Chapter 2

North Miami Beach, 2007

Miami was always warm for Chiara, no matter the time of the year. Having growing up in the region of Tuscany, Italy, Chiara wasn’t used to the humidity. But this October, it seemed exceptionally hot. Gosh, even the breeze is warm, Chiara thought while sipping her coke on her cousin’s balcony.

"The only time that poison gets in here is when you are visiting, you know. I can’t believe you. Your family produces the best wine in the world and you drink coke." Leticia was sitting opposite Chiara, facing the ocean. Her long curly hair was tied in a ponytail, make-up long gone from her face. At 47, Leticia, a business law professor at University of Miami, was in better shape than most of her students.

"I always believed that people are allowed to have some vices, as long as it is not illegal. This and racing, of course, are mine. I can’t drink any alcohol with the medicine I’m taking. Besides, they are one of my sponsors." Chiara lifted her casted wrist as to prove her point. She was starting to relax for the first time since the phone call. Her bare feet were in the opposite chair, just as they always were
when she was on the balcony.

"So what brings you here this time? Business again? With your wrist in a cast, you can’t race; besides, I know there are no races this time of the year, here in the US."

"Yeah, business. We are planning to expand the company and open an office here. I’m here to start some paperwork with the lawyers. Carol will be here tomorrow, so we can check up my wrist with her old mentor."

"Wow. I knew your company was doing well, but I didn’t think it was doing that well. That’s great, kiddo. Congratulations. And I am glad Carol will be here to help you out."

"Thanks, "said Chiara with a smile. "We’ve been lucky. We got into the market at the right time. And, of course, I had the money from the races and at least a couple clients."

"Need any managers?" Leticia smiled jokingly.

"Always." Chiara wished she was serious. Adding someone with Leticia’s experience to the company would be a great asset. Unfortunately, Leticia’s business was education. She loved her work at UM and the campus setting, and nothing would take her away from it, not even a six-figure salary.

"Did you call her?" There. Leticia had wanted to ask that since she came back from the office. She knew why Chiara was here. Chiara’s parents had told her about the possibilities of expanding the company to Miami. And she also knew that if Chiara ever decided to do that, a certain blonde would be the perfect choice to manage the office. What Chiara didn’t know is that since Leticia met Catherine five years ago, they had never lost contact. In fact, they were always talking and met whenever possible. They were very good friends and, if Chiara ever realized that Leticia knew everything about Catherine’s love life, she would be so embarrassed that she would never see her again. That thought made Leticia grin. She knew a lot about her cousin, much more than Chiara would like.

"Yes. She is meeting me for lunch tomorrow." Just the thought of meeting her made Chiara’s stomach turn. Gosh, it is even worse than when I was about to kiss her for the first time. Breathe deeply, Chi. Real deep.

"Does she know why you are here?"

"I told her I was in a conference and wanted to have lunch and chat."

"Ouch. You know we hate when you do that. Why didn’t you just tell her?"

"Hey, it is half true. I am here for a conference, with my lawyers, but…. I don’t know. I’ve been so nervous with the idea of meeting her again that I couldn’t even tell her the truth." I wonder if she will get mad at me.

"What is done is done. She won’t be mad at you because of that."

"Are you reading minds, now?"

That made Leticia smile. If you even knew, kiddo.

"So, where are you meeting her? Some fancy restaurant? Or your favorite, McDonalds?"

"You know I do better than that. But I wish I could go to Mickey Ds. I love that crap, even though I get sick as a dog when I eat it. As a matter of fact, I don’t know where we are going to eat. She is picking me up."

"Good. At least you won’t get lost. And, kiddo…" Leticia was almost laughing, so wide was her grin. "Don’t be so nervous. She does not bite. Unless you want her to…"

God, I could die of embarrassment right now…

Chiara hardly slept that night and lunch was less than an hour away. She had spent her entire morning with the lawyers, discussing everything, from locations to salaries and spending almost an hour taking pictures with them. Which meant she didn’t have time to go to Leticia’s and change. Catherine was picking her up at her lawyers’ office. Good thing I didn’t bring too many clothes. I would take forever to decide what to wear. Chiara was dressed in khaki pants and a dark blue polo shirt that, together with her tanned skin, accentuated her dark blue eyes. Chiara took a deep breath, closed her briefcase, said goodbye to her lawyers and left. She hated carrying that thing, but with the meeting, cast, papers, cell phone, keys, passport and tickets, pda and wallet, it was impossible not to need it. Suddenly she wished Carol had come with her and not a day later. The elevator didn’t take long and sooner than she thought, she was on the ground floor and out of the building.

