Gabrielle drove down the narrow dirt road that led to Villa Flora, the small bed and breakfast she and William had discovered while honeymooning years ago. They’d come every summer for the seven years of their marriage, but this would be the first time she would be here alone.
Tuscany was having a bad summer; it was too dry. Evidence of the drought had shocked her as she’d driven the remote road through tiny villages to the B&B. The tires stirred up a dust storm behind her as she slowed, seeing the familiar gates ahead. She forced herself to watch them open although all she wanted to do was turn around and drive away; coming here was a desperate last resort.
She swallowed and drove her small rented Peugeot into the parking lot. Three other cars stood in the shade of the trees; it would be a quiet weekend at the B&B, just what she needed.
Stepping out of the car, Gabrielle opened the trunk and slung her weekend bag over her shoulder, making her way to the old, yellow structure that was the main building.
“Gabrielle!” Luciana, the owner, was working in the garden when she saw her. Immediately, she took Gabrielle into a big hug and kissed her on both cheeks. She then held Gabrielle at arm’s length to look at her. “Oh, it’s been too long.”
Gabrielle wondered if Luciana could see the evidence of those last years on her face. When she’d made the reservation a few weeks ago, she’d told Luciana it would just be for one guest. Luciana had been tactful enough not to ask details but Gabrielle could see the questions in her eyes. And she could understand that; she and William had appeared to be the perfect couple.
“Welcome back, my dear,” Luciana said, taking her hand and leading her toward the main house.
“Thank you,” Gabrielle said. The gentle squeeze of the woman’s hand made her eyes moisten. She didn’t deserve her kindness. She knew coming back here wouldn’t be easy, but she didn’t want it to be; she needed it to be hard.
Luciana took an old-fashioned key from the wall. “I’ve booked you in one of the new apartments. I’ll show it to you, come. You must be tired after the drive from Verona.”
It had been cheaper to fly into Verona than Florence so she’d driven the four hours and, between that and the emotional toll of the trip, she was exhausted.
She followed the older woman out the door, stopping for a moment to take in the view. She could only describe it as breathtaking. The luxurious B&B was set atop a Tuscan hill where the countryside rose and fell in the typical, picturesque greens that exemplified the region. The sky seemed to go on forever, blue as far as the eye could see, and the sounds of summer were all around.
She stepped down onto the gravel path, but something drew her attention to the patio which served as an al fresco dining area. A couple took up one table and a man sat alone at another. She caught his gaze and knew instantly he was the reason she’d turned. He sat watching her, his eyes so dark, so intense that they’d done nothing less than command her to see him. He neither smiled nor made any other sort of polite greeting. Instead, he remained studying her, as if reading her thoughts. It made every hair on her body stand on end.
She startled and turned to Luciana, who had called from the end of the walkway. One last glance at the stranger whose eyes still hadn’t left her and she stumbled to catch up with the older woman.
The room was stunning. It was in what looked to be an old building but was actually a completely new structure in the style of a typical Tuscan villa.
“We’ve been doing some work,” Luciana began, her expression proud. “We’ve added four apartments in this building and two more there,” she said, pointing to a building farther away. “Come,” she said, opening the door and standing aside to let Gabrielle in.
“Wow, it’s gorgeous,” Gabrielle said, walking through the apartment to the huge windows where the shutters stood wide open. “This is incredible,” she said, smiling wide. The apartment offered a gorgeous view of the countryside where the only sounds she heard were those of the insects and birds beyond.
“Thank you,” Luciana said. “You’ll have complete privacy, there’s only one other apartment that’s taken in this building while you’re here,” she said.
Gabrielle took in the interior of the room. It was a small apartment with a kitchen, a couch, and one chair serving as the living space, with a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. The bedroom was at the back and was larger than she imagined it would be. She could see that all of the furnishings were of the best quality. “You’ve really managed to keep the old style, Luciana.” She checked out the bathroom with its huge bath and separate shower.
