LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 15

Chapter-15

love.falling

Iris looked up into dangerously gleaming eyes of Alessandro and unconsciously took a step back. Alessandro watched her move with an eyebrow raised mockingly, “Scared of me Iris? Is that why you’ve been avoiding me?”

“Rubbish! Why should I be scared of you or avoiding you?” Iris huffed back, offended that he could read her so easily. She ignored his grin at her reply and steeled her heart against his charm- or at least tried to, as she said, “I have been working like all your other employees do. I get paid to work in the day time, not to while my time away, Signor Bertoni.”

When he didn’t respond to her statement, she couldn’t help but ask, “Why are you here? I thought you’d have left to go back to the city yesterday itself. Don’t they need you at the office there?” Then as another thought struck her, she looked up at him, “Are you checking up on me?”

Alessandro was enjoying himself, seeing the expressions flitting past Iris’s face. She couldn’t keep a single thought in that pretty head of hers when he was around, could she? The thought made him grin inwardly. He was right. She will fall in with his plans, sooner or later.

Outwardly his face was a bland mask as he asked back, “Should I be checking up on you?”

Iris was confused and offended. Her work had always been a source of pride for her. “Of course you don’t need to check up on me. I work with complete sincerity. If you have any doubts on it, you may ask Luigi or even Signore Flipe or Felice.” She remembered their sass from the last time and smiled.

“I don’t need to ask the boys whether they find your work suitable or not. I was the one who recommended you for the job, remember? I know you’d do your work well.” Alessandro said, his mouth tight with annoyance. She smiled while thinking about his cousins and he didn’t like that. What could they do that could make her smile like that with fondness? A new emotion, this one, almost like he was jealous. His face took on an incredulous expression for a fleeting second before he put on the bland mask back, but his mind was whirring with the thought. Could it be that he was jealous of his cousins because Iris smiled while thinking of them? He frowned so heavily, that Iris was taken aback and instantly asked, “Cosa c’è Signor Bertoni?”

“Nothing is the matter Iris. And I’ve told you before, I’d like it if you’d call me Alessandro. Signor Bertoni makes me feel like my father.”

He sounded so surly that Iris found a smile making its way to her lips before she could stop it along with the words. “You sound like your son Ernesto right now.”

She bit her tongue the moment these words were out. Alessandro would not take it kindly to being compared to his two year old son, she was sure. She closed her eyes and cursed herself for her stupidity in provoking him and opened them, all ready to apologise only to gasp in shock at the look in his eyes. She wanted to run and hide somewhere where this hunger wouldn’t be able to touch her. She tried to move her feet away from him but they wouldn’t obey. She tried to take her eyes off his but he wouldn’t let go of the hold on her. Iris felt deer caught in headlights. Like a panther, he advanced on her slowly, the heat in his eyes nearly melting her on the spot.

Finally some part of her brain jangled loud in alarm as he came too close and she moved sideways, making some space between them, stuttering, “I must get back to the house. There’s – there’s..”

Alessandro caught her deftly by the waist and she collided against his body, her own catching fire. She closed her eyes at the sensation, trying to grapple to her sanity.

“Open your eyes and look at me Iris. Look what you do to me. Feel it.” And he moved his lower body against her, his arousal evident. Iris gasped and struggled, “Don’t—let me go Alessandro. I don’t want to-“

“Yes you do.” He said and brought his head down, close to her own. His eyes were at level now with hers, the green in them burning bright. Iris closed her own to reduce the impact of those eyes. He kissed her forehead then and she shivered. Next he kissed her, a fleeting touch, as he whispered against her ear, “I get so turned on when you talk like that. As if you know me and my sons intimately- as if you’ve known us all forever.”

One of his hands held her chin up as he rained kisses on her jaw, “I feel as if I’ve been in that body of yours, right inside your heat, giving them to you.”

His words short circuited her brain as images superimposed themselves on her sanity. Erotic images, where she herself being loved and made love to by Alessandro, taking Alessandro deep into her as he shot his seed, she saw herself giving birth to his sons and the joy of their being. Reality slipped back in then, like a bowl of ice cold water thrown on her face. She pushed him back hard, making him nearly rock on his heels, breathing fast and heavy as she said, “Don’t touch me !!! You—I will not fall for this. Never.”

Alessandro tried to hold her in his arms and explain, but she slapped them away, “How dare you talk like that—as if I was not an employee but your bit of fluff on the side!” She wrapped her arms around herself, shaking, “You are callous! You were married to their mother and yet can dismiss her without a single thought, but I can’t. How many times have you told a woman that while trying to seduce her Alessandro? This is sick!”

