Book Title: An Italian Affair
Author: Amanda Burns
Publisher: Fingerprint! Publishing
Number of Pages: 300
Date Published: Nov. 20, 2023
Price: INR 178
Chapter Five (Pg – 33 – 35)
The Sacred and the Profane
Stefano pulled the phone from his pocket. He’d been checking it incessantly since her message. He had spent a lot of time over the last thirty years, thinking of her. Remembering her and, when internet made it possible, he’d looked for her online. When he first knew her, his desire for her had taken him by surprise. Julia had got under his skin and he couldn’t leave her alone. She had poured her love over him like honey. Inexperienced, a little naïve, unashamedly vulnerable. Whenever he thought about her, his mind was tangled up with images, sounds, and taste. Memories of her followed him. When they came, it was as though she was standing in front of him. The feeling in his stomach when he knew they would make love. He felt it now. Knowing it was a momentary release. Knowing she would come again and again into his dreams. Day and night. As he sat outside in the cool of the evening, he called up one of his favorite daydreams, closing his eyes, he let his
mind take him there.
When her visa was nearing its end, he had taken her on a long drive to Switzerland, so she could step across the border and back again, to get her passport stamped again. So that he could have her for another six months. They ate in a small restaurant in the mountains. He remembered the meal, blueberry gnocchi, asking her whether she preferred this meal or something simpler. Julia had looked at him, her face so full of love that he wanted to hold her. Pull her onto his lap and kiss her until they were both Breathless.
“I don’t care. What we eat is immaterial to me. I only care about being with you.”
And the drive back. His eyes closed at the memory. Desire stirring immediately. The drive back where she had looked at him with an impish grin. He remembered the car. A white Renault. Manual. The highway was fairly quiet.
“What?” he had asked her, unable to repress an answering smile, “What are you thinking about? What are you up to?” Glancing over at her, he watched as she put her index finger into her mouth. He felt a shot of desire hit him.
“Julia? What are you doing?”
She had smiled at him and taken the hand closest to her off the steering wheel. Bringing it to her mouth, she pulled in one of her fingers.
Running her tongue around it before giving it a light suck. “Niente . . . nothing.” She lied. The truth sparkling in her eyes.
“I was just thinking what it might be like if I touched you. How it might impact your driving.” Julia had reached over, running her hand across the front of his trousers.
He shot a glance across at her, acutely aware of her hand making lazy circles in his groin and his immediate response.
“What exactly are you thinking about?” his voice strained. “Well,” Julia answered, “I can see. I can feel. That you might have something for me to do. While we go on this long, long drive back home.”
Stefano felt his stomach flip. What was she thinking? Surely, she wasn’t going to. But she was. He felt her fingers undo the buttons of his jeans. He could feel her watching him. Looking at his face. He tried not to close his eyes as they sped down the highway. He
could feel himself tilting toward the edge. The unexpected. The wanting. He had fooled around in cars before. He was Italian after all. But this. This was different. There was an edge of danger that made it even more erotic.
“Julia, Julia,” he moaned, “stop, stop.”
Julia had pulled her hair back as she leant over him. His eyes squeezed shut before snapping open. “Driving, driving,” he told himself. One hand off the wheel, he threaded his fingers through her hair. Feeling her begin a gentle insistent rhythm. Fuck, fuck he couldn’t believe what was happening. Teasing him as she brought him close to the edge and then let the desire subside just enough. A truck passed them. He wondered if the driver could see. And then he didn’t care. Didn’t care if they crashed.
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Slowing down, he pulled over to the side of the road, narrowly missing the fence that ran alongside the verge. He sat there breathing heavily. Julia leaned back against the passenger door, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. Who was this woman who had stepped into his life with her smile that made him feel as though he was the only man in the world. A warmth suffused his whole body, centring in his chest.
“Julia,” he said shaking his head, “Julia.”
“Drive,” she said.
And now that message. Of course, he had responded immediately. He knew why, but he wasn’t ready to admit it to himself. She had appeared in Venice after all those years and disappeared again. He remembered the moment she stepped through the door. It was as though the intervening years had simply dissolved. Everything he had felt for her then came rushing back with a force that was unexpected and destabilising. On the ferry to Lido to meet her that evening, he had been transported to the times when he would leave work to head home to her. It felt as though all was right with the world. It had felt like that again that evening when he had held her again. Kissed her. And then watched her walk away. He had let her walk away again.
And now. And now, his soul whispered. What happens now? He didn’t know. He couldn’t let his mind go there. There was too much that would unravel. Too much that he would have to unravel. So now we wait. Let’s wait and see if the time is right.
Extracted with permission from An Italian Affair by Amanda Burns, published by Fingerprint! Publishing.
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