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Authors: Melinda De Ross

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BOOK: A French Kiss in London
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“Talking with you is really fascinating! I always learn new things,” she remarked, impressed by all his knowledge.

He returned her smile and the fatigue shadows on his face seemed to dissipate slowly.

“I could tell you a lot more interesting things tonight, at dinner.”

She bit her lower lip involuntarily, as her heart gave a little thud of excitement. After a few moments of inner debate, she asked, “Do you like Italian food?”

Chapter Five

 

 

Linda had learned to cook from an early age. She used to spend hours watching enthralled as Sofia—their cook—prepared sumptuous meals for the Coriola family, which back then was still intact.

Sofia was a well-rounded woman with ever-rosy cheeks and gray hair, which she always covered with colorful scarves. When Linda had asked the woman to teach her a few simple recipes, Sofia had been delighted with the little girl’s passion for gastronomy. She’d immediately taken her under her wing, teaching her
the art of becoming a domestic goddess
, as she used to say. And so, in a few years, Linda—who was already in her teens—had gained the experience of a high-class chef.

At the moment however, it seemed all her culinary knowledge had left her. She’d hired Mrs. Adams to cook for her so she could dedicate her time to sculpting and not bother with domestic stuff. Now she got the impression she’d lost her touch.

She lined up precisely on the counter all the ingredients she needed, then sat on a chair next to Pirata, who watched the preparations curiously.

For a few long minutes they both sat, staring at the spaghetti, spices, mushrooms, cheese and ham, all arranged in military fashion. The cat’s gaze was lustful, his nose and whiskers twitching with interest. By contrast, Linda’s gaze reflected a shadow of something resembling desperation.

Eventually, with a deep, resigned sigh, she stood and got to work. The Spaghetti Carbonara was her favorite dish and was quite simple to prepare.

Working efficiently, without conscious effort, carried by the rhythm that had never truly left her, she started an animated discussion with Pirata.

“I don’t know what I was thinking, inviting him for dinner,” she told the cat, barely noticing that he’d just slid a paw on the counter to steal yet another piece of ham. “I mean, look at me.” She gesticulated with the knife she used for cutting mushrooms. “Instead of minding my business, I’m cooking for a guy. And I don’t even know if he’ll like this. As a matter of fact, I know very well why he’s coming to dinner. He’s only interested in the
dessert
.”

Remembering the way he’d kissed her the night before, of how incredibly sexy he looked sitting at his desk—unshaven, his shirt nearly unbuttoned—she became aware of her own need and desperate craving for that kind of decadent
dessert
.

Ignoring for a moment the fantastic way he was built, she had to admit he was a special man.
Noble
, that’s how she’d called him, and meant it.

“Why do I have to complicate stuff?” she demanded again of Pirata, who was washing his paws, satiated. “I’m just going to live the moment, not sit around analyzing every little thing. Giovanni was right. Not all men are a pain in the ass. Some of them are worth the trouble, right?”

At the end of this one-sided conversation, during which she had been moving like a robot, she was amazed to discover the meal was almost ready. She made the final touches, then consulted her watch and exclaimed in panic, “It’s a quarter to eight! Gerard has to be here at eight sharp!”

She scrambled toward the door and ran upstairs to her bedroom, under the cat’s placid gaze.

She quickly applied some basic makeup. After that, she pulled on a white backless dress that reached her knees, splendid in its simplicity and elegance.

Her only jewelry was the ring she never took off and a pair of delicate pearl earrings.

Precisely as she descended the stairs, she heard the intercom’s buzz. She pressed the button to unlock the gate and opened the front door, in time to see a black Jeep advancing on her driveway.

Gerard parked in front of the garage, before climbing out of his car. He walked around and opened the passenger door, revealing an enormous bouquet of flowers. He removed it from the seat, then headed toward her. He wore midnight blue pants and a white shirt, open at the neck. The white cotton created a delicious contrast to his tanned chest, sprinkled with dark-gold hair. She felt her entire body reacting to his presence like a metallic splinter attracted to a powerful magnet.

When he reached her, she noticed he’d shaven.

My God, he is completely magnificent!
she thought, while his intense green eyes drilled into hers, as if he intuited all her thoughts and sensations.

He handed her the bouquet—a combination of white roses and white lilac, spreading a divine scent. He took in her white dress, the thin material that flowed down her body, subtly emphasizing every curve.

“I can see I chose the flowers very well. They perfectly match you and your attire. You look magnificent,” he said, bending to kiss her cheek.

She turned her head involuntarily and his warm, soft lips touched the corner of her mouth. Entranced by his nearness and by his dizzying perfume, she turned her head another fraction. Their mouths touched in a kiss that would have been as chaste as the white flowers between them, if not for the explosive sensuality crackling in the air. For several seconds they just stared at one another, in hypnotizing fascination.

He touched her lips with his once more, then slowly traced them delicately with one finger, as though caressing the petals of an exotic flower. He stepped back from her slightly, noticing Pirata, who had come to inspect the intruder. Amused, he bent to rub the cat’s ears and was repaid with a generous purr.

Linda invited him inside, prompting him to have a seat on the living room sofa, while she took the flowers to the kitchen.

“Would you rather we ate in a more formal ambient or in the kitchen?” she asked when she returned, aware that her dress wasn’t suited for a kitchen meal.

“Definitely in the kitchen. You don’t have to be formal with me, Linda. Do you need me to help you with anything?”

“Just with the eating,” she joked. “Come into the kitchen then.”

As he sat at the counter, she mentally congratulated herself for being such a tidy cook. Because she cleaned all surfaces while she was cooking, her kitchen always looked brand-new. She took great pride in that.

She arranged the dishes, then brought the spaghetti.

“Mmm, they look almost as good as you!”

