Authors: Demelza Watts
© 2015 by Demelza Watts
ll rights reserved
his book is
a work of fiction. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
onnect with me on Facebook
up to be notified of new releases and more:
over Design by
or my wonderful family
wo Years ago
along the pavement of the wide tree-lined road in Holland Park. She loved living in this part of London, with all the hustle and bustle of the area and the eclectic mix of people.
It was getting quite late. As usual, she’d lost track of time at the studio, engrossed in redesigning an evening dress for an important client. As a design assistant, she wanted it to be perfect.
Lost in thought, she was glad for the Indian summer that London was currently experiencing in September and could still detect a hint of light in the night sky, even though it was almost nine o’clock.
Nearing her flat, which was on the second floor of a private terraced house, she began to rummage through her bag to locate her keys. Finally feeling them amongst her many fabric samples, she was momentarily distracted, and didn’t pay attention to the stairs leading up to her front door. Looking up, she jumped back in surprise at the lone figure sitting down with his head in his hands.
“Gino! What are you doing here?” She froze as she spotted him looking somewhat wild and disheveled in the glow of the streetlight. He ran his hands over his buzz cut as he raised his face, a slow smile lifting the corners of his mouth. She flicked her eyes over his handsome features and kept going, taking in his appearance from his sharp suit down to the polished leather loafers. The top few buttons of his shirt were open and his tie was pulled loosely apart, giving her a small glimpse of the top of his smooth tanned chest.
“Camilla.” He spoke in a soft voice whilst blatantly letting his eyes drift from her face down to her toes. Standing up slowly, he started to lose his balance. “Whoa there!”
Mia quickly closed the distance to help steady him. “Gino! My God, you’re drunk.”
“Si. That I am, little Mia…that I am.” He smirked as he looked down at her, wrapping his arm around her for support. Mia held onto him, indulging in the moment. She felt her breath catch in her throat as his strong arms compressed her slight frame against him. Looking up into his eyes she found him staring at her intently, his eyes holding a spark of some indefinable emotion.
Mia felt her pulse quicken under his gaze, felt her face catching fire with his close proximity. She lowered her lashes, and inhaled his cologne, enjoying being wrapped around him.
After a few moments, she reluctantly let him go once making sure he was steady. “Please, Gino, come in. I’ll make you some coffee.”
Without a word, he simply nodded and followed her up to the second floor, holding onto the bannisters for support along the way. She led him into her flat and cringed at the state in which she had left it that morning. Her eyes darted around at the spacious open-plan living space, assessing where she could do the fastest damage-control.
Groaning inwardly, she noted the many fabric samples and storyboards haphazardly spread across both the dining and coffee table. Turning to him with an apologetic look, she quickly began to gather her work together.
“Sorry for the mess…the project I’m working on at the moment is taking up a lot of my time.” She watched him take a seat on the sofa, which, thankfully, was clear of any work. He peeled off his jacket and ran his hands over his hair again, something he did when he was nervous.
“No need to apologise, Mia.” He flashed her a smile as she continued to tidy up, making some space on the coffee table. “Stop. Come and sit with me.”
Even though he was clearly drunk, his low voice never sounded sexier to her. A brief vision of him raking his naked body over hers, moaning in her ear with passion flashed through her mind.
, she scolded herself, as she plastered a smile on her face and hesitantly sat next to him.
“No. Nothing. I just want you here.”
She felt the air still around them as she watched Gino reach for her hand. Her eyes widened in surprise as she saw his large tanned hand entwine with her fingers. Slowly lifting her gaze to meet his clear grey eyes, she was shocked at the intensity radiating off them. She tried to smile as a rise of heat filtered through her. Both were silent momentarily, but then he picked up one of her storyboards on the table.
“This is what you’re working on? Evening wear?”
“Yes,” she said, nodding, her voice barely a whisper.
“Bellissima.” His thumb absently drew circles on the back of her hand as he studied her drawings and Mia felt her entire body coming to life from that small movement. “And so are you.” He gently returned the storyboard back to the table. “Look at you, sweet, Mia.” He shook his head. “When did you grow up so fast?”
Mia sucked in a quick breath. For as long as she could remember, she had harboured a huge crush on Gino, her feelings intensifying as she grew older. They blossomed into more each year.
Over the years, she tried to tag along with Nico, her elder brother, to social events and parties in the hope of catching a glimpse of Gino. If he happened to be present, a bevy of beauties would be competing for his attention, once again leaving her on the periphery.
