Locanda del Mare, Cefalù, Sicily
“Are you kidding me right now?”
Lorrie had been the first one to spot him. I’d told the girls about Lucia’s hot pool boy, which made us even more excited to hit the pool today. After running, and then walking back up the hill to get here, I couldn’t wait to dive in.
“We can’t all look at the same time,” I said, putting down my bag.
“Um, yes, we can.” Diana may have had a boyfriend, but that didn’t stop her from admiring and, judging by her expression, Lucia had been right about Gian. Apparently, there was quite a bit to admire.
“Is he real?” Teresa asked.
As all three of them openly gawked at the pool boy, I pulled a book out of my bag, knowing I wouldn’t get a word read of it. After spending the night in Cefalù drinking copious amounts of the best wine I’d ever had in my life, I’d be shocked if I did anything but recover and chat with the ladies this afternoon.
“Mazzie, you’ve got to get a look at this guy,” Lorrie said.
“I’m trying not to be so obvious,” I said, removing my cover-up and tossing it next to the book. I was planning to jump right into the pool.
That is, until I turned around.
So much for not joining the gawking club. It would take a feat of strength I didn’t possess not to look. And I couldn’t even see his face. Gian walked away from us toward the pool house, his body exactly what I’d imagine a rugby player’s to look like.
Admittedly, I had never met a rugby player, but somehow I knew they had amazing thighs. His upper body was muscled but not in an overly weightlifter-like way. It was, in a word, perfect. Even so, his body had nothing on his face.
“Holy shit,” I murmured as the others pretended not to pay attention to him. But I knew better. Every single one of us still watched him in some way. Me, as openly as ever. I just couldn’t look away.
“Oh my god,” Lorrie said. “I think he’s coming over here.”
Though he wore sunglasses so we couldn’t see his eyes, every ounce of the man screamed confidence. Maybe too much, which was an immediate turnoff for me.
“Please, please, please, dibs,” Teresa said.
Lorrie was married, Diana on the cusp of an engagement after two years of dating, which meant only Teresa and I remained single.
“He’s all yours,” I said. There was no way a guy who looked like that would ever pick me over Teresa, for starters. Plus, I was looking for commitment. This guy most certainly was not. He had that “serial dater” air about him and was definitely used to women throwing themselves at him. I had no desire to be one of those women.
“Buongiorno,” he said as he came up to us.
Lucia had said he was American, but he greeted us with a perfect Italian accent, as if he belonged here.
“Buongiorno,” the others murmured.
Never having been in the presence of a guy so hot—in real life and not on the other side of my Netflix screen—I apparently had lost the ability to speak.
“Gian DeLuca,” he said, now firmly American. He shook Teresa’s hand first, her being the closest to him. Then Lorrie’s and Diana’s. I was the farthest away, and by the time I discovered my legs did actually work, the moment had passed. He was still far enough from me that a quick wave seemed more appropriate.
He waved back but didn’t turn his gaze from mine.
“Who is Mazzie?” he asked.
Gian took off his sunglasses. I’m pretty sure Teresa let out an actual sound, and though no one acknowledged it, I was certain she’d already lost her ability to feign indifference to him. Which, for a guy like Gian, could be the death knell.
Guys like him liked the chase.
But I didn’t blame Teresa for her momentary lapse. His chocolate brown eyes turned to each of us, one by one, as if attempting to peer into our very souls. How did a pool boy manage such intensity? One normally reserved for a person whose life experience was so vast and varied that they seemed to have all the world’s answers in the palm of their hands?
To be fair, he was no boy. Gian was all man, and now I understood Lucia’s inside joke. She knew we’d be in for a treat this afternoon, and by the looks of it, Teresa was already smitten.
“Lucia told me you might be coming to the pool today,” he said to us. Or, more precisely, to me. “I’m happy to give you guys the lay of the land.”
“You’re American, obviously,” Teresa said, not even remotely hiding her appreciation.
“I’m from Pennsylvania. How about you all?”
Jesus. How were we supposed to carry on a conversation with him? I’d dated guys with abs before, just not six of them. He must have done a million push-ups a day.
“Everyone but me is from Arizona,” Teresa answered.
“And you’re from?”
You’d swear the woman had just been handed Willy Wonka’s golden ticket the way she beamed at him. Teresa usually had more game than this. Gian’s extraordinary looks were really throwing her off.
“The San Fernando Valley.”
“Here on a girls’ trip?”
“Yep. It was Lorrie’s idea.”
Lorrie raised her hand like she was in a third-grade class. I was losing the battle to contain my laughter at everyone’s responses to this man.
