adriano the truth, and the funny thing was, Adriano already knew. He said it didn’t change ‘a damn thing’. August set up a trust in the name of the deceased August Romani and told his father that it contained all the money from the inheritance and then some.

Piero Romani had a surprise my dear August. He had adopted him legally right after August hauled Raphael overseas to work for him. August was indeed, truly, in name Augostino Romani. I would like to think that Piero after 32 years grew a conscience and really made August his son. But I knew it was because I called him and told him that I was writing a book on August and threatened Piero that he would be portrayed as a horrible father if he didn’t do something to soothe August’s soul.

He had laughed at me then. When I started to pull the names of mistresses out of my hat, he stopped laughing. He told me I was a shark. I told him that I have been called worse.
I snapped out of my musings when I looked up and saw August standing up. He put a desk in his office for me to work while he was working. Possessive, maybe, but I didn’t want to be separated from him either. There was still much more to learn about the formidable Augostino Romani, but I was a fast learner. I smiled at him and he smiled back. It was the shyest most sincere smile I had seen from him; but from being around him, I knew that something was up.

I stood up and met him. His office was still huge even with the addition of my desk and a love seat. He took my hand and led me over to the couch. August took my heels off my feet and began to massage them. His blue eyes began their transformation to the stormy navy I had come to love.

“Yvonne, can I tell you something?” His voice was husky, gravely, and made my pulse race. I tried to sound nonchalant as I tipped my head to the side and nodded in answer to his question. August took a deep breath and sighed. “I love you.” I tensed. He hadn’t said it in three months. Even though I knew I was in love with him, and he sort of mentioned it after our first time together, he had never said it.

I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I bolted into August’s lap and began to shower his face with kisses.

“I love you too August.” Secretly I thanked my stars that I decided to wear my lucky sneakers. This turned out to be the best damn assignment I’d ever had.

Interviewing the Italian – Chapter Eight – From Absurd to Awkward


Chapter Eight

It was an awkward drive home. I sat on one side of the limo with my arms crossed looking out the window. August sat on the other side of limo, fuming. I knew he was fuming because his left jawbone had a constant tick. I understood that he was pissed; I would have been contemplating murder. The question remained, who was he pissed at more; his cousin or his ex-fiancé?

I looked at his right hand. It was red and swollen from where he had punched Raphael. It looked pretty nasty. Having been a tomboy, I knew that he wouldn’t be able to use his hand all day tomorrow if I didn’t get ice on it. Turning a little to my right, I saw the mini-bar. I poured August a drink of whatever the brown liquor was sitting in the crystal decanter. Placing a couple of ice cubes in a linen napkin, I eased over to August. Except for the track lighting inside the limo, it was dark. Handing him the drink, I waited until he took a long hard swallow of the stuff before I put the cloth to his hand. He let out a hiss, sounding more like a wounded jungle cat than a human being, and jerking his hand trying to escape my grasp.
I kept the napkin there, knowing that pulling away at the first sign of his temper was a sign of weakness; I am not a meek mouse. He stopped huffing and puffing and let me finish taking care of his hand.

“Grazie. “ It sounded if August almost choked on the words. Has he ever told anyone thank you before? I wondered as I nodded my acceptance. I still didn’t trust myself to even speak yet.

“I suppose you want to know why I hit my own cousin?” I shook my head no. To me, it was obvious.

“Why not?” Was he that blind to himself?

“Because if I was still in love with my ex, and I saw them making out with a family member, I would have killed them both.” I said simply. I could only imagine what he was feeling. Yet, despite me thinking August was suffering from a broken heart, he started to laugh. He laughed so hard that his whole body shook. What the hell was so funny?

“Ah, il mio cuore. I am not in love with her. I never was in love with her. It was merely a convenience.” He was still smiling; I could see his teeth glimmering in the moonlight streaming in from the windows. I pressed the now wet, cold cloth against his knuckles with a little more pressure. He let out a hiss again. It served August right. I didn’t see anything funny about any of this.

“If you say so, August. So tell me why you would attack Raphael? He isn’t as big as you and your brother. If you didn’t love her, why do you care who she dates?”

“My cousin, Raphael, is quite new to the states. Sure, we are not as close, but I brought him here to get away from mi famiglia. Signore Romani had Raphael doing some questionable things, but the signore, he was tough on him. I brought Raphael here to have a better life. I gave him a job at my company. And this is what he does to me?” His question was directed at the air more than it was to me. August’s accent was inflected and deep, as if he just learned English. Funny thing was, I found myself slipping into understanding him and speaking Italian back, well, the parts of it I remembered.

“Spiacente, I’m sorry August.” I didn’t know what else to say.

He shook his head and I busied myself with dispensing the napkin. The ice was gone and I could tell his hand had gone numb. As I leaned forward to toss the napkin on the ice bucket, I felt August’s warm hand touch the small of my back. It was a tentative caress, as if he was asking a question with his hands. I didn’t cringe, but I shuddered. His fingers scorched my skin, and made my stomach do strange flip-flops.

I straightened my back and turned around to face August. He had to know that he was touching my back. Didn’t he? Yet, he just stared at me; I could catch his gaze from the yellow track lights. He was looking at me as if he was a school boy that was caught doing something naughty.

I couldn’t resist. I picked up his bruised hand and brought it to my lips. And mimicking the first time we met, I placed a soft kiss on his knuckles. He let out a moan and that is when I knew that all the touches and innuendoes were real. August was attracted to me, and I hate to say it, but I was attracted to him.

I meant the kiss on his knuckles to be comforting, motherly. Right now, I was feeling anything but motherly. I knew he was going to kiss me and from the feral gleam in his eye. I also knew that nothing was going to stop him. When he leaned in, I caught a scent of his spicy after shave, and mingled with the taste of brandy on his breath, and I became intoxicated. It started gentle enough, his soft lips pressing butterfly kisses to my lips. I felt the tip of his tongue trace the outline of my top lip and then my lower one.

“Open your mouth,” he said. As if under a spell, I parted my lips slightly and his plundering started. His fingers slid up my back and into my hair. He pressed me closer into him and then it became a blur. What was that moaning? Oh my god, that is me! He deepened the kiss and I felt my knees starting to shake and quiver. Then his deep moan into my mouth made both of our eyes pop open. I pulled away from him and just stared. This was not good. I put my hand to my lips, feeling how kiss-swollen they were. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I had no intention of ever crossing that line.

“Yvonne, I…” I held up my hand, halting August in his speech. It was the first time I ever heard him sound unsure of himself, but I didn’t want him to apologize for something that I was not sorry for.

“August don’t. Don’t apologize for something neither one of us saw coming. While it was nice, it can’t happen again.” That was hard to say, considering the fact my gaze kept dropping to his mouth. It was “nice?” If I was going to be somewhat honest with myself, it was mind-blowing, but I couldn’t let my thoughts run with that. I was in control. I thought I was at least.

“Why not bellisima?” August’s voice was hoarse, raw almost, as if that one kiss put him in pain.

“You know why not. I can give you plenty of reasons. You were engaged until a month ago. You have wined, dined and dumped your fair share of women before that. Women fall over themselves to get to you…”
“You don’t,” He barked, with a sarcastic snort. “You don’t blush, you don’t swoon when I give you a compliment. What is with you?”

“The truth is I don’t drool over you because I don’t want to. Do you make my panties wet when I see you, yes, you are too sexy for words,” at my comment he straightened and looked at me. I held my hand up, “but, you are one, something like my employer, two involved me in some form of cat and mouse game, and three, you aren’t my type.”

I heard his sharp inhale of breath, and I know that I hurt his ego. That was the biggest lie I had ever told. I was attracted to him, but he couldn’t know that. I don’t mix business and pleasure. I couldn’t cross that line. I could not get involved with this man. Not only was he my employer, but he could very easily break my heart. I don’t think so.

“Augostino, seriously, you are my employer. The emotions are just high from tonight. I mean, you knew you would see her eventually, Lucy that is, and well to see her with you cousin, and it was just a long night. Let’s just forget about it.”

Just as I said the words, we pulled up to August’s estate. I leaped out of the limo, and I think it was still moving. I just had to get away from him. He was tense and I was tense and disturbed. Who was this man? What is it about him really, and why in the world did I get the feeling I don’t know the whole story about him. I just wanted to sleep. I will get myself together in the morning, but for tonight I needed space.

