Read the first 3 chapters of ‘The Scent of Rome’, out 28/05/2020!

 

Chapter 1

Nadine Costa was waiting at the bar of the St. Regis in Rome. Her red silk dress, black stiletto heels, long dark hair and elegant physique made her the center of attention and she knew it. People’s eyes were always drawn to her, wherever she went, especially when dressed the way she was tonight. She scanned the opulent space as she inhaled the scent of luxury. It was hard to define the ingredients that made up the hotel’s signature scent, but she picked up on a hint of rosewood and leather, no doubt carefully selected to leave a lasting impression on its guests.

It wasn’t the first time she’d been here, but the grandeur of the hotel always impressed her. The marble floor of the meticulously renovated palazzo sparkled like it had just been polished, reflecting the light of the crystal chandeliers in the ceiling. Even though this wasn’t Nadine’s scene, she looked like she belonged here as she waited for the man who would be her date for tonight while sipping a glass of champagne. She was early as always because she liked getting acquainted with her stage, as she thought of it, taking her time to prepare for her performance.

It was pretty simple, but the rules were strict. All meetings happened in public places, no exceptions. Touching was not allowed, unless it was a hand on her back while leading her to a table or opening a door, or maybe a peck on the cheek to convince others of their affection. Possible topics of conversation had been sent through prior to their meeting, so she could make herself familiar with the material. She also had a file with information on the man she was meeting, including a basic script on how they’d ‘met’. His name was Flavio Russo, a Rome-based investor and tonight, she was playing the role of a wealthy American on holiday in Rome, who had recently met Flavio in a café. After dinner, during which she would charm the hell out of his business partners, her agency would send a limo to pick them up, as she never got into private cars. The driver would drop off her client first before she went back to her own apartment in Trastevere.

Her privacy was protected by the high-end escort company she worked for, and sleeping with the clients was against the agency’s policy within their contracts. They often asked her out on a real date by the time the night was over, but it was purely a job to her and she had no interest in dating.

Nadine wasn’t afraid of anyone finding out what she did for a living. Her mother was back home in New York, and she didn’t have any close friends in Rome. What she did was innocent in her opinion; making the men and women who booked her look good for others. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes it was boring, but it was always strictly business.

“I love your dress.”

Nadine turned upon hearing the distinct American accent and smiled at the woman standing next to her at the bar. “Thank you. You look pretty great yourself.”

The woman frowned for a moment, clearly not expecting her to be American too. “Thank you back I guess,” she finally said. “I never know how to dress for meetings, it’s not my strong point.”

Nadine studied the petite woman, taking in her blonde bob, striking blue eyes, black knee-length pencil skirt and black top. She was carrying a simple leather envelope file and a small black purse hung from a silver chain over her shoulder. Her legs looked great in the high heels, but Nadine noted that just like her purse, they were designer replicas, which told her the woman was pretending to be wealthier than she actually was. “I’ll have to disagree on that.” She winked. “What are you drinking?”

“I was going to join you and order a glass of champagne.”

“Then please allow me.” Nadine gestured to the bartender to order another drink. “I’ll put it on my date’s tab.”

“No, that’s not necessary, I…”

“Please.” Nadine smiled as she handed her the glass. “I’m Nadine.”

“Rome. It’s nice to meet you.”

Nadine laughed. “Rome? Are you kidding me?” She studied the woman’s delicate features for a hint of humor, but she seemed serious.

“No, I’m not joking.” Rome laughed too. “I’ve never had that reaction to my name before but now that I’m here, suddenly everyone seems to think it’s funny. There’s no connection; my parents just thought it sounded exotic, and it’s actually my first time in Rome. I only arrived this afternoon.”

“Then you’re in for a treat. How long are you staying in town, Rome?” Nadine repeated her name because she liked the sound of it. It was unusual but cute and bold, full-bodied like a good Bordeaux.

“Depends. If my meeting goes well, a couple of days to round up the contracts, then for a considerable stretch of time after I’ve gone back home to Portland to pack my things. If it doesn’t go well, I’ll be flying back tomorrow.”

“Let’s hope this evening is a success, then. It would be a waste of the long-haul flight if you don’t get to see anything.” Nadine took a sip of her champagne, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. “What is it that you do?”

“I’m an app developer.” Rome shot her a goofy grin. “It’s very nerdy; I won’t bore you with the details but I’m here to meet a potential investor. I arrived early so I could take on some liquid courage and mentally prepare for my pitch.”

