She didn’t need anyone to tell her that Tino had given his permission for the two of them to marry; the joy on each of their faces told its own story.
‘Lisa,’ Arianna said happily, hurrying forward to draw her into the tightly knit group. ‘Giorgio and I are to be married.’
‘I’m so happy for you,’ Lisa said sincerely. Drawing Arianna to her, she held her close for a moment. She knew Tino was standing just a few feet away. ‘Giorgio,’ she said, releasing Arianna, ‘you’re a very lucky man.’
‘I know that, Lisa,’ Giorgio assured her as he put a protective arm around Arianna’s waist.
Tearing her gaze away from them, Lisa went next to Stella, and took both the older woman’s outstretched hands in her own, ‘This must be a very happy day for you.’
‘This is the happiest day of my life,’ Stella admitted, dragging Lisa into a bear hug. ‘And now I only have one task left to complete on Cupid’s behalf.’
The sound of Tino’s voice made Lisa tense in Stella’s arms.
‘Why,’ Stella said, turning from Lisa to Tino, ‘I would have thought that was obvious, Constantine. I still have to find someone who will marry you.’
‘That is one task far better left undone,’ he said softly.
Stella’s noncommittal hum made them all laugh.
‘Shall we sit down?’ Stella suggested. Pointing to a chair, she indicated that Lisa should sit next to Tino.
Discreetly, Lisa put the small velvet case on the table between them.
‘Do you want me to put them on for you?’ He leaned across.
‘No. I do not want you to put them on for me,’ Lisa said under her breath, ‘whatever they might be.’
‘You mean you haven’t looked?’ His voice rose. ‘You mean you haven’t even opened my gift.’
Everyone was staring at them.
‘Forgive me, Stella Panayotakis, Arianna, Giorgio,’ he said smoothly. ‘I did not mean to interrupt your conversation.’
‘Is that a gift for Lisa?’ Stella said happily. ‘You should give it to her yourself, Tino.’
‘No, no, I—’ Lisa started to protest as she pushed her chair back from the table. But then she felt Tino’s hand on her arm and froze. She couldn’t do this. Of course she couldn’t do this. She couldn’t ruin Arianna’s evening. ‘Forgive me, everyone.’ She found a laugh. ‘I’ve never been very good at receiving gifts.’
‘Perhaps that’s because you haven’t received enough gifts,’ Stella remarked, busying herself with some olive-oil dip for her bread.
‘What have you bought for Lisa, Tino?’ Arianna cut in, dispelling the tension with her excitement. ‘I love presents. And, Giorgio—I’m very good at receiving them.’
Everyone laughed, and then Arianna said, ‘Well, aren’t you going to show us what you have bought for Lisa, Tino?’
He shrugged, and flipped the catch on the jewel case.
There was a stunned silence. The perfectly matched emerald earrings were surrounded by brilliant cut diamonds.
Giorgio was the first to recover. ‘Why, they’re magnificent,’ he said bluntly. ‘I’ve never seen such splendid stones.’
They were everything she had been expecting, and dreading too, Lisa realised as she watched Tino pluck the earrings from their velvet nest.
‘I remembered how much you loved the amethysts,’ he murmured, brushing back her hair to fix one earring in place. ‘And I thought these would be even better, because they will bring out the colour of your eyes.’ Cupping her chin in one hand, he brought her round to face him so that Lisa had nowhere to look but straight into his.
‘There… I was right,’ he murmured, adjusting the second one. ‘They’re perfect.’
There was a spontaneous round of applause.
She knew he could see the tears building up in her eyes, and she hated herself for the weakness. It took every ounce of will-power and years of practice to hold them back. ‘Thank you.’ Her voice sounded so wooden. ‘The earrings are lovely.’
‘And now we go dancing in the village to celebrate,’ Stella declared energetically.