Oh god, look at that view! I miss it. I miss sunshine! All that and the Knights have somewhat deserted me. Actually, they've gone off with Hank to have a moaning session about me not giving them enough time and attention. They're so mean to me! They know there's swathes of their stories I can't write without being in Italy. That's not happening for a few months at least. Family is keeping me in London for the time being and the longer I'm not able to travel, the itchier I get about certain scenes.
In an attempt to encourage a bit of chat from the lads, I'll tell you who's ahead. Durante, Massimo's brother. And that's only because he's just no where near as nuts as Beppe. Uncontrollable... No, don't tell me I'm being unfair to you. I've set out some serious stuff for you and it's like you're not hungry. You stay in that corner until I go to Venice. Bad Giuseppe!
As I was... Providing a tidbit of Durante's story to tide you all over until the finished product is about.
Just to set the tone, these are the stats for the DaCanaveze who prides himself on his hard work, hard hands and hard body.
Title: The Shepherd (you've got an idea as why he's the Shepherd, vis a vis a nineteen year old with a way with knives...)
Height: 6 foot 2 inches
Weight: 215 lbs
Build: moulded by working with the earth
Eyes: dark liquid blue, just like the Grotto Azzura...
Hair: salt and pepper
Skin Tone: rich gold, all that working in the Italian sun
Origins: Naples, Italy
Weapon of choice: a scythe. What? He's practically a farmer.
And may I introduce to you, Signor Durante DaCanaveze...
Unedited and copyright of Billy London who will be so unutterably annoyed if this ends up in someone else's crap...
Durante had never felt as uneasy in a car as he was watching Emmanuella negotiate the roads of Lucca. The farm was a good distance from the town - any town - by choice. The isolation perfected a farmer’s focus and allowed him to expand the vineyards after the first year of business. While he internally groaned at the winery tours, he admitted that it brought in a substantial income in the tourist season. His lifestyle was apparently ‘the dream’ but it was hard work in reality. Very hard work. Whilst his social skills were refined to the level of Renaissance art, Durante would happily avoid all of humanity if he possibly could do. Except for Ella, of course.
In the confines of his car, he could smell the delicate scent of roses on her skin. How she worked in a restaurant and managed to smell just like his mother’s garden, he had no idea. It had to be some sort of magic, like how her off key singing was just sweet rather than nails along a chalk board. His MP3 player was going through the James Brown back catalogue. He loved soul music and Mr Brown was the undisputed king. Shame about his domestics though.
“I got the feeling!” Ella bellowed tunelessly, “baby, baby, bay-beh!”
She swerved suddenly into the farm’s driveway and the wheels were surrounded by clouds of dust as she came to a screeching halt beside the villa. “Home Sweet Home!”
“Thank you Jesus,” he muttered, getting out of the car on shaking legs. His whole life had flashed before his eyes in those forty minutes. Where she’d shaved off the required five, was attributable to whether he still had movement in his fingers, clenching to the door with both hands was little more than survival of the fittest.
“Oi, I’m a good driver!” she protested, getting out as well.
“Emmanuella, you were driving on the wrong side of the road.”
“Again? Oh, shit. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were trying to reach that top note in Man’s World,” he reminded her, fumbling for his keys.
“Ah. James Brown ain’t wrong in that one. Are we going in?”
Maybe not. Then it would be all too easy to conjure her alluring frame in any place in his home. He shouldn’t go down that road. Not with Ella, definitely not when she was still grieving. She hadn’t mentioned anything about children. Thirteen years was a long time to be married, but not all marriages bore fruit. Plus if anything should dissuade him, it was the likelihood that once tourist season was over, she would be gone too. People always leave.
Ella hustled him inside. “Tell me you have something stronger than paracetamol for your hangover.”
Durante’s frown deepened. “It’s not a hangover.”
“Nationalities of the married couple,” she demanded.
Damnation. “Italian. Ghanaian.”
Ella shook her head in disgust. “It’s a hangover. I don’t know who you’re trying to fool.” She brushed past him. “Kitchen? About ten minutes in this direction.”
“It’s not that big,” he protested.
“Says the Queen about Sandringham,” she snorted. “I’ve got these prescription tablets from Barcelona. Spanish drugs are epic.”
Durante’s jaw tightened. “Really?”
“I’ve had more hangovers in the last three months than you’ve had hot dinners. Why don’t you have a cup of tea?”
They reached the kitchen and Ella started opening cabinets. The throbbing pain in his head, allowed him to do little more than let her. No one was this comfortable in his home, not even his older brother, Massimo who still asked permission to make his own drinks. “Ooh, you’ve got tea leaves!”