“Then I shouldn’t be distracting you.”

“No, it’s fine. It’s nice talking to you; it settles my nerves a little.” Rome tilted her head, then looked Nadine up and down. “Where’s your date?”

“He’ll be here soon. I came early too.”

“Oh. First date?”

Nadine thought about her answer for a moment, then decided to be honest. “All my dates are a first. It’s a paid date,” she said, lowering her voice, then clarified: “I’m an escort.” Rome’s wide-eyed reaction amused her. The response was to be expected but it wasn’t like they would ever see each other again and Nadine felt no need to defend what she did to make ends meet.

“So… he’s taking you out to dinner and then you go home with him?”

“Gross, no. I don’t sleep with them, it’s only dinner.” Nadine grimaced. “Wealthy men tend to like a younger woman on their arm to impress their business partners. I occasionally sleep with my female clients though, but only if I really want to and when I initiate it.” She winked. “Free of charge of course as that’s purely for my own pleasure. I have needs too, and it’s not exactly easy to maintain a relationship when you’re in this business.”

Rome seemed even more stunned now as a blush appeared on her cheeks. “Oh… So you only sleep with women? Because you’re…”

“Because I’m gay, yes.” Nadine locked her eyes with Rome and saw a hint of nervousness in them. “What about you? Men or women? Or both?”

“Men,” Rome answered almost immediately.

“Husband? Boyfriend?” Nadine was surprised to feel a little flicker of disappointment at Rome’s reply. Not that she expected anything to happen between them, but she liked flirting with women, and it was clear that she was not going to get anywhere with this one. A beautiful stranger who might only be in Rome for one night would have been perfect, because it had been a while since she’d had some action between the sheets.

“No, I’m single. Too busy with my nerdy stuff to meet people, and anyway, I’m not that bothered.” Rome hesitated for a moment. “Can I ask you something? Just out of curiosity…”

“Anything.”

“How much do you get paid to have dinner with your clients?”

“You mean how much does it cost to spend time in my company?” Nadine chuckled. “I don’t normally disclose that but as you have the best name I’ve ever heard and the best ass I’ve ever laid my eyes on, from what I can see in that skirt…” Inching closer, she decided to flirt with her anyway. She wasn’t doing anything wrong and besides, she liked how Rome blushed when she looked at her. Nadine was good at reading people and there was definitely something there, straight or not. “I’m seventeen-hundred Euros a night. Out of the seventeen hundred, I get twelve hundred and my agency takes five hundred. The duration of the date is flexible but as a general rule, I like to be home by midnight. That’s harder in Rome, though. People tend to stay up later than in New York and Paris, where I did this before.”

“Jesus.” Rome frowned as she processed the information. Or maybe she was processing the comment about her ass, Nadine wasn’t sure. Either way, she looked flustered. “So, you get twelve-hundred Euros just to have dinner with someone? Nice, fancy dinners in the best places in town?”

“I wouldn’t call them the best places. My personal tastes are a little more authentic than this, but yes, that’s the deal.”

“And your agency takes five-hundred? That seems like daylight robbery to me.”

“It’s not unreasonable.” Nadine shrugged and smiled. “They do a background check on the clients and make sure it’s safe for me to go out with them. They also protect my privacy and prepare an information pack, so I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. They’ve been good so far, so I’m not complaining.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound so daunting now that you’ve explained it.” Rome leaned against the bar and sighed. “Maybe I should look into it. Then I wouldn’t have to drag my presentation around the world while maxing out my credit cards.” She finished her champagne and shook her head. “But I couldn’t, I’d feel dirty.” As soon as she realized what she’d said, Rome slammed a hand in front of her mouth. “Oh God, I didn’t mean it like that.” Regret was written all over her face and it was endearing how her gaze kept shifting to the ceiling, trying to think of something to pull her out of the hole she’d dug for herself. Nadine didn’t mind the comment so much; she was used to it, and her line of work wasn’t for everyone. “I didn’t mean to insult you, I…” Rome’s clumsy stammering stopped when a big, bald man in a sharp, black suit came walking up to them, eyeing Nadine.

Nadine realized she’d lost track of time and turned to him with her most charming smile. Damn it. I never make mistakes. He looked extremely wealthy in his Brioni suit and patent leather shoes. A gold Rolex peeked from underneath his right sleeve, and his wedding band was still on his ring finger; it was something men often forgot. Or perhaps he simply didn’t care.

