LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 30

*steamy chapter- not for innocent eyes!*

Chapter 30

cropped-love-conquers1.jpg

No Alessandro, you are not responsible for my tears, not completely at least.“

Iris spoke softly, as she sat still on his lap, breathing his scent deep into her lungs. She sought the comfort he offered and laid her head on his chest. He held her tight, his hands spreading low over her back, soothing her, murmuring low in Italian, pressing his lips against her hair. Her tears subsided as a last huge sob shuddered through her body.

Her brain whirled at the sensations as she stilled in his arms for a second. Now that her misery had taken a backseat, she was aware of more basic feelings running through her body. Alessandro must have been sleeping. A tingling ran through her body as she moved her hand slowly on his torso covered, if she suspected right, only with a dressing gown. She must have woken him up and he had hurriedly put it on.

A wave of longing rushed through her as her heart shouted out for love. All she could think of was this moment, this time. It made her body ache to be in his arms and still stay passive. She wanted to kiss him and run her hands across his body, feeling the naked heart beating under her hand. She wanted to shower her love upon him, to show him how much she loved him. She wanted to take him inside her and make him a part of her for all her life. If she was going to leave him, should she not give herself to him and live with the sweet memory of belonging to him, even if they would never be together?

As if in a trance, her hand slipped inside the parting of his dressing gown She heard him take a deep breath, his voice coming from deep inside him in warning as he said her name. She looked up at him and they were so close their mouths could touch each other. He could easily press his lips against hers, and they could become lovers. But did he want that?

The green of his eyes was prominent as his piercingly keen eyes looked at her hungrily, as hungrily as perhaps hers must look, she concluded. Her voice was barely above a whisper, wobbling slightly after crying, as she said, “Kiss me.”

She heard him give a moan, as he shifted his body on the bed more comfortably, as he held her face between his hands and in a husky voice answered, “Are you sure? If I kiss you cara mia, I won’t be able to stop this time. “

She moved nearer, her heart beating loudly in her ears, her breathing fast and shallow. The need to kiss him and be kissed was paramount at this time, her senses on an overload. As she closed the distance between their lips, she closed her eyes and said against his lips, “Then don’t. Don’t stop this time.”

And the world exploded around them as she laid her lips gently against his.

Alessandro stayed still as she kissed him, hesitantly at first, as if testing waters, and then opening up to him completely. How could he stay away when she became the temptress, a seductive goddess at the same time? He pulled her close, one hand buried in her long hair. The kiss deepened, becoming so much more as his tongue moved between her lips, entwining with hers. Her arms slipped around his neck, sliding them into his dark hair and moving her head to fit against his as the kiss continued, leaving him in no doubt that she wanted him just as much as he wanted her.

Adrenaline pumped hard and fast into his body, fuelling the passion to heights he had never before imagined. He felt as if he was on fire, and she with him. He kissed her plump lips again, and then moved down leaving a scorching trail of kisses on her jaw and her throat. He heard her give a gasp, as he opened his mouth on her neck and sucked gently.

Ohh.. this is–” she groaned and stopped with his name, throwing her head back and arching her body in his arms.

He looked up to see her parted lips, and eyes glazed with desire as he sucked and licked on the other side of her neck again.

You burn me, tesoro- just as much as I burn you.” Alessandro said, his deep growl sending a thrill of shivers down her body. He claimed her lips once more, deeply and passionately as she wriggled to move closer still. She wasn’t sure what she wanted; no she was. She wanted him to quench this fire, to satisfy this hot need blazing inside her body.

Iris, mi enamorata, vita mia! Incontrarti era destino. Meeting you was my destiny. “

He whispered the words in her ear, kissing it and then going lower. Iris arched her back, leaning against the strength of his arm, her heart flying high at his words of amour. A sigh of contentment left her lips as he reached her breasts swollen with desire that the silk slip did nothing to hide. She said his name out aloud as he kissed her nipple through the slip, dampening the silk. As his lips nipped at the hard peak of her nipples, first one and then the other, she buried her fingers into his thick hair as she surrendered to such mastery.

You like it, tesoro? Do you like it when I kiss you here” Alessandro asked as his tongue laved her nipple. Giving it a quick flick, he sucked hard and then freed it with a plop. His voice was harsh, as was his breathing as he flicked it with his finger and said, “One day, you will feed our children here. “

His words sent a spark of urgent need straight through to her core as she gasped his name. He blew on the hard nub as she clutched at his hair and said urgently, “Oh please, Alessandro, my darling! Please!”

He moved to remove her from his lap and lay her down on the bed, continuing to kiss her shoulder, her mouth. His skilled hands removed her clothes quickly while Iris moved eagerly, matching her actions to his. He got up then, his eyes dark with desire as he looked at her from above, his body tense with need. She looked sensational with her hair spread across the bedspread, her eyes burning his body like wood fire, as he shrugged out of his dressing gown.

Iris put out a hand, calling him to her- an ancient call, primitive as it ever was right from the first time a man and woman came together. He took her hand, and with a seductive look that spoke of a thousand promises without words, got drawn to her, with her pulling him down on the bed.

Iris sat up as he sat down next to her, and gently pushed her hands against his chest; the firm chest that shuddered as she touched him, moving her hand to his pebble hard nipple. Scraping it gently with one finger nail, she drew a painful moan from him.

Alarmed, she looked up. “Did I hurt you?”

Alessandro smiled, baring his teeth like a tiger on the verge of losing control as he said, “No, cara. You did not hurt me, but it feels amazing to have you touch me. “

Blushing, Iris shyly continued, “I have– that is, I am not very-”

Alessandro gently caught her roaming hand with his and said, “Iris, I know you are not familiar with love making, but trust me. Nothing you do will hurt me- and I will try to be gentle too. “

Her cheeks became a rosy pink at the mention of her inexperience and he bit back a groan. If he had his way, he would ravish her, take her now with little finesse.

But he remembered, he was initiating Iris into sex. It was her first time. His jaw clenched as he realised the mammoth control he will have to keep on himself if he were to see this through without embarrassing himself.

He gave a silent gasp as Iris leaned down on his chest and gave a tiny lick. His hands clenched into fists and his breathing became ragged as she continued her journey downward. She moved her hand over his hard pecs and marvelled at such physical perfection. She left a trail of kisses on his body. As she reached to flick her tongue below his navel, she heard him give a groan of pleasure and felt his hand burying in her hair.

He reached out and took hold of her waist as she ventured further to kiss him where he ached the most. He pulled her on top of him, leaving her in no doubt how hard he had become for her. As she tried to grab his shaft, he caught her hand and said, “Too much at this time, mi amore. “

Iris smiled seductively and pouted, “But I want to touch it. I promise I won’t hurt you. I am not a complete novice, you know. I did have a boyfriend.”

Alessandro gritted his teeth against the annoyance at the mention of any other man in her life having enjoyed her ministrations. He growled at her and said, “I am sure you do, but it will certainly kill me if you do. “

He looked at Iris, her face pink, her eyes sparkling, her movements telling him of a woman who is hesitant yet willing in the bedroom. He wasn’t sure if he had the control to wait patiently while she got ready for the taking. As her palm skated up over the hard muscular wall of his chest, he groaned deep in his throat. Catching her hand, his need obvious in his eyes, he brought her hand down to his erection, to the thick and long evidence of his arousal.

Iris’s eyes widened at the size of him, yet she pushed her hand against him. He was hard and eager. It fired her senses to the limit and her breath turned shallow. She wanted him and was eager to show it to him despite her lack of expertise in bed. She wanted him on top of her, pushing into her inner core, instead he was bent on playing with her body and it only made her need him more.

Alessandro couldn’t get enough of her. With impatient yet gentle hands, he pushed her back down on the bed, exchanging hard urgent kisses, that stoked his hunger higher and higher. He found the hard tips with his mouth with a skill that wrung a cry from her lips again.

Alessandro chuckled huskily against one of her nipples, “You are so very sensitive here, gioia mia.”

Iris trembled as his hand moved towards her wet centre, teasing her lips apart and playing with her folds. She arched under the heel of his hand, her hips lifting straight off the mattress. She groaned out his name loud as he eased a finger inside her, kissing her neck at the same time. When he inserted the second finger and rubbed the centre of her pulsing heat with his thumb, she bucked under his hand.

Amore mia, you are so tight, so wet- all for me. “

Iris felt her face burn at his words, an excitement that wouldn’t stop blooming between her thighs. Her awareness of everything else vanished as he stroked her clitoris again and again, reducing her insides to melting pulp. She pushed her body towards his, kissing him wildly and mutely demanding what her tongue couldn’t seem to.

Alessandro couldn’t wait any longer for fulfilment. All male, he freed his hands to lean over her, his eyes blazing green with desire, as he kissed her hard and fierce on the mouth, whispering against it, “I want you so much cara, I burn!”

