The Italian Job - Part 8

The next two months were hectic to say the least. Luca and I went everywhere together. But it was all business, business and yet more business. Most nights we just collapsed into bed exhausted. There is such a thing as too much wining and dining and the endless travelling was always a pain in the bum.

At the end of November, we were in bed together at a villa somewhere near Acapulco. I’d been playing my part of the dutiful wife and assistant. I even had a couple of rings on my finger to help the illusion. That hadn’t stopped our host at a reception in the City earlier that evening from trying to get me away from the main group and into a side room. It was obvious that he had only one thing on his mind. I could understand it as his wife was heavily pregnant. A few sharp kicks to the shins plus me saying,
“You really don’t want to go any further. My husband would eat a wimp like you for breakfast. Besides, your wife is watching you like a hawk.”
Then I took his little finger and bent it back until he let out a little yelp.

I walked away from him and almost dragged Luca out of the place before anything bad could happen.

Luca had just closed a big deal with another rich Mexican. I knew the hard work we ‘d both put in just to get the signature on the contract. I was exhausted, worn out, knackered. I needed some time to recharge my batteries. More importantly, we needed some time together. That sort of time had been in very short supply in recent months.

“Franky, I need a break. We both need a break. We have hardly stopped still for the past two months.”

“What do you mean?” Replied a sleepy Luca.

“What I mean my darling is that in the eight weeks since we started travelling together and everything, we have not spent more than three consecutive nights in the same country let alone the same bed.”

He didn’t reply straight away.

Instead he turned over in bed and kissed me.

“Has it been that long?”

A small grin appeared on his face.
“You!”

Then he kissed me. As he did so, his hand found its way to my crotch.

~o~O~o~

Three days later we woke up together in bed to a wintery Tuscan sun.

“Are you one hundred per cent sure we can stay here for a whole week?” I said when his eyes opened.

“Yes. Now go back to sleep.”
His eyes closed again.

Instead of following suit, I got out of bed and opened the shutters wide. The sunlight streamed into the room.

Luca turned over, away from the light.

Unperturbed, I went to the bottom of the bed and lifted the covers. There right in front of me were two feet right for tickling.

Five seconds later Luca was out of bed.

“Now that I’m up, what are your plans for the day? You do have plans don’t you?”

“I don’t have any.” I replied.

“I just want to be with you. We do whatever comes along without a care in the world. Ok?”

“If you say so.”

“Yes I say so. Now I’m going downstairs to prepare breakfast.”

“Why… Oh never mind.”

*

Half an hour later we were sitting around the same table where I’d first met Luca.

“This is very pleasant,” said Luca as his eyes wandered around the kitchen.

I smiled back at him.

“Yes it is. It is also far more preferable than all those hotel meals we’ve been eating the past few months.”

“Hmm”

My smile broadened.

“If you are looking for your phone or your laptop then you are going to have a hard time finding them. I’ve switched the phone off and hidden them somewhere in the house. Can’t we at least spend a little time together? Just us? No phones, no Internet?”

“But…”

“Luca Francisco, sometimes you are the most irritating person in the world. A few days away from the business is all I’m asking. I don’t think it will go up in a puff of smoke in a few days will it? I know that even though you say you have the week off, if I let you near a phone or your laptop you will spend almost every hour of the day and night working. This is our time. Ok?”

He looked at me slightly surprised by my directness.

“I know you are right darling but it is hard.”

“Yeah. Like a drug addict and giving up his regular fix,” I joked.

“I know. I know. Claudia has said the very same thing to me in the past from just about where you are standing.”

I smiled.
“So? Great minds and all that?”

“Ok. Ok. I get the message.”

Later that morning we left the house and drove into Sienna. It was market day and the place was bustling. We spent a delightful hour wandering around the stalls tasting lots and then buying some of the truly wonderful produce on offer. Then we ate lunch in a small café just of the main square. Luca seemed to be starting to unwind. His body language told me that at least for a few hours he was not thinking about the next mega yacht that he was going to sell to someone trying to outdo Larry Ellison or Roman Abramovitch in the “my mega yacht is bigger than yours” pissing contest.

On the way back to the house we stopped at a viewpoint and admired the scenery. Even in winter Tuscany is beautiful. The warming wintery sun really made the light special. I began to appreciate why so many artists and painters are attracted to the place.

That evening we rounded off a perfect day eating some of the food we’d bought that morning along with a bottle of Chianti Classico that came from a vineyard less than 1km from where we were sitting. I was getting to really like the huge wooden table that dominated the kitchen. For an instant I debated shipping it to the house in Bath. It was just an instant, I promise.

As we relaxed after the meal, I brought up the subject of Christmas.

“Darling, you do know that Christmas is only a few weeks away don’t you?”

Franki didn’t answer. He just rolled his eyes upwards. I ignored him and carried on.

