Chapter 28: Exploding Swans

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The plane landed in Florence and Kim made her way through the winding city streets towards Cassio's villa. Florence was......really freaking beautiful? Like insanely perfect??? Clear skies, bright sun, gentle breeze, peppy soundtrack playing in the background. It was amazing. So completely different from everywhere else in this world. It made for an extremely welcome change from the dark skies and brooding sea and zombie infestation of The Hamptons, Kim had to admit.

She could feel herself relaxing, feel her worries and stress flee from her body. She was glad she'd come. Maybe some time chillaxing in the sun at a very fancy villa was just exactly what the doctor ordered? Who knew.

OK Kim did feel some nervousness about possibly running into Willow and what that would be like. She had questions liiike:

* Did Willow even know Brandon had invited her to the villa?

* Would Willow care that Brandon had invited her?

* Would Willow not care??

* Would it be OK between them or would it be super weird?

* Would Willow act bitchy towards Kim because it was part of their cover?

* Would Willow act bitchy towards Kim because it was how she truly felt now???

It was all too confusing and exhausting to think about.

Kim stopped on the sidewalk and took out her phone to check in on the social media battle one more time before arriving at the villa. But it was taking forever to load, and she couldn't see any updates, so she gave up, put her phone away and kept walking, taking it as a sign that she should focus on the now, on the present.

And anyway she was there to hang out with Brandon, not Willow. Kind of. Sort of. Mostly. OK maybe not 100%. But it had been so sweet of him to call and invite her. It meant so much that he actively wanted to see her, and was purposefully making room in his schedule to spend time with her. It was very different from the continual roadblocks and drama that seemed to perpetually appear along the path of her relationship with Willow. But Florence was beautiful and she would do her best to relax and appreciate it and be in the moment.

Kim crossed the plaza in front of the 10AX Club and arrived at Cassio's villa. The estate was magnificent, breath-taking, even at first glance. There was a small lake in front, with a group of swans gliding gracefully across the calm surface of the water. Beyond that was the main building. It stood four stories tall and was beautiful with weathered age. There were other buildings beyond it, stretching farther back than Kim could see. The villa wasn't really a house, it was more a series of interconnected buildings--some older, some newer--that had been developed and annexed and repurposed over the years. It was easy to imagine getting lost inside and not even minding, as you wandered from room to room and building to building.

Kim walked up to the front building. The bright sunlight glinting off the lake and reflecting off the windows was amazing. She took out her phone, wanting to grab a few selfies before going inside, but a voice from somewhere nearby interrupted her.

"Hey, you."

It took her eyes a moment to adjust from the sun, but there in the doorway, stepping out from the shadows, was Brandon, his eyes sparkling at her.

Kim barely managed to get out a "Hey!" in return before she felt herself being swept up in his powerful arms. He pulled her tight and held her and buried his face in her neck.

"Hi," she said.

"I have missed you," Brandon said, breathing deep, inhaling her scent. He drew back and looked at her, his eyes searching her face, almost piercing right through her. "I have missed you," he said again.

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