All Guillermo could feel was the cool night air beating against his face, and whipping the thin fabric of his shirt like a flag in a gale force wind. The exhilarating pounding of his heart behind his ribs. His hands, tight on the handlebars of his motorbike, were numb from the pressure and the cold. He rode and rode and rode. He gave no thought to where. Without conscious thought, one could follow the same country road for a very long time. He passed through more than one tiny hamlet, where the dark shapes of stone buildings closed in on both sides, its inhabitants sleeping, and then disappeared in a flash, but mostly he rode through farmers' fields and vineyards, over hills and through valleys, the silhouette of trees barely visible in the remote areas where the only light was shed by a silver sliver of moon.
He didn't care. He only wanted to escape, to get as far away from Pia's and that conversation as he could.
Perhaps if he rode fast enough, and far enough, he could escape the ugly truth. But as the countless kilometers passed, and the hours of the night unfolded one after another, he knew there was no escape. Already he could detect a lightening of the sky at the eastern horizon. He was tired, so tired.
As his mind became calmer, he started to feel the cold. He hadn't stopped to grab his leathers or his helmet, simply leaping on his bike and tearing out of Pia's driveway as if pursued by demons. Now, leagues away from anywhere he had occasion to regret it. And likely he would soon run short of fuel. Stronzo.
He'd gone crazy. His mind was incapable of processing what Pia had said, incapable of accepting it. And yet, given Jacopo's circumstances, and knowing his brother as he did, how could he be surprised? If anyone in the family in four hundred years was stupid enough to lose the estate, it was Jacopo.
His eyes burned hot, and his stomach roiled with upheaval, rejecting the very notion. His muscles were stiff, not only from his long wild ride, but from the tension that had held him in its grip for hours.
He pulled to the side of the road and came to a stop, killing the engine. The echo of the engine's roar flew away into the fading darkness, leaving Guillermo in utter silence, his ears ringing, his hands frozen to the bike. He flexed his fingers slowly, prying them free, and then wrapped his arms around his torso, shivering.
Oh, he knew how to ride. Often he had hopped on his bike and taken off, riding without purpose or destination in mind, just for the thrill of feeling free. Carefree.
He supposed he had on occasion ridden off to escape some unpleasantness. A breakup with a girlfriend. A tense client meeting. A throbbing head and sickly stomach the morning after enjoying himself a bit too heartily. But never had he ridden so desperate to get away, to escape, to be free from the reality of his life.
A terrible pressure pushed up from somewhere deep inside of him. A surge of fear and self-pity. He was sure he would explode with it, until at last he tilted back his head and let loose a monstrous bellow of pain and frustration and rage.
A flock of starlings exploded out of the field and took to wing, the tattoo of their hundred thousand wings knocking against the imminent daybreak like drums of war. As if it heard them, or him, the sun broke the surface of the horizon, throwing darts of brilliant hot vermillion light racing toward him across the earth.
He flinched and raised his arm to shield his eyes from the blinding light. Then he turned his head to follow the rays of sunlight as they awoke the sleeping landscape, electrifying dewdrops that clung to each head of grass and grain. His land. His people's land. His connection to this place was a powerful part of him. It defined him. His love of the buildings, the land, the history of Tuscany and Umbria were a large part of why he had chosen to become an architect, weren't they?
But did he need to own a villa to keep that connection alive? It was not a question he ever thought to ask. Villa Cielo Incantato had always been there. He supposed it always would be. But the time had finally come for his family to let it go.
It left an intense, unbearable aching hole in his chest.
Jacopo always put his trust in the wrong people. If he had come to me, I could have helped… somehow. I would have found a way. Maybe. Now it was too late. Jacopo was broke, more than broke, desperate. Pia's life was with Paulo, and he had his own family estate to care for. Their resources, though not insubstantial, were completely tied up. Bianca had nothing but her trust fund. She couldn't even manage her own affairs. Even if they pooled their funds, this was too big. There was nothing that could be done.
Guillermo was not poor. He had significant funds saved and invested, and he financed a very comfortable life with his own trust fund, investments, professional income and company dividends. But this was beyond his power. There was nothing he could do, even if Jacopo had respected him and trusted him enough to ask for help.
Disheartened, Guillermo started up his bike and pulled out. Pale country greens and golds and blues emerged from the murk of night. He'd find out where he was, get some gas, and take the shortest route home.
Ah, hell. No, he couldn't even do that. He was obliged to return to Pia's. There was a certain fiery-headed beauty that he was obligated to take care of. There would be no escape for Guillermo today.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish