A/N: Just wanted to thank everyone for the most wonderful reviews I've received for this story! Special shout out to the lovely girls on MGSG whose constant badger…er…support has enabled me to finish this story Thank you ladies! I hope you all enjoy this last chapter…
CHAPTER TEN – Louder Than Words"I've still got your face
Painted on my heart
Painted on my heart
Painted on my heart"
~Painted On My Heart~ The Cult
The journey to Gio's apartment seemed interminably slow but they eventually arrived and headed inside. Now that they were completely alone, each felt a slight awkwardness over how to act with the other.
As romantic as it had been to have Gio stride into the office and kiss her like that, Betty knew that the reality was that they were going to need to talk.
"Do you want anything to drink?" asked Gio as he tossed his keys onto the table.
"No, I'm fine, thanks," she replied with a smile.
A short silence followed where they stood and looked at each other not quite sure what to say and then Gio gestured to the sofa. "Let's sit down," he suggested.
Betty did as she was bade and made herself comfortable. Gio sat down next beside her, close enough that his thigh pressed firmly against her own. Betty relished the contact and leaned in even nearer.
Gio resisted the temptation to put his arm around her and clasped his hands together on his lap instead. Pausing a moment to gather his thoughts, he finally shook his head admitted, "I don't really know where to start."
"Then let me," Betty offered quickly.
He frowned slightly then nodded his acquiescence. "OK."
Betty sat up a little straighter and turned to look at him. "I'm sorry," she said sincerely.
Gio's frown deepened at her apology. "What for?"
Betty shrugged. "For before Rome, for after Rome…for everything."
Gio's expression lightened, a wry smile lifting the corners of his mouth. "I don't think it's all been your fault," he conceded dryly. "I should've waited longer after Henry left but I thought I could easily make you forget him. That day in the deli when I kissed you…"
He trailed off and looked away unable to voice the conflicting emotions he still felt about that time.
Betty reached out and touched his tanned arm, causing him to turn back to her. "I'm glad you kissed me, I just…I didn't know how to react. I thought I should be angry because of Henry but I wasn't…not really. I was annoyed with myself for liking it so much and I took it out on you." She paused and gave him a small smile. "I'm sorry that I slapped you, Gio. It was wrong."
Gio covered her hand with his and clasped it tightly. "Let's just say that we both acted on impulse and leave it in the past, hm?" he suggested softly.
Betty nodded then unexpectedly leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. Gio's eyelids slid shut and his free hand came up to cradle the back of her head. He hadn't intended to deepen the kiss, but found he couldn't help himself. The fact that Betty had made the first move, proved an aphrodisiac he couldn't resist. Opening his mouth, his tongue met hers, tasting, duelling as they came together again and again.
As their ardour mounted, he gently pushed her back so that she lay down on the sofa. Betty's arms roamed freely over his back as his firm body pressed intimately against hers. It was only when she slipped a searching hand under his t-shirt and touched the warm, bare skin underneath that Gio suddenly broke the kiss and pulled back a little. Breathing hard, he stared down at her flushed face and passion filled eyes for a moment then shook his head.
"I'm sorry, I'm rushing you again," he muttered with distaste. Annoyed with himself, he moved to sit up but Betty clutched at him tighter.
"No, you're not. I want this too, Gio…I want you," she revealed breathily.
Struggling to regain his composure at her simple declaration, his traitorous body responded to her words by surging to full arousal. Involuntarily, his taut body pressed harder against hers as rational thought rapidly gave way to pure instinct and emotion.
He knew he should be taking it slower. They still had things that needed to be resolved but having her lying there beneath him, so willing, so ready…
He felt her hand begin to move across his flesh once more, gently, enticingly, moving lower…
"Please, Gio," she murmured softly, lifting her head to kiss his neck.
Her plea, coupled with her lips hit him straight in the groin again and he let out a small groan of desire. "I…Betty," he rasped, trying to form a coherent sentence. A slight movement of her hips caused him to draw in a sharp breath and he suddenly blurted out, "We can't, we haven't even been out on a date yet!"
Silence followed his statement as they stilled and stared at each other incredulously. The faint desperation that had clouded his voice only added to the absurdness of the comment that seemed to echo around the apartment. The moment stretched on until, suddenly, Betty let out a loud giggle.
Gio felt his face grow warm but seeing her cup a hand over her mouth to stop her mirth only succeeded in igniting his own. The mounting tension that had surrounded them slowly dissipated as they both sat up and smiled at each other.
"I didn't know you were so old-fashioned," Betty teased lightly.
