“No, thanks. She’ll be gone in a day or two. I’ll have you sulking and grieving all to myself soon enough.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“So, enjoy and I’ll kill the last of the Pinot.”
Nico waved. Massimo held up his wineglass in a mock toast.
Two minutes later, Nico was striding up the beach. Cara saw him and got up slowly.
Again she was wearing a white gardenia, and the paleness of the flower made her dark hair and brows and wide, luminous eyes seem all the more dramatic. She looked so young, lovely, and vulnerable, he was thoroughly disconcerted.
“I’m weak,” she said. “I couldn’t bear my room alone, thinking that I would never see you again, knowing you were so near. I’m sorry about—”
“Don’t.” He took her hand, kissed her fingertips. “I understand completely. I’m just so glad you’re here. I want to spend every free second I have with you.”
For the rest of my life, he thought grimly.
“I don’t want to think about the future,” she said, her voice as desperate as his own emotions.
“Are you hungry?”
Her brilliant dark eyes lifted to his. “A cappuccino, maybe.” He read her hunger for other things.
“I know the perfect place, and it has the best gelato in all of Italy.”
“Really?” The excitement in her voice made his throat catch. She was looking at him, and it was easy to see her mind was not on sampling gelato.
“I’m something of a gelato addict,” he murmured.
“I didn’t know that. I’m glad to know that. Gelato, huh? That’s all it takes to tempt you?” She squeezed his hand. “For me, it’s chocolate.”
He threaded his fingers through hers and led her to a nearby terrace restaurant on a cliff overlooking a tranquil cove. Under a canopy of dangling wisteria blossoms, he ordered cappuccinos and grilled calamari. Then more cappuccinos and a vanilla gelato for himself and a chocolate gelato for her, chocolate because she’d pointed to it and clapped like a child.
He liked watching her eat and drink while the gulls sailed above them and the wisteria stirred in the breeze.
“Would you like to go for a boat ride?” he asked as she licked the last bit of chocolate gelato off her spoon.
She stared at the blue water and then at him. “If you want to.”
“Okay then, yes.” She laughed. “I want to. Very much.”
Once they were in his tender and moving slowly away from the beach out into the glistening harbor, he said, “We can go fast or slow. Whatever you want.”
“Fast,” she said. “I want to fly.”
“First, we see the yachts. Up close. They are quite impressive. But we have to go slow in the marina itself.”
“Slow or fast. They’re both good.” She smiled, as delighted as a child with a new puppy, and he felt thrilled to be with her as they motored from yacht to yacht while he told her stories of the people who owned them.
When she pointed to villas and palazzos that dotted the hills, he told her their histories, as well. An hour or two sped by. The sun began to sink, the sky and sea exploding in brilliant color.
“People used to travel this coast only by boat,” he said.
“After our nerve-racking drive, I can see why.”
“Do you know how Amalfi got its name?” he asked.
“Hercules loved a nymph named Amalfi. When she died he buried her here because he thought this was the most beautiful place on earth. And then he named it after her.”
“I know a lovely sea cave that’s even more romantic. We’ll go there later. After the sun goes down.”
Time seemed to evaporate when he was with her, and he felt complete. He cut the motor and they drifted on the slick gilded surface, holding each other tightly, until the sun sank and the light went out of the sky and sea.
As he stroked her hand, he thought about his family’s palazzos that were filled with the portraits of generations of his ancestors.
“They remind us who we are and where we come from,” his mother often said.
As a boy, Nico had stood under the massive gilt frames at length while his parents had told him about their ancestors’ lives. “You resemble them,” they’d said.
Outwardly, he resembled them. So why hadn’t he ever felt he was one of them? Instead, he’d felt trapped by their traditions and their demands and most of all by their insatiable need for wealth.
Only with Cara, now in this little boat for the first time in his life, did he feel the easiness that comes when one is in tune with one’s true self. Not even Simonetta had been able to free him of the life he’d been born to and its pressures.