Mia's Heart


Page 10



Elena stares at me silently. She’s examining me, picking me apart. But why?

“No, we weren’t very good friends,” she tells me finally. “I don’t know why. I guess I’m not always a nice person. And you never tolerated any crap. That intimidated me.”

I’m an intimidating bad ass?

I’m not sure that I like me very much.

“So you were the mean girl and I was the bad ass?” I guess. She smiles slowly.

“I suppose so.”

“My mother thinks that I should try to be friends with you,” I tell her bluntly. “Because you understand what it’s like to be me—a child of a political family. Do you want to be friends?”

Elena stares at me in surprise. I can tell that she doesn’t know what to say. She wasn’t expecting this from me. But I wasn’t expecting any of this from her, either, so I guess we’re even.

“Well, you’re certainly not any less blunt,” she observes. “You’ve always said exactly what was on your mind. Okay, Mia. We can try to be friends. It should be interesting.”

“Yes,” I answer quietly. “It should be interesting.”

We chat for a little while longer and it seems uncomfortable, but it gets easier toward the end. I finally make my way toward the door and close it behind me. I exhale a long breath and lean against it.

Why do I feel like I just made a deal with the devil?

That’s ridiculous. Right?

Elena might have red hair, but she’s not the devil.

I spend the rest of the walk to my own room trying to convince myself of that.

Chapter Nine

I press my face against the glass of my mother’s car. I leave a nose print, but I don’t care. The hills of Caberra speed past us as my mom winds through the curvy roads toward Giliberti House.

Apparently, our house is uninhabitable and will have to be re-built in order for us to return home. Until then, my mother and I will be staying at Dimitri Giliberti’s family home, Giliberti House. It is located in a huge estate surrounded by olive groves outside of Valese.

Also apparently, I’ve been there a million times before because that is where I work…in their gift shop. I sell gourmet olive oils and whatnot. And I say ‘whatnot’ because I have no idea what else I sell there. Sigh.

“We’re almost there,” my mom says. I know she’s assuming that my sigh was a result of being in the car. “You’ll see the olive groves soon.”

And I do. We round one more curve and I see hundreds of olive trees, their lush green tops touching the sky. The olives look like pebbles on the branches.

“Your father will come out on the weekends,” my mother tells me. “He’s going to stay in the city during the week for work reasons. He’s worried about you, though. He’s hoping that the peace and quiet out here will help you relax and recover more quickly.”

Him and me both.

I’m sick of this whole can’t-remember-who-I-am-thing.

I nod wordlessly, taking in the scenery as my mother turns into a long, long drive. Flowering trees line each side and white blossoms drift through the air, padding the stone lane beneath us with a thick blanket of petals. It looks like a painting. I take a whiff of the sweet-smelling air.

“It’s gorgeous here, right?” my mother asks, lifting an eyebrow.

“Yes,” I agree. “It is.”

She pulls into a circular drive and we get out of the car. The house is amazingly beautiful, like something out of a fancy fairytale. Warm light floods from the windows onto the manicured lawn around it. It draws me to it and makes me want to run into the house.

A tiny little woman comes out, stooped and elderly. But she moves quickly. She is down the stairs before I can even speak. Her hair is pulled into a neat chignon at the nape of her neck.

“Mia!” she cries out and barrels into me, grasping me up into a surprisingly strong bear hug. She smells like cookies. And maybe sunshine.

I look at her blankly, wish-wish-wishing that I could place her. Because she clearly knows me. She looks at me sympathetically.

“I’m sorry, sweet girl,” she tells me, taking a step backward. “I forgot that you don’t remember me. My name is Marionette Papou. I run this household for the Gilibertis. You know me very well, little one. I’ve known you since you were in pigtails. But you will remember. I have faith in that.”

She is confident. I like that.

She turns and greets my mother and then her husband, Darius, introduces himself to me before he gets our bags. They both move surprisingly quickly for being older. And I am surprised again when Marionette tells me that Darius is the foreman for the olive groves. They have both worked here for decades, apparently, and they have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon.

They lead us into the massive house and I immediately feel welcomed, like I am home. The house is immaculately furnished, but it is cozy even as it is magnificent and enormous. It is the kind of place where families live and thrive. I feel instantly at ease.

Marionette smiles.

“I have a treat for you,” she tells me with a grin. “Your favorite.”

I have no idea what my favorite is, but I follow her anyway.

I’m trusting that way, I guess.

As Darius takes our bags upstairs to our rooms, Marionette leads us to the kitchen. Wonderful smells surround us and I inhale deeply.

She hands me a saucer and shoves me into a chair.

“Your favorite,” she tells me again as I look at the little fancy plate. There is a forest green G inscribed on the china rim. A flaky croissant drizzled in butter instantly makes my mouth water. “I make them from scratch,” she adds proudly.

