Latin Lovers

By: Helen Bianchin


Beautiful home, gracious host and hostess. The requisite mingling over drinks for thirty minutes before dinner. Any number between ten to twenty guests, a splendid table. An exquisite floral centre-piece. The guests carefully selected to complement each other.

‘Carlo, darling.’

Aysha heard the greeting, recognised the sultry feminine purr, and turned slowly to face one of several women who had worked hard to win Carlo’s affection.

Now that the wedding was imminent, most had retired gracefully from the hunt. With the exception of Nina di Salvo.

The tall, svelte fashion consultant was a femme fatale, wealthy, widowed, and selectively seeking a husband of equal wealth and social standing.

Nina was admired, even adored, by men. For her style, beauty and wit. Women recognised the predatory element existent, and reacted accordingly.

‘Aysha,’ Nina acknowledged. ‘You look...’ The pause was deliberate. ‘A little tired. All the preparations getting to you, darling?’

Aysha summoned a winsome smile and honed the proverbial dart. ‘Carlo doesn’t permit me enough sleep.’

Nina’s eyes narrowed fractionally, then she leaned towards Carlo, brushed her lips against his cheek, and lingered a fraction too long. ‘How are you, caro?’

‘Nina.’ Carlo was too skilful a strategist to give anything away, and too much the gentleman to do other than observe the social niceties.

He handled Nina’s overt affection with practised ease and minimum body contact. Although Nina more than made up for his reticence, Aysha noted, wondering just how he regarded the glamorous brunette’s attention.

She saw his smile, heard his laughter, and felt the tender care of his touch. Yet how much was a facade?

‘Do get me a drink, caro,’ Nina commanded lightly. ‘You know what I like.’

Oh, my, Aysha determined as Carlo excused himself and made his way to the bar. This could turn into one hell of an evening.

‘I hope you don’t expect fidelity, darling,’ Nina warned quietly. ‘Carlo has...’ she paused fractionally ‘... certain needs not every woman would be happy to fulfil.’

Cut straight to the chase, a tiny voice prompted. ‘Really, Nina? I’ll broach that with him.’

‘What will you broach, and with whom?’

Speak of the devil... Aysha turned towards him as he handed Nina a slim flute of champagne.

Quite deliberately she tilted her chin and gazed into his dark gleaming eyes with amused serenity. She’d had plenty of smile practice, and she proffered one of pseudo-sincerity. ‘Nina expressed her concern regarding my ability to fulfil your needs.’

Carlo’s expression didn’t change, and Aysha dimly registered that as a poker player he would be almost without equal.

‘Really?’

It seemed difficult to comprehend a single word could hold such a wealth of meaning. Or the quiet tone convey such a degree of cold anger.

The tension was evident, although Carlo hadn’t moved so much as a muscle. Anyone viewing the scene would assume the three of them were engaged in pleasant conversation.

‘Perhaps Nina and I should get together and compare notes,’ Aysha declared with wicked humour.

Nina lifted the flute to her lips and took a delicate sip. ‘What for, darling? My notes are bound to be far more extensive than yours.’

Wasn’t that the truth? She caught a glimpse of aqua silk and saw Teresa and Giuseppe enter the room, and wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed at their appearance.

Her mother would assess Nina’s presence in an instant, and seek to break up their happy little threesome.

Aysha began a silent countdown... Three minutes to greet their hosts, another three to acknowledge a few friends.

‘There you are, darling.’

Right on cue. Aysha turned towards her mother and proffered an affectionate smile. ‘Mamma. You weren’t held up too long, after all.’ She indicated the tall brunette. ‘You remember Nina?’

Teresa eyes sharpened, although her features bore a charming smile. ‘Of course. How nice to see you again.’

A lie, if ever there was one. Polite society, Aysha mused. Good manners hid a multitude of sins. If she were to obey her base instincts, she’d tell Nina precisely where to go and how to complete the journey.

There was an inherent need to show her claws, but this wasn’t the time or place.

‘Shall we go in to dinner?’

A respite, Aysha determined with a sense of relief. Unless their hostess had chosen unwisely and placed Nina in close proximity.

The dining room was large, the focal point being the perfectly set table positioned beneath a sparkling crystal chandelier of exquisite design.

The scene resembled a photograph lifted out of the social pages of a glossy magazine. It seemed almost a sacrilege for guests to spoil the splendid placement precision.

Although there were, she noted, a waiter and waitress present to serve allotted food portions at prearranged intervals. Likewise the imported wine would flow, but not at a rate that was considered too free.

Respectability, decorum, an adherence to exemplary good manners, with carefully orchestrated conversational topics guaranteed to stimulate the guests’ interest.