Latin Lovers

By: Helen Bianchin


Carlo’s mouth formed a humorous twist. ‘Teresa is a superb cook,’ he complimented blandly.

Teresa was superb at everything; that was the trouble. Consequently, she expected others to be equally superb. The trouble as such, was that while Teresa Benini enjoyed the prestige of employing the best money could buy, she felt bound to check every little detail to ensure it came up to her impossibly high standard.

Retaining household staff had always been a problem for as long as Aysha could remember. They came and left with disturbing rapidity due to her mother’s refusal to delegate even the most minor of chores.

The waiter arrived with the menu, and because he was new, and very young, they listened in silence as he explained the intricacies of each dish, gave his considered recommendations, then very solicitously noted their order before retreating with due deference to relay it to the kitchen.

Aysha lifted her glass and took a sip of chilled water, then regarded the man seated opposite over the rim of the stemmed goblet.

‘How seriously would you consider an elopement?’

Carlo swirled the wine in his goblet, then lifted it to his lips and savoured the delicate full-bodied flavour.

‘Is there any particular reason why you’d want to incur Teresa’s wrath by wrecking the social event of the year?’

‘It would never do,’ she agreed solemnly. ‘Although I’m almost inclined to plug for sanity and suffer the wrath.’

One eyebrow slanted, and his dark eyes assumed a quizzical gleam.

The waiter delivered their starters; minestrone and a superb linguini with seafood sauce.

‘Two weeks, cara,’ Carlo reminded her.

It was a lifetime. One she wasn’t sure she’d survive intact.

She should have moved out of home into an apartment of her own. Would have, if Teresa hadn’t dismissed the idea as ridiculous when she had a wing in the house all to herself, complete with gym, sauna and entertainment lounge. She had her own car, her own garage, and technically she could come and go as she pleased.

Aysha picked up her fork, deftly wound on a portion of pasta and savoured it. Ambrosia. The sauce was perfecto.

‘Good?’

She wound on another portion and held it to his lips. ‘Try some.’ She hadn’t intended it to be an intimate gesture, and her eyes flared slightly as he placed his fingers over hers, guided the fork, and then held her gaze as he slid the pasta into his mouth.

Her stomach jolted, then settled, and she was willing to swear she could hear her own heartbeat thudding in her ears.

He didn’t even have to try, and she became caught up with the alchemy that was his alone.

A warm smile curved his lips as he dipped a spoon into his minestrone and lifted it invitingly towards her own. ‘Want to try mine?’

She took a small mouthful, then shook her head when he offered her another. Did he realise just how difficult it was for her to retain a measure of sangfroid at moments like these?

‘We have a rehearsal at the church tomorrow evening,’ Carlo reminded her, and saw her eyes darken.

Aysha replaced her fork, her appetite temporarily diminished. ‘Six-thirty,’ she concurred evenly. ‘After which the wedding party dine together.’

Both sets of parents, the bride and groom to-be, the bridesmaids and their attendants, the flower girls and page boys and their parents.

Followed the next day by a bridal shower. Hardly a casual affair, with just very close friends, a few nibblies and champagne. The guest list numbered fifty, it was being catered, and Teresa had arranged entertainment.

To add to her stress levels, she’d stubbornly refused to begin six weeks’ leave of absence from work until a fortnight before the wedding.

On the positive side, it kept her busy, her mind occupied, and minimised the growing tension with her mother. The negative was hours early morning and evening spent at the breathtaking harbourside mansion Carlo had built, overseeing installation of carpets, drapes, selecting furniture, co-ordinating colours. And doing battle with Teresa when their tastes didn’t match and Teresa overstretched her advisory capacity. Something which happened fairly frequently.

‘Penny for them.’

Aysha glanced across the table and caught Carlo’s teasing smile.

‘I was thinking about the house.’ That much was true. ‘It’s all coming together very well.’

‘You’re happy with it?’

‘How could I not be?’ she countered simply, visualising the modern architectural design with its five sound-proofed self-contained wings converging onto a central courtyard. The interior was designed for light and space, with a suspended art gallery, a small theatre and games room. A sunken area featured spa and sauna, and a jet pool.

It was a showcase, a place to entertain guests and business associates. Aysha planned to make it a home.

The wine waiter appeared and refilled each goblet, followed closely by the young waiter, who removed their plates prior to serving the main course.

Carlo ate with the enjoyment of a man who consumed nourishment wisely but well, his use of cutlery decisive.

He was the consummate male, sophisticated, dynamic, and possessed of a primitive sensuality that drew women to him like a magnet. Men envied his ruthlessness and charm, and knew the combination to be lethal.

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