“Thanks, but I can assure you they taste a lot better.”

“I seriously doubt that,” he replied, watching her in that particular way, which never failed to incite her.

After he had his first taste, Gerard remarked, “It’s absolutely delicious! Where’d you learn to cook this?”

“Back home, when I was a child, we had an excellent cook. Sofia taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, lately I’ve become pretty lazy and I rarely cook.”

“I’ve always loved Italian food the most. It’s got something special, just like Italian women. My mother always pushed me to find an Italian girl.”

“And you didn’t succeed?” she asked jokingly.

“I did now,” he answered in a serious tone, his eyes meeting hers.

They looked at one another for a long moment, in silence. She was the first to break that intense visual contact. She resumed the conversation, changing the subject as if nothing had happened.

They went on with their meal, making small talk, while Pirata twirled around their feet, shamelessly begging for treats.

“I’m sorry, but I haven’t had time to prepare dessert,” she apologized, as she cleared the table. “But I’ve ordered something delicious.”

Gerard stood and put his dishes into the sink.

“What? So far, dinner was great.”

She went to the fridge and produced a casserole, from which she generously filled two dessert bowls. She put them on the table and added two spoons.

“Caramel Cream. Haven’t you ever had this?”

He studied it curiously, then used his spoon to test and taste the creamy surface.

“I’ve never tasted something this good in my whole life!” he exclaimed, his eyes closed in delight. “Would you like to go in the living room? A good movie in your company is all that’s missing.”

She smiled, taking her own bowl and spoon.

“You’ll have to watch that cream at all times. Pirata loves it.”

They sat comfortably on the living room sofa. Following a short debate regarding her DVD collection, they decided to watch
Far And Away
, a sort of romantic comedy starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

The movie had barely begun and Gerard’s bowl was empty. Linda laughed when she saw him placing it on the table.

“Do you want some more?” she asked, putting her half-eaten dessert next to his empty bowl.

“No, thanks. It was delicious, but I’m full.”

“Let me know if you change your mind.”

“I will.”

He sank deeply between the cushions and put an arm around her, on the sofa’s backrest.

On the screen, Tom and Nicole were exchanging witty lines, making both spectators laugh out loud.

“I would love to visit Ireland one day,” Linda confessed, referring to the country where the movie was taking place. “And another thing on my to-see list is Stonehenge. Though I’ve been in England for months now, I’ve never taken the time to visit it yet. But I plan to.”

Gerard watched her curiously.

“You too?”

“I guess that means we have a common goal?”

When he nodded, she went on, “Ever since I was in high school, when we learned about Stonehenge during History classes, I was fascinated by the pictures of that place, by all the legends going around about the origin and purpose of those megaliths, about druids. I’m interested in everything tied to Celtic culture, although I don’t know much about it.”

“Frankly speaking,” he said, “I believe no one knows anything for sure. They all speculate based on some research or facts and the hypotheses of the ones who invent opinions. But you’re right, places like Stonehenge are spectacular. It’s incredible to simply admire them, to imagine the efforts of the people—or any other entities—who built them, driven by ideas or purposes known only by them. I intend to visit it too, one day.”

“Maybe we’ll go together,” she suggested.

He looked at her, smiling.

“I would like that. Perhaps when I get back from Romania.”

She absently stroked Pirata, while the cat curled up in a corner of the sofa, sleepily kneading a cushion with his claws.

“When do you plan to leave? And how will you get there?”

“Well, as soon as possible I’ll reserve a plane ticket. When I get there, I’ll rent a car or something.”

He slowly rubbed his chin, watching her thoughtfully.

“Why don’t you come with me?” he asked her, so suddenly it had probably been a potentially crazy impulse.

She stared at him, stunned.

“Me? In Romania?”

He shrugged.

“What’s the problem?”

“W-well, in two days I have the opening of my art exhibit. I have to be there,” she stammered.

“I hope you plan to invite me too. I can’t wait to see what you can do,” he replied, his white teeth gleaming in the playful light beams coming from the TV screen—the only source of light in the dark room. “But we could leave next week. Or do you have something against Romania?”

She massaged her forehead with two fingers. The guy demolished her every argument like a wrecking ball.

“I don’t have anything against it, but I can’t just leave. What do I do with Pirata?” she asked with renewed hope.

He thought it over for a moment.

“Didn’t you say you have a housekeeper? She could take care of him. We won’t stay longer than two or three days. Or don’t you want to come with me?”

She sighed deeply.

“It’s not about that…”

Under his steady gaze, she felt herself weakening.

“I’ll think about it, I promise. And I’ll try to find a way to organize my stuff. Now let’s watch the movie, okay? I haven’t even paid attention.”

Meanwhile, the movie’s action had moved from Ireland to America, and the adventures of the two protagonists oscillated between amusing and tragic.

“I’ve always wanted to have curly hair,” Linda said dreamily, admiring Nicole Kidman’s thick, wavy hair. “Look at her, she’s gorgeous with that hair.”

Gerard ran his hands softly through her hair, analyzing a long strand.

“Your hair is lovely just the way it is,” he said and she turned her face to his. “Ever since I first saw you, I admired it. After last night, its scent has remained etched into my memory.
You
remained ingrained into my head.”

She looked at him, speechless. The games of light and shadow coming from the screen reflected on his face. One moment, they emphasized only his deep eyes that watched her with their unmoving spark. Then the light fell over his lips, sensual and so alluring, capable of offering the most skillful kisses. When he leaned in closer to her, his warm breath made her whole body tremble with desire.

An almost electrifying shiver ran through her from head to toe at the first touch of his lips. When the kiss intensified, passion seized them both, engulfing them in thousands of sensations, nameless but of a crushing profoundness.

BOOK: A French Kiss in London
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