“Hello.” Izabella awkwardly greeted the buff men standing in the room.
They all nodded, each avoiding eye contact as they stared straight ahead.
“You can have a seat.” She gestured to the couch, thinking the men had been standing long enough.
“No ma’am. Your father will be here soon.” A tall man with sandy blonde hair who Izabella recognized as the one who Enrico had instructed when he had saved her at the café spoke and she nodded.
“Okay. Would you like some water? Juice?” He shook his head.
“We already had breakfast.” With that, Izabella nodded and headed to the kitchen, grabbing a pear from the fruit bowl and biting into it.
“Good morning, gentlemen.” Hearing her father’s voice from outside, she walked out and re-entered the living room, chewing the piece of pear in her mouth.
“Hey, princess.” Mr. Knight smiled her way before turning back to the men.
“I’m sure Enrico already told you the reason for your presence here.” The men nodded in sync, their actions reminding Izabella of those soldiers she saw in movies.
“Okay. I’ll let you get yourselves settled in. We cleaned up the outhouse for you. I’m afraid you’ll have to have roommates.” The older man spoke as he gazed at the men before him.
Izabella hid slightly behind her father, the eight men in the living room intimidating her to such an extent.
“I’ll have my son show you around before settling in your rooms.”
“Dad, are they here yet?” Jacob asked, walking down the stairs, his eyes scanning the room as he moved.
“Good morning.” He told the group who nodded at him.
Izabella figured they didn’t talk much and though she should have felt happy with the fact that they wouldn’t pry into her personal business, she had the feeling that she was going to be very uncomfortable in their presence.
“Who’s Mr. Smoulder?” Amelia asked, eyeing the man standing behind an unamused Izabella.
“This is Austin, my bodyguard.” She introduced, moving aside, extending her arms, gesturing to Austin who was standing stoically beside her.
“Hello.” He said to the grinning older woman and she squealed.
“Oh! He’s too cute! Come dear, let’s get you some breakfast!” She grabbed his arm, her petite frame looking extra tiny beside his.
“Great! We can have dessert.” The woman declared with a shriek, startling poor Izabella and even Austin.
Amelia dragged the man into the kitchen at the back, basically commanding him to sit on the chair near the counter and clapped her chubby hands in utter excitement.
“A new person to feed.” She muttered under her breath, grinning as she pulled out a large cake from the fridge.
“It’s cheesecake. I hope you’re not allergic to pecans.” Austin shook his head with a firm nod, his eyes briefly shifting to Izabella in order to make sure she was safe, not like anything could happen to her with him there.
“Here. Eat up.” The older woman smiled brightly as she placed a plate down on the counter in front of Enrico, her eyes shining.
Austin carefully picked up the fork, eyeing the slice on the plate before sticking the fork in and lifting it to his mouth.
Amelia watched his every move, her eyes widening the more he stayed silent and Izabella held back her laughter.
She knew Amelia loved stuffing new people and she was sure Austin was feeling very uncomfortable eating under the gazes of two females so she rested her bag on the sofa and tied the apron around her waist.
“I’ll get started on those pastries.” She told Amelia who was bouncing on her heels, awaiting an answer from the burly man sitting in their kitchen.
“It’s good.” He finally spoke, his deep Italian accent coming forth and Amelia visibly melted.
Izabella wondered why he had an French name when he was Italian, but never asked.
“Just good?” She asked and the man looked at her, pushing away the empty plate.
“It’s better than the others I’ve eaten.” Amelia beamed up at him.
Although he was sitting, he was still way taller than her.
“Thank you, dear. I love your accent by the way. You should use it when you speak to girls, it’ll help tons, besides you already have the looks department secured.” Izabella’s head snapped up, her eyes narrowing at the older woman, ready to scold her, but she caught sight of the faint redness on Austin’s cheeks.
He was blushing. Izabella couldn’t believe it. Austin was the most stoic man she had ever met, well, second if she included Enrico.
The man was unreadable at all times and it was a major surprise that he blushed so easily.
The thought reminded her of Enrico and she blushed, remembering the moment he had called her beautiful.
“Thank you, ma’am, but I’m not interested in having a relationship at the moment.” He cleared his throat and stood up, dusting off invisible lint from his fitted black suit.
