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“Let’s not trick ourselves into thinking that this was more than a lovely weekend,” Robin said. “I have to go back to my life – in the States – and you have to go back to your life right here. The sooner we both do that, the better for all concerned.”
Bleary eyed with jet lag, Robin Clarke stood by the door to the restaurant. She had planned to check it out as part of her assignment for Traveling Smarts magazine during her whirlwind trip to Rome, but it looked closed. Disappointment and frustration welled up inside her. It had been such a long day that all she really wanted right then was a hot meal. It didn’t even have to be a great, memorable meal, deserving of much praise and much note taking between courses so that she didn’t forget a thing when it came to writing the article. It just had to be hot and served in the next few minutes.
She consulted her notes again to make sure that she had the opening time correct. Then the door swung open, letting out a shaft of warm, golden light and even better aromas. A man with his back to her briskly whisked away a few stray autumn leaves from the welcome mat.
“È chiuso?” she asked in her best Italian. Now Robin’s best Italian was not very good, even when she wasn’t jet lagged. Instead of asking if the restaurant was closed, she should have asked if it was open. She was just about to correct herself when she was suddenly struck mute for the man had now turned toward her. Tall, dark, and handsome didn’t even begin to cover the territory. The man had intensely blue eyes, a deep cleft in his chin, and a smile that revitalized her right through to the marrow of her bones. Tired? Had she been tired?
Speaking in a rapid flow of liquid Italian, the man had simultaneously held open the door for her, led her across to a table in the completely empty restaurant, helped her off with her coat, and seated her. Robin blinked when she realized that the flow of sound had come to an end and that some response was now required of her.
“Che cosa bere?” he asked very slowly, as though speaking to a half-wit, but still smiling that melting smile. Robin’s brain was slowly beginning to function again. She could almost hear the wheels in her head grinding as they started to turn. She could handle this. She could order something to drink while simultaneously and surreptitiously wiping the drool from her chin.
“Ac-ac-acqua minerale frizzante, per favore,” she managed to stammer. The Roman god was gone. Before her wits were fully re-gathered, he was back at her side pouring sparkling mineral water into her glass. He presented her with a menu, smiled again, and left her to ponder what she would have for dinner.
Fortunately, the menu’s many selections were translated into several languages underneath each entry. Robin began to regain her confidence as she read through the rather mangled English translations. She giggled to herself when she came to an entry for eggs that promised to serve “Ggs, fried in a frying pan, at pleasure.” She wasn’t the only one struggling with a foreign language in Ostaria da Nerone that evening. She selected Pasta Fagiole to start with, artichokes and a veal cutlet in lemon sauce for her main course, and silently practiced placing her order, so she would sound somewhat coherent when the insanely handsome waiter returned.
The “Roman god,” more commonly known as Tony Cianelli to his friends, casually leaned his tall frame against the dark, paneled wall and studied the only patron in the restaurant so far this evening. Well, it was only seven, and things didn’t get really going until nine. If he had a choice, however, he would lock the door and not allow anyone else to enter, so he could just look after this one lovely guest without any distraction. She was beautiful!
Patricia Gilbert ‘retired’ from the practice of divorce law at age forty. She switched gears to the more creative and rewarding pursuits of teaching French and English, writing, and photography. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, she now makes her home in suburban Mount Laurel, New Jersey with her supportive husband, multi-talented daughter, and tyrannical cat. She loves to travel in Europe and go for long bike rides along the Delaware canal. See her award-winning photography at www.patriciagilbert.com.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 200