“Where are we going to spend it and more importantly, what about the children? Am I going to be their governess for the four-week school holidays or are they going to spend some time with their mother?”

“One question at a time please, my darling.”

I sat patiently waiting for him to get around to answering.

Eventually he did.

“I don’t know. It all depends upon Gina. As you know my ex-wife can be very elusive. She’s probably off somewhere with her so-called friends. I’ll try to call her, when I get my phone back that is?”

I laughed and asked,

“Where do you want to spend Christmas? Here, or Genoa or in England?”

“I think I’d like to spend it in England. Perhaps, Benito or Sophia might have made some friends that live close that they’d like to visit or even have visit us?”

I grinned a smile back at him.

“Good answer. If we do stay in Bath perhaps we can get Claudia and Saffy to spend it with us.”
He smiled back at me.

I chuckled.

“Yes. From what Saffy told me when we last spoke on the phone, they do seem to be making a go of it. The fact that they’ve been seeing each other for more than two months is unusual in itself for Claudia. This Saffy friend of yours must be a special person. I can’t wait to get to know her a lot better.”

The next day, I relented and gave Luca his phone. In return he took me shopping in Milan. We went up by train and had a great time. I spent a good deal on money on some delightful clothes which I modelled for Luca that evening.

~o~O~o~

A couple of days later Luca burst into the kitchen where I was preparing some pasta sauce for lunch.

“I’ve just heard from Gina that she’s going skiing in Aspen for Christmas. She got rather angry when I asked when she would be collecting Benito and Sophia for the holidays.”

I smiled back at him.
“She seems to be keeping to form then?”

Luca laughed.

Then he became serious.
“Are you really ok with this? There will be an awful lot of work for you over the holidays.”

I stopped what I was doing, rinsed and dried my hands. Then I took his hands in mine and smiled.

“If I am to be a bit more than your trophy wife then, well, it’s all part of the territory.”

Luca looked me right in the eyes.
“You are far more than a trophy wife and you know it.”

“I know that silly.”

I grinned.

“But I have to remind you every so often.”

I smiled a bit more.

“Don’t I?”

*

That evening at dinner I asked Luca.
“About Christmas”

He gave a little groan.
“Yes?”

I could tell that he was getting a bit fed up with me trying to plan things this early.

“Well, it is more about Sophia and Benito.”

“What? I’ve already told you I don’t have any idea about what to get them as presents.”

“No, it is not about that.”

I lifted my left hand up and waggled my fingers.

“It is about these and us.”

“Oh.”

He thought for a moment.

“You are anxious to present the right picture?”

I nodded back to him.

“Separate bedrooms and all that?”

I nodded again.
“They will probably be looking out for any signs of romance between us especially after the last two people you have employed. Besides I would love to spend some time with them as their Governess and not as a prospective Step Mother, so to speak.”

Luca was silent for a while. Then he said quietly.
“They know.”

My face dropped.
“They know? Know what?”

“They know about us.”
Then he looked at his feet. That was something he did when he had something to hide or embarrassing to say.

“They guessed. Well, sort of. They ‘Skype’ each other almost every day. They put two and two together from my phone calls to them.”

I chuckled.

“What’s to funny?”

“I was just trying to imagine what I was like at their age. Things have really changed. They are very mature for their age.”

He didn’t say anything.

“If they have guessed then fine. Besides, they probably spot that something was amiss. Kids their age are very astute.”

He smiled back.
“I won’t wear the rings though. They aren’t real.”

As soon as I said those words, I knew I’d put my foot right in it.
“Real? What made you think that they aren’t real?”

“I… I’m sorry. I just assumed that they weren’t that’s all.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

I took hold of his hand and smiled sweetly.
“We didn’t choose them together did we?”

“That is not how we do things in Italy. The Groom buys the rings.”
“We aren’t in Italy. Well we are at the moment but I hope you know what I mean?”

I held his hand tight.
“Darling, they really are not my style. I’d really prefer something a little more discrete and modest.”

He just smiled back at me.

Then he extracted his hand from mine and made a winding motion around his little finger.
I kissed him. I kissed him long and hard.

Over the next week I slowly persuaded, cajoled and frankly bullied Luca into getting Christmas organised.

I even managed to buy a few presents in Florence. I let Luca take me to ‘see the sights’. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I’d been there in August. I had to admit to myself that Firenze was far more pleasant at the beginning of December than it had been in the middle of July. A lot less tourists taking selfies every few steps and far more comfortable in terms of temperature.

All too soon we resumed our busy life. Our first trip was to Sochi in southern Russia. My Russian was going to come in handy at last.

~o~O~o~

I emailed Saffy about prospects for Christmas from our hotel that overlooked the Black Sea. To my surprise she replied less than five minutes later.

