Raul gave a disparaging laugh, and Lydia assumed it was in reference to Maurice’s gall at approaching a guest.
But Raul was mocking Maurice’s ignorance—Bastiano would never part with his knowledge for free.
‘Bastiano wasn’t interested,’ Lydia said.
‘Maurice told you that?’ Raul checked.
‘No, Bastiano did.’ Lydia gave a soft laugh and looked out onto the street as she recalled that night. ‘I was serving drinks, and Bastiano made some comment about saving him from the most boring man... I laughed. I knew exactly who he was referring to. But then I felt guilty, as if I ought to defend my family, and so I told him that Maurice was my stepfather.’
And there was the difference between them. Raul felt no guilt in not admitting the truth.
Perhaps a slight niggle, but he easily pushed that aside.
‘You told Bastiano that Maurice was your stepfather?’ he asked.
‘Yes.’ Lydia nodded. ‘Bastiano apologised and said he would speak with him again and pay attention this time.
‘And that was it?’ Raul checked.
‘Sorry?’ Lydia frowned.
‘That was all that happened between you two?’
She went pink.
‘Excuse me,’ Raul said. ‘That is none of my business.’
The thought, though, did not sit well with him.
But then she told him.
‘Just a kiss.’
She screwed up her nose as Raul breathed out in relief that they had never been lovers.
Then the relief dissolved and he loathed the fact that they had even shared a kiss.
‘Come on,’ he said, confused by the jealousy that arose in him. ‘It’s dark now.’
Oh, it was.
And busy and noisy.
It was everything Rome should be.
The Trevi Fountain had kept its promise, because she had made a wish to be back under better circumstances and now she was.
They walked for miles, and though the cobbled streets weren’t stiletto-friendly Lydia felt as if she were wearing ballet slippers—the world felt lighter tonight.
‘Where are we now?’ Lydia asked.
‘Citta Universitaria—my home for four years.’
‘I would have loved to have gone to university,’ Lydia said. ‘I wanted to study history.’
‘Why didn’t you?’
‘I failed my exams.’
Another truth she rarely told.
She hadn’t decided to go straight into the family business, as her mother often said.
Lydia had failed all her exams.
‘I messed up,’ Lydia admitted.
She offered no reason or excuse although there were so many.
He knew that.
‘I had to repeat some subjects after my mother died,’ Raul told her. He rarely revealed anything, and certainly not his failings, yet it seemed right to do so now. ‘I hit the clubs for a while.’
His honesty elicited both a smile and an admission. ‘I wish that I had.’
‘I moved here from Sicily to study under great protest—my father wanted me to work for him. Filthy money,’ he added. ‘Anyway, after my mother died for a while I made it my mission to find out how wild Rome could be at night.’
‘Where in Si—’
‘I lived there,’ he said, pointing across the street.
She had been about to ask whereabouts in Sicily, Raul knew, but she had mentioned the convent a couple of times and perhaps knew its location. Certainly he didn’t want her knowing that he and Bastiano were from the same place. So he interrupted her and gave more information about himself than he usually would.
Raul pointed upwards and Lydia found herself looking at a hotel. It was far smaller than the one they were staying at, but it was beautifully lit and from the smart cars pulling up and the guests spilling out it seemed rather exclusive.
‘How could a student afford to stay in that hotel?’ Lydia asked.
‘It was flats back then. In fact they were very seedy.’
‘And then the developers came along?’
‘That was me.’
And she stared at a hotel—in the centre of Rome, for goodness’ sake—and found out that he owned it.
But Raul did not want to revisit those times.
It was late—after midnight—and he’d had enough of taxis to last a lifetime, and so, despite the hour, he texted Allegra and very soon a vehicle appeared.
It wasn’t a taxi!
She sat in the back and he climbed in and sat so he faced her.
It was bliss to sink into the seats. ‘My feet are killing me,’ Lydia admitted. ‘These shoes really weren’t made for walking.’
‘Take them off, then,’ Raul said, and he leant over and lifted her foot and placed it in his lap.
Lydia could feel his solid thigh beneath her calf, and though she willed herself to relax her leg was trembling as he started to undo the strap.