“All the modern conveniences without giving up the old beauty.”
“Will you have lunch?” Luciana asked.
Gabrielle’s thoughts went to the man whom she’d seen earlier. “No, I don’t think so. I’d like to swim then perhaps take a short nap. Will you have a place for me at dinner tonight?”
“Of course. Anything you need, my dear. Anything at all,” Luciana said, handing over the key and closing the door behind her as she left.
Gabrielle opened all of the windows and breathed in the hot, dry air. It was all so familiar: the olive trees, the grape vines. Everything had grown just a little but it was all still so much the same.
Unpacking her bag, which contained just a few dresses, bathing suits and some sandals, she undressed and slipped on a black bikini. At thirty-two, she looked good. But then again, depression had always been the best sort of diet for her. She weighed all of one hundred and twenty pounds and stood five feet, five inches tall.
Letting her hair fall loose from its clip, she brushed the dark curls with her fingers, trying to work through the never-ending knots. She washed her face free of makeup, grabbed a towel, her key, and a book and headed to the swimming pool.
She was walking the small path through the grape vines toward the pool when she heard the other couple. They didn’t see her; they were too involved with one another. Thinking they were alone, their tongues were united in a sort of kiss that was pure sensuality. But it wasn’t so much the dance of their tongues that had her glued to the spot. It was the fact that his hand had slipped inside the bikini bottoms the tall blonde wore and his fingers were obviously working her clit.
Gabrielle swallowed and, slipping just behind a tree, remained still, watching the pair. The woman moved her hips rhythmically and Gabrielle could make out the soft sounds of breath while the blonde enjoyed the pleasure of his fingers. A moment later, a sigh came and the woman broke the kiss, laying the top of her head on his chest as she melted into his hand. Gabrielle’s own sex heated with the vision of the couple and it took all she had to remain still when he pulled his hand out of her bikini and licked his fingers clean.
* * *
At the pool, she dropped her towel and book on a lounge chair, stripped off her wrap, and quietly slid into the cool water. Allowing herself to disappear beneath the surface, Gabrielle did what she’d been doing every day since William left: she screamed. She swam daily at the pool by her home in Florida and when, in the beginning, she’d been unable to control her tears, she’d just let herself go under and scream and scream, knowing the water would swallow the sound.
She swam the length of the pool, turned while taking a breath, and once again submerged, continuing to swim, screaming all along.
Twelve more laps and she lifted herself out, squeezing moisture from her hair as she made her way back to her lounge chair. Picking up her towel, she patted herself dry and scanned the area. One woman played with her young daughter along the edge of the pool, but other than that it was deserted.
She sat down, adjusting her sunglasses and picking up her book when she saw him. It was the same man from earlier. He wore tight fitting swim shorts and carried a newspaper and was heading straight toward her. His body was solid, not built like he spent time working out, but strong: a tanned chest with a dusting of dark hair, beautifully sculpted arms and shoulders, and narrow hips that led to powerful legs.
Her body reacted to his and her heart raced while she worked to manage her expression, trying to remain casual, as if she hadn’t noticed him at all. As if he didn’t have some strange effect on her. At least her glasses were dark enough that they would hide her eyes.
“May I join you?” he asked, setting his towel down before she had a chance to answer. His looks were enough to do her in but when she heard the subtle accent behind his words, she was finished. Tall, just over six feet, she’d say, with dark hair cut in a clean, modern style. His face was shadowed by what seemed to be a few days’ worth of stubble.
“I was actually hoping for some alone time,” she said, cringing at how rude she sounded. But she hadn’t come here to meet a man. She picked up her book when he removed his sunglasses, needing an excuse to look away. His eyes were pure black; it was like nothing she’d ever seen before. They seemed to laser into her, to know her. Why did this man make her nervous? She hadn’t felt like this in a very long time. Why now? And why here, of all places?
“I’ll be quiet, I promise,” he said, settling into the chair. “I’m Julian,” he extended his hand.
