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Chapter 10 - Questions

"What?" Lowering my sound to avoid the attention of others. "What's wrong?" Alessio is looking hard at something — or someone.

When I turn to look over my left shoulder and follow his gaze, I see no one looking our way.

Instead all I see are heads that hang low and shoulders that curl inwards. Their backs face us, angling away from Alessio's scrutinizing stare. Acting as if we don't exist but it's obvious that they are trying their hardest not to look in this direction.

Their postures betray them, giving their intent away.

A few questions cluster my thoughts, but to ask makes me feel like a nuisance. Remembering what I've been taught, I turn around and sit in silence, hoping that he'll answer my original question.

The greens of his irises roam over the room, landing back on me after almost a full minute has gone by.

"They were looking," he says displeasingly, "and I don't like that."

Alessio's demeanor is serious, hard. Reminding me of my father when he's upset and that worries me. The outcome of an angry boss is never a good one.

Curiosity and boldness mixing into one encourages me to ask another question. "Can I ask how they were looking?" I didn't want to sound timid but that's exactly how it came out, unintentionally small.

Sounding as if a mouse.

Alessio pulls out a cigarette pack from the pocket of his pants, taking an individual stick out and placing it between his lips. "They were just... looking," mumbling out carelessly.

Is he really going to smoke inside a restaurant?

His actions come to halt when he looks at me. Can he see the way my eyes hold a hint of judgement?

Most likely.

But a sense of guilt floods my mind.

Criticizing his choices after he's taken us to such a lovely place, what's gotten into me?

Lashes flutter on their own, giving him a sincere apology with my eyes because I'm at a loss for words.

His only response is a roll of the eyes. Hands move to the stick between his lips and he takes it out, placing the cigarette to balance behind his ear instead.

My mouth opens then closes, still speechless as to what to say. In return his face offers a smile that's one of his own, unique. In between a smirk and a genuine grin that pulls more to the left side of his face.

It's just his way.

"Sei felice ora?" Alessio raises an eyebrow and slightly cocks his head to one side in a sassful manner.

He's being playful.

My fingertips run over the length of my dress, unconsciously smoothing it to perfection. A routine that has been driven into me by my mother. Now it's just a natural reaction when feeling nervous so I can distract myself. "Um, I- I don't really know what that means," saying with heat crawling up my neck. "I'm sorry."

That smile of his grows a little, stretching with a hint of teeth that show before dropping. For that brief moment my breath falls short at the realization of how beautiful his smile is.

That same fluttery feeling comes back.

He himself seduces my thoughts. It's dangerously carnal, an intimate act that intensifies, seeping through the depths of my bones.

"I know," he calmly speaks, attempting to regain composure. It's weird to see him so... lighthearted. "You're face," Alessio points to me, "it scrunches whenever I say something in my language. Have you ever noticed that?"

"No." I shake my head, wondering what I look like to him as he tells me this. "Is that bad?"

"Not bad," shrugging his shoulders, "just... amusing." A devious gleam swims in the irises of his forest green eyes.

The pad of his index finger runs over his bottom lip, dragging back and forth.

It entrances me, and before my stare becomes to obvious I look away, over his shoulder to distance myself.

However, the familiarity of a face catches my attention.

"Harry?" I whisper out to no one in particular.

Alessio shifts, "What?" Turning around he sees what I see, Harry Giordano sitting at a back table with an individual who has just stood up from their seat across him. Whoever he's with is wearing a long brown coat with a grey fedora, masking their identity so well I'm not able to distinguish if they are male or female.

Suddenly Harry's eyes meet mine. It's as if he could feel my gaze. Unintelligibly he says something to whoever he's with that makes this mysterious figure rush pass Harry and out the back entrance.

Alessio is already on the move when Harry stands up and grabs his coat off the back of his chair.

What is Reece's husband doing here?

However he's misses him by just a few feet, Harry is already speeding out the back door and Alessio stops at the exit when he catches up.

Maybe Harry didn't see Alessio? He did leave awfully quick without sparing a glance, but then again he did see me.

I wonder if they know each other. The Giordano's are more acquaintances to all other families besides mines.

Instead of going after him Alessio goes to the bar and leans over to say something to bartender who stops what he's doing, giving him his full attention. Words exchange back and forth before the bartender nods and calls out to his coworker whose working beside him.

In a blink of an eye the man who Alessio was talking to is out the back entrance, shrugging on a leather jacket with a pair of keys jingling loudly in his grip.

A few more seconds go by until the one who I call my fiancé sits back down across from me.

