Elza wandered over to the balustrade and swung around to face Nikki. “Have you considered the difference in our ages?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty.” Nikki whispered and then said in a louder voice. “I’m thirty.”
The Countess laughed.
“Love ...” Nikki shook her head. That word seemed far too presumptuous when they’d met less than a half dozen times. “Age is not a factor in attraction. If it was, I wouldn’t be standing here, longing for you.”
“Longing for me?” the Countess repeated. She closed the gap between them. “I’ve barely slept since the hospital. I lie in bed thinking about you, and about us.” She let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “A month ago, I lived a comfortable life, but one without love, passion and meaning. On the inside, I was dying, only I didn’t know it. And then you come into my life and, within the space of a few weeks, turn it upside down.” Elza stepped a little nearer. “You’ve mesmerised me, my darling. Even when I’m in a crowded room,” she whispered, “all I can see is you. Nothing else matters but you.”
The saliva in Nikki’s mouth dried. Her eyes roved over the Countess and she lost the will to speak. Elza’s silver dress suited her complexion perfectly, not a hair was out of place and her red velvet lips were parted invitingly.
Nikki met the Countess’s wide, expressive stare. “What about your marriage?” Her voice trembled. “If we embark on an affair, it will consume us. One kiss will spark an inferno of need which neither of us will be able to extinguish.”
“A million times a day ...” The Countess gave a soft laugh. “... I list all the reasons why I should walk away. Ti ho pensato, ogni secondo, ogni minuto, ogni ora di ogni giorno, mia cara.”
Nikki’s heart pounded at her Countess’s declaration. Now they were less than a foot apart. Both barely breathing. Their gazes locked. The intoxicating scent of Shalimar hanging in the air lured Nikki closer.
Nikki had dreamed of Elza declaring her feelings, countless times, but as the days passed by, she’d seen her desire as a flight of fancy. But now the dream had become reality. Sandor might have turned a blind eye to Elza’s affairs in the past because they proved no threat to him or their marriage, but if she and Elza began a relationship, where would that lead? Either to tragedy or sublime happiness. No one could predict the outcome.
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