Not Juliet
again, and pointed home.
    “I’m
listening,” he said, a small smile on his lips.
     

Chapter 12
     
    Riella took a moment to
look for the strength within herself, and then she told him
everything, barely stopping to draw breath. She told him about her
sick father, about the threats and the fire, and how she’d tried to
piece together all the information with Kai’s help, last time she’d
visited her parents. She told him about her frustrations since
she’d arrived in Rome, how no one seemed to be willing to help her
locate Cosimo Anziano, the one man who held in his hand her
father’s fate.
    Tears trickled
down her cheeks when she relayed her father’s request, and
explained how much it mattered to her to make his wish come true,
especially after everything he had done for her, and for his
people.
    Luca was
silent, for the most part, but eventually he started asking
questions. She was grateful for his interest, but she still
couldn’t see how he would be able to help. She answered all his
questions truthfully, even the more personal ones about her own
life and how she’d carved out an existence on her own, away from
the caring hands of her family and friends.
    Running back to
them for help had never been an option. Another tear slipped out
when she talked about the way some of her people treated her. She
felt like she barely fit in a society that cared little for the
gypsy minority, and she’d had to work hard at being accepted; then,
on the other hand, whenever she went back to camp, she felt like an
outcast. Unwanted and unwelcome, no matter where she went.
    By the time she
finished, Luca was quiet, unsmiling, staring straight ahead, his
face an unmovable mask. He had one hand on the steering wheel and
one around her clutched hands. His fingers were cold and unmoving,
too. She turned to look straight at him, but couldn’t read his
expression.
    She sighed,
wondering what went though that beautiful head. Was he
reconsidering his decision, regretting even now that he’d rushed
and popped a question likely to tie him to her – her problems and
her kind – forevermore?
    Heavy-hearted,
Riella swallowed her sorrow and decided to set him free. She loved
him too much to make him choose. What was she thinking, opening up
her heart to him? He was no knight in shining armor, no Romeo. Luca
was just a man – a beautiful man, and one she’d love till the end
of her days, but that didn’t give her the right to put him in such
a difficult position. Especially if she loved him.
    And she did,
from the bottom of her heart. She felt her soul rip apart inside
her at the mere thought of saying goodbye. Luca was a special
person, and she should set him free. She wanted to.
    “Luca, I
understand if all I told you might change the way you feel…”
    His head
swiveled to stare at her so fast, she jumped. A deep grimace of
pain contorted his features. Riella drew back involuntarily, as far
away as the space in the car and the link between their hands
allowed.
    “What? You
think so little of me? You think I would walk away because of who
you are? Or what you are?”
    Riella shook
her head, desperate to make him understand.
    “I love you,
Riella. How would you like me to word that so you understand? I
love you.”
    “And I love
you, Luca. I just don’t want to see you hurt. I couldn’t forgive
myself.”
    “Then we’re
understood. I’ll find the gypsy king and set up a meeting with him
tomorrow. Is that soon enough for you? I have some connections. I
can make some phone calls…”
    Riella couldn’t
believe her ears. Luca was still offering to help? Out of love or
some misplaced sense of indebtedness? She scrutinized his eyes, his
face. It was like staring at a mask, or a painting. Luca gave
nothing away. She’d never seen such a perfect poker face before in
her whole life.
    Despite her
inability to read him, she had to make him understand her problems
were unlikely to go away easily. There was a chance he would

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