Ficawesome Gift Exchange- 3some
Title: Only in Italy
Written for: Itlnbrt
Written By: WoahNow
Summary/Prompt used: Europe. [I live in Europe, so I thought I'd have a bash at it :)]
After a bad start in Italy, it's possible Bella's luck has changed when she finds a laid-back barman offering to help. The only question is, will she accept?
Thank you to Stef for holding my hand through this because she's some kind of writing machine. I kid you not. Also, Kirsten is due many, many thanks for motivating me when I was whinging that I would never, ever finish. I was right, just so you know, but the motivation helped ;)
I took one last glance in my rear view mirror, trying to memorise that final glimpse of France as my hire truck rumbled over the border into Italy. I was soon more focused on the beautiful landscape ahead, my gaze drawn to the rolling hills and quaint houses which were scattered around me.
It had taken me five weeks to weave my way across France and before that I had spent three weeks in the United Kingdom, trying to see as much of Scotland, England and Wales as I could.
At twenty-six, I thought I would be working hard with only a handful of holidays to appease me over the years ahead, but when the law firm I had been working for took a turn for the worse, I found myself out of a job with savings to spare. I had been frugal in my spending since I left college, my debts were paid off by my grandmother, who believed my success should be rewarded. She told me she was proud of me and with me being her only grandchild, she wanted to help me out financially so that I was free to enjoy my pay-checks as best I could.
I could never thank her enough for her generosity, but apparently I had thanked her too much because a year later she threatened me with duct tape, declaring that if I were to thank her for it once more, then she would gladly secure my mouth closed. After that, I tried to express my gratitude in more subtle and silent ways.
When I had graduated, I moved back home to my mother in Phoenix and had never gotten around to moving out. She refused my offer to pay rent and wouldn't even let me to contribute towards groceries. You could say I was spoiled and in a way, I couldn't deny it. I never took it for granted though, that much I can assure you.
Redundant and in desperate need of a change, I decided I would go on a road trip around Europe, indulging myself in the culture and cuisine. My money had been safely tucked away in the bank and I myself was surprised at how much was nestled away. I had been lucky with my job and the promotion I received only a year after graduating and starting work at J. Jenks' law firm.
France had offered fresh croissants, endless supplies of wine, towering steel sculptures and breath-taking art work, to name a few things. My camera was filled with photos and memories of my journey. A journey I had taken alone. At first it was daunting but I slowly got used to the solitude and learnt to enjoy it and make the most of it. There was nothing stopping me from having a life-changing and exciting time abroad on my own.
That's the condensed story of how I ended up in Italy.
I continued driving for hours, until everything was smothered by a settling darkness. Eventually, I arrived at the outskirts of Turin, the city lights sparkling against the night-time backdrop. Following road signs and my map, I found my own way to the hotel I had booked a room at. I was weary from travelling and very much looking forward to a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep before I began my exploration of the city.
Parking my truck, I left my bags as I went to check in. I greeted the receptionist with a smile and his own was warm in return.
"Buona sera, signorina."
"Ciao," I responded pleasantly. My knowledge of Italian was limited and I hoped that he would speak English. "I have a room booked."
"Sì, your name, please?"
His fingers tapped on the keys and it was a couple of moments later that a frown formed on his youthful face.
"I'm sorry, Miss. Swan, there is a problem with your booking."
I stared at him in a dumbfounded silence for several seconds, my eyes wide and my internal monologue cursing with every bad word known to man, in every language I could muster. This wasn't happening to me.
"What problem?" I demanded, hoping this could be solved calmly. I'm not a confrontational person, but panic was beginning to set in.
"Your room has two bookings and there is somebody already staying in it. I don't know how this has happened, Miss. Swan, I'm sorry."
I leant my elbows against the reception desk and scrubbed a hand over my face, fighting off frustration and tiredness.
"Do you have another room?"
He offered me a guilty and remorseful glance before shaking his head.
"We are fully booked this week. There are no spare rooms."
"What am I going to do?" My voice was quiet and afraid. It was late at night and I didn't want to trawl the streets in search of a bed for the night.
"I'm booked in for a week. Is there a room for me at all this week?" I demanded somewhat desperately.
More clicking and typing preceded another head shake. I let out a long sigh, planning my next move.
"With the Settembre Musica festival, the hotels are very busy at this time."
I had planned to be in Turin at this time because of that festival and now it was the reason for my troubles. I had been attracted by a promise of both classical and modern music concerts from a combination of little and well known bands and artists across the city.
"I can phone our sister hotels for you?" He offered, a pitying look on his face.
Ten minutes later and the receptionist had had no luck in tracking down a room for me. Tiredness was encouraging tears and I blinked them away, too stubborn and proud to weep at my misfortune. In front of people, that is. If I was alone, those tears would be flowing freely right now.
"I'm sorry," he sounded genuine and with a sad smile, I turned to leave, walking out into the chilly air. I clambered back into my truck and drove until I found a bar, quickly parking up and entering the warm and surprisingly welcoming establishment. I settled onto a stool, feeling worse for wear and in need of a strong drink, something to wipe away the disaster of an evening I'd had.
"Sera, signorina." I glanced up, my gaze meeting bright green orbs. They were cheerful and relaxing, relieving some of the misery that was weighing on my shoulders.
"Hey... errm, ciao." I corrected lazily, rubbing a hand across my face and shaking my head slightly.
"You're English?" He asked, an accent colouring his tone. Perhaps he wasn't Italian after all. I warmed to him further immediately, desiring a normal conversation and a feeling of home.
"No, American." I clarified and his smile grew. "What?" I asked, his obvious excitement making me nervous.
"A small taste of home when I'm so far from it." He offered as a vague explanation but I understood completely, I was feeling the same way in his presence.
"Where are you from?" I asked, genuinely curious about the answer. I found myself with many questions I wanted to ask this handsome, charming stranger.
"Phoenix." He supplied with a nostalgic smile and I found my lips lifting at the corners.
"Me too." I told him, unable to stop my grin.
"A beautiful place. I think I'll always call it home, no matter where I am." I nodded my agreement and a light chuckle slipped from me. I clasped a hand over my mouth to hold back any further outbursts. He kinked an eyebrow in question and I felt my cheeks heat. "The world works in strange ways. Of all the people in all the places, I found someone from home." I shrugged and he seemed to give it a moments thought before nodding, with a bright grin adorning his face.
"My ma always used to say there's a reason for everything." He informed me with a wink.
"A wise woman."
"Absolutely. What can I get you to drink? On the house!"
"Oh! Whiskey and coke?" I asked, unfamiliar with the drinking habits of the Italians.
"Good choice, I'll be one minute." He tapped his hand against the bar twice before turning from me and busying himself with my drink.
I watched him make stilted conversation with other punters as he moved about, hankering to their needs and finally making his way back over.
"Here you are, signorina." He declared, making a smooth transition between the languages. He made it sound as though they belonged together, blending perfectly.
"Thank you, are you sure I can't pay you?" I checked, wondering if it had been a spur of the moment offer.
"Positive. It's a gesture of my gratitude."
"For what?" I inquired, bewildered.
"Allowing me to reminisce."
