They sat in a corner table at a small cafe. Though a northerner by birth, she hated Turin and its industrial anonymity, its faceless, sterile restaurants and cold, imposing warehouse clubs. But Paolo had found a cozy spot in the midst of the city’s perpetual winter. The waiter greeted him with a “Signor Paolo” and an Aperol spritz.
“He knows you,” Francesca remarked.
“They all do–this is the only place I like to come in town,” he said. “Spritz?”
“Another,” he told the waiter, passing Francesca his glass.
“Do you always drink during the season?”
“If I feel like it.”
“Aren’t you not supposed to?”
“Does it matter? Are they going to break my contract because I like to have an Aperol with a pretty girl? They can’t. They need me.”
“So, you do it anyway, you’re saying. To the detriment of the rest of your team.”
“No, I do what I want. It’s never bothered anyone before.”
“I’m not just anyone, Paolo.” She used his first name, and the effect was as if she had leaned in and touched his arm, even though she stayed in her chair, posture perfect and erect.
“You aren’t, are you? Signor Marco Ghiberti’s niece, Miss Photographer-for-Vogue…if I was a different man, I’d say you were out of my league.”
“Stop teasing.” She caught his eyes for a moment, then longer, falling into their inky depth. Unconsciously, she brought her finger to her lip and stroked it with her nail.
“I’m going to sleep with you,” he whispered across the table.
“Pardone?” she asked quietly.
“You heard me, signorina. Don’t pretend to be so innocent.”
“I’m surprised. You’ve surprised me.” He hadn’t, but experience had taught her the value in letting him think so. Later, she would surprise him.
“A pleasant surprise, I hope.”
She paused. “A surprise.”
“I have a flat near by.”
“I live here during the season. The rest of the year, at Rapallo.”
“On the riviera.” She knew it well. “I have cousins near there.”
“Unbutton your shirt one more button,” he murmured, and she couldn’t mistake the huskiness in his voice. She knew that well, too.
She moved her hands to the crisp white fabric, then paused. “How far is your place?”
“The way I drive, five minutes.” He set a ten-Euro note on the table and waved good-bye to the waiter.