I bit down on the tip of my tongue and winced while musing of a dashing, unrecognizable Johnny who surprised me earlier at the shop, a golden smile and blatantly flirting. I bet he was a regular rich Casanova with every woman of his taste, probably liked to boast about it too if he’s still has the same ego. Some qualities of men like him may never be able to mature.
Panic had instantly spread through me once I all got were repetitive voicemails from both dad’s and Kenny’s cell phones. Without contemplating or a piece of regret what I did next was to grab my keys, shot to my car and sped it straight to the Fiorito Police Station. I ditched him in a flash though he uselessly kept calling after me. I figured that was the last I would be reacquainted with conceited prick.
Yet, he now has his eye on the Pasticceria ? He’ll really buy it just to tear it asunder for another of his numerous wine factories.
It sounded utterly despicable to me.
“Oh my, well... then I suppose we must. We won’t get a better deal than that.”
Mama muttered in agreement with him, although I could detect the sadness she spoke with to know her livelihood will soon be stripped away.
The sound of car engine drilled from outside. I peered through and was taken aback seeing a flashy limousine park on our lawn.
“That must be him.”
Papa said, fixing his rustled dress shirt.
“Why is he meeting you here?”
I asked dryly.
“Because I told him he could, awfully kind of him to come personally too, I would say.”
I hissed after listening to my poor father utter such a ridiculous thing. I won’t let that devious vulture hammer down what was not just my family business, but our prize treasure.
“Hold it, Papa, let me talk with him alone, privately.”
“Now, Angelica, don’t do anything that will cost us we’re lucky to get this offer with a buyer willing to pay upfront.”
I nodded to my father, making him no promises trying desperately to hide my fuming anger until I flung open the main door shutting it behind me.
The prestigious Italian ass was just about to make his way to the steps. An instant smile of content swept on that dashingly arrogant face.
“You snake, why didn’t you tell me you wanted to buy our property?”
I snapped pacing down the front steps. He won’t set those expensive designer shoes even half way to the door, not if I have something to say about it.
Two bulky men in suits whom appeared to be bodyguards glanced to Johnny. He flipped his palm and they’re backs were immediately turned giving their employer and I some space.
“Nice to see you as well, Angelica.”
He said irked by my confrontation.
“To be fair you ran off without letting me finish our conversation. I intend on buying out every store in that area it’s suitable for the Winery.”
“There must be another such area you can use. My father has had that Pasticceria since I was five. It’s worth far more than a fat check you can write us.”
He stared at me weird.
“Mr. Kimper didn’t tell me anything close to that when we discuss the matter.”
“Forget what he told you. We’re in rough situation at the moment and its influencing my father’s decision.”
I elaborated keeping my information vague.
“Then he’s smart to accept my bid. Your whole sentimental value to the property has absolutely nothing to do with me.”
He stated blunt.
My head dropped emotions overflowing. It was pointless he would understand our attachment to a place basically brought to life.
“Why are you so distressed, cara?”
He asked lifting my chin.
I grabbed his arm urging him to let us continue the conversation further down the street where nobody see us from the living room window.
The daunting men whom could’ve passed for brothers judging by the tall height and buff muscle build the two shared, tailed us at a steady alert pace. They maintained a fair distance sufficient not to be in ear’s length of their boss, or me. My guess was they were trained to respect his privacy while on the job.
“Your father mentioned his huge expense. You want to both have your family Pasticceria and have the bills dealt with, huh.”
“Don’t mock me, Johnny.”
I pulled my chin to step away from him. He wouldn’t let go.
“So, now you end the formalities.”
He inched closer, too close another inch and he would collide with my lips.
“I can help you, Angelica, make all your worries vanish by tomorrow.”
My furrows widened.
“You can keep what’s precious to you if I get something I find precious.”
I gulped feeling distorted. “What’s that?”
“You, I want you.”
I then pushed his hand from my chin distancing myself.
“I beg your pardon. Just what do you presume I am? A woman you can simply pay for?”
He simpered sardonic sinking his hands in his pockets.
“Of course not, you’re a grown woman you can choose for yourself. I’m giving you the chance save what you can’t stand to lose.”
I crossed my arms pouting.
“And what ever did you mean by if you’ll have me in exchange?”
He threw me a stunned expression.
“The same that took place when you were last ravished by a man,” I shook my head.
“Well, never been, so...absolutely not!”
Raising his brows he pierced me with a long studying stare before snickering sardonically. “That can’t be true.”
I evaded his scrutiny.
“I’m a busy man I don’t have the time to linger and court you while you turn me down repetitively. I’m the wrong man to act cheeky with. Your family’s in a bind, it’s your problem, it’s either my terms, or the store is mine to reconstruct. Which is it going to be?”
His unsympathetic tone shook me. “Why must you intimidate me?”
I murmured wanting to crawl under rock. I was utterly torn on what to do. I felt like a tank had dropped on my chest I couldn’t shake the sheer panic and whirlwind anxiety at the thought of the Kimper treasure being torn from us. Neither could I with the other option placed in my lap. I was armored with courage on the outside to stand to Johnny, but underneath my brave mask I was drowned in fear of him. Which sane person wouldn’t be? It wasn’t just because he was a Luciano, but a man clearly to be feared. He was as he had always been: Powerful, ruthless and feasting on the lesser people’s misfortune like it was simply sport for him.