“Gabrielle,” she took it reluctantly, but as soon as skin touched skin, her eyes widened while his remained intent on hers. The attraction between them was palpable, his touch pure electricity. She didn’t need this. She’d been avoiding exactly this for two years now.
“Gabrielle,” he tried out her name, bringing her hand to his lips, brushing them with a soft kiss as he inhaled. Stubble tickled her flesh and that sensation settled in far more intimate parts of her body than the hand he held. “You’re a strong swimmer,” he said. “Do you train?”
“Were you watching me? I didn’t see you,” she asked.
“You were looking for me?” he countered, tilting his head to the side, his eyes still steady on hers.
She couldn’t tell if he was teasing, but he was definitely making her nervous. “No, that’s not what I meant,” she stumbled over her words.
He dropped it. “You’re here alone, yes?”
“I… yes,” she answered.
“Pardon my directness, Gabrielle,” he continued, saying her name like he was rolling it on his tongue, playing with the sound of it, “but when I saw you earlier, there was something about you that moved me.”
“I’m sorry…?” she asked.
“You seemed almost… lost. Sad.”
Tears rimmed her eyes. She was going to cry. Right here, right now. And why? Because someone actually had the guts to tell her the truth.
“It touched me.” He took her hand. “I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” he said, seeing the moisture collecting in her eyes. “I recognized it and, well, it drew me. Perhaps I can help…”
She cut him off. “You can’t help,” she said, her tone flat. She tried to free her hand but he held it tight, his gaze never leaving hers.
A family of three noisy children and their parents climbed down the stairs leading to the pool, breaking the tension between them. They both turned momentarily to look.
“Let me go,” she whispered when they faced each other again. The first of her tears marked its trail down her cheek. “Please, let me go. I need to be alone.”
He reached and traced the tear’s progress with his free hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, releasing her hand. “I meant no harm.”
She stood, and, not taking the time to gather her things, walked quickly back to her room.
Once inside, she ran the shower, stripped off her suit and stepped inside. Water would swallow her pain, it always did. The bathroom steamed as she stood under the stream, hot and rough, just what she needed to let herself go and weep.
She wasn’t sure how long she remained there but when the sobs subsided and eventually died out, she turned the water off and climbed out of the shower. Wrapping herself in a thick white towel, she dried off and walked to the bed, lying quietly down. She was exhausted.
* * *
Hunger woke her before she heard the knock. She sat up, confused for a moment as to where she was before registering that someone was at her door. She stood, wrapping the towel around herself, combing her fingers through her hair.
The knock came again. She made her way to the door and opened it. It must have been early evening; the shadows of the sun were fading. Julian stood on her step dressed in a gray button down shirt and black dress slacks. The shirt was open at the top and tanned, muscled skin peeked out from beneath. He held her towel and book in his hands and when he moved to step inside, she instinctively opened the door farther and let him in.
“You left your things earlier,” he said, setting them down on the table by the door.
“Thank you for bringing them.” She was suddenly conscious of how she must look, her eyes puffy from crying, her still damp hair a matted mess around her head. She reached her hand up and once again tried to work through the tangles.
He closed the door behind him before stepping closer.
She didn’t back away. And when his arms enveloped her and his hands pressed against her back, pulling her closer, she didn’t struggle. He closed his mouth over hers even as their eyes remained open.
It wasn’t a gentle, exploratory kiss. It was a claiming of her mouth and it sent electricity straight to her sex. She moaned as he deepened the kiss, pulling her closer, one hand at the back of her head while he devoured her. Her hands went to his shoulders before wrapping around his neck and head, needing him nearer. She didn’t notice when the towel pooled around her feet and she stood naked, wrapped only in his arms.
He moved to kiss her jaw, her neck, her shoulders. He trailed little bites that hurt just enough as he led her backwards to the bed. Only when she felt her bottom on the sheets did she think to stop what was going on.
“Julian,” she whispered, her voice thick.