Chapter 7 – Interviewing the Italian (A Free Read)


I stayed in my room after that.  I had known last night that today was not a work day.  I spent most of the afternoon trying not to bite my nails. The idea that a dress was conveniently picked out for me made me feel like I was in one of those grocery store novels about the billionaire’s mistress.   I looked around as I took it out and laid it across my bed.   Shit, I guess I was in one of those novels.  I ran my hands across my face. I was restless, irritated, and, even though I wouldn’t admit it to August, I was scared.  I have never in my life been in this type of situation and was just plain scared. This was not a scared to get on a rollercoaster type thing. Oh no! This was full fear.   Perhaps the fear stemmed from having to be prim and proper and try to act natural in a dress that was as sheer as gossamer wings.  

I took a long leisurely shower, and got dressed in that barely there black dress. I wondered how had he known it would fit?  Then I scolded myself for not remembering that August had a complete file on me and knew how I liked my coffee, it wouldn’t be difficult to figure out what size I wore.  At this point in the game, did it matter? I took the time to spiral curl my shoulder length ebony tresses and let them freely fall about my face. Make-up applied, stilettos on, I gave myself another brief glance over my shoulder, blew a kiss from my burgundy stained lips and sashayed out of my room.  I made it to the foyer without slipping, skidding or falling in those damn shoes. I didn’t do thin heels, and for sure I didn’t do thin heels on highly polished marble floors.  August was already standing there with his back towards me, which gave me time to study his profile.  He was dress in a black suit, Armani no doubt; I didn’t think the man owned anything else. His shoulders filled out the jacket just enough to make it a snug fit.  I could smell his spicy but sweet scent. It was Kenneth Cole Black, I knew; I had spent enough time with my nose in magazines to have sniffed a few cologne samples.  I cleared my throat so I could get a look at the front of him. He turned and his eyes opened wide, and then a hint of a smile came to his gorgeous lips.  He looked like a lion about to attack a gazelle. I tried to meet his gaze and succeeding at staring at the top of his tussled hair. He looked like he never heard of a brush or hair product.  I put my hand on my hip and struck a sassy pose. I was trying to calm down enough to make it out the door. Yet, the dress he picked out for me made me feel like this charade was a fragile as a soap bubble and could pop at any moment. 

“You are right on time.” August said as he walked towards me with a black box. I could not help to think about Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the jewels type.  I had a frown on my face but when he opened the box, they weren’t jewels. Although one was a diamond looking broach and the other item looked a hearing aid. I looked up him with a quirked eyebrow.  What the hell was this? He smirked and seemed to read my mind.

“You have a right to look puzzled. This is my latest project.  The software thing from the interview, that was not what is really the top priority.  I am pinning you with a broach that is also a microphone and a mini recorder.  The other item goes in my ear. I will hear everything even if I am not next to you.” August said, matter-of-factly. Now here was the business like man I was accustomed to. When he wasn’t flirting or kissing my forehead or putting my hand where the sun doesn’t shine, he was sane.  

“Ok, so this is just embassy people? No technology people right?” My eyes were huge. I don’t know why I didn’t think that I could run into my peers if there were any ‘techies’ running around.

“No, just those with Italian ties in positions of wealth. Why?” He looked very concerned.

“Um hello, I am not some hermit, I have friends, colleagues, peers. If they saw me with you, my career, not to mention this sham is going to blow up in our faces.”  I said as I tapped my foot. I didn’t realize that he had started to hold my waist somewhere in my tirade.  How did his hands get there?

“Stop pulling away from me. No one is going to believe we are dating if you keep trying to get away from me.  Now, have you interviewed Lucy Reeves before?” His eyes darkened and I remembered seeing the same  look on a pit-bull once. It was right before the dog ripped the head off my baby doll. I tensed and shook my head no. I know attack mode when I see it, and August was definitely on the defensive.

“Um, if you don’t mind me asking, what does me interviewing her have to do with tonight? As far as I know, she is more of a socialite and not really an engineer. She has the title but doesn’t really do anything preen and pose.” His head snapped down and he glared at me. Shit, I put my foot in my mouth again. That was his fiancé, even if it was an ex-fiancé and I just called her a socialite airhead, loosely speaking.

Then he really confused me. He laughed. This man was a quack, a cute quack, but still a quack.

“You are right, she was quite a piece of work, but she will be there. That is the only one from our community you would have to worry about being there.” He offered his arm and I tucked my hand into his waiting elbow.  

As we walked to the waiting limo, I noticed that August had lost some of his arrogant stride. He actually seemed a little unsure of himself.  I patted his hand as if I was comforting a friend, and met his startled gaze.  He was jumpy but I didn’t blame him.   If it were me, relying on anyone wouldn’t have been an option, but he was relying on me.  

“It is ok, I am going to get through this and not embarrass you.” I said, offering him a gentle smile. It was trying to soothe a beast, I know, but I had to try.

“Just be on your guard. Please, I need you tonight.” He replied huskily. I suppressed a moan at the double meaning of his words and stared out of the tinted limo windows.   I wasn’t dead, hell any woman would be thinking with the wrong part of their anatomy if Augustino Romani had just told them that he ‘needed’ them.  My hand still clasped his, and his warmth was seeping into my bones and making my mind go blank. The scenery whizzed by, but I suddenly realized that we were pulling into the graveled driveway of the Italian embassy.  My nervousness turned on full power as he took my hand to guide me out of the limo.  August had his hand pressed into the small of my back and my elbow was tucked firmly next to his stomach.  

August plastered a fake smile on his face and we shook hands with people whose names I could not begin to pronounce, let alone remember. There was a Viscount and a Countessa in there somewhere, and maybe another far removed royalty, yet I couldn’t keep them all separated. I was too nervous which pissed me off. I am here, supposedly trying to help someone in need. Some help I was, standing, tongue tied with my stomach in knots. It didn’t matter that these people owned yachts; I was here to observe and report.  As August was chatting with some foreign dignitary, I swiped two glasses of champagne. I handed one to August and took a good sip of mine. I needed to focus on something. As I scrutinized the crowd, I noticed a raven haired, fair skinned female stalking through the sea of party goers, a false but deadly looking smile on her face. Her face was as white as a porcelain doll, her lips were blood red and she looked evil; evil like Morticia from the Addams Family.  She was touching all the men and giving the women a raised eyebrow, as if all women were beneath her.  Well wasn’t she just an ice queen? Then her gray gaze settled on August. I swore I saw her lick her lips. I gave August a subtle nudge in his side but I kept staring at wickedness personified walking towards us.  This one was trouble. She was dressed in a red gown that just stood out against her pale skin. Why in the world was she wearing red when everyone else was wearing black and white? August cleared his throat and I gave him another nudge. As his head tilted down towards mine, I merely gave a nod to the devil in the red dress.  I didn’t know that humans could let out a growl, but August growled, deep in his belly, but only I could hear it.

I looked up at him and did my best to smile. He pulled me close and whispered one word that chilled me to the core.

“Lucy.”

August was still growling like some animal trapped in a cage.  Whatever Lucy did to him, it scarred him.  

Somehow she managed to maneuver through the thrush of people and landed in front of us.  She was smiling a crooked smile.  August’s eyes had turned a stormy blue.  I knew from the feral gleam in his eyes that shit was going to hit the fan.  

The lady named Lucy walked like she had diamonds in her hips the way she swayed through the crowd. My first instinct was not to trust her.  I couldn’t fathom how August and this vamp were ever an item.   Yet, she was cold and calculating. She didn’t walk right up to August like the typical woman scorned.  Oh no, she tapped the man August was speaking with on the shoulder.    

“Signore Grimaldi,” her voice was low and catlike, “I didn’t expect to see you here.” Her cold gaze fell on August as she was talking. The short man gave her a wide smile, as he openly ogled her form. Ewww. The man was balding and had thick gray nose hairs that whistled tunes as he was talking.  She would have to do better if she was going to make August jealous; Signore Grimaldi was the exact opposite of everything that August was.  

“Lucy Reeves, such a pleasure seeing you here. Although it is unexpected.” He took her hand and raised it to his lips, perhaps lingering more than she wanted, I saw her lips curl in revulsion.  Yet, apparently, she wanted to still play the game. I quickly glanced at August and his eyes held the look of extreme boredom.  Lucy put her hand over the aging Signore Grimaldi’s hand and rubbed it seductively.