Laughing as he tried to catch her mouth with his, Iris caught his head in her hands and kissed him back, urging him breathlessly with, “What are you waiting for then?” as her hips moved to meet him unselfconsciously and she closed her eyes.

Wait… I must-” Giving her a hard kiss, he got up and said, “Wait…I will be right back.”

Bewildered at his sudden movement, Iris opened her eyes to see him moving quickly towards his dressing gown, putting it on and getting out of the room. It was a mere thirty seconds before he was back, holding something in his hands and grinning.

Now we wait no more. “ Saying this, he moved on to the bed, kissing her again.

Curious, Iris asked, “What is it that was so important?”

I have to protect you, carissima. I wasn’t carrying it when I came in so had to go, get it.”

It took Iris a second to understand his meaning, and when she did, her eyes widened. Before she could think or speak any further though, she felt Alessandro’s hands back on her body, and she forgot all about it.

Tearing the packet open, Alessandro eased the condom on while she watched, her eyes hungry. Looking at her, he gave a growl and leaned towards her, strong and sure. Iris felt the tip of his penis against her slick, damp entrance as his finger came up to tease her clitoris back into movement. Slowly he entered her, his jaw tight with control so as not to hurt her.

But of course it hurt, and a moan of protest rose from Iris, to be captured by his mouth. He stilled his movement as he felt himself fully sheathed by her. He looked down, where she was under him, her eyes closed as she grunted a bit. He tried to ease himself above her, but she held on to him with her legs firmly entwined to his back now.

He kissed her gently and slowly, her movements became needy, urging him to continue. This time, he thrust into her and growled in a full bodied masculine voice. Sinking into her up to the hilt, he began to move as he felt Iris give a gasp of pleasure. God, her body was so attuned to his! The sweet torment started building up as he withdrew and then thrust deep again, eliciting a primal cry from them both. He could no longer rein back his response, as intense and all consuming pleasure built inside of him.

Iris held on to Alessandro for her dear life, as he thrust into her again and again, taking her on to higher paths of pleasure. Just when she thought she couldn’t bear it any longer, she found a peak and fell apart in an exquisite sensation, her lips opening in wonderment as she saw Alessandro feeling the same above her. He let out a loud pitch growl, taking her mouth in a bruising kiss as he emptied himself inside her, shuddering in the throes of his climax.

It was a few minutes, before Iris came to her senses. Alessandro lay beside her, totally spent. He had pulled the sheet over them both. And she, she felt wonderfully at peace. So this is what love making was; when one was in love and two souls came together along in a perfect physical merger. She pressed her lips gently against his satin-smooth shoulder, as he picked up her hand and lapped her wrist gently with his tongue. Then with a deeply satisfied sigh, he kicked back the sheet and got up to move.

Stunned, Iris looked at him as he went into the bathroom. She could hear him grumbling about something. Slowly, she slid out of the bed and peeked into the bathroom. He was moving around unashamedly naked, and starting a bath! She gazed hungrily at his body and felt desire kick in her stomach again. As if he was acutely aware of her presence, he spoke, “I want to make love to you again, tesoro but I know that will not be possible. You most be sore. It will help you if you take a bath; relieve a bit of soreness you feel down there.”

Iris blushed at the mention of it, and then got annoyed at her own coyness. Why did she have to feel like this? She was a woman of this century, she should be able to take such references calmly. She smiled hesitantly and said, “Okay, if you say so. I-”

Alarmed, she stopped mid sentence as he came to her, looking so powerful. He looked so powerful, so vital without his clothes. She gulped as he took her hand in his and guided her to the bath. Picking her up, he got into it and sat down with her still ensconced in his arms. Turning her head to his side, she kissed the corner of his mouth, only to have her mouth taken in a burning kiss that lasted several seconds.

At last when he let go, they both were breathing hard. Alessandro lay her down in the bath, slowly sliding out himself from behind her. Iris looked at him through her haze filled gaze, as he smiled tenderly down at her. Getting out of the bath, he said, “Soak for a while cara, and ease your muscles. I will be back in a bit. And don’t go to sleep!”

Saying this, he exited the bathroom, leaving Iris feeling lost and alone, even when she knew it was silly to feel so. For now, she simply wanted to close her eyes and lose herself in the world where she and Alessandro will remain together for all their lives, in love with each other. For now, she wanted reality to recede.

Advertisements

LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 25

Chapter-25

love.falling

One should never have to wake up feeling sad and heartbroken, but that is exactly how Iris felt when she woke up the next morning.

Her tears from the previous night had dried on her cheeks, her neck felt like it had sprained, and she felt sick of life in general. But the softest of hearts must become strong and hardy, because life must go on despite broken hearts. She must pick up the pieces and move on. Or so she told herself, as she got out of the bed and went around doing her morning chores.

Dressed up early in slacks and a pale pink shirt, she went down and out into the garden. She had promised the children that she would break fast with them. Running away was not her style, however highly she was tempted to do it. Plus her heart broke, if it could break any further, at the thought of denying Ernesto and Antonio her love and affection. They were both such adorable boys!

As if thinking of them had conjured them up, both the boys came running out into the garden, with Mrs. Whittaker following them with a beaming smile.

“Good morning Ms. Florence. Congratulations, the boys told me the good news.”

Iris gathered herself to speak with a calm smile, “Thank you Mrs. Whittaker.” And then she turned to the boys who had wide smiles on their faces, while they clung to her legs. She bent down to their height and gave them each a smacking kiss, before saying, “And why are you both up so early? I thought I would come to wake you up.”

Ernesto gave her a shy smile, “We wanted to be with you Mamma.”

Her heart gave a little lurch at Ernesto’s words, and his calling her his mother. Iris knew he meant it from his heart. Iris wanted to claim the title and yet she knew she would be denying it. Before she could say anything to him though, Antonio also spoke up. “Papa came to us today morning and said you may have to leave today, because you have work to do. He said, until you become our Mamma, you are working and so we must respect this. “

Iris couldn’t help but hug both the boys, who spoke earnestly from their hearts.

“Oh my dears!” said she, “lets go for a small walk. Then we’ll come back and breakfast together- if that’s alright Mrs Whittaker?”

At her nod, she took each of their hand in hers and walked off towards her favourite area; that bit of wilderness that covered the distance between the villa she lived in and this one. On the way, both the boys kept on chattering about various things they could do when she next came to see them. They hoped it wouldn’t be too long before she really became their mother and came to stay with them forever. Ernesto voiced out his thoughts aloud shyly, while Antonio joyously and loudly echoed it. Iris, at a loss to understand how she would tell them that she wasn’t going to become their mother after all, felt depressed.

She had come to the conclusion while she had been dressing for the day that she wouldn’t marry Alessandro, after what she had heard him say the previous evening. She just couldn’t. Along with it, she had also reached to the conclusion that working for him would be impossible for her. She must quit her job and leave Italy. The question of where to go remained unsolved, but she didn’t care about it at this stage. She might have a holiday somewhere far away, where no one would remind her of Alessandro.

“Mamma! No Antonio! “

Startled at the high pitched command from Ernesto, Iris looked down to see Antonio picking up some soil from the ground to eat it.

Quickly Iris bent down and caught Antonio’s hand before he could put it in his mouth. It was a second too late however, since he ate it anyway. A wide grin broke on his face as she said, “It’s tasty!”

Iris laughed softly and cleaned the palm of his hand. Then she kissed it and said, “Oh well, we’ll just have to feed you with some seeds now. And then you’ll have small plants growing in your stomach.”

At the look of horror on Antonio’s face, she ruffled his hair teasingly, “How do you like the idea?”

Looking at her with the faith only a child could bestow upon an adult, Antonio grinned, “Then I will not have to eat vegetables to grow into a strong man. “ Looking at Ernesto, he said, “See? Mamma will always have nice solutions. I will have strawberry seeds Mamma.”

Iris laughed loudly this time and said, “There is no escaping vegetables little man. Carrots, Tomatoes, Cabbage, Peas, –” She stopped at the look on their faces and grinned, “Which reminds me, we need to get back to the house for break fast. “

“Can I also have Strawberry seeds Mamma?” Ernesto asked shyly.

Iris grabbed hold of him with her other hand and said, “Yes, you can poppet. In your strawberry jam.”

And so they went back to the house, smiling-hand in hand. This is how Alessandro saw them from his window, while he was taking a meeting on the phone meeting.

He had got up in the morning, recalling the incident from yesterday evening, and the look on Iris’ face before she had turned away from him. He didn’t like the thought of Iris being hurt in any way. His eyes turned stormy grey at the thought of anything hurting Iris. And then he grimaced. He had a feeling he had hurt her. He had no idea how he would make things right back between them again, but he knew he had to.

