Chapter 8: Cards on the Table


Hotel in Edinburgh


"Connor," Alex said when Connor reached her side, "this is Lorenzo Ponti. Mr. Ponti, this is my husband, Connor MacLeod."

"Mr. MacLeod, how very good to meet you at last," Ponti said solemnly, holding out his hand.

Connor finished his inspection of Elena Duran's husband—mid-twenties, blond, tall, handsome, expensively and fashionably dressed—then took the young man's hand in his. Ponti had a firm grip, which Connor returned in full, though he didn't shake too vigorously. It was obvious the boy was already in pain. Elena had been right; Shaw had done a thoroughly professional job. "Welcome to Scotland, Mr. Ponti," Connor said as he let go.

"Grazie, thank you. Your lovely wife has been kind enough to talk with me while I am here. We got you a drink," he said, gesturing to the silver tray on the mahogany table with a quick but suddenly halted wave of his right hand.

Connor added broken ribs to the list of Ponti's injuries. That must be an added torture for an Italian—no waving hands in the air. Ponti was compensating, though. The fingers of his other hand were beating a tattoo on the handle of his cane. Nerves? Or just extra energy? Connor needed to know more about this young husband of Elena Duran's, because depending on what Elena had been up to, they could be in for a rough evening. "Thank you," Connor said, picking up the whisky and immediately catching the scent of smoke and sea—Lagavulin, just the thing for a brisk winter day. He looked up to see Alex's quiet smile; she'd ordered it for him, of course. He toasted her silently before he took the first welcome sip, letting the pale amber liquid roll on his tongue, swallowing the heat, then breathing in through his nose as the finish came roaring back in a wave.

Ponti, at least, knew enough to respect a man's first taste of whisky. But as soon as Connor had lowered his glass, Ponti leaned forward on his cane and asked, "Mr. MacLeod, do you know where Elena is now?"

It was an easy question to answer. "No."

It wasn't an easy answer for Ponti to accept. He threw a wild, almost accusing glance of despair at Alex, and his fingers tightened on the handle of his cane. But apparently he wasn't quite so stupid and reckless as Connor had thought. He didn't bluster, he didn't rage, he merely took a deep breath and said evenly, "Scusi, excuse me, Mr. MacLeod, let me rephrase. Do you know if she met with this Inglese? Do you know where? When?" He leaned forward again, desperate and earnest, his agitation betrayed by his lapses into Italian. "Do you know anything that could help me find her?"

Connor could answer these questions easily, too, but he chose his words with care, not wanting the boy to rush out the door. That wouldn't help anybody. "I arranged a meeting between her and the Englishman at three this—"

"At three?" Ponti interrupted. "But it is …"

He glanced around the room for a clock then reached into the pocket of his trousers, even as Alex was saying, "Quarter to five," and seating herself on the divan.

Ponti verified the time on a silver pocket watch then closed the watch case with an audible click and slipped it back into his pocket. "Nearly two hours?" He started pacing—limping—in front of the fire. Connor moved closer to where Alex was sitting to give him room, but didn't sit down. "It is too long," Ponti muttered to himself in dismay.

"Lorenzo," Alex said, quick to reassure, "they met—on Holy Ground—for a discussion."

Ponti knew the score. He started to whirl to face them, but grimaced in pain and ended up making it a three-point turn before he managed to turn around. "But they could have gone off Holy Ground for a battle to the death. Yes?" Neither Connor nor Alex denied it, and Ponti demanded, "What else could take so long?"

"Shopping," Connor immediately replied.

Alex looked up and favored him with a sweetly venomous smile. She said to Ponti, "Maybe one of them was late. Or maybe Elena stopped at a restaurant afterward. She said she hadn't been eating much these last few days."

"She would have called," Ponti said, shaking his head and stumping about again with his cane. "She would let me know."

"But she doesn't know you're in Scotland," Alex pointed out. "Have you checked for messages in Rome in the last two hours?"

"No, I was at the airport, then the taxi … But I have my cellphone. She would call that number, not—" He stopped and turned to the beefy black-haired bodyguard, the boxer sitting near the window, the one Connor had instantly dubbed "Luigi," companion to "Guido" in the hall. Never mind that Ponti had called that one Giorgio; he looked like a "Guido" to Connor, and Guido he would remain.

