Never Again Ch. 03bybellerebelle©
"Manuel, it's prefect. Look at the composition and the depth- it's incredible. The colors are so expressive, it's like they're speaking; you can almost feel emotion in them, can't you?" Gia's enthusiasm was incredibly infectious and she knew that he was sold.
"Do you think it fits with our space? What about the rest of our collection? Will it work?" Manuel had already made his decision, and both he and Gia knew it, but he loved hearing her describe the art, and he knew that he had to at least pretend to deliberate before spending the six-figures it would cost to acquire the piece.
"I actually think it's larger than what we had initially been looking for, but we'll shift things along the parlor wall and it'll be perfect. It would be such an incredible addition; I'll build you a new wall to hang it on if I have to. If you don't buy it, I just may. So, should I contact the artist?"
Manuel sighed and chuckled, "Of course I want it. Think she'll wrap it up to go?"
Gia laughed; Manuel DeSoto was one of her favorite clients and working with him was like second nature, as was the necessary glad-handing her job required.
"I'll make a few calls. It'll be yours by lunch."
"What would I do without you Gia? Sofia will be thrilled. She's got a table for us at Nobu. Can you meet us there around one?"
"Absolutely. I have some work to finish here and I'll meet you as soon as I'm done." Gia stepped forward to shake hands with Manuel, who was already beginning to sweat in the Miami heat.
Gia was a bit of a mystery to Manuel and his wife Sofia, but they truly enjoyed her company, and she was the best art consultant money could buy. Her advice had never failed them; each recommendation had always proven to be not only perfect for their collection, but a wise investment that increased in value each year.
Their only complaint, if they had one, would have been that Gia was always focused on business; she never seemed like she relaxed or took her mind off of work, even a second. Each time she helped them with an acquisition, they took her to lunch or dinner, but never once had they seen her drink let her guard down. Manuel was one of the wealthiest businessmen in Miami, but as successful as he was, even he knew when it was time to take a break. Gia's was always "en pointe" and it was hard for Manuel and Sofia to understand someone who didn't know how to enjoy life.
Gia had been working with the DeSoto's for six years, and during that time, they had become incredibly fond of her and would have loved to get closer to her, but they sensed that she purposely kept them at an arm's length. Manuel chalked Gia's demeanor up to a desire to keep the lines between business relationship and personal relationship from blurring. Sofia had always believed that there was more to Gia's reserved nature than that, but she couldn't pinpoint why or what caused her to be so closed-off, and she found that it made her hard to read. Perhaps that was a part of her job, but if Sofia had to guess, something in Gia's life had taught her to never let her guard down.
Each year, Gia arrived in Miami to attend the Art Basel Miami exhibition in order to procure art for both private clients and the gallery that employed her in Manhattan. In turn, many of Gia's clients traveled to NYC to visit galleries with her and learn about the new and exciting artists emerging on the scene. Gia was incredibly knowledgeable and worked hard to stay one step ahead in her competitive business.
During their art-buying trip to New York a year earlier, Manuel and Sofia had arrived during a week that Gia had her brother staying with her. They met her brother, Mark, briefly, and knew that Gia wanted to spend time with him. They worked with her during the day and were careful to make sure that she left early enough to spend time with her brother, and Gia was incredibly appreciative of their consideration.
One evening during that visit, the DeSoto's were having a quiet meal when they were interrupted by loud and boisterous laughter coming from a nearby table. They were stunned to find that it was Gia and her brother causing the ruckus. Never had they seen her so animated, and it threw both of them. They had finally decided that she was all business, so it confused them immensely to find that she appeared to be the polar opposite in her personal life. At that moment, Sofia had made it her mission to get to know their wunderkind art consultant.
Manuel and his lovely wife sat at their regular table in the back of Nobu. As was standard, it was crowded with people dying to sample the world-famous Japanese cuisine. Gia constantly arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The DeSoto's had learned to always arrive early when meeting her, and they both found it amusing to watch her walk through a crowded area. To say that she turned a few heads would have been a gross understatement. In Miami, where flesh was on display 24/7, it was Gia's elegance that drew attention, and today was no different.