She didn’t have to wait long; a minute at the most. Then she saw it. Her yellow Porsche Carrera. No, not mine. Not anymore. Catherine’s Porsche. Chiara loved that car; she loved the speed it provided her. She drove it for almost an entire year before she left the United States and gave the car to Catherine. She couldn’t bring the car with her; it would cost more than the car itself to have it shipped to Italy and, by her contract with Porsche, the car had to be on her name, she couldn’t sell it or give it away to charity. Besides, she had her baby at home. So, it was either leave it in storage until she returned to US, which could be never, give it away to someone who would never sell it or return it to the dealer. The car was too beautiful to be put somewhere where no one could appreciate it and, there was no way she was going to return this baby, she had way too many good memories of it. She chose to give it to Catherine, who Chiara knew would take good care of it. After five years, the car still looked like new. Catherine had kept her promise and, indeed, she took very good care of the car.

The car came to a halt in front of her and Chiara finally focused on the driver. The sight took her breath away. Catherine was a couple of inches shorter than her, but even in her 5’7’’ she could draw attention, and sometimes, way too much. Her blonde hair, almost a reddish color, was a little longer than the
last time. Her clothes, even though professional, showed the shapes of the body Chiara craved so much these last few years and Catherine was halfway into her thirties. Oh boy… could she be more beautiful? She is more beautiful than she was when I first met her.

"Hi there!" Catherine got out of the car and came around, stopping in front of Chiara, who didn’t even have time to think anything else before being engulfed in a bear hug. "I’m so glad you are here. I missed you, Chi. It’s been too long."

Chiara still couldn’t say a word. The feeling of Catherine’s body against hers was even better than she remembered. Catherine’s thoughts were not far away. She feels so good, as she always did. God, I missed her so much.

"So, what do you feel like eating?" As soon as the question came out of her mouth, Catherine regretted her words. But just a little bit. The flush that crawled over Chiara’s face was adorable and she couldn’t resist making fun of her. "I meant food, Chi."

Oh boy. "Anything you want, Cath. You always had such a good taste." Her little payback was complete as she watched Catherine blush with embarrassment.

"In normal circumstances, I would ask if you wanted to drive, but with the cast, that would be a little difficult." Cath knew that Chiara would be dying to drive the car. She also knew that Chiara would never ask it, even if she was in condition to drive it. Chiara looked adorable with her dark hair and tanned skin. It is shorter than last time, but she looks so cute. She always hated her hair long, the same way she always hated having to blow dry it after showering.

Moving a little awkwardly because of the cast, it took Chiara a little longer to get into the short car. But the effort was worth it. The dark leather seat embraced her body like an old lover. The feeling of the seat against her body was almost as good as Catherine’s hug. She missed this car… she had very good memories of it. Chiara looked to the driver’s side, where Catherine was seated with the most beautiful smile. It was here where I first kissed her. Right here, in this car. The first and only time.

"Hey…Chi? Are you daydreaming? I hate to be a pain, but it is 90 degrees here and I have to get back to the office in less than an hour. And you will regret that cast in a few minutes in this sun."

Chiara just smiled while Catherine geared the first and stepped on the accelerator. The Porsche obeyed her command and in less than a minute they were out of the complex and into the streets of North Miami Beach.

The Cuban restaurant they decided to go to was just a few minutes away and sooner than they expected they were seated and facing each other.

"So how is the winery?"

"The winery is doing great as always. Dad and grandma are still driving each other crazy. He wants to increase the vineyard and she wants more space for the ranch to train and raise the horses. How is your job?"

"The same. I like it, but I still feel that all the time and money that I spent going to grad school was worthless for this job. Does your grandma want to train more horses? And, please, tell your dad thank you for the wines he sent, you know I love wines."