“Angelica, baby, forgive me for persisting but you’re behaving a little immature for me to bear. I don’t see why you’re frightened by my proposal.”
He uttered to me softer.
His hand cupped cheek gently his nose stroked against my hair sniffing the lavender shampoo. “What’s the matter, I sense you’re hiding something.”
I exhaled then confessed.
“I wasn’t lying earlier I’ve been courted at the most but I haven’t…I’m still a virgin, okay.”
He mouth snapped open as he looked at me astonished.
“You mean you were being serious. You’re telling me no one no man has ever made love to you?”
“No one,” I replied sinking into a low uncomfortable murmur.
I slowly attempted to shift him, but his hand quickly gripped my waist.
“No, Johnny, please.”
His mouth crashed on my lips so sudden pulling me into a long, soft suffocating kiss. I fought to catch my breath when he parted.
“Sweet,” He whispered in awe.
He smiled lust blazing in those grey eyes. “Angelica let me be frank the desire to have you burns in many places inside me and so does the fascination after that personal confession. I’ll have the honor of exploring something very special.”
I let out peeling the two words sheepishly. “I’ll just be a disappointment. Not worth your time.”
“We’ll see about that, angel, the proposition hasn’t changed. I want in my bed tonight”
I gawked at him shocked, though not fully. My mind had strayed while the taste his mouth lingered on my lips and the tenderness in his voice when he said, angel.
He wrapped his arms around me possessive yet comforting, and then whispered. “I promise by all the saints to be good to you.”
“Do we have a deal?”
I bristled. In my mind I had the deviant will to jerk away from his hands and free myself. My limbs, though, felt weak as sponges under his touch. When his frosty tone turned into such a honey voice dripping raw seduction my body quickly shifted sides going against my tough subconscious. The guilty betrayal ate at me while meeting his lust filled cool silvery eyes.
“I want to help out my family,” was my concealing noble reply.
Johnny simpered lightly knowing that he didn’t have full victory until the flower was plucked. His warm mouth tickled the side of round olive cheek.
“My father is waiting what will you tell him?”
He gave me mischievous simper.
“I’ll leave that to you to sort out since insisted on me not buying the Kimper treasure for my own uses.”
I made a small bewildered gape.
“But how, what do you expect me to say?”
“All you need to do is think of something suitable you’re his daughter so you should the best alternative he’ll go for. “I’m busy man, cara, I have several appointments to get to we’ll pick this up later tonight.”
His eyes curtly lowered to my loose blue blouse tracing curves of my breasts, perverse, salacious. He appeared to be in the keen midst of shamelessly pondering my bra size. “Have ever worn French silk or lace?”
I demurely answered.
“That will have to change, my little angel.”
I marveled at the neatly chopped trees striding down the stony walkway. The decorative lights hanging on them illuminated the property. It reminded of a night festival.
The only Villa I’ve set ever foot on was a farming estate owned by an old couple flooded with apple and orange trees. It was a school field trip they allowed students to tour and pet the animals they were rearing.
This place made it seem miniature. No pen of sheep, goats or cows only masterfully sculpted statues on grass so lush and spotless I wanted to touch to see if was real. A stone carved saint posed in glory beside the pond was spewing the water through the mouth every three minutes. Sprinklers rotated showering the grass and trimmed bushes. A peacock glided pass me, dusting off its wings, it scampered away after noticing my gawking. I snickered watching the big bird run and hide behind a broad bush.
The outside lantern light came on automatically as a tall, mustached gentleman treaded towards me.
“Welcome, Signora Kimper.”
An expert bow he made.
“Right this way please.”
“Thank you,” I replied tagging along with my apparent guide.
We strode on the clean glowing floors it was so large and wide I could easily get lost in the connecting sections and rooms as if I was walking in maze.
The walls were biege adorned with paintings which must be originals to end up in the Lucianos Villa. They wouldn’t acquire anything less. Some were of Roman mythological gods and goddesses. Others displayed ordinary social scenes in extraordinary brush strokes. The exotic portrayal of Venus floating on a cloud chariot with dozen mortal men reaching for her in a hopeless frenzy, captured my attention
“Here we are.”
My guide ushered me into the next interior section. The dining room, a sprinkling crystal chandelier was hook to the ceiling just above the middle of a dining table so long it stretched to the edges of the room.
“Don Luciano regrets being late he should be arriving soon. Can I interest you in a glass of wine in the meantime?”
“Sure,” I told him as I sat in the chair he pulled out for me. Beside the head one reserved for his Don.
A maid came in with a bottle on a tray.
“I didn’t get your name.”
My guide looked to me as he was uncorking the bottle gingerly.
“Beg your pardon, Signora, Emilio.”
“Thank you, Emilio.”
I said taking the glass he filled with red wine.
“This is nice, Chante?”