“Fran,
Sochi eh? Don’t drink too much Vodka! You know what them Russians are like after a few drinks!
What a great idea for crimble. I’ll talk to Claudia tonight. She’s coming down for the weekend. Don’t say anything. I know it is a record.

Saffy.

I smiled when I read her reply. Things were certainly looking up a bit. Things were apparently getting a little bit serious between them. I was pleased for Saffy, very pleased.

My musings were interrupted by Luca.

“Come on Darling. Mr Federov is waiting for us.”

“Coming Darling.”

I closed down the network link and then logged off the PC.

I was still smiling when I joined Luca and we went downstairs to meet the client once again.

~o~O~o~

Valerie Viktor Nikita Federov was an obnoxious fat little man. He’d already felt me up at our first meeting. What made it worse was that it was right in front of his wife.

As for the wife, well she was a long legged blonde numbskull. Stunningly beautiful, but as thick as two short planks. Her accent was awful. My guess was that it came from Murmanskaya or even worse, the Kola Peninsula.
Almost every word she said was unprintable. All she seemed to want to do was get her husband into bed. Yeah right. Get him into bed and hope he has a heart attack and leaves everything to her.

I had to put my personal views aside as we walked into the private reception room for the next round of negotiations.

My heart sank as two goons moved forward to ‘frisk us’.

“Держите ваши руки с нас. Мы удостоинные гости га-н Federov.” I blurted out with emphasis. (Keep your hands off us. We are honoured guests of Mr Federov.)

My outburst stopped them in their tracks. One of them fingered the gun in his shoulder holster.

I’ve had to get used to the ‘Super Rich’ having armed protection. I’d been amazed at the sort of ‘security’ devices that were being fitted to some of the vessels being built by Luca’s Company.

Thankfully, the goons didn’t get their opportunity to grope me. Their boss barked a number of very rude and unprintable swear words at them and we were let through without hesitation.

The negotiations were at a very delicate phase. Mr Federov was trying to get a 20% price reduction. Luca was holding out.

Then Mr Federov played what he thought was his trump card.

“I could take my business to Mr Li and Mr Wong in Shanghai. They are offering a substantial price reduction as well as some extra security equipment.”

This didn’t shake Luca one little bit. We’d done our homework before travelling to Russia.

Luca nodded to me to speak.

“Пожалуйста пойдите вперед и сделайте дело с китайцем. После этого вы принять корабль целого врозь для того чтобы проверить для вещей которые не должны быть там.”
(Please go ahead and do a deal with the Chinese. Once you take delivery you will have to take the whole ship apart to check for things that should not be there.)

Mr Federov looked indignant.
“Чего вы значите?”(What do you mean?)

“Наилучшим образом, мы скажем детали которые интересовали бы FSB.”
(Some items that will interest the FSB)
The mention of the former Russian Secret Police had turned his face as white as a sheet.

I continued.
Стены имеют уши (The walls have ears)

Mr Federov went white in the face.

Luca pulled out a folder from his briefcase and handed it to the client.

He opened it and began reading.

“Это не может быть истинно!” (This cannot be true!)

“Yes Mr Federov it is true. Prince Mohammad will gladly talk to you on the phone if you desire.”

Mr Federov waved his hand in dismissal.

“What happened to Prince Mohammad’s ship?”
His English was perfectly good when the occasion demanded it.

“He sold it to the Iranians, to the head of the Republican Guard no less and for more than he’d paid for it,” replied Luca desperately trying to keep a straight face.

This caused everyone to laugh their heads off. Even the Russians disliked the Iranians.

We signed an outline contract for the deal half an hour later.

With the contract signed and a 20% payment in the bank we left Sochi that evening. I didn’t want to spend another evening with Mrs Federov. Their custom was that the men ate and drank together. The women did the same. Mrs Federov was a real dimwit. All she wanted to discuss was the latest ‘pop’ music sensation.
I could think of nothing worse to spend another evening eating ‘пельмени' (dumplings filled with some terribly salty fish) and at the same time drinking some truly terrible wine from Georgia. That is not to say that all Georgian wine is bad but this came from Mr Federov's Vineyard and was worse than the cheapest supermarket ‘plonk’.

We changed planes in Frankfurt on our way to London. I had just enough time to buy a couple of bottles of ‘Appfel Korn’. Normally I don’t drink spirits but I make an exception for this little tipple.

I was however very quiet on the flight to London.

“What is on your mind? You have hardly said a word since we left Sochi?”

I’d dreaded him asking me this. I tried to fob him off.

“It’s nothing. I’m thinking about Christmas.”

“Yeah and pull the other one. Everything is planned down in fine detail. What is really bothering you?”

I thought that there was nothing more I can do. I had to tell him.

“It’s about us and Sophia and Benito. I will be spending a lot of time with them over the holidays. What if they don’t like me?”