"Okay, it was my pleasure." I surrendered easily and took a sip of my drink, humming contentedly as the liquid caressed my throat, the burn of the whiskey dulled by the coke.
"I'm Edward." He stuck his hand out and I instinctively slid my fingers into his grasp, allowing his long, rough fingers to enclose mine.
"Bella." We shook hands and I reluctantly retracted mine from his comforting hold.
"Ah, bella Bella!" Edward chuckled, his eyes dancing with mischief. I shook my head in a mix of embarrassment and timid disagreement.
He began to walk backwards, his steps slow and his eyes on me.
"I've got to keep these people happy but enjoy your drink, Bella." He told me, gesturing to those stood at the bar, waiting to be served. I admired their patience; nobody demanding his attention or disgruntled by his inattention. I lifted my glass in acknowledgement before taking another sip. I watched the liquid fizz as my thoughts drifted back to my trip so far. I had seen so much that it gave the impression of a long and pleasant dream, with only snapshots of the countries I had visited.
At one point my eyes wandered to the lone barman, drawn, not only to his easygoing personality, but also the biceps that flexed as he carried out certain tasks and the way his black tee clung to his subtly toned chest like a second skin. He dropped a bottle cap on the floor and bent to pick it up, and I took the opportunity to admire his ass in the dark, snug fitting denim.
"Lui è attraente, no?" I twisted my head to find a statuesque blonde stood at my shoulder, wearing a sly smile as she looked down at me.
"I'm sorry?" I regretted not learning Italian but I knew it would have been ridiculous to try and learn all the languages of all the countries I intended to pass through on my road trip.
"You speak English?" She asked in a thick Italian accent, her tone not unfriendly.
"Yes, I don't know much Italian." I explained and she nodded in understanding.
"He is attractive, no?" She reiterated what I assumed she had spoken in Italian, her head nudging in Edward's direction and her tone somewhat conspiratorial.
"Yes," I laughed, "he is." I bit my lip, my eyes flicking back to him once more as he spoke jovially to a customer.
"He's single, too." She winked and I smiled shyly at her before reaching for my drink, just for something to do. "I'm Rosa," she held out a hand and I held it tentatively with mine, shaking it delicately. Even her fingers were long and slender, with rings stacked along their lengths.
"Bella." I told her and then retracted my hand, leaning it on the bar.
"It's nice to meet you, Bella." She smiled genuinely at me and I returned it.
"You too, Rosa."
"I'm sorry, I have to get back to work. You should talk to him." Her head tipped in Edward's direction once more, before she sauntered off, a tray in her hands and a dazzling smile on her face.
I watched intently for another few minutes, admiring Edward's skills as a barman. He worked quickly and efficiently, moving around behind the bar as though he had been born to do it. His movements were fluid and precise, never skipping a beat as he reached for glasses and bottles, counting change and clearing dirty glasses. It seemed as though he really enjoyed his job and I was impressed.
My phone, which was nestled in the pocket of my jeans, began to vibrate and after overcoming the initial surprise, I quickly dug it out, answering immediately when I saw it was Renee.
"Hey, mom!" I greeted, pleased to be hearing from her.
"Bella, honey! How are you?" She responded enthusiastically. I felt my smile growing, having not realised just how much I missed my mother.
"I'm really good, thanks. What about you?"
"I've missed you so much, Bells. Everything's great my end, though. Where are you now? Are you still in France?" Her interest was genuine, the curiosity evident in her tone.
"I miss you, too, mom. I'm in Italy, actually. I just arrived today, in Turin. I spent my last couple of days in Lyon before driving here." I informed her and she listened in silence, absorbing all of the information.
"Wow, you have been busy. What was Lyon like? What did you get up to?" She quizzed me in her excitement and I could imagine her impatient fidgeting.
"It was amazing, so beautiful and just... big. There were so many people and you should have seen the architecture, it was to die for! I have so many pictures... I got a little snap happy."
"I'm so glad you're enjoying yourself. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to seeing your photos when you get home. You'll have to put them all in an album. Have you met any nice people?"
"I will, yeah. I've met so many great people, most everybody I've come across has been so friendly and helpful." I told her honestly, my eyes drawn to the barman, who was just one of the kind people I had met so far.
"What about tonight? Did you find your hotel okay?"
"Yeah, it was easy. I'm at the hotel now, actually." I lied, hating myself for it, but I didn't want to worry her. She didn't need to know that I had no bed for the night.
"It sounds noisy," she pointed out sympathetically.
"It's just the television and the street outside."
"Hopefully it won't be too loud outside for you tonight, you must be worn out after your drive today. Do you have any work lined up? I know you said you might try your hand at something while you're away." She inquired and I found myself wanting to lie again, but I resisted, choosing to confess that I hadn't. I didn't need to tell her I was drowning my sorrows in a bar, with no bed for the night and no plan of what I would do for the week.
"Work? No, nothing yet. I figured I would have a look around tomorrow. If not, there will be other cities." I explained, drawing random patterns on the bar as I spoke.
"I hope you come across something, it would help you pick up the language, too. Anyway, I'm going to let you go and get some sleep, honey, I know it's late over there."
"Okay, mom, thank you. Have a good day and I will speak to you soon."
"Will do, Bells. Love you."
"Love you, too." I hung up, staring thoughtfully at my phone for a few seconds before wedging it back into my pocket.
I looked up to find Edward a few feet away from me, watching me with a curious expression on his face. I frowned a little before raising an eyebrow in question. He seemed to shake himself out of it before speaking.
"You don't have anywhere to stay, do you?" He asked, although it sounded something akin to an accusation. I drew my eyes from his, thinking of how to answer and then deciding that I had no reason to lie to him.
"No, I don't." It sounded more like a sigh. "You were listening." It was a statement, not a question. It was clear he had. I wondered if he had been there the whole time.
"What's a beautiful woman like you doing alone in Turin with nowhere to stay, eh?" It didn't escape my notice that he called me beautiful, but I chose to ignore it.
"The hotel fucked up my reservation." I admitted and his brows furrowed.
"They didn't give you somewhere else to stay?"
"No, I guess the city is pretty busy for the festival." I told him with a shrug, sipping my drink to distract myself. He stepped closer, leaving only the width of the bar top between us. He leant forward on his forearms, bringing himself closer to my seated height.
"Look, I have a spare bed at my flat. No funny business, I promise; just a place to stay." He offered and I took a moment to mull it over, but as much as I wanted to trust him, I knew it wasn't safe to stay with a stranger in a foreign city. Anything could happen.
"I really do appreciate the offer but I can't," I knew my expression was apologetic, my lip between my teeth. "I'll sort something out, it's fine." He scrubbed a hand over his face and I found myself missing his boyish grin and carefree attitude. I'd barely been in Italy a few hours and I was already causing people grief.
"I understand." He admitted, somewhat reluctantly. "If I can't give you a bed, how about a job? This place could always do with more staff." He offered, his tone almost pleading. "Just let me help you, please."
I swallowed, staring into his deep, imploring green eyes. I found myself nodding slowly, just a bob of my head in nervous agreement.
"Thank you." My words were barely above a whisper but he heard them. His relief was evident and he let out a huff of air, pushing his body back up straight, losing the proximity.