Alessandro caught her firmly this time, his eyes flickering grey steel, “Sta zitto! I have never needed to say anything like this to any woman. Women come to me knowing they are only going to be pleasure partners. “ At her scathing look, he continued, “I have never- ever said that to any woman before, you idiota!”

He let her go and turned away as he continued in a quiet voice, “ I was married to Flavia; Antonio & Ernesto’s mother -yes, but there was not a single day when I thought she could be called that. She was an upcoming model and came from respectable family. I married her because I was arrogant and I wanted the best looking girl on my arm. She was that for sure! But our marriage fell apart right from day one, when I realized that I was nothing but a bank balance to her. I stayed put until I found her drugged out of her head one day and trying to harass one of the male staff in the casa.

I threatened divorce. She became pregnant to keep me trapped in the marriage, so that I wouldn’t throw her out. The pre-nup was water-tight and she knew she wouldn’t be able to afford her extravagant lifestyle if I severed her from my money. She wanted just that- her extravagant lifestyle and she certainly had no interest in becoming a parent.  She gave birth to them and then ditched them for her parties and boyfriends.  I bore her for the sake of the boys, knowing they needed a mother. But she had no love to give them. When I finally filed for a divorce and got it, she went crazy. Worse, she threatened and scared Ernesto so badly that the boy still has nightmares. She will never darken the door or come near my sons again.”

His voice while he had been confiding in her had been quite emotionless and pain-free. But now he turned around and she could see the anger in his eyes- anger directed at her, “ Do you think they deserve a mother like that? Do you think I deserved a woman like that though I was foolish enough to marry her?”

Iris was dumbfounded at his angry outburst and his revelation. Her heart hurt at the pain that she and the boys had gone through.

She said, “No, I don’t think the boys deserve that.”

“But I do?” Alessandro smiled at her, mocking her sympathies and shrugged, “I can live with it. Love for a woman has no place in my life. I am happy having them as pleasure partners, but I will try to make sure, if I ever re-marry, the woman will love my sons as her own. They don’t deserve to be without a mother.”

It hurt her very much to know that he didn’t believe in love. There was no chance then, that he could ever fall in love with her or love her. Putting her own misery aside, she focused on his pain. He deserved to know what she meant. In quiet and gentle tones, she said, “No, I meant, I don’t think you or the boys deserve that. But be thankful for what you have.” At his questioning look she said, “The boys. Had you not married her, you’d never have had Ernesto and Antonio. Some good at least came out of it, yes?”

Alessandro looked at her, disbelieving his ears. He had all but accused her for being insensitive and she was trying to show her good in what had been bad all the way? Yet, he couldn’t deny that his sons were one of the best things he valued in his life. He nodded his head and said, “Yes. Si, that is true. But I wish I could give them the happiness they crave. They see mothers of their friends and become sad and I feel powerless. I can’t help but feel sorry for the lack of mother’s love in their lives.”

Iris was astonished to see this side of Alessandro. He sounded sad, but more than that, he sounded helpless. Her heart ached for him. She couldn’t help herself . She went closer to him and laid her head on his chest, saying, “They are lucky to have you Alessandro. Fathers are very important to sons.”

Without replying, Alessandro wrapped his arms around her while she stood with her head on his chest. He felt – at peace. He kissed the hair on her head and said, “Si.”

Iris looked up, trying hard to hide the love that overflowed from her. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his jaw, a butterfly kiss. Alessandro stood still as she continued giving him butterfly kisses all along his jawline, her tongue hesitantly coming out to lightly lick the cleft on his chin and kissing it. Fire of desire roared high and loud in him but he had the sense to keep still. He knew this was not his moment. This was her moment.

LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 14

Chapter-14

love.falling

“Good morning Signorina. Signor Alessandro requests you to join him for breakfast this morning.” Maria, the maid woke her up the next morning with these words, jolting Iris out of her sleep.

“Good morning Maria. I shall be down in a few minutes. Please give my regrets to Signore, but I shall be unable to join him. Could I have something on the tray while I get dressed please?”

“Si Signorina.” Maria departed hesitatingly, as if wanting to say something but not able to. Iris was too tensed to see that. She had shirked his company the evening before and eaten her dinner on a tray, pleading a headache.

The knowledge of her feelings had shaken her, to say the least. She had no idea Alessandro had planned to stay back. After her realisation yesterday afternoon, she’d spent the last night tossing and turning, her thoughts in turmoil. What was she going to do now? She couldn’t quit the job simply because she’d fallen in love with the boss. How would she meet his eyes the next time and control her expressions when they held ice or warmth? How would she keep her feelings in control when he was around or when he was with another woman?  But she knew she had to. Acknowledging her feelings to herself was one thing, letting him know would be extreme foolishness. And yet, neither could she face him nor avoid him. Iris realized, she couldn’t avoid him for ever. She was answerable to him for her action as an employee and if she would see him only in the capacity of an employer, not a man she would be alright. Telling herself that again and again while eating her breakfast on the tray Maria had brought her back, Iris decided to go down and start with her work day.