"Il telefono, per favore," Ponti requested, beckoning with one hand, and Luigi reached into a leather coat that obviously belonged to his employer and trotted over with the phone.

Ponti punched one button then swore viciously, a long and involved paragraph of invective. Connor's Italian wasn't good enough to catch each word, but the meaning was clear. "Dead!" Ponti snarled, all but crushing the small plastic phone in his hand, then winced in pain and dropped the phone on the seat of the chair nearest the fire, clutching at his back, right above his waist.

Damaged kidneys? Connor wondered. Pissing blood was no fun. And yet here was Lorenzo, traipsing across Europe to find and rescue his wife instead of resting at home where his doctor had no doubt recommended he stay. Elena had found herself a tough one this time. He would need to be, to put up with her.

"You came here, expecting to find her," Ponti said next to Alex. "Did she tell you a time?"

"She said she'd be here by five o'clock," Alex answered, as she had told Connor half-an-hour ago on the phone.

"And if she's not here by five, then …," Lorenzo said in a whisper.

Then … Alex's left hand was resting on the arm of the divan, and Connor glanced at Alex's watch: four forty-eight. The minutes were ticking by. Connor made an elaborate show of sitting down next to Alex, leaning back comfortably with his drink in his hand and saying, "I've never known Elena to be on time," even as the detached, logical part of his brain was making a list of the people who should be told that Elena Duran was dead. Connor would call Cassandra and Duncan himself, of course. Those two would spread the news from there: Amanda, Methos, Dawson and thence the Watchers, Elena's people at her ranch in Argentina … and the ripples would go on. At least Connor wouldn't have to call the husband and tell him over the phone. It was a lousy way to hear bad news.

Ponti was nodding and even smiling a little at Connor's observation, but it was a desperately hopeful smile. "Yes. It is possible she is shopping, as you say, Mr. MacLeod. Women!" He waved one hand—but only the hand, not the whole arm—in the air. "A pretty dress, and they lose all sense of time—even Elena." He turned to his beefy bodyguard once more and said something in rapid Italian about calling Rome, then jerked his chin at the cellphone on the chair. After Salvatore-Luigi had picked up the phone and disappeared, Ponti maneuvered himself slowly into the chair, then sat there, staring at the fire and bouncing the cane on the floor while his feet tapped in rhythm.

Elena was always full of nervous motion, too; Connor remembered. Between the pair of them, the Ponti home must sound like a colony of woodpeckers. Connor took a hefty swallow of his whisky and did his best to ignore the noise. Alex patted his arm soothingly then said to Ponti, "Lorenzo, it's not even five o'clock yet. Elena isn't late now, and she would never be late for something like this."

Connor silently added the obvious prerequisite: If she were still alive.

Alex was saying, "She wouldn't want us to worry."

… any more than they already had. Connor took another sip of whisky and settled into his waiting mode: expecting nothing, imagining nothing, doing nothing … for the moment.

Ponti looked up, brown eyes dark and haunted, but he managed another smile and said, "Yes. There is time. My Elena will come, if she can."

Someone certainly had. Connor set down his drink as he stood to face the door to the lobby, because an Immortal had just arrived. He didn't need to announce it, though; Guido said: "Signora Ponti!" from the lobby, and then Elena was at the door, still swathed in black and red. Luigi, either done with or abandoning his phone call to Rome, stood behind her.

Connor glanced at Alex's watch again: four fifty-one, nine minutes to spare. Elena looked tired and tense, but her clothes were immaculate and her hair neatly brushed. No Quickening then, not even a fight. Maybe she had actually learned something from her talk with Alex last night. Even the pugnacious Elena Duran was capable of talking and then walking away … good. Very good.

Elena paused at the threshold, her wariness disappearing as she identified Connor as the other Immortal, then smiling in incredulous delight at her husband. Connor grinned, because Elena suddenly looked just like Rachel had when she'd actually seen Elvis Presley, live and in-person! fifty years ago. Even the long ponytail was the same, only black instead of blonde. Alex had stood and turned to watch the show.

Ponti had managed to get to his feet and was heading for the door even as Elena swept toward him, her scarlet cape flaring out behind her. "Cara mia!" Ponti whispered passionately, his arms held open wide, the cane still in his right hand. Elena slowed just before she reached him, no doubt to ease herself gently into his embrace, but Ponti tossed his cane aside and wrapped his arms around her, a sudden move that threatened his balance and made him gasp in pain. Elena had to be supporting half his weight.