“You can call me Amelia, dear.” She told him and he nodded.
Austin looked to Izabella who was too busy cracking eggs to notice anyone around. Whenever she was cooking, she was in her own world, humming and bobbing her head to a beat only she could hear.
He walked over to the door, standing out of the way and folding his arms, standing completely still.
Amelia let out a hearty laugh at his blank expression.
“You can have a seat, dear. The couch is pretty empty.” She spoke, gesturing to couch at the other end of the room.
Austin shook his head defiantly, refusing to speak and remained standing.
“Izzy!” The little blue-eyed boy squealed, running up to Izabella, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he approached her.
“Matt!” She laughed and picked the boy up, softly pinching his cheeks.
Izabella had sort of hoped Enrico was visiting the orphanage because she had wanted to see him. He hadn’t went to the café in a while and Izabella missed his company though he hadn’t been there multiple times, but she somehow felt that whenever he visited, it was their time, just him and her.
She liked it that way.
The little boy giggled before his eyes widened at something behind and he ducked his had, hiding his face.
“What is it?” She asked, turning around and facing a plain-faced Austin. He was carrying all three containers filled with pastries and cake slices in his hands.
Matt squirmed and buried his face in her neck.
“He’s scary.” He muttered and Izabella giggled.
“Say hi.” She urged him by pulling his arms from around her neck.
Matt shook his had, attempting to look away and Izabella shook hers, turning his head towards Austin.
“He won’t hurt you. Say hi.” The little boy gazed into her eyes before looking to the scary man behind him.
“Hello.” He muttered shyly and buried his face in Izabella’s neck as she laughed at his cuteness.
“Hello.” Austin replied in his monotone voice, not helping the situation in any way.
“How about we wash our hands and eat?” Izabella questioned and giggled when Matt nodded enthusiastically.
She walked into the kitchen and showed Austin where to put down the containers. All the young girls stared at him in awe as he passed and the older ladies in the kitchen gave her suggestive glances which made her blush profusely.
“Why is he following us?” Matt asked as they walked down the hall and into the bathroom.
Izabella put him to stand on his feet and turned on the tap as she answered.
“He’s my bodyguard.” She simply stated and the little boy scrunched his eyebrows as he stretched out his hands, accepting the hand soap on his small palms.
“What’s that?” He innocently questioned and Izabella smiled at him, rinsing her hands too.
“A bodyguard is some on who protect someone.” She grabbed the towel from the rack and wiped Matt’s tiny hands.
“Are you in danger?” He asks, his blue eyes staring up at her and Izabella’s throat ran dry at his question, the memories of the parcel from two days ago flashing in her mind.
“Only persons who are in danger need to be protected. Isn’t that so?” He continued, still looking up at a frozen Izabella.
Thankfully, Austin cleared his throat, diverting the boy’s attention to him unknowingly and saving Izabella at the same time.
“I need to wash my hands too.” He said and Izabella stepped out of the way.
After washing their hands, they walked out and back to the kitchen where the older ladies were already plating the pastries and cake slices.
Izabella told Matt to go and play wait with the other children in the dining room and watched as he skipped away before helping the ladies.
Austin just stood in a corner, out of everyone’s way, but his eyes were alert, catching the slightest movement and observing everything keenly.
Izabella placed the plates on different food trollies and wheeled hers out, Austin following close behind.
He noticed the way one particular man gazed at Izabella and knew the man was inviting death if Enrico got to know.
The man’s eyes were trailing up and down Izabella’s body, his lips twisted into a sinister smirk as he stared and Austin felt disgusted.
He despised men who treated women as mere objects of pleasure. Austin grew up in a home where women weren’t respected, especially his mother and he hated it.
The way the man looked at Izabella made him angry. He knew her well enough to know she deserved all the respect he had for her and that she was more than just the ordinary woman.
Izabella had to be different for someone as cold-hearted and stone-like as Enrico Silvano to fall for her.
Austin stepped behind Izabella, effectively blocking her from the shameful excuse of a man’s gaze.
His eyes connected with the man’s and he shot his meanest and coldest glare his way, hoping to get across how much he didn’t like the man.
After a few seconds of staring, the man turned and left.
Austin was going to find out his name. He could be involved in the whole thing.