"I will. You know dad loved your company. He said the only good company is one that can appreciate a good wine. You are on top of his list." On mine as well… "And grandma said she got tired of just breeding horses and also wants to train them for competition. I think she is just bored with retirement, now that dad and uncle Andreas assumed the responsibilities of the winery."

"Well, how is the championship going? You can’t race with that wrist, so what are your chances now?

"Well, I’m already two weeks away, which means less one race. I needed a fourth place in yesterday’s race to win the championship. As you can see that didn’t happen, so I am also here to check with Carol’s old mentor to see if I can start riding this week. I want to be in shape for the last race. I can’t stand the thought of that asshole Datori winning this year’s championship. I want to win two more titles before retiring. My plans were to retire next year."

"Why? I’ve been following your career, you are doing great. Besides, you love racing."

That made Chiara smile. She has been keeping track of my career? "I think I did my part for the motorcycling industry. It gave me a lot of money, fame, free cars and bikes, but it also gave me a few broken bones and ego and took away the freedom to be who I am, and it took my best friend. I love racing, don’t get me wrong. But I’m tired of all the publicity, the people who use you and who pretend to be your friend. I’m spending more days at the ranch than in Florence, than practicing. And… I thought you hated it. That is why we had that discussion. Why are you watching the races now?"

"And miss the opportunity to tell people that my friend is the three time super bike world champion?" If you only knew the reason why we fought. It wasn’t the races, sweetie. Cath’s smile was gone now and her bright green eyes bored into Chiara’s soul. "I missed you. I missed my friend."

Friend. I guess that's what I always was and what I always will be. "I’ve missed you too." More than you can imagine. "How is Jackie?"

"She is fine. She is graduating this year and I love the fact that she decided to go to Florida State instead of University of Florida. At least she will be a Seminole. But what about you? How are the boys? And Carol?

"Calm down, woman! The boys are fine. Dino, uncle Giovanni and I are working on a new design for next year. Paolo is working with dad at the winery, taking care of the ranch and you can ask Carolina herself. She will be here in about two hours."

I always loved her accent. It was so cute the way the Italian intonation would take over whenever she spoke about her family and she would always have that lovely accent. Wait a minute! Carol? Here? "Carol is coming? Why didn’t she call?"

"She is only coming to supervise my doctor’s visit. We are leaving tonight."

Disappointment registered on Catherine’s face. "So soon? Why?"

"She has to get back to work and I need to start practicing as soon as I can. I have a week and half to be as fast as I was before I have to leave to Austria."

"Argh. You know, for twins as different as you two are, you sure have a lot in common!"

"I’ll take that as a compliment. But the only thing Carol and I have in common is our eyes." That wasn’t true, of course. Carol and I complete each other. She is as tall as me, with the same dark blue eyes. But Carol chose to become a doctor just like mom, while I decided to be a rider and an engineer just like dad. And, of course Carol was a married girly girl while I was a tomboy who likes girls.

"Right… like you two are not crazy about each other. Now you two are summoned to dinner tonight."

I’m certainly crazy about you, Cath. "Dinner…ok. I’ll call Pietro and tell him that we will be leaving a couple hours later."

Silence had fallen over the table, Chiara lost in her thoughts, when Cath finally gave in into her curiosity. "What brings you here to Miami and made you decide to call, Chiara? It has been two years since we last talked and, I know you have been here before and suddenly, you call out of blue."

"It goes both ways, Cath. You did have my phone number and e-mail. I got tired of being the one that always was pursuing the contact. I had thought that you got tired of my long distance friendship."

Cath decided to ignore the pain that crossed her heart. She never contacted Chiara but she was always in touch with Carol. Chiara was always in the center of attention, especially with her celebrity status as Super bike world champion. Not only did she live a life in the spotlight, but also the most beautiful women, who were willing to become famous by associating themselves with Chiara in any way, always surrounded her. Sexually was the top choice. Chiara had a different woman in her arms at every race. Even as painful as it was to see a beautiful woman in Chiara's arms every other Sunday, Catherine always watched the races. She just loved to watch Chiara race. The way her leather racing outfit fit her body, the way she moved on the top of her bike, the way her smile filled the room as she conquered every race, every victory… It reminded her of when Chiara took her to ride with her before all the women, before the fame. The way Chiara’s leather jacket felt under her hands, the vibration of the motorcycle between her legs, the sensation of freedom the ride proposed was a memory that Catherine would never forget. Only then had she understood Chiara’s passion for racing.

