Fall from India Place Page 48

Little did I know that the past doesn’t take too kindly to smugness, to disinterest. The past can be spiteful. It can creep up on the present to taunt it with the memories and all the old hurts.

It wasn’t snowing. For this I was thankful. Snow was for when you were curled up safe inside with a fire roaring in the grate. It wasn’t for when you were driving a rental to some unknown place in Argyll.

Marco had decided he wanted us to get away for the weekend. He said we needed to talk.

I knew it had to do with his mysterious weekends away and I was glad he was finally going to broach the subject. We’d been officially dating each other for a few weeks now. It was definitely time for me to know what was behind his disappearances, and I was preparing myself for the news.

What I hadn’t prepare for was the sight of the large old cottage on a hill overlooking the Holy Loch. My lips parted in wonder as the car drew to a stop on the gravel driveway. With its multicolored stone block facade, creeping vines, and old-fashioned windows made up of lots of little panels, the cottage was like something out of a fairy tale. Smoke puffed out of the top of the roof from a chimney, and a fat tabby cat skittered across the front doorstep as the car drew to a halt.

I glanced over at Marco and he smiled.

Before I could say a word he was out of the car and hurrying around to the passenger side to open my door. My feet had just touched the driveway when he grabbed my hand and tugged me gently over to the front door. Bending down, he unearthed a key from beneath a ceramic tortoise and let us inside.

Heat hit us and I followed Marco in a daze as he led me out of a small foyer into a hallway and then to the right. My eyes grew round with surprise as I took in the large sitting room. Antique furniture cluttered the space, but in elegant coziness. There were dark plum velvet sofas in the French style, a mahogany tea chest, and a huge crockery display cabinet with china plates. But best of all was the roaring fire in the massive fireplace on the main wall. Shadows danced around the darkening room as the flames from the fire licked out at us.

My gaze dropped to the chenille blanket that had been placed in front of the fire. On it were a hamper, a bottle of wine, and a red rose.

Marco squeezed my hand. “You once told me this would be your perfect date.”

Slowly, I turned to look at him in amazement.

… there was this scene where he takes her to this tiny cottage on his land, away from everything and everyone. They sit in front of a roaring fire, drinking and eating, sometimes talking, sometimes not. It was like there was no one else in the world but them…

“You remembered that?” I asked, my voice choked with emotion.

His head bent toward me, his lips brushing mine. “I remember everything.”

“I can’t believe you did all this.” I moved into him, wrapping my arms around him.

“I had a little help from the housekeeper, Dottie. She’s a bit of a romantic, it would seem.”

I laughed softly. “As are you, it would seem.”

He cradled my face in his hands, his thumb sweeping along my jaw before coming to a rest on my plump lower lip. “Only with you.”

I closed my eyes, soaking up the feel of him holding me, the sound of the fire, the heat of it against my skin, and in that moment I was reminded of the girl I used to be, the reluctant romantic who still believed there was something really special out there for her.

“I can never get enough of you,” Marco murmured, pressing soft kisses down my neck and across my naked shoulder.

Caressing his back, I made a contented purring sound in the back of my throat. My whole body was warm and languid after the two orgasms he’d just given me.

“I’ll be back.” He pressed one last kiss to the rise of my breast and then moved off me.

I pouted. “Where are you going?”

He didn’t answer. Instead he disappeared from the sitting room and then returned a few seconds later with a washcloth.

I bit my lip and spread my legs.

A predatory look flashed in Marco’s eyes as he sat back down on the blanket in front of the fire to press the washcloth between my legs. “You keep that up and you won’t be able to walk out of here tomorrow.”

“I’m not doing anything,” I whispered, smiling innocently at him.

He shook his head, his eyes never leaving mine. “You are so dangerous.”

“Me?” I grinned mischievously as I pushed myself up and slid toward him, lifting my right leg over his knees so I could wrap both legs around his waist. He immediately put his arms around me and hauled me up so I was crushed against him. “I’ve never been dangerous in my life.”

“You’re dangerous to me.”

I pressed closer, my hands coasting down his muscled back. “I like being dangerous to you.”

His answer was to kiss me thoroughly and then bury his head in the crook of my neck, hugging me tight, almost like he needed me to ease something in him.

My chest tightened with emotion as I sensed that Marco was feeling overwhelmed somehow. To soothe him I stroked his back, relaxed in his hold.

But then I brushed my fingers across the scar on the lower left-hand side of his back and without even meaning to I tensed.

Marco felt it and pulled away to look me in the eye.

I wanted to ask him, but I didn’t want to ruin the moment between us.

He moved as if to disentangle me and I automatically tightened my grip on him with all four limbs. “Don’t.”

“Hannah, I don —”

“Was it him? Your grandfather?” I asked softly, feeling the burn of anger in my belly as I did anytime I felt the scar under my hands or saw it.

Marco sighed heavily. Thankfully, he didn’t pull away again. Instead he gave my waist an affectionate squeeze. “Babe, it’s in the past.”

“I want to know what he did to you.”

“Why? It’s done.”

“Because…” I shrugged helplessly. “I want to make it better somehow.”

His face softened. “You already do. You always have. I’m sitting here with you naked and you’ve got your gorgeous body wrapped around me. Nothing better than that. And nothing can make that turn to shit.”

“So if nothing can make it turn to shit, tell me. Now is the best time to tell me,” I said to encourage him.

He sighed. “Fine. I was eleven. I broke curfew. Nonno had slapped me around a bit before and a couple times he’d whacked me with his belt, but he’d never given me a thrashing. Until I broke curfew – and I didn’t just break curfew, I talked back to him. So he made me take off my shirt, shoved me face-first onto the kitchen table, and took his belt to me. He messed up – let his anger get the better of him – and the belt unfolded and cut a gash open on my back. Nonna went nuts at him. He never hit me again after that.” He shook his head, seeming to pull himself out of the memories as his gaze connected with mine. “They didn’t take me to hospital because of the questions that would be asked, so Nonna did her best to clean it up, but it wasn’t stitched up right, so it left a scar.”

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