Carmelo Pagliani, a Neapolitan shipping magnate and billionaire owned palatial homes in Tuscany, Monaco and Beverly Hills. He was never married but he enjoyed the company of beautiful, young and exotic women. He didn’t have any children. Life was as he wanted it. No long-term commitments and no worries about alimony or child support. He was a free agent who enjoyed the fruits of his hard work.
He came from a large family. He was the fifth of five brothers and four sisters. His parents owned a pizza shop which became popular because Sophia Loren visited it once. The photo of her and his parents hung in a prominent place on the wall. As a boy, he worshipped the actress and always went with his father to see her movies. Many years later, he met her at a Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda show in Mexico City. She was beautiful and charming. A frame photo of them stood on the mantelpiece in his Tuscan home.
Carmelo was used to getting what he wanted, whether it was to do with business or women. A couple years ago, he expanded his business to South America. Last week, he met Dondrea, a stunning African American woman in St. Barts. He was there alone and she was there with some friends.
The first time he saw her, he wanted to meet her immediately. One evening before dinner, he approached her as she was stepping off the elevator on her way to the dining-room. She was alone. Her friends must have gone ahead.
“Good evening,” he said, holding out his hand. “Carmelo Pagliani.”
She smiled and shook his hand. “Dondrea Williams.”
“Is this your first time in St. Barts?”
“Yes, it is.”
“And how do you find it?”
“It has beautiful beaches.”
“Did you come here to celebrate New Year’s?”
“Yes. It’s strange not being in New York on New Year’s Eve.”
“So, that’s where you’re from, New York?”
“Yes. What about you? Where are you from?”
“Naples but I live in Tuscany. I too am here to celebrate New Year’s, something I’ve never done alone.”
“You didn’t bring a wife or a girlfriend?”
“I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend.”
She stared at him. “I find that hard to believe.”
He smiled. “It’s true. I’m single. What about you?”
“I’m single too.”
“Do you think your friends would mind if you had dinner with me instead?”
She shook her head. “No, they wouldn’t. I’ll just let them know. Do you mind if I introduced you to them?”
“Not at all.” He followed her into the dining-room and over to a table where five people were sitting. They glanced up as they approached.
“Guys, I won’t be joining you for dinner this evening,” she informed them. “This is Carmelo. He invited me to have dinner with him.”
Her friends introduced themselves and shook his hand. They exchanged in a lively conversation with him for several minutes before he and Dondrea excused themselves.
“You have very nice friends,” he commented as they sat at a table for two.
“Yes, I do,” she agreed. “We’ve known each other for years. They are like family.”
Dinner with her was a wonderful experience. He enjoyed her company and their conversations. He didn’t want the evening to end so he invited her to join him for an after dinner drink in the bar. Afterwards, they went for a walk on the beach. He escorted her back to her room. Outside the door, he said, “Thank you for a lovely evening.”
She smiled. “I enjoyed it too.”
“Will you have breakfast with me in the morning?”
She nodded. “Yes, I will.”
“I’ll meet you in the lobby at seven-thirty.”
They had breakfast and then they went to the beach where they spent most of the day. That evening and every evening after that they had dinner together. And they had breakfast every morning. During the day, they went on excursions, to other beaches and had lunch at the Shellona Restaurant which overlooked Shell Beach. On her last evening, he took her for dinner at Casa Club.
When they returned hours later to her room, she invited him in. He spent the night. The following morning, they ordered breakfast and had it on her terrace. Then, he went to his suite while she got ready to leave for the airport. He was in the lobby waiting for her and he went with to the entrance. An airport limo was waiting and so were her friends. He said goodbye to them and while they got into the limo, she and he faced each other. He took her hands in his.
“Thank you for seven incredible days,” he said quietly. “I’ve been to St. Barts before but I’ve never enjoyed myself this much.”
“I enjoyed myself very much too.”
“We have each other’s number so we will be in touch.”
“Yes. Goodbye, Carmelo.”
“Goodbye, Dondrea.” He raised her hands to his lips.
Then, she was getting into the limo and he stood there watching as it pulled away. After she left, the rest of his stay at the hotel was dull and he missed her terribly. He was relieved to get back to Tuscany.
He sat in his study now, staring at the page of his address where her number was written. Several weeks had passed and he hadn’t called her as yet. His business had kept him busy and fear prevented him picking up the phone. Fear of what? Fear of commitment. Marriage was something he had never seriously considered but now he was and it was because of Dondrea.
Dondrea was different from the other women he had been with. Those had been mere dalliances. No feelings had been involved. When he got bored with them, he ended the relationship. It hadn’t been casual with Dondrea. From the very beginning it had been serious for him. And that’s what scared him. He knew that he could easily fall in love with her and by the third time they were together, he knew he had. He wondered if she felt the same way. With all of his heart, he hoped so.
He picked up the receiver and dialed her number. His heart skipped a beat when she answered. “Hello, Dondrea.”
“Carmelo.” She sounded happy to hear from him. “How have you been?”
“Busy. That’s why I didn’t call you before. How are you?”
“I’m well, thanks. I’m been reminiscing about St. Barts.”
“Me too. Dondrea, how do you feel about spending the month of June in Tuscany with me?”
“I’d love to!” she exclaimed.
He smiled. “Good. You’ll love it, I promise.”
They talked for hours and then, they ended the call. They telephoned each other every week. Then, one day, he decided he would fly to New York and surprise her. She was beside herself with excitement when he showed up at her apartment. He spent three weeks with her and on the night before he left, when they were relaxing on the sofa after dinner, he reached for her hand. “Ti amo,” he said quietly. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” she replied.
“Enough to move to Tuscany?”
Her eyes widened. “You want me to move to Tuscany?” she exclaimed.
“Yes. I have a villa in San Gimignano.”
She thought about it for a moment. “Yes. I’ll move to San Gimignano.”
He smiled. “Molto bene,” he murmured before he kissed her.
The following year, Dondrea left New York and moved into Carmelo’s villa in San Gimignano. In May, with friends and family present, they tied the knot.
This was written for the Ragtag Daily Prompt for today’s prompt, Surprise. If you’re interested in participating, click HERE for more information.