“Oh,” her voice pitched high just a little, as if she wasn’t supposed to be in attendance. “I had a previous invitation and I couldn’t let it go to waste.” That made me think, August seemed to know that she was going to be there. I wondered if he was her ‘previous invitation?’ Of course she would have wanted to come and rub some salt in August’s wounds. I didn’t think that fawning over this balding cherub of a man was going to hurt him. I began to scan the crowd, looking for what I would assume that vixen brought as a date.

Lucy extended her hand to me and smiled her fake smile. This woman could give Susan Lucci a run for her money with the soap opera theatrics she was pulling.

“I don’t believe we have had the pleasure. I am Lucy Reeves.”  I took her hand and gave it a good squeeze, my eyes briefly meeting hers before going back to scanning the crowd.   

“Yvonne Mason. Pleasure to meet you Ms. Reeves.”

“Pleasure is mine. I don’t think I would have seen anyone like you here.” Anyone like me? What the fuck was that supposed to mean? Oh, she was a condescending little witch.

“Mmmm, you shouldn’t think so much then. As they say, all roads lead to Rome. I am here with August.” I said through gritted teeth. Her eyes cut to August and a seductive smile graced her face.

“Hello Lucy,” August voice was just as cold as that bitch was.

 “August, darling, it has been some time.”  She held her hand up, perhaps expecting her to kiss it. This bitch was pissing me off good.   August left it there. Good for him.  I continue to scan the crowd and I caught a glimpse of two men that almost made me stumble.  They walked like August, they looked like August and if I wasn’t holding on to August, I would have thought they were his clones.  They were weaving through the crowd. The shorter ‘August’ looked upset and the taller, wider ‘August’ looked straight-up angry.

“Si, Lucy. It has been not long enough, I’m afraid.” At the sound of August’s voice, the razor edge to it, I turned my attention back to the conversation.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your date?” She said that last word with a sneer.

“Why? She just told you her name.” August’s accent was getting thicker by the moment. I knew from that he was about to strike. I had to do something.

“August, baby,” I said, capturing his chin in my hand and tugging his head to meet my gaze. The motion caused August’s body to turn and I felt him turn stiff. I knew had had seen the ‘replicas’ of himself moving through the crowd; I could just sense it. I figured the bigger one would have been Adriano, August’s brother, but who was the shorter more wired one? I heard huffing behind me and Lucy gave out a small squeak.  August pulled me close and I felt his body tense, as if he was bracing for a fight. I turned in his arms to see what the commotion was all about.

“Adriano, Raphael.” August said his voice monotone.  Adriano I knew was his brother, but who is Raphael?

“August.” Said the bigger one, that must be Adriano. His voice sounded similar to the voice I heard on the phone in August’s office.  The shorter one, Raphael, looked as he belonged in the Romani family, but then he put his arm around Lucy and gave her a huge peck on the cheek.  I could hear August grinding his molars.  He couldn’t have been family, not kissing on August’s ex-fiance.

“You must be Yvonne,” Adriano said, extending his hand and giving me an assessing look.  I shook his hand, still eyeing the odd couple, trying to figure out why the leech they call Raphael was touching and simpering all over Lucy.  It was like watching an octopus get busy. 

“Pleasure to meet you finally Adriano. I knew you would be here.”  I smiled warmly. Adriano didn’t seem as nearly as dangerous as his brother, even though he was a good inch or two taller than August.

“Yes, unfortunately,” Adriano said, sparing a backward glance and Raphael and Lucy “I did not expect to find our cousin here. This isn’t the family reunion I had hoped for.”  

I felt August’s arm tightened around my waist. Oh shit, the leech was his cousin. His cousin was groping his ex-fiancé?

“Yes,” I said clearing my throat, I was speechless. I turned to August who had remained silent.  Silence wasn’t good.  I felt August move and I knew that I was already too late. Before Adriano or I knew what was happening, August walked up to his cousin and punched him in his eye. As I blinked, Raphael crumpled to the floor,  out cold.

Interviewing the Italian – Chapter Six – A Tense Rising


Chapter Six

 

The guards must have arrived during dinner with my things. As I found my way back to my room, I saw that my suitcases were waiting for me. I slowly unpacked and tried to think of how I ended up where I am. This was not how I planned anything to play out. From an interview, I turn into personal journalist, from personal journalist, I turn into mistress. Who uses that word? Shrugging my shoulders, I sighed,it would be the same person with carpet in his dining room and a rendering of the Creation of Adam on his foyer ceiling. It was Augostino Romani, the same man I craved before I knew him.  The need for a shower, a cold one, overwhelmed me. At least I didn’t have to go looking for a bathroom; there was one in the bedroom I occupied. Rummaging through a few of my things, I found my lavender body wash and something comfortable to wear My lucky green and navy blue flannel short shorts, the ones too indecent to wear anywhere but to bed were also in the bag. After finally finding a  tank top and laying them on the bed, I walked into the bathroom with a fluffy white towel, I felt my jaw drop and drool begin to form. Talk about being too scared to mess anything up! This whole place was out of my league. As I turned on the lights, soft yellow track lighting illuminated and danced on the black marble floor. Hurrying on to the rug because I thought the marble would be cold to my naked feet, I was surprised the marble was actually warm. Heated tile floors, of course, why wouldn’t he have heated floors? There was a stand up shower incased in mirrored glass. There was also a deep old fashioned black porcelain footed tub. While it would have been fun to soak in that magnificent tub, I would have fell asleep in it and drowned.  Opting for the shower, I turned on the brass handled faucets and jumped as soft jets of water came from all three walls.  I’ll be damned if this place didn’t have everything. I’m no gold-digger, but this assignment had some perks.  Stepping into the shower, I lost myself under the undulating spray of the water.  Working up a good lather and beginning at my feet I soaped every inch of skin I could reach, trying to wash away the confusion of the day and trying to remember who and what I was.  I knew I was Yvonne Mason, a writer, a journalist. Unfortunately the nagging thought that I was trying to avoid as I rinsed the soapy foam from my breasts and watched the foam swirl and whirl down the drain hit me with the force of a punch in the gut. No, I was now Yvonne Mason, Augostino Romani’s mistress. Turning the handles to the shower so hard they squeaked,  I stomped out of the shower and wrapped the towel around my waist. So much for lavender aromatherapy, I was agitated all over again. Trying to slow my breathing as I got dressed and rubbed lavender scented baby oil over my skin.  Even after laying down under the thick down comforter, I was still restless. It wasn’t that I was upset that August asked me to pretend to be his mistress, I realized as I lie awake staring at the vaulted ceiling.   I was upset because I reacted to his touches and his simple kiss to my forehead.  Damn, if that wasn’t a playboy move! A forehead kiss could make any woman want to trust you even if she knew better. Forehead kisses on a five year celibate woman like me, and she would be throwing her panties at you.  Hating myself for falling for his smooth tactics, I threw the covers off me and punched my pillow.  How could I have been so gullible?

I gave up all pretense of sleep at around five in the morning.  Groaning, I grudgingly got out of the bed. Knowing that I would be even crankier unless I got some form of release, I started to pull open drawers and see what else I’d remembered to scribble down on that list I gave to his guards.  My mind was still caught up on a simple forehead kiss. What was wrong with me?. No better way to do that than to work it out of me. As I started to unpack my things  and putting them into drawers, I noticed there was a simple one piece black swimsuit folded nicely.  It was not one of the things that I would have remembered, but August would have.   Knowing August, who was a swimmer, there had to be a pool around here somewhere and that was perfect for me to work out my frustration.  I smirked at his uncanny ability to always think ahead.   Swimming was the perfect adrenaline rush or, at least, I hoped holding my breath until it felt like my lungs were bursting would get the feeling of his lips on my head out of my mind.   Being someone’s mistress was over my head. The people I was used to hanging around ate Buffalo wings and pizza darn near every night and screamed at the football games on TV. We watched ESPN at every chance and CNN when we could not get the sports fix we craved.  As I slipped on the swimsuit and tied a towel around my waist, it occurred to me that I could not let my mom know beforehand that there was going to be a lot of press about me and August and none of it was true.  Walking out of my room, I let intuition lead me where I would think a pool would be, but truthfully, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going.  My thoughts were on my gold-digging sister who would be running to the tabloids telling lies. Then the cover would be blown. I smacked my forehead. Wait a minute, covers blown? Who was I, Elliot Ness?  I looked up and was glad that no one was around, I had been mumbling to myself as I wandered the halls looking for the pool. Looking up I tried to remember which way I came, but  I came up blank. . Tying the towel tighter around my one piece swimsuit, I  followed the bright light streaming from one hall.  As I walked down the marbled floor, I could hear birds chirping and knew I had to be close to the outside. Shielding my eyes against the rising sun, I opened the glass double doors to what should be  a backyard, but this was not a backyard. There was a huge pool, yet there was also a tennis court and what appeared to be a hot tub as well as a bar. Shaded next to the bar was a gazebo. This is where he must host his grand parties.  With everything that was on my mind, I didn’t even care.  Unused to this type of luxury, I just wanted to work my body until I got good and tired. I dropped the towel from my waist and stalked over to the pools edge. I stretched my arms up and dove into the deep clear water. This couldn’t possibly be my reality. At any moment I was going to wake up and have a column due. I am not a spy, heck I can’t keep secrets worth a damn, and I was not the sophisticated femme fatale that should be going to parties at the Italian embassy.  My arms were hitting the water at full speed and I executed my turn flawlessly.  With each thought that came to my mind, I hit the water harder, racing full speed through the length of the pool and back again.  My lungs were hurting but I could not stop.