She cleared her throat. “Thank you, Gino. But you don’t have to practice your pick up lines on me.” She smiled, trying to lighten the situation. “I’ve seen you and Nico together in action — you’re certainly not short of girls or offers.” She tried to laugh it off, but somehow the sound got stuck in her throat.
He sighed and leaned back into the sofa, staring straight ahead. “They’re just girls, Mia, they don’t mean anything.”
“Gino, I wasn’t suggesting…”
“I just need you to know, Mia.”
“Know what?” She felt the adrenaline pick up as her heart started to pound.
“Like I said, those girls? They don’t mean anything.” He squeezed his eyes shut as if trying to erase them from his memory. “Mia,” he whispered her name with an unspoken agony. “It’s always been you.”
“What? I don’t understand?” Her voice sounded breathy even to herself.
Gino released her hand and cradled her cheeks in the palm of his hands, drawing her to him, slowly and measured. “I can’t deny it any longer, Mia.” He inhaled sharply. “I love you.” A pained look crossed his features. “But I can never be with you. You deserve so much better.”
Mia’s heartbeat crashed against her rib cage at his confession, feeling like a bomb about to detonate in her chest.
“Gino,” she whispered his name, shocked and unable to believe the words she so longed to hear for years.
He gently brought her face close to him and, before she could say anything further, he landed his mouth hard over hers, crushing her lips to him. A groan ripped from his gut as if it had waited all his life to come out.
Mia wound her hands into his thick, dark hair as a burst of passion like she had never known released from within her. She had waited years for this — almost an entire lifetime and had never experienced a kiss that mattered so much, that she had craved so badly. She knew he felt it too. She moaned into his mouth and pressed herself against him as they indulged in the pull and push of ecstasy.
With a moan, Gino abruptly pulled away, his features mixed with a look of horror and torment.
“Gino…“ Her voice broke at the connection that was now fading. Her eyes filled with confusion. “Have I done something wrong?” She watched as Gino pulled away and scooped up his suit jacket, appearing somewhat sobered. He almost raced to the door in his bid to get away from her. “Please, Gino. Stop!” She could hear the desperation and outright pleading in her voice, but didn’t care.
“No, Mia.” He turned and looked at her, his voice strained with emotion. “I’m sorry. Please forget what I said. I shouldn’t have come.”
A sob escaped her throat and Mia’s hand flew to her mouth to stop the wail that threatened to follow. She stood up, arm outstretched in an attempt to stop him from walking away.
It made no difference. Without a backwards glance, he slammed the door behind him. Mia sunk to her knees, burying her face in her hands and cried uncontrollably.
he following week
, she tried without luck to contact him, for his phone was permanently switched off. Along with the numerous messages she left, she had even turned up on his doorstep in the hope of seeing him, but to no avail. Out of desperation, she had casually asked Nico. Her brother solemnly informed her that Gino had impulsively taken a leave of absence from his job and had returned to his second home, in Milan.
her pink lip-gloss, puckered her lips together and stepped back to eye herself critically in the mirror. Not bad, she thought, flicking some lint off her grey fitted dress. She adjusted the slim silver belt and stepped into her high-heeled red pumps. Checking her oversized wristwatch, Mia realised she would be running late if she didn’t leave in the next five minutes.
Thankfully, her brother’s place in Notting Hill was less than a ten-minute cab journey away. Grabbing her coat and clutch, she shut the door to her flat and made her way downstairs and outside into the cold November evening. The blustery wind immediately enveloped her, sending a shiver down her spine and she hurriedly fastened up her coat.
Keeping her head down, she quickly walked in the direction of the main road with the hope of flagging down a passing taxi. The streets were busy with people laughing, deep in conversation. Some were laden with shopping bags making their way home, whilst others, like her, were on their way for a night out on the town. Thankfully, she lived in a busy part of London and within moments, she had signalled a taxi and given the driver instructions to her brother’s place.
Less than ten minutes later, she had arrived at the pretty tree-lined street and pulled up outside the building to his penthouse. She glanced up and smiled to herself, thinking of the events that had happened over the last few months which had brought her brother, Nico, together with Amber.
It had all started here, with Amber being hired as the interior designer of his place, and what a fantastic job she had done with it. As much as he was trying to persuade Amber to move in with him, she was still resisting.
Lost in thought, Mia walked to the side of the grade-two listed building to the private entrance and used the pad of her finger to authenticate herself at the biometric security gate. Nico had given her access a few months ago when he had first bought it. Stepping through the gate, she entered into the small courtyard, and walked across to the private lift, which would take her straight up into the penthouse.
