Hello, all.. Apparently some folks had trouble seeing this entry. I’m sorry about that. I checked it out and there was a ton of Microsoft gobeldygok in the html. I removed it, so that should clear things up. I dunno, it’s been displaying fine for me since I posted yesterday afternoon, so if anyone can’t see this, drop me an email (bettie @ [my domain name]). Oh, wait, that won’t work…
Chastity stepped from the private luxury jet onto the sparkling white Italian marble tarmac of Cesar’s private airstrip. Chastity’s delicate sea-green eyes were more accustomed to toiling indoors scrubbing floors and changing diapers than cavorting on private Italian marble runways owned by virile Italian billionaires, beneath the overwhelming heat of the bright Italian sun. Her beautiful sapphire orbs began to water.
“Well, signorina,” Cesar said. “What do you think of my palazzo?” He leaned down from his great height to look into her streaming eyes. A strange expression crossed his handsomely rugged face.
Chastity wanted to ask him to return her sunglasses, which he had placed on his face before deplaning, but he silenced her by laying a finger across her lips. His finger was so strong, so masculine, so exotically Italian. She had no choice but to remain silent.
“Shh! Do not speak, signorina. I can see that you are overwhelmed by the size and beauty of mi palazzo. Your emotional reaction does you credit—unlike the gold-digging whores I have known in the past who mutter envious words like, ‘tacky,’ ‘garish’ and ‘overcompensating’ when they see my beautiful home.”
Mutely, Chastity nodded. Cesar’s Palace was as magnificent as the man, himself. In addition to the polished marble, crushed diamonds and gold leaf, Cesar had decorated the grounds of his palace with many tasteful reproductions of Michelangelo’s David and the Venus de Milo.
“Come,” Cesar ordered forcefully as he led her into the palazzo. “We will film the first commercial right here in mi palazzo. The camera crew awaits, and my fine team of chefs has prepared a grand buffet fit for the likes of a Roman emperor or a middle-income tourist.”
Windows lined the walls of the grand dining hall. In the center of the room was a long table bearing delicacies like chilled shrimp, lobster bisque, and some adorable little baklava made with walnuts, peanuts and honey.
Chastity gaped in awe. She had never eaten at a buffet. High class meals like buffets were too sophisticated for a simple girl from the lesser Piddlehinton metropolitan area.
For the second time since deplaning, tears came to Chastity’s eyes. But this time it was not the powerful Italian sun which caused them. No, it was the powerful Italian man by her side. The man who cared so much about her little babies that he spared no expense in making sure they were well fed and cared for while he filmed them for commercial purposes.
“Your eyes are leaking again, signorina. Perhaps you have the hay fever? Let me see.” Cesar grasped her delicately pointed chin in his large, masculine hand and tilted her heart-shaped face up to his.
Their eyes met. An electric connection sparked between them. The sensation that raced through Chastity’s body was not unlike the many times she had accidentally walked into the electric fence that bordered the pasture behind the orphanage.
She could not free herself from the powerful pull of Cesar’s dark, exotically Italian eyes. Cesar did not look away. He stared at her. His nostrils flared and the masculine bulge in his pants grew as straight and as hard as a pillar of fine Italian marble.
When he spoke, his rugged voice was low, seductive and suspicious. “I once knew a woman with eyes like yours. Her eyes were the color of the sky outside this window, or perhaps they were the color of the strange-smelling blue liquid my janitors use to clean this window—my memory is somewhat hazy because I was drunk. But I will never forget that her eyes were blue.” Cesar pinned her with a powerful, suspicious stare. “Your eyes are also blue, signorina. Don’t you think that is a strange coincidence?”
With a gasp, Chastity tore her heart-shaped face from Cesar’s strong grasp. What if Cesar recognized her? If he discovered Chastity had once shamelessly yielded to his ruggedly handsome good looks before running away to bear his children and toil in abject poverty, he would surely reject her as a gold-digging whore.
He would take the babies from her, and there was nothing she could do about it. No one would believe she was fit to raise her precious angels. She’d had sex! With a man! How could anyone trust two innocent babies to the care of a woman who had done such a thing?
Chastity bit back a sob of sorrow. She had to keep her identity a secret if she wanted to keep her babies. She had no other choice.
“I—” Chastity stuttered as she tried to think of some way to shield her true identity from Cesar. “I have the hay fever!”
She covered her face in her hands and ran in the direction of the nearest restroom. After locking the door behind her, Chastity dried her eyes and took a few huffs of her beloved permanent marker to calm her nerves before straightening her wig and returning to the grand dining room.
The buffet was in chaos when she returned. The film crew was arguing in Italian. The tables were overturned, chilled shrimp, lobster bisque and baklava bits littered the floor. In the center of it all, Cesar stood holding the twins in his strong, masculine muscular arms. The sight of such a handsomely rugged man holding two small babies would have been as heartwarming as an Anne Geddes photograph, if not for the fact that Miracle’s little face was swollen and blue.
“Mi bambino,” Cesar shouted. “We must help him.”
