She stared at the blue water and then at him. “If you want to.”
“Okay then, yes.” She laughed. “I want to. Very much.”
Once they were in his tender and moving slowly away from the beach out into the glistening harbor, he said, “We can go fast or slow. Whatever you want.”
“Fast,” she said. “I want to fly.”
“First, we see the yachts. Up close. They are quite impressive. But we have to go slow in the marina itself.”
“Slow or fast. They’re both good.” She smiled, as delighted as a child with a new puppy, and he felt thrilled to be with her as they motored from yacht to yacht while he told her stories of the people who owned them.
When she pointed to villas and palazzos that dotted the hills, he told her their histories, as well. An hour or two sped by. The sun began to sink, the sky and sea exploding in brilliant color.
“People used to travel this coast only by boat,” he said.
“After our nerve-racking drive, I can see why.”
“Do you know how Amalfi got its name?” he asked.
“Hercules loved a nymph named Amalfi. When she died he buried her here because he thought this was the most beautiful place on earth. And then he named it after her.”
“I know a lovely sea cave that’s even more romantic. We’ll go there later. After the sun goes down.”
Time seemed to evaporate when he was with her, and he felt complete. He cut the motor and they drifted on the slick gilded surface, holding each other tightly, until the sun sank and the light went out of the sky and sea.
As he stroked her hand, he thought about his family’s palazzos that were filled with the portraits of generations of his ancestors.
“They remind us who we are and where we come from,” his mother often said.
As a boy, Nico had stood under the massive gilt frames at length while his parents had told him about their ancestors’ lives. “You resemble them,” they’d said.
Outwardly, he resembled them. So why hadn’t he ever felt he was one of them? Instead, he’d felt trapped by their traditions and their demands and most of all by their insatiable need for wealth.
Only with Cara, now in this little boat for the first time in his life, did he feel the easiness that comes when one is in tune with one’s true self. Not even Simonetta had been able to free him of the life he’d been born to and its pressures.
He breathed in the sea air and pulled Cara closer. With her, he felt the possibility of discovery of a new kind of life. Which was absurd, of course.
He’d known from the first that their brief idyll couldn’t last. He’d known his title and its responsibilities would be an insurmountable barrier. When the paparazzi discovered his yacht offshore, they’d start hounding him and thereby discover her, too.
Not wanting to dwell on the negatives, he motored to a sea cave where they removed their clothes and made love. Then he took her back to the marina. There he got his red Alpha Romeo, and they raced along a curving black ribbon of asphalt up to an exclusive nightclub on a mountaintop terrace, where he was known but would not be bothered. They danced and, in between dances, they held hands and sipped Pinot Grigio at a corner table in the moonlight.
“You can hear the traffic even up here,” she marveled.
“Sound carries in the hills.”
“You should have told me that when we were in that abandoned farmhouse.”
Laughing, he caught her hand fiercely and kissed it. Under the big, quiet night at their private little table, they talked and talked, opening their souls and hearts so wide he wondered if he could ever close himself off to all emotion again.
“I could talk to you forever,” he said.
“Why? Why is this happening?”
“You think everything happens for a reason? Not knowing the answer to that question is one of life’s great mysteries.”
She was a mystery he wanted to solve. He wanted to do everything with her in the short time they had left together. But of course, all too soon it was three in the morning and she was yawning.
“I’m boring you,” he said.
“No, it’s the wine. It makes me sleepy.”
Taking her hand, he led her to the Alpha Romeo and drove her back to her hotel.
“I had a wonderful time,” she said, as he helped her out of the car.
She seemed all right. Then a sob caught in her throat.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered.
“Why do I need you so much?” she whispered.
His breath left his lungs on a shudder.
“I’m not usually such a crybaby.” She brushed at her damp cheeks.