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Grace wandered around the mansion’s gardens trying to sort out what had happened between her and Luca just moments ago. He thoroughly confused her. How could one man be so kind and carefree one second, and cold and shut off the next?                                                                             

She let out a heavy sigh, grabbing her skirts in her fists to keep them from getting ruined on the dusty ground. The last thing she needed was to get twigs or thorns from dead bushes caught in her gown.        

It was cold. Grace reprimanded herself for not thinking to bring her cloak out here with her. The November chill was not as forgiving as she had hoped it might be. She made up her mind to go rejoin the party. Gia had told her to be a good guest to her gracious hosts, and she didn’t think that hiding in a dead garden qualified her as such.                                                                         

Before she turned to leave back towards the grandeur, she saw a tiny light, almost like embers, growing brighter and then more faint again. She wasn’t alone, someone else was in the garden, and they were having a smoke.                                                                                                                

“Grace?” she heard a familiar voice ask.                         

“Luca, what are you doing out here?” she asked, walking towards his figure.               

“Clearing my head. Where’s your coat?” He wasn’t happy. There was a certain edge to his tone that Grace didn’t particularly like. 

“I suppose I forgot it inside.” He didn’t look amused. Holding the cigarette between his teeth, Luca undid the buttons of his suit jacket. He slipped it off his shoulders and held it out to Grace. She took it hesitantly, slipping her arms through the oversized sleeves.     

“You shouldn’t have been out here in the first place,” he muttered.        

“I guess I just needed to think about what happened earlier.” Grace couldn’t even look at him. She was debating with herself whether or not to have this conversation right now.      

“What are you talking about? Nothing happened.” His words were clipped.     

“So you and Lola, that’s nothing?” her voice went up an octave as she felt herself getting worked up.                                                                                        

“It’s none of your concern.” Grace could see Luca’s breath as it mingled with the cold air and cigarette smoke.   


“No,” he confirmed.

“It sure does feel like there is something between you two,” she pushed.                 

“And what if there is?” he goaded, taking a step closer to her.                                                                

Grace’s eyes glowered with frustration. She brought her hand back, and whipped it around to smack his cheek. He caught her wrist mere centimeters away from his face. His grip was uncomfortably tight.                                              

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