Short Story – The Italian

She was touching him everywhere.

It was driving him mad.

Amato Costa was used to being ogled, having women speak about him behind their hands. Men whispered his name in reverence. In the world of the Italian Football League, Amato was the crown prince. The hero.

And the poor sucker who just had knee replacement surgery and would never play again.

Life was crap.

“Pardon me, Mr. Costa.” His little butterfly nemesis interrupted his morbid thoughts. “I’ll need you to put your arm here.”

She tugged on his arm, her warm fingers curling around his forearm, placing it where she thought best. Did he call her a butterfly? He meant gnat. Pest. Bumble bee.

“And this leg here.”

Seriously, if the woman grabbed his thigh –

Instead, she knelt as his feet, her long golden hair falling over her face. She pushed it back with an impatient hand, tucking it behind her ears. The movement outlined her narrow elfin chin, offset with those wide tip-tilted blue eyes. She looked like a faerie.

She acted like General MacArthur.

Her hands locked around his ankle, attempting to move his leg further to the right. When he didn’t immediately comply, she tilted her head back, looking up at him with those serious baby blues. “Is there a problem, Mr. Costa?”

“Yes, Ms. Ambrose. There is.”

She tilted back, showing no fear or awe of the once-great Amato. Just waited patiently for him to speak.

“First of all, I insist you call me Amato.” At her nod, he continued. “Second, that is my bad leg. It will not move that way.”

At her gasp, he felt a spurt of satisfaction. So she wasn’t an ice princess, then.

“I apologize, Mr….Amato.” She rose gracefully to her feet, her full pink lips pulled down in a frown. She nibbled her lower lip a moment, then stood on tip-toe, her delicate hands touching his shoulders. “Perhaps if you could just turn your upper body?”

He did as directed, scowling at her touching him once again. Didn’t the woman have a clue? Treating his body like a statue when he was a warm-blooded – no make that hot-blooded – man?

He would go crazy before this day was over.

Her fingers combed through his hair, her lithe body pressed tight against his chest. He grasped those thin wrists in his hands, stilling her movements, causing her to look at his with shock evident in those faerie eyes. “Ms. Ambrose.” His voice was husky, his accent deeper.

Ah diavalo.

He slid his hands down her fragile arms, cupping her elbows, holding her tight. A muffled squeak issued from between her lips before he silenced it, turning his head, tasting her essence, plundering her mouth. His tongue traced the seam of her lips, begging her to open to him like a flower.

With a grunt, he stepped back, releasing her arms, both of them breathing heavily. Her cheeks were flushed, her lips plump and utterly kissable. But her eyes blazed blue fire.

“You impaled me with your shoe.”

She propped her hands on her hips, tapped the heel of her stiletto on the hardwood flooring in front of him.

“And I’ll do it again, if you don’t mind your manners.”

“Me?” He sputtered. “You’re the one with the wandering hands.”

“Mr. Costa.” She could see him flinch at her icy tone. Good. “You are here as my client, and as such I can and will touch you. Trust me when I say it is totally impersonal, and means nothing more to me than if I was touching my own grandfather.”

Boy, she hoped he bought that whopper.

“Grandfather?” He pulled himself up to his impressive six-foot-four height and towered over her. “You dare compare me to your grandfather?”

In all truth, she couldn’t compare him to anyone, much less her grandfather. He was an Adonis. Male beauty all rolled up in one sleek, muscled package. His bare chest gleamed at her, the skin stretched tight over pecs that made her mouth water. The long, ropy muscles in his thighs had almost caused her to fan herself when she had knelt at his feet. But that Italian accent, even when he was cursing at her, made her insides turn to mush.

“Mr. Costa.” She made placating movements with her hands. “Amato. Please. I don’t mean to be insulting; I’m merely doing my job.”

He leaned back against the wall, the sun speared through the blinds highlighting the bottom half of his face, caressing his broad shoulders and worked its way down to his washboard abs.

“Stop.” She dashed around the studio, grabbing her equipment, tossing the camera strap over her shoulder and skidded to a halt in front of him. “Don’t move. Don’t blink.”

“Ms.—“

“Ah! Not one word. Not one muscle.”

Sweat dripped down her back as she frantically set up the lights, setting the precious camera on its tripod. Moments later, it was all in place. The sunlight had deepened, outlining the musculature with dark hills and valleys. She almost cried at the beauty.

“Tilt your chin back.”

He did as she asked, although for as proud as the man acted, he needn’t any help from her on looking haughty.

“Do. Not. Move.”

A rapid series of clicks echoed through the room like the firing of a machine gun. She kept her eye on the view finder, tilting the camera slightly, gesturing to Amato on how to move, but not touching that warm skin, those bulging muscles. She’d learned her lesson.

The light slowly disintegrated, and was gone.

Victoria leaned back from the lens, wiped perspiration off her brow.

“Come. Take a look at the photos.” She held the camera, showed him how to operate it

He grunted as he flickered through the images. “I guess they will do. A good start to my new career.”

“Are you kidding?” She crowed. “This is going to be the best romance cover Harlequin has ever seen.”

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