“It’s Livia.” started Paolo.
“What’s Livia? What about Livia? I thought you were sweet on her Paolo... and that might be an understatement!”
“You said you saw her the other day. What was that about?” Paolo should have known he was really pushing his luck with Sofia.
“What kind of question is that Paolo?” Sofia said, anger clear in her voice. “Who says my meeting with her is any of your business?” She might have got up and left right there and then, but Sofia was keen to know what was bugging Paolo. She was always suspicious of Livia. “Well?”
“Actually Paolo, I haven’t worn it out before because you were so bothered. I chose this restaurant because it’s the last place either me or the ring would look out of place. Just you and your silly paranoid ideas... they’re out of place! I wanted to wear it to say thank you to you... somewhere safe. It’s a lovely stone and it was really nice of you to let me have it. But now I’m not so sure.”
“So sorry Sofia, of course you’re right. And it does look lovely. You too!”
“OK, so once again, why the urgency Paolo?”
Paolo couldn’t miss Sofia’s ring. The ring that could spell a lot of trouble for them both. Why was she wearing it here, not just in public view, but clearly flaunting it outrageously?
“Why are you wearing that Sofia?” Paolo, whispering, moved his right hand, covering the ring. “I told you how dangerous it could be for us both didn’t I? Are you mad?”
“So mad that you won’t get lucky tonight after all Paolo! Who on earth knows you here and who thinks my diamond is anything out of the ordinary in a place like this? Who’s mad exactly?”
Few diners can have missed Sofia, because the way she looked, the way she walked and the huge diamond weighing on her right hand said ‘here’s someone special’. They might have thought ‘who’s the sheepish lad on her tail?’ Paolo was embarrassed by the way Sofia was drawing attention to herself, and it showed.
He was relieved when the waiter helped her into her seat at the far side of their table. She had a view of the other diners. He sat opposite.
“So what’s with the urgency Paolo?” Sofia touched his left hand with her right.
“What the fuck?”
Were he not preoccupied by the fluidity of Sofia’s bottom, Paolo might have noticed the electric blue clutch bag in her right hand swinging by her side. But even if he had, he wouldn’t have seen what she was determined that everyone else in the restaurant would, the enormous sparkler on her finger. But clutching the bag ensured that it was hidden from Paolo’s view.
As she reached the upstairs room, her hand and bag moved up in front of her, just beneath her breasts, for the sashay to their table.
Everyone there was going to see that diamond ring.
Sofia moved away to speak to the nearby waiter, who asked her to follow him. Paolo followed them without a word. He watched ahead as Sofia’s bottom moved from side to side in a smooth, wavelike motion. As natural as the swing of a pendulum as she was led to the stairs. Had she turned round, she might have noticed the stares of many of the other diners, men in undisguised admiration and women too, albeit tinged with some envy.
At the stairs the waiter beckoned them up. Sofia led the way, keeping two steps ahead of Paolo. Lucky Paolo!
Paolo struggled to hide his relief as Sofia entered the door of the restaurant. She looked stunning and Paolo couldn’t stop himself mouthing ‘Wow!’ as she came up to him. He went to kiss her lips but connected with her left cheek as she skilfully turned her head right, then quickly left. There was no way that in such a public and classy place she was going to commit any faux pas... and besides, when she’d taken such care to fix her lipstick, however cute Paolo might be, he wasn’t going to spoil it.
Paolo had straightway lost the initiative.
Paolo arrived 10 minutes early at Langan’s. He’d known Sofia would be dressed to the nines, so he’d taken a bit of trouble to smarten himself up. He looked awkward; it wasn’t his kind of scene. He stood in the restaurant foyer and when Sofia didn’t arrive on the dot of 8pm a look which was a combination of irritation and anxiety came over his face.
Sofia, of course, arrived late, ten minutes late. After all, she couldn’t seem too keen by arriving on time. Maybe Paolo should have waited outside, to watch as she sashayed spectacularly along Albemarle Street.
Maybe she got lucky or, more likely, it was Sofia’s powers of persuasiveness, but a table for two was available that night, upstairs... not ideal, but at that stage beggars could not be choosers.
Sofia cancelled whatever else she was doing that evening to meet Paolo at 8pm, after she’d had a chance to go home and get changed into something dressy, befitting the restaurant or more particularly the other diners.
Sofia looked fabulous. She’d made the very best of herself, with tight-fitting dress that presented her figure superbly. It wouldn’t be just Paolo who appreciated her that night.
Paolo’s response was hardly enthusiastic. “Er, er, I was thinking of a takeaway maybe, but...”
“Well you don’t want me that much then, do you Paolo?”
“I do, I do, it’s just...” Paolo had stuff on his mind which wasn’t 100% romantic. “But OK....”
“Go on... I’ll pay, you bloody skinflint!” interjected Sofia, aware that in a way, Paolo had already paid, handsomely... and she didn’t really mind, she wanted to see him anyway. “I’ll see if they have a table at such short notice... and if I’m lucky, then you might get lucky too! If not, take some bromide!”
