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Home > Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad #1)(10)

Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad #1)(10)
Author: Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci

Uncertainty: the moment I took that first step onto Boston College campus as a freshman, the beginning of the semiadult part of my life.

Lust, hope, elation . . . love: my senior year at BC when I studied in Barcelona, Spain, and met Marcello Bianchi, architectural master’s candidate and beautiful Italian man. He was also studying abroad and I was immediately smitten. We had a very clandestine, very lust-hope-elation-filled affair that no one else ever knew about.

I hadn’t seen him since I was twenty-one. There was always the tiniest nugget of hope that maybe someday, somehow, we’d cross paths. And in my optimistic daydreams, I never imagined that our unexpected reunion included me being on my ass on the floor in the middle of a dinner party.

Twenty pairs of eyes were looking down at me.

As I gazed up into those twenty pairs of eyes, some of their owners were stifling laughter; others were wondering how to help me up.

I looked down. My dress had hiked up to midthigh and the thin strap at my shoulder slid down. I should’ve moved. Rolled over. Covered up with the checkered linen napkin. Anything to lessen the embarrassment that I should be feeling.

Instead of mortification, I was focused on a pair of wide, equally shocked Italian eyes peering over the table. Eyes that I’d recognize anywhere, and they were staring down at me. Forty percent stunned, 10 percent curious, and a whole lotta angry.

He had every right to be angry, considering how we left things after Barcelona.

Even though he was clearly irked, Marcello’s eyes were still the clearest, richest brown. Something akin to cognac—fitting because they always made me feel love drunk. They were usually the kind that glimmered with mischief. You couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking with each twinkle. Spots of black and flecks of gold like a fawn, and his lashes were so long and black that they looked lined in coal.

I’d painted them a hundred, maybe a thousand times while we were together. Our little bubble was my go-to for happy memories over the years since we’d parted. I treated my experiences with him in Spain like a library book. We knew from the beginning that we were on borrowed time, but for those four months I was the real me. He let me fly.

What were the chances that he would be here?

Thinking about it logically, it made sense. Daisy was constantly surrounded by the top in her field. Even then, he—

“Are you okay?” Daisy finally asked, breaking through my shellshock as she threaded her arms under mine, tugging me to my feet.

I blinked, shaking my head and breaking the eye contact with Marcello. I stood, rubbing my sore rear and brushing myself off.

My heart thundered in my ears. A wave of light-headedness mixed with nausea. The entirety of the table fell out of focus, except for him. He was crystal clear. It was my mind’s way of making sure what my heart already knew. That he really was here and, judging by the look on his face, furious.

Time apparently doesn’t heal all wounds when it comes to proud Italian men.

One of Daisy’s friends held the chair and guided me into it—without incident this time. Thanking him, I fidgeted in my seat. I couldn’t look at Marcello, but I couldn’t not look at him, either. If nothing else, I was hoping to see some sliver of the boy I knew. Loved. Not an angry man who was facing the woman who took off, never to be heard from again.

His natural olive tone had paled. He drained his wineglass, his eyes holding mine over the rim of the glass. I watched his throat as he swallowed. The unshaven Adam’s apple bobbed with each gulp.

In rapid-fire Italian he shouted to the server over the chatter of our table. The waiter appeared with a new bottle of red and a glass that he placed in front of me.

“Simone?” He held up the bottle of wine.

Simone. Even her name was pretty. Her hair was wild and black, and full of windswept curls. Gorgeous green eyes peered over her empty glass, completely focused on him. They made a stunning pair.

Marcello loved his wine. I remembered that. Looking to him, I tipped my head to the side in question. Ignoring it, he turned his head back to his beautiful guest.

So it was like that. I nodded as much to myself as to him, still numb, still staring, still unable to tear my eyes away from my ghost.

Marcello gripped the wine bottle. His large hand surrounded the bottle as he lifted it to his mouth. He pulled the cork out with his teeth. Like Eastwood with a cigar, he held it between them and smirked. Just for me. The smirk and all it led to I remembered fondly. My skin heated as I remembered him wanting a reversal of fortune one night. I had sketched him dozens of times, but that night he wanted to paint me with a bottle of the strongest red wine I’d ever sampled. Three glasses later he had gotten his wish.

With the wine cork between his teeth, he had painted my naked skin in homemade Chianti. Dragging the slick red liquid over every inch of me, dipping into the peaks and valleys while he watched . . . burned.

“Water?” I chirped, using the napkin to blot my fevered skin. “Agua? Aqua? How the hell do you say water?” I gulped the wine instead.

“Maybe ease up on the booze there, Jet Lag,” Daisy suggested, moving the glass away from me.

Marcello harrumphed and casually draped an arm over the back of the chair where his date sat. His body turned completely away from me. A brush-off is a brush-off in any country.

Someone at the other end of the table shouted to him and he smiled. While he was pulled into a conversation, I was left with a perfect view of his jaw. His profile that made my belly flip and my heart . . .

The second I didn’t seem preoccupied by ghosts of my secret past, Daisy’s coworkers were there to fill the void. Like Daisy warned, Tommaso was a seasoned flirt. He was handsome, sure. Boyish good looks and that accent, oh boy. I knew about accents.

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