“Nadine, there you are. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” He eyed her up and down, then pointed to her dress. “You look beautiful as always.”

“Flavio.” Nadine kissed him on both cheeks and patted his shoulder. “I’m sorry, I got distracted talking to this lovely lady here.” She turned to Rome. “Flavio, this is Rome. Rome, this is Flavio.” She noticed Rome looked even more uncomfortable now as they shook hands.

“Flavio Russo, the CEO of Nero,” Rome said. “It’s great to finally meet you in person. I’m Rome Foster.”

Flavio’s gaze nervously shifted from Rome to Nadine and back and Nadine cursed herself as it clicked. An investor… of course. How could she have been so stupid? She was clearly not thinking straight, too immersed in flirting with the captivating woman who was apparently going to be at her table for the rest of the night.

“Rome was just telling me all about her app,” Nadine lied, trying to put him at ease. She knew it was vital for him that their secret was safe, yet she’d just told Rome about their arrangement. “It sounds like a great opportunity.” She gave Flavio another smile and knew that she had him then, as his shoulders relaxed and he smiled back, checking out her cleavage.

“Yes, we’re looking forward to hearing all about it.” Flavio put a hand on Nadine’s back and led them to their table, where another two men were waiting.

Nadine took a deep breath and braced herself for the evening ahead, then introduced herself and sat down next to Flavio.

 

 

Chapter 2

Rome watched Nadine immerse herself in the conversation with the confidence and flair of someone who was used to mixing in wealthy circles. The beautiful dark-haired woman who had been shamelessly flirting with her only five minutes ago knew exactly how to wrap men around her little finger; that much was clear. Nadine’s comment about her ass still lingered in the back of her mind. Women never flirted with her, and it was both exciting and distracting. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she was just as worried about what Nadine thought of her as the men around the table who were making the decisions. She could tell Flavio was happy with his ‘date’ by the way he kept looking at Nadine, as if she was the only thing that mattered in the room. Knowing that he’d hired an escort for the evening made Rome secretly loathe him, but she needed his money badly, so she tried not to think about it. She was down to the last of her savings, after dragging her presentation from one side of the world to the other, and he was her last hope. Other investors had been interested, but most of them were worried about privacy issues. So, she’d spent months adjusting her program and here she was again with the latest update of her app, which she was hoping would change the world for the better. It was now or never.

“I apologize for bringing a date to our meeting,” Flavio said. “But Nadine is only here for another two weeks and we wanted to spend as much time together as we could.” He shot his hired girlfriend a creepy grin and the two men nodded their agreement, looking a little envious as Flavio put an arm around Nadine and squeezed her shoulder. Nadine flinched for a moment, but immediately corrected herself and gave him a playful look. Rome found herself unable to take her eyes off the escort when her bright red lips stretched into a wide and infectious smile, showing perfectly straight, white teeth. God, she’s gorgeous.

“I understand. Young love is precious,” Rome improvised as her eyes locked with Nadine’s for a brief moment, letting her know that her secret was safe. “So, would you like to order first of shall I just go right ahead and tell you about my product?”

“Let’s eat first,” Flavio’s dark and handsome co-investor, who had introduced himself as Rob, said. “I can’t think on an empty stomach.”

“Me either,” Matteo, his chubby neighbor agreed. “I haven’t even had time for lunch today and that’s a crime in Rome, so thank God for the St. Regis’ sirloin and the two beautiful women at our table.” The men laughed, and Rome and Nadine laughed along half-heartedly. She realized then, that although they were there for different reasons, they were both in a similar position. They both needed something from the men in their company, and now she was the one who felt dirty.

Rome waited for her hosts to pick up their menus, then opened her own. If there was one thing she’d learned from boarding school, it was manners. “I must admit, I like how you do business here in Rome. I can’t say I’ve ever done a pitch in a restaurant before, but it sure beats a boardroom.” She didn’t mind eating first and was silently hoping the men would be more impressionable once they had a couple of glasses of wine in their system. She’d make sure not to drink more than one glass herself though, as she needed to stay focused.

“Hey, you’ve come all the way here to tell us about your app. Taking you out for dinner first is the least we can do,” Matteo said, then mumbled something in Italian to his friends.

The way they chuckled told Rome he was referring to the women at their table, but she pretended not to notice. Don’t say anything rude, Rome. You need this. “Well thank you, I appreciate it.” She scanned the menu and became internally outraged when a few moments later Matteo took it upon himself to order for her and Nadine.

