Now, the stranger’s eyes on Regina’s bare skin felt like fire. She wished she’d put on something that was more her.
Regina’s usual attire back in Austin, Texas, tended to be dull, predictable suits that covered her up, which were appropriate when a young woman was an attorney and made her living in courtrooms.
How ironic that his elderly mistress or client, or whoever the woman was, had sold Regina her revealing white sundress. The same woman had talked her into taking the clips out of her hair, too.
“You very lovely, signorina. With wavy hair down. You need flower in your hair. Special flower from magic bush. Then you get boyfriend for sure. Come. I show you.”
Was it so obvious Regina had no lover? No boyfriend?
With orange veils trailing behind a body that was still voluptuous and hidden bells jingling, the woman had led Regina out of the shop down a cobblestone path to a courtyard with a marble statue of Cupid and a thick bush ablaze with gardenias.
“This bush blooms all year. Pick one every day you are here, if you like. And I promise, a miracle will happen. Prometto.” Her dark blue eyes had twinkled like a fairy godmother’s.
Delighted, Regina had picked one yesterday. Then, this morning, she had gone back for another.
The gulf had a mirror finish; the sinking sun was turning to apricot the villas and hotels that perched precariously on the cliffs. Soon the coast would be magically suffused by the soft, slow twilight she’d come to love.
For as long as she could remember, Regina had wanted to visit the AmalfiCoast. Leaning down, she picked up her list of sights and notes. She should be admiring the mountains trembling steeply above the sea instead of devouring a man who could be a sexual professional.
You probably couldn’t even afford him.
Oh, my God!
If he was a gigolo, he obviously thought she could afford him. Why else was he eating her up with his dark blue eyes?
Her throat went so dry that she gulped more chardonnay.
Gigolos were losers who preyed on older, lonely women; definitely not part of her life plan. She should be shocked to the core by her train of thought.
Afford him? She should indict him!
In Austin, she had a reputation for being prim and proper and…and well, bossy. Not that she was. Nobody, not even her family, understood how strongly she had to focus to accomplish her goals.
“You’re a control freak and frigid!” Bobby had accused after she’d stunned them both, herself and him, by rejecting his marriage proposal.
“Please, let’s don’t get ugly,” she’d said.
“Give me my ring!” He’d bruised her finger when he’d tried to pull it off. “Even though you chased me for a whole damn year, you probably did me a helluva favor.”
“I chased you? I gave you my card at a party because I wanted to work for your father’s firm.”
“Just my luck! He hired you! You may be a good lawyer, but you’re one lousy lay.” He shoved his chair back and slammed out of the door of their favorite sushi restaurant, leaving her alone with a huge wooden serving dish filled with eels and shrimp and caviar, zero appetite, and the bill.
A lousy lay? Okay, so, yes, she had faked an orgasm or two. But only to make him happy.
What if a talented gigolo was able to teach a motivated student a few naughty tricks and make her sexier in bed?
Susana, her flaky, younger sister had tried to console her. “You’re going after the wrong type. I never liked Bobby anyway. Who wouldn’t have to fake orgasms with a man who never thought about anything but billable hours? Just a word though, maybe you should try being more intuitive. And maybe you shouldn’t boss guys around so much.”
Susana, a housewife, who’d stolen Joe, the one man Regina had loved, had had the gall to give her advice. How had Susana, a college dropout, become the successful sister?
Hello! Susana had given their folks three darling grandchildren.
“I’m not that bossy.”
“Well, don’t let your boyfriends see all those lists you make.”
“I just like to get things done,” Regina grumbled aloud to the voices in her head as she crumpled another napkin and wiped the condensation rings on her table.
She was sitting as far as she possibly could from the sexual professional, if that was indeed what he was. Too aware of his satiny black hair and flirty eyes, she tidied up her table, slipping a fresh napkin under her wineglass. Still, just knowing he was over there, alone now, had her pulse beating like a war drum.
Most of her girlfriends had shocked her by sleeping with strangers at least once, and then describing their sexual misadventures in vivid detail over long lunches. But that lifestyle hadn’t been for Regina. She’d always known she’d wanted to love and marry a respectable professional man, and she’d accepted dates only from men who met her criteria. She had a long list of criteria.