Home > A Place in the Sun(5)

A Place in the Sun(5)
R.S. Grey

“No wonder she passed out,” Massimo laughed, groaning with the weight of the suitcase.

We were outside her room, dropping her things against the wall when I heard a rustling on the bed followed by an exasperated English accent.

“Oh my Liam Neeson. I’ve been taken!”

I’D SEEN MOVIES; I knew this was just what the gritty underbelly of the European sex trade must look like. I’d woken up disoriented in a dusty room. Very little light passed through the boarded-up windows and the stench of mildew hung in the air.

I’d known it was bound to happen eventually. My mother had given me great bone structure, and growing up with naff brothers had forced me to cultivate a fantastic (and apparently, highly abductable) personality. I supposed that even with the smell of sick clinging to me, my raw sexual aura had shone through, and now rogue sheikhs and warlords were in the other room trying to outbid one another for me. To save myself, I’d need to somehow dampen my agreeable nature during auction.

Voices sounded out in the hallway, hushed tones I strained to hear. I tried to sit up and then groaned at the effort. They’d likely already put something in my system, possibly via poison dart on the train. I wasn’t tied down or anything, so they’d have taken chemical precautions to ensure I didn’t run away.

When two men rushed into the room, I pushed myself back against the wall and held my hands out to stop them from getting any closer.

“I don’t know how much you’ve paid for this—millions, I’m sure—but my family is very wealthy, and they’ll double it for my freedom.”

It was true: my family was from old English money, the kind that seems to grow no matter how much you spend.

The two traffickers glanced between each other, confused, and I sighed. Of course, they wouldn’t understand English well.

I leaned closer and spoke very slowly with dramatic gestures. “You haaaavvve to let meee gooooooo.”

The shorter one propped his hands on his hips and turned to his friend. “What is she going on about? And why is she speaking as though we’re mentally ill?”

I clapped, excited. “Oh good, you speak English! That should make the whole ransoming bit much easier. Shouldn’t you two be busy cutting letters out of magazines?”

The taller bloke in the baseball cap bit down to conceal a smile. “She thinks we’ve kidnapped her, Massimo.”

Massimo blanched and whipped his head back to me. “No! No, you passed out in the square outside. In Vernazza. We carried you in here because everyone was gawking and…”

It took a bit more information before the pieces of my day started to settle back into place. The sick feeling on the train, how lightheaded I’d felt as I’d tried to maneuver my way down to the village square. At some point I’d blacked out, and now I was there, in a dusty room with two Italian men. Now that I was fairly confident they weren’t sex traffickers, I let myself mull over their features. They were very handsome, especially the taller one. I didn’t know his name yet, but I kept slipping quick glances his way as Massimo chattered on about my passing out and how I could have died, yada yada. He lingered in the door of the room, happy to let Massimo take the lead, but I wanted him to step closer and introduce himself, peel the cap off his head so I could see his face properly. From what I could see beneath it, he was beautiful. Golden from the Italian sun. Tall and muscled beneath his rolled long-sleeve shirt and jeans. I scanned higher, up to his defined jaw. He was studying me just as intently as I was studying him, and instead of looking away when our eyes locked beneath the brim of his cap, I smiled.

I was in Italy to find love, after all. How convenient that this romantic-looking man, out of every man in the village, had been the one to rescue me.

“Are you feeling okay now? Should I call the doctor?” Massimo asked, stepping in front of his friend and cutting off our intense staring contest. I nearly shifted my head around him, but he was being kind and I didn’t want to snub my nose at his hospitality.

“Honestly, I think I just need a few hours of sleep. I’ve had a rough day and I’m still a bit dizzy from travel.”

Massimo nodded. “Right, well—”

“What is this place?” I cut in, glancing around the room. Sure, it was dusty, but the bones of the room were nice. The window, though boarded up, was large, and beneath the layer of dirt, I could just barely make out pastel yellow paint on the walls. It reminded me of sunflowers.

I’d wanted the tall one to answer, but Massimo replied first. “It’s an old bed and breakfast. Our grandmother took care of it when she was alive.”

I grinned. “Perfect. I’d like to rent a room here, please.”

The man leaning against the door jamb laughed. “In case you hadn’t noticed, the place isn’t exactly operational.”

His voice shook me. There were layers of depth there, a proper English accent at its base with a rich Italian layer up top. I suspected he’d spent a good deal of time both in England and Italy.

Massimo turned back and addressed his friend in rapid-fire Italian. I ached to cut in and ask him to translate, but I held my tongue until they were finished.

Finally, he glanced back to me and clapped his hands as if the situation was settled. “There’s a place across the square. They should have a room available.”

I nodded, though a part of me wanted to struggle, to insist on staying in the dark room. There was something wonderful about it, the history of its walls, the mysteries that filled the boxes stacked in the corner.

“Are you okay to walk?” Massimo asked with a worried expression.

Truthfully, I still felt terrible, but I didn’t want to take up any more of their time. I’d force my dizziness aside and let them lead me across the square. As soon as I made it to my room, I could crash.

With the promise of sleep on the horizon, I leaned forward and dropped my feet to the ground, testing the waters. I still felt ill, but not nearly as close to passing out as I had earlier. I put my weight into my feet and was about to stand from the bed when the man from the doorway stepped forward and gripped my forearm to steady me.

I stilled for the briefest of moments, shocked by his touch. It was warm and unwavering. He wasn’t worried that he’d overstepped his bounds, not like English blokes would have been, teetering in their boots with shaky, nervous voices. This man had rushed forward to help me with a pragmatism that showed he wasn’t just a gentleman when told to be.

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