“Babe, have you seen my brown leather wingtip shoes?”
The call comes from across the expansive apartment, at least two rooms down.
“They’re probably still boxed up,” I yell back, pulling out a picture frame from a box labeled memories. It’s the one of me and my sister, Gemma, visiting Mom in California. I grin at the hilarious memory. Tony demanded it be framed after I showed it to him. I place it on a table with a bunch of other photos to be hung.
Somewhere in this cavernous flat.
“Why are they still in boxes?” Tony calls, his voice a little closer, footsteps approaching.
“Because you haven’t unpacked them yet.”
As with most of our belongings.
It’s been two weeks since we moved to Rome for Tony’s new job and the last of our possessions and furniture were delivered a couple days ago. We started opening boxes that first night, then got distracted by wine and cheese and the scent of fresh baked bread down the street, which then led to a three-hour dinner followed by a night of love making.
Then, what do you know, it happened again yesterday.
Adjusting to life in Rome takes a lot of work. Hell, adjusting to life outside of New York with the man I decided to spend the rest of my life with takes…oh, who am I kidding? It’s no work at all.
In fact, it’s fucking delightful.
Life with Tony has been fun and adventurous. When he’s not at the office he’s taking me to his favorite cafes and museums. After all the time he’s spent here on business trips he’s practically a local. There’s even an old lady down the street that he knows by name and gets fresh baked focaccia from a couple times a week.
It’s been nothing short of magical.
It’s the moments he’s at work and I’m here alone with my translation book that I start to struggle. It’s almost comical, me typing furiously on the Google translate app trying to order a sandwich whenever I leave the apartment. The poor clerks cringe when they see me enter their shops, knowing I’m going to muck up their beautiful language.
That’s what I have Tony for. For now. Eventually I’ll need to buckle down and learn some Italian.
“I thought you were going to unpack all the clothes,” Tony says, poking his head into the bedroom.
“I unpacked my clothes.” I gesture to the pristine side of my closet, the clothes categorized by garment type and then by color. “You get to unpack your clothes.”
He glances skeptically over at his side of the closet. Six suits are hung very neatly…and that’s pretty much it.
“No.” He comes into the room, works his way through the boxes then crouches in front of me. “No, the plan was you were gonna unpack the clothes and I would unpack the kitchen. Balance. That’s how this relationship thing works.”
His grin is cocky and challenging and I grab hold with every jumping atom in my body.
“Oh, please,” I mutter, unpacking more photo albums and frames.
“What?” He demands, bravado up the wazoo.
“Tony.” I lean forward, keep my voice level. “If I had volunteered to unpack the kitchen in exchange for you unpacking the clothes, would you have said yes?”
His smile falters. I raise my eyebrows and cross my arms, waiting ever so patiently for his answer.
“Babe, it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s only there are particular ways I like my kitchen to be set up.”
“And this kitchen is small, ya know, it’s Italian style so I’ve gotta make use of what space I have in strategic ways only someone with knowledge around a kitchen would be able to execute.”
What utter bullshit.
“So, it makes sense you’d take care of the clothes and I’d take care of the kitchen. See? Balance.”
He smiles, leaning in for a kiss. I push him lightly and he falls back on his ass. So much for balance.
“You’re full of shit.” I stand, walking toward a box near my side of the bed. “You won’t let me go near your kitchen? Unpack your own clothes.”
I start to rifle through a box of throw blankets and decorative pillows. Believe it or not these came from his apartment, not mine.
“Why are you mad?” He follows me, his tone plaintive, and sits on the bed.
The sheets are still rumpled from our slow rise this morning, and seeing him there, in a pristine suit with the top few buttons of his shirt undone, tie hanging loosely around his neck, is almost too much for me to take. My boyfriend is hot. Off the charts Italian-Colombian hot with just enough New York attitude to get my burners set to scorching.
And he’s mine to love, to argue with, to keep all to myself.
It’s almost too good to be true.
“I need those shoes,” he continues. “I’m supposed to be going into the office in an hour and they’re the only ones I can wear with this suit.”
“I never knew you were so concerned with how you look.”
“Babe, unlike you, this beauty takes work.” He gestures to his full body, and yes, he’s beautiful. Tall and muscular and toned in places I didn’t know could be toned. He’s gorgeous and he doesn’t have a humble bone in his body.
“And by work you mean a little product in your hair, a shave, and you’re out the door?”
“A precise shave.” He grabs my hand, pulls me to stand in between in his spread legs. “You still mad?”
He kisses my stomach. Clad only in a thin tank top I can feel the heat of his breath through the fabric. His hands roam along my ass and stroke tenderly.
“I’m not mad.” I lean down and kiss him, slow, like syrup pouring onto fluffy pancakes. Sweet and tempting. He groans, his hands gripping my butt harder. He pulls me down onto his lap and by the erection grinding into me it’s not hard to tell he wants to take this further.
I pull back, nibble and kiss my way toward his ear, move my hips over his clothed cock in sinuous circles, and whisper, “Are you ever gonna let me use the kitchen?”
“I mean, if you need a glass of water or something sure—hey!”
I swiftly push out of his lap then grab a pillow from the fancy blanket and pillow box and chuck it at his head. Then another.
“Babe!” He complains, rolling over to the other side of the bed to duck for cover. “No fair!”
He’s a regular 007.
“At least it isn’t cologne.” After our turbulent courtship, I have strategically placed soft and easily tossable items around the apartment for throwing.
It’s not my fault Tony has a knack for riling me up, one I love dearly.
I reach for another pillow and come up empty. I’ve thrown them all.
Tony rises from his crouched position, two pillows in hand. His grin is victorious and sexy and evil as fuck.
“I’ve got all the ammo now.” His pretend maniacal laugh fills the room.
I take a moment to think strategically, assess what weapons I have at my disposition, and make the tactical decision to run for it.
“Coward!” He calls after me as I dash around boxes, laughing as he follows, my bare feet making little patter sounds on the lovely parquet floor.
I sprint for the sofa. There are at least four pillows in the living room I can use for ammo, but I forget, Tony is much taller and faster than me, and he eats up the distance between us before I can say fettucine.
His arms wrap around me with a facetiously evil cackle and I shriek with laughter. He picks me up, my legs kicking out, and we collapse on the couch, his mouth coming down on my neck and leaving suckling kisses.
“You got me all hot and bothered.”
“You said I’m not capable of using the damn kitchen. We’re even. Balance is important”
He grinds his cock into my ass then trails his hand down my front, nice and slow, torturing me.
It’s always this way with Tony, fun and thrilling and carefree and sex so good it leaves me wrecked. The anticipation alone sets my blood to boiling.
“Mm, that’s it,” he murmurs in my ear as his fingers slide beneath my stretchy shorts and find my slit. “I love when you don’t wear underwear. God, you’re wet, baby. You got just as hot as I did.”
I grind into his hand, unable to speak, but loving to listen to his dirty mouth. He’s always been a talker, inside and out of bed.
I love it. I love him.
He pushes a finger inside. Then another. The slick glide and easy way he slips in makes us both moan. I reach back and grip his neck, writhe over the long digits as they fuck me slowly, deeply. His thumb hovers over my clit, not touching, just out of reach. I try to push my hips up into it, but he holds me down, controls my movements.
“You’re so fucking sexy. Yes, move like that. Fuck my fingers. You want me inside you, baby? You want me fucking you all over our apartment? I don’t think we’ve gotten to the dining room table yet. Would you like that? If I laid you out like the most delicious feast and ate you up, licking and sucking every inch of your body, tracking your freckles with my tongue. Do you want that?”
By the end of his fantasy I’m panting and begging for it so deeply, my orgasm held just out of reach, controlled by his thumb that just needs to fucking press down.
“Yes, Tony. Yes.”
“I know you do.” He bites my ear and whispers, “Which is why it’s too bad I’ve gotta spend the rest of my morning searching for my shoes so I can get to work.”
He slips his fingers out of me, kisses me on my cheek, then gently removes himself from the couch and saunters like the cock of the walk into our bedroom. He tosses a shit eating grin over his shoulder at me, paired with a wink.
“Oh, no you didn’t,” I growl, glaring. “We’re never having sex again!” I yell after him, my unsatisfied body humming from need.
“Fine. Two can play at this game.”
I make it to work with plenty of time to spare despite the hour it takes me to cool down after fooling around with Sophie. Living with her, sharing my life with her, is better than I ever thought it would be. Sure, it’s only been a couple weeks since the move, but we’ve never been stronger.
After my idiocy back in New York I’m not taking anything for granted. She’s the love of my life and we’re gonna be together and happy, and that shit takes work. There is no part of me that’s got any delusions about how hard relationships are, especially when one half just gave up their entire life and moved across an ocean to be with you.
And damn, that still makes my heart sing like a woodland creature from some Disney movie. I’m as giddy as one of the heroines in the Christmas Prince romances Sophie makes me watch…even though it’s the middle of summer. That fluttery look those women get? Yeah, that’s me one hundred percent of the time.
“Tony,” Mrs. Alfonsi greets me in Italian after a day at the office. “My favorite lost American.”
She hands over the item I ordered earlier in the week. The Alfonsi panetteria has been my go-to stop for fresh baked bread, treats, and homemade specialty goods since my first visit to Italy. I was lost, meandering down the streets wherever my feet decided to take me, and Mrs. Alfonsi took it upon herself to usher me inside and feed me a meal worthy of the Queen of England.
“Oh, c’mon, Mrs. Alfonsi, you know even though my family fled during the war, I’m still Italian at heart.” I lean over the counter to kiss her on the cheek. “And Colombian.”
“If you had any sense you’d be full Italian. It’s the only way to live.” She shakes her Italian mama finger at me and I can’t help but grin at how serious she is.
“See you next week, Mrs. Alfonsi.”
“Bye, my Tony. Tell me how your sweetheart likes the gift.”
“I will. You’re the best.”
She bats me away, rolling her eyes as if I were one of her five sons.
It takes me ten minutes to walk home, another five tacked on for the extra stop I make to pick up some wine. The streets are bustling but our apartment is set slightly out of the way of the main touristy areas. Unfortunately, no matter where live here, you can’t help but run into tourists. That’s what happens when you live in one of the oldest cities in the world. But it’s nothing Sophie and I aren’t used to having both grown up in New York City, and for some reason, Sophie actually likes hanging out with tourists. Apparently, tourist watching is a favorite pastime of hers.
I learn new and miraculous things about my girl every minute of every day.
Is two months after meeting too soon to ask her to marry me?
I shake my head at myself as I bound up the steps, the old building clean and charming with white walls and a dark spiral staircase leading to the apartments. No elevator, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sophie and I couldn’t stop grinning as we were moving our stuff in, walking up and down the stairs, bantering and ribbing each other.
Just like the day we met, except so much more.
I unlock the door, eager to see my girl. My girlfriend. My love. Whatever she wants to call it. I don’t care as long as we’re together.
“Sophie?” I call out, dropping the packages on the counter. No answer.
I walk through the place, the high ceilings and epic windows bathed in oranges and pinks as the sun sets over the ancient city. An open window lets the warm breeze in, and I can’t help but stop to breathe in the scent of garlic and olive oil, wafting up from an apartment below.
Every day I allow myself a minute like this, to stop and look and listen and scent and absorb the wonders of my favorite city. And then I think of what it might have been like if I’d never met Sophie. If she hadn’t come with me.
Life would be so much duller.
A voice filters across the wind and I instantly know where she is. The small balcony off our bedroom is her favorite spot to write. She says the research of whatever political or socioeconomic issues she’s covering for the news website she writes for comes together perfectly in that spot, accompanied by a tea or decaf coffee.
As I approach, it isn’t typing I hear but a conversation. I linger by the doorframe, just out of sight. Sophie’s back is to me, facing the laptop screen filled with her sister Gemma’s face, and looking out over the sunset.
“I miss you, Gemma. How’s California?”
“It’s foggy. Isn’t California supposed to be sunny?”
“Not Northern California.”
An exaggerated sigh followed by Sophie’s chuckle fills the silence.
“How are you doing?” Gemma asks. “You look a little sad.”
“Don’t lie to your big sister.”
Sophie rubs her fingers through her short hair, the ends standing up in odd angles when she’s done. I love that rumpled look. I love being responsible for giving her that rumpled look.
“I’m starting to miss New York. I miss you and Adele. I miss Tony’s family, having gotten to know them in the short time we’ve been together.”
I come out onto the balcony, her quiet tone worrying. Never do I want Sophie to regret the choice she made. In no world would I ever allow her to regret. If she needs to go back to New York to be happy, I’ll fucking pack right this second and we’ll be back tomorrow.
“I thought you liked it there,” Gemma asks.
“I do. It’s the most glorious place I’ve ever been. And Tony keeps talking about all the places we’ll visit from here. It’s exciting.”
“You don’t sound excited.”
Sophie shrugs, wrapping her arms around her middle, crumbling in on herself.
“Sometimes I’m scared I’ll screw it up. That my insecurities will get the best of me again.”
Oh, hell no am I letting that slide. I walk up behind her, place my hands on the back of the chair.
“That’s never gonna happen,” Gemma says knowingly, having spotted me behind Sophie.
“And how do you know?”
“Because I’d never let it.”
Sophie spins around at my voice, her eyes wide with shock.
“Tony, you’re home early.”
