The next morning marked the second half of Victoria’s vacation. She was determined to take in more sights of Italy. After breakfast, she set out with a hotel map in search of scenic and secluded countryside communities. She hired a cab for the late morning and early afternoon to drive her to several rural points of interest.
The truth was, she needed to divert her mind from Mateo and she couldn’t stop running last night through her mind. She was going to see him that evening, but it felt like an eternity away. Although she believed she had uncovered a hidden truth about Mateo, she was still walking into the hated unknown.
With the help of the cabby, the adventurous tourist took in a wine tasting tour of an old hillside vineyard estate, rode horseback for an hour at a ranch that bred race horses, and visited a hundred year old cheese factory in a hamlet not far from the ranch.
Victoria constantly marvelled at the rich history of Italy, from its astounding Roman structures to its small business establishments, flooded with old world charm.
“Four o’clock. I wonder if Mateo is home from work yet?” she asked out loud looking down at her watch.
Victoria instructed the cabby to take her on a final trip to the Via dei Castagni, where she would wait for Mateo. Upon arrival, she thanked the cabby with a generous tip and proceeded up the pathway to Mateo’s door.
His house was the end unit of three - all old and constructed of irregular stonework, but nevertheless exhibited a sort of charismatic charm with its rounded corners and notched roofline.
She knocked on the wooden door. There was no answer. He must not be home yet, she thought. She turned and stepped away from the front of the house, hands on her hips. Victoria decided to walk over to the shed where he gathered tools to fix her rental scooter when they first met. As she turned the corner, she saw Mateo working behind the shed.
He had on a tinted visor and was operating some sort of cutting torch. She took a seat and decided to wait until he was finished before presenting herself. She watched as he carefully sized up a large piece of steel plate and squeezed the trigger on his torch, blasting a massive hot flame through the steel, slicing it effortlessly.
Victoria quietly studied Mateo for several minutes as he worked. He had on a tattered leather vest to shield his chest from the molten metal sparks emanating from the steel plate during each cut. His biceps shone yet in places were covered in light soot. He appeared oblivious to the occasional hot metal bits bouncing off his body and onto the cement work pad below.
He was a hard worker, taking pleasure in the ability to manipulate material with powerful tools. Victoria was impressed. He gathered the next hot piece of steel with metal tongs, then after examining it, he struck it over and over with a hammer on a nearby anvil to begin the process of shaping the metal. After a dozen blows of the hammer, he removed the visor and wiped his forehead with his glove while putting down the tools for the day.
Mateo re examined the metal piece, holding it up against a massive metal frame in front of him. It appeared to be some sort of large motorcycle in the works. Victoria recognized the forks and neck, monstrous in comparison to the Ducati’s frame. But at this point, the bike he was fabricating did not look like much of anything. Could it be an art piece? Or was it a rebuild of an old two wheeler?
“I thought you would be at work today!” Victoria yelled over, startling the Spaniard.
“Oh, hi! Yes. This is work,” he replied. “I do it from home most of the time. I build custom pieces from wood and steel. Part carpenter, part metal worker.”
“Part filthy man!” chuckled Victoria. She was a bit of a neat freak herself. Mateo looked at her emotionless for a moment then cracked a forgiving smile.
“That’s enough for today,” he said as he walked from his workshop. “Come on inside,” he whispered with a lazy grin.
He led her into his home through the back door. Mateo turned his head, “By the way, I thought we could eat in.”
Victoria smiled, “Sounds good.” She was definitely in for an intimate night with Mateo.
As she entered the living room, Victoria’s eyes immediately began to scan her surroundings. She wanted to learn as much about this mysterious man as she could.
The main floor was cozy with a small kitchen and a beautiful dining room set which Mateo explained he had hand built over ten years ago. A wooden cross took the wall by the entrance way, and a few pictures were hung here and there. But Victoria was overcome with a familiar fragrance.
“Is someone baking bread in here?” she asked.
“No. It’s already baked. It’s just cooling on the counter. Actually, why don’t you come with me next door for a minute?” Mateo asked as he washed his hands.
Victoria narrowed her eyes. “Sure,” she smiled, wondering what could possibly be awaiting her there.
