Lucy was pregnant by the sperm donor who she and her partner Beth had agreed was a perfect fit for them. They had pictures of him and his children, future half siblings to their own much-wanted child, posted all over their apartment.
“You’ll never believe where I am,” Regina began.
She went to the closet, pulled out the painting of the little boy playing in the sand, then returned with it to her balcony.
“Italy!” Lucy answered.
“I mean—” Regina stared down at Nico again “—where in Italy? And you’ll never guess what I’m doing….”
The little boy’s painted hair shone like black satin, exactly as Nico’s did.
“You probably just got through jogging and are about to treat yourself to some tomatoes and fat-free mozzarella while you make long lists of must-see tourist attractions for tomorrow.”
“Ravello! Which is the best place ever. I don’t think anybody has ever heard of fat-free cheese over here, either. Are you familiar with MaxfieldParrish’s paintings?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Ravello is like those paintings.” Regina lowered her voice. “I’ve met a man.”
“Those are the four most dangerous words any other woman could say…especially if he’s an Italian. But then you’re you, so he’s probably smart, ambitious…”
“He’s not! But don’t worry, this isn’t serious. He’s absolutely gorgeous, the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen. But…”
“But what? With you, when it comes to your men, there always has to be a but.”
For a long moment, Regina hesitated. She almost regretted calling Lucy.
“But? I’m waiting!”
“I—I think he might be a gigolo.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
Regina remained silent.
“That is such a cliché. And not a good one. Not for you! You’ve got to come home now! You’ve definitely been over there too long. You were supposed to relax, enjoy good food, art, pretty scenery, visit your grandmother in Tuscany….”
“I think the art may be part of the problem. The sculptures here are so erotic.”
“Pay him and then drive straight to the airport,” Lucy ordered.
“But he’s so hot. I feel like I’m burning up.”
“Did he slip something in your drink?”
“Don’t do it! This is all because Bobby said you were uptight and frigid and because you were pushing yourself at work way too hard. You don’t have to prove you’re a hottie in disguise. You don’t! Now you know you called me because you wanted to hear the voice of reason.”
No, Regina had called Lucy because she’d wanted to share something that felt important.
“I think I’ve been having doubts about E-321. I think Italy has made insemination just seem way too impersonal. I’m not you, you know. I can…be with a man.”
“We talked about this, girlfriend. E-321 has gone through numerous screenings…. Use a condom with this Italian fellow if you don’t come to your senses! What do you know about him except he’s hot and that he charges gullible women like you a bundle for the pleasure of his body? I would think there would be plenty of free, horny Italians over there.”
“Not like him.”
Even three stories below her, Nico’s tall, dark figure in jeans and a white shirt radiated power, assurance and masculinity. And something more.
When he looked up and smiled warmly, her breath caught in her throat.
She waved, as thrilled as a high-school girl with her first crush.
“I—I feel this weird, totally powerful connection to him.”
“And you haven’t even had your first orgasm! Not good. Run for your life! This is not a good thing.”
“But it feels like a good thing.”
“This is very, very bad.”
Regina’s cell phone began to beep. She saw Susana’s name. Her flaky baby sister, who didn’t have a digital gene in her body, never called her.
The name Susana flashed in bold blue.
“Oh, my God! Today’s the day the twins are being christened. Susana’s calling me! She’s actually calling me—in Italy! I’ve gotta go! I totally forgot to call Susana!”
“One word! Airplane!”
“I’ll call you right back.”
“That sounds like a plan!”
Regina punched a button and took Susana’s call. There was a loud wail on Susana’s end, which meant either Regina’s niece, Gina, who’d been named after her, or one of her twin nephews was unhappy.
“Hi, there,” Regina said, feeling guilty. “How was the christening?”