Neither of them seemed to care. "Mi amor," she said, her voice muffled against Ponti's shoulder. Connor listened carefully, because he hadn't spoken Italian in decades, and Elena was, naturally enough, now using her husband's native tongue instead of her own. "I tried calling you," she was saying.

Ponti pulled back, regained his balance, and looked her over, holding onto her arms and devouring her with his eyes. "It doesn't matter," he proclaimed, shaking his head.

"You're here! I can't believe you came looking for me!" she said, laying one hand lightly on his chest.

Ponti smiled broadly. "Do you really think there is any place in this world where I would not come looking for you?"

"No," she answered, and Connor wondered when the cherubs would appear overhead to rain down rose petals on this touching romantic scene. There should at least be violins. He glanced at Guido and Luigi, but neither of them had made a move to pull out a musical instrument. Apparently serenading wasn't a requirement of bodyguards these days.

"You were right, and I was wrong," Elena was saying to her husband, in tones of such abject apology that Connor blinked and wondered where the real Elena Duran was. Alex turned to him with a bemused and amused stare, both eyebrows raised. Alex's Italian was limited to ordering food and listening to opera, but Elena's meaning and tone were clear enough. Alex tucked her arm inside his, and Connor pulled her closer and took her hand.

"This had nothing to do with me," Elena said, all in a rush. "I shouldn't have come."

Connor had told her precisely the same thing yesterday, but then Elena had always needed to figure things out for herself.

"Who cares who is wrong and who is right?" Ponti said, which was wonderfully gracious of him, but then again, Ponti had been right. He could afford to be gracious, and so could Connor. Connor had already had an apology from Elena, and hearing and seeing this second apology was reward enough.

"You are here with me," Ponti stated, "and you are safe."

Not that the first fact had anything to do with the second, Connor noted, but at least the young man had tried to take care of his wife. It wasn't his fault Elena hadn't let him.

"It is over then, isn't it?" Ponti asked, a worried tone creeping into his voice.

"The Englishman and I reached an understanding," Elena reassured him. "He won't be coming to Rome anytime soon, and I won't be coming here or to London."

Connor lifted an eyebrow. The fiery and stubborn Elena Duran had actually allowed Shaw to ban her from a city—two cities—all because of this Lorenzo Ponti? She should admit being wrong more often. Or be in love more often. She seemed a whole new woman. Connor had never seen this side of Elena before, but he realized suddenly that Duncan very probably had.

"Don't even think about Peter Shaw any more," Elena was saying to her husband. She added softly, "We have other, more important matters."

"Yes, we do." He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a ring, which he ceremoniously placed on the third finger of her left hand.

"Querido," she whispered, switching back to Spanish again for the endearment. They stared at each other, enraptured for a moment, until they remembered there were other people in the room. Elena slipped her arm carefully around her husband's waist and supported him as they turned to face Connor and Alex.

"Alex, thank you so much for being here," Elena said, in English now, smiling her brilliant, blazing smile. "And Connor?" she asked, obviously surprised.

"I came looking for my wife," Connor said, with a smile and a comradely nod for Ponti, who smiled and nodded back.

"They were kind enough to wait with me," Ponti said, and Elena moved to the side as Luigi handed Ponti his cane. Leaning on it with his left hand, Ponti held out his right hand to Alex. "Grazie mille, Mrs. MacLeod. I hope to finish our discussion of racehorses another time."

"I've enjoyed meeting you, Lorenzo," Alex said, shaking his hand. "I hope you feel better soon."

"Thank you. And Mr. MacLeod," he said, turning to take Connor's hand, "if you and your family are ever in Rome, you must be our guests."

Connor shook hands firmly—and carefully—then responded to the invitation with only a non-committal smile. Elena was murmuring, "That's not likely to happen," and she was right. Connor didn't want his family in the same country as Elena Duran, let alone the same house. Elena hugged Alex, whispering, "Gracias, amiga."

"You're welcome," Alex said, still in a half-embrace with Elena. "I'm glad we were still in Edinburgh when you stopped by yesterday. I wouldn't have wanted to miss you completely."