“Hi Gemma.” I wave at the screen. “Bye Gemma.” And promptly close it.
“Call me later!” Gemma yells before the call is cut off.
“Hey!” Sophie says, but there’s no real outrage in her voice. She seems subdued, the playful artlessness of our morning argument gone, replaced by pensive uncertainty.
I turn her chair toward me and kneel in front of her, rubbing her bare thighs. She’s wearing a pretty green sun dress with little white polka dots sprinkled in odd patterns. It reminds me of her freckles.
“How you doin’?” I ask, keeping up the glide of my hands over her legs, massaging her calves, all the way down to her feet.
“Nice if this is how you’re going to greet me whenever you come home.”
“Sophie…” I warn, not willing to take anything but honesty. And she knows it.
“I’ve been a little out of sorts lately.”
“You seemed okay this morning.”
“When you’re here, everything’s fine. In fact, I’m so happy I can barely contain it. The problem is when you’re not here. I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“What about your writing?”
“That’s great. I love the research and getting to talk to the locals. It’s exactly as I imagined it.” Her breath hitches. She looks away.
I turn her chin back toward me, let her see me head on. “I’m here for you Sophie. Tell me what you need.”
“I need—” She takes a deep breath and I brace for the worst. “I need you to teach me Italian.”
“Okay…” That wasn’t exactly where I thought this might go, but I can work with that.
“And once I know enough Italian, I need a job.”
“But you have a job.”
“There are sister publications I can work with here, but no one will take me seriously unless I speak Italian. Will you help me?”
I hug her close, loving this plan of action. “Of course. You know I got you. Always.”
She buries her face in my neck and squeezes me tight. I love it when she hangs onto me like a boa constrictor. There’s no place in the world I’d rather be.
“I’ve got a present for you.”
“Is it long and hard?” Her grin is mischievous, her gaze flickering down to my groin.
“Get your mind outta the gutter. It’s in the kitchen, I just gotta set it up. Give me five minutes?”
“Okay,” she says after kissing me softly. “Five minutes.”
I run off, putting everything where it needs to be as quickly as possible, so I can start our fun night. I call out to her when everything is perfect. “Ready!”
She stops short when she sees me, then doubles over with laughter.
“You’re naked! In an apron!”
“I told you I like naked cooking.” I pick up the new apron, the one I bought from Mrs. Alfonsi, and hold it out to her. “Care to naked cook with me?”
She places her hand over heart, as if the moment is too precious.
“You’re gonna let me cook in your beloved kitchen?”
“Only if you’re naked.”
And without a second thought or hesitation, Sophie’s dress, panties and bra end up on the floor. She stands facing me with her hip popped and her hand on her waist, smiling, knowing what she’s doing to me.
“Your apron?” I offer it, trying to look at her eyes and not her breasts. God, I need to get my mouth around her breasts.
“I don’t need it. I can do the prep and you can do anything that involves hot oil.”
“I’m sorry, does me standing here naked bother you? Is it hurting your delicate sensibilities?”
“Will your man brain not be able to concentrate if I don’t cover up?”
Oh, she’s fucking with me. Because I left her wet and wanting earlier.
Turnabout is fair play, but me and my man brain don’t intend to leave anyone wanting right now.
“What are you doing?” She asks when I turn the burner and oven off then shed my apron.
“I don’t feel like having dinner right now.”
“No. I want dessert first.”
She grins, and it takes less than a second for both of us to be on each other, rolling around the floor and making love like randy teenagers.
Dinner is forgotten. So is naked cooking. But with Sophie sighing and humming against my skin, her body snug around mine, I can go without dinner for a while longer.
“I love you,” I whisper in her ear after we come, our orgasms still shuddering through our bodies.
“Say you love me.” I kiss her breast, tug her pelvis closer to mine.
“Not in the mood.” She plays coy.
“Tell me.” I find her clit and rub it the way I know she likes, the way she wanted it this morning.
“I can’t always give you what you want,” she says on a moan.
I chuckle, and it isn’t until the second orgasm I give her that she finally tells me what I need to hear, what I would know even if she never said it out loud.
“I love you, Tony.” She bites my bottom lip. “Now don’t ever leave me hanging like you did this morning.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, baby.” I flip her onto her stomach, slide my renewed cock back inside her wet cunt with her legs shut, making her sleek channel tight and excruciatingly gorgeous. “Let me make it up to you.”
It takes another hour or so until I’m forgiven, and by then, we’ve pretty much forgotten about the pretend fight.
At least until the next morning when I ask, “Seriously though, where are my shoes?”