Reality was stepping in.   Facts began to hit me such as the fact that August had checked me out before this mistress thing.  Was that his plot all along to compromise me in some way shape or form?   What exactly was his plan of action.  Last night his plan seemed simple, but in the dawn of a fresh day, it seems farfetched  and illogical. I’d forgotten what lap and didn’t care that I was probably overdoing it as I pondered every question in my head.  My mother wouldn’t take this as a joke or as an undercover assignment, she wouldn’t find it funny, and she would tear my head off for shacking up with a man I just met.  Thinking about what my mother would think made my thoughts turn angry.   I shouldn’t care what she thinks since I was merely a glorified gopher to her.   Then thinking about my sister and brother and I know damn well that they would be calling my cell phone every five minutes for favors.    I couldn’t do this. Making  up my mind to tell August thanks but no thanks, find another mistress, I was ready to vacate the pool.my hand met a rock hard chest.  That is definitely not the cool pool lining I had been touching. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I knew who it was; my body knew who it was. My hand stayed where it was, not by my choice, but by August’s hand covering it.  I finally got up the nerve to wipe the chlorinated water from my eyes and looked at him.   He was already drenched. his breathing was ragged as well.   Had he been in the pool for long?

“You should stop before you get a cramp.” His voice was rich and deep, even if he was trying to catch his breath.  “You have been at it for a while.” His voice was husky, soothing as if he was concerned. Unfortunately, from the tumultuous thoughts I had been mulling over, I felt like I was a poor guppy sitting in a pool with a shark.

“Thanks for the concern; I am on my way out.” I said coldly as I tugged my hand. I was going to swim the opposite direction but he held it to his chest.  I looked up at his eyes and yep, there is the cool blue gaze. I tried to give him an impatient look, raising my eyebrow, and shifting my lips to the side of my face.

“You have a lot on your mind?” Although he posed it as a question, it seemed more like a statement.

I shook my head no and tugged at my hand again. He was not letting go.

“I beg to differ, Yvonne, you didn’t seem to notice that I was taking laps at the other end, and that I had been swimming next to you for the past four laps.”

“I am good, really.  I just haven’t swam in a long time. It was the adrenaline rush. I got in a zone.” I rushed out. He pursed his lips together and pulled me close to him. He was staring into my eyes, as if he was searching for the truth switch. All he was doing was escalating my temperature and making me really think this was a mistake.  His thumb began to stroke the top of my hand and I decided to focus there, it was easier than trying to look at him and tread water. I was watching his tan thumb circle my hand and I became hypnotized. I refused to let my gaze roam to what I knew was his sculpted shoulders and toned abs.  I wasn’t fat, but his perfect body made me feel even more inadequate. There was no way someone would believe I was his mistress. We are too different.

“If you are having doubts, we can reconsider this. I don’t want you to be scared…” His calm voice knocked me out of my deliberations.

“Scared?” My voice sounded like a squeak. I roughly cleared my throat. Scared was the last thing I was. “I am not scared, August. I have some concerns.  I mean, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course, but I told you I will take care of your concerns.” I rolled my eyes heavenward and let out a little huff.

“Alright, then you can talk to my mother when she calls.” I huffed.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“She reads all that tabloid fodder and gossip columns that should be lining the bottom of a bird cage. She is going to pitch a fit… furthermore, that means that I can’t do damage control before tonight’s little shindig because what if one of my friends spill the beans, so that means no contact with them either.” I shook my head at my own babbling.  I was making my own head hurt.  “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to explode on you.” At that August quirked his eyebrow and pulled me closer.  If I was not mistaken, there was something in his swim trunks trying to get out.  Please let it be an eel and not what it feels like.  August’s head dipped to my ear and I felt the ‘it’ hit the inside of my thigh. Oh Lord, the ‘it’ was big.

“Do not say things like ‘explode on me’ and not expect to get a reaction out of me.” Then with his free hand, his fingers danced down my back and then he pinched my butt.  I gasped and pushed away.  I quickly got out of the pool and looked behind me. August was standing there with his hand on his hips and I think got out of the pool with the devil himself.

Interviewing the Italian (Chapters Four and Five)


Chapter Four

 

He never did answer that question about the gun or the Doberman. His pink lips shifted into something akin to a smile but with a dangerous edge to it.  Augostino Romani was a hard man to figure out.  Instead of answering, he stood up and offered me his hand.  I looked at his hand and then back up to his gaze. I was still sitting. Why wasn’t he answering me?  When someone avoids you like that, you don’t just blindly go with them, regardless of how handsome he was.

He took a deep breath and I could see his chest expand, stretching the material of his plum colored shirt. Does he ever wear anything that made him less appealing? I noticed he had forgone the tie today and his top button was undone.  I could not take my gaze off the furtive showing of his neck.  It was hypnotic watching him do something as simple as swallowing.  He cleared his throat and my eyes snapped to his.  His hand still outstretched, his fingers curled to a ‘come to me’ gesture.

“I’m going to take you on a tour of my offices. Everything you’ll need to know will become clear eventually.” His tone dropped to a dangerous vibrato that exuded confidence and mystery.  Swallowing and taking a fortifying breath, I nodded. . I was rarely intimidated by anything, especially not a man, but deep down I felt like August was more than just a mere man. He was a danger to my view of the world. He was powerful, true, but he didn’t try to bully me, although he could,  from the predatory way he walked, I knew August was rarely told no or denied, but there was something about him that was definitely hidden, a secret.  Most people aren’t arrogant for the fuck’s sake of being an ass.   August was no different, unfortunately for him,   I had a serious case of curiosity when it came to him.

I took his hand and allowed him to lead me out of his office.  He tucked my arm safely inside his and I felt like we were walking more like a couple than boss and employee.  As we passed his secretary’s desk, she tried to mask the look of shock on her face. I knew what she was looking at. I would be shocked to if I saw my boss linked arm and arm with one of his employees.   He didn’t seem to notice, or he  just didn’t care because he told her to cancel any appointments for today and hold all his calls, except any from Adriano.  She swallowed and her eyes narrowed as her gaze settled on me. Returning her same icy stare, I wondered if she knew just how green and jealous she looked. I have seen her type before I thought as I looked at her from head to toe, she was the unassuming secretary, but it was a strategic plan. I could tell that the simple ponytail that held her auburn curls took time to perfect. Her ‘minimal’ make up was actually a lot of make-up used to look natural. Her simple black pencil skirt had a slit up the front thigh and her top was a size too small.  Yes, I knew her type and she worried too much. I was not about to cross that line of boss and employee. She can have that role. It wasn’t in the cards for me. I didn’t let my eyes waiver from hers as August signed some papers she handed to him.  What did I have to be ashamed of? Finally, the game grew tiresome and she averted her gaze to August.  He had been staring at her as well.  I am pretty sure he did not miss the visual show down between me and “Sally Secretary.”  I knew he didn’t as he took his hand and covered my fingers that were resting in the crook of his elbow.  His heated touch shattered the icy moment between the secretary and me.  His hands were soft yet slightly calloused. Apparently he wasn’t always privileged; there was some point where he must have worked, either for fun or for a living. He kept getting more and more interesting.  August propelled me out of the door and took me on a tour of his offices. There was the accounting, human resources and so many names I couldn’t remember.  Yet, the people changed but the response to August was always the same. He was respected and feared at the same time. Was he really a tyrant to work for, or was it that he never really interacted with his employees?