Sofia’s soft spot for Paolo was still there. ‘Wow,’ she thought, ‘he wants me. Maybe, just maybe...’ But such thoughts weren’t going to prompt Sofia to go running over to Paolo’s place. He was going to have to earn whatever he was really after, even if it was just her.
“Tell you what Paolo, why don’t you take me out to dinner because that’s what I want in return! I’m free tomorrow or if you’re really desperate, I could cancel the gym and make it tonight. Gives me an excuse to dress up. How about Langan’s, that would be nice?”
“Hi Sofe, I need to see you.” announced Paolo on the phone.
”Need, Paolo,” she replied suspiciously, “not like you to be needy, is it?”
“I want to see you. Want, need, what’s the difference anyway?”
“Well the level of urgency, for one and also the implication that maybe you don’t actually want to see me but interrogate or dump something on me. That’s the difference as I see it Paolo!”
“I want to see you. It’s been a while and I like you, being with you... oh you know what I mean. The urgency is because I want you!”
Paolo hadn’t seen Livia for days now and absence wasn’t making his heart grow fonder. Rather the reverse as he at last saw her for what she was, and what he was to her - nothing, absolutely nothing.
He knew from his call to Sofia earlier that she’d had lunch with Livia a few days ago. He needed to know what that was about, but that was only part of it.
After a number of evenings of careful reflection, he really wanted to see Sofia again, not only to find out what Livia had been after.
He was falling for Sofia.
Naturally, Livia had no intention to share the top job with anyone, particularly not Marcia. However, it seemed a good way to end the conversation on the one hand and to keep Marcia sweet on the other.
“We must do this again soon... after all, we’re only a few miles away from each other.” Livia ended the lunch, firstly by beckoning for the bill, which she insisted on paying and offering Marcia a lift home, which the latter declined. “And next time maybe we’ll really talk business. Keep your eye on Tony though, he’s nuts!”
“You’re telling me!” agreed Marcia.
Livia’s lunch with Marcia didn’t get much further than considering everyone in Tony’s organisation who could conceivably take on the top job if Tony somehow became ‘indisposed’. They didn’t discuss how Tony might become indisposed.... or disposed of... at this stage.
To bring the discussion to an end Livia made a suggestion.
“Why not a job-share then... and we can name ourselves Monelli Widows. Many organisations have twin bosses, so why not twins’ widow bosses? We’ll divvy up the role according to what sort of things we like best or are best at.”
“I’ll drink to that!” agreed Marcia.
One of Paolo’s great attributes was that of looking forward, not back. He didn’t dwell on might-have-beens. He was a pragmatist and a realist.
Realistically, Livia was out of his league. For one thing, she was quite a bit older than him - too much! He rationalised that anything lasting between them was not to be... but he was able to sweeten the pill a bit by remembering that she had already given him the prize of her body... and she couldn’t take that away. But sex with Sofia was better...
But he wouldn’t rock the boat... for now.
Paolo didn’t like being pushed around, bossed about, treated disrespectfully. Tony had the right to give orders; he was the boss after all, even if Paolo had plans to change that. But Livia’s capriciousness was becoming a bit too much to bear. True, she was beautiful... everything he could and did dream of, on the outside. But she simply wasn’t nice within.
Paolo compared Livia to Sofia, from whom, despite her blackmail, he had experienced considerable warmth. Only when compared to Livia’s external features did Sofia come second. Nonetheless, she was beautiful too and sex with her was really exciting.
Livia may have thought Paolo was under her spell and would do whatever she asked for her favours and the carrot of the top job in due course. Indeed, Paolo had been completely enraptured by her. However, he might have been young but he was nonetheless a bright boy... and one who’d already shown himself as cold hearted and ruthless. Whilst he may have ridden the moods and verbal blows from Tony’s tongue, what Paolo really hated was being made a fool of.
Reflecting on recent events he realised that Livia was manipulating him shamelessly. Making a fool of him.
Had Livia forgotten the encouragement she had given to Paolo before she went away and Terry’s demise? From Paolo’s perspective, he was still the crown prince, waiting. From Livia’s perspective he was a means to an end, and the end she’d already allowed him to achieve in having sex with her was no more than a dead end, literally if necessary. Livia was a user, a manipulator, as ruthless as a mantis. Livia was ideally suited to take over from Tony, having ‘made him redundant’ along the way.
Livia had qualities for sure, and she was determined to exploit them.
“So who else then?” asked Livia. “Who could do the job and is someone we could trust?”
“Well both our kids are far too young.” Replied Marcia, “and looking round the crew, there’s not a lot of choice. Franco’s the best tough guy, but has neither the brains or the subtlety to run the show. Paolo has been pretty close to Tony, and he seems to have ambition and probably knows what’s what...”
“Paolo?...” exclaimed Livia, “Gimme a break... he’s no more than a child... an adolescent, more interested in exercising what’s in his pants! Paolo? Boss? No bloody way!”