we see either the best or the worst in each other, and he liked what he’d seen. There was something honest about her personality that made her even more beautiful to him. It was late afternoon when he returned to Rendola. When he got home, Eliana’s BMW was parked next to the shed. He was surprised that she was back from the hospital so soon. He thought to check on her but then decided she probably had her hands full without him, so he instead went into his apartment, dropped his helmet on the ground near the door and exchanged his slacks and sport shirt for gym shorts and a loose-fitting tank top. He did pushups until he couldn’t do any more, seventy-seven straight; then he went out to jog. It was a warm evening and he completed his run in a little under an hour, past rolling hills of orchards and vineyards and dense forests. When he got home, he turned on the shower and had just taken off his clothes when there was a light knock on his front door. He put on his robe, tied the sash around his waist, then went out front. Eliana stood in the corridor holding a plate wrapped in foil. She glanced down at his robe. “Buona sera.” “ Buona sera. You came home sooner than I thought you would.” “The hospital discharged us around noon.” “Everything’s okay?” “Yes, thank you. Alessio just needs to take it easy for the next week.” “Would you like to come in?” “Thank you, but I better not. I need to listen for Alessio.” Ross saw that her door was wide open. “Did I get you out of the shower?” “Almost. You knocked just in time.” “I came over a little earlier but you weren’t home.” “I was out running.” She lifted her offering. “Well, I made you some chocolate chip cookies.” She handed the plate to him. “I’m sorry they’re not still warm. We made them yesterday before everything got crazy.” Ross lifted a corner of the foil. “Real chocolate chip cookies?” “It’s hard to find chocolate chips here so I cut up chocolate bars. We wanted to welcome you to Rendola.” “Thank you. Are you sure you won’t come in and have a coffee or a glass of wine?” This time she hesitated. “I better not. I just want you to know how much I appreciate what you did for us last night.” Her expression turned serious. “It’s a good thing for us that you were here. You saved my son’s life.” Ross felt uncomfortable accepting such praise. “No, you and the doctors saved his life. But I’m glad I was able to help. If you ever need me again, just holler. Any time. I know the route now. I’m betting I could shave another minute off my time.” She smiled. “You drove like a crazy man. How many red lights did you run?” “Only four. But in Italy they don’t count after midnight.” Eliana laughed. “No, they don’t.” The moment turned into a pleasant silence for both of them. She twisted a strand of her hair. “We’d like to do something to thank you. Alessio and I were wondering if you would have dinner with us tomorrow night. I know it’s short notice, so I’ll understand if you have other plans.” “No plans. Just frozen pizza. It can wait.” She smiled. “Then how about seven?” “Seven will be great.” “Well then, Alessio and I will be looking forward to it. Good night.” “Good night, Eliana.” As she walked back to her apartment, a smile bent her lips. She liked the way he said her name. Or maybe she just liked that he knew it.
“Chiusa fiamma e più ardente e se pur cresce.” A silent passion increases more ardently. —Italian Proverb
T he next day was Ross’s busiest yet at the Uffizi. He led four large tours—three groups from the UK and one American. Between his tours, and sometimes during them, he thought about Eliana. On the way home from the Uffizi, he drove his scooter past the villa to the nearby hamlet of Impruneta, where he stopped at a restaurant and purchased a bottle of red wine,