I downed the rest of my drink in one gulp and hopped down off my stool.
"I'm going to head out, thanks... again. When do you want me back?" I inquired, bending down to pick up my bag and slinging it over my shoulder.
"Right... errm, how does five sound? Tomorrow evening? It will give me time to show you the ropes before we open."
"Five is good. Do I need to bring anything?"
"Just yourself. We have uniform here."
"Okay. Right, so I'll see you tomorrow." I smiled at him and he chuckled, nodding.
"See you tomorrow. Stay safe, Bella."
"Will do." I assured him, turning to make my way to the exit.
"Wait! Bella?" I span around, startled.
"Yeah?" I called back to Edward who was gesturing for me to go back over to him. I reached him once more and he looked sheepish.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you there. Do you have a mobile number? In case I need to contact you, or the other way around."
"Oh right... sure. Have you got a pen?" He patted his pockets, then pulled one out, handing it over to me. I snatched up a beermat and scribbled down my number for him.
"Thank you." He took the pen back and tore the beermat in half, pushing the half with my number on it into his pocket and quickly jotting down his own number on the other half. "That's my mobile number and the number for the bar." He explained, pointing each one out.
"Thanks, I'll see you later." I offered him an awkward wave as I walked away, finally making my way outside and into the biting breeze. I jumped into my truck and pulled out of the parking lot. After driving a few minutes, I found a secure car parking building and entered it, winding my way up the levels until I found a suitable spot. I grabbed the blankets from the floor on the passengers side and lay down across the bench seat, using one blanket for a pillow and the others to cover my body. It was difficult to type the numbers Edward had given me into my phone when I was lying on my side, but I eventually succeeded and tucked my phone away before falling asleep.
I woke up stiff and groggy, stretching my arms up and feeling them connect with something cool and solid. I blinked through the sleep, realising it was the truck window I had hit. Slowly, I sat up, trying to get my bearings. I raked my fingers through my hair, trying to clear away the knots. A long, loud yawn escaped me and I arched my back, trying to release the kinks that had wound their way into my limbs during the night.
When I felt coherent enough, I folded the blankets, returning them to their place on the floor. I secured my seatbelt and tried to decide where I would go. I craved a shower, knowing I must look (and probably smell) repulsive. My first thought was of the gym or the pool. I decided that my first mission would be to find one of those and use the facilities to clean up.
I soon found a gym and, bypassing the workout equipment, made my way to the changing rooms and straight for the shower, my towel hooked over my arm.
Thirty minutes later I was scrubbed clean, my hair dry and pulled back and my make-up carefully applied. I was relieved to be wearing fresh, clean clothes and deodorant. God, I can't express how happy I was to have deodorant. I felt like a homeless person and with that came the disgusting, dirty feeling. This morning I had felt as though I would never be clean again. Who knows why, I knew it was irrational. I had showered yesterday, after all.
I drove to the centre of town and explored, finding a café and settling down for some breakfast. My phone beeped in my pocket and I glanced at the screen, Edward's name flashing persistently.
Morning, bella Bella. I just wanted to see that you're alright and that you are still up for coming to the bar tonight?
I was touched by his concern and I knew without looking that there would be a goofy grin on my face as a result of his message.
Hey. I'm good, thank you. No need to worry. I'd love to come down, if it's still okay? No pressure. -B
My fingers worked quickly over the keys as I typed out my response. I waited for him to reply, my phone sat on the table in front of me and my eyes glued to the screen.
I'm glad to hear it. Of course it's okay, I look forward to seeing you there. :)
To my surprise, I was excited about tonight. I didn't know quite what was in store for me, or whether Edward would change his mind about the whole thing, but I felt as though I had more of a purpose. It would be nice to spend more time with other people, instead of just my own thoughts. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my solitude, but there's only so much of myself I can put up with before I crave a proper conversation with another human being.
Once I'd finished, and devoured a mug of coffee, I meandered around the town centre, looking in the shops and picking up a few souvenirs. I withdrew my camera from my bag and snapped a few shots of the picturesque area, with the beautiful buildings and statues. I was in no rush, knowing I had several days to complete my explorations. I bid good morning to people I saw, especially cheerful when I encountered a grouchy looking elderly lady. People didn't look at me as though I was strange, as they would in some countries. Italians were friendly, even in the bustling towns.
After a late lunch, I drove back through the streets of Turin until I reached the parking lot of the bar. I allowed myself a few seconds to breathe and mentally prepare myself for whatever would lie ahead. I knew the language barrier would be difficult, but I was hoping it was something I could overcome.
Entering the bar, I looked around. I couldn't see Edward, but I could hear the clanking of glasses from somewhere across the room.
"Ciao?" I called out and a few moments later I heard a bang and a curse. Edward appeared from behind the bar, rubbing his head and wincing.
"Shit, are you okay?" I gasped, crossing the room to him. "I'm so sorry." I didn't know what to do once I was stood in front of him, so I simply watched the soothing circles his fingers were rubbing against his scalp.
"I'm fine, just a little bump. It's not your fault, I really should pay more attention to my surroundings." He reassured me, his hand finally dropping. I must have seemed unconvinced because he reiterated his point with "really".
"Anyway, how are you?" He inquired, resting his palms against the bar and leaning forward.
"Great, thanks. Yourself?"
"Excellent. Did you find somewhere to stay last night?" His tone became serious and he was watching me closely, as though ready to decipher whether I was lying.
"Yeah, I did." I told him and it wasn't a lie. I didn't tell him I slept in a bed, or in a room for that matter and therefore, I was telling him the truth. That's how I made myself feel better, anyway.
"That's really good to hear." He smiled. "What did you get up to today? I gather you only arrived here yesterday?"
"Yeah. I went into town, walked around, got to know the area a little bit."
"Really? What did you think?"
"I love it here. The Italian authenticity and those old buildings. I'm a sucker for cute things." I admitted with a shrug.
"It's such a great city," he agreed and I could hear the passion in his tone.
I spent the next two hours learning everything I would need to know. He told me that he would be there to help me if I needed it, but that most things would be straight forward. He tested my maths and I passed with flying colours and he assured me he wasn't surprised in the slightest. When I lifted one eyebrow in disbelief, he looked sheepish, earning himself a smack on the arm. He so doubted my mathematical abilities.
He showed me around all of the back rooms, indicating where all the stock was kept, where the bathroom was and where the staff room and office were.
"Have you eaten?" He asked as he collapsed into a chair in the staff room, leaning back and observing me from where I stood a few feet away.
"I had a late lunch." I told him and he chuckled.
"That's a no, then." I rolled my eyes and his laughter grew. "Soup?" He suggested and I agreed.
Edward stood again, walking over to the hob and setting a pan on it, which he had retrieved from one of the drawers. Next, he rummaged in a cupboard, pulling out a couple of cans and emptying them into the pan before turning on the heat and stirring them.
"You don't have a job?" He asked, turning to watch me as I dropped into his vacated seat.
"This isn't a job?" I retorted, my tone sarcastic.
"Smart ass. Before this, though, you didn't work? I mean, it seems like you've been away from home for a while."