Connor wouldn't have minded that a bit, but it had turned out all right. Alex stepped back to his side while Elena moved back next to Ponti, and the two couples went back to finishing this business of saying goodbye. Connor helped Alex on with her coat, then she picked up her briefcase and took Connor's arm again. "Time for us to go," Alex said.

"Us, too," Elena said. "In the last two days I've been kicked out of Edinburgh twice."

Connor returned her impishly knowing smile with the barest minimum of a nod.

"I feel like one of those cowboys from the movies," she said with a good-humored chuckle, letting him know she didn't hold his decree against him. Not too much, anyway.

"You mean like John Wayne?" Ponti asked. He shifted his weight—cautiously—so that his shoulder were back and one hip was slouched down, then he said, the Duke's slow drawl warring with his quick Italian accent, "This town ain't big enough for both of us, pil-grim."

His imitation was so good that Connor smiled and Alex laughed. "You'd be perfect, Lorenzo," she said, "except for your accent," and at the same time, Ponti joined in with, "My accent. I know."

"Before he gets a swelled head thinking he's the next Marcello Mastroianni," Elena said, linking her arm in his, "we'll say goodbye. Connor, Shaw sends his regards."

Connor nodded, not surprised that Shaw had asked Elena what she knew about "Paul Ganton." In the Game, swordwork was essential, but information was critical.

"Thanks, and I'm sure we'll see each other again," she added.

"No doubt," he agreed, and with yet one more round of nods and murmured good-byes, the two couples finally separated.

Connor and Alex went out to dinner, a romantic evening together on their last night in town. By unspoken agreement, not a word was said of the Ponti-Durans. They spoke instead of the history lecture Alex had gone to earlier that day, the holidays just past, the children, and a hundred other small, familiar things.

After dinner, Connor and Alex stopped by the Gowans' house and picked up the kids. Sara and Colin were sent to bed as soon as they all got home. "But, Mom!" Sara protested.

Alex laid down the law. "We're leaving for the farm tomorrow morning, school starts on Monday, and you two have to get back on schedule. It's almost ten o'clock." She kissed them goodnight, and Connor took over from there, following the kids into the hall to make sure they went upstairs.

"What about Elena Duran?" Sara wanted to know, swinging around one-handed on the mahogany baluster at the bottom of the stairs. "Is she still in Edinburgh? Did she fight? Is she still alive?"

"Yes, no, and yes," Connor answered. "She's with her husband at a hotel, and they're leaving for Italy tomorrow morning."

Colin had made it all the way on to the first step, but he wasn't moving. "But, if they're leaving for Italy and we're leaving for the Highlands tomorrow, then I won't have a chance to see Elena's sword so I can draw it."

"I have pictures of Elena's sword," Connor said. "I'll dig them out, and you can draw it from those."

"Great!" Colin said then narrowed his eyes in confusion. "Why do you have pictures of Elena's sword?"

"Because it used to be mine. I gave it to her, ten years ago."

"As a present?" Sara asked dubiously, stopping in mid-swing, because last night while Alex had been out to dinner, the twins had asked and Connor had answered: No, Elena Duran and I don't get along.

"As a trade," Connor corrected. "That sword for hers."

Colin jumped on that. "Do you still have her old one? Can I draw it?"

"You already have. It's the katana with the handle wrapped in dark-blue cord."

"The one with the tsuba that looks like a chrysanthemum?" Colin asked.

"Yes."

"What's her new one like, the one you gave to her?"

"It's a German broadsword." The twins' eyes were still bright with questions, but Connor said, "I'll tell you more later. Go to bed," he ordered, with a kiss goodnight for them both.

"Goodnight, Dad," they chorused and straggled their way up the stairs, bickering good-naturedly about something which Colin had apparently done wrong the day before.

"It was your fault," Colin defended himself. "You were the one who got all dusty, and you made the noise."

"Yeah, well, you were the one who was wiggling around like you had an armadillo down your underwear," Sara retorted. "What was I supposed to do?"

Connor didn't want to know. He went into the library, where Alex was picking out a book. He lifted her hair and kissed the nape of her neck. "Ready for bed?" He kissed her again, a little closer to her ear, and she shivered under his caress.

"Since you ask so nicely…" She replaced the book on the shelf and turned around with a smile. "Yes." They went up the stairs together, arms around each others' waists. Halfway up, Alex said, "Elena and Lorenzo seem very happy together."