I take a bite and instantly am in love with Marionette. I tell her that and she laughs.

“Oh, you fell in love with me long ago, little one,” she grins, before she pats my arm and glides away to wipe off a cabinet. “I’m French. Everyone loves me.”

I don’t know what that has to do with anything, but it makes me smile anyway. I consider that as I look around. This kitchen reminds me of a giant farm kitchen, but is filled with every modern convenience. It’s comfortable in here. I could stay in here forever.


My mother, however, must feel differently.

“Mia, I’m going to go unpack,” she tells me. “If you need me, Marionette will show you to my room.”

I nod and watch her walk away. She doesn’t seem very happy to be here. But then again, she doesn’t seem all that happy to be anywhere. I wonder why. And then I wonder if I ever knew why.

Marionette watches me.

“Your mother worries about you,” she says quietly. “I know you don’t believe that, but it is true.”

I am startled. “I don’t believe that?” I ask curiously. “Do my mom and I have issues?”

It’s Marionette’s turn to look startled, like a cat who swallowed a canary.

“Uh. Not necessarily,” she says slowly. “Just typical teenager and mother things. Nothing big.”

But she turns and focuses very hard on cleaning the already spotless stone counters. I narrow my eyes suspiciously, but I don’t say anything. Clearly, she doesn’t want to say anything else.

“Is it alright if I go for a walk outside?” I ask her politely. She turns and smiles.

“Little girl, you don’t have to ask permission. This is your home, for as long as you need it to be. Feel free to walk anywhere you would like to walk.”

I smile and impulsively turn and hug her. She’s the warmest person that I’ve met so far. She seems surprised, but she hugs me back tightly. Her tiny arms are surprisingly strong.

“It’s good to have you here,” she tells me and I swear that her faded eyes are wet. But she turns away again before I can tell for sure.

I make my way outside through the back terrace doors.

I look around and sigh contentedly. If there was ever a nirvana, this is it. Giliberti House is like an oasis in the middle of the country. Rolling hills surround us, swaying trees encircle us and the smell of fresh flowers assails my senses. It’s an enchanting place.

And then I hear it.

Whistling.

A song with no words and no real melody.

I perk my ears and try to find where it is coming from.

I walk past the back gardens and over the shady lane leading down to what looks to be a set of barns. And then I see him.

Sweet. Mother. Of Mary.

A muscular guy with sandy blonde hair is shirtless and there are so many muscles rippling that I can’t even count them all. He is working with a gigantic horse and he is whistling.

And I am panting.

Holy crap.

Do I know this guy??

I am frozen as I watch his biceps flex and move. He looks to be about my age. He’s got broad shoulders, slim hips and he’s really tall. He’s wearing cowboy boots.

Cowboy boots.

Who is he??

My curiosity is firmly piqued, so I decide to just find out. I approach him and after a second, he notices me and stops what he is doing.

And then he grins a grin so devastating, I think it might stop my heart.

No. Lie.

“Mia!” he calls.

Holy crap. I do know him. Or he knows me, anyway. I watch as he grabs a cowboy hat that is hanging on a fence post and slaps it on his head as he hops over the fence to the paddock. He reaches me in literally five long strides and then crunches me in a bear hug.

I want to die right here, I think.

In the safety of his strong arms.

I will stay here for the next sixty years and die a happy woman.

But obviously, after a second, he steps away and I fight the urge to cling to him. He feels so safe and warm. And clearly I am craving security. I might want to see a therapist about that.

“You look great!” he tells me with a grin. “Your stripes are gone, though.”

I automatically run my fingers through my hair. “I know. I don’t... I don’t remember them.”

Hot Guy looks pensive.

“I bet you don’t remember me, either, do you?” he asks softly. I am hesitant, because I really, really wish that I did. But I don’t. So I shake my head.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him. “Maybe soon. They keep telling me that my memories should come back soon. I’m starting to hate that word, actually. Soon. It’s so vague.”

Hot Guy holds his hand out.

“My name is Quinn McKeyen,” he tells me as he shakes my hand formally. “I’m living here at Giliberti House for the school year. I’m in the Foreign Exchange Student program. I’m from Kansas- which is the state in America where your friend Reece is from. Do you remember Reece?”

I shake my head again. “I don’t remember anything at all,” I admit.

He actually smiles. “I’m going to have to think of some way to use that to my advantage,” he says with a wink. I shake my head.

“Don’t even try it,” I laugh. “Gavin already tried, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t think about it fast enough. He told me about the state of my love life before-hand. That was a little counter-productive.”

Quinn laughs again. And I decide that I might not know him, but I freaking love his laugh. And his American accent.

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