Excitement bubbled up in me, but it was mixed with something queasy and nervous, too. I’d had the occasional nightmare about that night in the basement, not about Romero in particular but I wondered if a live encounter would bring more of the bad stuff up. But that wasn’t even the main reason why I was nervous. So far Romero had always ignored me, well not me, but my flirting. He’d treated me like a kid. Maybe he’d finally show more interest, or any interest at all. After all I was turning fifteen and it wasn’t as if I hadn’t caught many of my father’s soldiers checking me out. Maybe I wasn’t Romero’s type, no matter my age. I didn’t even know if he was dating someone or promised to someone.
During dinner I could tell that Aria and Gianna were exchanging the occasional glance. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Were they talking about me?
The elevator made a bling sound and started its descent to whoever had called it.
“That’s Romero,” Aria said. Luca gave her an odd look but I didn’t react at all, merely nodded as if I didn’t care, but I did, and I was glad for Aria’s warning.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I said, trying to sound casual. Gianna rolled her eyes. I snatched my purse from the floor and rushed toward the guest bathroom. When I closed the door, I heard the elevator doors slide open. A moment later Romero’s voice rang out. It was deep but not rough. I loved the sound of it.
I faced the mirror and quickly refreshed my make up and fluffed up my dark-blond hair. It wasn’t as bright and pretty as Aria’s and not as eye-catching as Gianna’s red hair but it could have been worse. The others would notice that I’d gone into the bathroom to make myself presentable, my sisters at the very least, but I didn’t care. I wanted to look nice for Romero. Trying to look relaxed, I stepped out of the bathroom. Romero had taken a seat at the table and was loading a plate with the remains of our dessert: Tiramisu and Panna Cotta. He was sitting on the chair right beside mine. I glanced at Aria wondering if she had something to do with it. She merely smiled at me, but Gianna didn’t even bother hiding her amusement. I really hoped she wasn’t going to embarrass me in front of everyone. I strolled over to my chair, hoping I looked grown up and relaxed, but apart from a quick smile Romero didn’t pay me any attention. Disappointment settled heavily in my stomach. I sat down beside him and took a sip of my water, more to have something to do than because I was actually thirsty.
If I’d thought Romero’s obvious disinterest in me was the full extend of my embarrassment today, I was sorely mistaken. Once Matteo and Luca had left for some kind of business meeting, it became obvious that Gianna and Aria were looking for a chance to be alone. They could have just asked me to leave but apparently they needed to get rid of Romero as well. Aria leaned in to whisper in my ear. “Can you distract Romero for a while? It’s important.” I didn’t get the chance to refuse or ask any questions.
“Romero, why don’t you play Scrabble with Lily? She looks like she’s bored out of her mind, and Aria and I need a moment for girl talk,” Gianna said pointedly.
My face burned in shame. Gianna usually knew better than to embarrass me like that. She made it sound like Romero needed to babysit me while she and Aria discussed important stuff.
Romero walked over from the kitchen where he’d been checking his mobile and stopped beside me at the dining room table. I could barely look at him. What did he think of me now? I peered up through my lashes. He didn’t look annoyed but that didn’t mean he actually wanted to spend his evening entertaining me. He was a bodyguard, not a babysitter. “Your sister looks like she’d rather spend time with you,” he told Gianna. Then his brown eyes settled on me. “Are you sure you want to play Scrabble with me?” he asked me, and I couldn’t help but smile. Few people ever asked what I wanted, even my sisters occasionally forgot that I was a person with her own opinions and wants.
Aria and Gianna gave me a meaningful look. I needed to convince Romero that I wanted it or I’d ruin things for them. “Yes, I really want to play Scrabble with you. I love that game, please?” I said with a bright smile. I didn’t even remember when I’d played it last. Our family had never played board games.
Romero glanced toward my sisters. There was a hint of suspicion on his face. “You could join us,” he said.
“I’d rather play alone with you,” I said in a flirting tone. Gianna winked at me when Romero wasn’t looking. “My sisters hate Scrabble and so does everyone else I know. You are my only hope.”