Free Unforgotten by Kristen Heitzmann

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Authors: Kristen Heitzmann
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think about it.”
    “What do you want?” I lean closer, and I can see the natures vie inside him. Contrary to his normal assurance, he seems at a loss to choose.
    I lean close, letting my Arpe`ge perfume help his indecision. “I think you should kiss me.”
    He swallows. “I can’t.”
    “Why not?”
    “I promised your father.”
    Promised Papa? “Papa doesn’t decide for me.” Not for the last couple years, anyway.
    “He asked me not to.”
    “Because you’re leaving?”
    He glances away.
    I lean closer still. “He didn’t ask me not to.”
    “Antonia …”
    I touch his cheek for the first time, feel the stubble of his beard, rough and thick. Marco will not be the first person I’ve kissed. And yet I hesitate as though … as though nothing. I draw his face close and breathe a hint of pomade, of mint leaf he chewed from the cheesecake I served him. Our scents mingle as I touch his lips with mine.
    His arm comes around. “Cara …” And then he kisses me.
    She jolted. Lance’s expression said he must have been waiting awhile for her to respond. “Wh … at?”
    “In the morning we’re going to talk.”
    What use was there in words? Words that could be lost and mixed and jumbled into nonsense. What was inside was what remained. But Lance would not listen. “ Bene. W … e talk.”
    “What, Momma?” Lance squeezed into the closet-sized pantry with his mother, whose flare for melodrama had not diminished.
    “I need to know; where is she sleeping?”
    “My room.” He couldn’t resist the pause. “With Star. I’m on the couch.”
    “There should not be men and women in the same apartment.”
    “Well, Star’s in there with Chaz and Rico.”
    “They’re not mine. You are my son.”
    “Ma, I’m almost thirty.”
    “You get her pregnant, you can’t marry in the church.”
    “That’s not true, and anyway I’m not sleeping with Rese.” He did not want to have this conversation nose to nose with his mother in the pantry. Especially when she looked so skeptical. He jammed his fingers into his hair. “St. Michael the Archangel strike me dead if I lie. I haven’t touched her.”
    “Why not?”
    “Because she is too cold?”
    He expelled a breath. “She’s not cold, Momma.”
    “You are a man of the heart.” She pressed her palm to his chest. “You need a woman in your sheets who can keep you there.”
    Was he confused or had she just switched sides? “I’m sure if she ever agrees to have me—”
    “She refused you?”
    The outrage of an Italian mother over an insult, real or imagined, toward her son should never be underestimated. There might be no fury like a woman scorned, but there was no terror like a madre insulted.
    “I haven’t asked in a way she could take seriously.” He was still trying to dig out of his hole.
    “What’s to take seriously? You ask; she says yes. What else is there?”
    A little matter of trust, and the fact that she had never said she felt the same way. She might really want nothing more than his partnership at the inn. They were all making a big assumption based on nothing more than her showing up with him. And she was almost certainly regretting that.
    “Can we get out of here?” He opened the pantry door and nudged his mother out.
    She sniffed. “It’s your gallivanting all over the world.”
    “Digging ditches, building houses for people who live in cardboard boxes.”
    “And all this mysterious business with Nonna.”
    That much was true. He and Nonna had not told Momma or anyone else about the quest that had sent him first to Suar Conchessa in Liguria, then to Rese in Sonoma, about burying Nonna’s grandfather or any of the other things he’d found.
    Pop came in. “Where’s the dessert? The children are getting restless.”
    Getting restless? Lance heard at least two babies crying, a skirmish of raised voices and bumped furniture and parents hollering exasperated threats. “Why don’t you skip

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