Impromptu Reunions

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Chapter X
Impromptu Reunions

Grace had been standing on a raised platform in front of a full-length mirror for the better part of an hour, enduring poking and prodding, and even a few pricks as Madame Duboire sized and measured her for what seemed like a wardrobe large enough for a queen.                                         

Madame Duboire muttered to herself in French as she worked; only acknowledging Grace when she needed to know what shade of green she preferred or how many night gowns she thought she was going to need. It was rather dull.                                  

Grace let her mind wander out of boredom. She wondered what Luca was doing right now. Was he bootlegging? She didn’t know. Hell, she didn’t know anything that even went into the business, aside from the rather prominent fact that it was illegal. Was that all he did with his days, or did the Venzettos have a second business as well? The realization that she didn’t know anything bothered her.                                      

She felt Madame Duboire smack the back of her thighs, telling her to step down from the stool she’d been occupying.

“I am done with you for the day. Your ball gown will be done this time tomorrow. You can stop by any time after then to get it.” Her tone was uppity, almost as though she thought Grace wasn’t good enough to warrant her services.                                                         

Grace bit back her dislike for the French woman, and thanked her for her time.               

Madame Duboire slipped behind a curtain that Grace assumed led to her workroom. She didn’t come back.

Grace let out a sigh, checking the clock on the wall behind her. It was ten till one. Russo wouldn’t be back for another ten minutes, and he had made it clear that she was not to leave without him.          

She sat down on a plush bench by the display windows, crossing her legs, so she could pick at a loose thread on the hem of her skirt. Her foot bobbed up and down in anticipation, but this only seemed to make the seconds tick by more slowly.                     

There was a flower vendor outside the shop and a few doors down. Surely Russo wouldn’t be angry at her for going to look at flowers. The cart was noticeable enough he wouldn’t have a hard time finding her when he came looking.                                           

Grace stood, smoothing her skirt. She left the shop, hearing the tinkling of a little bell as the door closed behind her.                                                                                             

As she neared the cart, the scents of a dozen different flowers assaulted her nose. Everything smelled so fresh and sweet. The vendor, a fat, balding man, smiled at her as she came closer.

She grabbed a bright pink rose and brought it up to her nose, inhaling deeply. Heavenly. Maybe Gia would let her have pink roses in her wedding bouquet. They were in her mother’s, and she felt she should have them as well, as a nod to the woman that was taken from her far too soon.                     

Getting lost in her thoughts, Grace almost missed the person calling her voice.          

“Grace? Grace Hanson?” She turned to see who was behind her.                              

She whipped her head around to come face to face with a tall, young man with deep brown, almost black, eyes.

“Peter!” She exclaimed, excited to see her friend from school. They hadn’t seen each other for the better part of a year. He smiled at her, wrapping her in a casual embrace.     

“How are you Grace?”                                                                                    

“I am well. It’s been ages since I last saw you. How are you?” she questioned.                 

He laughed. “I’m doing well. Actually, I’m in the city on business. Has anything of interest happened recently?”

Her face fell. “I got engaged,” she said, bringing her left hand in front of her chest. Russo’s ring sparkled in the autumn sunlight.                               

Peter’s eyebrows scrunched into a line.                                         

“Congratulations. Who’s the lucky guy?” his tone betrayed his words.                       

“Luca Venzetto.” Grace could have sworn she saw his eyes turn to slits for a split second before he recovered.

“Well, I am happy for you.” He kissed her cheek                              

“Thank you, Peter,” she said. She realized he was the first person she had talked to about her engagement aside from the Venzettos.                                              

“So, Gracie, how’s your dad?” Peter’s family was friends with Grace’s.    

“He’s…” she hesitated. “Well.”                                                                               

“Oh?” he had caught on to her hesitation. Grace opened her mouth to try and explain her complicated situation, when she saw a rather peeved Russo walking towards her over Peter’s shoulder. She handed Peter the rose she was still holding.                            

“I’m sorry, Peter. I have to go.” She gave him a quick hug, and walked around him towards Russo.                                                                                           

The last thing she needed was a confrontation between an old friend and Russo. 

When she reached Russo, she greeted him with a sweet smile. He shoved his hands into his slacks, glancing over his shoulder back at Peter.                           

“Who was that?” he asked bluntly.                                                                

“An old friend,” she quipped, losing her smile.                                             

He eyed her skeptically for a moment, making her uncomfortable under his gaze. He brought his thumb to the corner of his mouth for a brief moment, and began to saunter back to where the car was still parked.   

Grace rolled her eyes, but followed him nevertheless, for fear of being left behind on the busy sidewalks of the city.                                                          

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