"I worked, but I lost my job. The place closed down and I decided to travel around Europe with the savings I had. When I get home, I will look for something permanent."
"I'm sorry to hear that. What did you work as?"
"I was a lawyer." I found my smile growing as I thought back to my work. I had loved it thoroughly and I missed it now. Edward whistled, low and long.
"Surprising?" I suggested.
"Cheers." I responded dryly, tapping my fingers against the table top.
"No, not in a bad way. It's just that lawyers are always portrayed as being so rigid and uptight but you're nothing like that. Here you are, travelling the world on a whim and picking up a job in a local bar. Nothing about that screams lawyer to me. You're a complete enigma, Bella."
"Thank you? I don't really know how to respond to that, if I'm honest." He chuckled at me and I joined in.
"It's been nice having you around." He told me earnestly and I felt the colour rise to my cheeks. I don't blush often, it's not a habit of mine and I like to keep it that way.
"I appreciate all of this, everything you've done for me. You're a good man, Edward." I declared sincerely, meeting his gaze to convey the truth of my words. A timid smile tugged at his lips and the apples of his cheeks showed a hint of red, betraying his embarrassment. It would seem I'm not the only one able to blush.
"Don't mention it." He cleared his throat, scrubbing a hand across the back of his neck. "If you need anything else, just let me know."
"You've done too much already, I could never ask you for more."
"You seem so innocent and so moral and unassuming." He commented, steering the conversation in a different direction. He swirled the spoon through the soup, which was beginning to bubble.
"Innocent?" I laughed, "I'm not innocent, Edward." I assured him, baffled by the absurdity of his observations. I wasn't a young, sheltered girl.
"Are you not, Bella?" His tone was serious, his back to me, but I heard his meaning loud and clear.
"Hardly. Not for a long time." My voice was soft, barely drifting across the room to him. I saw his head nod imperceptibly before he began to dish out the soup into two bowls. We ate at the table in silence and I didn't know how to re-establish the comfortable, friendly atmosphere we had had before.
Soon, he was ushering me out of the back rooms and into the bar, telling me that it was time to open. When asked if I was ready, I plastered my most confident smile on my face and declared that I was, in fact, born ready. With a smirk, he unbolted the door and propped it open, allowing a few customers to plunder into the bar. From their well-practised behaviour, it seemed as though they were regulars. Something told me this little watering hole had many.
"Una donna giovane e bella, Edward." An elderly man spoke, smiling gently in my direction. Edward laughed lightly before Italian flew from his mouth.
"Lo so, Silvio, io sono un uomo fortunato. Un altro membro del personale di talento per unirsi alla crescente lista." He responded pleasantly.
I got the impression they were talking about me, but I didn't want to be presumptious. When Edward glanced my way, I gave him a questioning stare and he simply winked.
Five minutes later, when the few customers in the bar were pacified, he came up beside me and whispered in my ear.
"Silvio was saying you're a beautiful young woman. I agreed and told him I'm a lucky man to have you working here." His breath caressed my skin, warming it and setting my cheeks ablaze. A mixture of his proximity and compliments was igniting a desire in me that I tried desperately to quell.
"That was terribly kind of him." I murmured, calming my breathing as a I spoke. I felt Edward increase the distance, the heat from his body no longer radiating mine.
"He's a good man, Silvio. You would like him." With that, Edward walked away, moving down the bar to serve a young woman. He kissed her on both cheeks in way of greeting, his pleasure at seeing her visible on his face. She was a petite brunette, with short, spiky hair. I wondered if she was his girlfriend or not, either way, it was clear he knew her well. A couple of seconds later, Edward turned his gaze on me, and he ushered me over to him. I planted a smile on my face, my eyes flicking between the two of them as I approached.
"Alice, questo è Bella. Bella, this is my friend Alice."
"Ciao, Bella. È bello conoscerti. Edward mi ha detto tutto di te." From what I understood, she had told me it was a pleasure to meet me and that Edward had mentioned me... or spoke of me. Something along those lines.
"Ciao, Alice. Davvero? Buono o cattivo?" Really? Good or bad? I asked her as best I could.
"Tutto bene, la mia regazza dolce."
"Scusa?" I looked nervously to Edward, having become lost after she told me it was all good things that he had told her.
"Alice called you 'my sweet girl'." He informed me and I nodded, unsure of how to respond to that. "Parla poco italiano." He spoke to Alice, telling her I don't speak much Italian. Alice nodded and smiled at me.
"Mi scuso, non parlo inglese." Alice explained that she didn't speak any English, her expression sad and apologetic.
"You know more than I thought." Edward accused, quirking an eyebrow.
"I don't know much, only simple words and phrases." I defended, shrugging.
"Bella come sarebbe di venire in mercati con me domani?" Alice's expression was hopeful and directed towards Edward, whose smile was soft in return.
"Alice wants to know if you would go to the markets with her tomorrow? It's up to you." I bit my lip, contemplating the offer. I would love to see the markets but I wasn't sure how it would work when we couldn't communicate. One look at Alice's expression and I agreed, unable to let her down when she appeared so eager.
"Grazie, Bella." She grinned widely and Edward laughed, shaking his head slightly. I simply smiled in response.
I noticed a middle-aged gentleman waiting further down the bar and gestured towards him. Edward nodded in acknowledgement and promised me he would get the details from Alice for me.
The night went quickly and I had brief and stilted conversation with a few customers, trying to learn new words as I did so. They were very understanding, several trying – and some succeeding – in speaking in English.
Conversation flowed with Edward as we cleared up, the light banter easy to fall into.
"Are you sure you want to go with Alice tomorrow? You don't have to feel pressured into it."
"Of course, it will be nice. I wanted to see the markets, too. Maybe I can pick up a few more words for my vocabulary while I'm there." He seemed sufficiently reassured by my words.
Edward walked out with me, locking the bar up behind us. We stood awkwardly in front of the building, the silence taking hold.
"You promise me you have somewhere to stay tonight?"
"Yes, I do. Thank you, but you don't have to worry about me." I assured him.
"I do." He countered, frowning slightly. His fingers lifted to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind my ear.
"I'm tougher than I seem." I defended weakly and he cracked a small smile.
"You are, yes, but you're also stubborn. You don't have to tackle everything on your own." His gaze was imploring and I looked away, wondering if he knew that I had lied to him.
"A demani, Edward."
"A demani, Bella. Just remember my poor, neglected sofa when your safely curled up in your cosy hotel bed." He teased and I swallowed away the guilt that threatened to show its ugly face. As nice as he seemed, he was still a stranger. I wasn't going to accept his offer of sleeping in his flat because my father, Charlie, had taught me better than to fall willingly into the grasps of unknown men. I suspected Edward was too chivalrous and kind to ever hurt me or anyone, but why take that chance? I had only met him last night, after all. I'd like to think I had more sense in me.
"Don't worry, I'll spare a thought for the sofa. Tell it I say hi." I joked back with a playful smile before waving and reluctantly walking away from his friendly conversation and comforting presence.
I didn't know what the protocol was for sleeping in cars in car parks, so I drove until I found another place to park up and sleep, where I hopefully wouldn't be disturbed or in danger.