"Neither did I," Gio admitted with a wry smile as he squirmed a little uncomfortably in his seat. For once he wished he wore jeans of a looser fit. "I guess you just bring out the worst in me."
His involuntary action brought Betty's gaze to his lap. She remembered what he'd felt like against her, even with the barrier of clothes. She'd never wanted anyone as much as she did the young Italian seated next to her but she understood his need to slow things down. Intellectually, she was glad he had as she didn't really want her first time with Gio to be on his couch. Physically, though, her unruly body was still craving his touch.
"Let's go for a walk," she suggested as she stood up abruptly. They could both do with getting some air after their close encounter.
Gio looked surprised and faintly relieved. With a nod, he got up and grabbed his keys. They left his apartment and headed outside into the warm sunshine. They got in his van and he drove them to Central Park where he managed to find a place to park a few blocks away.
As they sauntered along the sidewalk, Gio reached out and took hold of Betty's hand. She smiled shyly at the simple gesture and they continued on in companionable silence for a while, stealing the odd glance at each other. As they passed a coffee shop, Gio suggested getting a drink and pastry to take with them. Betty agreed and ten minutes later, they were sat on the grass enjoying their treats in the sunshine.
As time passed they finished their food and coffee and the light banter that had accompanied it turned to more important things.
"I still can't believe you're here with me," Gio admitted soberly.
"Me either," Betty revealed quietly. "I thought I'd never see you again."
Gio looked away, unable to gaze upon the pain that had suddenly clouded her soft, brown eyes. Thinking back over the past weekend, his heart ached at the thought that Betty had almost been right. There had been a couple of occasions when he'd seriously considered just taking off somewhere and the hell with everything else. He was glad he hadn't though. It had all turned out so much better than he'd imagined, apart from one little thing that just kept niggling at him.
Keeping his gaze averted, he asked flatly, "Who was that guy you were with at the party?"
Betty looked puzzled. "I wasn't with any guy," she refuted.
Gio frowned and turned his head to look at her. "I saw you dancing with him," he stated in a faintly accusing tone. "Tall, dark-haired…completely besotted with you…"
Betty couldn't hold his steady gaze and found herself blushing. Although Daniel had pointed out the fact that Gio had noticed Matt's attention, she had hoped that it wasn't true. She edged a little closer to him and sighed.
"His name is Matt and he's someone I have to work with sometimes, but that's all there is to it," she told him sincerely. "I didn't know he liked me until Daniel told me and then I confronted Matt about it and told him that I'm in love with you." She paused and searched his guarded features unhappily. "Is that why you left without talking to me? You thought I liked him?"
Gio ran a hand through his short hair and nodded ruefully. "It was like seeing you with Egg Salad all over again. I just couldn't stand there and watch the way he looked at you or the way you smiled at him, it…hurt."
It was a difficult admission for him to make and as he started to turn away, Betty brought her hand up to cup his cheek, the gentle action forcing him to remain looking at her. "I'm sorry," she apologised softly before leaning in and giving him a kiss.
Gio had a small smile on his face when she pulled away. "I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have run away like that but I wasn't thinking straight. I haven't been since you told me you weren't going to Rome."
Betty opened her mouth to apologise again but Gio suddenly placed a finger over her lips and shook his head. "Don't," he commanded gently. "There's no need to say it, I know how you feel and although I know we still need to talk, I really don't want to spend the rest of the day saying sorry to each other, OK?"
Betty nodded and smiled then Gio took his hand away and gave her a long, loving kiss. When they broke apart, the young Italian stared deep into her eyes with a burning intensity. The earlier passion they'd shared was still bubbling away beneath the surface, just waiting for the time it was allowed free rein once more.
"Do you know how much I love you, B?" Gio blurted out suddenly. He glanced skywards then looked back at her with a shake of his head. "I swear to God, if you opened me up I'd have a picture of you right here," he paused and tapped his fingers against his chest before adding, "Painted right across my heart."
Betty felt tears well up in her eyes at his words and quickly blinked them away. "Well, I guess that makes two of us then," she responded with a tremulous smile.
Gio smiled back at her warmly then stood up and held out his hand. "Come on, let's go back to my place and I'll make us some lunch."
Betty happily grasped his hand and they walked slowly back to his van. They soon reached his apartment and went in. As before, Gio tossed his keys onto the table and offered Betty a drink. This time she accepted and he went to the kitchen to start the machine.
Betty excused herself to the bathroom and, once inside, checked her appearance. She smoothed down her top and absently adjusted her glasses as she scrutinised her face for any signs of the tearful weekend she'd endured. Amazingly, she looked good, even to her own critical eyes. She quickly ran her fingers through her hair then pushed it back over her shoulders and smiled.