As we approached a huge set of metal double doors, August finally let go of my arm. I honestly didn’t even notice that he had kept me that close during the two hour tour of his business.  He turned to look at me with a very serious stare. His eyes were a cool blue, as if he was trying to see through me.

He put his hands in his black tailored slacks and studied me for a moment. I returned his gaze evenly, even though a part of me wanted to yell ‘what?’

“This is the lab. This is where all of the new projects are housed.  Before we walk through that door, I need to know that I have total loyalty to me and that you will not even think to speak about what you have seen.”  It wasn’t phrased as a question, and I didn’t take it as one. A part of me prickled and got defensive. He did a background check on me for heaven’s sake!  As hard as it was, I pushed the defensive feeling down and attempted to sound civil. After all, this was his idea.  I latched my hands behind my back and bit my tongue so none of my my angry retorts came out of my mouth.

“Mr. Romani, please don’t show me anything if you feel as though I can’t be trusted, I won’t take it personal. I can tell you that I don’t leak, I don’t spy, and I definitely don’t steal. You, having researched me as well, should know this.” Damn, that still sounded bitchy.  I knew it when he raised that one damned eyebrow at me again. I really knew it when I saw a line in his squared jaw tick. Taking a deep breath I tried to recover my wayward bitchiness. I purposely dropped my tone to a husky breathlessness that I hoped took all edge off what I was trying to say. “What I am trying to say is that, no, I won’t say anything, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The tour can stop here if you like.”

I ventured to look into his eyes again as his hands came out of his pocket. They were clinched in tight fists.  He was still appeared agitated, because his cool blue eyes had turned into that threatening navy color again.  He walked extremely close to me and his nose was almost touching mine. I had to lift my chin just to make eye contact. I could feel the heated air coming from his flared nostrils and settling around my face. Should I apologize?

“My employees call me August. No one calls me Mr. Romani. No one.”  He said through gritted teeth. Abruptly, he turned and walked to a mirrored black surface next to the doors and pressed his hands against it. A cyan light scanned both of his large hands and the double doors slid open with a faint swoosh.

He stood to the side and with both hands motioned for me to walk through the doors. I hurried through them as if I was being chased. If I was honest to myself, I just didn’t want to be alone with the man. He was intoxicating one minute and had me scared senseless the next. All because I called him by his last name he got in my face?  That was the second time he got testy when I mentioned it. I had a feeling this was going to be a real interesting assignment.

I followed him around as he showed me various projects he was working on. I asked him questions about his timeline for launch, his other ideas and as he talked, my own excitement started building inside of me. By the time the tour of the lab had finished, I almost found myself regretting being a mere journalist instead of an engineer. His work seemed so fresh and it was hard not to get caught up in the rush of problem solving.  Walking around the lab seemed to put him at ease as well because he was no longer growling. As we rode in the elevator back to his office, I glanced at my watch. It was past six o’clock in the evening? How could I have not noticed how late it was and we missed lunch? As if on cue, my stomach let out a low growl. I sent a sidelong glance in August’s direction and I could tell he heard it. He couldn’t keep the smirk off his face if he wanted to. As embarrassing as it was, I needed to satisfy my stomach.  I knew I had some sort of pasta at my apartment.

As we walked into his office, I picked up my shoulder bag and just began talking.

“Ok, so I will meet you back here tomorrow August?”  His head bobbed up from the papers he was gathering into briefcase. His narrowed gaze halted me. What did I say now?

“What part of 24/7 didn’t you understand Yvonne?” His said, sounding even more dangerous than he did at the lab entrance.

“I’m a writer, I thought it was a figure of speech.” I know he wasn’t thinking what I prayed he wasn’t thinking!

“I don’t use ‘figures of speech’. I say exactly what I mean. When I said 24/7 I meant just that.” His tone was low, but the way he snapped his briefcase closed and took my shoulder bag from me.  Taking a firm hold on my elbow, he marched me over to his bookcase.  Pressing an unseen button, unseen because I was still in shock, I saw the bookcase slide back to reveal a private elevator. Who was he, Batman?  I was speechless as he escorted me into the elevator I stayed speechless.  He expected me really to be around him all day and night?  Apparently. He led me to a sleek black sports car. I shook off the shock long enough to notice we were in a private garage.   There were two other cars, a white formal looking Lexus and another black pick-up with alloy wheels. There was also a motorcycle. This man was constantly shocking me. Most people with his wealth would have at least had a driver.

I cleared my throat as I watched him put our bags in the back of his trunk. He shrugged off his suit coat and laid it in the trunk over our bags. August closed the trunk quickly and opened my side of the door. I slid in, almost afraid to say a word.  After he slid in the car and turned on the ignition, only then, did he explain his rude behavior.  He took a deep breath and for a moment, I thought he would apologize.

“I am a loner, and I am not used to having to explain my actions to anyone.  When I said 24/7 I thought you understood. I mean where I go, you go, always, home, work, play, you are there.” He rushed out, as he rolled up his sleeves to his elbows. Does this man have a gentle side? Hell, does he even know how to apologize? My stomach chose to pick that moment to make its emptiness known.  I was too hungry to even come up with a hot tempered reply that would satisfy me.  “Let us get you fed huh?” his tone softening, almost sounding as if he was concerned.  Yet, a part of me felt agitated and worried. Scolding myself for not thinking this through, and realizing that I really don’t know who August is, I started to fidget in the low bucket seats.   This probably wasn’t the best ‘impulsive’ thing that I have done. I haven’t even told Lena yet.   I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and began to type a quick email to Lena, vaguely explaining what was going on.  I caught him throwing me sidelong glances. I wasn’t offering up any more information.

“What are you doing?” I realized that he could have whispered as quiet as it was in the speeding sports car.  Yet, August doesn’t whisper, he either growls or stares.  There is no such thing as whispering with him. As I contemplated an answer, I saw his forearms tense waiting for my response. His veins began to bulge from the skin, and I quickly swallowed. Damn him.

“Sending out a text so everyone knows I’ve been kidnapped.”  Chew on that you controlling prick.The son of a bitch laughed at me. I am not speaking of a small chuckle. No, Augostino Romani let out a belly laugh that induced tears in his eyes.  He cast me a look quickly and averted his gaze back to the road.

“No one would believe you bellisima. I do remember some magazines have called me a playboy.” He accent became thicker the further we sped from his office. It was a melodic sound, not the over inflected Italian accents from the movies, but natural, soothing, like waves of the ocean lapping a sandy beach. I sucked in a huge breath. I have lost it. I am getting lost in his voice. I needed a mental shake. As I looked down at my phone, I see Lena’s text message in capital letters. It simply said “WHAT?”  If I knew Lena, which I do, I know she was pacing up and down trying to figure out how in the world I went from an interview to a personal journalist.  I typed back “Don’t worry, I’m fine. It was the sneakers.”

She typed back a smile face and something that I would say resembled devil horns. “Details required. Be safe.”  I fought back a smile as I slid the phone into my purse.  At least now I could rest easy, knowing that someone knew that this ‘playboy’ was commandeering my time.

He cleared his throat. I didn’t think he was the type of man used to being ignored or not commanding all the attention.  I turned and watched him drive for a moment.  His movements were sure and confident. I looked around and could tell we were outside of DC’s city limits because there were actually lawns in front of the houses we passed.

“Ok, playboy,” I could hear his growl as I let the nickname slip “I was just letting someone know that I was safe.  I wouldn’t want anyone to worry.  Now, can we get back to interviewing?”

“Si.” He gave a small nod of the head and I was back in the driver’s seat. It was the only place that I was comfortable.

“So where are you taking me?” I said.

“To my home in Maryland. It is close enough to commute, but for enough away for my privacy sake.”

“Ok. Any girlfriend’s that might find me riding in a sleek tricked out sports car with you a little objectionable?”

“The last girlfriend I had was Lucy. We dated for a while, but we broke it off about a month ago.” He still said that with a tight lip and there was a hint of a snarl.  Unfortunately I had read the gossip pages on him and Lucy, and I knew they had reportedly been engaged.

“Were you two really engaged?”  I bit my lip. Why did I always seem to stick my foot in my mouth around him?

