I jumped as Luca stomped into the kitchen and snatched his apron down from the hook.
Frowning at his obvious distress I had to ask, “Are you okay?”
He turned to me and I was startled to see that he’d been crying, “I’ve had better days.” He snarled.
I was a little taken aback. Luca never spoke to me like that. “Okay.” I said quietly, “I’m sorry I asked.”
He sighed and turned back to me, an apologetic expression on his face, “Enid and I broke up, okay?”
I can’t deny that my heart leapt at his admission but I tried my best to maintain my poker face, “Oh, I’m really sorry man.” I said as sincerely as I could muster when inside my head I was high-fiving myself.
He shook his head, “No, that bit’s fine – well it’s not really…” He sighed and sniffed, “But you know, she was right – I have been distant. My head had definitely not been in the game – I hadn’t even been thinking about her… I just broke her heart and it nearly killed me.”
He wasn’t making any sense but I found myself nodding along. “Well, maybe you can make things up again, maybe you just need a break or something…” Or maybe you just need me. Come on man, take a chance...
He stared at me, looking even more distressed than he had to begin with, “Oh, hell – are you serious man?” he said, “Do you really think all I need is a break? Have I just been imagining everything that’s been happening between us then?”
I stared back at him in total confusion, “Uh?” I know – pathetic aren’t I?
He took a tentative step closer, “Don’t freak out, okay?” he asked.
I nodded. He was getting damned close and I’ve got to admit, I was beginning to freak out a bit – but in a good way, I think… This could not be happening. Things this good just didn’t happen to me – ever…
Luca was stood right in front of me. We were pretty much the same height and were kind of nose-to-nose.
Suddenly there was the loudest crash from the storeroom, “Shit!” I shouted and turning on my heel I shot back into the stores. What the hell was going on? Were we being robbed? I snapped the light on and it became immediately obvious that we weren’t being robbed at all, “It’s just the veg rack,” I called back to the kitchen. The rack of vegetables that had been slightly precariously balanced had fallen over. “Shit,” I muttered as I started to rebuild it. Luca hadn’t followed me and I was guessing that, like me, he was trying to make sense of what had just almost happened between us. My heart rate was just starting to get back to normal when I heard slightly raised voices. I stopped what I was doing and edged closer to the door to the kitchen.
Tate clearly had no idea that I was in the stores. “I need a word with you, Gianluca.” He growled. My heart spiked with fear, I swear if someone that big had growled at me like that, I’d have thrown myself in the waste disposal…
But Luca stood his ground like the man I knew he was, and loved more than anything else in the world... “Morning, Tate.” He said cheerfully, “What’s up?”
“What’s going on between you and my brother?” Shit. I could just imagine his scowl and my legs started to shake.
“Sam?” Luca sounded surprised. I imagined him blinking those big brown eyes in confusion… He’d be wondering how the hell Tate knew…
“Sam.” Tate agreed in a surly tone that made me cringe.
“We’re friends.” Luca said innocently. And he wasn’t wrong either – we were friends and I’d explained that to Tate – that kiss we’d shared at the party playing spin the bottle was (sadly) the one and only time – it might not have been had the vegetable rack not fallen over when it did but still… right now we were as innocent as could be.
I heard the hissing sigh leaving Tate and I could picture him in my head. Actually what I pictured in my head was the way he looked when I first knew him, all dreads and piercings and looking just about as scary as anyone could. I shook my head and tried to think of nice things… “And you’d better make sure it stays that way, my friend – or you could find yourself out on your ear.”
I frowned… Now just wait a minute – I could choose my own boyfriend, no, friend, friend, thanks very much… and I wasn’t having Tate threatening him like that. I shot out of the stores and stood in front of Tate – we were of a similar height but he was absolutely massive with muscles on muscles, whereas I was so skinny I’d blow over in a big gust of wind… Still, I wasn’t gonna stand by and allow him to tear a strip off Luca like that. “Hey, man,” I said angrily, “– back off.” I shoved his shoulder – guess I was more annoyed than I thought. Realising what I’d just done, I instinctively took a step back with a muttered apology.
Tate glared at me, “I beg your pardon?” he asked.
Taking a deep breath I looked him in the eye, “I said back off – I heard what you just said – and I can choose whom to love – just like you can.”
Both Tate and Luca turned around with the same expression. “Love?” they both asked with equal incredulity.
I shrugged and nodded, feeling my face heating up, “Yeah – so what?” I asked, trying to play it off as if I meant as a friend. I was beginning to regret my rash decision to come defending Luca – hell, he was twice the size of me too – he could totally look after himself!
Tate’s scowl was impressive but I wasn’t looking at him – I was looking at the delighted look on Luca’s face, “You just said you loved me?” he asked, his face full of something that could have passed for love for me too.
I nodded, “Yeah.” I said, “You know I do – we’re best mates, aren’t we?”
Tate cleared his throat and rolled his eyes, “Well, I feel ten kinds of stupid for getting the wrong end of the stick now.” He shot me a little grin. Turning back to Luca, with a slightly less impressive scowl he added, “Whatever’s going on between you two I want you to make sure you look after him – you should worship the ground he walks on because this kid is solid gold.”
Luca nodded, “I do,” he said with a grin, “and I know a good thing when I see it, dude.” He added, “I’ll never let him down – you can count on it.”
Tate grunted and made for the door. I stood looking at the floor, unsure as to what to say.
Luca came and stood right in front of me again, “Where were we?” he asked as he leaned in and cocked his head slightly. Closing his eyes he brushed his mouth against mine. It was every bit as sweet as the first time he kissed me. But that had only been for a bet – this was kind of real – and therefore kind of incredible and frightening and wonderful…
Sam Fletcher... Riverside #7... #2016 #HappyHeatherAfters