The sight of his children and Iris together made him stop mid-sentence over the phone.  Stormy grey turned glinting green in seconds as a fierce wave of possessiveness and pride grabbed him from the scruff of his neck. Iris looked enchanting in her pale pink shirt. And she was a natural mother, for she treated his sons as her own. He groaned, feeling blood draining south at the thought of giving her his seed- at the thought of fathering another daughter or son.  He muttered something and ended the call. Long strides made their way down. He was going to breakfast with his children and his future wife.

LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 18

 

 

Chapter 18

love.falling

Next morning when Iris woke up, her first thought was – today she was to go to Alessandro’s family home, to meet Ernesto and Antonio. A smile broke through her lips as she thought of the twins and their laughter that rang in her ears. That smile however didn’t stay for long when she thought about their father and her on-going struggle to overcome her emotions for him.

She wondered if Alessandro would accompany her to his house and then go about his business. The thought of him coming to call her like yesterday evening made Iris scramble from her bed and rush into the bathroom to do her morning chores. She carefully dressed into a roll-up sleeve formal yellow tunic with skinny jeans, knowing the boys would expect her to play football with them the moment they’d see her. For the weekend, she packed clothes that were sports-worthy. As a second thought she also packed a frilled tunic in pale pink with a wide belt.

Just as she was tying her hair with a piece of ribbon, there was a knock on the door. At her behest to enter, Maria entered the room. Iris wasn’t sure if she was disappointed or relieved that it was not Alessandro. She surely felt a twinge of disappointment though when Maria informed her that Signor Bertoni had left the place early morning to go about his business in Sienna. His personal assistant; Senora Sandra Milano would be taking her to Signore’s house and would introduce her to Signora Bertoni; Alessandro’s mother.

Nervous at the thought of meeting Alessandro’s mother for the first time, Iris soothed her hands over her jeans and walked to the car. Alessandro’s personal assistant sat in the front of the car, typing on her laptop. As Iris approached the car, she kept her laptop aside and came out. A dragon of a creature, she was as tall as Iris and middle-aged. Though she looked formidable, the smile she bestowed upon Iris was nothing as such. Upon receiving such a warm smile, Iris smiled back at her as she shook hands.

“Come Signorina, from what I know, the children are dying to see you.”

Iris smiled once again as she said, “I’m sure it will be great fun to spend the weekend with them Senora Milano.”

 

“Call me Sandra and I will call you Iris, if I may?” Senora Milano said.

At Iris’ nod, she sat down in the car as Iris opened the door to sit in the back. And stopped.

Just by the seat, sat a lovely bouquet of yellow and red roses. Keeping hold of her nerves, Iris sat down and picked up the bouquet, mentally chiding herself. They couldn’t be from Alessandro surely. He wouldn’t consider her good enough for this, especially after she had rejected him the last time. It must be the work of nice Senora Milano.  She buried her head in it and inhaled its heady perfume. These weren’t hothouse roses!

“Indian roses!” Iris exclaimed. “Thank you Seno-Sandra, they are beautiful. You are very kind to have gone through this trouble. I had no idea you can even get Indian roses here.”

“Indeed.” Came a wry retort from Sandra. She turned back and smiled to show she acknowledged the compliment.  “But the appreciation of this goes to Alessandro, for he found out the one local vendor who sells it and got them for you.”

 

Roses bloomed in Iris’s cheeks as Sandra imparted her the information and looked at her. Trying to sound casual, Iris said, “Oh- how kind of him. Please pass on my thank you.”

“I will. I think there is a card attached to the bouquet.” Sandra said.

With hands that trembled despite her control, Iris picked up the card nestled inside the flowers. It said, “Hope you like them better than you like me. Have fun cara. A”

“All okay?” Sandra asked without looking back, for which Iris was thankful. Her eyes were tearing up and she had to take a deep breath before she replied calmly, “Yes, all okay.”

The car moved forward, but Iris closed her eyes to the world as she tried to calm herself. Oh the wretched heart! Alessandro’s words has pierced her. How could she tell him how much she liked him- loved him without letting him trample all over her? It hurt her to think that he thought he was not in her good books and lamented the fact. On the other hand- a small but sensible voice in her head spoke up- it was good for her because he would realize that she will not play his game.

 

“And here we are!” Sandra said all too soon as the car stopped. Astonished, Iris looked around. They hadn’t gone very far away from the villa where she stayed. In fact, it felt as if it had been mere minutes far. Confused, she looked around.

Perhaps Sandra guessed her confusion, for she chuckled and said, “Ah- you did not know?”

Bewildered, Iris looked at her and asked, “Know what?”

Sandra got out of the car, so did the chauffeur who took her bag out of the back of the car. At Sandra’s nod, he left in a few seconds, leaving them there. Sandra linked her arm in Iris and turned her around, “Let us take a walk, not very far but a short walk.”

Before Iris could argue or mention her bag, she said, “Leave the bag. It will be taken care of.”

Iris had no choice but to walk along. It was not more than 10 minutes or so when they came across a familiar signpost, that Iris had seen before. Still trying to wrap her head around the truth, Iris looked at it and then at Sandra.

Sandra clucked impatiently and said, “Look around Iris. See where you are.”

And Iris gasped. For not too far away, she was sure was the villa where she stayed. She remembered seeing the sign post  on the gravel road that led into a private estate. She had been told not to take the path that led to it, but she had not been informed who owned the private estate. Now she knew. She looked around, her mind still trying to gather and process all the facts.

This was where Alessandro lived? He was but just a few minutes away from her, every second of the day and she had not known. A tidal wave of emotion rose in her. Iris wasn’t sure if it was hurt or anger. She could have met the twins & spent time with them every day after work, had she been informed of their home so near to her, instead of spending the weekend. However, she knew saying anything to Sandra would not be wise so she kept her mouth shut and smiled brightly.

“This is nice indeed! It means I can spend more than a weekend with the boys if they wanted to spend time with me again.”

“Indeed yes.” Sandra acknowledged this statement with a nod and a smile, and continued, “We must go back to the villa. Senora Bertoni is, if I’m not wrong, already waiting for you along with the boys.”

And so together, they went back  to the traditional red brick house where Alessandro lived with his mother and sons. The house was house, consisting of the main house and a barn where Iris suspected, animals were kept. The main house accommodated three floors, as Sandra informed her like an estate agent, comprising of living room that had a huge fireplace, kitchen, laundry room, dining room, study and a guest room on the ground floor, seven double bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, playroom, nanny’s bedroom and the nursery occupying the top two floors.

 

There was also another house behind the main house, that accommodated Senora Bertoni, with three bedrooms and bathrooms, a dining room and a kitchen. Iris was informed confidentially,  that though Senora Bertoni liked spending her time at the main house, she liked her privacy and thus preferred the house at the back.

 

The barn, as Iris had rightly suspected, housed livestock and was also used as a granary. The entire property in total was spread over 9000 square meters of land that also held gardens in the front and back and the forest, parking spaces as well as a Olympic sized swimming pool, a small swimming pool for children and a small pond.

 

A man old enough to be her grandfather greeted them as they were ushered into the house. He was introduced to Iris as Tommaso; who held the position equivalent to that of a butler in the house. He smiled very little but had warm eyes, concluded Iris while she shook hands with him. Iris took in the surroundings as they entered the living room.

 

A spacious room draped with pale ivory walls, heavy curtains looked as if it was a part of a home magazine, with original wooden beams & arches, terracotta tiled ceilings and floors that held cherubs and angels, with a grand fireplace in the centre of the room. The room was very tastefully furnished as well, with bright coloured carpets and cream coloured sofas. Two lounge chairs were placed next to the fireplace  and some by the sides of the sofa.

 

On one of the chairs sat Senora Bertoni, with a piece of she must have been knitting next to her. Beside her sat the twins with huge grins on their faces, with Mrs. Whittaker close by. Iris realized that Senora Bertoni was a petite gentle woman. Alessandro got his eyes from his mother then, for they were just as sharp and of the same grey-green shade. His hair must be his legacy from his father, for Senora Bertoni was a blonde.

Her nervousness dissipated as Senora Bertoni smiled warmly at herr. They were introduced to each other by Sandra.

 

“So- you’re Iris the angel that the boys keep on talking about, who will play football with them.  Welcome Signorina Florence.” Senora Bertoni said, her smile warming Iris.

 

She shook hands with her and smiled back, saying, “They’re really too sweet to say so. My countrymen love football as much as Italians do.”

Then realizing her mistake, she corrected herself, “Forgive me, I forgot that you’re—I mean, you were also once English.”

