Three years ago –Cesare's Twentieth Birthday
Lucrezia pressed her ear against Cesare's door as hard as she could. She strained to hear the conversation going on the other side.
"Go down the back staircase, to the servant's quarters. Ask for my chauffer, he'll take you home."
"Will I ever see you again?" A girl's voice asked.
"Probably not," (Cesare's response made Lucrezia snigger.) "But perhaps I'll see you around."
Before Lucrezia could even step away from the door, Cesare swung it open. Behind him, a young girl around his age was hurriedly trying to cover her naked self with a bed sheet. Lucrezia's eyes looked with Cesare's. She let out a small laugh before darting away.
She made one foot into her room before Cesare grabbed a hold of her waist. He flung Lucrezia over his shoulder and carried her over to her bed. Giggling madly, she pounded her fists onto his back, demanding to be let down.
Cesare obliged, and threw her onto her bed.
"Spying on me, were you?" He asked as he tickled her stomach.
Lucrezia swatted his hands away. "No!" She laughed. "I was trying to wish you a 'Happy Birthday' but someone beat me to it!"
Cesare chuckled and wrapped his arms around Lucrezia. "She didn't know it was my birthday today," He said into her ear, as his chin rested on her shoulder. "You'll be the first to wish me one."
"Good!" Lucrezia turned herself in his lap so that she was facing him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him firmly on the cheek. "Happy birthday, Cesare!"
The pair emerged from the bedroom with Lucrezia riding on Cesare's back. Juan started to greet them as he walked down the hallway, but was distracted as he walked past Cesare's room. He stopped and peered inside.
"Oh, hi there," Juan casually leaned against Cesare's doorway. "My name's Juan. I'm Cesare's brother."
Cesare and Lucrezia burst into laughter. The girl cautiously came out of the room, now fully clothed. She was in a tight, black mini dress and tall, red clubbing heels. She threw Juan a disgusted look, and hurriedly made her way to the servant's staircase.
Juan let out a whistle. "My brother, you have some taste."
After breakfast Vanozza shooed everyone away to prepare for Cesare's party. Lucrezia skipped up the stairs to her room, Cesare following close behind her, holding her hand.
He went to sit on the edge of her bed as she stood in front of her opened closet. Lucrezia tapped her foot on the carpeting, hands on her hips, pondering what to wear for the day's event. Her expression was so serious; with her lips pursued and her eyes narrowed as she scanned her clothing.
Cesare snickered behind her. She turned around to glare at him. "You're not being very helpful!" She whined.
He laughed and lifted himself from the bed. He hugged her waist and rested his chin on the top of her head.
"Hmm…" He hummed playfully. Cesare reached forward and thumbed the fabric of a dress.
"You look stunning in blue." He murmured.
The dress was a light blue, lacy baby doll dress with a fitted waist and pleated skirt.
"Well then," Lucreiza yanked the dress off of its hanger. "Blue it is."
By noon the guests had started arriving, and within the hour the Borgia home was filled with visitors. Some were family, some were friends, and many more were Rodrigo's business partners and even competitors. The Borgia patriarch took strongly to the "keep friends close and enemies closer" philosophy.
Cesare watched his sister walked around the garden, welcoming guests and serving them drinks. Lucrezia was naturally quite shy, but when her father would ask her to play hostess and make everyone feel comfortable, she would always comply. Cesare knew that Lucrezia never liked the thought of letting anyone down. It was endearing and worrying all at once; Cesare never wanted her to compromise her happiness for someone else's.
He smiles at her across the yard, noticing the sun's light glinting off of Lucrezia's necklace; the very same one he had given her a year before for her birthday. She skipped over to him, a grin plastered to her face.
Cesare took her hand into his and placed a kiss on it. "What are you so giddy about?" He asked.
She squeezed his hand. "I want you give you your gift!"
Cesare chuckled. "Alright, well, shall we steal away for a moment?"
Lucrezia nodded enthusiastically and followed Cesare into the house. They avoided the large crowd by the main staircase, and went through the kitchen to the back staircase. The two fell into a comfortable silence with their hands in one another's.
When they entered Lucrezia's bedroom, Cesare laid down on the bed while Lucrezia searched in her closet for his gift. She pulled out a rectangular package with dark red wrapping paper and a black bow on top.
"My two favorite colors," Cesare grinned, taking the package into his hands. "You know me too well."
Lucrezia shifted nervously. "It's not anything fancy or expensive… just a book."
Cesare ripped open the paper. It was a faded, hardback copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology. The cover was a soft gray, the wording almost faded. When he opened to the first page, Cesare caught a whiff of a sweet dusty smell.
He smiled broadly up at Lucrezia. "It's wonderful, sis. Where'd you find this?"
Lucrezia blushed softly at the compliment. "At a secondhand bookstore downtown," Cesare motioned for her to lie next to him.
She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head onto his chest. "You used to read all the myths to me when I was younger. Do you remember?"
Cesare pictured a ten year old Lucrezia sitting onto his lap in the old rocking chair in Gioffre's nursery. The way she'd look up at him with eager, bright eyes when the story turned dangerous. "Want me to stop?" He'd tease. Her eyes would widen in horror. "No, no!" She'd say. "Keep going!"
Cesare kissed the top of her head. "Of course I remember. You loved those stories."
She shifted so she could nuzzle her head into his neck. They were silent for a few moments, content with being in each other's arms.
"Cesare," Lucrezia said suddenly.
"Do you really like those kinds of girls?"
Cesare thought for a moment. "You mean the one this morning? Her kind?
"Yes," Lucrezia sat up to face him full on. "The ones with short skirts and tall heels, you like those girls?"
Cesare shrugged. "I suppose so. For certain things I mean,"
"Certain things?" Lucrezia giggled.
Cesare shifted uncomfortably. He didn't like the thought of the conversation turning to his sex life. It didn't seem an appropriate thing to discuss in front of Lucrezia; she was far too innocent to him.
Lucrezia furrowed her brow for a moment. "I'm not like those girls." She said quietly, putting her head down.
Cesare lightly touched her chin with his index finger and guided her head upwards. "Why would you want to be love? You're wonderful just as you are."
The corner of Lucrezia's mouth twitched. "Will you marry a girl like that?"
Cesare sighed. "Probably not," His thoughts clouded his attention for a moment. Marriage…it seemed foreign to Cesare. Something he could observe, admire, but never quite touch or get the hold of.
He leaned forward to kiss Lucrezia's temple. "What's all this talk about anyway?" He kissed her chin. "Hmm?"
Lucrezia giggled. "You're right. Silly stuff," She pulled him into a tight hug once again. "Happy birthday, Cesare. I love you."
"Love you too, 'Crezia."
A/N: Little short and not too thrilling. But, I had to update because are super nice and I've been kind of obsessing over writing this story. I love you all more than I love Francois Arnaud's face. Micheletto soon and Paolo to come along soon after.