Elegant Death

Temptation in Florence #7

Beate Boeker

Carlina placed the receiver with great care back into the charging station, shook her head with an amused grin and went to find her fiancé.

He was in the kitchen, his head inside the fridge, but when she walked in, he turned and looked at her. “What have they done now?”

She blinked. “What do you mean?”

“You’ve got that kind of face.”

“What kind of face?”

“That mix between amusement and exasperation you always have when your family has come up with another catastrophe.”

“This time, it’s not a catastrophe.”

“Whew.” He leaned his broad shoulders against the fridge and studied her. “So it’s got nothing to do with our wedding?”

“I didn’t say that.”

His face grew wary. “The wedding is tomorrow. Please tell me they haven’t hired a surprise orchestra that will hover above us in a balloon, to play all night long.”

She laughed. “Oh, no, nothing like that.” She just couldn’t resist; she had to caress the little scar next to his mouth. “Where on earth do you get your ideas?”

“They’re nothing compared to the Mantoni ideas.” He pulled her close and buried his face in her hair. “Tell me.”

“My brother will bring a girlfriend to the wedding.”

“Is that all? I’m relieved.”

She drew back her head to see his face. “You don’t understand. My brother has had quite a few girlfriends, but he’s never presented one to the family. My mother will have a heart attack.”

“But only on Sunday.” His tone was firm. “I will not have a death interfering with our wedding.”

She smiled, enjoying the faint whiff of his aftershave and the warmth of his body. “I’ll break it to her gently. Besides, people usually get heart attacks from bad news anyway. This is good news. Really good news.”

He put his head to the side. “Depends on the girl, doesn’t it?”

She shrugged. “I doubt that mamma will like her, even if she’s an angel. Enzo is the youngest, he’s the only son, and so far, nobody was good enough for him. But the one thing that will speak in her favor is mamma’s opinion that it’s high time for him to settle down.”

“But he’s younger than you are, isn’t he?”

“Yes. Seven years.”

Stefano nodded sagely. “Now I see her point. At twenty-six, he’s definitely molding on the shelf. No wonder your mother is panicking.”

She gave him a playful punch on the arm. “Stop it.”

“This will increase the guest list yet another time. I think we now have five more than originally planned.”

She hesitated. “Yes. I’m sorry. Of course, we invited him to bring a guest, but I didn’t think he’d bring one. Do you mind that there are so many Mantonis and only a few people from your side?”

“Not at all.” He smiled down at her and gently pulled at one of her brown curls. “I’m exceedingly grateful we managed to organize a wedding that even remotely resembles what we want to have as opposed to the carnival your family originally planned. It was a great idea to push the date ahead and tell your family only three days in advance.”

She returned his smile. “They’re now so busy buying dresses and going to the hairdresser, they don’t even have much time to get on our nerves.”

“A decided relief. I like our strategy. We should use it more often.”

“Fine with me.” She looked at a button on his shirt. “Stefano?”


“Are you nervous about tomorrow?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean . . . about marrying me?”

He held her closer. “I’m only nervous about one thing: that something will go wrong before we’ve tied the knot. I want to be married to you; I want you to be my wife. I’m not keen on all the hullabaloo they create around weddings, but you know that.”

She nodded. “No second thoughts because of the family?”

He smiled at her, a smile full of tenderness. “I knew I would only get you as a combination-package, including the Mantoni clan. I’ve accepted it, and as long as we manage to put a few evasive strategies into action, I’m happy.”

She returned the smile, her heart lifting. “Evasive strategies . . . like a German island with no cars?”

“Exactly.” His arms tightened. “I can’t wait to walk along that beach, with the wind in our hair, and not a single Mantoni anywhere near. Nobody but you.”

“And in the evenings, we’ll sit at an open fireplace.”

“Yes. It’ll be cozy. It’s much colder in Germany than in Italy in October.”

“They’ve predicted a lovely autumn day for Florence for tomorrow. Sunshine, blue skies, mellow temperatures.”

“I didn’t expect anything less. After all, we’ve booked a garden wedding, sunshine included. I just hope they’ll start early with the cutting of the tie, so I can breathe easily. I really don’t like ties. In fact, I believe this particular tradition was invented by someone who didn’t want to be strangled all night.”

Carlina grinned. “I’ll give Roberto a little hint. He’ll love cutting your tie into pieces and asking money from the guests. I really think he’s chosen the wrong profession. He should have become an entertainer or something, instead of a pathologist.”

Stefano nodded. “I’ve often told him so.” Then his gaze grew intense. “How about your feelings about our wedding? No second thoughts? I’m only a homicide inspector with an average income. I’m grumpy and don’t talk much. Sure you want to bind yourself to me for the rest of your life?”

Her smile deepened. “I’ve never been surer about anything in my life.”