I awoke yawning and stretching after another bad night of sleep in my rented truck. If I had known at the time I would need to sleep in the hired vehicle, I totally would have gone for a cushy campervan. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the truck, but as far as sleeping goes, it isn't ideal.
With a start, I realised I was supposed to be meeting Alice today and so I located my phone and the piece of paper with all her details on that Edward had given me, and typed out a text to her.
Ciao, Alice. Si tratta di Bella. Come stai? Quando e dove devo incontrare?
I asked how she was and when and where we should meet today, pulling my hair up into an elastic and throwing my phone onto the seat. I settled into the driver's seat and started up my truck, driving back to the gym to clean up. I felt like such a scrounger but I would rather not turn up to work, or even my meeting with Alice, anything less than clean and fresh. It made my skin crawl to even consider it. Personal hygiene was a necessity for me, I have to say.
Before hopping out of truck, I checked my phone, finding a text from Alice.
Ciao, Bella. Sto bene grazie, e tu? Potrei venire al vostro hotel?
She wanted to come to my hotel. No, no, no. That was not happening. I didn't know how to make my excuses in Italian and my brain wasn't in gear yet, making it even harder to think how best to answer her. In the end I gave up and texted Edward for help, hoping he wasn't asleep. If he was, I would have to resort to desperate measures. I wasn't sure what those were yet, though.
Morning. I hope I'm not disturbing you, but how would I say something along the lines of "I've already left the hotel, I could meet you at Il Bistro Italiano instead?" I'm such a fail. -B
His response came within a minute and I sighed in relief, not wanting to keep Alice waiting.
You're up early, Bella! You didn't disturb me, no. Is that you asking me to breakfast? ;) "Ho lasciato l'hotel già, potrei incontrare a Il Bistro Italiano, invece?" - Your Personal Translator
I cracked a smile at the message, still impressed by his language skills, especially so early in the morning. He had clearly learnt Italian thoroughly.
Places to go, people to see. Ha. No. I'm picky about who I eat with :) Thank you, you're the best. - Your Linguistically Challenged Employee
Somebody's popular, it seems! Oh, so it's like that, is it? You ate dinner with me last night, just you remember that, Swan! Gratitude accepted, I know I'm pretty awesome. - Your Almighty Employer
Don't let it go to your head, Whatever-your-surname-is. - The Oblivious One
There was a goofy smile on my face and I tried to get rid of it, not wanting to get into the fawning girl stage. I did not want Edward.
I'm such a liar.
With the message – In perfect Italian – sent to Alice, I slid my phone into my pocket and entered the gym.
I accepted the curious glances from the staff I had encountered yesterday. No doubt they noticed that I didn't use the facilities from the gym, other than the showers and sinks. A girl had to clean her teeth somewhere. If I was lucky, they wouldn't be working tomorrow, or perhaps I would have to find somewhere new. I didn't want them to ban me for strange behaviour. It would be uncomfortable for everyone involved.
My day with Alice had been challenging but I couldn't deny that I had enjoyed myself. She practised her English and I taught her words and it worked the other way, too. My knowledge had grown throughout the day and I was feeling quite pleased with myself, desperate to show off my abilities.
The markets were great and I had picked up a few things while I was there. Alice had agreed to meet me at the bistro that morning and had joined me for breakfast, and later in the day, we found somewhere to have lunch together.
Alice was bubbly and talkative, often using her hands to try to convey her meaning. It was a habit I had picked up from her quickly and it seemed like we were playing a complicated game of charades. Sometimes we had to give up and I'm sure, more than once, we had reached the wrong conclusions. There was rarely silence between us and I never stopped smiling. I felt like I had made a true friend in the hours we had spent together.
When I left her to meet Edward at the bar for work, she told me she would see me later, promising to drop by the bar again. We hugged and exchanged cheek-kisses before parting, going our separate ways. My camera had been filled with dozens more photos, many containing either Alice, myself or both of us. It was with determination that I walked into the bar and began snapping photos of the empty space. Edward, having had his back to me when I entered, turned to look at me and I used the opportunity to take a photo of him, in all of his bewildered and handsome glory. He scowled playfully at me and I responded with a smug grin.
I giggled as he began to stalk towards me, lithe and predatory. Damn, if he wasn't looking mighty fine at that moment. Who am I kidding? He always looked edible. The urge to bite him was there, but my self control was at its peak, thank God.
Hey, sorry about that, just wondered what you tasted like.
So not happening.
I backed away as he prowled forwards, our eyes never leaving each other. The anticipation was fluttering in my stomach.
"You took a picture of me." He accused, his voice low and inviting.
"That was a sneaky move, Bella." I gulped.
"Was it?" I asked innocently.
"Yes." He was closer now, a few metres between us. "Give me the camera."
"No." I shook my head adamantly. He wasn't getting near that picture.
"I'll take it." He warned, his eyes burning.
"I dare you." I challenged, smirking at him as I moved my hands behind my back to defend the object with my body.
"Challenge accepted." He growled, his voice sending pleasurable shivers through me. I was determined not to succumb to his masculine ways; I wanted to be a feminist icon and stand proud and strong for all of womankind.
He was making me weak in the knees but my stubborness kept me from showing it.
When his body was less than a foot away from mine, I could smell him and it was somewhat intoxicating. I willingly breathed in his scent, subtly of course.
He reached an arm around me silently and I shifted my arms backwards so the camera was out of his reach. As he stretched further, attempting to get to it, his body was brought closer to mine and there were only mere centimetres between us. I could feel the heat radiating from him and my body was soaking it up like a whorish sponge.
I reluctantly took a step away from him, but he followed my movement, closing the distance again. His breath fanned over my face and my own breathing stuttered. Could he hear my heart hammering? I hoped not.
As he reached further, his chest brushed mine and he swayed slightly, one hand touching my hip lightly to steady himself. I knew his fingertips must be closing in on the camera. His arm stretched further, causing his chest to rub against mine, creating a delicious friction. My moan was barely contained, but I couldn't control the pebbling of my nipples. He froze for a fraction of a second and I wondered if he noticed the traitorous body part. Clearly they weren't bothered about feminism.
"You can't win." He murmured, his voice strained.
"Just watch me." I countered.
"Oh, I'm watching you alright." I trembled at his words, the meaning behind them.
Do not surrender. I told myself.
"Then watch me do this." I responded slyly, taking a couple of quick steps away from him before he could realise I had moved. With my eyes never leaving his, I slid the camera into the cup of my bra with a smirk and he stared at me, wide-eyed and shocked. A groan escaped his lips.
"Fuck," He breathed, licking his lips and swallowing, his adam's apple bobbing. I could see him warring with himself, but in the end his gentlemanly side won out and he gave in, hanging his head and scrubbing a hand through his wild locks. "That's cheating." He mumbled half-heartedly.
"How so? It's perfectly within your reach." I was playing with him and enjoying every second. Perhaps it was cruel of me, but I couldn't find it in me to care.
"I'm trying to be a gentlemen here." He explained, his frustration evident in not only his expression, but also his tone and posture.
"Well, it seems I won then, doesn't it?" My voice was light and cheerful, my satisfaction clear to him. Another groan escaped him and he yanked at his hair.