“Oh no, it’s called Rosa, straight from Signore’s vineyard.”
He showed the bottle I observed the Luciano brand and nodded pleasantly. I sighed rolling my eyes when he left me to myself. What have I done? I’m in the same man I despised growing up Villa, at his table, I pretty much stepped in a world that was literally his. He owned and controlled everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if the name Luciano was engraved in these waxed floors, or even grass that shouldn’t look perfect. What am I doing?
You’re saving your family from losing all they worked hard for. My subconscious hit back reminding why I must.
The deep voice immediately had my nerves buzzing and my fingers twitching. I turned to passageway to see a dressed down Johnny entering the dining room. In a cozy purple plaid shirt and casual black pants he strode in normal, ditching the pristine Italian charisma he always seemed to embody. He came off unusually humble not as if owned he even the place, which he did.
“Hi,” was all I managed as he took my hand planting a kiss on it.
His adoring smile sent strange shivers through my gut.
Emilio returned promptly since the Don had come forth. He guided two maids in serving us each a plate of fresh Caesar salad.
“I found another good location for the Winery it’s going to be established where the milk mill is currently.”
My expression lightened content with his announcement.
“You should have no problems its spacious and that mill hasn’t been in operation for years.”
He nodded forking the lettuce. “What did you tell your father?”
“That you’d already decided on a different location. We talked things through a little and you instead offered to pay the Pasticceria supplier bills in exchange we would sell boxes of your wine for you once your wine starts manufacturing.”
He blinked then ushered me nod of approval.
“Smart, you’d have a bright future as a business representative.”
I snickered taking that as a joke. “It’s my family far from being comparable to your company clients.”
I simpered to him, the heartwarming flashback of my parents and grandma all gaping shocked and relieved as I sold them a charlatan’s lie abruptly consumed my thoughts.
They were a thin line apart from becoming worries. Kenny, no doubt, would’ve been more suited to the task of deception. That was an ugly truth that knowing made want to cringe and burst into tears.
The happiness that brightened their troubled faces the second I told them while trying to keep mine straight and my words convincing only vindicated my decision so much more. A night of deflowering by the bully to hold on our landmark of joy and pride, my parents worked so hard from the day we first set in Fiorito. They should and will live to see their grandchildren running in that Pasticceria.
Kenny, I had expected to share in the rejoicing, right after shedding the sorrow of ill fated mishap, remained locked in the attic. When he finally crawled out his cave my broken cousin no less depressed and esteem-shattering embarrassed leaving the house without telling anybody where he was going. I tried to stop him but Papa told me to let him go he needs because he should need some time to sulk and think about making better choices more so the consequences that came with wrong ones.
My next lie was telling them I would be spending the night at Francesa’s house. Grandma Sofie was whipping cake batter and dancing when was heading out. I left them celebrating though I agreed with Papa I couldn’t help checking up on Kenny. My effort was in vain as all I got were voicemails when I tried his number. Well, he can’t ignore me forever. He can have his wallow space for the time being.
“Correct if I’m wrong but didn’t you take an interest in Business and Marketing your senior year?”
How do you know that? I nodded meek.
“Colleges were too expensive I didn’t win any of the scholarships I applied for. “
I shrugged smiling at the middle aged maid entering with two soups on a tray.
“No plan B?”
“Of course, I’ll one day be the owner of the Pasticceria, hopefully we can grow and expand starting from the bottom.”
“I see,” He mirrored my nod watching me sip the fragrant wine faster.
“What do you think of the Rosa?”
“It’s great. The taste reminds me of Chante but with a more delicate flavor.”
I critiqued honestly.
“It’s our very best in my opinion. My father made it himself on his first vineyard here in Fiorito.”
I was taken aback because that was something that surprised me profusely. I thought they were only into producing olive oil while they lived in Fiorito.
“Are you serious?”
I uttered in disbelief.
“He met my mother when she her father passed away. She took over his olive range down line after they got married they focused on the range more because olive oil was on the market then. They extended the range and continued distributing it until it became big success as you know. My father didn’t sell vineyard throughout all that though he stored the last bottles he made and let them age. When he got acquainted some important taste testers he asked them sample his product, they also thought it was fabulous. That’s how my parents added wine selling to their distribution list.”
It was quite the uplifting story if you were apart of it that is. I would enjoy sharing it too if I was him. He was the only child all the accomplishments of his parents inherently transferred to him. I always wished mine would be someday have you could a quarter of the same. It matter to me overall our small town Pasticceria was a joy to run and it won’t go anywhere.
“So this is where you use to live?”
I had to ask. I didn’t attend any his birthdays or other parties his family had, even when he would invite me. I threw those invitation letters in the rubbish.
“Yes, but it’s been extended with many additions to the interior. I’ll give you a tour some other time.”
We were served grilled steak and baked potatoes for dinner. I kindly asked Emilio for a glass of water after feeling like I had a bit too much of the wine. It and the fruit cocktail for dessert cured me excellently. I informed Emilio to give my compliments to the chief. He assured me he would as the table was being cleared.
He rose out of the chair holding out his hand. “Come with me.”