Ella shot him a filthy look. “I’m British. I know how to make tea. Tea, is our business.” He watched her turn on the kettle, find a tea strainer and pot. She gave him a glass of water from his fridge and moved around his kitchen as if she’d lived there with him for years. His dismissed any thought that would put her firmly in his home on a permanent basis as she allowed the tea to brew. With milk warmed on the hob, she presented him with a cup. “Et voila.”
She dug into the front pocket of her long skirt and pressed two pills from their blisters. “Take two. It’ll help. You’ll be knocked out in about two minutes so you’ll need to show me where my room is.”
He downed the pills with the water then took the cup of tea from her. With one sip, he gave a sigh of relief. It was perfect. Ella simply watched him with an almost maternal look of satisfaction on her face. He felt relaxed now. At ease. “I’ll show you to your room,” he said, once he’d finished the whole cup.
“Er, by the way,” Ella asked, following him up the stairs. “When did you last have a drink? I mean a proper, grown up, alcoholic, percentage guaranteed to set a house on fire drink?”
“I had a Bloody Mary with the wedding party this afternoon.”
Actually his new niece, Gina made him have three. “One for you, one for me and one for your homie aka your great nephew or niece.”
“Why are you asking?” he said as they reached the top of the second staircase. He turned and saw her wincing. “What?”
“Bit of a problem.”
“If my Spanish is correct and it always is with prescription information, you shouldn’t have alcohol twenty four hours before taking those.”
Fuck. “I see.”
“But if you had only one Bloody Mary, it can’t be that bad.”
“Not really,” he said, and realised his tongue felt too big for his mouth. He opened the door to the guest bedroom. “This is you.”
“Oh goodie. Just like I thought. Massive. Although, when was the last time it was used?”
Dust was streaming in the electric light. “My cleaner changes the sheets once a week. Everything should be more than clean.”
“In this place? It’s a bit Downton Abbey wasteful, isn’t it?”
He turned to the corridor. “Here. Towels, extra sheets, extra pillows. Everything is washed once a week, clean or used. Everything. Would you disobey me?”
Ella tilted her head to the side, her onyx eyes narrowing ever so slightly. “Depends on what you ask.”
Now the corridor felt small. He was half worried that somewhere in London, Ella had run into Giuseppe Nardiello and he’d given her the drugs. If so, Durante was more than in a lot of trouble. He was fucked. Dear God, the very idea...
“Are you okay?” Ella asked, noting that he hadn’t replied to her provocative statement.
“Fine,” he said, slurring the word. “The shower is en suite to your room. You can make calls from your room, the phone is connected.”
“All my numbers are on my...” She scrambled through her bag. “Crap. I left my phone in your car. Let me get it. I’ll come straight back. Rufus calls me every morning,” she added to herself. Even as he slid to the floor, he thought, who the fuck is Rufus? Once he reached the steady solidity of the tiled floor, he felt much better. Good air near the floor. Cool tiles. Heavenly. Less head swimming down here too. Ella came back, her bag slung across her body, the strap dividing her breasts. “How many Bloody Marys did you really have?”
“Let’s get you to bed.” Ella bent down and tried to heave him from the floor. It felt wonderful, her fragrance blossoming around him as she jerked him into movement.
“Durante, get up for a second.” The command in her voice was to be followed at all costs and slowly he forced his limbs into obedience and stood. With an arm around Ella’s shoulders he found the other at her waist, his fingertips brushing over the bumps of stretch marks over her generous hips - the tale of a woman. He bent towards them, following a need to feel them under his mouth.
“Upright!” Ella snapped. His head bumped against her breasts as he straightened. It was the most sexualised contact he’d had with a woman in a long time and this was by far the most sexually charged. If only he wasn’t going to pass out. What they could be together...
He landed bottom first on his bed with a flop. Ella untangled his arm from her neck then went on her knees to remove his shoes and socks. “If you want to get undressed properly, I’m sure, drugs or no, you’ll find a way to do it.”
She stood up and touched three fingers to his shoulder. He keeled over on his side. With a whoosh, his feet were in the air and he was tucked beneath the sheets. Ella touched a hand to his forehead and smiled. “There we are. All ready. Hangover Begone.”
Her face was so close to his, she could see the beauty spot above the corner of her mouth was a perfect circle. He curled a warm, dry hand around the back of her neck, feeling the soft down of baby hair curling at the base, and pulled her into a kiss. Mouth to mouth. Sigh to sigh. Dream personified. She tasted like a sweetened lemon cake. “Thank you,” he murmured. Before he knew it, Ella’s lips were a distant memory and sleep welcomed him home.