"I would never get tired of you. Your friendship always meant a lot."

Here it comes, that "friendship" talk again… I already got the idea, Cath. You just want to be friends. "I’m here on business. First I am checking my wrist later today and we are planning to open an office in here. We have many contacts and a dozen contracts ready. It is costing too much money to keep sending personnel here all the time, so Marco and I ran some numbers and concluded that it would be more beneficial to have an office here to take care of the American clients."

"Wow. It sounds like you are doing great. Do you need my help finding office spaces or something like that?"

Ok… here it goes. Please, let her say yes. "Actually, it was more in the lines of ‘I need a manager to run the office.’ I want you." It couldn’t be more on the target. I really want her. In every imaginable way.

"Excuse me?" I can’t believe it. She is offering me a job?

"I am asking you to be director of operations of the American division of the Capasso Inc."

"What? Are you serious?"

"Of course I am. I already talked to my lawyers here and the paperwork is getting done. You get full benefits, 401k, bla bla bla and all the wine you want. All I need to know is if this is enough." Chiara said as she pushed a small piece of paper to Catherine.

Catherine felt her jaw hit the table as she looked at the paper. What Chiara was offering her was more than twice of what she was making. She certainly didn’t think she was worth that much. But, she would have to work for Chiara and she wasn’t so sure about that. She always had a policy of not mixing friendship and business.

"Look, Cath, why don’t you come visit me? I’ll show you the home office and how we work. You can talk to everyone in the company and get a
feel for what you are getting into. Then you let me know what you decide."

"Huh. I don’t know what to say, Chi. All of this is a little sudden and…"

Catherine’s speech was interrupted as Chi reached into her briefcase and got two envelopes out. "Here are two tickets to Florence. For you and Jackie. We are having the annual wine celebration next week and it would be a perfect opportunity for you to come and meet everyone. In the meantime… what is good to eat here?"

As if it were perfectly scripted, their waitress showed up. After a couple of minutes of describing specials and taking orders, Catherine and Chiara were facing each other, lost in each other’s eyes. The intensity of their gaze was almost palpable and suddenly the restaurant was too hot for Chiara. Catherine’s eyes had darkened considerably and she was about to say something when her cell phone rang. The vibration of the device broke the spell as Catherine averted her eyes and pulled the phone out of her belt. A quick check on the caller id and she excused herself and left the table. She returned almost ten minutes later; even their orders were served already.

"I’m sorry, Chi. There is a problem at the office. I need to get back."

"But… lunch?"

Turning to the waitress, Catherine asked to have her lunch boxed. When she turned back to Chiara, disappointment was evident in the rider’s face.

"I’m sorry. Do you want me to drop you off at Leticia’s or at the lawyers’ office?

Disappointed was not the exact word to describe Chiara’s feelings. She was more than disappointed, she was angry that someone was taking away the little time she had with Catherine. But she was also mad at Catherine, for allowing it.

"Neither. I will stay here, finish my lunch and pick up Carol later. Besides, Christy here can give me a hand if I need help feeding myself." Chiara smiled and winked at the waitress, who beamed at the proposal.

Catherine merely lifted her eyebrow. Two can play this game, Chi. She moved to Chiara’s side and whispered, "I’ll make it up tonight, honey." Then Catherine kissed Chiara’s cheek. Catherine was surprised to feel her lips tingle with the touch.

Feeling her cheek burning with Catherine’s kiss, Chiara turned toward the woman. Catherine had not moved and their faces were too close, lips almost touching. Following her instincts, Catherine started leaning forward when her cell phone buzzed again.

Letting go a loud sigh, she answered the phone and mouthed to Chiara, tonight at seven.

Still paralyzed by the whole incident, Chiara asked for a box. Grinning, she knew that there was no way she would be able to eat now. The butterflies in her stomach were doing happy dances all over.

Continue in chapter 3…

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