“Yes.” Ouch, no wonder he was touchy.  One thing I’d learned that day, is that I have a habit of saying the wrong thing.   Although most journalists do.  I could tell by the way the fine hairs on my arms began to stand up, he was eyeing me with an icy glare. I had spent most of that day not talking to him, just sitting back and observing the way that he conducted himself. He was all about business, but whether he kept his tone professional or not, he said a lot more with his body language.  I could tell when there were too many questions about simple tasks when his jaw began to tick. I could tell that he was deep in thought when his eyebrows almost came together. At that moment, well, I know that I personally had ticked him off enough times to know he was angry when his voice dropped to a whisper.  I took a moment to stare out the window and noticed we were pulling up in front of a large estate, no, massive estate. As we roll in through the privacy gates, I noticed that everything was secure. I took note of several cameras positioned around the fences, it appeared to be someone on the roof and if I was not mistaken, there were several bodyguards at the door.  I think I may have been kidnapped by Bruce Wayne.

 

Chapter Five

“You won’t need a Doberman, I have ten of them.” August chuckled and I was slacked jawed.  He finally managed to answer the question and I was too speechless to give a damn. August preceded me out of the car and came to open my door. He offered his hand to me to help me out.  I took in my surroundings while one of the large men came towards August and launched into an update. August still had my hand nestled in the crook of his arm.  I tried to tune out what the guard was saying but when I heard my apartment’s address being mentioned; I whipped my head at August.

“They will drive back to your apartment tonight and pick up some clothes and things that you think you will need. Do you have a key to give them?” August said, his tone calm, as if this was an everyday occurrence.  Who knows, for him, perhaps it was. I fumbled around with my key in my purse. I snatched the clipboard from the waiting guard, and pulled the pen from behind my ear.  I wrote down instructions of what should be touched and what shouldn’t be touched.  It was still awkward, but with August smiling at me in approval, it was worth the risk.  If he was going to play his role, I was going to play mine.  My thoughts quickly turned to what type of questions I would ask, starting with his childhood and how did his brother become a detective.

Turnabout is fair play in my book and since he started to control various aspects of my life, I was going to get to know various aspects of his, intimately.   As the guard finished his report, he beckoned for two other guards to come to him. He handed them my scrawled list and my keys.  As I looked at the four men, I realized one thing. August was taller than all of them. What was the point of having security when you are taller and broader than the ones supposedly protecting you?  While I was working that thought over in my mind, I felt I was being led to the inside of the house.  When we walked into the foyer, I was so glad that he still had my arm. I would have fainted. The ceilings were high and lit with crystal chandeliers, and what looked like a rendition of the Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel. This was too much. He wanted me to live here? I was going to get lost within thirty minutes.

“August?” I said, stopping in the middle of the floor. I needed a moment.

“Overwhelmed?” He said, his voice for once sounding human, husky, not like some caged wounded animal.

“You can say that.  Ok, it has been a long day, and perhaps I can have an expedition tomorrow, but I think I am going on overload. I need dinner.”

“I am sorry, I keep forgetting most people eat dinner well before midnight. Your rooms are down that hall. Beatrice will show you the way.” All of a sudden, a housekeeper clad in a gray uniform materialized. Is that what he means by beck and call; to appear when mentioned like magic? “Beatrice, good evening. Please show Ms. Mason her rooms and then lead her to the dining room. I think a light supper would be good.” Turning to me, he nodded his head and said, “I have a few phone calls to make. I will see you in the dining room.” With a turn, he was gone. His Armani shoes didn’t make a sound as he walked on the tile floor. Beatrice led me down a long hall and to a huge room. She reminded me of a pear with a wig. She was round and her tight curls bounced as she bounced down the hall. Even Beatrice made some noise in her sensible sneakers. They squeaked on the polished marble floor.

“Right this way Ms. Mason.” I couldn’t manage to close my mouth. There was a large four poster bed, made of oak or maybe walnut. I didn’t honestly know, all I could describe was that it was majestic. The fluffy comforter was stripped royal blue and gold.  I couldn’t resist but to fling myself onto it. The bed was soft and squishy. How I could really get a good night sleep in here? My stomach let another rumble. Right, food, and then sleep. I couldn’t help but to take another sweeping view of the room. It seemed as though the room was comprised of oak from ceiling to floor. Something about the room reminded me of August. The desk settled in the corner was an exact replica of the one in his office at Romani Enterprises.  I put down my purse. There wasn’t much I could do until my bags arrived. I noticed that Beatrice was still standing there. I looked at her and just smiled.

“Might as well get this show on the road,” I said as I kicked off my heels. I took my hair up into a hair binder I keep around my wrist, probably out of habit, and walked out. I counted the doors and made sure I knew how to get back. We walked into a large formal dining room with a huge wood table that looked like it could sit at least twenty people.  I saw August speaking rapidly into a phone in a flurry of Italian, pacing back and forth at the head of the table.  The chairs were plush and I walked as close to the pacing August as I dared. A butler, for heaven’s sake, a butler materializes and pulls out the cream and gold high backed chair. I couldn’t believe this. Security guards, butlers, maids, I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. As I sat and the butler disappeared like smoke, I focused on August’s conversation.

“Adriano…” August sighed into the receiver. “Sì farò attenzione.” My Italian was rusty, but I knew he said he would be careful. What did August need to be careful about? All of my senses screamed at me to be on alert. I could only understand certain phrases, but I couldn’t begin to untangle them as I began to officially become a nervous wreck. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I sat down, letting my analytical mind take over. If he did all that research on me, he would know that I would know some Italian and French. So he would not be speaking it to hide something from me. At least I didn’t think so.  As I waited for the conversation to end, I tried to assimilate some facts about how I went from being a simple reporter to a personal journalist that may or may not be in danger. I looked around. There were several security cameras in the dining room and who knows how many throughout the rest of the house. Engineers shouldn’t be this paranoid, or maybe August is that paranoid.  I was trying not to overreact. I took deep breaths and stared at him as he sat down, finishing the phone call with a decisive press of the end button. Was he smiling at me?  I looked down at the plate of cheese, bread and grapes.  That is right, Italians eat in courses. It was going to be a long night. There was a white wine bottle at my elbow that all my instincts were telling me not to drink, not yet. Not until I found out what was really going on, then I might need the whole bottle. He took his seat next to me, and picked up one of the small wedges of white cheese. He held it in between his thumb and forefinger, giving the cheese a good squeeze, and then, opening his pink full lips slightly, placing the wedge in his mouth. As he chewed thoughtfully I wondered if he was trying to turn me on purposely or was I just that easily turned on. It had been a long time since, well since anything.  Trying to clamp down on my raging hormones, I looked back at my plate. Taking one deep breath, I didn’t bother by looking up at him as I spoke.

“Ok, I am not going to overreact, and I am not going to pitch a fit. But are you going to tell me what that was all about, or do I need to pry?”

“That was Adriano.” He said and that was all his said. He picked up a grape and popped it into his mouth. He was the most infuriating man I had ever met.

“I know who it was,” As my top lip curled in frustration, I realized I was not going to get information from him if I seemed disturbed.   I smiled sweetly at him, and batted my lashes.  “August, look, you want me to be your personal journalist, but you keep me in the dark about a lot of things and you aren’t all that trusting. Tell me again why you want me to be under you all the time?”  I clamped my mouth shut. It didn’t take an engineer or a genius to figure out how that sounded. I risked looking at him from underneath my lashes, and as I figured, that damn eyebrow was raised again.  This time, not out of anger. He seemed amused. I looked at him fully as I finally got over my temporary embarrassment.

“That sounded really sexy…” His eyes were sparkling with laughter, my hand went for the fork.

“Don’t play with me or my time. What the hell is going on?” I said, pointing the fork at him. I had enough of games, and I was cranky from being hungry.

“If anyone else pointed a fork at me,” he drawled, his voice dipping even lower, if that was possible, and the eyebrow inched just a little higher, “you would be outside by now. But since you are my guest…” He trailed off, eyeing me, wearing me down with his infiltrating gaze.  As I put the fork down, my eyes never left his.  He picked up another piece of cheese and nodded towards my plate.  Ok I was hungry, he knew it, and my stomach knew it. Yet, my brain also knew he was stalling. Yet, what would he be stalling for? Mulling over these new developments, I finally put a wedge of the cheese in my mouth.  The smoky flavor of the cheddar burst on my tongue and I temporarily lost the will to give a damn about Augustino Romani. Why had cheese never tasted so good?  Following the cheese with a few grapes and a few apple slices, my stomach finally stopped protesting As I finished chewing a piece of Italian bread, another course of some steaming fish was laid in front of me.  Typically I was a roast beef on wheat sort of girl, and, if I wanted to get fancy, maybe some store bought soup, but this was magnificent.  August still hadn’t spoken, and kept silent as he worked off the cork to the white wine. He poured my glass half full and did the same to his in languid movements, as if each second was precious.   He set my glass down carefully and swirled the transparent cold liquid around in his glass. As we ate some of the fish, I realized he still hadn’t said one word.   Again the differences in our world showed themselves.  I was used to rowdy conversation, from either my siblings or my co-workers, and not eating in silence.  I sipped a bit of the wine, wishing it was a nice cold beer.  I pushed the plate away and  folded my hands in my lap and glanced at his face.  August was not staring at his food but his blue eyes were trained on me with an intense look.  Staring back, I studied his face. .  His jaw wasn’t ticking and for once, he seemed unsure of himself. The fire normally behind the cobalt eyes was gone, and he looked almost, normal.  For only a mere moment, I felt sorry for him. All of this luxury, and he lived in it alone. He was regarding me with a curious expression on his face, and as an interviewer, I have seen it before. It is that look of wanting to say something but can’t. That expression to me screams band-aid, and it is always best to pull it off swiftly. “Spill it.” I said, tilting my head to the side. “You are very direct. I like that about you. My plan is to catch the leak and I need your help.” I swore he was giving me puppy dog eyes.  What in the world had I gotten myself into, he wasn’t James Bond, and I wasn’t trying to be Halle Berry.  He pouted a bit but then smiled.    He smile was as stunning as his eyes.    I cleared my throat and met his gaze.

“Don’t do the pouting thing; I got a mother who can do it far better than you. Can I know what the plan is, or are you planning on keeping that to yourself?”

“Let’s finish eating first and I will tell you.”  I folded my arms. Who in the hell did he think he was, besides Augostino Romani sexy as hell software engineer? I don’t take orders from anyone except my mother, and I was on vacation from her for a few months.  August began to dig into his fish again and looked at me with a cold glare.  He pointed his fork at my plate and said it again. “Eat.”  He was finishing his meal with gusto and I took one more bite of the fish.  Licking my lips, I grabbed another piece of bread and tore a corner off and popped it into my mouth.   My eyes never faltered from his face as he chewed and swallowed more wine.  I waited until his butler arrived and cleared our dishes.  “Ok, I ate, now talk Augostino.”  I said as I watched the butler disappear behind the swinging doors.

“I would have thought eating would have made you less thorny.” He sighed as he took another sip of his wine, but his eyes were scrutinizing me from behind the rim of the glass. I could see he was in bait and catch mode again. I rolled my eyes.

“Nothing can make me less thorny, especially in all of this” I said as I waved a hand through the air, pointing at the security cameras. “I am a journalist. Everything that you have said so far makes my radar go haywire and I have a million and one questions to ask you.” I got up out of the chair and began to pace, my stocking feet not making a sound on the plush long hair carpet. Who has carpet in their dining room? The fact that I was agitated at him having carpet in a dining room made me realize that I was the one acting like a pouty child.   The thought that I was not behaving like myself pissed me off even more.  I’d always told myself that I wouldn’t let anything change who I was professionally or personally, but August seemed to seep under my skin like nothing else. . I didn’t realize that I had stopped pacing as was staring at the floor until I heard August behind me.

“Fair enough.” He said, slowly, hints of the wine drifted to my noise as I felt the moist air from his lips dance along my neck. I whirled around to face him. Damn he moved like a panther!  “I have a leak as you have heard. I think I know who this leak is.  I need you not to pose as my biographer but as now my mistress.”  I gasped. Oh, I was going to need that drink.  I walked around him and reached for the wine glass and drained it.  My mouth couldn’t keep up with all the things I was thinking.  As I set the glass down, a simple question formed in my brain and the absurdity of what he was proposing made me angry.   No one was going to believe we were a couple and I’d be a laughing stock in the journalism industry.

“How is pretending to be your new arm candy going to help you?” I shouted,  only lowering my voice after I heard the echo of it bouncing back at me. “And didn’t you just break up with someone? And who in the world is going to believe that?” I realized that I just bombarded him with several questions in one sentence and stopped abruptly.  I tend to ask questions when I am nervous, and man, dropping the word ‘mistress’ into an after dinner conversation would have made anyone nervous.

“You have a nose for sniffing things out, you are quite the observer, I’ve noticed that much. As a biographer, there will be certain functions that you cannot get into. Parties, conventions and so on. But, as my lover you can go where I go. Same thing with being my biographer, there are places that you as my biographer can go where my lover cannot.”  He was behind me again, his hands on my shoulders, kneading and massaging my tensed frame.   My body started to unwind under his warm fingers, as his thumbs circled on my neck.

“Are you telling me I am in a win-win situation?” I said trying to not sound as breathless as his massage was making me feel.    Did he really just calm me down with a touch?

“Yes, you are in a win-win situation. And no, you are not risking your life. I will be there to protect you, always. You will still get your story, I will catch the leak, and we will all be happy.”  His mouth was close to my ear, and his whispered toned made me shiver a bit.

“And how long do you think that it will take to catch the leak?”  I swallowed and cleared my throat.  His fingers traced the lines of my collar bone and I felt my heart beating rapidly in my chest.

“Do you have a problem with posing as my mistress for a while? It may take a month it may take longer. Until then, your will be my live-in lover.”  His voice was soft as he rolled the ‘r’ in lover.    Again, his lips were extremely close to my skin, and I felt myself shiver.  I could feel the tip of his nose hovering dangerously close to my neck.  I groaned and tried to put some space between us by stepping out of his embrace.

I do wish he would stop using that lover word. That implies way too much.  Every time he says lover, I get the vision of  him and me entwined in sheets.  I mean I am a female, and how could I not think of sex when this man exuded nothing but raw sensuality. Besides, being celibate for the last five years hadn’t helped much either.

“I don’t know about this. I mean, I know how the press can be. They will start asking me questions, expecting me to know answers to certain things,” I was not about to say they will expect us to kiss and so on.

“All of which I am sure you will be able to answer in time.  Our first outing is tomorrow. There is a charity gala at the Italian embassy. There is a dress for you to wear already in your closet.  Get plenty of sleep because I will need you alert.” August placed his hands on my shoulders and turned me to look at him.   Placing his warm fingers under my chin and lifting it, I allowed myself to regard him as just a man and not the man I’d placed on a pedestal.  He was attractive, but there was more to him and I wanted to get to know what else lied beneath the surface.

He bent down and he was staring at me deep into my eyes. There was a spark of desire there that I am sure I did not imagine.  Oh my god, he wanted me to play his mistress, but I am not sure exactly how much of his look was just role play.

“You will be safe with me. I will be there with you, by your side.” August said in a hushed whisper, and he gave me a small kiss on the forehead. With the kiss and a nod to me, he was gone.  As the flesh of my forehead tingled with a warm sensation of where his lips had been, I thought about his words.  My body may not come to harm being with him, but my libido may not be so safe.

Interviewing the Italian – Chapter Three (A Free Read)


 

Chapter Three

Driving back to my little apartment, I tried to calm my nerves and prepare myself for the biggest opportunity of a lifetime.   I cleaned my rooms from top to bottom, re-read all of the notes I’d acquired about Mr. Romani, and still, I couldn’t sleep. Knowing that travel would be a part of the job, I began to think of all the places I’d get to see working for the man. At least I hoped I got to see them. That is when it hit me; what exactly is a personal journalist? Firing up my laptop and Googled it, and nothing, well nothing but a song called “Personal Journalist” by someone named Sage Francais. I have no idea what I am supposed to do.  I found one article on a personal journalist and it was more of a theory than it was an actual job description. It said “The personal journalist does what journalists do best: keep their eyes open.” Well I can do that. The media already loved Augostino Romani, even if he had a playboy repertoire. Feeling more confident than before, I decided to wear a simple pair black pants and an azure blue top that reminded me of August’s eyes. Man, I had to stop thinking about him like that. He was to be admired and adore, not studied. I should probably tattoo that on the back of my hand.  Settling down into my comforter, I prepared myself for the next step in my life.

It was exactly 7:59 AM when I knocked on the door to Mr. Romani’s office.  I knew he’d appreciate my punctuality, but I frowned at myself for trying to impress him once again.   Being punctual was one thing, but expecting Augustino Romani to give me a pat on the back was just plain foolish.  I wasn’t in high school trying to get the school jock to notice me, this was my job.  I cleared my throat, and listened for Mr. Romani’s notorious yell.    There was not an immediate answer, but his assistant motioned for me to go right in.  Don’t ask me why, but I actually walked in. I wished that I hadn’t.

