“Do you like it?”
She seemed about to say yes and then stared at him, as if in wonder. “You know, I don’t think I ever thought about how I feel about it until a couple of months ago. I just wanted to be successful.”
“In what way?”
“Make A’s in school. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted to live in the right neighborhood, have the right husband, and be acceptable to the right kind of people. So, I went to college and law school.”
“I suppose it’s the same everywhere.”
“And are you successful?”
“For a while, I thought so. I mean, I have everything I ever wanted. Only, it isn’t like I thought it would be. My firm represents a lot of major corporations. Some of them do things I hate, such as pollute groundwater. I get paid handsomely to defend them. And even though I drive a nice car and have a nice house, lately I’ve been wondering if I’m still one of the good guys.”
“Then there’s my sister, who didn’t even finish college. She’s so happy. She’s married, and she has three adorable children. My parents are prouder of her than they are of me, and maybe they should be. So, lately I’ve been wondering about my life, where it’s going…where I want it to go.”
“Do you want children?”
“Very much. I love my niece and nephews so much, you see.”
“What? You don’t think I’d be here like this…I mean, with you…if I were serious about someone back home?”
“Some women come to Europe to play.”
“I suppose you’d know about that.”
He felt his mouth tighten.
“Sorry. I—I…” She drew a breath. “My last boyfriend, Bobby, asked me to marry him right before I came. I said no.”
“Long story. I thought I wanted to marry him. But what I really wanted…” She stopped herself. “Why am I telling you, of all people, about my life?”
“Because I asked.”
“Okay, I’m confused. Who isn’t?”
He cut off a piece of cheese and placed it on a cracker. Then he offered it to her.
She bit into the cracker. “You know what’s odd? I took two months off, which is unheard of at the firm, and came over here to think about my life. Only, this is the first time I’ve slowed down long enough to do it. Suddenly, I don’t want to go home. I’m sick and tired of who I was there. It’s like my real life is a weird dream that makes zero sense. I feel good, right now, right here, with you—which is crazy.”
“I feel exactly the same way. It’s incredibly easy being with you. Why is that, I wonder?”
He stared at her so long, she looked shyly away.
“I bet you tell that to all your clients.”
Damn. “I don’t,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
He sat back abruptly in his chair and took a long breath.
“Okay, I’m going to ask you a personal question,” she said. “You don’t have to answer. But in your real life, I mean, when you’re not working as a gigolo…”
The word bit. He ran a hand through his hair.
“I mean…do gigolos ever fall in love?”
“Yes. I was married. I fell in love with my wife.”
“Did you work while you were with her?”
“I was faithful to her in all ways, if that’s what you’re asking. Until she died.”
“She died? Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Two years ago today.” He broke off, unable to go on.
When she reached for his hand, he gripped hers tightly.
“In a car wreck. She was pregnant. I didn’t know about the baby until the doctor, who tried to save her, told me.”
“I’m so, so very sorry,” she whispered.
“We honeymooned in Ravello. I come here every year on the anniversary of her death. My grandmother lives here, so I visit her, too. She’s been very worried about me. The rest of my family wants me to forget my wife, to think of the future.”
“But you’re not ready.”
“My mother lost my father a few years ago. She didn’t allow her grief to overwhelm her, so she doesn’t understand me.”
“I suppose everyone’s different, or maybe it’s different when you’re younger. I guess when you’re older, you’ve been through more. Hey, don’t listen to me. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Only, maybe you have a right to your feelings.”
“I came here with my cousin to try to remember the good times. Only, my gra…er…my friend, my client, saw you and pointed you out to me.”