"Mmm-hmm," Connor agreed.

"I think he's good for her."

"Mmm."

"Do you think she's good for him?"

This time Connor's "mmm" was non-committal, and Alex stopped climbing. "Elena's a real handful, even for someone her own age," Connor explained. "Ponti's very young."

"She seemed like putty in his hands tonight," Alex observed.

"That she did," Connor said cheerfully, for it had been a sight to behold.

"What did they say, exactly?" Alex asked, curious as always.

Connor snorted in amusement, smiling again. "They should have been on stage, an extravagantly romantic Italian opera. Her best line was: 'I was wrong and you were right.'"

"Verbatim?"

Connor nodded. "But he probably doesn't hear that very often, and he'll hear it less often as the years go by. The honeymoon phase doesn't last forever."

"No," Alex agreed thoughtfully as they started climbing again. "Maybe by the time it's over, Lorenzo will be ready to keep her in hand." She smiled at him sidelong. "The way I do you."

"I like it when you keep me in hand," Connor said, smiling back.

"And you're a real handful," Alex said.

"More than one," Connor corrected as they reached the top of the stairs.

Alex laughed and agreed: "You definitely require two." She kissed him then went to say goodnight to Sara and Colin one last time—and to make sure they turned off their lights and didn't stay up all night to read. At least they weren't going to be using flashlights for a while.

Connor got in the bed to warm it up for Alex, and in a few minutes she returned, burrowing under the covers and snuggling close to him, tangling their feet together in the sheets. Suddenly, she lifted her head and kissed him fiercely. "Thank you for not fighting," she said to him, her eyes suspiciously bright. "Thank you for not making me go through what Lorenzo went through today … all this last week … and will probably go through again."

"Hey," Connor said softly, taking both her hands between his own, then kissing the back of the ring finger on her left hand, just above her wedding ring. "Thank you for giving me a reason not to fight … Mrs. MacLeod."

Alex's smile broke through the threatening tears. "I love you, Connor."

"I love you, too, Alex." Alex kissed him again then laid her head on his shoulder, their legs intertwined, still holding hands, her fingers caressing his. She wasn't done talking yet, though; Connor knew the signs. Sure enough, a few moments later, she began.

"Last night at dinner," she said, not lifting her head, "Elena asked me to ask you to call Lorenzo, if she were killed. She said it was her 'dying wish.'"

Connor gave a soft "mmph" of resigned amusement. Leave it to Elena to ask for something more, even beyond the grave. Always pushing, that one. Oh, he would have done it, of course. Even without her asking, he would have done it. Comrades-in-arms took care of their own, and no matter their differences, he and Elena had fought side-by-side. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?" Connor asked.

"When I got home last night, you were asleep. Today, after I told you about my conversation with Elena, I didn't think you wanted to talk about her anymore."

"You were right."

"I know," his wife said with complete confidence. "I have you in hand, remember?" Connor swatted her on the backside, but Alex only grinned before she got serious again, almost pensive. "I didn't want to talk about it, either—that she might die. It's easier not to think about it."

"Yeah," Connor agreed, knowing exactly what she meant.

"Elena has a lot of respect for you, Connor."

"And I respect her," Connor said, because he did. "But as much as I respect the brave and fiery Elena Duran and her young and stalwart husband Lorenzo Ponti, I think we've talked enough about that pair of newlyweds for a while."

"Is that right?"

"Mmm-hmm," Connor murmured, rolling Alex over onto her back and then kissing a path along her lower jaw up to her ear. "I think you and I should revisit our own newlywed days."

"Do you?" Alex said, smiling up at him from the pillows.

"I do," Connor replied, and so they did.


Chapter 9: Full House


Late at night, May 2007
Rome

"Is he asleep?" Lorenzo whispered.

"At last," Elena answered just as softly.

Lorenzo tiptoed out of the baby's room, but Elena stayed behind to lower the window a little, so the baby could have a breeze but not too much of the warm spring night air. Then she came back and peered into the lace-festooned bassinet. Yellow down peeked out over the blanket, making his head look—and feel, she remembered—a bit like a chick. Resisting the urge to touch the baby once more, she smiled and nodded at Francesca, the nanny, who had diplomatically left the nursery when Elena and Lorenzo had entered but now hovered in the doorway, ready to go back to her charge. Elena followed her husband through the connecting door and into their own suite of rooms.