“The ladies will have the artichokes, followed by the Sicilian red prawns, then the polenta with summer vegetables,” he said to the waiter in English so they could clearly hear what he’d ordered. “And we need champagne of course, and the best red wine on your list.” After that, Flavio, Rob and Matteo ordered for themselves in Italian.

Rome was shocked when she realized Matteo had not just only decided what she was going to eat, but he’d also ordered all the low-calorie dishes on the menu for her and Nadine. If they’d been on a date tonight, she would have waited for the food to arrive and then thrown it at him. Nadine’s eyes met hers for a moment and they exchanged a knowing look, acknowledging they were on the same page about his misogynistic behavior. It was a small comfort, knowing she wasn’t the only one appalled by his actions.

“So, as I explained, the Carbon app is connected to the Carbon Card. Think of it as a credit card,” Rome said after discussing the practicalities of her pitch. It had been a long dinner, but the espresso was doing its work and keeping her alert. “It’s an app to measure your carbon footprint, so before you start using it, you have to answer around two hundred questions. Various things like the type of car you drive, whether your house has double-pane windows or not, your utility usage, etcetera. Then, every time you purchase something, and you pay with the card, the estimated carbon footprint of the purchased items is stored in your profile. If you take a bus to work for example, you can enter that manually and Google Maps will pick up your location and measure your journey accordingly. Public transport gives you positive credit, of course, and walking is even better. The system can be connected to your health app too, so it tracks your physical journey. You can also use the app to scan products in grocery stores or anywhere you want really, and it will give you better alternatives in terms of mindful products and packaging. The Carbon platform is the future; it will change the way people think about consuming and living in general. It’s simple, like a calorie app. Every single thing you do in your day to day life counts.” Rome looked smug as she always did when she finished her pitch. She was proud of her product, even though it was surprisingly hard to physically get the idea out there. “I’ve patented the analytical part of the platform. Copycats are obviously still a risk, but they won’t be able to extract the data the way my program can.”

“Okay…” Flavio took his time to think about it, but it was Matteo who came up with the first question.

“I believe you when you say consumers are changing. You explained the shopping behavior of the new generations and I can see that. But, as far as I can see, the demographic that makes up the truly conscientious ‘green’ consumers still only represents a small percentage of the population and quite frankly, I think it’s too early to invest in this. People aren’t ready yet.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. People just need a catalyst.” Rome looked at all three men, then rested her eyes on Nadine, who appeared to be the only one captivated by what she had to say. For a moment, she almost lost her train of thought, but she quickly pulled herself back together and answered just like she had over a hundred times before. “Not everyone cares about the environment. But everyone cares about what others think of them. Humble bragging is real and showing the world you’re doing good online is the new status symbol, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.” She gave them a confident smile. “Imagine major influencers and stars using the app to tweet their progress on cutting back on their carbon footprint. It will be the most positive trend the world has ever seen, and I’m giving you the opportunity to be at the forefront of this huge universe of information that is not only immensely valuable, but also world-changing.”

“Why are you doing this?” Nadine studied Rome intently and seemed genuinely interested in the answer. She looked caught out as soon as she’d asked the question, like she only then realized then that her role was just to sit there and look pretty. Flavio seemed to be curious about the answer too though, his eyes flicking to Nadine as she spoke.

“Yes, why are you doing this?” He repeated the question, studying the file containing the financial details of Rome’s global roll-out proposal. “It’s a huge risk; sixteen million is a lot of money. And it’s not only risky for us, but for you too. If this goes wrong, no investor will ever touch you again.”

“And sixteen million is a bottom guestimate,” Matteo added. “We would have to put a team of experts together to work with you, and that will add significant investment too.”

“I know there’s a considerable risk. But I believe in this, and I’m doing it because I genuinely care about the environment and worry about global warming. I’m invested, and it’s been my life-long mission to make the world a better place. You may find that naïve, but it’s the only honest answer I can give you.” Rome focused on Nadine as she passionately answered the question, then remembered she was addressing the wrong person and turned to Flavio instead. Besides the fact that he was the biggest shareholder in their tech investment company, she’d already figured he was their main negotiator too. “But for you, it’s also an opportunity to make a lot of money. And I mean a lot. It is for all of us.”

