Alessandro came out of his office to see if Belinda was there. Today was the day he was going to ask her to have dinner with him. His heart skipped a beat at the thought. To say that he was very nervous was an understatement. For the longest while he had wanted to ask her out but never worked up the courage. They had been working together for six years and she was the best assistant he ever had. She joined the firm fresh out of university.
He wasn’t exactly sure when it happened but one afternoon while he was sitting in his office, he realized that he was in love with her. The realization floored him. He never imagined that he would fall in love with someone so young. She was in her late twenties and he was approaching forty. He sat there that day, mulling over the matter until it was time to leave. He didn’t know how she felt about him. She was always pleasant and seemed to enjoy working with him. She was a breath of fresh air and every day he looked forward to seeing her.
All of last week, they worked late and during those times, he would stare at her as she pored over the paperwork. She didn’t have a boyfriend and he had made sure that she knew that he wasn’t in a relationship. Once when they were working late, they both reached for the same file and their hands touched. Immediately his eyes flew up to her face and found her staring at him. For one tremulous moment, the air was charged between them and he wanted so badly to lean over and…there was a knock on the door. It was the food he had ordered being delivered.
The sound of voices interrupted his thoughts now and he stood there, his heart thudding as he waited for Belinda to appear. She did a few minutes later, laughing and talking to Lindsey. As she approached her cubicle, she saw him and she said something to Lindsey before she went over to him after placing her handbag on her desk. “Sorry, if I’m a little late,” she apologized. “Lindsey treated me to lunch today and I guess the time went by very quickly. Do you need me for anything?”
He nodded. “I need to ask you something,” he said quietly. “Come and see me in my office when you have a chance.” He turned and went back into his office.
She removed her jacket as she walked back to her cubicle and draped it over the chair. She put her handbag in one of the drawers, logged on to her computer to see if she had any urgent messages before she got up and went to his office.
He was standing at the window, looking out with his hands clasped behind his back and turned when he heard her go in. She closed the door behind her and then crossed the carpet to where he stood. Their eyes met and held for several minutes. “Do you need me to work late again this week?” she asked. “I have plans this evening with Marco but—”
His expression changed. “Marco?” he repeated. “You have plans with Marco?” Marco was his nephew. He had introduced them two weeks ago when Marco stopped by the office to see him. “You’ve been in touch with him?”
She watched him warily. He didn’t seem at all pleased. “He came by yesterday to see you but you were at the conference. He said that he would call you later in the week. Before he left, he told me that he had two tickets to a basketball game and asked me to go with him. I didn’t have any plans so I said yes.”
He ran his fingers through his hair as he tried to remain calm. Jealousy burned through him like a wild fire. “And what do you plan to do after the game?”
“I–I don’t know. Alessandro, if you need me to work late tonight, I can cancel my plans with—”
He held up his hand. “No, don’t cancel your plans on my account. Go and have a good time with Marco.” He turned and walked over to his desk. He pulled out the chair and sat down.
Belinda stared at him for a while, longing to tell him that she would rather work late with him than go to the basketball game with Marco but at that moment, he reached for the phone and turned his chair so that he was backing her. She turned and walked quickly out of the office, tears pricking her eyes. How she wished she hadn’t accepted Marco’s invitation. Marco was a nice guy but she wasn’t interested in him at all. She was in love with his uncle.
Instead of going back to her desk, she went into the washroom where she stayed for a little while, leaning over the sink, trying to pull herself together. The expression on Alessandro’s face when she told him about Marco was one she would never forget.
As soon as she had gone, Alessandro hung up the phone and leaned back in the chair, closing his eyes. He felt as if he had been punched in the stomach. Marco? She was going out with Marco. He hadn’t seen that coming. It hurt like hell. And to think he was going to ask her out for dinner. He saved himself the humiliation of being turned down in favor of his nephew. Anger toward Marco burned in him even as he realized it wasn’t his fault that Belinda preferred to be with him instead of his uncle who should have known better than to fall in love with a girl so much younger than he.
How was he going to get through the rest of the day? He couldn’t, he decided and getting to his feet, he grabbed his keys and left the office. Belinda wasn’t at her desk, so he said to Lindsey, “Please let Belinda know that I’ve left for the day. If anything urgent comes up, she can reach me on my cell.” And he was gone.
When Belinda returned to her cubicle a few minutes later, Lindsey relayed the message. “He didn’t give any reason why he was leaving so early?” she asked and Lindsey shook her head. Belinda sat there, trying to understand why Alessandro had left. It wasn’t like him. She picked up her phone and called Marco. “Hi Marco, I’m calling to tell you that I can’t come to the basketball game with you.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “Is everything all right? You sound upset.”
“I am,” she said in a trembling voice. “It’s Alessandro. I think he was very upset when I told him about you and the basketball game. I offered to cancel our plans but he told me not to do so on his account but I could tell that he was upset.”
“You’re in love with him, aren’t you? I could tell by the way you talk about him. Do you want me to talk to him?”
“He’s not here. He left for the day.”
“Wow, he must really be upset. It’s not like him to leave work for any reason.”
“What should I do, Marco?”
“Go and see him later. Tell him how you feel about him.”
“Okay. I will.”
“Good luck, Belinda.”
“Thanks, Marco.” She hung up. Yes, she was going to go over to Alessandro’s place later. Hopefully, he would be there. If not, she would talk to him tomorrow in his office. Either way, she had to straighten things out with him.
Alessandro had just stepped out of the shower and was getting dressed when the doorbell rang. He quickly buttoned his shirt and tucked it into his jeans before he left his room and went to answer the door. After peering through the keyhole, he unlocked the door and opened it. His expression was tense as he stared down into Belinda’s face. His heart was pounding as he ached to touch her. What is she doing here? Why isn’t she at the basketball game with Marco?
She swallowed hard, her pulse racing. “May I come in?” she asked. How she longed to reach up and touch his face–the face she loved so much.
He stepped aside to let her into the foyer and then he closed the door behind her. After sliding the latch back into place, he turned to face her. “What are you doing here?” he asked quietly. “Won’t you be late for your date with Marco?”
She put her handbag on the table and met his gaze head-on. “I don’t have a date with Marco. I called and told him that I can’t go to the game. He was cool about it. I’m sure he found someone else to go with or maybe he ended up going alone. I don’t know. I’m here because I have something important to tell you.”
A muscle was throbbing along his jaw line now. “What do you need to tell me?” he asked tightly, his eyes were restless on her face. He wanted so much to take her in his arms. It was torture standing there, looking at her and wanting to feel her body against his.
She took a deep breath, her heart was beating so hard that it felt as if it would fall out of her chest. Her palms were sweaty. She was so nervous but she had to say what she went there to say. “I–I love you, Alessandro. That’s what I came here to tell you and–” Her voice ended in a gasp when he pulled her roughly into his arms and held her tightly against him.
His eyes were dark and smoldering when they met hers. “I love you too,” he muttered thickly. “Oh, Belinda,” he groaned before his head swooped down and his mouth sought hers, moving hungrily and feverishly when he felt her fiery response. Her fingers were in his damp hair, gripping the silky strands as they exchanged hot kisses.
After a long time, he raised his head to gaze down into her face, breathing heavily. “Can you stay for dinner?” he asked.
She nodded. “Yes,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath. “And for breakfast.”
He smiled and picking up her in his arms, he said, “I hope you don’t mind having a late breakfast.”