“What do you mean!” I heard Augostino yelling into the speaker.   The fact I hadn’t heard him yelling let me know his office was sound proof.  No wonder he didn’t hear my knock. I was about to turn around and leave him to whoever he was castrating, but he pointed his index finger at me and then pointed at the huge leather chair sitting in front of his large cherry wood desk.

“I mean that it has been compromised, meaning that someone from the inside is leaking information.” Said the voice from the speaker, whose voice sounded similar to Augostino’s.

“You are the detective Adriano; find out who it is…”

“If you weren’t my younger brother, I’d kick your ass for speaking to me like that…”

“You should be used to it by now.” And then an amazing thing happened, Augostino Romani smiled. The man had the most white and even teeth I’d ever seen in person.  He sat down and still was smiling when he finally told his brother they weren’t alone. “Adriano, my new journalist is here. Her name is…” he paused, cocked his head to the side, and raised that eyebrow at me again “What shall you be called by when you write my biography?”

At least he asked, but I had assumed that because he did not like my pen name, I would use my real name.

“Yvonne Mason. Pleased to hear you Adriano.” I chuckled. That was the oddest introduction I had ever seen, but this whole situation is odd to me.

“What’s this deal about her name?” said the baritone voice from the speaker.

Augostino sat in his own huge leather chair and leaned back, lacing his fingers and placing them on the back of his head. He looked at the speaker as if his brother can actually see what he was doing. “Her current pen name is Savannah Martin.” Augostino said and paused.

“Oh, you,” said the voice, and I think I heard the man chuckle. “I have read some of your stuff,” said Adriano. I quirked an eyebrow and stared at the speakerphone.

“Granted, we haven’t met Mr. Romani, but why would you be scouring the tech mags?”

“Work related, which is all I am going to tell you, but your stuff is good, all facts, not that over enthused dribble that most write. It has helped me on a few cases.” Adriano Romani was all business, his voice was crisp, but deep and to the point. Even on the phone I could tell he was no-nonsense. Picturing him as a detective made all the sense in the world.

“Well thank you, Detective Romani, I try to stay away from fluff pieces.” I said, smiling. I looked up at Augostino’s face. What I saw made the smile on my face run for the hills.  It was cold, and he was staring at me as if I committed some sin.  I frowned at him and raised one eyebrow, I learned that trick from him at our interview.

“You will have to save your flirting with Yvonne, brother, for later.” Flirting? I know he didn’t think that was flirting? “There are some things I have to get done before my morning meeting.”

He was already reaching for the end call button. I could hear Adriano’s chuckle and felt it vibrate through the dark wood of the desk.

“Flirting, hardly. Ciao August, see you soon.”

What did he mean by that?  The line went dead and Augostino was regarding me with an eyebrow raised and a question on his lips. I already knew what it was.

“I was not flirting, I wouldn’t flirt with anyone, but especially your brother.”

“That is not what I was concerned with. Although, I am relieved to hear it.” That made me jump. So what was he concerned with?  “What I am concerned with is that you heard there was a leak.” Understanding just kicked me in my gut. Yes, there was a leak in his powerful company, and  I nodded  at him.  Of course that would be a great article about leaks and security at one of the more powerful software development companies, if I had more than a partially overheard conversation.

“I don’t report on something unless I have all the facts, and what I heard amounts to a needle in a haystack. There isn’t much to go on and it would be hearsay, hell, just plain gossip. As your brother said, I am about facts.”

“Good. That is why I chose you to be my personal journalist. You will be around me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no exceptions. With a leak on the loose, that means that you will be in danger. People will want to know if you have more information than others. The project we are working on is a government funded project with direct connections to the Department of Defense.  That information puts you in danger. Are you ok with that?”

I had to shut my mouth. I knew it was gaped open trying to absorb what Augostino just said.  Who said anything about 24/7?  Was he serious? From the look on his face, I could only assume that he was.  There wasn’t much I could do about it now, and, somewhere deep down, I didn’t want to, although I was sure I could negotiate 18 hours a day and 6 days a week. There was a small hint of excitement bubbling inside of me. Clearing my throat and crossing my long legs, I placed my hand folded into my lap and thought about the defense contracts.   That would be another great article.   As I thought of all the articles I could possibly write, it occurred to me that as private as Augustino Romani was, he just let slip two very damning pieces of evidence. Staring at him fully, having forgone the glasses today, I didn’t have the buffer of lenses to protect me from his penetrating gaze, but the need to fully comprehend what was really going on overrode his intimidating eyes.

“Let me get my mind around this, you” I pointed at him with my pen “want me to follow you all day, every day, and put myself in danger for your biography?  You’ve also told me information that I could use in a different article and expose your company.  What makes you trust someone you just met yesterday?”  He didn’t respond, but merely stood up and went to the side cupboard in his office and poured himself a cup of coffee. Then I saw him take a second cup and pour another one with two cubes of sugar and a healthy dose of cream.   How did he know the way that he took my coffee?

He placed the steaming cup in front of me and sat down again in his high backed chair. When I still didn’t speak, he pulled out a manila envelope from his desk drawer and slid it across to me.

I opened it and my jaw dropped.  It was a file on me. There were pictures of me taking my daily trip to the neighborhood coffee shop, leaving my mother’s home, various articles that I wrote, and other things about me.  I didn’t know what to say, I’d never been checked out before.

“At least I know how you knew how I like my coffee.” I murmured, taking a sip of the hot coffee and flipping through the file.   I saw a photo of myself digging in a dumpster.    I chuckled to myself.  I remembered that day clearly and one pissed off interviewee had thrown my lucky pen out the window of his apartment.

“You don’t seem concerned.” He said, and I think his eyes were sparkling with admiration.

“Look, Mr. Romani,”

“Augostino, or you may call me August” His voice dropped to a husky, indescribable tone that sent chills down to my toes.

“August,” I said somewhat breathlessly, setting the coffee cup down on his desk. “Apparently, given the world you live in, asking someone to be around you twenty-four hours means you need to check them out. That is small potatoes. What I want to know is did you have this before or after the interview?”

“Before,” he said simply, without a hesitation or flinch. That was as I thought.  It made sense on why he would ask me what my real name was when no one I met had ever questioned what my name was. My guess is that he wondered if I would tell him honestly or not. It also explains why he would offer me a job after having only meeting me for thirty minutes.

I nodded my head and looked at the rest of the file. In the back of the file was the record of my scholarship by his foundation, including my essay that landed me the scholarship.  It was a quirky insightful essay about my love affair with coffee. I am not ashamed to admit it, I love coffee, in every which way, ice cream, frappe, iced, hot, you name it, and I have had it.   I closed the file and handed it back to him.  His fingertips touched mine and I felt and electric shock up my arm. I pulled my fingers back quickly as if I had been burned. I had to get control of myself, even though everything about the man sitting across from me made me jittery.

“Ok, so you checked me out, anything else I should know?” I asked, trying to stay calm and professional about this.

“Yes that I found your essay funny and real. Any one that can honestly speak of themselves as being an addict of anything…” his voice trailed off and his eyes focused on something above me. Deeply bothered by his sudden sense of melancholy, I sat back in the chair and stared at him a few moments before I spoke.

“Thanks, Mr., sorry, August. I am still trying to figure out why in the world that you would want me to be the one to write your biography, regardless of the extensive background search you did on me.”

“Because I want to leave a legacy. I thought you, following me as intently as you have, would be the perfect candidate.  Now, as far as you following me twenty-four hours, well I think you should know from our interview that I am a spur of the moment person; also, I prefer to have things at my beck and call. That includes you.” If I were anyone else, that would sound improper but nothing shocked me much anymore when it came out of his mouth.  As I stared at the azure eyes studying me to see if I would twitch, bitch or faint, I smiled. I don’t run from a challenge.

“If that is supposed to make me turn tail August, you got me pegged all wrong. Beck and call journalist, sure I can deal with that. I do have a condition on my own.”

“What would that be, Yvonne?” Why did he have to say my name like that, all sexy and seductive?

“That you lay your cards on the table all the time. I don’t like being kept in the dark, and if this working relationship is going to work, I expect stark honesty from you, not some cat and mouse game.”

“That is a steep price. What about a need to know basis?”

“Yeah, like I need to know if I am going to need a gun, or a Doberman?” That I had to ask that question should have made me run and the fact that all he did was laugh should have made me weary. It was a good throaty laugh, which told me I would need both.