Carmelo Finds Love

Ettore6

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?” older black woman

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.”

“Goodnight, Carmelo.”

“Goodnight, Dondrea.”

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.

Sources:  St. Bart’s Restaurants; Destination Saint-Barths; St. Barts Travel Guide; Date Billionaire;

 

Venice

Friends since they were children, Monica and Russell were inseparable.  They went to the same schools and university and moved from Manchester to London after they graduated from university.  Whenever people saw them together, they always assumed that they were a couple and they would quickly inform them, “We’re just friends.”

They dated other people but the relationships never worked out and their respective exes always blamed their friendship.  Once, Monica’s ex-boyfriend accused her of sabotaging their relationship because she was secretly in love with Russell.  She had a run in once with Samantha, a model he was dating who informed her that she didn’t believe that they were just friends.  “A person would have to be blind not to see that there is something going on between you two,” she said.  “And which woman in her right mind could be just friends with a guy like Russell?”

Russell and Monica laughed about it but as time passed, they realized that there was some truth to what others were saying.  They stopped dating other people because they didn’t feel any connection with them and it was beginning to affect their friendship.  Russell found himself getting jealous of the men Monica dated and she hated seeing him with other women.  So, to safeguard their friendship, they remained unattached.   Instead of going to dinner with other people they went each other.  They went to the theatre, concerts and now, here they were in Italy for a three week vacation.

Monica stood now on the Spanish Steps as Russell snapped photos of her.  He looked so handsome in the white shirt and light blue jeans.  She noticed women walking by and casting admiring glances his way.  Jealousy gnawed at her although he seemed oblivious to them.  She knew she was being ridiculous but she couldn’t help it.  She always worried that one day he would meet someone else and fall in love with her.  Not wanting to spoil the moment, she smiled and posed for the photos.

The day went pleasantly as they visited the Pantheon and had lunch at a trattoria near the Piazza Navona.  After sharing a pizza, she went to the washroom.  On her way back to the table, a local looked up at her and said, “Ciao Bella ragazza.”  She glanced at him and then continued to where Russell was.

He stood up when she reached him.  “What did that man say to you?” he asked.  His expression was guarded.

“It sounded like, ‘Ciao bella ragazza,’” she told him.

Russell didn’t answer.  Instead, he put on his sunglasses and preceded her out of the trattoria.  They went for a walk along Castel Sant’Angelo before they went back to the hotel.  They went to their respective rooms until it was time for dinner.  The following day, they left Rome and went to Florence where they spent their second week.  The following day, they took a trip to Milan and after visiting the Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s Last Supper hung, they stopped by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Russell took a photo of Monica outside of Prada.  From Florence, they went on a day tour to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.  They had dinner in Siena in a trattoria in Piazza del Campo.

The week went by very quickly and Monica was sorry when they left Florence but looked forward to seeing Venice.  They took the train early in the morning and while Russell read a magazine, she took a nap.  When they arrived in Venice, they found out that they had to share a room because the hotel was fully booked.  That made Monica very nervous but she was relieved when she saw that there were two separate beds.

They spent their first day in Venice at Piazza San Marco, reputed to be one of the most beautiful squares in the world.   They visited the Basilica of San Marco.  Monica was enthralled by the dome and could have stood there all day just staring up at it.  When they came out of the basilica, Russell pointed to the one of the arches above the entrance where there was a marble statue of an old man biting his hand.  “The legend says that he was relieved of his duties when he said that he would be able to build it even more beautiful.”

They had lunch at a restaurant in the square, enjoying the sunshine and watching other tourists.  They finished their sightseeing for the day climbing the Campanile for the breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon.   They stayed there for a while.

It was late afternoon when they returned to the hotel.  They relaxed on the terrace and then it was time to get ready for dinner.  It felt strange getting dressed in the bathroom while Russell got dressed in the bedroom.  She had to make sure it was safe to come out once she was finished.  He looked handsome as usual.  And she saw his gaze travel over her.  “You look great,” he remarked before turning away.  “I was thinking that after dinner, we can go to a church concert.”

She smiled.  “That sounds great.”  Venice was beautiful at night so it was nice walking to the square.  How she longed to hold Russell’s hand, especially when they passed other couples who were holding hands.  They had dinner at an elegant restaurant.  Afterwards, they walked to the church where they spent the next hour or so listening to uplifting music in a lovely atmosphere.

It was late when they got back to the hotel and she was tired.  On the way up to their room, she kept yawning and as soon as they got in she took out a nightgown from her suitcase and headed straight for the bathroom.  She quickly changed out of her dress and into her nightgown and brushed her teeth.