Mateo gathered one of the loaves of fresh baked bread and they began their trek next door. He knocked on the door and waited. It was answered by a short, frail elderly man with powder white hair and a long weathered face. Victoria was taken aback by the smile that instantly shone across his features upon seeing Mateo.
“Giulio, come stai?” Mateo asked the elderly man as he handed over the warm loaf of bread to the grateful neighbor.
“Hai bisogno di qualche cosa?”
Giulio shook his head and smiled. He didn’t need anything today and simply thanked Mateo with a few pats on his shoulder. He then gave the couple on his doorstep a good evening wave as he slowly closed the door.
Walking back to his house, Mateo looked over at Victoria and saw her glancing back at his neighbor’s door, a perplexed look upon her face. So he told her the story of the old man.
“Giulio has been my neighbor for years. I used to go to his house for dinner when his wife was alive. They were married for fifty two years. I had never seen two people grow old so happily together. He can’t speak a word of English, but his wife did, so she spoke to me for him. She told me many stories of their life together here in Italy. Beautiful stories. Tragic stories. She used to bake fresh bread for dinner every other day. That’s how her husband liked it. It tasted so good, I begged her to show me how she made it. He tended a small garden out back for her. They did so much for each other.”
Mateo’s eyes took on a dark cast Victoria had never seen before. He put his hands in his pockets and continued his story in a low voice. “Last October, his wife died. It was cancer. I don’t know how he has manages to live each day without her, all alone. But he still tends the garden for her. He gives me fresh vegetables and herbs. She would have wanted him to keep her garden alive. Every few days, I bake bread for him, just like she taught me. But I always make enough for me too.”
Mateo smiled as he broke some bread for Victoria to smell. “No one baked bread like she did,” he added, his smile warming his handsome features.
She took a piece of the fresh bread and bit in. It was warm and delicious! Victoria stared at his solemn profile. She now admired Mateo two fold. He was the strong silent gentleman...and he had a heart of gold.
As they walked into Mateo’s living room, he gestured to the nearby sofa.
“Have a seat here. I’m going to get out of these clothes and shower. I’ll just be a few minutes. Have some wine; it’s over there on the table. Then I’ll cook us something to eat.”
As he removed his dirty vest, she poured herself a glass of wine. Unsure as to why, Victoria decided to admit something to Mateo.
“Hey, I wanted to apologize for my attitude yesterday. Although I’m not one to apologize, I think it’s necessary because I misunderstood you last night.”
She took a long sip of wine, the whole time keeping her eyes locked on the man before her. She waited for a response from him, but all he did was stare at her for a moment before giving her a curt nod. He then turned and headed up the stairs to clean up.
Victoria thought the lack of response from Mateo was odd, but she was overwhelmed with emotion. She was fascinated by this man. She stood by an open window, breathing in the heady scent of her drink.
The sun was still ablaze, though low in the sky. Soon the occasional scattered clouds would take on soft red hues. It was if as though the hotly painted sky mirrored the passion brewing inside of her. She closed her eyes, trying to understand the tingly feeling of her nerves and warmth of her skin.
A part of her felt afraid. She had heard of this. Quite frankly, she thought that uncontrollable passion was reserved for the weak minded. To make things worse, she wasn’t sure if her feelings were even returned. She looked at the stairwell leading to the second floor. Leading to Mateo.
Victoria took in a deep breath and placed her wine glass on a nearby table. She didn’t know if it was the wine, or being in an exotic country, all she knew was that something was about to happen that was out of her control.
Victoria quietly headed up the stairs, stopping in front of Mateo’s bathroom. The door was open. She listened to the shower for a few seconds, and then decided to succumb to her new state of indulgence. She opened the door further, seeing the unmistakable silhouette behind the frosted glass door of the shower stall.
Now thoroughly aroused, Victoria continued to watch the hot wet form on the other side of the door. She quietly stripped off her clothes and decided to join him.
Victoria opened the door to see his back turned to her. While busy lathering, she placed a hand on Mateo’s shoulder.
He turned startled. Their eyes locked for a moment. A moment that could stop time. Nothing else mattered, except the intense heat of passion quickly intensifying as he drew her into the shower and closed the door.
What follows is too steamy to publish on my blog...
...but to find out what happens next, you can pick up my book and enjoy the intense scene that follows.
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A. W. Clarke.