The following week, Isabella and her mother stood in front of the De Rege mansion. Just as she straightened out her baby pink halter dress, her mother knocked on the door. Waiting didn’t take long as Celia was quick to answer the door and welcome them with a bright smile. The three of them went further into the mansion until they reached the spacious seating room.
‘’It’s good to see you again, Mrs. Donati,’’ a girl with light-brown hair chirped.
Isabella regarded the girl who spoke to her mother. She wore a white blouse with blue skinny jeans. Based on her looks, she guessed she couldn’t have been that much older than herself.
The girl turned her attention to Isabella. ‘’Hi, I’m Luciana and you are?’’
‘’Isabella. Her daughter,’’ Isabella said while pointing at Donatella.
‘’Why don’t you girls get to know each other. We’ll be in the garden.’’ Celia clapped her hands.
Isabella silently cursed in her head as she watched her mother and Celia leave her with Luciana. She didn’t do well with strangers. Isabella was the type of girl that was awkward at first and got more and more comfortable as time progressed.
‘’So…’’ Isabella started speaking.
Quick say something. Anything! Don’t make this more awkward than it already is. Hurry up!
‘’Do you like…?’’ she continued.
Isabella mentally slapped herself at the words leaving her mouth.
Luciana blinked a few times and before cracking up. Luciana’s laugh was contagious carried over to Isabella. They both laughed at Isabella’s silly question.
‘’That’s a kind of embarrassing,’’ Isabella said with a sheepish smile.
‘’I would be embarrassed too. Trust me! I get embarrassed about every single little thing! I trip, I get embarrassed. I sneeze, I get embarrassed. I mean I’ll make eye contact and I will find a way to feel embarrassed about it!’’ Luciana giggled and Isabella joined her.
‘’Me too, me too,’’ Isabella nodded with a sigh.
‘’I didn’t know you two already knew each other.’’
Isabella recognized the deep male voice and darted her eyes up to see Dante coming in their direction. He was the older brother of Giovanni and Raffaele. Isabella and Dante had come in contact on multiple occasions. Dante loved his liquor after all and often visited the Donati store. The first time she met him, she expected him to be rude but he was quite the opposite. From that moment on, Isabella knew to not judge someone their looks.
‘’We don’t,’’ Isabella and Luciana deadpanned making them look at each other and laugh again.
Isabella’s laughter died down when she spotted Giovanni standing behind Dante, not even realising Raffaele was also present. Her pulse began to speed up when she noticed all of his attention was on her. She lowered her head and fiddled with the fabric of her dress.
‘’I’m hungry. Kitchen?’’ Luciana grinned at Isabella.
Just as the two girls followed the aromatic scents coming from the kitchen, Isabella felt someone’s stare on her. She didn’t have to look back to know it was him.
Am I walking in a straight line? Isabella shook her head lightly at her silly thought.
‘’Are you their cousin?’’ Isabella asked curiously.
Luciana nodded in response and asked, ‘’What do you think of them? Like I’m fine around them because I’ve known them since I was a kid, but I know how other people look at them.’’
‘’I mean, Dante is nice and polite. Raffaele is funny and Giovanni is…’’ Isabella pursed her lips. ‘’A little intimidating.’’
Isabella’s assessment of Giovanni made Luciana laugh. She raised a single eyebrow at Luciana, wondering what the reason for her reaction was.
‘’That reminds me.’’ Luciana tried to gasp for air as she held her stomach. ‘’Aunt Celia had to fire Giovanni from her restaurant because the customers were scared of him.’’
Isabella tried to imagine Celia firing her own son. The scene she played out in her head resulted in her joining Luciana’s fits of laughter.
Giovanni heard her beautiful laugh and looked over to the kitchen. There was no denying he was drawn to her.
After the girls treated themselves with some sweet treats, they went back to the living room.
‘’I’m so excited for the wedding! I still haven’t bought a dress though. Can you come with me? I don’t want to go shopping all on my own. There is no fun in that!’’ Luciana turned to Isabella with a pleading look. ‘’And I don’t want to hear you can’t go.’’
Isabella giggled. ‘’Sure, why not?’’
‘’I’m going with you two,’’ Giovanni said making heads snap in his direction.
Dante and Raffaele looked at their brother as if he had grown a second head. Giovanni never went shopping. Dante caught up quickly and figured out what his brother’s hidden motives were. The knowing smirk he wore on his face earned him a glare from Giovanni. As soon as the smirk made its appearance it left.
Dante stood up from the couch. ‘’It’s about time we go. Come on, Giovanni and Raffaele. Vincenzo texted that he is waiting for us.’’
‘’Go on without me. I’ll go by myself,’’ Giovanni said to Dante and Raffaele.
Dante raised a dark eyebrow and followed Giovanni’s line of eyesight toward Isabella. He knew what his brother was up to and let out a low chuckle. Dante clapped Raffaele on his back, letting him know it was time to leave Giovanni alone with Isabella.
Luciana’s focus went from Giovanni to Isabella. A mischievous smile on her as she watched them exchange looks. She excused herself to give them privacy but not before whispering good luck in Isabella’s ear.
‘’I’ll be in the garden if you need me.’’ Luciana winked at her.
Once again, Isabella was alone with him. Her gaze fixed on the curves of his biceps that she could make out when he brought a cigarette to his lips. With his sleeves rolled up, she stared at the veins and dark hairs on his forearm. Heat pooled low in her stomach. Isabella stayed quiet as he ignited the cigarette with a lighter.
‘’I’ll come and pick you up around eleven o’clock tomorrow. We’ll get Luciana on the way to the mall,’’ he said and Isabella bobbed her head up and down.
Giovanni came closer and brushed his fingers over her heated cheeks. He cast his dark-blue eyes down on her and moved his touch from her cheeks to her plump lips. Lightly caressing them, wanting to taste them.
Isabella parted her lips slightly. Her heart beating faster and faster. It didn’t stop when his hand left her face. She felt as if she was in a trance. Completely enthralled by the man in front of her.
’’You have to stay by my side during the wedding. Sì?’’ his tone of voice was stern.
Giovanni knew he wasn’t the only one interested in Isabella. He didn’t doubt she would gain even more admirers during Vincenzo’s wedding. After all, Isabella was an attractive girl.
Isabella said no more. She wanted to ask him why she had to stay close to him but didn’t. She felt like he didn’t want her to question him and she wasn’t comfortable around him yet.
Giovanni put the cigarette in the glass ashtray, still maintaining eye contact. He leaned in and left a soft kiss on her cheek before leaving.
Isabella had butterflies in her stomach. She watched his broad back as he disappeared out of her sight. Even though it wasn’t a kiss on the lips, the act felt incredibly intimate to her.