“Luca,” I say as we approach. “What a nice surprise.”
And it is. I’m surprised by the jolting thrill that shoots through me when I see him.
What is even more surprising though, is Adrian’s reaction.
“Luca, what are you doing here?” Adrian asks. “Is everything alright?”
I glance sharply at Adrian and then our conversation from Marianne’s comes back to me. He grew up on an estate outside of town with a boss who doesn’t like people.
He works for Luca.
Luca looks at him. “I’m fine,” he tells him. “It’s my mother.”
And then he shifts his attention to me.
“Dr. Talbot, I realize that this is an imposition, but could you possibly take a look at her? She’s been despondent all day and we cannot calm her down. Her doctor is out of town for the next two weeks. I’m not sure what to do with her.”
“You could take her to the hospital,” I suggest. But Adrian is already shaking his head.
“No, we can’t do that. She would hate the publicity. Would you mind coming to look?”
It is Adrian who is asking me now and I find it sweet that he is so loyal to his employer. He said we, as if the problem is also his. I add loyal to his list and then look back to Luca.
Luca’s expression is unreadable and as dark as always. But his eyes, there is something deep within his eyes, something vulnerable and sad, that does me in and I find myself nodding.
“Okay. I’m not licensed to practice medicine in Malta, so I can’t prescribe her any medication, but I can come take a look at her.”
“Thank you,” Luca tells me and his voice is sincere. “I appreciate it more than you know.”
I only just now notice that he is holding a bag. He sees me notice it and he holds it out. “I didn’t come empty handed,” he tells me. For the first time, I see the hint of a smile on his lips. “I brought you a house-warming gift.”
I eye it curiously as he hands it to me. I peer into the bag and can’t help but laugh.
There are two cans of aerosol insecticide nestled within tissue paper. The black and red labels on them announce that they are guaranteed to rid a house of common and pesky spiders. I look up at Luca and grin.
“Practical, yet thoughtful. Thank you.”
He smiles back, and for the first time, it seems to really reach his eyes and warm them. They seem like milk chocolate now.
“You’re welcome. I won’t always be in the neighborhood when Spawns of Satan come calling. I thought you should be protected.”
I smile and shake my head, embarrassed once again at how terrified I had been of that spider.
“Thank you. Now, I’ll run this inside and grab a bag and then I’ll be ready.”
I brush past him to get inside and I know the instant I touch him. He is hard and masculine and he smells like spicy musk. I inhale slightly as I pass and his eyes meet mine. There is a connection there, a charged and potent connection. It’s like he doesn’t see anyone or anything else in the world but me, as though I have his complete and undivided attention. But the moment quickly passes when he turns away to speak with Adrian.
I drop the spider spray in the kitchen and then hurry to stuff a stethoscope and various other things that I might need into a small bag before I join them back outside.
“I’m ready,” I announce. Both men nod and both men gesture toward their cars.
I stop and look at them.
Adrian looks expectant. I was, after all, just on a date with him. It would be perfectly normal for me to ride with him. He is standing next to a dark blue Mercedes, waiting for me to join him.
Luca stands still, completely quiet, next to his black Jaguar. He looks at me, but doesn’t say anything, his face still expressionless. He doesn’t ask me, implore me or expect anything from me. He just waits for me to choose him. And honestly, I know there is nothing else I can do. He draws me to him like a magnet.
I walk straight to him and he opens his car door for me. And although he doesn’t say anything, and I might be mistaken, I think that I see a slight smile as I duck into his car.
He closes the door behind me and as he does, I catch a glimpse of Adrian’s face in the side mirror. He isn’t happy about my decision and I find that silly. I just chose a car to drive in after all. But as Luca slides into the driver’s seat and the car engine roars to life, he brings with him his intense energy and I am once again mesmerized by his unique presence.
And I wonder if the decision that I just made is as inconsequential as it would seem.
The night speeds past us as Luca drives. He’s a fast driver, but I see in the side mirror that Adrian is right behind us. He hugs our tail as we curve through the country roads.
“What are your mother’s symptoms?” I ask Luca. He doesn’t take his eyes from the road as he answers.
“My mother has had dementia for years. It has gotten progressively worse and although she is medicated, some days are worse than others. She hallucinates quite a bit, even when she is taking no medication at all.”
“So her hallucinations stem from her own mind, rather than a side effect of medication,” I answer. He nods.
“How old is your mother?”
“Is she in good health otherwise?”
“Yes. Physically, she’s in perfect condition.”
“What is she doing right now that is causing you such alarm?”
He glances at me.
“I’m not alarmed. It’s just a new behavior. She’s been screaming all day. She won’t stop.”
I look at him.
“You said that she is medicated. Does she have sedatives?”
He nods again. “Yes. And she has been sedated today. Heavily. It does no good.”
He glances at me once again, his gaze dark in the night, before he returns his attention to the road.
“I apologize if I interrupted a date.”
I am startled by the fact that I don’t want him to believe that it was, even if it is the truth. I’m not going to make excuses, however. I am a grown woman and I don’t need to explain myself to anyone.