 

Senora Bertoni gave a gentle laugh at this and gestured Iris and Sandra to sit down.  She leaned forward and said, “Ah yes! I was once. Now I think I’m as Italian as any other Italian mother would be. I’m sorry it has taken so long for us to be introduced to each other. No doubt Alessandro thought it prudent that you be given time to get adjusted to your work out here before you can meet the boys.”

 

At the mention of Alessandro, Iris felt her cheeks going pink but she held on to her composure as she said, “I’m sure Signore knows the best for his sons. “

 

“Yes, I’m sure he does. May I call you Iris?” Clara Bertoni murmured, satisfied at what she saw.

 

“Of course, Senora Bertoni. ”

 

“You may call me Clara, Iris.” At Iris’s nod, she continued, “And now, I will let the twins come forward.“

 

At her nod, the twins got up from their places and moved forward towards Iris eagerly. “They have been awake since early morning with the hopes of seeing you today. They tell me they have many plans.”

 

Iris took a step forward herself and kneeled down on the floor to come at an eye-to-eye level with the boys. Antonio, with his usual vigour hugged her tightly while Ernesto waited for his turn.

Iris hugged both of them back and ruffled Antonio’s hair, “ So you have many plans, eh?”

 

Antonio nodded enthusiastically and turned towards his brother, “Don’t we Ernesto?”

 

Ernesto nodded and volunteered, “We know you can play with us the whole day today, Papa said so.” Then hesitatingly, “Will you?”

 

Iris gave him a wide smile along with her verbal acceptance to their offer, “Of course!! I’ve missed playing with two energetic young boys.  I’ve absorbed a lot of energy from the Sun these past few days. I’m sure I will beat you both at Football.”

 

“Hah! We will beat you!” Ernesto said with gusto.

 

Iris frowned a mock-frown. “Then I will just have to try harder tomorrow if you beat me today.”

 

“You will stay here for two whole days and spend them with us? You will not want to be with Nonna or Papa?” Ernesto questioned, as if doubting that anyone would want to spend so much time with them.

 

Iris felt her heart squeezing. She knew Ernesto had his problems, but she would make sure this little guy knew she was on his side. She squeezed his hand gently, looked into his eyes and said, “I’m here only because I wanted to be with you and Antonio.”

 

Giving Senora Bertoni an apologetic look, Iris added with a twinkle to her eye, “Of course when you sleep, I will spend time with your Nonna, and find out just how naughty you two are!”

 

“Yes! Nonna can tell you all!” Antonio shouted laughing. Ernesto nodded with a broad smile and started giving ideas of  what they could do in the evening.

 

Senora Bertoni listened to them and looked at the happy faces of her grandsons, approving the way Iris handled them. She seemed to genuinely like them, and even Ernesto seemed to be less hesitant with her. She also seemed compassionate. Yes, she will do very well indeed.

 

She cleared her throat pointedly and addressed her grandsons, “Now my dears, it is time you went into your room and changed for all the fun, while Iris is shown to her room.”

 

Mrs. Whittaker was the one who came forward, saying, “I shall guide you to your room Signorina. It is on the same floor as the boys.”

 

“Oh good.” Iris said and after taking her leave of Senora Bertoni and the boys, went along with her.

 

While on the first floor, she was given a whirlwind tour of the floor, that had three guest bedrooms, the nursery with a small room for the nanny and play room for the boys. The second floor consisted of a master bedroom, a dressing room of sorts, children’s bedroom and next to it, Mrs. Whittaker’s room. Next to Mrs. Whittaker room was another bedroom that Iris was to occupy.

 

Iris loved the room on sight. It was truly a beautiful room; very feminine. The window curtain were a creamy lace and the table and chair under it just as elegant. She supposed, she could sit there and write a few letters while she looked out into the garden and the green hills beyond from the window. The bed was a queen size, with the bedcover of powder blue with white daises printed on it, fluffy pillows and blue satin quilt on top of it. The dressing table looked to be equally royal, rosewood perhaps.

“How do you like your room madam?” Asked Mrs. Whittaker.

Iris couldn’t help but gush, “Oh it’s absolutely delightful Mrs. Whittaker! I wonder who designed it so?”

Mrs Whittaker gave a small smile, “It was meant to be the room for Senora Bertoni once, but she never occupied it. She never liked coming to this house;  preferred to live in Milan and Florence, she did.”

 

“Ah.” Iris couldn’t formulate a reply for this, while her mind tried to sought out answers on why she was being boarded her. Then she shrugged her thoughts. Obviously, this was the only room apart from Mrs. Whittaker that was close to the kids. This was the only reason why she’d been given this room to stay in.  Freshening herself up quickly, she went downstairs again, where Antonio, Ernesto and Senora Bertoni waited for her.

LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 11

Chapter-11

Iris tossed and turned in her bed, trying to get her thoughts in order. It had been two days since she had come back from the Villa Bertoni.

She had already met Felipe who had informed her that she was to leave for Siena in about a week once she had handed over and explained some project details to the person taking over it. She had also been told that she would be traveling when required. Iris had no objection if she could travel. In fact she felt it would give her an opportunity to stretch her wings more.

Lorenzo had exclaimed over her move to Siena and decided it was probably not such a bad thing since he would be going away to Cortona himself. He was already laying down plans to come and see her but Iris had no idea how that would pan out. So far things seem to be going well.

She turned to the other side of the bed, trying to eliminate a certain image that had been, since the last two days superimposing itself on her brain in the nights. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how exhausted she felt, her body refused to go to sleep; her mind for ever playing the scenes that had already taken place. Tonight was no different than the last two. Annoyed with herself, Iris switched off the night lamp and snuggled under the covers.

It felt like it must have been just a minute but it was in fact nearly morning when Iris woke up gasping. She looked at the watch disbelievingly. Her sleep didn’t seem to have done her any good at all.  She was breathing hard like she had been running. Which she had—in her dream. She got up to pour herself a glass of water and washed her face too. She felt as if her body was on fire. She vividly remembered her dream and a string of strong curses broke out from her mouth. Damn Alessandro Bertoni!

Her face turned red when she remembered how he had been stroking her body in her dream. Worse was, she had been encouraging him to touch her, moaning for his touch. She remembered how real the touch felt, as if he was there in her bed, stroking her. He had been whispering sweet nothings in her ear. When Iris tried to move away from him and create a bit of space between their bodies, he had pulled her into his body and whispered, “Run all you want but you won’t be going far. I shall claim you.”

And it was on this note that she had opened her eyes, gasping for breath.

Telling herself not to be foolish, Iris tried to calm herself. There was no cause for her to be threatened or to feel as if deeper forces were at work, moving her towards where he was. Nonsense of course. She had been living in Italy for quite some time now and had not seen Alessandro for all this while. Last weekend had been a chance meet; he was the boss of their huge organization and there was very little possibility that they would meet again. Besides, from what she had found out he didn’t live in Siena. He traveled a lot and had a house somewhere else. She had no cause to fear meeting him again.

“And why exactly should I be scared of meeting him again? I don’t like him yes- but I don’t have to be scared of him. Come on Iris, this is not you. You’re brave and you can manage your life without any interference. Just remember your policy of “No men” and you’ll be happy ever after.” Iris tried to give herself pep talk and almost believed it too. A part of her though kept on taunting-reminding her of time spent with Alessandro, in his arms-his kiss…

Iris put a hand over her eyes but the scene of their kiss kept on continuing in her mind, as if it was happening that very instant.

“For heaven’s sake!” Very angry with herself, she flounced off the bed and went to take a cold shower.

 

“What is it you are plotting in your head my son?”

Alessandro was roused from his thinking by his godfather; Alessandro Molinelli. He smiled at him and shrugged saying, “Always something that is challenging.”

His godfather gave a booming laugh and said, “You are so much a man after my own heart. I think your father didn’t realize how many qualities of mine will be passed on to you along with my name. “

They both grinned at each other and then went back to drinking wine. Alessandro had come to his uncle and godfather for a visit.  He visited his uncle every month and brought with himself the best bottle of his vineyard. This was one ritual he never missed since he knew his uncle was not just an aficionado of the wines that his vineyard made but also a shrewd businessman. Alessandro came to him when he was stuck in a particular deal for advice. Today he planned to do the same although it wasn’t business this time.

He looked over fondly at his godfather. Turning 72 next month, Alessandro could see no hints of his uncle backing down from an active life.  A former race car driver, his uncle had always lived a life of leisure; women, parties and in general what her mother fondly yet scathingly termed as “wasting” his life. It was only after he met the love of his life when he was about forty that he settled down. Now his world was actively full of laughter and happiness and his eyes plainly said that he adored his wife and three children.  He still worked hard enough to ensure a more secured future for his children. Alessandro was in turn godfather to his youngest daughter.

Alessandro knew that his uncle was a shrewd businessman too for he had wisely invested his earnings from race car driving days into a chain of restaurants. He catered well to all classes of people and it was no wonder that his restaurants and cafes were now famous all over the world as well as in Italy No tourist who went to Venice, Rome or the Tuscan region would pass by it without visiting either one of his expensive restaurants or budget cafes.

His uncle was not only his father’s loyal friend; they were like brothers. It was rumoured that there was not a single thing that they both hadn’t done together in youth, including competing for his mother’s affections. Only his mother had chosen his father and Alessandro had conceded defeat. Since then he was just as dedicated to her as to his friend. As long as Alessandro could remember, their family never spent Christmas without uncle Alessandro’s presence. When he was born, he had been baptised and named after him by Alessandro’s grandmother  who always thought of him as her other son. Alessandro Molinelli lived in a huge villa close to Siena and looked over his business from there. He was Tuscan at heart and always said, “To be born Tuscan is to be born lucky.” Alessandro quietly agreed with this but never said it out loud.

It was his uncle after all who had taught him most of the things in his life. While his father was affectionate, he was always immersed too deep in business to spare time for his son. It was uncle Alessandro who had taught him how to enjoy life, how to be hard at work, how to succeed in business and after his disaster of marriage, how to keep sane. Today Alessandro was back to him because he felt his sanity threatening. He needed his uncle’s advice again.

It had been three days since he was back from Villa Bertoni but he couldn’t find peace. At work, he kept his thoughts at bay knowing Iris would soon be right in front of his eyes, with his plan working seamlessly and successfully. It was at home that his peace was threatened, so much so that he had even considered his own plan foolish and was re-thinking all of it, including Iris’s move to Siena. His sons; although they’d spent only an evening with her raved on about her so much that his mother had questioned about Iris.

Alessandro had declined answering any of her questions yet couldn’t help but hear her comments on how suitable she could be for his sons’ welfare. To his disgust he realized his plan went along the same track but not quite. He wanted to bed her first and then think about using her for his sons. The thought of her being used in any way made him feel guilty and restless. He was used to using people and their services for his own means so what was different this time? He didn’t have an answer to that. Also, Iris kept on intruding on his senses and thought at the most awkward times. The last three days had been a headache where he found his thoughts straying to how Iris tasted when he kissed her during important meetings.

To keep thoughts of how Iris felt in his arms and to curb his desire, to be patient until his plan was in motion, he had taken a known model who knew the score out yesterday evening. She was beautiful but she had been unable to retain his interest past dinner time. He had politely declined her offer to join her for coffee in her apartment and left her pouting in frustration. Back home he had turned to work and phone calls abroad where it was day time when he found himself unable to sleep. It was today morning that he suddenly felt the need to talk things over with his uncle who, he was sure would be able to guide him and get him back into his senses.

LOVE CONQUERS-CHAPTER 8

It took her a few minutes to get back into her cool mode but Iris was ready; calm and composed by the time Lorenzo came to escort her down. She felt quite mollified when Lorenzo gushed at her appearance. She remembered belatedly that Alessandro had not even looked at her properly or said anything about her appearance.  She got angry with herself again and gave herself a lecture, “Stop it Iris! Don’t waste your time thinking about Alessandro Bertoni; the arrogant ass. Who cares what he thought of your appearance! You didn’t dress for him Iris, you dressed for Lorenzo. Go ahead and enjoy the party and if you see him, ignore him.”

And she almost followed her advice to the T. She complimented Lorenzo on his appearance and manners and stayed close to him all evening. She danced with him and other colleagues that she was friendly with but kept herself away from the part of the room where Alessandro kept his counsel. She had seen him when she had come down, with Vittoria draped all over him, glowered at his back and wished him to hell.

After that, she tried to ignore her senses that made her aware of his presence. She knew that he was on the other side of the room from where she was; talking to another blonde; a dumb head in her opinion from her staff. The blonde seemed to simper when he smiled and showed his predator like teeth.

Iris shivered as she imagined his teeth nipping her. To get rid of the feeling, she smiled brilliantly at the colleague she was dancing with so that the guy looked a bit dazed and offered her a glass of champagne. Iris accepted it with alacrity. Anything to keep her thoughts away from that odious Alessandro. She gulped down two glasses before she knew it and was still held in the arms of her colleague who’s name she’d forgotten. After that, it was easy to keep up the pretense of pleasure as she drank champagne and danced. She felt a little better now and smiled freely at the other guy who came up to ask her for a dance. She nodded enthusiastically and was about to put her hand in his when Alessandro’s drawl came from behind her, “I think she owes me this dance. If I may?”

He looked pointedly at the guy who held Iris’s hand and the guy immediately let go, looking at Alessandro’s mossy green eyes, sparkling with anger. Without much ado, he caught hold of Iris in his arms. He was unsurprised when she allowed him to hold her and felt instantly at peace.

Alessandro had danced with all the other ladies of the staff except- Iris. He had time and again this evening swiveled back to look at her and wondered at her impact on him. Perversely that was also one of the reasons why he had kept his distance. Iris snagged at not only his senses but also his feelings. He had noted the panic on her face and then also seen the panic subsiding when she started drinking without thinking. He had seen the worried look on Lorenzo’s face and her brilliant- over bright smile and still he had stayed away from her.

He had let Vittoria snuggle close to him; knowing he felt nothing for her. Vittoria knew the score and was no problem at all. Iris on the other hand, was not even ready to play. Maybe that was the challenge- the part of hunting the prey that lured him to her. He had told himself that until he had seen the leery look in the eyes of the last man who had asked her to dance and seen her oblivious to it.

Desire was one thing but to feel possessive about her was quite another. Desire he could handle, feelings he couldn’t. This was not a familiar response for the ruthless Alessandro, he acknowledged it reluctantly to himself. He had tried to tell himself that she was just another woman; an employee of his organization. He had his fun from time to time, sure he did- when women like Vittoria Terzo were willing and knew the score.

With Iris, he simply couldn’t control his want to have her all to himself. He cursed his cousins who had asked him to attend this weekend. According to them, it was a good time to mingle with the staff since the time for review and appraisals would soon begin. He had seen the logical side of the argument and come here.

The past few months after Iris had been hired by his organization, he had been so busy with his life and family matters that he had quite forgotten about her and the impact their meetings had had on him. It was only now that he remembered how it had kept him awake for many days before he had decided to recommend her to the human resource and hire her to come to Italy. He had kept tabs on her for some time– until the time he found his sons becoming a constant source of worry for the nannies and his mother. His mother had started telling him off recently and even gone as far as to say that he didn’t really care for his sons since he didn’t spend much time with them. These past few weeks had been hell what with constant arguments with his family who wanted him to choose a bride and get the boys a mother. He had quite forgotten all about Iris—until this weekend when he met her again.

This evening he had followed Iris with his eyes and realized that he had to come up with a plan to satiate his want. She had been ignoring him and avoiding the side of the room where he stood. He had felt fierce anger when she had let go of Lorenzo and started dancing with other men. He didn’t want her to dance with anyone else, didn’t like anyone else touching her.

Iris felt a jolt of awareness going through her, piercing the happy fog that a few drinks had spread on her. He looked up at him and into his eyes and her heart lurched. His hot glance was stuck to her mouth; plundering her. It so much felt as if he’s simply seized her lips with his own; possessing her by the sheer force of his magnetism. She looked away, aware of her shallow breaths and his deep ones.

“Look at me Iris.”

His soft command made her look up and Iris almost forgot to breathe. Time seemed to stand still as he took in his fill of her and she of him as they moved gracefully on the dance floor, oblivious to all others. He looked at her eyes that were brown pools of want; she was at this moment incapable of hiding it; the same golden brown reflected by her long, shiny hair, creating a stunning contrast to the creaminess of her skin. He could sit for hours and count the tiny freckles by the side of her nose that added freshness to her beauty instead of marring it. Her body was amazing, lushly curved where it should be; slender but full breasted with hips one would  want to hold on to. She had kept him at bay from the day they’d met and given him a taste of her sharp tongue; something he found refreshing. She was not just another attractive face; she was devastating and she was meant for him. This thought rang as clear as bell in Alessandro’s head as he moved her closer towards the exit from the party hall.

Iris had put her head on his chest and closed her eyes, listening to the beating of his heart. It was as if it was a call of drums; asking her to join him in a dance so ancient yet new.

“Are you alright?”

Iris opened her eyes and found herself out of the party hall, away from the crowd, with Alessandro standing disconcertingly close to her, still holding her in his arms. She gave him a light push and he let her go. She was flustered and breathless but she tried to bring her voice under control as she said, “Fine. I’m fine. I just want to go up to my room and sleep this madness off.” She moved away from him a bit. Alessandro frowned, irritated by her gesture of flight. He retained the distance in his voice too as he said, “You were becoming drunk and I had to move you away from the guys before you did any real harm to your—“

“I can take care of myself, thank you very much!!” Burst out Iris, her eyes blazing at him. “I don’t need your help, you –“

“Careful Iris. Be careful with what you say to me, my sweet or you may learn to regret it later.” Alessandro’s soft growl warned her.

Iris, still under the bravado of alcohol, looked at him airily, “Don’t bother with the threats Alessandro. I want to go up to my room and that is where I will go. Away from you. So there. Good night.”

She started to walk away from him, her steps faltering when she realized that she had indeed drunk more than she should have. Her legs were shaky. She closed her eyes and felt dizzy for a second. Instantly, she became aware of the warmth behind her and knew that Alessandro stood there, holding her steady by the waist. He cursed in Italian and said, “You’re in no fit state to walk by yourself. I wonder how you stood up between all those men and danced with them!”

“You keep away from me. I can take care of myself- always have. Okay?” Iris snapped at him, trying to move away but his hold on her waist was firm.

“I will take you up to your room. You can sleep it off and thank me tomorrow for saving you from disgracing yourself.” Alessandro picked her up as if she was light weight and dainty and started walking towards the stairs, away from the party hall and towards her room.

“I disgrace myself? Impossible. Don’t you know what they call me? I can’t be disgraced, you big man you!”

Alessandro looked down at her and grinned, “I know what they call you. You’d have ruined your reputation of ice maiden had you stayed any longer, mia bella. And yes, I am a big man but you’re no dainty flower either, are you? We make a good pair.”

“Over my dead body!” Iris flailed her hand in the air in defiance, “I’d rather fight you to death than be anywhere near you Al-saandro. I know men like you. Ruthless and heartless.”

“Indeed.” Alessandro murmured as he opened the tiny purse that hung around her waist and took out the key. He inserted the key in the lock and opened the door, holding her in his arms still. She now clutched at his shirt and said, “Put me down. I can walk.”

“No way am I putting you down to fall on your face, mia bella.”

Alessandro held her tighter and she involuntarily snuggled to get closer but said, “I’m not your beautiful. You didn’t say anything about my appearance this evening before. I don’t care either. I will close my eyes and open them and this dream will be over.”

Her voice was wistful when she said it. Alessandro gently laid her on the bed and looked at her, his voice gentle, “You are a beautiful creamy English rose among fiery Italians. Sleep it off princess. I’ll see you tomorrow- when you’re sane again and ready to listen.”

Iris barely could keep her eyes open but she couldn’t resist asking, “Listen to what?”

“On how I’d make you my bella, Iris. Good night.” Alessandro said to the softly snoring, already asleep Iris. He kissed her on her soft mouth slowly and smiled. His smile, if he had known it was full of tenderness as he covered her up and left her room. He had a plan.

LOVE CONQUERS-Chapter 7

Chapter-7

Iris had taken great pains with her appearance for this evening- mocked Vittoria Terzo, her room-mate for this weekend. Iris had looked at her coolly and taken her comments on face, without rising to it. She had simply shrugged her comments off and let her be. Lorenzo had already warned her that Vittoria; a former model, was bitchy. Iris knew she didn’t care for her opinion anyway and so nothing Vittoria said affected her. Vittoria was in the bathroom now, getting ready.

Outwardly looking composed, Iris was well aware that she was a  bundle of nerves. She had tried to fake a headache when Lorenzo had visited her earlier and asked if she could perhaps stay in the room this evening. Lorenzo had given her two pills and asked her to rest but also quietly suggested that it may be a bad idea to stay in. It may put others in mind that she was not just reserved but also snooty and not a team player. In the end, Iris had conceded that he was right and given herself up to the evening of razzle dazzle.

She sat by the bedside window and willed her heart to calm down. It had been galloping since afternoon, when she left Alessandro sitting by his table, sipping wine. She had paced around entire afternoon in her room, agitated by her own self and her own tumultuous feelings. She remembered how tempted she’d been when he’d asked her if she’d like to visit the private wing of Bertoni villa.  In an instant, her mind had conjured up an image of them in his bedroom, entwined together. It had rattled her; these thoughts that had come unbidden into her mind. She had blushed and then horrified at what she’d been thinking, she’d stiffened and refused. She closed her eyes in frustration. What was it about that man that brought her to the brink of madness?

A knock on the door put an end to self-reprimand. Lorenzo was supposed to escort her downstairs to the party. One quick look at the mirror and Iris felt muddled. She was not sure of her appearance. She wondered if she should simply invent a headache and stay put in the room. She looked at herself again and frowned.

Maybe it was all too black. Lorenzo had clucked his tongue and looked appalled as he’d seen the clothes she’d packed for this weekend and finally begged her to wear the last minute packed black tunic with lace on the hem and the sleeves. In Lorenzo’s opinion, it certainly helped in solving this evening party’s “what-to-wear” problem.  After almost twenty minutes of arguing, Iris had finally given in and agreed to wear the black tunic with black tights along with delicate silver heel sandals. Her long golden brown hair had been let loose for tonight instead of being tied in a chignon or worse a ponytail. Iris’s hands itched to put up her hair but aware that she would offend Lorenzo if she did that, she let it be. For accessories, she wore the multi strand pearl necklace; her great grandmother’s legacy.

Another round of knocking had her hastily moving towards the door to open it. She smiled softly as she partly opened the door, expecting Lorenzo and started to say, “Lorenzo, I don’t—“

She stopped abruptly as she gazed into deep pools of green-grey eyes. Her eyes dropped and traveled from downwards to upwards. Expensive tan loafers and cream trousers with cream collared Polo Shirt exposing tanned arms, with one arm accessorized with expensive make of the watch- Rolex if she wasn’t mistaken completed Alessandro’s look of the rich tycoon. A part of her mind registered that he really had a striking face along with those eyes that literally winded her up every time she met him.

She didn’t want to stare really but she just couldn’t stop herself from doing so. It wasn’t just his height that gave him an intimidating and powerful look, it was also his perfect features; well not really perfect since he had a chink on his nose as if he’d broken it in some fight; but the rest of him was actually perfect- his physique exquisitely sculpted with muscles at the right places. Alessandro definitely had an aura of power around him that made him arrogant and incredibly self-assured. A small voice at the back of her mind added, “don’t forget the dynamic sex appeal.” And Iris, annoyed with herself for thinking so much about him, gave herself a mental slap. She met his amused eyes and to her annoyance, blushed.

“You don’t –what?” Alessandro asked her in an amused tone.

“I’m waiting for Lorenzo to come escort me downstairs. I thought it was him.” Iris explained shortly and then a frown marred her features, “I thought you were in the private wing. What brings you here-a wrong turn?”

Alessandro was a little taken aback by pert question; not that it reflected on his face. He took in the delicate lines of her face, the minimal make-up, slightly glossed pink full lips and the mass of long golden brown hair that tumbled down almost to her waist. She was definitely striking, not more than any other woman he knew but still-she made his blood pump a little faster with desire. He decided to ignore her question and wondered what she was wearing. Something black, yes but what? She hadn’t opened the door fully to him yet and he wondered why.

His tone was quietly amused, “You sounded ready with an excuse to skip the party. Are you planning to invent an headache and hide this evening Signorina Florence?”

Iris paled but quickly caught her composure while her mind raged with thoughts. How in the world did he know what she had been thinking? What made him so self-assured that he was right. Time to cut him down to size. She smiled coolly and said, “Now I wonder why you would think that? I have a million acquaintances down there and two good friends. I would not wish to hide from them.  But you didn’t answer my question. What are you doing here?”

Alessandro watched the fleeting emotions on her face, fascinated by the paleness and then the tide of pink that coloured her cheeks. She was unlike women he knew; that was certain. Usually women responded positively, purring at his presence, with smiles and coy signals. Iris indicated no interest in him, except he had caught the darkening of those wood brown eyes when she had been checking him out.  All this pretense of non-interest amused him and yet intrigued him too.

His voice was deep, lazy and confident as he replied enigmatically, “Yes-your question. I know my hotel too well to take a wrong turn.” He looked at the pink disappearing from her face and paleness taking its place and wondered if she was scared of him. She looked at him as if he may leap on her and attack her. Not that he ever thought she’d be scared of him but the thought did make him uneasy. Maybe that was why his tone was abrupt when he said, “Is Vittoria ready? I’ve come to escort her down.”

Shock held her mouth open for two seconds before she stammered, “Vittoria? Sh-she is-“

“I’m here darling, all ready to party! How do I look?” Vittoria’s voice came from behind Iris and Iris turned around. Vittoria truly looked sensational. Iris felt like a pale flower in black in front of her. Vittoria was dressed in blood red short cocktail dress, with indecently low halter neck, that clung to her curves at the right places and ended a little below her hips. Iris felt an instant dislike for the girl in that moment.

She muttered under her breath, “What’s the need to wear anything if that is what she’s going down in.”

Alessandro chuckled silently as he heard her comment. So the so-called ice maiden had cat like claws that unsheathed when she felt bitchy enough. He moved further in to the room, smiling like a predator, pushing the door open so that Iris had no choice but to let it go. Alessandro noted her black attire and approved of it without making it obvious. He brushed past her, rubbing against her arm as he came into the room and Iris was jolted by a powerful current of desire.

She was bewildered by the rush of emotions flowing in her body. She wanted to make mincemeat out of Alessandro and claw the eyes out of Vittoria’s face who looked at him as if she was a cat that had caught the canary. More unlike Canary kind of man was hard of find, thought Iris viciously and then aghast at such thoughts, scrambled away from them.

Alessandro smiled at Vittoria, bending to kiss her on the mouth and Iris’s entire body shook with murderous rage. She turned away from them and got out of the room, her breathing erratic. She didn’t want to witness anything they did. When he’d brushed against her, she’d felt this rush of desire she didn’t want to feel. Even now her skin tingled, her throat was drying up and her breasts felt heavy and hyper-sensitive; her nipples hard and aching.

Iris, quite angry at herself tried to calm herself down by standing by railings of the balcony, taking deep breaths. She was quite unprepared thus, for the onslaught of sensuous attack that came in the form of Alessandro’s husky voice, close to her ear-so close that it seemed he had kissed her ear as he said, “I feel the same in case you’re thinking you’re the only one feeling all this.”

Iris shuddered as he whispered again, “Enjoy the evening. I know I will enjoy watching you, even from afar and keeping my distance.”

She closed her eyes as she felt him move away from her and decided that it was just her imagination. None of this was real; and then opened her eyes again, furious with herself for being so foolish. She heard his chuckle and then heard Vittoria’s voice saying pettishly, “I’m ready now to go down. Let’s go Alessandro.”

She felt them leaving and released her pent up breath. This was going to be a long evening.

LOVE CONQUERS- CHAPTER 5

Iris went into back into the ladies room once her good sense took hold of her. She was shaking; initially with horror and then with remorse self-disgust. How could she have behaved like a slut- kissing that stranger like that! She’d kissed and been kissed before but never like that. Never had she responded to anyone like that. Damn that man! While she refreshed her smeared lipstick after washing her face thoroughly and gargling with tap water a few times, self-disgust was joined by rage. How dare he kiss her like that- as if she was ripe and his for the taking? What right had he to manhandle her like that!

Conveniently forgetting that she had not objected to the kiss then, in fact participated enthusiastically, Iris concluded in her rage that she was right in her assessment of men- and she was right to want nothing to do with them. All of them, especially that one man were lusty pigs and nothing more!

She got out and went straight to the table where people had got up and gathered to say good bye to each other, until the next morning when they would meet at work. Iris bid a cool good bye to all and walked towards the door with Lorenzo.

“What’s got your feathers frazzled mia bella?” Lorenzo whispered, making Iris grin at him.

“Not frazzled, ruffled and no, my er-feathers are fine and in place. They’re not ruffled at all.”

“Excuse my English Tesoro but I don’t believe you. You looked upset when you came back from powdering your nose. What upset you?”

“Not what-who” muttered Iris inaudibly and then said aloud, “Nothing upset me Lorenzo. I wish to go home and rest now. Would you be kind enough to drop me home before you go back to Pieter’s place?”

“Ma certo! But of course darling.”

They nodded good night to the manager who stood on one side of the desk by the door, talking to the guard and were about to get out when their names were called aloud. They turned back to see a harried Luigi rushing up to them. He turned to Iris as he came to them.

“Iris, there’s something I forgot to tell you. The two directors Felice and Felipe Bertoni are going to come down tomorrow to the office. They wish to discuss the new project we are going to work on and take a look at the marketing presentation we have prepared for the promotion of Bertoni Olives.’

Iris was at once businesslike, “Which one Luigi? “Pieno di olio” or “piene di gusto”?

Luigi beamed at her, “Bravo, you pronounce this like a true Italian! I want the presentation of castavetrano olives “Pieno di Olio” tomorrow and maybe later if they ask for it, cerignolas olive presentation-“Piene de Gusto. Si?”

“Bene. I’ll be there in the office a little early to ensure all is as it should be.” Iris informed her immediate superior and with a smile, wished him good night.

Once Lorenzo had dropped her home, Iris worked until later in the night to ensure that the presentation was flawless. She still needed some improvement with her Italian but as long as they understood her and the presentation, it should be alright. She had been told that the twin brothers were very important for the department that she worked in, as the main owner never looked in much into their side of work. It was left to Felice and Felipe Bertoni to be the marketing face for the organization.

She laid out the clothes for herself in the morning that were brisk and businesslike. Checking herself in the mirror, she couldn’t fault the make-up that made her look mature and cool, her attire being soft pleat black trousers with a Nieman Marcus silk shirt in charcoal grey. Slipping on her soft suede made Gucci heeled pumps in black with thin heels, she felt herself getting into the brisk, businesslike mode. The heels gave her height and made her intimidating as she was already tall. Iris found that height became an added advantage in Florence not only in fashion sense but also when it came to looking businesslike and dynamic.

Felice and Felipe Bertoni were two good looking, young and sharp as a tack brothers, assessed Iris when she met them at the meeting. They were also quite incorrigible with their blunt comments on women in the office. They flirted with all women light heartedly yet they didn’t leave the impression of being heart breakers. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why the brothers were the marketing face of the organization.  They were both highly qualified and during the presentation they had asked questions that were directly related to the ad campaign that would follow with the approval of this presentation and its effects. Iris confidently replied to their questions, saw their admiring glances and hoped they approved her language ability and presentation skills along with her ideas. It seemed as if they did for when she had finished explaining the entire campaign, they sat back and Felipe said, “We’re satisfied. You’ve been a good asset to the company so far Miss Florence.  My brother and I agree that you will make a success of this campaign too like you did with the other two before.”

“Thank you Mr Bertoni, to the both of you. I can only say that I like working here and I find the work challenging, interesting and very much to my liking. The team is also very cooperative.”

“Yes, especially Lorenzo, eh?” Sniggered Felice Bertoni and received a quelling look from his brother.

“Forgive my brother Miss Florence. He is quite prone to being straight forward even when he should not be.” Felipe grinned at her as if he knew she would excuse his brother’s behaviour.

Iris smiled coldly and said coolly, “Of course. I realize he’s perhaps the face that keeps everyone grinning and smiling, eh?”

Felice winced and Felipe laughed, “Too true! Our brother and boss Alessandro says the same thing.”

Iris gasped inwardly as she heard the name and then got annoyed with herself. Just because the stranger had the same name, she had no cause to be so upset. She already knew that that was the name of the CEO so why did she have to think of that stranger? This was Italy and there must be thousands of Alessandro everyone out here, including that guy and this one. She smiled and excused herself as both the brothers looked on admirably. When the door closed, they looked at the closed door and smiled broadly.

Felipe said, “I understand why Alessandro thought she’d be good and why she was chosen. She’s intelligent and smart, she’s dedicated to the work and the team respects her but brother, I swear I could see an axe coming down your neck when you tried to be funny with her. I wonder how her and Alessandro met. He handles everything with the sensitivity of a water buffalo most days. Wonder what caught his fancy–”

Felice said, “Do you think—“

Both the brothers grinned at each other. Felice rubbed his hands together with the glee of a naughty child, ”Diamond cutting diamond would be a sight to watch!” They laughed together and immediately started making plans.

By late afternoon a circular was making rounds in the office informing everyone that it had been decided that the team would go to Chianti region the following weekend to attend the festival on Sunday. Everyone was excited. Iris smiled for it would give her a chance to relax after the rigorous weeks at work while finishing the last project. It was being said that a villa was being booked for the team that had a huge garden, swimming pool and was miles away from the hub-dub of the city.

The week went past quickly and Iris was kept busy at work, with very few thoughts to spare to her stranger. Night time was the one time that brought out his thoughts to the fore, when she was asleep. She had been restless and waking up quite early the last few mornings, with her sheets in a tangle and her body wet with sweat. She wished she’d never met the guy and more so that she’d never kissed him back. Trying to push the incident at the back of her mind only worked when she was busy so Iris exercised a lot more, went for long walks with Lorenzo when he had the time and went to the market to window shop.

It was on Thursday; two days before they were due to leave for Chianti, when she  saw a small boutique at the end of the street while walking away from Piazza della Repubblica. She stopped and went to look inside the window, squinting to catch the glimpse of the dress that had stopped her in her tracks And then she saw it- a fabulous creation in apple green. She went inside and enquired after the evening dress. The saleswoman was quite enthusiastic and encouraged Iris to try it on.

