Maya was completely mortified.
Her mother had rolled her eyes when, at thirteen, Maya had asked to buy some make-up, and her brothers always laughed at any attempts she made to be more feminine. She hadn’t owned a dress since her school days.
Tonight she had tried on gowns and shoes and had even put on a long string of pearls.
But then Maya had been caught.
Worse, she had been caught revealing a deeply private side, one that even Maya herself hadn't explored.
Then he had said it—that she looked beautiful when no one had ever said that to her before.
‘You do,’ Luka confirmed, and picked up the end of the long row of pearls and tied them into a low knot as if adding the finishing touch. ‘Completely stunning.’
'I'm so embarrassed,' Maya admitted.
'Why?’ Luka shrugged. ‘We all do it.' And then he laughed, this rich deep laugh that made her smile. 'Well, I’m not prone to trying on dresses, but I have been known to don a judge’s wig on occasion.'
Now, that made her laugh.
'I was actually just on my way to see you,’ he told her. ‘Third time lucky.'
'Third?' Maya frowned.
'You said no to me twice.' It surprised Luka that he'd persisted when he never usually did.
'I wanted to say yes,' Maya admitted, 'but I had nothing suitable to wear.’
‘Well, you do now,’ he said and held up the bottle that Giovanni had given him. 'Shall I try to find some glasses?'
Maya nodded but, as he went to turn on the light, he remembered how embarrassed she had been and sensed how awkward she still was, so he changed his mind. 'It's kind of nice—just the moon.'
It was nice. The attic looked like a black-and-white photo, old-fashioned and, Maya thought, very beautiful.
As was he.
Luka had already been here today and remembered where certain things were, so he walked easily across to a large china cabinet and located some heavy crystal glasses.
'I'd better not spill anything,' Maya said as she heard the glug glug of red wine being poured.
'I doubt they'd even notice. They're probably just some sample for one of Allegra's charity balls.'
'One of Giovanni's grandchildren,’ he explained as he handed Maya her wine. ‘She heads up the charitable side of the family.'
Maya took a sip and it tasted divine. He was so accepting, so unfazed by this side to her that she was starting to relax. 'So why were you were going to come down to the stables?'
'Because I liked talking to you,' Luka said. 'And I very much liked kissing you.'
Maya forgot to relax!
She was like a bird on a twig, Luka thought, wanting to come and eat from his palm while debating whether to fly away.
And so, instead of throwing another line and suggesting they resume where they left off, he walked over to the gramophone. A few moments later the attic was filled with the most beautiful music.
'Do you think they'll hear us?' Maya asked.
'I don't care,' Luka told her. ‘And neither will they.’
She felt her nostrils pinch as he walked towards her, and instead of offering to top up her glass, he took it from her and rested it on a table.
‘Come here,’ Luka said.
He didn’t ask her if she wanted to dance.
Maya had already worked out that he didn’t waste words or ask unnecessary questions.
And they both know the question wasn’t necessary.
She wanted to dance.
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