As always, Gia was dressed to impressed. A white, sleeveless, form-fitting dress encased her long, lean, figure from her neck to just above her knee. Her tan skin was revealed by twin cutouts that ran vertically from the side of her upper arm, over her shoulders, and met in a V at the middle of her back. She wore nude-colored patent leather, four-inch stiletto heels with a studded bow resting over the pointed toe. Gia also carried a structured, bright purple tote that contained her laptop and purse essentials- she always added a punch of color to her outfit with her bag or shoes. As usual, she wore little jewelry- a silver Roadster watch that was more functional than decorative, and diamond stud earrings that she had purchased after her first year of work.
After finishing college, Gia had stopped wearing her hair curly; she had the natural corkscrews professionally ironed out every eight weeks. Her hair now hung well below her shoulders, though in the Miami heat she wore a high, sleek ponytail to keep cool. A pair of, large, black sunglasses topped her look. Gia was the epitome of expensive, understated style, and in a place where neon tube dresses and peroxide blonde hair were almost required, Gia stood out.
As she strode through the restaurant, Manuel and Sofia watched heads turn in Gia's wake. Men tilted their heads to get a look at her pilates-toned ass and women scanned her from head to toe with envy, trying to find a flaw in her gait or outfit.
Just like every other man in the restaurant, Scott's head spun when the tall beauty drifted past his table. He let his eyes linger on her rear and then travel down her long legs. He would have liked to get a better look, but he was treating clients to lunch and couldn't very well gawk while they waited for him to continue his proposal. He quickly turned his attention back to his lunch companions and continued talking.
Before Gia sat, she walked to Sofia, who stood and hugged her warmly. "Sofia, you look lovely, it's so nice to see you. It seems like it's been a such a long time."
"Gia, how are you, darling? I know that I keep telling you this, but if you ever need a new career, you can be my stylist. I don't know how you always manage to look so impeccable and work as hard as you do. You are a wonder."
Gia really liked Sofia, perhaps too much. She and her husband were in their early sixties and they were the most down-to-earth couple Gia had ever worked with. They always treated her like a treasured guest when she attended the art show, and Gia would have loved to get to know them better, but it just wasn't professional to cross those lines.
Sofia looked twenty years younger than she was; she had glossy black hair that she always wore down, and olive skin that was nearly wrinkle-free. Her husband was equally handsome, and Gia couldn't remember ever knowing a couple that seemed more in love. Even with all of their money, it was clear that they put each other before anything else.
Working with such wealthy clients meant that Gia had seen her share of scandal, mistresses, and bitter divorces. It was truly refreshing to see a couple as happy as Manuel and Sofia. Gia wondered why the never had kids, but it wasn't her place to ask about it, so she never did.
Gia smiled warmly, "Oh, thank you, Sofia. So, I was able to talk to the artist and her gallery, and they were more than excited that someone was interested in the piece. When I told them that you were the potential buyers, they just lost it. I negotiated fifteen percent off of the original asking price, so it's officially yours. I cut them a cashier's check and it'll be delivered at the end of the week. Congratulations on your newest addition."
"Dios mio, Gia. Fifteen percent! That's unbelievable! Let's get champagne and we'll have a toast." Manuel called the waiter to the table and ordered a bottle of Dom.
"Sofia, when we attend the opening gala this evening, there are a few other artists that I would like to introduce you to." Gia was always looking for the next addition for her clients and was excited about familiarizing Sofia with the young artists she had encountered back in Manhattan.
When the champagne arrived, the waiter poured three glasses. Gia dutifully lifted her glass, but didn't drink, instead, she took a sip of her iced tea and pushed the flute to the side. She avoided drinking, especially with clients; she hated feeling out of control, so getting drunk was not something she enjoyed.
"So Gia, tell us, how are things back home? How is that handsome brother of yours?"
"Oh, he's great. He's still living near the rest of my family in Chicago and is about to get engaged to his girlfriend, so I think that things are going very well for him. It's nice of you to ask about him, Sofia."
"And you Gia, any dashing young man waiting for you back in New York? I just don't know how you can still be single."
Gia cleared her throat, feeling somewhat uncomfortable at the direction to conversation was taking, but she answered anyway. "Oh, you know, I work all the time so I don't have a lot of time to date. But I do get out now and again."