With a defeated sigh he turned, stalking across the room and through the door to the back rooms. I wondered briefly if he was going to solve the problem in his pants – No, it hadn't escaped my notice. Why briefly? You ask. Because there's only so much self-control I could display and if I let my thoughts linger then it would be unnecessary torture, and I might find myself following after him.
I rummaged in my bag, safely tucking away my camera at the very bottom and depositing my bag behind the bar while I prepared everything for opening. At seven, a whole forty minutes later, Edward hadn't returned. I tracked down the keys and opened up, hoping he wouldn't mind. I just hoped he would come back and I hadn't scared him off completely.
Silvio smiled widely at me as I propped the door open. He greeted me cheerily and kissed both my cheeks before offering me his arm and walking us over to the bar. I laughed at his behaviour, finding it both sweet and flattering. From what I could tell he was a lovely man, perhaps a little lonely if he spent all his nights in the bar.
"Grazie, Silvio. Si sono affascinanti." I told him he was charming and he laughed, a deep rumbling sound. "La tua bevanda?" I asked what he wanted to drink, using basic Italian, and he asked for a beer.
People slowly trickled in as I served alone, occasionally struggling with their orders or the conversations they tried to initiate.
"They ask where is Edward?" A man in his twenties informed me and I felt relieved to finally understand.
"I don't know. He is here somewhere." I told him with a shrug, wondering the answer to his question myself. For all I knew, Edward could have left. The man nodded, and turned to the other punters, explaining to them what I had said. Their faces contained confusion and I assumed it was because Edward was always here. I didn't know that for a fact, but I couldn't imagine this place without him.
I was clearing up glasses from the tables, a tray balanced in my hand, when a group of younger gentlemen, perhaps in their mid thirties, spoke to me.
"Signorina, quello che un miglioramento apportate al decoro di questo luogo."
"I don't understand." I explained, forgetting my Italian in my confusion. I didn't like the way they leered at me, but there was nothing I could do. I would have to do my best to ignore them.
A man with dirty blonde hair grabbed my wrist as I tried to walk away from them and I spun around, laying my glare on him. It didn't deter him, he simply pulled me closer. I placed the tray on their table to avoid dropping it.
"Si può venire a mia stanza stanotte, ti mostrerò un buon tempo." The men laughed at the blonde man's words and I flinched away from him.
"Let go of me." I tugged at my hand.
"Lei è esuberante, mi piace. Sarà interessante stasera." More laughter burst forth from the group and I finally managed to retract my arm.
"FUORI!" I was startled as the voice cried out in anger beside me. Edward had appeared as if from nowhere and his expression was livid, leaving no room for argument. The blonde held his hands up, as though trying to calm him. It only served to increase his rage.
"ORA!" He boomed, pointing to the exit, his expression murderour. The men watched him warily as they stood, slinking away to the exit and disappearing into the night. There was a hushed silence over the bar, nobody speaking a word as they all just stood in shock.
Edward ignored them as he turned to me, concern lining his features.
"Are you okay?" He asked, his tone hushed and soothing.
"I'm fine," I nodded to emphasise my words. "Thank you." I smiled at him, rubbing gently at the spot on my arm where the man had gripped me.
"Are you sure?"
"Really, I'm good. I don't even know what they were saying." I shrugged. Edward's expression turned sour and he gritted his teeth.
"You won't tell me?" I knew he wouldn't, the set of his jaw told me as much. Whatever they had said, it wasn't pleasant. He scoffed, shaking his head.
"Definitely not." I rested my hand carefully on his arm, wanting to relax him but unsure how to go about it. He sucked in a deep breath and pulled me to him, wrapping his arms around me and resting his chin on my head. I curled into his embrace, listening to the chatter gradually start up again around us. "I'm sorry I left you out here on your own." He apologised, his tone solemn and full of guilt.
"No, I'm sorry. I was out of line. I don't know what I was thinking." I felt my cheeks flame in embarrassment. My boldness had scared him away, driven him from his own customers and his livelihood.
"Ha. I never know what you're thinking; you're hard to read. You're full of surprises and I can't seem to get enough." He admitted and I didn't know whether it was a compliment or not. Was I too much hard work for him?
"Still, I behaved inappropriately." I declared and I felt his chest rumble with his chuckles.
"I was one step away from retrieving that camera myself. If anyone behaved inappropriately, it was me."
"I don't think your behaviour was inappropriate. I think it was hot." I whispered into his shirt.
"You're trying to kill me, I know you are."
"Is it working?" I smiled, pulling my head back to look up at him.
"Fuck yes." He growled.
He unwrapped his arms from around me and slung one over my shoulder, guiding me back to the bar.
"Do you want to get your break?" He offered and I shook my head.
"No, I'm good for now."
"You're not normal." He muttered, rolling his eyes. I swatted his arm.
"Watch it, you." I warned, wagging a finger at him.
"Or what?" He laughed, smirking at me.
"Oh, I think you know what." I told him. He grabbed at my finger, twisting it round to connect it with my nose. "Did you just poke me?" I gasped in mock-horror.
"Nope, I think you will find you just poked yourself."
"You're like a little boy." I joked, prising my hand from his.
"Trust me, there's nothing little about me." His eyes were dancing with mischief and I raised my pinky finger, wiggling it in his face.
"I think you're overcompensating." I declared.
"I think you just want proof." He countered.
"Keep your pants on, Edward." I teased.
"For now, I will, but I sleep naked." He whispered conspiratorially and I stood on my tiptoes, leaning into him and bringing my lips to his ear.
"So do I."
"Damn it, Swan."
I backed away from him giggling, skipping over to a punter to get her a drink. I could feel Edward's eyes on my and I glanced back to wink at him, thankful that his mood had improved since he threw out the group of men.
Like she had promised, Alice popped into the bar to see us both that evening. Her ever-present smile was on display and she talked excitedly to me, trying out some of her English phrases when she could.
On my break, I went and sat with her and occasionally, Edward would pull up a stool next to us for a minute or two when the customers were satisfied. It felt like I had been in Turin for months or weeks and not mere days.
When it was time to leave once more, I walked out with Edward. The physical attraction was hard to ignore, but we tried our best. He pressed his lips to my cheek and bid me goodnight before watching me jump into my truck and drive away.
Too tired to trawl the streets, I pulled up a few streets away from the bar in a quiet street. It only took me a matter of minutes to fall asleep and I welcomed the rest. My days were busy and tiring, taking a lot of energy out of me.
There was a rapid banging which pulled me out of my sleep. I peered around myself in confusion, the sound insistent. My initial thought was that it was my alarm, but I soon realised it sounded nothing like it and I also hadn't set one. When I had my wits about me a few seconds later, I realised somebody was banging on the truck window. I panicked, thinking it may be the police, telling me to move. Was sleeping in cars frowned upon? Who knows.
I reached for the semi-fogged window and wound it down, letting out a small squeak when I discovered Edward on the other side. Uh oh. I was in big shit. I couldn't think of any way to get myself out of this.