She saw him as soon as she went down. He had his back to her and was talking to a man from the administration staff, so he hadn’t noticed her. It gave Iris to compose her features and calm her nerves with a deep breath as well as observe him. It was not hard to acknowledge that he would draw eyes of anyone who wasn’t blind and race their hearts.

Today he was dressed in casual chinos with a pale blue shirt, emphasising his dark tanned looks. The other man seemed to be describing something and he was listening to it, his hands in his pockets, inadvertently stretching the fabric of his exclusively tailored trousers over his taut rear and his shirt over his chest and displaying a powerful physique and bringing forth a spark of sensual desire in Iris. He had the build of an athlete rather than workaholic businessman, well known for his ruthlessness in business.

“Just goes to show how looks can be deceptive.” Muttered Iris to herself.

As if he had heard the words, Alessandro turned and looked directly at her, making her thoughts stop in their track. For a moment, Iris forgot that she had decided to be aloof from him and a smile almost made it to her lips. Quickly she wiped it away with a frown, nodded at him and briskly turned away, to go into the opposite direction- towards the olive groves.

Alessandro’s breath quickened as he tried to control his annoyance. He knew the exact moment when Iris had come down, but hadn’t turned to look at her because – he couldn’t. The sight of her delighted him. He had seen the smile that had made it almost to her lips and then hastily snatched back. His eyes narrowed when she nodded at him and left to disappear into olive groves.

He took his leave from the guy he had been talking to and walked towards the exit, deep in thought. The feelings Iris invoked in him made him uncomfortable. He wanted to go after her and yet, he held back. He didn’t want her to know that he’d missed her presence yesterday evening. This feeling he had still to rein in, because it was new. He never missed anyone apart from his sons, especially not any woman. He had no idea what had spooked her, but something sure had. After that kiss they’d shared yesterday afternoon, Iris had become distant. She had avoided him for the rest of the day and even declined to join for dinner at the plea of a headache. Come today morning, she’d again pleaded prior work schedule and denied breakfast with him.

He felt like kicking something, but that would be childish and he was no child. Damn the phone call yesterday that broke their kiss! He couldn’t deny that he was delighted to hear from his cousin sister, but it had made Iris aware of her surroundings quickly and taken her out of her sensual daze, that he had still be captured in. It had taken quite a while for his body to cool down after that episode yesterday, and he had a feeling, every encounter with Iris made his body hotter for her as days passed by.

He remembered the last conversation with her- before the kiss. Was it possible that Iris carried a torch for another man, for it was the question that had brought forth anger in her eyes, and also pain? Did she have a man in her past that his private investigators had forgotten to tell him about? The thought of her with another man, laughing, cuddling, sharing kisses or being made love to made him very angry and uncomfortable. In fact, it made him sick with rage to think of her with anyone else. He may have attracted her physically, but emotionally he could see that she kept him at a distance. The distant was more pronounced yesterday and today.

Gut instinct told him, it was much more than embarrassment that she had actively participated in that kiss. No, there was something else; something he couldn’t put his finger on, but he was certain that whatever it was, she was avoiding him because of it. It was also the reason why she’d met his eyes just now and turned away.

It had angered him, but he was quick to control it. It would not do at this stage to be annoyed with her. Iris was proving to be a challenge of different sort- an emotional level challenge as well as mental. Slow anger burned in him with this knowledge that Iris didn’t want to see him or talk to him. His plan was definitely not going his way. He had expected to ensnare her senses with the physical attraction they both shared, seduce her & make her fall for him in the next four days. He would have then taken her back with him to his house, where the twins waited to meet her.

It may be arrogant of him to believe that he could make any woman fall for him and adhere to his wishes, but that was the truth. Why should then Iris be any different? – the cynical part of him had argued. Women were susceptible to his charm and Iris would be no exception. Or so he had thought. Now he was not sure, and he hated to be unsure about anything.

Annoyance and anger were powerful combinations. It gave flight to his feet as he walked towards olive groves where Iris had disappeared. His eyes gleamed with the light of war. He would win this challenge and make sure he got what he wanted.

It had taken a lot of effort to drag her mind back from Alessandro and focus on work, but she had finally achieved it. She was busy taking notes on the type of olives that were grown in this particular farm when a lazy drawl stiffened her posture and made her lose her thoughts. Her pencil skidded to a halt as he said,

“Preparing for a clandestine meeting, tesoro mio? Anyone I know? ”