Larenzo's Christmas Baby(2)

By: Kate Hewitt



He drained his glass for a second time. ‘Probably not.’

‘Well, the night at least,’ she answered briskly. She didn’t know what was going on with Larenzo, whether it was a business deal gone bust or a love affair gone bad, or something else entirely, but she could still do her job. ‘The sheets on your bed are clean. I’ll go switch the heating on for the pool.’

‘Don’t bother,’ Larenzo answered. He put his empty glass on the table with a clink. ‘There’s no need.’

‘It’s no trouble,’ Emma protested, and Larenzo shrugged, his back to her.

‘Fine. Maybe I’ll have one last swim.’

His words replayed through her mind as she left him and walked through the spacious, silent rooms of the villa to the back door that led to a brick terrace overlooking the mountains, a teardrop-shaped pool as its impressive centrepiece. One last swim. Was he planning on leaving, on selling the villa?

Emma gazed out at the Nebrodi mountains and shivered slightly, for the air still held a pine-scented chill.

All was quiet save for the rustling of the wind high up in the trees. Larenzo’s villa was remote, miles from the nearest market town, Troina; in the daylight Emma could see its terracotta-tiled houses and shops nestled in the valley below. She went there several times a week to shop and socialise; she had a couple of friends amidst the Sicilian shopkeepers and matrons.

If Larenzo was planning on selling the villa, she’d miss living here. She never stayed anywhere long, and she would have probably started feeling restless in a few months anyway, but... She glanced once more at the night-cloaked hills and valleys, the mellow stone of the villa perched on its hill gleaming in the moonlight. She liked living here. It was peaceful, with plenty of subjects to photograph. She’d be sad to leave, if it came to that.

But maybe Larenzo just meant a swim before he left for Rome again. She switched on the heating and then turned to go inside; as she turned a shadowy form loomed up in front of her and her breath came out in a short gasp. She must have swayed or stumbled a little, for Larenzo put his hands on her shoulders to steady her.

They stood like that for a moment in the doorway, his strong hands curling around her shoulders so she could feel the warmth of his palms through the thin cotton of her T-shirt, and how her heart pounded beneath it. She didn’t think he’d ever actually touched her before.

She moved one way, and he moved another, so it was almost as if they were engaged in a struggle or an awkward dance. Then Larenzo dropped his hands from her shoulders and stepped back.

‘Scusi.’

‘My fault,’ she murmured, her heart still thudding, and moved quickly through the kitchen to flick on the lights. Bathed in a bright electric glow, things felt more normal, even if she could still feel the imprint of his hands on her shoulders, so warm and strong. ‘So.’ She turned to him with a quick smile, a brisk look. ‘Have you eaten? I can make you something.’

He looked as if he was about to refuse, and then he shrugged. ‘Why not? I’ll go change while you cook.’

‘What would you like to eat?’

Another shrug as he turned away. ‘Whatever you make will be fine.’

She watched him disappear down the hallway, her lips pursed in an uncertain frown. She’d never seen Larenzo like this. Not that they’d actually had that much conversation, beyond discussing pool maintenance and house repairs. But even when talking about such mundane matters, Larenzo Cavelli had exuded a compelling charisma and energy, a life force. He was a man who, when entering a room, made everyone turn and take notice. Men tried to suppress their envy, and women undressed him with their eyes. Emma counted herself as wilfully immune to the man’s magnetic vitality, but its absence now made her uneasy.

Her frown deepening, Emma opened the fridge and stared at the few items inside. She always did a big shop right before Larenzo arrived; she bought all the ingredients for gourmet meals for one and made them for him to eat alone, usually out on the terrace overlooking the mountains.

Now she glanced askance at the half-dozen eggs, a few slices of pancetta and the end of a wedge of cheese that comprised the entire contents of the fridge. With a sigh she took it all out. A bacon and cheese omelette it was.

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