Matteo cleared his throat. “What about user privacy?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked because I’ve been working on that. The products that are bought or consumed do not register to individual accounts. Once they’re processed, they move to the main database and only leave a code on the user’s app which is then converted into the ever-changing percentage of their own carbon footprint as they continue to use it. The history is deleted, so to speak. Therefore, it would not be possible for me to see what you, Rob and Matteo have purchased this week but I would be able to see how many combined quarts of milk have been purchased by all the people using this app, or how much gas they’ve gone through while driving. Although the data is not personal, and therefore direct marketing is not an option, the data is still very valuable because the people who will be using this app are the consumers of the future and the insights are pretty precise. The data can be used to predict how popular certain consumer goods will be before they’re even launched, and as a result, companies will be willing to pay a fortune for such lucrative information.”

“Hmmm…” Flavio scratched his chin and let out a deep sigh. To Rome’s surprise, it was Rob, who had been fairly quiet so far, who voiced his opinion first.

“I think sixteen million is a lot for something that’s never been trialed before. Nero tends to follow proven formulas, we don’t lead, and that’s been the key to our success so far.”

Rome sank back listless in her chair as she watched her life fall apart. She was pretty sure she wasn’t going to secure their investment tonight. She’d put all her bets on this app, confident that no one in their right mind would say no to it. How could she have been so stupid? I’m so fucked.

“Excuse me. I’m going to visit the restrooms while you gentlemen discuss business.” Nadine stood up and walked away with the sexiest sway in her hips Rome had ever seen. Despite the outcome of her meeting dampening her mood, she suddenly felt an urge to follow her and seize the opportunity to apologize in case she’d insulted her earlier. She sensed Nadine was fun and even though she was playing a role tonight, Rome had a feeling she was a lot smarter than she was letting on. Maybe she would have some advice on how to rope these guys in, because if they didn’t invest in the app, she might need an escort job of her own, soon.

“I’ll be right back.” Rome stood up too and rushed after her. Her heart rate accelerated when she saw Nadine reapplying her red lipstick, stretching forward as she looked into the mirror above the marble basins.

Nadine smiled at her through the mirror, then pursed her lips and ruffled a hand through her dark hair that fell over her back in long waves. “How do you feel the meeting is going?”

“I’m not sure,” Rome said, a little deflated. “But if my gut is anything to go by, it’s not looking good.”

“No, they’re not going to bite, I can tell. Believe me, I’m good at reading people.” Nadine turned, put a hand on Rome’s shoulder and gave her a wink. “But maybe I can help you. I can’t promise anything, though.” She headed for the door without waiting for a reply.

“Wait.” Rome watched her turn back and her stomach felt funny as Nadine’s dark eyes flashed back at her. “I wanted to apologize for what I said. I don’t think you’re dirty.” She rolled her eyes and let out a nervous giggle, then raised a hand to her temple, shaking her head. “Okay, that came out wrong.”

Nadine laughed too and walked back to her, then did something so unexpected that Rome froze on the spot. Closing her eyes, she leaned in and inhaled deeply against Rome’s neck, taking her time as if drinking in her scent. Rome’s pulse raced when she felt the woman’s breath on her neck. “You smell amazing,” she whispered, bringing her mouth close to Rome’s ear. “And the comment… don’t worry about it. I’m plenty dirty.”

Rome tried to compose herself after Nadine had left. Fuck. Her hands were visibly shaking as she opened the top three buttons of her top to get some air. She leaned against the wash basin and splashed cool water on her face as she focused on taking one deep breath after another. What was this woman doing to her? Shaking her head, she told herself not to get distracted by the unexpected turn of events. Nadine was a woman and her reaction to her made no sense. Go back and do what you do best. You need that money.

 

Chapter 3

When Nadine returned from the restroom, she knew she’d been right. The three men seemed keener to have another couple of drinks with their female companions than they were to discuss investment opportunities. Flavio put a hand on her back when she sat down, and she suppressed the urge to shrug it away.

“What would you like my dear?” he asked her in a sickening endearing tone. “More wine? Another glass of champagne, perhaps?”

“Just another espresso would be wonderful, honey. I’ve already had way too much alcohol,” she answered, giving him a saccharine smile. Her eyes followed Rome as she joined them a moment later and for the first time in months, she felt a little flutter in her belly. The woman was beautiful and sexy, and smart, too. Extremely smart. And that, in Nadine’s eyes, was a total turn-on. Not only was Rome able to put together a world-changing proposal and make it sound simple and understandable, she was also clearly passionate about her idea, and for those reasons, she desperately wanted to help her.

