Summer with the MillionaireBy: Jessica Gilmore
‘Try it again,’ he said, picking up another pink and cream canapé and offering it to her. ‘Now you know what it is, see what you think of the flavours.’
‘What’s wrong with a nice blini? Some fresh black pepper, a dollop of sour cream, just a hint of lemon: there’s a reason it’s a classic,’ Minty grumbled but took the ball cautiously between her finger and thumb and nibbled at it. Her face gradually relaxed as she savoured the taste and she took a larger bite. ‘Now I know what it is, it isn’t bad,’ she said. ‘Subtle. Texture’s nice too, not slimy. How did you manage that? What are the other flavours?’
‘The red one is tomato mixed with ciabatta crumb, the pale pink one ham, parmesan and caramelised onion. Try one.’
‘People will seriously buy this stuff?’ Minty picked up the ham and parmesan and sniffed it gingerly. ‘I mean, I like a nice Earl Grey sorbet as much as the next girl, but savoury ice-cream canapés?’
‘You are behind the times, Araminta cara.’ Luca popped one of the icy tomato balls into his mouth and tasted the sharp, sweet hit of tomato, the herby crumbs tempering the sweetness. Delicious. It had taken months to get the texture right, not so sloppy a sorbet that it couldn’t be finger food, nor so creamy that it overshadowed the taste. ‘Food experimentation, playing with perceptions, sweet and savoury combinations, is huge right now; this product allows any party-giver to show how modern and sophisticated they are. However, a girl whose idea of a perfect meal is a fishfinger sandwich can’t be expected to appreciate something so adventurous.’ He waited, an eyebrow raised, for the inevitable reaction.
‘Actually...’ Luca grinned as Minty rose to the bait just as he had known she would. Some things never changed. ‘I think you’ll find that fish goujons served with rocket, aioli and ciabatta is a staple in any self-respecting gastro-pub.’
He repressed a shudder. ‘And that is why I will never eat in England.’
The tension crackled between them. Minty was standing close, so close it would take less than a second to pull her to him, to silence her the only way that had ever proved effective. The blood thrummed in his ears as his eyes fastened on the full curve of her mouth, wide, provocative, tempting.
It would be a lie to say that the memory of kissing Minty Davenport had haunted him for the past six years; a lie to say that he had wasted those years yearning to taste her again. And yet the oddest things would remind him of that night; remind him how gloriously right it had felt, how right she had felt.
How right they had felt, as if all the years of competition and antagonism had led them to this point.
But she had been too young. Grieving. He couldn’t, he wouldn’t, have taken advantage of that. Of her. Stopping might have been hard but it had been the right thing to do.
And in the morning she had gone. No note; no word for six long years. Until today, waltzing in as if she had never been away, as unpredictable, as selfish, as ever.
And just because the memory of that night, that kiss, hung heavily in the atmosphere didn’t mean he had to act on it. Not at all.
Luca had a plan for his future, for his business, for his home. Minty didn’t figure anywhere.
Just two weeks and she would be gone. He needed to keep his distance and never, ever let himself forget who and what she was.
It was time for him to take control.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later the room was filled with the remaining board members. Luca, his Uncle Gio and Minty were the only stockholders. Having taken up the reins at such a young age, Luca had carried on with Gio’s practice of having an independent board made up of professionals with very different skills, from an expert in international law, whose only connection with Di Tore Dolce was these meetings, to Giovanna, a woman in her early sixties who had made gelato for the Di Tores since her teens.
He might not always take their advice but he valued it.
The meeting began informally, as always, and the room was filled with the usual hubbub of chit-chat, greetings and animated conversation as the board members caught up whilst sampling the food on offer. With one eye on the clock, Luca managed to back Minty into a corner, keeping her engaged in conversation and making it hard for her to mingle. By the time the others had taken their places at the table, she was well and truly relegated to the position of visitor, the object of everyone’s gaze and curiosity.