“He’s in allergic shock!” Chastity cried as she rushed forward, drawing the epipen she always kept in her pocket. With the efficiency of a professionally trained and licensed nurse, she administered the precious medicine.
Within minutes, Miracle was breathing normally again. Chastity followed Cesar up to the nursery his staff had prepared for the babies, and they put the precious angels to bed.
“I am fortunate you were here to administer their medication.” Cesar whispered as he came to stand beside her at Miracle’s crib. “You acted not like a nanny but like a—what is the English word for a lady doctor?—a nurse.”
“Thank you, Mr. Machismo.” Chastity smiled at Cesar’s compliment.
In fact, she was a nurse. She had earned her degree by taking night classes when the babies were asleep. After graduating at the top of her form, she’d thought about finding a job as a nurse, but she could not bear to leave her babies behind.
Chastity could not have cared for them on her own, either. Who had ever heard of an unmarried woman caring for two children by herself? No, she’d had no choice but to stay at the orphanage.
“I do not understand what happened,” Cesar said as he watched Marvel rest peacefully in his crib. “We began to feed them the delicacies from the buffet—the chilled shrimp puree, the lobster bisque, the walnut and peanut baklava pudding made with organic unpasturized honey—and this one turned blue. I do not understand. I give them only the best foods, and feed them with silver spoons. What could have gone wrong?”
Chastity looked up at Cesar. Her heart wrenched at the look of concern on his ruggedly handsome face. He was so upset. She did not have the heart to tell him that little Miracle was allergic to nuts, shellfish, honey and silver.
She couldn’t hurt Cesar’s feelings by telling him that he had been responsible for Miracle’s allergic reaction. Cesar would be devastated, and the fault was really hers. She had been the one to leave the bambini unattended with no one but Cesar, several waiters, and a commercial camera crew around to watch out for them.
It was not Cesar’s fault he had not noticed the medic alert bracelet on Miracle’s wrist, or the medic alert necklace he wore. Or the child’s custom-printed t-shirt which read “Please don’t feed me nuts, shellfish, honey or silver.” She would just have to hide the truth from him, and watch her babies more carefully in the future. She had no other choice.
“These things happen sometime, Mr. Machismo. You mustn’t blame yourself.” She dared lay a gentle hand on his broad, masculine shoulder and awareness jolted through her like electricity from an accidental brush with her old nemesis, the electric fence.
“Signorina,” Cesar whispered seductively. He cupped her cheek with his right hand.
Chastity met his hot, sensuous gaze. “Yes.” She answered him in a breathy voice.
Without another word, Cesar pulled Chastity to him, crushing her fragile body into his powerful, masculine embrace. Chastity knew she should try to resist him, but her heart was beating so fast. His strong arms held her so tightly. She seemed to be having difficulty breathing.
Spots swam before her eyes as Cesar’s tongue pressed insistently against her closed lips. It pressed against her lips almost as insistently as the hard, masculine bulge in his pants pressed against her waist.
Her lips yielded to the insistent pressure of his tongue. Cesar ravished her mouth with his, claiming it like an explorer thrusting a flag into the soft, fertile soil of an undiscovered land, only not so painful as that analogy might imply. The important thing here is the implication that soon, Cesar would thrust a pole of a different kind into Chastity’s soft and fertile parts. Because Cesar Machismo’s pole was more than ready to be planted.
Chastity disgraced herself with a wanton moan and Cesar thrust his hand into her hair to tilt her head further back so that he could continue to ravish her delicate pink lips. Just when Chastity was about to break off the kiss and explain that her neck would not bend to such an acute angle, she felt something pull loose from her hair, and the pressure eased.
“What is this?” Cesar growled.
Chastity opened her eyes to find Cesar staring at her while holding Gladys’s dog-washing wig in his left hand. His right hand was open, but stained with a black mark of not-quite-permanent ink that had rubbed off from the mole she’d drawn on her cheek.
Anger darkened Cesar’s features as he looked from the cheap wig to the ink on his palm to Chastity. “That hair! Those eyes!” he roared, throwing the wig to the ground.
“You! You are mother to mi bambini! You are the filthy whore I thought I loved, two years ago! Which means mi bambini are truly mi bambini.” He glared at her. “I cannot believe you let me exploit my own children for crass commercial purposes.”
Chastity stood, shocked. “You thought you loved me…?”
“Never mind. It is in the past, now. I was foolish to ever harbor tender emotions for a scheming gold-digger like you. You are a cold hearted stage-mother who thinks nothing of exploiting her children by putting them in commercials. But I won’t let you exploit my children. Not mi bambini!”
Cesar threw the tatty wig to the ground. “I know exactly how to deal with a harpy like you!”
Chastity hung her head. He would send her back to the orphanage and never let her see her babies again. She had no hope of fighting him. She had no choice but to do as he said. “You’re sending me away?”
Cesar’s angry face grew angrier. “Of course not. Cesar Machismo would never put the mother of his children out on the streets.”
He stalked to the door and jerked it open. “Tomorrow, we will get married.”