“Well gentlemen,” she said, after their last round of drinks had arrived. “If you’re not interested in getting involved in this gem of a plan, I’d like to introduce Rome to my very good friend Harold Gardner. I understand your concerns as, unlike Harold, you tend to follow, but this sounds like it’s right up his street.” Suddenly all eyes were on her and the mood took a nervous shift. “In fact, I’ll call him right now if you don’t mind,” she continued, pulling her phone out of her bag in a fake-tipsy state. Nadine never drank more than two glasses of wine, but her companions rarely noticed. “He’s always up late and I know he’s still in Europe; I spent a couple of days on his yacht in the South of France before I came here.” She managed to hold back a chuckle at their perplexed expressions.

“You’re friends with Harold Gardner?” Flavio asked, studying her for any signs that she was bluffing.

“Yeah. Didn’t I tell you last time we went for dinner? We met a couple of years ago at a charity event.” Nadine knew there was a plausible chance Flavio would believe her. Harold, the world-famous tech-investor was also a well-known ladies’ man and it was likely Flavio would suspect she was his regular companion. She watched his right eye twitch, enjoying the game. Flavio’s weakness was now her strength because she knew Harold Gardner was his nemesis. Nadine never went anywhere without doing some research herself, simply because she found people intriguing.

“You can’t do that,” Matteo said then. “We haven’t decided yet, so the first offer still lies with us.” Flavio and Rob nodded in agreement.

“Of course. I apologize, I was just trying to help out this lovely lady.” Nadine looked at them innocently, a little apprehensive about overstepping her boundaries. “How about you think about it for twenty-four hours, so Rome doesn’t have to leave her namesake just yet?” She had no idea why she’d suggested it, but it seemed like a good idea, even if she was treading on dangerous ground. If her agency found out she’d been toying with one of their clients and interfering in his business matters, she’d never work for them again. Why was she taking such a risk? Maybe she cared less, now that she was nearing thirty and approaching the end of her escort career. Or maybe she wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Rome. She liked how the woman had been thrown off her game by her flirtations and even though Rome would never admit it, she could see that she’d been affected more than she had let on.

“Fine. Let’s speak in twenty-four hours,” Flavio agreed. By now, Nadine had a feeling she could get him to do anything and she liked that. He would probably book her again this week, if his wife was still out of town like she assumed.

Matteo and Rob nodded and mumbled something along the lines of it giving them time to discuss funding and timing.

They stayed for a little longer—Nadine and Rome drinking espresso and the men sharing another bottle of red wine. Matteo was desperately trying to impress Rome, but she was vaguely aware it had more to do with her looks than her brain. It was obvious that Rome was keeping her distance but her replies were clever and witty and she pulled them in with her charms without even so much as a flirty glance. She’d also noticed Rome’s top was unbuttoned after returning from the restrooms and the idea that it might have something to do with her, pleased her. The men were getting tipsier now and she decided to call it a night, saving Rome from more hungry glances.

“Maybe if we’re done here, you’d like to go home soon?” Nadine batted her eyelashes at Flavio. “After all, as you said, we only have two weeks left.”

Flavio’s cheeks turned red hot as he looked at her. He knew he wasn’t going to get any more than a cab ride out of this, but he clearly liked that his friends didn’t know that. Or maybe he was hoping she’d fallen for him already. They were all suckers like that.

“Of course, my dear. As you wish.” He stood, reached into his pocket for his wallet and slammed a pile of cash on the table without bothering to count it. When Nadine arched a perfectly sculpted eyebrow at Rome, an amused look passed between them. She was glad she’d told her about her situation tonight; she’d be terribly embarrassed if Rome actually believed she was dating a man like him.

“Gentlemen, have a good night.” Nadine stood up too and gave Matteo and Rob a kiss on each cheek, before turning to Rome. “Rome, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you. I wrote down my number, let me know if this doesn’t work out and I’ll put you in contact with Harold.” She shot her a conspiratorial wink and saw Rome’s hand trembling as she took the slip of paper and put it in her purse.

“Thank you. That’s very kind of you, and it was great to meet you too.” She held Nadine’s gaze for a couple of beats, and Nadine was so captured by her blue eyes that she almost fell out of her role, but she quickly composed herself, remembering she was leaving with Flavio, and not with Rome. “Enjoy the rest of your stay,” she said, casting one last glance over her shoulder as they walked away.

‘The Scent of Rome’ is now available for preorder:

 

 

 

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