Iris felt the satin slide over her body and her legs as she put it on. It had a broad neck and the A-line sweetheart evening dress was supported by two wide straps; ruched and embellished with tiny diamonds, right under the sides of the under-breasts. The dress was slit from one side right up to mid-thigh. The dress curved Iris’s body at the right places and moulded to it like second skin. It complemented her hair and eyes, making her skin glow. Looking into the mirror, she could see a sexy, attractive woman standing, looking at herself with joy. It was tempting to forget that she wanted to look businesslike and not sultry.

She took off the dress and affirmed that she would buy the dress. Iris normally didn’t go for an evening dress, especially one that would make her look sexy but this one, she couldn’t resist. The saleswoman oohed and aahed over her appearance in the dress and Iris felt quite happy with the way she looked. She had no idea when she’d wear it- maybe never, but she just had to buy it. Maybe she’d wear it when she was alone in her flat, simply to give boost to her confidence.  She paid a small fortune for the dress and the satin silver slippers with pointed heels that accessorized well with the dress and came out of the boutique.

On Friday evening, Iris packed clothes keeping in mind that this was an informal event. Summer was here and the weather had already turned warm. She picked up some short dresses to pack and chose two of them to take away. One was a cotton dress with colours like Maroon, purple, white, blue and pink  in block print and the other was geometrically pattered in greyish blue and black. Together, she packed shorts, two light T-shirts and a silk halter neck top in pink along with black silk trousers. In went her toiletries and make-up kit and the bag was packed and ready.

Saturday morning saw her dressed in jeans and a sunny yellow tank top with a wide brim hat to keep the sun away. She was to meet Lorenzo and a few other colleagues and together they will be driving towards Chianti wine region in the cars Luigi had arranged for them. The drive was not more than an hour or so but the way to their destination was amazingly picturesque. Iris had bought a small rough guide to acquaint herself with the Chianti wine region.

When they reached their destination, Iris could only look around awe struck at the beauty. Their destination was just a small distance away from Greve, in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.  The place gave the viewer an extraordinary vantage point. She saw green, red and brown vineyards, terraced olive groves and miles of forest around. The villa standing tall- 16th century building unless Iris was mistaken, was where they were to stay.  This country house that had been turned into a hotel since some years fit in like hand in glove. Looking at it, Iris felt as if the villa had been made centuries ago, keeping in mind the vineyards surrounding it and season’s changing colours.

They looked around inside, while Luigi was talking to the hotel manager and the rest of the staff was moving into their rooms. Iris would share the room with Vittoria Terzo, a colleague of hers. Lorenzo made a face when she told him that. At her puzzled expression, he said, “Darling, you’ll see soon what I mean. She’s a bitch, that one. She thinks she’s the only pretty woman around and the others are in no comparison to her beauty.”

“Does it look like I care Lorenzo? If she thinks that, I can happily let her live with that.” Iris shrugged her shoulders, moving towards a painting and examining it.

Lorenzo’s hands moved up and down as he said, his voice anxious, “Yes but Iris, she is bitchy because she always put all other women down. When you wear something, she comment bad on it and then you go –you know, mad.”

Iris laughed and caught his arm again, “I promise you I will not be upset if she says anything. She is hardly going to be interested in my clothes Lorenzo. Aren’t I called the icy one? Why would she bother?”

“For the fun of it?” Guessed Lorenzo.

Iris walked along to the main door and outside, replying, “Even if she does, I have no cause to rise up to the occasion. I dress simple and am happy with being the way I am. Screw anyone else’s opinions.”

Lorenzo grinned, “Si, that is true.”

“This is Bertoni property?” Iris asked Lorenzo who now had his hand entwined with hers and was looking at the hotel and declaring it to a wonderful structure.  At her question, he cocked one eyebrow up and opened his mouth to say something, but then put his hand over his mouth.

“Oh my! I didn’t think he’d be here!” Lorenzo whispered.

“What? Who?” Iris looked at him questioningly.

Lorenzo couldn’t seem to tear his gaze away from the view that had caught his attention as he answered, “Alessandro Bertoni, mia bella Iris. O mia madre, I am going to melt when I see him! Him in his limited edition car that is as sexy as he is- as sin.”

Iris looked at the car that had stopped and literally drooled over it. It was certainly one of the limited edition cars from Lamborghini. The LP 570-4 SUPER TROFEO STRADALE was a model in the lineup of Gallardo and the design was based on one of the most successful race car from Lamborghini; Blancpain Super Trofeo. There were only 150 cars that had come out of the factory in the colour called Rosso Mars.  The guy who must own it must be stinking rich, thought Iris.

The subject of her thoughts got out of the car; looking taller than ever, wearing a crisp suit in grey with a dotted tie in dark blue and a light blue shirt inside, Ray Ban Predator 8 sunglasses and walked towards the villa—towards them.

Iris nearly shouted a “NO” out aloud, such was her shock. Her mind refused to believe the image in front of her eyes. Her brain was not able to compute the fact that the stranger of her acquaintance was in actual fact, the head of her organization- Alessandro Bertoni. Maybe he was not? She turned to ask Lorenzo, “He is the company CEO?”

“Si-si! Oh look at the way he walks! Mamma mia!” Iris stood there dumbfounded, watching him stride towards them slowly. He was very close now and Iris could feel her heart booming with fear-anxiety-excitement?-she didn’t know. He took off his glasses and pointedly looked at Iris’s hand that was still holding Lorenzo’s hand and then looked up at her. She forced herself to not snatch her hand away from Lorenzo’s and stood tall. His eyes burned holes in her, as if he couldn’t bear her presence around.  He smiled but it held no warmth as he came forward and said, “Buon giorno Lorenzo. Come stai Signor Fachinelli?”

“Io sto bene, mille grazie Signor Bertoni. Benvenuti a Villa Bertoni.” Lorenzo beamed his welcome to Alessandro Bertoni. Alessandro nodded, acknowledging the welcome and his gaze caught Iris.

“Signorina Florence, I have heard all good things about you. Welcome to Villa Bertoni. how do you like it?”

Iris raged inwardly. He was actually behaving as if they’d never met before! Fine, if he wanted to act like a lofty employer, she would be the employee. She didn’t meet his eyes as she replied, “Thank you for the welcome Signor Bertoni. As for the villa, there is nothing to dislike in Villa Bertoni, Signore. I can only say I have liked very much what little I have seen of it.”

“Bene. You shall have a grand tour of the villa later on. There is a private wing and the rest is converted into the hotel for guests and turisti.”

At this, Iris looked up sharply into his eyes. Her breath hitched into her throat at the look he gave her and she looked away immediately. She felt goose bumps rising all over her body, her composure almost certainly in tatters. He surely couldn’t look at her like that- with so much unleashed hunger!

Her brain screamed at her to move away before she started gasping for breath and Iris immediately reacted upon it. She smiled at Lorenzo, put her hand on his shoulder and said,   “Uhh—Lorenzo, I will return to my room now and change. Meet me later. Si?”

“Ok, buono. I will meet you later.” He turned towards her and kissed her cheek.

“Nice meeting you Signore.” Iris mouthed the formal statement and turned away to go.

“Un secondo, Signorina Florence.” As she turned around to look at him, all suspicious and cautious, he bared his tiger teeth, “You are in Italy. We kiss and part.. like you did with Lorenzo. I must be given the same privilege at least.”

Iris looked at him, her eyes opaque blocks of wood and fire. A lesser mortal would have frozen on the spot and died. Alessandro did nothing of the sort. In fact he looked quite undaunted with her gaze. He looked back nonchalantly, waiting for her to come to him.

Short of making a scene, Iris knew there was nothing she could do. She took a deep breath and came towards him. He bent down; after all he was about six to eight inches taller than she was. She reached up on her toes and barely brushed her lips against his cheek, her heart racing. Unfortunately her feet were not steady and she lost her balance.

She heard Lorenzo gasp as Alessandro caught her by her tiny waist and pulled up to him while she struggled to gain her balance back. His body brushed against her and Iris closed her eyes in agonizing frustration, going red. Her brain had no control over her body where this man was concerned. Her body burned up in his arms, her breasts peaking up and brushing against his chest.  She had to move away from him before she made a fool of herself!

“I’m sorry.” Iris said loud enough and pushed herself away. He let her go instantly, becoming cool and distant as he said, “It is nothing. Not really your fault.”

She didn’t look up but turned around and walked away from the scene as fast as her legs could carry her inside.

“Close your mouth Fachinelli or you’ll catch flies.” Alessandro murmured into Lorenzo’s ears; his lips twitching, his tone amused. Lorenzo went beet red and nodded furiously at him. Alessandro gave a nod and left him there by the door, moving towards the private wing of the villa himself.