"Good luck," she told her reflection aloud before going back out into the lounge.
Gio was still in the kitchen cutting some bread as she walked up behind him and came to a stop nearby. "Do you need any help?" she asked.
"No, I'm good," he replied, shooting her a smile over his shoulder.
Looking him up and down as he worked, she couldn't help but agree. His snug jeans and tight t-shirt outlined his solid form to perfection. Barely contained memories of their encounter earlier that day finally pushed themselves forward, urging her on to do something she'd never done before.
Seduce a man.
It was something she'd never had to do before being that she was always happy to go at her partner's pace. But with Gio, it was different. The way he made her feel…it was strong and primal, almost. She wanted him badly. All of him. Mind, body and soul. Particularly his body at that precise moment in time…she just wasn't quite sure how to go about it.
Taking a steadying breath, she walked the few steps that brought her next to him at the kitchen counter and turned to lean back against it. She watched him start to butter the bread then took another deep breath and asked falteringly, "So…um…do you think going to the park counts as a…date?"
Surprised at her question, Gio paused mid stroke and turned his head to look at her, his thoughts immediately conjuring up the words he'd uttered as they'd lain together on the sofa. Had she really meant what he thought she had? The reddening of her cheeks as she met his gaze, coupled with the way she was nervously wringing her hands told him all he needed to know.
He put down the butter knife and turned to face her properly. "Yeah, I'd definitely say that was a date," he replied, his raspy voice low and meaningful.
He remained where he was, awaiting her next move. If she was going to initiate something, he certainly wasn't going to be stupid enough stop her this time, but it had to be on her terms.
Betty saw the desire burning in his eyes and felt a sudden, newfound confidence surge through her body. She stepped up to him until they were inches apart and lifted her arms, wrapping them around his neck as she shuffled closer and pressed herself flush against him.
"I want you," she whispered before kissing him hard on the lips.
Gio's arms wrapped around her body and he kissed her back. They broke for air then he kissed her again, languidly this time, coaxing her tongue to move with his in order to stoke the flame of their desire even higher. They had plenty of time and he was going to make sure they didn't waste a minute of it.
Together, they stumbled their way to his bedroom, their lips only ever parting to remove one item of clothing or another. Finally they lay on his bed, completely naked. Skin touching heated skin as they discovered each other's bodies, finding the most sensitive areas to bring as much pleasure to one another as they possibly could.
Moving together in harmony, they made love with fierce passion and underlying tenderness. Betty reached her peak first, closely followed by Gio, their cries of pleasure mingling as they rode out the wave of ecstasy together.
Gio deftly disposed of his protection before lying down on his back and lifting his arm for Betty to drape herself across him. He let out a long sigh of satisfaction and smiled. Their lovemaking had been so much more than his most heated dreams had ever imagined. There was a pleasurable lethargy to his limbs that was accompanied by Betty's fingers moving in lazy circles over his damp chest.
He let his fingers run gently through her hair and placed a kiss on top of her head. He still couldn't believe he was there with the love of his life in his arms. Somewhere along the line, he must have done something very good to be blessed in such a way.
He was just thankful that his cousin, Matteo, had made him see sense. He was going to have to thank him properly and maybe even give him a pay rise. He certainly deserved it...and was probably going to need it if his thing with Amanda continued he realised sardonically.
Betty raised her head and caught the thoughtful expression on her boyfriend's face. "Are you OK?" she asked.
Gio looked at her and smiled. "Never been better. You?"
"Me too," she agreed with a grin as she rested her chin on his chest. "Although I am a bit hungry now."
Gio chuckled. "OK, I'll go and finish the sandwiches and bring them back here."
She rolled onto her back so that Gio could get out of bed and watched with a smile as he casually headed for the door, completely at ease with his lack of clothing. Just as he left the room, a sudden thought entered Betty's head and she sat bolt upright as she called out to him.
"Gio, have you called Mario Batali yet?"
The mild expletive she heard was all the answer she needed and she couldn't help but laugh. She got out of bed and poked her head around the door. Gio was standing naked at his kitchen counter, making sandwiches while talking on his mobile phone.
If only she had a camera.
He finished his call and she walked over to him with a smile. "I hope you washed your hands," she teased.
Gio chuckled and gave her a kiss. "I am now, officially, having my cheese supplied by Mario Batali," he announced happily. He turned and pulled her into his embrace and gave her a tight hug. "Life doesn't get any better than it is right now," he murmured softly.
Returning his hug, Betty had to agree. They'd taken the long route but they'd finally found the right way home.