"Gia, you have to make time for love, no? It's the most important thing." This time, Manuel was speaking and had Gia not felt awkward discussing her love life, she would have found Manuel's romanticism endearing.
Gia decided it was time to change the subject, "I guess that I'm just not ready to settle down. Anyway, I'll be at your house early Monday morning to make sure the delivery goes smoothly. In the meantime, I have a few more clients to meet with, but I would like to schedule the art installers to come to your house before the piece arrives to clear space for installation. When should I schedule them?" Gia pulled her phone out of her bag to look at her calendar.
The DeSoto's and Gia agreed upon a time and continued chatting about art. Gia was careful to avoid any personal subject and began discussing the other artists and work she planned to introduce to them.
They enjoyed their sushi and by the time dessert arrived, Gia realized that she needed to get back to the exhibition. As she stood to gather her things, she couldn't help but notice an extremely tall man brush past their table as he headed to the restroom. She didn't think much of him, but she did briefly admire his physique as he walked; he was unbelievably tall and quite attractive from behind. Actually, he reminded Gia of... She stopped herself before his name entered her mind and stood to thank the DeSoto's. As she hugged Sofia one last time, she failed to notice that the tall man had exited the bathroom and was standing still, staring directly at her table.
Gia turned and began to walk away, but Manuel called out to her, asking, "Gia, I meant to ask you how you like the suite?" Manuel owned stock in several Miami hotels, and, despite Gia's protests, he always secured incredible accommodations for her.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I should have mentioned- it's just incredible. I can't believe that I'm staying in Gianni Versace's house. It's beyond what I imagined; I can't thank you enough for the room."
"It's our pleasure, Gia. We'll see you this evening for drinks at the hotel at seven-thirty." Manuel bid her goodbye and she made her way out of the restaurant.
Scott wasn't sure what he'd seen. Exiting the bathroom, he had slowed down to get a better look at the gorgeous woman that had walked past his table earlier, but she put her sunglasses back on and he wasn't able to get a good look at her face.
When the man called out to her, Scott stopped dead in his tracks. He was sure the man had called her Gia, and it made his heart pound. He couldn't be sure it was her, though. Over the years, he had sworn that he'd seen her dozens of times, only to find out that he was imagining things.
Scott didn't know whether to chase the woman down or stop to talk to the couple seated at her table. He was mentally deciding which would seem less crazy when he realized that she had mentioned where she was staying. He released a long sigh and quickly used the Internet on his phone to find the address of The Villa Hotel; he knew the place by reputation, but had never been there. Before he returned to his table, Scott had secured a table for 6:30 that evening. He just had to know if it really was her, and he had no problem waiting for an evening to find out. After all, he'd waited 10 long years hoping to see her again, so, what were a few more hours?
Scott sat and took a long slug of his beer as he took in the impressive ambiance.
The outdoor patio of the hotel was quite striking; a large pool, complete with a mosaic tiled bottom, sat against a grotto at the back of the patio. The bar wrapped around edge of property leading indoors to the main seating area of the restaurant and occupied most of the vast patio.
There were low, outdoor tables decorated with white gardenias, roses, lilies, and white candles. The clean, crisp table décor stood in stark contrast to the rest of the surroundings. The chairs and sofas were all upholstered in jewel-toned fabrics and adorned with brightly patterned silk pillows. The mosaic pattern from the pool continued throughout the rest of the patio, leaving no surface untouched. It was a beautiful place to spend cocktail hour.
Scott was trying to keep calm, but he kept anxiously scanning the bar for her; he couldn't help tapping his fingers against the table. People began to file onto the patio from both the hotel and the street entrance, and each time Scott got even a glimpse of brown hair, his heart started to race. He looked down at his watch- it was exactly ten minutes to seven. He'd only been at the bar for thirty minutes, but time felt like it was crawling by.
Scott began to worry that she wouldn't come, or worse, that it wasn't really Gia. He had built their reunion up in his head over the years, and he was beginning to panic. He wanted to say so many things to her; he wanted her to know that he regretted ever lying to her, and that he wished he had never given up fighting for her.