A few minutes later, the carpeted lift pinged open into the foyer of the apartment. She could hear the sound of laughter and voices coming from the sitting room, so, hanging up her coat and straightening her dress, Mia followed the sound.
Stopping at the entrance to the sitting room, she smiled as she took a second to observe the guests. Amber was sitting on the sofa, nursing a soft drink and laughing at something her best friend, Beth, was saying. Both girls were animated in their discussion and Mia’s smile widened at their laughter.
She flicked her eyes to the right of the room and spotted her brother deep in conversation with Theo, Beth’s fiancé. The next second, obviously sharing some joke between them, they burst into laughter, clinking their glasses at the same time.
“Ciao, everyone.” She smiled as she walked into the room.
“Mia, ciao, sis.” Nico smiled warmly as he made his way over to her. He glanced at his watch. “I see you are cutting it fine as usual.” Teasing her, he kissed her on both cheeks. Theo followed closely behind, giving her a quick hug and after which, both the girls drew her into an embrace.
“Oh Mia, so good to see you again.” Amber hugged her tightly, smiling at her friend.
“Good to see you both as well.” Mia pulled away, looking apologetically at her friend. “Amber, I’m so sorry I couldn’t meet you for our weekly lunch. I’ve literally been swamped with work.”
“No worries at all, I completely understand. Come and sit down with us.”
Mia squeezed her hand, smiling at the glow radiating from Amber’s face. She looked so beautiful. Just over three months pregnant, her first trimester was thankfully over, as she had suffered terribly from morning sickness. She looked so much more healthy and relaxed now.
Nico walked over and placed a glass of her favourite white wine in her hand. “Grazie, bro.” She smiled, taking a small sip as she sat on the sofa next to Beth, flashing her a warm smile. As usual, Beth looked stunning with her striking emerald eyes and long blonde hair, which tonight, was piled up on her head. She caught Theo watching Beth from her side vision and smiled, thinking what a stunning couple they made together. Theo, with his dark hair and blue eyes could equally rival the looks of any male Hollywood star and Beth, with her beautiful looks and sweet personality, was a perfect match for him. She was the Yin to his Yang.
“So Beth, I can’t wait to show you some designs for your wedding dress that I’ve been sketching.”
She let out a small whoop. “Oh that’s fantastic, Mia! Thank you so much, I know how busy you’ve been.” She turned to Amber with a wide grin. “I can’t wait to see them.”
“Great, shall we have lunch on Tuesday? I want to bring some fabric samples along as well to see what you think?”
“Tuesday would be great. Ambs, you free?”
“Definitely. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got, Mia.”
Just then, Nico walked past them. “Just one more to arrive and them we can eat.” He shot Amber a wink and then headed to the direction of the lift.
“Oh, I didn’t realise we were expecting someone else. Do you know who else is coming?” Mia asked the girls as Theo walked over and sat on the opposite sofa.
“Um, yeah, kind of…” Amber trailed off, a small smile playing on her lips. Confused, Mia looked to Beth who suddenly seemed very interested in her glass. Before she could question them any further, she heard the ping of the lift arriving. The music was just slightly too loud to hear the voices coming from the foyer, so shrugging her shoulders, she took a sip of her wine, savoring the crisp, dry liquid.
Hearing the footsteps getting closer, Mia casually glanced up and saw Nico entering the room, laughing at something his guest was saying. It didn’t take long to reveal who was next to him. Her eyes locked on the tall figure behind Nico and her heart involuntarily started to thump.
Standing there, with grey eyes boring into hers, was Gino.
Mia took a big gulp of her wine as her eyes flicked to Amber, who returned her look with a sheepish smile.
she thought, they had set this up.
She hadn’t spoken to Gino since he had briefly turned up at her Mother’s birthday party, which was three months ago. There was so much left to say between them and, at the time, he had mentioned that he wanted to speak with her. But she was so busy entertaining that evening and then later, when she tried to get in touch with him, she discovered that he was once again out of the country on another photography project.
The men shook hands as Nico introduced Gino to Theo and Beth.
“Theo, Beth — meet my partner in crime. This is Gino, we grew up together in Milan.” They warmly greeted each other, whilst Mia sat watching the display. Amber gave him a quick peck on the cheek as they had already met at the party.
“So, Nico,” Gino said, gesturing to Amber. “I’m so happy for you guys. Congratulations, again. A bambino on the way — let’s just hope it takes after Amber, eh?” He slapped Nico on the back and everyone laughed.
