Home > Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell #1)(9)

Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell #1)(9)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“I get that,” he replied just as quickly. “For you, it’s about bein’ shy but for me, it gives me privacy and I don’t get that much. It also allows me to be the one to make the play. And in my life, serious as shit, Kia, that’s rare and it’s really, f**king valued.”

That was when I panicked and assured him, “Well, I wasn’t making some whacked out play either.”

He put his fork on his plate, reached across the table and took my hand.

My heart stopped again.

He squeezed my hand and looked in my eyes.

Then he whispered, “Relax, Kia, and just enjoy breakfast.”

“Okay,” I whispered back, it was breathy but at least I didn’t wheeze.

He let me go and focused back on his food.

It took some effort, and not a small amount of it, but I did too.

And there it was on my plate, proof an omelette was an omelet the world over.

Thus commenced me eating breakfast with Sampson Cooper and I didn’t think I could relax but I didn’t take into account how much he wanted me to.

So for the next forty-five minutes, we ate, we sipped coffee, we sometimes looked out the windows at the beauty of the lake but mostly we looked at each other and Sam asked me questions that weren’t invasive or taxing, mostly about what I was doing in Lake Como and how long I was staying. So I told him about my vacation which started in Paris and would end in two weeks at a beach on Crete. And, with his guiding questions, I went into some detail that was probably embarrassingly enthusiastic about what’d I’d done, what I’d seen and what I was looking forward to doing and seeing.

For his part, when I asked, he told me vaguely he was in Italy “on business”, he didn’t elucidate and I didn’t pry.

And when we were done, the last drops of coffee consumed, our plates long since whisked away, Sam Cooper stood and rounded the table, like the gentleman he was, helping me out of my chair.

No man had ever done this for me either and it was considerate and attentive in a way I liked a lot and it settled in my soul too.

Then he walked me through the dining room, the tips his long fingers barely touching the small of my back to guide me through the room, another chivalrous gesture that also felt like something else, something I didn’t quite get.

Outside the dining room, in the lobby with its beautiful tiled floors and sweeping staircase, his fingers moved to my elbow, curling around and he stopped me then he turned to stand in front of me, a foot away.

I tipped my head back to look up at him.

It was over, I survived. I had breakfast with Sampson Cooper; I enjoyed it and the knowledge that he was truly in real life what he was in my fantasy life, a decent, good, kind man as well as a gentleman also settled in my soul. Looking up at him, I memorized our morning like I’d been memorizing many of the gifts I’d received the last three weeks but this one I burned deep in my brain in the hopes of never forgetting even a second.

“I need to go,” he told me, his fingers still curled on my elbow.

“Okay,” I replied and smiled. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”

Then my breath caught as his fingers on my elbow tightened and pulled me slightly toward him. I went forward three inches as he bent from his height of what I knew was six foot three and, in a barely-there touch, he swept his lips against my cheek.

I closed my eyes and experienced the beautiful tingle.

Then in my ear, he whispered, “You’ll see me around.”

My heart stopped again and his fingers gave me a squeeze then let me go. He straightened, smiled in my eyes and then he was gone.

And, staring across the foyer that no longer held the tall, built, powerful body of Sampson Cooper it belatedly hit me that he’d said, it also allows me to be the one to make the play.

That was when my heart stopped beating.


Chapter Two

Cat and Mouse

I stood in front of the full-length oval mirror in my hotel room surveying my ensemble.

I was wearing a dark teal, strapless dress shot liberally with silver. The top fit like a second skin all the way down to my h*ps then flared out in a cute, flippy, but short, skirt that exposed a whole lot of leg, more than even my sundress. I wore this with a pair of strappy, silver, high-heeled sandals. My hair was swept back at the top and held in a pretty, silver clip at my crown but the sides were sleek and long, the tapered ends curling along my jaw and neck, the rest falling down my back. I had on a pair of earrings that were four dangling silver chains interspersed with teal beads.

It was an awesome outfit.

But really, I was being an idiot.

In Heartmeadow, Indiana I would have no occasion to wear a dress like this. Or the shoes. Or the sundress I’d bought. Or the bronze sandals. Or, really, almost everything I’d purchased on my trip.

I’d flown first class because I could. This meant I could bring two suitcases so I did but there was barely anything in them since I intended to shop profusely, something I had done.

I had just not made smart choices.

Like the entirety of my outfit which I bought that day with Celeste, my new Lake Como bud.

I had spent my first day in Lake Como touring around riding the unbe-freaking-leivable high of breakfast with Sampson Cooper and riding the not as awesome but very close to it high of being in a stunningly beautiful place I’d never thought I’d be.

I’d also spent that day on tenterhooks, expecting Sam to jump out and whisk me away practically every second.

He didn’t.

So, trembling with expectant excitement and again kitted out and made up, I’d wandered down to breakfast only to find him not there. My matchmaking maitre d’ looked more devastated than I was that Sam was not waiting for me nor did he show while I had breakfast and I gave him plenty of opportunity. So much, I was grateful when my waiter brought me another cafetière of coffee I could sip and not look stupid as I waited in vain.

It was at lunch as I sat at a table with an umbrella (though, I chose a seat in the sun not the shade) on the wide sidewalk facing a flower and fountain bedecked square when I met Celeste and her husband Thomas.

They were old enough to be my Mom and Dad’s much younger, cooler and far, far richer sister and brother. Celeste was French but she spoke English and Italian. Thomas was American but he spoke with a slight Australian accent considering the fact that, while growing up, he’d lived there for ten years and they visited his family there regularly. We’d been sat at tables next to each other and my table had no pepper shaker, I’d asked if I could use theirs and there it began, just like with Sam, I’d joined them. However, not like Sam, they invited me and I accepted.

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