Scott stood and walked up and down the patio, he was too nervous to just sit. When he returned to his table a few minutes later, he noticed a woman with long, black hair occupying the table kitty-corner from his. Next to her sat a man with salt-and pepper hair wearing an expensive grey suit. Was that the couple he'd seen her with earlier?
Scott kept his eyes glued to the back of the De Soto's heads. It had to be them, he was sure of it. He had decided that if Gia hadn't shown up by seven forty-five, he would ask the couple if they had, in fact, dined at Nobu that afternoon, and if so, he would inquire about their lunch guest. He decided a little bit of awkward conversation or embarrassment would be worth knowing.
He ordered another beer and sat, shifting restlessly in his seat and peeling the label from the glass bottle in his hand. Again, he glanced at his watch- it was ten past seven.
Normally, Scott was a very even-keeled guy. He was rarely nervous and wasn't easily flustered, so he was struggling to cope with the knots in his stomach. By seven fifteen, he couldn't take anymore waiting, so he braced himself by taking a long pull on his third beer, and approached the table.
The DeSoto's were chatting about the crowd and enjoying watching people come and go, when Scott reached their table.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I have a strange question that I just have to ask."
Manuel and Sofia looked perplexedly at the tall man speaking to them. "How can we help you?" Sofia responded.
"This may seem crazy, but I had lunch at Nobu today and I believe that I saw you there."
"Yes, you did. We were seated in the back, near the windows. What a small world. It's nice to see you again." Manuel was polite, but he wanted to get back to his drink and conversation
"Yes, it is, but that's not why I came over here. You were dining with a woman this afternoon, and I think that I used to know her. I just didn't get a good enough look at her face to be sure, but I think it was Gia Terlato, right?"
Sofia immediately understood that the man was interested in Gia, but Manuel was wary, responding, "Yes, it was. How do you know her?
"She and I went to high school together. We were good friends and... ...well, I just haven't seen her in a really long time. Is she meeting you here tonight?"
This time, Sofia spoke, "Why don't you have a seat? What's your name?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, my name is Scott Collier."
The DeSoto's introduced themselves as Scott took a seat across from them. Manuel was not thrilled at the idea of a stranger interjecting himself into their business, but Sofia seemed pleased to be making a new friend.
"I'm sorry, but, young man, did you follow Gia here? It's true, you did see us this afternoon, but how could you have known where we would be this evening?" Sofia glared at her husband as he interrogated Scott.
"I overheard Gia say where she was staying and decided to come here after work. I'm not a stalker or anything, I just wanted to see her."
"So you came here without knowing if she was even the person you were looking for? That seems pretty strange."
Sofia scoffed at her husband; she loved Manuel, but at times, he was truly oblivious. She was convinced that Gia was more than just an old friend of Scott's, and he seemed very nice, so Sofia wanted to give him a chance.
"Manuel, be quiet. He knew Gia's name and is simply here to see an old friend. Besides, we're here to keep an eye on things."
Manuel scowled and closed his mouth. He knew that he was better off sitting quietly than arguing with his wife. Sofia told Scott that they were, in fact, expecting Gia, and began to ask him about her.
"She's is our art consultant, she is here for the Art Basel show. What was she like when she was younger? Was Gia always so reserved?"
The question took Scott by surprise. Reserved was the last thing that came to mind when he thought of Gia. He was beginning to wonder if there was second Gia Terlato in the world when a chartreuse shoe, making it's way down the stairs to the patio, caught his eye. His eyes scanned up and when they reached the shoe-owner's face, his doubts were replaced by heart-thumping excitement. His Gia was in front of him, and he all he could do was stare.
Gia made her way down the concrete and tile stairs, carefully moving from step to step in her stilettos. She was a vision in a navy blue silk dress with spaghetti straps. The dress had a large, green cymbidium orchid printed on the front that began at her knees and extended to the bottom of the floor-skimming hem. A slit revealed one leg all the way up to her thigh; she wore chartreuse stilettos with an open toe and sling back that made her legs seem even longer than they already were. She carried a lime green clutch; a large enameled cuff adorned her left wrist and there were matching earrings dangling from her ears. Her hair was pinned in a loose, textured bun that sat to the side of her head, just below her ear. She looked impossibly stunning, and Scott wasn't the only man staring at her.