Author's note: Thank you so much to all of you who have been reading this story so far. Your reviews have been lovely and I thought I would put together a little something which I hope will help me to continue writing this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. But I own this story.
Agony and Ecstasy
Peter and I arrived at Carlisle's Milan home, a little before six. It was just a twenty minute ride away from the hotel.
I felt amazingly calm, reassured that once the evening was done with, I would be safely on my way back home to once again be held by the man I loved.
My shoppng trip had been a total success. I had decided on buying a turquoise creation in a simple but elegant design. Nothing too showy and would suit many occassions once I was back home.
Peter had kindly commented on my choice of dress, saying that it complimented my name. He was certainly not averse to using a little Italian charm now and again.
As we entered the white painted, very ordinary looking two storey building, we were greeted by servants, probably hired for the occasion, who ushered us through to an inner courtyard. It was filled with plants and a simple but beautiful fountain at the center. I stood for a moment to admire this hidden garden. It felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the Milanese streets only yards away. A perfect sanctuary.
We crossed the courtyard, tiled mostly in terracotta colours and cobolt blue, the perfect contrast to the various shades of green foliage. We proceeded up a tiled staircase to the first floor balcony. The faint sound of classical music being played on a piano, came from a set of open double doors ahead of us at the far end of the first floor, which was lined with four large closed doors.
As we got a little closer I could hear the sound of voices and occasional laughter. The party was already underway.
We were greeted at the door by a waiter holding a tray laden with flutes of champagne. Peter took two glasses and offered me a glass which I gratefully accepted.
"Thank you Peter. Just what I need right now". I smiled nervously.
He grinned and raised an eyebrow before turning to lead the way into the room.
Peter had already promised that he would act as my interpreter and would therefore stay at my side for the entire evening. It was a simple case of attending this gathering and then head back to the hotel to be ready for the early flight homeward bound.
Carlisle almost immediately sought us out, giving a small nod in acknowledgement to both of us and then without hesitation he guided us over to a group of four people. Three men and a woman. Carlisle then turned and focused his attention on another group of guests who had just arrived.
It seemed that Peter knew the group quite well as they greeted each other warmly. Peter introduced me to them one by one. All spoke good English and conversation began. The woman, Francesca, remarked on my dress and immediately named the designer.
Conversation was kept light and uncomplicated. Francesca actually reminded one of the group that we were all out of the office, so business talk was strictly off limits. I totally agreed with her, much to the amusement of the men.
I began to feel so relaxed in their company that I had almost forgotten that Carlisle was even in the room.
I was offered another glass of champagne by a very attentive Peter who took me by the elbow and excused us from the group in order to move across the room to another group of people standing by a large square window overlooking the street below.
I felt very flattered as to how much everyone made an effort to talk to me; just a secretary but made to feel very welcome and part of the evening.
Very aware of how much champagne I was drinking, I excused myself and headed towards a table situated in one corner of the large room, laden with culinary delights.
"Are you enjoying the evening, Bella?" Carlisle's tone was hushed and took me a little by surprise. I had been so totally absorbed in deciding which tasty morcels to help myself to, I hadn't noticed that he now stood at my side.
"I am, very much thank you. You have a lovely home here." I answered keeping my focus on the task in hand.
"Yes, I had forgotten how lovely this place is and how much it means to me. The light here is very different to the Island. I paint differently when I stay here". His tone was very matter of fact and yet there was a hint of regret. I fleetingly wondered how long it had been since he was here last.
"Did you finish the commission in time?" The question felt the most obvious to ask as it seemed his passion for painting was foremost in his thoughts.
"Yes, I did, Bella. It now hangs pride of place in a home just outside of Seattle." I could detect the smile in his voice.
"Have you begun a new collection for an exhibition?" I asked, not sure whether to add anymore to my plate.
He hesitated for a moment, selecting two more delights to add to his own plate. "I have a total of fifteen pieces. A few I had previously not thought of showing and the rest I have worked on since..." His voice trailed off and I turned to finally face him having popped a creation topped with anchovies into my mouth.
His eyes were trained on my mouth as I ate and he smiled as if amused.
"I amuse you somehow?" I asked, a little braver after two glasses of champagne.
"I always love watching a woman enjoy her food and that is certainly one thing you do with enthusiasm, Bella, amongst other things". A triumphant twinkle in his eye reminded me how dangerous and captivating he could be, not just with his words.
I broke eye contact and glanced down at my plate, giving me time to think. I felt my cheeks prickle with inevitable heat. I had been drinking champagne after all!
"The evening seems to be a success." I stated and looking back up at him with renewed confidence, I smiled.
He blinked and with a small sigh of defeat, turned his head to scan the room.
"Yes, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves." And in his next breath he faced me once again. "I would dearly like your opinion on something Bella."
"Oh?" I replied quietly. "What would that be then?" I hastily devoured another treat and took a sip of champagne.
"A piece I have been working on during my stay here. You know how much I value your opinion." He smiled, openly.
I answered without hesitation. "Your place is here with your guests, Carlisle..."
He lifted his hand to interrupt me, an action I had seen him use during the morning meeting.
"My guests, Bella are all good friends and have been for many years. They won't miss me for a few moments." He gestured with his hand for me to lead the way.
I hesitated not moving a muscle and he knew exactly why. Of course he would, he knew me well enough.
"Just long enough for you to look at my work and then I promise to bring you straight back here. I'm quite sure that if you were gone for too long, Peter would come searching for you." He added with a wry smile.