Luca took hold of my hand and stroked it gently.

“You do not have to worry about that my Darling. They adore you.”

“Why? I’ve hardly spent any time with them?”

“As I said before, they talk to each other every day and can’t wait to spend some time with you.”

I remembered back to what I was like at their age? Playing with Lego no doubt, well when Saffy and I were not dressing up that is.

“They are very advanced for their age but what does that have to with me and them liking me or not?”

Luca took hold of my hand and smiled sweetly at me.

“They have told me so. Well not directly but they keep asking me what they can buy you for Christmas. If they didn’t like you why else would they be doing that?”

I felt relieved. I kissed him gently on the lips and sat back to enjoy the rest of the flight.

~o~O~o~

The house came alive with the arrival of the children back from school.
Luca left me to look after them while he spent the day locked away in his office. I guessed that this was all part of his plan to get me used to the children and them used to me.

I took them ice skating, bowling and even to Bristol Zoo in the days before Christmas. I was knackered at the end of the day but thankfully Luca took over and let me relax and enjoy seeing a happy family at play.

Claudia and Saffy arrived mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve. Claudia’s car was crammed with presents. I felt rather guilty when I placed my small pile under the huge tree that the children and their father had decorated with great joy the previous evening.

After a fun evening we all piled into Claudia’s car and went to the Midnight Service in the nearest village. It was very moving.

I remembered the times as a child when I’d wanted to sing the extra verse of ‘Oh Come all ye Faithfull’, that is only sung on Christmas day. A small tear ran down my cheek as we sang. The choir was beautiful. The church was beautiful. Everything was beautiful.

The only thing missing was snow. I gave him upstairs a quick prayer for some. Alas the heavens remained clear and starry when we emerged after the service.

~o~O~o~

Christmas morning was manic. The twins crept downstairs just after 6am and started ripping presents open. Thankfully Luca was on hand to stop them and send them back to bed.
Well, he did have to threaten them with no presents and no food all day but they got the message.

He went up a few minutes later and gave each of them a stocking filled with little goodies to tide them over until later.

That did the trick and they didn’t appear until the smell of some fine Italian Coffee wended its way upstairs.

I was very anxious when Luca opened my present. I gave him a new wallet. I found it in Mexico. It was made of Soft, beautiful leather and I’d had his initials embossed in gold on the front.

By the time all the presents had been opened the place was a real mess. There was wrapping paper everywhere. There was only one thing missing. I’d not had a present from Luca.

He had been watching me out of the corner of his eye. I tried not to show any disappointment but I failed miserably.

A small smile appeared on his face.

Still smiling when he stood up and took my hand.
“Come on. I hadn’t forgotten you.”

He led me outside the house.
The car that Claudia had arrived in was sitting on the drive.

Luca dangled the keys in front of me.

“Happy Christmas Darling.”

“You… You mean this is mine?”
“Yes. It is all yours. Claudia collected it from the dealers a couple of days ago.”

I was overjoyed.
I showed my pleasure by kissing him. Well it was more like a god old snog.

~o~O~o~

All too soon the holidays were over and it was time for Luca get back to work. I stayed on with the Children until it was time to take them to school.

They were both uncharacteristically quiet when we left the house the day I took them back to school.

I tried to jolly them up.
“Cat got your tongues?” I called back to them.

There was silence.
I could see in the mirror them looking at each other and gesturing at each other.

Eventually, Benito spoke up.

“Miss Fran, are you and Father going to get married?”

The directness of his question startled me more than the content. It was not bad for an eight-year old.

“I don’t know Benito. He hasn’t asked me.”

That was a lie but Luca and I had decided that we weren’t going to make it public until later in the year.

“But you said that you weren’t interested in being his Wife?” said Sophia silencing her brother.

I permitted myself a little smile. They had long memories. I remembered fondly that day and a bit in Rio.

“If I recall correctly, I said that I wasn’t interested in his money.”

“That’s the same thing Miss Fran.” Objected Benito.

“Oh Benni. Benni. You are so young and innocent.”

Sophia stuck her tongue out her brother.

“They are very different things. One day both of you will learn that fact.”

I could see from their reaction that this didn’t seem to satisfy them.

I didn’t say anything until I’d found a place to stop the car. This delay gave me a few seconds to gather my thoughts.

I stopped the car, switched the engine off and turned around to face them.

“I will promise both of you that I will never take any of your father’s money. If we do get married, then I will make sure that I can’t take any of his money. I love him and not his money.”

They didn’t say anything for several seconds.

Then Sophia leaned over and whispered something into her brother’s ear.

Then she said,
“We won’t forget this Miss Fran. You have made us a promise.”

I smiled inwardly to myself. That was one promise that I fully intended to keep.

[To be continued]



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