“Funny, Rossi.” Nico smiled as he put a protective arm around Amber. Mia watched as she saw the love shining in her brother’s eyes as he gently rubbed Amber’s tummy.
Next, it was her turn and everyone turned to look expectantly. She slowly stood, then paused whilst she drank in his appearance. He looked classy as always, effortlessly stylish and more handsome than the last time she had seen him. He had slipped off his grey wool coat and was wearing a cashmere jumper with faded jeans, which hugged his strong, long legs.
Around his neck, a lambswool scarf was gently resting and she watched as he slowly slid it off. His hair was cut shorter than the last time she saw him, the same buzz cut he’d worn so long ago. But it suited him. If anything, it accentuated his features more.
She took a deep breath, as butterflies set off in her tummy, wondering why it wasn’t him in front of the camera lens. With his chiseled cheek bones, full lips, firm and muscled body, together with his tanned skin from his travels and work outdoors, he could have easily been mistaken for a male model.
“Mia.” He spoke her name softly as the others moved away towards the dining room. He reached out his hand to her and Mia hesitantly placed her smaller hand in his large palm. “It’s been a while.”
He pulled her closer, looking at her as if he were photographing her with his eyes. His gaze was seductive and she felt the noise around them drowning out with the thudding from her heart. No man had ever affected her as much as Gino Rossi. His nearness sent fire rushing through her body and she felt her face coloured at his intensive stare.
“Gino.” She whispered his name, feeling breathless. “It’s good to see you again.” She stood up on her tiptoes and lent in to his cheeks, kissing him softly, and breathing in the familiar scent of his cologne. She inhaled sharply, and cleared her throat as she stepped back down, pretending not to be affected.
They stood, staring, unable to tear their gazes away from each other.
“Guys? Let’s eat!” Amber walked in, breaking their spell. Mia quickly stepped back and flashed Amber a quick smile.
“Sure. Grazie, we’ll be right there.”
She looked up at Gino, her eyes drawn to his full lips and couldn’t help but imagine them kissing her again. She had never forgotten the kiss they’d shared that fateful night two years ago.
“Mia? Shall we?” He looked at her questioningly, raising an eyebrow, a small smile appearing on his face.
“Oh. Yes… sure.” Turning on her heel, she quickly walked in the direction of the dining room, feeling her cheeks flame. She was sure he had guessed what she was thinking. There were too many unspoken words between them, but now was not the time to initiate that conversation.
Dinner was a fun affair. The conversation was light hearted, involving a lot of teasing and fun as they all discussed their lives and work. She sat opposite Gino and, on several occasions, they caught each other’s eye as they laughed at the conversation around them. Each time she felt her heart stir and beat a little faster.
“Have you finished your project? Are you back in London for a while?” Mia looked up as Theo asked Gino the question.
“Yes. Thankfully, it’s over. The client’s brief was pretty tough this time, but we managed to get some wonderful shots for the campaign. Of course, the destination certainly helped.” He smiled as he took a quick sip of his Chianti.
Mia glanced at him, always fascinated to hear more about his work as a freelance travel photographer. For as long as she could remember, Gino had always carried a camera with him. He had worked long and hard over the years to build his name and portfolio and was now one of the most respected and in-demand travel photographers in the business.
“Where did you travel to this time, Gino?” she asked, eagerly waiting for his reply.
He smiled at her. “I’ve been a few times before, but I never tire of it. The location for the shoot was Bora Bora.”
“Oh wow, how beautiful. “ She sighed, dreamily. “That’s on my bucket list.”
He looked at her intently and spoke softly. “I see more beauty here.”
The whole table grew silent for a moment as they observed the intensity underlying the conversation between the two. Picking up her glass, Mia took a sip of her wine as she flushed at the compliment.
“So, Beth, Theo. How are wedding arrangements coming on?”
Mia smiled gratefully at Amber for steering the conversation away from her and Gino.
The remainder of the evening flew by. It was after midnight when everyone started to depart. She smiled at Amber who was desperately trying to keep her eyes open. Just then, her phone buzzed, alerting her that her taxi was waiting downstairs.
Looking around for Nico, Mia walked towards the bedroom to locate him so that she could say goodnight. As she neared the spare room, she heard hushed voices coming from the other side of the door. Raising her hand to push it open, she froze in mid-air as she overheard the tail end of their conversation, which they were obviously trying to keep private.
“So what’s really going on, Gino? It doesn’t make sense. What the fuck is this you’re telling me about getting married?”