There's tension in his body, coiling his muscles. Before the awkwardness of silence can fall over, I find my voice. "If you wanted to talk to him, you could have. I would have waited for you." Referring to Harry. It seems as if he knows him from the way he tried to chase him down.

"And leave you here alone?" Asking as he sets his elbows on the table, intertwining his fingers together. "No."

I mimic his shrug from moments ago, "I don't mind being alone."

Alessio narrows his eyes in dissatisfaction. "You don't... but I do," he says with blunt honesty.

The stoic persona is intimidating.

His mood switch up perplexes me. Perhaps it's miscommunication on both ends. If so then maybe we could clear this up now. "Can I speak freely?" Asking leerily, it's without thought that I say this.

"Why ask permission?" His voice is calm, mellow. It's enough to make heart feel likes its in my throat, clogging my way of breathing.

How can someone affect me this way?

"Say what's on your mind." He regards me the way one does with a business partner, it's unsettling because this is how my father treats his clients.

I'm not amongst those kinds of alliances.

I try not to pick at fingers, holding myself together as much as I can. It's not often I'm given permission to do this. "Did you know that man, the one who you just spoke to?

"Yes," nonchalantly answering.

"What did you say?"

"I just asked for a favor." Purposely he gives a vague answer. His tone is the same of the men in my family who give answers to those who they try to protect.

The less you know the safer you are, or so my mother says. As for me, I don't think it matters.

A target, is a target.

"These people," I continue, "they look at you differently."

Alessio's line of vision adjust slightly then comes back to me. "They aren't looking at all." A lick of humor lingers at the edge of those words, though his face still emotionless.

"Was it because of the look you gave them? Why would you do that?"

"I don't want anyone looking at what they shouldn't be looking at," he states with firmness.

There's hardness to his body, his eyes.

There's something more meaningful to his response that he's masking. "Do you not like being looked at?"

Scoffing he shakes his head and leans forward as if he's going to tell me a secret. "I don't like others looking at you," Alessio impassively replies.

When he pulls away my lungs constrict and the curve of his lip rises for only a few seconds.

My sound is lost.

A leg crosses over the other and my head tilts down, hiding the cheeks that are inflaming.

"Have you been here before?" Changing the topic, bashful of what to say next when I lift my head up.

My confidence is wavering; as if I had much to begin with.

"You ask a lot of questions."

"You said I could." I counter with softness.

Again, his smile breaks through. Today is the first time I've ever seen him smile so much in one sitting.

It's a good change.

"My family owns this place," he looks all around, "I thought it'd be nice to come here." While Alessio takes this moment to take in our surroundings, I take this moment to focus on him.

Solely on him.

The gleam of the dimming brightness from the restaurant casts the image of small specks of fairy lights against the reflection of his irises.

Beauty in simplicity.

"It is nice, thank you," sheepishly expressing my gratitude.

There's still a question I want to ask but the courage to ask it vanishes.

"What is it?" He takes notice of my obvious reluctance.

Mustering up whatever strength I can, I tell him, "You asked me once before if I wanted this marriage."

Alessio knits his brows, his guard rising. "Go on."

Ask him.

Just ask him, Cherry.

"Well I just want to know... if-if you want this to." My bottom lip quivers so I pull it between my teeth, nerves getting the best of me.

Though we're doing this as an obligation, I'm hoping it could be something more.

Like how my father is with my mother, but the confusion that twists on his face breaks that hope. Unfortunately for me we're cut off as a waiter comes up to our table and places a few large platters and drinks in front of us. Classic fettuccine alfredo with a pinch of parsley is given to the both of us.

How did the waiter know what to bring? We never ordered anything.

Alessio answers my unspoken question. "They were aware ahead of time that we would be here."

Of course...

However I don't let this delectable distract me. "I still want to know, if that's okay." I don't want to press or reiterate myself, but I'm left curious as to know what his answer is.

"If I didn't, you'd know," he tells me with great significance.

But that's not exactly a yes or no...

"You don't look satisfied with that answer," he interrupts my thoughts.

Letting out a deep sigh I give a look of despondency, placing my hands flat on the table so I'm not tempted to feed my bad habit. "I... I remember seeing you throughout my childhood and adolescent years," starting off, "then you just disappeared. Now you're back, and we're expected to be married ...but you're still a stranger." I confess the very thing that's been brewing on my mind.

I don't know how my parents did this when they were young.

Alessio reaches over the table and places his hand on mines. "We all start off as strangers, Cherry."

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