Loud and cheerful singing was heard in the De Rege mansion as Caterina’s birthday was celebrated by all. Touches of purple were sprinkled throughout the main area – it was seen in the balloons, the wrapping of the presents, the frosting of the cake and the flags. It came to no one’s surprise Caterina chose that specific colour as it was her favourite.
When it was time for the birthday girl to cut the cake, she urged her brother, Angelo, to help her. Isabella tried hiding a smile when they cut a piece of the cake, a rather large one at that. The kids’ eyes were bigger than their stomach.
‘’You used to do that as well.’’ Sergio leaned over to his sister and nodded his chin at Angelo and Caterina.
’’Correction, you used to do that.’’
The rest of the cake was cut by Dante and shared between the guests.
Isabella sat on the couch and got a piece of the treat handed by Dante. When it came to delicious cake, patience was not her strong suit and sneaked a bite in.
This is heaven.
The sudden feeling of hands gripping her shoulders made her stiffen and caused her to shriek internally. Isabella turned partly around and instantly relaxed when she caught Luciana’s eyes silently laughing at her reaction.
‘’Got scared for a second, didn’t you?’’ Luciana winked and went around the couch to wedge herself in between Isabella and Sergio.
‘’Me and scared? Never!’’ Isabella upped her sarcasm up by a notch.
‘’You guys already sang?’’ Luciana took note of the cake and groaned. ’’This is exactly why I told my mother to hurry up. She takes forever to get ready and now I don’t have cake!’’
‘’You can have mine,’’ Sergio said and fed Luciana a piece.
‘’You’re such a softy sometimes – not that I mind it.’’ Luciana munched on the treat.
Isabella’s jaw dropped at the sight. Confusion and shock drowning all thoughts. She wasn’t quite sure how she could’ve missed the two of them getting closer. Had her head been that wrapped up with Giovanni? Maybe.
‘’You two? Since when?’’ Her eyes flickered from Luciana to Sergio.
Luciana snapped her head in Sergio’s direction. ‘’You haven’t told her?’’ she said through her gritted teeth.
‘’I planned on telling her today,’’ he spoke to Luciana.
‘’I’m still here.’’ Isabella deadpanned. ‘’I can’t believe you gave me attitude when you found out about Giovanni and me, while you yourself were seeing Luciana. You’re such a hypocrite, Ser.’’
‘’No, I’m not.’’ Sergio denied the accusation.
‘’I have to side with Bella on this one. She tells me everything over the phone, including your rants.’’ Luciana bit her lip to hide a traitorous smile from showing.
‘’It’s different,’’ said Sergio.
‘’No, it’s not.’’ Isabella rolled her eyes at him.
’’That has nothing to do with this!’’
Giovanni left the company of his brothers and joined Isabella by taking up the empty place at the end of the couch. He rested his hand on Isabella’s thigh, the fabric of her dress acting as a light barrier.
‘’What is going on?’’ Giovanni asked Isabella.
‘’My brother’s brain has circulated.’’
‘’Somehow that doesn’t sound surprising.’’
Isabella gave him a look, the corners of her lips quirking up and sought him out. The feel of Giovanni’s lips placing a kiss on her temple had Isabella look at him through her lashes. His gaze was on her until something else seemed to have captured his attention.
Alberto’s watchful eyes were on them.
Giovanni removed his hand from Isabella’s thigh and for the slightest second, Alberto was close to looking pleased until Giovanni’s next move. He wrapped his arm around Isabella, pulling her a bit closer and gave Alberto a tight-lipped smile.
Isabella followed his line of sight and caught her father shaking his head at Giovanni before looking somewhere else with the roll of his eyes. The rumble of Giovanni’s laughter made her arch a brow at him.
‘’You did that on purpose.’’
‘’I think your father has taken a liking to me.’’
‘’Believe it or not, but him rolling his eyes at you is a good thing.’’
‘’Really? And how is that?’’ his voice held scepticism.
‘’He would just glare at you if he really disliked you.’’
‘’You mean like he when we danced at the wedding?’’
‘’Exactly like that.’’
‘’In that case, I hope he’ll keep rolling his eyes at me,’’ Giovanni said, making Isabella let out an airy laugh.
It was time for the birthday girl to open her presents and Angelo was the first to give his one. Caterina’s face brightened at the dollhouse her brother had crafted and hugged him with all she got. Angelo locked eyes with Isabella, a shy but grateful smile appearing on him.
‘’Thank you,’’ Giovanni said in a low voice to Isabella.
’’For what? She raised her eyebrows.
He motioned at the dollhouse. ‘’For helping him.’’
‘’Your father also helped out. I haven’t been here for long but even I can tell he loves his grandkids.’’
‘’He does.’’ Giovanni’s gaze settled on his father. ‘’Sometimes it still feels strange to see how he has changed. He used to be much stricter in the past. Strict but loving.’’
Isabella took note of the fondness glistening in Giovanni’s blue eyes as he watched his father. The warmth in them reaching her.
‘’You smile with your eyes. It’s pretty.’’
His brows drew together at her words and sighed. ‘’First you call me cute and now pretty? I must be losing my touch.’’
‘’It’s a compliment.’’
‘’I’m not so sure about tha-‘’ Giovanni stopped as his nephew tugged at his arm. ‘’What is it, Angelo?’’
‘’I think she likes my present!’’
‘’Of course she does. You made it.’’ He patted Angelo on the back, telling him that he did a good job.
Giovanni shared a close bond with Angelo and Caterina. He was the godfather to his brother’s children. Dante wanted to give his kids a secure future if anything were to happen to him or his wife.
Ever since Dante asked him to be the godfather of his children, Giovanni made sure to be there for the kids whenever they needed him. Initially, he wasn’t keen on taking up the role because it meant accepting the possible reality of Dante’s and Bianca’s death. Eventually, he wrapped his head around it and brought the responsibility upon himself.