Marrying Cade(10)

By: Sally Clements


The sky was perfect. Like a black velvet curtain strewn with diamonds. As a child she’d stared up at the sky many times on nights like this. Nights when the utter perfection of the sky had held her captive in its spell. It wasn’t until she’d left the island that she realized the sky wasn’t so beautiful everywhere. Isola dei Fiori’s lack of smog or city lights made the sight unique in all Italy. The beauty of the island was potent, magical.

Melo breathed in the scent of the barbequing lamb, marinated in rosemary. She’d missed her childhood home. Sorting out the tangled financial web would take weeks instead of the couple of days she’d set aside for her holiday. She didn’t relish the task ahead, but at least she could spend more time on her beloved island.

The waiter cleared, and set plates with the next course in front of the diners. Fusilli with pesto. It was a special recipe. Instead of the usual basil, the pesto was made with sage, which grew in abundance on the hills.

Melo’s mouth watered as she speared a forkful. The tangy taste exploded on her taste buds. She glanced at her mother, who was receiving compliments for her choice of menu graciously, even though the choice of primi had been completely left up to her daughter. In fact, she hadn’t even been aware of what would be served this evening.

Cade’s compelling beauty drew her gaze again.

He was watching her. Dark, watchful and intense. She couldn’t look away. Didn’t want to. She’d dreamed of him looking at her like that. As if he could devour her. Passion flooded her as the rest of the party faded away. She wanted to be closer. Wanted to feel his hands on her. His hair, parted slightly to the left of his crown made him look like a conquistador. A man not constrained by the stuffy traditions of today. A man who knew what he wanted, and wasn’t shy about getting it. And by the look in his eyes, she was what he wanted. Her throat was sandpaper scratchy. She swallowed. Her heart pounded faster, like an oncoming buffalo stampede. Cade’s jaw tilted down a fraction. Then he smiled. Slowly. Confidently transforming her insides to mush.

Sophia asked Cade something. He tore his gaze from Melo’s and gifted his dinner companion with a smile capable of melting metal. Melo wished she were drinking. She could do with something to take the edge off. He’d blasted her with just a look. A look filled with passion and promise.

At long last, Cade West realized she was a woman. It was a fact she was more than ready to take advantage of. Love and hope. Like the princess in the song, those two emotions had filled her since she’d found out he was on his way to the island—though since her father’s revelations fear coursed through her as well. She swallowed, and tried to calm down. She couldn’t panic until she’d examined the books. And she couldn’t talk to anyone about this until after the wedding.

Melo rotated her shoulders, unknotting the kinks. Just when she was buckling under the pressure of keeping this juggernaut of a wedding on track, her father had added to her load. She wished to hell she could confide in someone.

The plates were cleared away, and then the next course, a selection of barbecued meats, was brought from the braziers and placed on the table in large wooden platters. Rosticciana, barbecued pork ribs and sausages, Fiorentina steaks, and tender, rosemary marinated lamb. A meal fit for a king. Or a princess. Hungry fingers reached for the cuts of meat as the guests served themselves.

Melo helped herself to the selection of salads laid out on the table, making a colorful mix of cannelloni beans with parsley, black olives and tomatoes swirled over with olive oil. Adam passed over the bread basket, and she pulled off a chunk before passing it on. She added a steak to her plate and leaned forward. Closed her eyes and breathed in the mouth-watering aromas. Could there be anywhere in the world where the food was as good as here? No way.

****

Cade had been watching Marco surreptitiously during the meal, shocked at the old man’s appearance. Even though he was smartly dressed in honor of the occasion, his white shirt hung on his shrunken frame. There were deep hollows in his cheeks, and his black eyebrows stood out in stark contrast to the whiteness of his face. His black eyes were dull and lifeless, a drastic contrast to the Marco of old, and there were dark shadows under them.

Cade poured himself a fresh glass of San Pellegrino. Bittersweet music drifted in the night air. Guitar, with a lone saxophonist accompaniment. They were playing something familiar. It was only when the male singer started warbling, “You’re much too good to be true” that he recognized it.

A bonfire blazed near the water. Couples meandered toward it, carrying glasses of wine. A circle of large pillows had been arranged as al-fresco seating in a circle around it.

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