He knelt between her legs and had one small, round breast in his mouth. He made some sound of acknowledgement as he brought his lips just over her nipple. Her fingers, entwined in his hair, pulled him closer although she meant to push him away.
“We can’t,” she said, hugging him to her as he sucked, drawing the nipple out until he had just the very tip between his teeth.
She moaned and closed her eyes.
He didn’t speak but moved to the other breast and did the same, her nipples pebbling, her legs opening wider, her body responding to his touch.
He progressed down her belly, pushing her back slightly so she supported herself on her elbows. Opening her eyes she watched his dark head settle between her legs. She spread them wider, unable to stop, orgasm too close as his tongue teased her lips apart and his mouth finally closed over her clit. She threw her head back and called out while he sucked, still using his fingers to work her nipples until she bucked beneath him. Her climax was quick and violent and hungry, her body having been disregarded for too long.
* * *
Julian climbed on top of her as she collapsed on the bed, breathing hard. He kissed her, knowing she would taste herself his lips, his tongue. He was rock hard and he pressed his erection against her, very aware she would still be tender after her climax.
“Gabrielle,” he said, wanting to look into her eyes. She opened them, their golden depths darker now from her arousal. They were an unusual shade, but it wasn’t their color that piqued his interest. It was the pain he saw in them. Maybe it was because he recognized its origin, found a kindred spirit within.
He ground his hips against her sex and her eyes widened. “I need you.”
“Let me up,” she said, pushing against his shoulders. He let her go and she knelt alongside him, undoing first his belt, then his zipper. She gasped when she pulled his pants down and released his cock, which was thick and hard, the head already smeared in pre-cum. Glancing at him with lust in her eyes, she brought her mouth to the tip. Her little pink tongue licked the very tip, tasting him as she kept her gaze steady on his. He watched while she circled his cock with it before taking it into her mouth, her lips closing around its width. He moaned and laid his head back when she sucked hard while grasping its base.
“Put your knees on either side of my face,” he instructed.
Without hesitating, she moved into position, her knees spread wide. Her pussy was just above his mouth, the lips open and slick. Reaching up he spread them further and inserted a finger into her, making her gasp.
“Clasp your hands behind your back,” he said. “Only your mouth on my cock.”
She did as he said.
He moaned, drawing her hips down over his face, and licked the lips of her pussy and dipped his tongue inside before closing his mouth over her clit. She moved faster, taking him deep into her mouth, her throat. She bucked as she climaxed again, her hips grinding against his face while he sucked her clit, feeling his own cock twitch and release into her mouth.
When he shifted his body, she sat up, kneeling alongside him, a hand covering her mouth.
He stood and zipped his pants, all the while watching her as she knelt on the bed, her eyes wide on his.
With one hand on the top of her head, he gave his first command: “Swallow.”
She didn’t hesitate, but did as he said.
“Good girl,” he said, buckling his belt. “I’m hungry. Have dinner with me.”
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I need a shower,” she answered even though it wasn’t really a question.
“I’ll wait.” He helped her to her feet and sat on the couch while she washed and dressed. He noted the fact that she didn’t try to hide her body as she moved around the room applying makeup, choosing a dress, strapping her sandals in place.
She turned to him. “Ready,” she said.
She wore a pale taupe colored silk dress that clung to her delicate curves and came to just above her knees. Three-inch sandals in the same color and long earrings that reached her shoulders finished the look. Her hair, still somewhat damp, was held in a jeweled clip at the back of her head and he imagined she struggled with the unruly mass as long tendrils already fell around her shoulders.
“Luciana’s holding a table for us,” he said.
“How did you know I would say yes?” she asked.
He grinned, “I had a feeling.”
“Julian,” she hesitated when they got to the door. “What happened just now…”
“Was fantastic. I enjoyed it thoroughly and I think you did too,” he finished for her, gesturing for her to go ahead of him.
She looked like she was going to say something but changed her mind and preceded him out the door. They walked in silence to the main building and to their waiting table.