She walked into the room and stopped short when she saw Russell standing there half-naked, holding his pajama shirt.  She turned away, flustered but not before her gaze swept irresistibly over the broad shoulders and wide chest.  He watched her, his expression tense and a muscle throbbed alongside his jaw line.  It took every ounce of willpower on his part not to go over there and take her in his arms.  Instead, he went into the bathroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

As soon as he was gone, Monica hurried over to her bed and climbed in, pulling the cover up to her throat.

A few moments later, the door to the bathroom opened and Russell stepped into the room.  She watched as he walked past her bed to his.

“Goodnight, Russell,” she said, looking over at him as he pulled back the cover and got in.  His back was turned to her.

“Goodnight.”  He closed his eyes as his body reacted to the memory of her in the champagne colored silk nightgown.  He didn’t know how much longer he could continue being just friends with her when he wanted her.

She lay there on her back, staring up at the ceiling, unable to fall asleep.  She couldn’t get the image of him out of her mind.  When she saw his bare torso, her mouth went dry and what felt like a bolt of electricity surged through her.  She had turned away because she was afraid that her feelings would betray her.  She wished she had the courage to tell him how she really felt about him but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship.

Sometime later, she heard him stir and then get up.  In the faint light, she watched him tiptoe over to the chair where his shirt and pants were draped.   As he started to get dressed, she sat up, alarmed.  “Where’re you going?” she asked, turning on the lamp beside her.

He didn’t turn around.  “I thought you were asleep.  I can’t sleep so, I’m going out for a bit.”  After he pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his pants, he turned to face her, his eyes wary.  “I’ll try not to disturb you when I come back.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know,” he replied shortly.

“Where will you go?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe I’ll go to Piazzale Roma or the Rialto or San Marco.”  He was about to walk past her when she quickly climbed out of the bed and stood in front of him.

“What’s wrong, Russell?” she asked.  “You seem upset.”

He kept his eyes on her face, not daring to let them go lower.  “I’m not upset.”

“I think you are, “she insisted.   “Please tell me what’s wrong.  We’re supposed to be friends—”

His expression darkened.   “I know we’re supposed to be friends,” he snapped.  “But right now, I don’t feel like a friend.”

She looked nonplussed.  “What do you mean?”

This is what I mean,” he muttered before he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her roughly against him, making her gasp.  His head swooped down and his mouth closed hungrily over hers.

Monica clung to him, kissing him back eagerly, feverishly.  As they exchanged kisses, he picked her up and carried her over to her bed.  He put her gently down on it and then drew back to remove his shirt.  She reached for him, pulling him down to her, her fingers digging into his back as he pressed his lips hotly against her neck.

They made mad, passionate love and the next morning when she woke up, she was alone in the bed.  She lay there for a moment thinking it had all been a dream.  Then she sat up and realized that she wasn’t wearing anything under the cover.  She looked over and saw Russell standing by the window.  He was wearing a robe.   He turned when he heard her.

He left the window and came and sat down on the bed beside her.  His expression was serious when he met her gaze.  “Do you regret what happened between us?” he asked.

She shook her head.  “No,” she murmured huskily, reaching out and brushing the hair back from his forehead.

He leaned over and kissed her on the shoulder, making her shiver.  “Me neither,” he said.  “I’ve wanted to make love to you for a very, very long time but you insisted on us being just friends—”

“I thought that was what you wanted,” she said.  “You never came out and said otherwise.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a friend to you when I want to be more?  That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night.  When I saw you in that nightgown, I wanted you so much.  I had to get out of here before I lost my mind.”

“I couldn’t sleep either because I couldn’t stop thinking about how you looked shirtless…”

His eyes darkened and cupping her face between his hands he lowered his head and kissed her.  “I love you, Monica,” he whispered, raising his head to look into her face.  “I wanted to tell you that so many times but my courage failed me.”

“I love you too.”

“I just wish we hadn’t wasted so much time dating other people when we should have been dating each other.”

“Let’s not waste any more time having regrets.  Things are different between us now.”

“Yes, they are.”

“You know, if anyone were to ask me what the most memorable part of my vacation is, I would tell them that it was Venice.”

“Why Venice?” he asked.

“It’s where we finally declared our true feelings for each other.”

His eyes darkened.  “Let’s have a late breakfast,” he suggested as he removed his robe.

“Or we can order room service,” she said, settling back against the pillows.

“Room service, then,” he agreed before his mouth found hers.

A year later, they returned to Venice for their honeymoon.

 

Sources:  Cabragadin Hotel; Ciao Florence; Italy Guides; Veneto Inside; Bistrot de Venise; Classic Tic; Rick Steves