by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
Within the hour, all who were loyal to Don Giancarlo Ruggiero Batali knew that he was looking for Francesca Minucci. They had been instructed not to approach her, not to warn her he was looking for her but to let him know where she was.
She was in a dressing room in a fashionable boutique, trying on dresses. When he quietly entered the mirror-walled room, she was pulling a dress over her head and didn't see or hear him approach. He watched her for a second and simultaneously upended her with one arm and delivered a firm swat to her silk covered bottom with the other.
His personal bodyguards stood outside, their backs to the dressing room door, their arms folded across their chests, barring anyone from interfering.
The boutique's sales staff immediately left the area. Whoever these big men were... whoever the girl was... this was not their affair.
"Giancarlo!" Francesca screamed as his hand lit a fire on her bottom.
"How did you guess?" he laughed, delivering a few more spanks to her rounded bottom and then stood her on her feet, pulling the dress completely off her upper body.
Her face was flushed, her eyes wide and her breath alternated between shallow gasps and heavy sighs. "How... what... why?" she sputtered.
"I called," he said calmly, pulling her into such a tight embrace, her feet left the floor. "You weren't home, bambina," his arched brow disapproving, one hand cupped beneath her tender bottom.
"I... umm... wanted to shop for dresses. You always want me to wear a dress," she fabricated.
"And how were you going to pay for these dresses?" he asked, knowing she didn't have any money of her own.
"I just wanted to look," she said quietly, suddenly ashamed that she had purposely not been available when she knew he would call. "I was going to try several on and make a choice, then..."
"Then... ask Angelina if...? And... and... I have a little money saved from..."
"I'll buy you whatever you want," he said softly, wondering if she was telling the truth and feeling a slight bit of remorse that perhaps, he had wrongly judged her.
"It's not right," Francesca demurred. "A man shouldn't buy clothes for a lady unless they're married and..." She looked up at him, the blush deepening on her cheeks. "And I *am* a lady."
Her words pleased him and she was right. In the four years she had been away at college, she had conducted herself in a way that would befit his future wife, even though neither had planned to marry the other at the time. She had been studious, polite and courteous and while openly friendly, had always conducted herself in a ladylike manner. Her life centered around her studies but she occasionally attended social functions with a group of girlfriends. The male population was not immune to her beauty or to her bubbling personality, but knew their attentions would be rebuffed. Francesca's reputation was quickly established as a loner and in the small college she attended, it had been respected.
At twenty years of age, the closest encounters she had experienced with men were with the Godfather. He was the only man who had touched her intimately, kissed her soundly and refused to take "no" for an answer. She had initially been embarrassed by his attention and now, was confused about her feelings toward him. She knew he expected her to marry him and that confused her even more. The dreams of her girlhood included a loving partner, not one who spanked her like a naughty girl.
And here she was - standing before this dominant man - dressed only in a bra and panties and declaring she was a lady...
Suddenly shy about her state of undress, she reached for her clothes, but he stilled her hand. "I've seen you in less," he murmured, his eyes feasting on her form and pulled her back into his embrace, one hand cupping the round bottom he had just warmed.
"Please," she said softly, her face pinking when he continued to touch her intimately.
"Please what?" he whispered before kissing her again.
"You treat me like a loose woman," she said with quiet dignity. "Being your intended does not give you rights to my body before marriage."
Giancarlo raised his head to look at her. Her words penetrated and gave him pause. Perhaps he had treated her wrongly; not that she didn't deserve the spankings, but... had he touched her unnecessarily? Had he treated her the way he treated the puttanas... as if he was entitled to their charms? He needed to think about that.
"Show me the dresses you like," he said, handing her the clothes she had worn. "If you're buying them to wear when you're with me, I want to see what I'm paying for."
"Giancarlo, no..." she began but he cut her off.
"You saved my life, bambina. Buying you a few dresses is nothing in comparison to that."
"That was four year ago," she protested.
"And thanks to you, I'm still alive. Show me the dresses."
She knew it was futile to argue further and picked through the ones she had tried on, her eyes darting between several before settling on two of them.
He looked at them and nodded his approval but when they left the boutique, he paused to say a few private words to the saleswoman. Three other dresses would be added to the two Francesca had chosen; his discerning eye had noted that she had some difficulty choosing between them.
"Are you taking me home?" she asked as she settled into the backseat of the limo.
"No," he replied, taking her hand in his. "We're going to have lunch."
"I'm not hungry," Francesca blurted without thinking.
"You will eat," he said simply, brooking no argument.
She didn't give him one.
Papa Manzano beamed with pride when Don Batali escorted la bella donna the beautiful woman into his small establishment. The Don had dined there regularly since he was a young man but this was the first time he had ever brought a woman with him. He noticed that the Don was solicitous of the lady and smiled at her with a look on his face that he had not seen before. Was it tenderness? He watched them as he sat them at the Don's table and concluded that this was the Godfather's intended that he had heard about. He would personally prepare and serve whatever she desired. Visions of oso bucca and beef braciola filled his head. Perhaps she will want pasta puttanesca, he mused.
She ordered fettuccine Alfredo.
Giancarlo ordered gnocchi provolone in pesto for an appetizer and veal Marsala with linguine for his main meal. Papa Manzano poured the wine and gave the couple privacy.
"If you are going to be my wife," the Godfather lectured. "You will have to be more obedient, adhere to my wishes, try to please me," he told her.
"If I am going to be your wife," Francesca replied coolly. "And there is no guarantee that I will marry you... You will have to accept me as I am."
"Bambina," Giancarlo said softly as he leaned toward her. "I am not adverse to taking you over my knee in this public place."
"And I am not adverse to skipping lunch and finding my way home," she said in return. "Treat me like a lady. Treat me as if I were important to you or leave me alone."
Her words stung and without thought, he automatically reached for her intending to give her a firm reminder of who held the upper hand. But just as his palm touched her arm, he paused and looked at her thoughtfully.
"I've treated you as something less than a lady?" he asked.
She nodded, silent now and worried she had pushed him too far.
"You think you're not important to me?"
"I think..." Francesca paused, trying to choose the right words.
The pause in her speech hurt, the idea that his future wife thought she wasn't important to him made him feel shallow and then, he was angry.
"Not important?" he said softly, a slumbering tiger wakening as his hand cupped her chin so she'd look at him. "Have I been inattentive? Have I ignored you? Have I acted as if you are invisible?" His voice was low but heavy with thunder as one question after another speared her.
She pulled back from his hand and pushed her chair back. Her intent was to put a little space between them but Giancarlo interpreted the move as a means of escape. His long arms reached for her and he pulled her chair next to his, one arm clasping her around the shoulder, the other cupping her cheek.
"Bambina," his voice remained low. "Siete troppo impulsivi. You are too impulsive. You are not leaving, not now, not ever. Appartenete a me. You belong to me."