I let out a small laugh. He was right. Peter would look for me if I were gone too long.
"I'll go and let Peter know that we're going to the studio." He said decisively, interrputing my thoughts.
I nodded and placed my now empty plate and glass on the nearest table and moved forward towards the double doors.
Having reached the doors, I turned to see Carlisle talking to Peter briefly. Peter nodded looking over to me and then continued his conversation with a very attractive woman who was chatting animatedly, much to the amusement of the other guests in the group.
Within a few strides, Carlisle approached the doors and stepped in front of me to lead the way.
"My studio is this way, Bella." He nodded in the general direction of another set of doors at the other side of the courtyard balcony. He explained how he had decided to buy this house over all others he had seen, purely because of the large room on this side of the building that had once been a ballroom and that with minimal alteration it was perfect for what he wanted it for.
We arrived at the double doors leading into the room and he reached into his trouser pocket and produced a key. I looked at him quizzically.
"I keep it locked when I have guests. You would be amazed how many are cheeky enough to snoop around the place. This room is for invited guests only." He stated as he unlocked the door and opened it, standing back to allow me to pass by.
I took only a few steps into the room and stood memerized by the sheer size and oplulence that surrounded me. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was very impressed that the ornate decorations that adorned the walls and ceiling had not been touched. I surveyed the room from one end to the other. A set of red velvet, floor length curtains hung from the ceiling at the far end, to the right of the room. They were drawn and filled the entire width of the room. Four full length windows allowed the room to be flooded with light and at the opposite end to where the red curtains hung, there was what could only be describe as a small fitted kitchen with cupboards, a sink, table and chairs.
I walked over to one of the windows and looked out taking in the scene of the hustle and bustle in the far distance. There was an uninterrupted view of a walled garden, mostly laid to lawn with mature trees and a summerhouse situated along the south facing wall.
"What do you think of it all, Bella?" He asked standing at the next window along from me, looking into the distance.
"You chose well, Carlisle. This really is an amazing room and perfect as a studio. I had visions of all the trappings of the old ballroom having beem ripped out and being replaced with something ultra modern." I turned and looked around the room again, taking in all the details of the ornate ceiling.
"When I viewed this place the first time, I decided then that I would leave the room in it's original state as far as possible. The previous owners used this room and were well known for their gatherings and parties. One wedding celebration they held here lasted for three days. They were a very popular family this side of Milan." He smiled and I felt his gaze on me as I walked over to a large easel, placed some feet away from the windows.
I stood a couple of feet away from it and gazed at a piece he was working on. It was of a woman, sitting in a large gilt ballon backed chair, upholstered in crimson. My gaze shifted to the right where the chair now stood.
"What do you think, Bella?" His soft tone broke the silence that had fallen in the room.
Without looking over to him, I looked back at the picture.
"Hard to tell. You're still working on it." I stated and in my next breath "Who's the model?" I asked quietly, surprising myself as I had not really thought about the words as they came tumbling out of my mouth.
I recovered quickly from the realisation of my question. I felt a tinge of jealousy and hoped it did not show in my eyes as I looked at him with my head slightly inclined.
His eyes held my gaze for a moment and he gave a wry smile. I had not got away with it.
"Just a paid model, Bella. A struggling art student." And with a slight shake of his head he added "Nothing more."
I said nothing. To do so would be to confirm the feeling inside me. Looking back at the picture I followed the line of her form. She was wearing a beautiful period gown of ivory with delicate embroidery covering the bust of the dress. Her long auburn hair, that hung in ringlets cascading down over her shoulders, almost reached her waist. To say she was not beautiful would have been a lie.
She was gazing into the distance, the background as yet unfinished. Her brown eyes looked wistful and a little sad.
As I continued to study her face I heard Carlisle walk across the room and stand to the right hand side of the picture.
"Do you like it, Bella?" His tone was slightly anxious. I had probably taken a little too long to voice my opinion.
Without taking my eyes off the picture but with Carlisle in my peripheral vision, I nodded gently.
"She seems rather sad. As if the man she has been waiting for has failed to arrive." I finally looked at Carlisle.
"Excellent!" He stated with a broad smile on his lips. "Just the feeling I was hoping to portray."
"Then you have succeeded, Carlisle. But then again, when do you not when you set your mind on a project?" I stated and feeling suddenly self-conscious, I lifted my right hand and tucked a piece of non-existant hair behind my ear. He was beginning to fluster my thoughts once again.
Before I had any time to think, Carlisle was standing in front of me.
"I miss you Bella. So much. You have been my inspiration for so much of my work." He said softly looking into my eyes. "I am sure you can see the resemblance in this picture of you. You are always in my thoughts Bella."
I could not move. It seemed that my shoes were super glued to the floor. I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. My thoughts had frozen too.
Carlisle reached out with a steady hand and gently touched my shoulder, then trailed his hand down my arm, causing goosebumps in its wake. When his hand reached the level of my waist, he gently rested it there. I could feel the heat of his hand and the rush of blood to my cheeks.
"Stay here another night, Bella. Please? I have so much to share with you and show you." He pleaded.
I closed my eyes to help focus on my resolve which was in great danger of being demolished right now.
As I opened my eyes to speak, Carlisle's lips were on mine...
To be continued...
Author's Note: I had to end it there. Hope you liked it. Whether you did or not please press the green button and let me know. I will post the rest of this chapter soon. Take care.