When he began to eat his sandwich in silence, she lifted a thick-crusted slab of bread to inspect hers. The mozzarella, grilled chicken, fresh basil and avocado smelled delicious.
Still, she was thirstier than she was hungry, so she sipped her wine rather too enthusiastically while he continued to eat his sandwich.
Their silence lengthened. The sun felt warmer. Not that his not talking felt the least bit awkward or the heat of the sun the least bit uncomfortable. No, it was one of those comfortable lulls that can happen between two people who are so completely at ease with each other that there is no need for idle conversation.
It was too perfect, being with him, both in bed and out of it.
He looked up at her and then at the view.
“Dolce color d’oriental zaffiro,” he said.
“What?” She was beginning to love it when he spoke Italian.
“A gentle hue of Oriental sapphire.” He smiled. “We Italians are quite attached to our Divine Comedy. I memorized big pieces of Dante’s epic every year in school, and then again in university. We can all quote from it. Even my cousin, Massimo, can be quite eloquent.”
“I’m afraid I read more Cliff-Notes than the Divine Comedy itself,” she confessed.
“You missed something then. The great masters are usually worth reading.”
A gigolo who quoted Dante and defended the great masters with passion?
“The line comes from ‘Purgatory,’ and it describes the sea-tosky horizon when the Divine Poet emerged from the depths of Hell and came to the calm shores of MountPurgatory.”
“What can a girl who crammed for all her quizzes with Cliff-Notes possibly add to that?”
“Perhaps more than you think.”
He smiled. Then he opened a sack of chips and offered them to her. Normally, she never ate chips. But the hotel had made these.
She took one and munched noisily as he grabbed one from the bag for himself.
The chip was pure grease and carb—and sinfully delicious. She glanced at his olive-toned hand holding his chip. Taking the hint, he fed her his chip.
Apparently, she was on a sinfully-delicious kick.
“How did you get started as a gigolo?”
He was swallowing a chip himself and choked so violently she began to pound his back.
He shot to his feet, and she began to beat on his shoulders. “I thought I made it clear I don’t want to talk about my work.” His manner was abrupt.
“Why are you so ashamed of it when you’re so good at it?”
“Who wouldn’t be?” he lashed. His eyes were hard and cold now.
“If you don’t like it, why don’t you stop? Do something else?”
“Believe me, I’m going to,” he muttered. “The first chance I get.”
“I could be your last customer.”
“Believe me, you will be.” He shot her a look filled with selfcontempt. Then he knelt and began throwing things into his backpack. “Are you finished eating?”
She tried to swallow the last of her wine, but there was a painful lump in her throat. Was she so disgusting to him? Had he been acting last night? She remembered his passion, his tenderness. Closing her eyes, she fought tears.
For her, last night had been too wonderful to believe. Never had she felt so cherished or so special. Had it been awful for him? It must have been, and she couldn’t bear the thought.
Obviously, gigolos had to be skilled actors to play the parts in whatever fantasy their clients demanded. If he’d been disgusted, his performance deserved an Oscar.
“I’m sorry if it was awful for you,” she said in a broken whisper.
“Awful? What the hell are you talking about now?”
“Last night.” She couldn’t bear to look at him, so she was unaware of his expression. Pain cut her like a knife. “You found me disgusting.”
Suddenly she felt his arms, tight and hard, pulling her against his muscular chest.
“Cara, Cara.” His deep voice was infinitely soothing, his hands gentle now as he stroked her. His lips pressed lightly against her temple. “Disgusting? Last night was wonderful. I’m sorry I lost my temper. The last thing I ever want to do is make you unhappy.”
“I feel the same way, even though you are a gigolo and I know you can’t care about me as much as you act like you do.”
“God!” He mashed her against his chest. “I hate this.” He stroked her hair thoughtfully. “Cara, I…I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely honest with you.”
“How could you be? You were doing your job. But if your work is so repugnant, I relieve you from all obligations that we contracted for. I’ll even pay you now for tonight, too, and for tomorrow, as well.”