Home > A Place in the Sun(6)

A Place in the Sun(6)
R.S. Grey

“Steady,” he said, helping lead me through the doorway of the room. He reached for my backpack with his other hand and slung it over his shoulder like it was filled with cotton candy. Massimo reached for my suitcase, turned down my offer of help, and then the three of us headed back out the door toward the square. I glanced behind me one last time, saying goodbye to the old, abandoned bed and breakfast before Massimo locked the door behind us.

“I’m Georgie by the way,” I said, chancing a quick glance up to the man whose grip was still around my forearm.

He offered a curt nod and continued to lead me across the square.

When it was clear he wasn’t going to offer up his name on his own, I asked.

“And what are you called?”

“Gianluca.”

The name slipped off his tongue so beautifully, I nearly asked him to say it once more, just so I could listen to his accent.

“But his friends call him Luca,” Massimo filled in, rushing forward to catch up to us.

Luca. I rolled the name around my head, testing it on his tall frame. It fit perfectly.

The door to my room was barely locked before I lunged for the twin bed and collapsed on top of the sheets. I’d meant to rest there for only a moment before getting up to wash, but my body had other plans. A short nap turned into the longest, deepest sleep of my life. I didn’t wake until the following morning, disoriented and so hungry I was nearly delirious. It’d been over twenty-four hours since I’d had a meal.

I blinked my eyes open, rolled to sit up, and waited for the dizziness to overtake me again.

It didn’t.

Which meant it was time to show Vernazza my good side—that is, the one not covered in vomit.

I threw off my soiled clothes from the day before and hopped into the shower. My room was barely more than a broom cupboard, but it was cheap. Plus, the woman who’d checked me in the day before had promised I could stay as long as I wanted, though I suspected she’d have said anything to elicit a smile from Gianluca. I toweled off and inspected my surroundings. There was the small bed, the sheets still mostly in place despite my having collapsed right on top of them, and a small wicker chair resting in the corner of the room. The plaster walls were painted a light blue and a small painting of the choppy sea hung on the wall over the bed.

I turned to the door, where Massimo and Gianluca had dropped my luggage the day before. They’d ensured I made it to my room all right and then they’d nearly sprinted away, no promise of meeting up or seeing me again. Oh god, who’d blame them. I’d accused them of kidnapping me! It was all a bit depressing. Gianluca was one of the most handsome men I’d ever met and I hadn’t even properly seen him, not with the cap on. In all likelihood, I probably wouldn’t get another chance. He’d seen me at my absolute worst, bits of dried throw-up and all.

I sighed and dragged my suitcase across the floor, deciding to forget about my embarrassing arrival. Sure, it would have been lovely if Gianluca had insisted on staying the night and nursing me back to health (with his mouth), but there would be other men in Italy, other deliciously handsome men—I was sure of it.

I propped my suitcase open on the wicker chair and started to flip through my clothes. It was early summer in Italy, chilly in the mornings and evenings but warm and sunny in the afternoons. I rummaged around for a simple white sundress and was about to drop my towel when a loud gothic bell rang out in the square behind me, reminding me where I was.

Vernazza.

I grinned and flew to the window, flinging it open with enough gusto that the shutters slapped against the plaster walls inside my room. It punched me right in the gut, the beauty of the place. The main square was surrounded on three sides by pastel buildings: small hotels, rooms, apartments, restaurants stacked up three or four stories high on the mountainside. They were all varying shades of pink and light red, yellow and green, cast in early morning light. The sun had barely begun to rise over the terraced hills surrounding the small village. The sea air swelled past the window, blooming goosebumps across my exposed shoulders. I clutched my towel around my middle and leaned out, glancing to the left and inhaling the harbor and sea that lined the village on the fourth side. It was just as spectacular as the view from the train: turquoise water and bright blue skies stretched out to infinity.

The church bells rang seven times in total, a beautiful sound that I mourned after they’d finished, but then I remembered that they’d only just begun. The day was young. I left the windows open, enjoying the cool breeze as I dressed for the day. I didn’t bother fixing myself up. After a day of suffering, I wanted to get out and explore. Besides, my stomach was grumbling so loud I feared I would wake up the other guests staying in the building.

I flung on a pair of leather sandals, stuffed the small room key in my purse, and set off down the narrow staircase. The woman who’d checked me in the day before was already set up behind the counter on the ground floor. She glanced up and smiled when she saw me approach.

“Feeling better?” she asked with a thick Italian accent.

I nodded. “Yeah, sorry about all the drama yesterday. I didn’t plan on arriving so close to death.”

She laughed and stood up, reaching across the counter with her hand. “It’s…” She paused for a moment, trying to find the right English word. “Normal?”

I nodded. “Ah, well that’s reassuring.”

“I’m Chiara.”

I grinned. “Georgie.”

She was younger than I’d thought at first, about my age or maybe a year or two older. Her long hair was darker than mine, nearly black, and her eyes almost matched.

“Are you having breakfast now?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I smoothed a hand against my stomach. “I’m starved.”

“There is a place,” she said, turning and pointing through the front door of the hotel. “Just up the road. The Blue Marlin. Tell Antonio that Chiara sent you.”

My stomach grumbled loudly then, as if wanting to answer her itself. Chiara laughed and waved me off, promising to see me when I returned to my room later.

I stepped out of the hotel and my sandals clapped against the stone walkway. I’d been in the square the day before, but this felt massively different. Then, not only had I been sick and disoriented, I’d arrived in the middle of the day when the square was crowded with tourists. Now, as I stepped away from the hotel and stood on the perimeter of the square, I felt like I was seeing a new side of Vernazza, a secret, quiet side. The tables and umbrellas used for the square’s restaurants were closed and pushed to the side, stored up until they needed them for lunch service later in the day.

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