"Whew!" he said. But he was smiling, and Elena ran her fingers through his hair then put her arm in his and walked him toward their bedroom. "Two days of having a newborn, and I'm already exhausted," he said. But as they got to their bedroom door, Lorenzo stopped suddenly and asked, "Are all the arrangements made for the baptism tomorrow?"

"Of course they are," she soothed him. "Your mother made them, remember? Bishop Tartelli at the baptismal font in St. Peter's. We are honored."

"Yes," he said. Looking at her sideways, he asked tentatively, "You don't mind, do you? About my mother making the arrangements?"

"No, of course not," Elena said, smiling. Before she'd married Lorenzo she had decided on a strategy to deal with his mother, the very strong-willed current matriarch of the Ponti family. Elena would let Gina Ponti have her way at every possible opportunity, so that on the rare occasions when Elena did challenge her, Gina would know it was serious. The system had worked quite well so far. Tomorrow at the christening, however, Elena allowed there might be a small problem.

Well, might as well get started. Bluntly, she said, "I'd like to christen the baby Marcello."

Lorenzo blinked. "What? Where did this come from? We decided to call him Roberto, after my grandfather."

"No," she said sweetly but firmly. "You decided that." His mother had helped with that decision. "I want to call him Marcello, after his grandfather on his mother's side of the family."

"His grandfather? But your father…" His eyes narrowed. "Your father died in the seventeenth century," he said in a loud, somewhat angry whisper, "and besides his name was … Alvaro, wasn't it?"

"I don't mean my father, my love," she said, stroking his face. "I mean Ana's father."

"Ana's father?" he said, totally and utterly surprised.

"Yes, remember Ana Monteverde? The blonde hairdresser you slept with and got pregnant? The mother of the little boy down the hall?"

Lorenzo took her hand and pulled her toward him. "You are his mother!" he declared forcefully.

"Yes, now I am. But for nine months of pregnancy and ten hours of labor, Ana was his mother. And she said she'd always wanted to call her firstborn after her father."

Lorenzo walked away from her, looked out the window, then came back to stand in front of her. "When did you meet Ana?" he asked in the same tone he would have asked, "When did you dance naked at noon at the Piazza San Marco?"

Elena smoothed the ribbon of her nightgown under her breasts, then looked up at him. "Right after we flew back from Scotland. I would never, ever forcibly take a child from his mother, so I wanted to be sure, absolutely sure, that she was willing to give up the baby."

Now he was angry. "Do you think I would force her—"

"No, of course not," she said, soothing him again, putting her hand on his bare chest. "But someone might have, in your name. One of the lawyers. Or perhaps one of your father's friends might have made her an offer she couldn't refuse."

"That's ridiculous!" he said. "I would never let such a thing happen. I spoke to her myself!"

"I also needed to speak to her myself," she answered. "I'm satisfied on that score. But when she asked me for one thing, to be allowed to suggest a name for him, I agreed."

"You agreed? Without consulting me?"

Elena sighed. Lorenzo was a generous, honorable, Italian male. Time to appeal to his sense of chivalry. "It was the right thing to do, Lorenzo. She's a sweet girl; she's given up her child and brought us immense joy. How can it hurt to give her this one thing?"

"A sweet girl?" he echoed, flabbergasted. "You told me you'd kill the little bitch! And considering you're an … Immortal," he said, stressing the word, "I thought you really meant it. To kill her, that is."

Elena had really meant it. Then. "That's before I met her. She's what we call in Spanish an infeliz. An innocent girl, not yet twenty, who …," was seduced by a handsome, rich young man, she wanted to say, but instead went with, "… stumbled into this affair without realizing the ramifications." She shook her head. "I gave her my word, Lorenzo."

Lorenzo knew what Elena's word meant to her. It was the same thing his word meant to him. She hoped that would end the argument. It almost did. He was silent for a moment, then suggested, "How about Roberto Marcello Ponti?"

Elena rolled it on her tongue. "Actually, it sounds better than Marcello Roberto. Agreed, but be aware that I will call him Marcello, Marcellino when he's little, and I will insist that everyone else call him Marcellino, and that's the name he'll be known by."

"And we tell my parents … what? That you just like the name Marcello?"

