It was when they were done with lunch and on to dessert of freshly made Ice-cream that Alessandro raised the topic.
“Antonio and Ernesto have been asking for you. They wish for you to visit them since you’re so close to us in Siena. I have told them I will bring you with me this weekend.”
Iris nearly spluttered the water she had been drinking. She looked up at him and without thinking said, “You’re crazy, you know that, don’t you?”
Alessandro looked at her with interest, his eyes betraying his amusement. “Why is that?”
Iris got up from her seat, her eyes flashing fire. “Excuse me while I go and get a gun to shoot your arrogance.”
Alessandro laughed softly, “So angry, eh?”
Iris shook her head and mocked him, “Anger is wasted on you Signore. I simply feel scorn for you, assuming things and making decisions you have no right to make.”
Alessandro got up too and looked at her, his emerald eyes hard, the smile gone. “What would you have me do Iris? Tell the children that you’re too full of yourself to come and visit them? That I may need to ask you first and you may actually think about it and reject their request?”
Iris visibly melted, “I never said I—it’s not that I don’t – look, why couldn’t you have asked me first before going ahead and accepting their request all by yourself?”
Alessandro bowed his head in acceptance, “I agree. I –er was hasty in acceptance. So I shall tell them now that you wish to visit them but may be not this weekend? “
Iris sat down again, a little calm now that he had accepted his mistake. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t like to meet them this weekend. But I have no idea where you live or how would I go to meet them?”
“If you wouldn’t jump with annoyance again, I may suggest that you can spend the weekend at my place with them. “ At her alarmed look, he continued smoothly, “No need to be alarmed. I’m going to be away for much of the time and you would have a chaperone- my mother.”
He chuckled at her visible relief at his statement and enquired, “So what is your decision?”
Iris smiled a little, “Yes, I’d like to visit them and spend the weekend with them, thank you.”
“Bene. I will make the arrangements and let you know.” Alessandro said and left it there. They talked about other things as they sipped their coffee. Iris was inwardly surprised to find that she found it easy to talk to him when he was not being arrogant or acting the boss. It was disturbing in a way since she’d never been so comfortable with any one. He asked questions cunningly and gently and before she knew it she had told him all about her problems with her family and the present situation.
“So Marguerite is the golden child of the family and you’re the odd one out.” Alessandro surmised quietly, his blood boiling with rage at the family’s treatment of Iris. He thought she was beautiful. He had dated many supermodels and actresses but he couldn’t remember a single face that had etched itself in his memory like Iris did. A little surprised to find himself thinking so deeply of her, he excused himself. After all, he was planning a future where she was included. Why should it be surprising that his body and his brain remembered her and ached for her? He would soon have to find a way of bringing her to his way of thinking. But not yet.
Iris looked at him and wondered what he was thinking about. Probably he was wondering why he was wasting time with the likes of her when he could have many women like Marguerite at his beck and call? Iris shook her head as if to disperse the thought of Alessandro with other women. It was no business of hers what he did.
Frantically, she searched what they had been talking about. Finally she caught the thread and said, “ Yes. She is quite beautiful you know. And now she is blissfully happy too, to be married to the man she loves.” She smiled as she said this although the smile held a hint of sadness. Alessandro wondered at that and he found a chance to put his question forth.
“And you Iris? Have you no plans ? No dreams to get married and have a horde of babies? No plans to fall in love? ”
He was astonished to see her face close quickly; before he could discern any expression on her face or recognize it. Her voice was cold and her manner stiff as she said, “I dream of forwarding in my career. I have no dreams of getting married Signore. Love is but an illusion and I can’t run after it.”
“Why not? Do you hold a broken-heart?” Came Alessandro’s curt question.
Iris looked at him, her eyes wooden brown and blazing with anger, “None of your damn business!”
Alessandro swiftly got up and took hold of her arm as Iris got up and tried to walk away.
“Why so edgy? Are you in love with someone who will not love you back?”
Iris tried to free her hand but his grip was firm. She struggled and gritted her teeth, “Let me go, you-damn you to hell!”
“You and me both.” Muttered Alessandro before capturing her mouth with his.
Iris could fight with him, argue with him and curse him but she had no weapons to slay him when he kissed her like that. Her body melted in his arms and she kissed him back, her arms holding his shirt as the kiss deepened. They forgot the time and the place; nothing existed but each other and their lips. Alessandro held her tight and close to him, his mouth moving over hers, seducing her senses; his tongue playing along with hers in an age old dance of passion.
How long the kiss continued, Iris wasn’t sure but it was the discreet call of the mobile that roused them both from their passionate slumber. It was Alessandro’s mobile. Shocked at her own wild response to him, Iris pushed him and turned away from him, her eyes filled with tears.
Alessandro cursed softly as he picked up the phone from an unlisted number. “Si?” His voice was abrupt but it softened as he heard the voice at the other end. Iris heard his excited voice saying, “Bella mia! How are you? It’s been quite some time since you were gone.”
Two tears fell down her cheeks and Iris wiped them away angrily. She had been foolish by responding to him. It was then that the realization seeped in. She loved him!!
How it had happened she knew not, she only knew now that she loved him. And hadn’t she told him that love makes one disillusioned ? That was exactly how she felt right now. He had kissed her not a moment back and here he was- talking to someone over the phone, a woman no doubt, that he was happy to hear from. Jealousy reared its head and she swatted it away. Even if she had been stupid enough to fall in love with a play boy, she would not be so foolish as to ever let him see how she felt. She could now only kick herself for kissing him so enthusiastically and letting him see her attraction for him visibly.
A part of her argued- his kisses didn’t feel alien; they felt not just passionate but – they felt as if there was passion mixed with affection and something stronger. She shook her head at her own foolishness. She swallowed her tears. How could she have thought—she walked away from him as he still talked enthusiastically over the phone, oblivious of her departure.