Watching him now as he walked towards her, she wondered how he would have reacted if she had told him that she had come to him a virgin.
With horror, perhaps. Because he certainly hadn’t come to her inexperienced. Anything but. Experienced men liked experienced women, was her reckoning, and besides she was supposed to be twenty-four. How many twenty-four-year-old women were totally inexperienced? He would have seen through her little white lie in an instant and that would have been the end of that.
‘Ready?’ Riccardo asked, running his fingers through his hair and liking the way she was eating him up with her eyes. Her amazing, big blue eyes. ‘If we don’t go now then we might as well head back to our respective places because I have an early start tomorrow.’
That had her on her feet in minutes. They walked hand in hand back through the vineyard to where they had left their bikes, stopping to get into their clothes when they were more or less dry.
Riccardo, thankfully, had a car. A battered old thing which he told her he had bought on his travels through the country. He was going to be using it to visit his mother the next day. She had no idea what he would do with it when he decided to push on with his travels, but he was a free spirit. She looked at him and smiled at what she saw. A man with one hand on the steering wheel, the other resting half out of the car, breeze whipping back his black hair, his classically perfect profile in frowning concentration. He drove like an Italian, as though he owned the roads.
In between their companionable silence, they made sporadic conversation until they reached Lucca, with its dramatic walls that framed the city, and which never failed to make her draw breath in appreciation.
Once parked, they went to their favourite bar which was buzzing. Riccardo slung his arm over her shoulder and drew her into him, surprised to find that he really would miss her over the next few days, and not just her body. She made him laugh with her amusing chatter. She was a holiday from the type of woman he usually dated.
‘We should eat first,’ he told her.
‘Okay. Shall we go to the usual place?’ Charlie, ever conscious of a bank balance that seldom reached heights that could be called truly healthy, favoured the cheap and cheerful venue.
‘No, somewhere a little more upmarket, I think.’
‘I can’t afford anywhere expensive, Riccardo. You know that.’
‘Yes, yes,’ he said impatiently. ‘I know. You’re saving for a down payment on a house when you start your job.’
Since the only accurate part of his statement was the ‘saving’ bit, Charlie saw fit to change the course of the conversation just a little. ‘What about you?’ she protested. ‘You’ll need to put money aside too, if you’re going to travel and see the world.’ They had arrived at an expensive-looking restaurant with tables set outside. The starched white linen and bowls of flowers on the tables were a clear giveaway that her fragile bank balance would be feeling a little queasy were she to dine there. She stopped abruptly and looked up at him.
‘You’re being stubborn.’
‘I’m not dressed for a place like that.’ She yanked him aside so that a middle-aged couple of understated elegance could get past. ‘And neither are you, for that matter!’
A lifetime of fabulous privilege had given Riccardo a keen disregard for what other people thought of him, and he shrugged.