She shrugged. "It happens to be true, and if you don't want to tell them the whole story, fine."

He shook his head. "We should talk about this some more," he said, but she had agreed to include his grandfather's name, he was willing to cross his mother, and Elena knew she'd won.

"We have all night," she said, moving closer, putting her right hand around the nape of his neck. "But there are several other things I'd rather do with my nights," she suggested silkily, running her index and middle fingers softly along his lips.

He snorted. "We haven't had any sleep in two nights, Elena. I'm not an Immortal. I'm only a man, and I am not from Havana!" he said, but he was smiling.

She giggled then lowered her hands behind him and squeezed his very muscular—oh, yes!—very firm ass, pulling their two bodies together. She could feel him swelling against her abdomen. Something else was very firm.

"You're going to kill me, you know. I'm going to have a heart attack," he prophesied.

"You're twenty-six years old, you have the body of a Greek god, and besides, you'll die with a smile on— Is that the baby?" she asked, hearing a very familiar cry. They'd left the intervening doors open just for this purpose, and she turned towards the baby's room, but Lorenzo caught her hand and pulled her back towards him, although she was still facing in Marcellino's direction.

"We have a nanny, remember? Why don't we let her take this one?" he suggested.

A moment later the baby stopped crying, and Elena could hear soft crooning. Francesca, of course. Good. She might work out.

"There," Lorenzo said. Without waiting for an answer or for her agreement, he swept her up and kissed her hard on the lips. Then he walked over and put her on their bed. Kneeling on the bed and looking down at her, he softly stroked her face, then said, "I'm going to make love to you."

"Si, mi amor," she answered, as passionate as always.


THE END

Elena and Peter Shaw meet again in the story "Elena's Journey"


AUTHORS' NOTES

Thanks to:
Robin and Livia for the Italian
MacNair for the enthusiasm
Bridget for the planning
Harlene, Terry, and Livia for the eagle eyes and discerning taste.

STORIES IN THIS UNIVERSE
For more about Elena and Peter Shaw, read "Elena's Journey"
For more about Elena and Cassandra being friends, read "Hope Remembered III: Confidante" and "Hope Triumphant III: Anamchara" (chapter Timeless)
For more about Elena and Cassandra on the cruise, read "Duende."
For another story by Vi and Parda, read "Invisible Darkness"

For more stories of Elena and the MacLeods, go to Vi's page

For the story of Elena and Bethel, read Vi's "Elena in New York" and "Elena in Argentina."
For the story of Connor trading swords with Elena, read Vi's "Trust II."
For the story of Elena and Simon Andrew, read Vi's "His Better Half."

For more about Alex and Cassandra's plans, read Parda's "Hope Triumphant II: Sister"

In case you were counting, the thirteen Immortals whom Alex has met are:
(1,2) Connor and Kane in HL3 (in Parda's stories "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "All the Good Women")
(3,4,5) Duncan, Richie, and Sean Burns at Alex's wedding in Parda's story "All the Fun"
(6,7) Elena Duran and Simon Andrew in Vi's story "His Better Half."
(8) Cassandra in Parda's story "Hope Remembered I: Friend."
(9) Evann in "Hope Triumphant II: Sister"
(10) Grace Chandel in 2002, in "Hope Triumphant II: Sister"
(11) Yaliti in this story in 2003.
(12, 13) Amanda and Methos at Duncan's wedding in Parda's story "Goddess Child."


Translations: (those not marked otherwise are all Spanish)
CHAPTER 1
chiquito/a - little one

CHAPTER 2
bien - good

CHAPTER 3
!que barbaridad! - wow!
Signorina (Italian) - Miss

CHAPTER 4
mi amor (Spanish), querido/a (Spanish), cara mia (Italian) - my love
cojones - balls (as a measure of manhood)
idiota - idiot

CHAPTER 5
cabron - asshole
per favore (Italian) - please

CHAPTER 6
grazie mille (Italian) - a thousand thanks
Dio mio! (Italian) - my God!
carpe diem (Latin) - seize the day

CHAPTER 7
carajo - double damn
!gracias a Dios! - thank God!

CHAPTER 8
scusi (Italian) - excuse me
Inglese (Italian) - Englishman
il telefono (Italian) - the telephone
tsuba (Japanese) - small handguard between hilt and blade.