"Bella? What the hell are you doing?" His tone was demanding and layered in disbelief. I wanted to bang my head against the steering wheel but I didn't want to look crazy. Okay, so I probably already looked crazy. It was obvious I wasn't in a hotel room right now and he seemed to know I had been asleep, so that route of defense was out.
"Sleeping?" It came out as a question rather than a statement. He huffed in frustration.
"I see that. Why are you sleeping in your truck?" He demanded, his lips a tight line as he regarded me. I sighed, my shoulders sagging as I realised I would have to explain it all and admit that I had lied to him more than once.
"I- I-" Words failed me, I didn't know how to tell him.
"Have you been sleeping in here all week?" He asked and I found myself nodding, revealing my secret silently. My voice had gone, words sticking in my throat. I was so ashamed of myself and my situation. I knew the questions he would ask as a result, as well, and I didn't want to answer those either.
"There are no hotel rooms free anywhere." I reluctantly admitted, awaiting his reaction.
"You lied to me." He sounded hurt and the guilt twisted my heart.
"I'm sorry." I bit my lip, averting my gaze. I didn't want to see his disappointment. I felt terrible and rightly so.
"I offered you a room and you told me you found one."
"I know." I spoke softly, unsure of whether he could even hear me. The shame tinged my cheeks red.
"Why, Bella? I would have helped you. I wanted to help you." That was the question I didn't want. To answer it truthfully would be to tell him that, in regards to stranger danger, I didn't trust him.
"I didn't want to scrounge off you." I supplied, telling a half-truth. I didn't need to volunteer all the reasons.
"And what else?" He prodded, seeing right through my deceitful ways.
"I didn't know anything about you. I mean, you seemed nice and trustworthy but... what if you weren't, you know? I didn't want to put myself in that position." My tone was pleading, wanting him to understand.
"I'm so stupid." He groaned, raking both hands through his hair.
"What? Of course you're not." I didn't understand how he had changed the subject so quickly.
"I should have known. I should have checked... anything. You just... you've been sleeping in your truck. I know where you're coming from and I fully respect your reasons. You have to think about your safety. I could have spoken to Rosa or Alice, though. They would have given you a bed."
"I'm not their responsibility, Edward. I'm not yours either. You don't know me from Eve. I'm not going to impose on you when I don't have to."
"I do know you, though, Bella. I've spent enough time with you over the past three days. You're not just any old tourist. For one, you're my employee and I care about your wellbeing."
"I'm sorry. It's okay though, really. It's not as bad as you think." I tried to reassure him and I meant it. There were plenty of homeless people out there who spent every night on the streets; a few nights in a truck weren't going to kill me.
"It's not okay. I have a bed, Bella. I promise it's just a bed, I don't expect anything from you in return. I just want to know that you're safe while you're here. Please." His hands were pressed against the roof of the truck, his body leaning forward so he could speak to me through the window. I realised I must look a mess.
"I don't know." I sighed, avoiding his gaze.
"At least come and see the place, I've always wanted a reason to try out the sofa bed." He tried to lighten the tone and I frowned a little.
"I'm not taking your bed."
"Whatever, just come on. Grab your things and you can at least shower. I hate to think what you've been doing about that for the past few days." He scrunched his face up and I smiled at his adorable expression.
I slid out of the truck and went to the bed, retrieving my bag of tricks. By tricks, I mean towels, fresh clothes and toiletries.
"Do you need any washing doing? I have a machine." He offered and the thought was too tempting. I quickly dug out my bag of dirty washing. He held his hand out to take my bags but I refused, already taking too much from him. I still wasn't decided on whether I would sleep at his. I didn't want to seem ungrateful to him, but I could hear my father's voice warning me in my head, telling me gruesome tales of tourists vanishing without a word. I told my head to shut up, but it didn't listen. Sometimes, it was perfectly plausible to assumed I was going crazy.
It was only a couple of minutes walk from my truck to Edward's apartment and I cursed myself for parking up where I did. I should have ventured further from the bar, but I hadn't spared a thought for where Edward lived, despite knowing it was in the area, within walking distance of his work. I hadn't parked on his route home from the bar, it seemed, which is why he hadn't found me last night.
The banter between myself and Edward was light and I was thankful for it. I was worried he would hate me for my deceit but he seemed to be understanding about it; that was something, at least.
He held open the door for me after unlocking it and I stepped tentatively inside.
"There's nothing frightening in there, I promise." He teased, gently nudging me forward. I chuckled nervously in response, taking in my surroundings with every step.
"The kitchen's over there," he pointed, "this is the main room with the television, the world-famous sofa bed and everything else, down there is the master bedroom and the bathroom on the left." He pointed in the opposite direction to the kitchen, down a small hallway. The sun was streaming into the room, leaving the apartment bright and inviting. It was clean inside, with a rustic feel to it. It felt homely and warm and my resistance was wavering. Would it be so bad to stay here?
"It's really nice." I told him truthfully, twisting round to smile at him.
"Thank you. Would you like a drink?" He offered, nudging his head in the direction of the kitchen.
"I'd kill for one, if that's okay." I told him, my mouth watering at the thought of the warm, caffeine-filled beverage.
"Of course. I'll make you some breakfast, too. Make yourself at home and please, go use the facilities while you're here. There are spare towels in the laundry closet in the bathroom if you need them."
"Thank you, I'm good for towels. I'll just go grab a shower."
"Knock yourself out."
I meandered down the corridor until I found the door to the bathroom, stepping inside and locking the door behind me.
I stripped down, digging my towels out and placing them beside the shower before fiddling with the dials until it came on at a good temperature.
The droplets attacked my skin in the most delicious way and I let out a soft moan, welcoming the sensation. It eased my knotted muscles and instantly relaxed me. Ten minutes later I was clean and satisfied, climbing out of the shower and drying myself off before dressing in some clean clothes and tying my hair up in an elastic to keep the damp strands out of my face. I emerged from the bathroom with a smile on my face and wandered through the apartment in search of Edward. He was, unsurprisingly, in the kitchen slaving over the stove.
"Hey," I greeted and he turned, a grin appearing on his lips.
"Hey, good shower? You were quick. I thought women were supposed to take forever."
"It was amazing. I could have stayed in there all day, don't tempt me, or I'll go back." He chuckled, shaking his head in humour.
"That good, huh? Maybe I should charge for the use of my shower." He teased, smirking at me.
"God, it was amazing. You know that, though. It's your power shower, after all. Damn, I don't know how you ever get anything done with that heavenly device sat waiting in your bathroom."
"I'm starting to think you like my shower more than you like me." He pouted, feigning hurt.
"Together, you and that shower would be a dream team." I balked, realising how that sounded and clamped a hand over my mouth.
"Are you imagining me in the shower, Bella?" He raised one eyebrow and Christ, he looked so sexy. If he wasn't careful, I'd be dragging him into that shower and having my wicked way with him.
"Nah, that ruins the image I'm painting." I told him, wrinkling my nose.
"Good, because when I said no funny business, I meant it." He retorted, dishing out scrambled eggs onto toast and prodding a mug of coffee in my direction.
I thanked him for cooking, and the use of his shower, before tucking in hungrily. The food was exquisite and I added the skill to the list in my head of things Edward could do.