“I have family in Sicily,” Lorrie said. “Like four generations back, but enough that we’ve come here four times now.”
“Where in Sicily?” he asked her.
The two of them talked about places I’d never heard of before. With his attention on my friend, I let my gaze roam a bit. His swimming trunks left little to the imagination. Without warning, I envisioned myself under him. Naked. He was probably really good at sex, given the extensive amounts of practice I was sure he’d had.
He caught me. Who would’ve thought he’d dart his eyes my way during a full-on conversation with Lorrie? But he did. For a brief second I thought maybe he didn’t notice my wandering gaze, but even though he looked away and re-engaged Lorrie in a discussion of west versus east coast, the corners of his lips tugged upward.
Yep. I’d been well and truly snagged.
“So how did you end up working here from Pennsylvania?” Diana asked. She’d been uncharacteristically quiet during the exchange but was clearly as smitten as the rest of us.
“We have family ties to Lucia’s father, so when I was looking to come out for an extended stay, they arranged it.”
“How extended?” Teresa asked, looking like she wanted an early lunch, and on the menu, Gian from Pennsylvania.
All three of the ladies swooned. I might have made a sound too, imagining being here for the whole summer.
“It was my sister’s idea. She thought I needed to get away, and arranged the whole thing.”
“You have a pretty amazing sister.” Teresa smiled at him as if she were already planning to make Gian’s sister her own sister-in-law in the near future.
“She is pretty amazing.”
It was the first time since we’d met him that Gian didn’t say the words with a swagger.
“What do you do for a living that you can pick up and move to Italy for the summer?” Teresa asked.
I wondered the same thing.
“I own my own marketing firm so it’s pretty portable.”
“So not just a pool boy?” Teresa smiled as if she’d won the lottery for the second time that morning.
“Not exactly. But I’m happy to help with anything you need while you’re here. Have you made it into town yet?”
When he said, “Happy to help,” Gian looked directly at me. Incredibly, he seemed to be flirting. With me. The cute redhead and not the bombshell blonde. Teresa was going to kill me.
But maybe she didn’t notice. Lorrie answered him, and I hung back, content as always to let someone else take the lead. It wasn’t until Gian had given us all of his recommendations that he gave his attention to me again.
“So you’re the quiet one, I take it?”
Diana nudged me not so gently with her elbow as if I hadn’t heard him ask the question.
“Sometimes,” she answered for me. “Until you get to know Mazzie. In which case, she’s anything but.”
“A unique name, Mazzie,” he said, his words slick and smooth like his moves.
“There’s a story behind it,” I replied, not offering said story.
“I’d love to hear it.”
This time, I was pretty sure Lorrie noticed too. There was no mistaking it now. Gian, the mega-sexy pool boy, was openly flirting with me. Why? I couldn’t be so sure. And unfortunately, though Teresa had claimed him, my body didn’t seem to get the message. The way he looked at me made parts of my body tingle that hadn’t in a long time.
Since Dad passed, to be precise.
I swallowed, unsure how to answer.
“She’d love to tell you,” Diana said. “Why don’t you join us? Or do you have to work?”
I was going to kill her.
He scanned the group, clearly undecided, and then locked eyes with me. If Gian was looking for permission, I wasn’t going to give it to him. Teresa had made her interest clear, and a friend didn’t encroach on another friend’s claim.
My chin lifted, as if defying him. But that only made Gian’s smile wider.
“Sunday is my day off, actually. I have a few things to take care of,” he said to Diana and then focused on me once again. “But I’d love to join you. It’ll be nice not to struggle through Italian for a bit.”
“Ooo, and you can teach us some Italian too.” Teresa wasn’t giving up her claim anytime soon.
“Tornerò il mio simpatico piccolo lettrice,” he said as if Italian was his native language. Before he could translate for us, Gian put on his sunglasses and began to walk away. “I’ll see you ladies in a bit.”
“Oh. My. Fucking. God.” Teresa hadn’t waited long to give her assessment of him.
As all three of them swooned, I watched him walk away. Despite myself, I was finding it extremely difficult to peel my eyes from him.
“I wonder what he said? Did you catch any of that, Lorrie?” Diana asked. Of the four of us, she knew the most Italian.
“Just a word or two.”
“Which ones?” Diana demanded.
Teresa narrowed her eyes on me. The hairs on my arm raised at her expression.
He’d said something about me.
“That he’ll be back,” she responded.
But there was more to it. And by the way Teresa continued to look at me, our relaxing poolside afternoon had just taken a turn.
Keep reading Meet, Play, Love available now on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited.