Even without the breeze and the blue sky, I would have felt free. It had taken a long time but I realized I could feel free, be free, even when I was bound to Matteo.
In the evening, Matteo and Luca set up a barbecue on the patio. The weather was holding up and we could eat outside. Aria went inside to grab the salad she’d prepared while Matteo headed toward the wine cellar for something to drink. That left me alone with Luca who was manning the barbecue grill. I set the table, pretending he wasn’t there. Things between Luca and me were tense; they’d never been not tense, but they’d gotten worse since I’d accepted his offer months ago.
I took a deep breath. This had to stop. Luca was not only Matteo’s brother, he was also Aria’s husband. We had to make a truce at some point. I put down the last plate, wiped my hands and then strode over to Luca who was turning the marinated lamb chops around on the grate. As if he could sense my attention, he glanced up. It was futile trying to read his expression. I bridged the remaining distance between us. Most of our interactions hadn’t exactly been civil. My go-to-response to him was usually snarkiness, but I was doing my best to keep my expression open and as friendly as possible.
Luca raised one dark eyebrow when I stopped beside him.
Suddenly I felt ridiculously nervous. “I know you don’t like me,” I began. “But I think we should try to get along better for Aria and Matteo.”
I managed not to squirm when he scrutinized me. What was he thinking?
“I didn’t like you because I hated how you treated Matteo.”
“Okay,” I said slowly, not sure where to go from there.
“But I’m starting to change my mind.”
He turned another lamb chop. “I’m starting to think that maybe Matteo was right and you two aren’t the worst match.”
“Thanks?” I said, unsure if it was meant in a positive way. “You are really bad with compliments.”
“I’m not in the habit of handing them out. And don’t tell my brother I said he was right. He’s cocky enough.” His eyes went to something behind me and I turned and spotted Matteo heading in our direction, his arms loaded with several bottles of wine.
“He is,” I agreed with a smile. Luca gave me what could be considered his version of a smile, and some kind of silent understanding passed between us.
Matteo set the wine bottles down on the table before joining us and wrapping his arm around my waist. “What are you two gossiping about?”
“You,” Luca and I said at the same time.
“Is that so?” Matteo lifted one eyebrow.
Aria came back from the kitchen, eyes darting between us. She pressed up against Luca with a confused look. “What’s going on?”
“Your husband and my wife are discussing my many wonderful traits,” Matteo said.
I nudged his side. “You are way too cocky.”
Matteo kissed my ear. “Admit it, you love my cockiness.”
“Your declarations of love still make my knees go weak,” he joked.
I stood on my tiptoes. “Your cockiness isn’t the only thing I love about you.” I let my eyes wander the length of him.
“I need some bloody lamb to cancel out this disgusting display of sweetness,” Luca muttered, but I didn’t miss the tender look he’d given Aria when he thought no one was paying attention.
Matteo swept me into his arms and kissed me. Luca grumbled something else but I didn’t listen. All that mattered was Matteo.