When I'd finished, he broached the subject of me sleeping in his apartment again. I found myself agreeing without much thought and his expression was a combination of happiness and relief. I knew it was the right thing to do, really. Edward hadn't done anything to make me doubt I would be safe with him. If anything, he had only proved that I would be safe with him. I wasn't sure how I felt about the no funny business rule, though. I guess it was for the best. Who wouldn't want to deny the electric sexual attraction we were both feeling? Yes, it's as ridiculous as it sounds.
Another night at the bar was well underway. Edward had taken me to one of the concerts for the music festival that afternoon and I had loved it. The atmosphere was amazing and so was the company. I never failed to enjoy my time with Edward and I was wondering how that was going to work out when it was time for me to move on and leave Turin. That was a consideration for a different day.
I found myself able to communicate better with the customers and where possible, they would help me, especially if they were able to explain themselves in English. When I asked Edward where Silvio was, he told me that he didn't come in every night and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't a surprise. He seemed to be as much a part of the bar as Edward was. I missed him, having had several conversations with Silvio the night before, but I was soon distracted by the other customers, some of them regulars and some of them new faces.
Rose came in to work for a few hours and I found it easy to talk to her. She was willing to speak in English and it was nice not to have to be on the ball all the time, trying to translate her words and work out how to respond in Italian. She was as friendly as she had been the first night and seemed to have no issue with me working at the bar.
I was left working with Edward once again, Rose having gone home. Customers were slowly trickling out with friendly waves and smiles.
An elderly gentlemen exclaimed something in Italian when a song came on and he urged me over to him. I obliged, my curiosity piqued. He swung himself down off his stool and held a hand out for mine when I reached him. I slid my hand into his and he smiled indulgently at me, leading me into the centre of the bar. I saw people watching out of the corner of my eye and when the man began dancing, I giggled, willingly following his lead. There was cheering and merry encouragement from the onlookers as we made slow circles, my hands in his. I reckoned he was a charmer in his day, with moves to prove it. In his old age he was slower but I didn't mind at all, I was quite enjoying myself.
We continued for the duration of the song and then we pulled away from each other. I leant in and pecked him on the cheek and he smiled, pressing a kiss to my knuckles.
"Il piacere è mio, signore." I assured him it was my pleasure and walked back to the bar with a smile, swiping up empty glasses on my way.
"You're a hit." Edward declared and I shrugged.
"They're great people, here." Edward nodded in agreement and we got back to work, smiling and joking with each other in passing.
We finally closed the doors and stacked all the chairs and got the remainder of the glasses and rubbish from the tables and bar top, clearing them all away, into the dishwasher and bin respectively.
"Since you're not driving tonight, did you want a drink?" Edward suggested and I readily agreed. He pulled out two shot glasses, to my surprise, and lined them up beside each other on the bar. I watched intently as he reached for the vodka, filling each glass. I crossed over to him and picked up one of the shots. Lifting his own, he didn't hesitate in throwing it back, swallowing the alcohol easily. I followed suit, relishing in the burn as it hit my throat.
Three shots later and I was somewhat tipsy.
"Dance with me."
"What?" I asked him, confused.
"Dance with me." He repeated, standing beside me and reaching for my hand. His fingers wrapped around mine and he tugged me into the middle of the room, a crooked grin adorning his lips. His hands found my hips, spanning across them and heating my skin. My arms wrapped loosely behind his neck and I gazed up into Edward's burning emerald eyes.
We started off swaying, our movements contradicting the fast tempo music playing overhead. It wasn't long before the uncertainty left us, though, and our bodies were moving more comfortably together, our pace quicker.
"I was a little jealous." He murmured and I giggled. I knew what he meant without him clarifying. He had been jealous that I danced with the old man.
"We didn't dance like this." I pointed out, bringing my body closer to his for emphasis.
"Thank God. I would have had to put a stop to it." He hummed, completely serious, as far as I could tell.
"It was all innocent." I reiterated, allowing one of my hands to trail down to Edwards chest, dusting over his muscles. He sucked in a breath, his gaze burning into me.
"But you're not innocent." He breathed in my ear, making my skin tingle.
"No, I'm not." I agreed.
"You're a tease."
"No." I argued defiantly. Edward's hands dropped a centimetre or two lower, brushing my ass lightly.
"How would a tease dance?" He asked, prompting me into action. The alcohol made me bolder and I swivelled in his arms, pressing my back to his chest and raising my arms behind his neck. His hands were still on my hips and as I gyrated my hips, he guided the movement, his breathing faltering. I continued to rotate my hips, my ass rubbing against him. I felt his cock hardening with my ministrations, straining against his jeans. One of his hands skimmed higher, reaching my ribs. A thumb brushed the underside of my breast and I whimpered.
"So sexy." He groaned, his other hand inching across my lower belly.
I wriggled against him, eliciting a grunt from his parted lips. His thumb dusted across my pebbled nipple without warning and I arched my chest, my breathing laboured.
"Oh God," I hissed, craving more. "Please."
Another swipe across my nipple and I spun insinctively, pulling his mouth down to mine in a fierce battle. My leg hooked over his hip and he held it there, bringing me closer to him. The desire I felt was overwhelming and my whole body was on fire, burning with a need I couldn't deny. As much as I wanted to tell myself this was wrong, I couldn't do it. All the sexual tension amounted to this moment.
I rocked my hips, creating the desired friction as his erection pressed against my sex. Oh fuck, this felt good. I was a sex-starved maniac and I couldn't control myself.
"Oh fuck, yes." I moaned, a primal, needy sound.
"Bella." Edward grunted, a hand snaking between our bodies to palm my breast.
Dry humping was underrated.
"Home... bed... home." Edward growled against my lips.
I groaned in frustration, knowing he had a point.
The bar wasn't the place for this.
He stumbled away from me and I followed after him, in order to retrieve my bag. I took the opportunity to take another swig of vodka and he took the bottle from me, taking a healthy gulp himself before tucking it back into its place.
Edward snatched up the keys and I swung my bag over my shoulder. He kissed me hungrily before taking my hand once more and eagerly pulling me out of the building.
I observed impatiently as he locked up, one hand still engulfing mine.
After months in Europe and days in Italy, it seemed like this was only the beginning of my European adventure; perhaps that was just my raging hormones talking, but I knew I'd never felt this alive. This evening had taken an unexpected turn and something told me it was going to get better.
Edward's lust-filled gaze met mine and a string of curses dropped from his lips.
"Home. Now." He demanded, his tone rough with his need.
I was the willing prey as the predator stalked towards me.
Apparently the promise of "no funny business" was off the table and I was ready to make the most of it.
Yes, it was definitely going to get better.
My intention wasn't to cock block, it just happened. Anyway, I'd like to add more to this (and I have my fingers crossed that you aren't groaning that it's a bad place to stop).
Apparently, I overestimated my writing speed. After churning out 15,000 words I realised I hated the first attempt at a story (different plot, I tell you) and wanted to produce something better, that Itlnbrt would be happy to receive. I try not to disappoint.
As this was my first FAGE, I think it went well... *Shrugs* I'm not blowing my own trumpet.
That's all from me, I'm going back to my word document to finish this beast up.