The room was dark and filled with broken tables, chairs and other bits of furniture that, for some reason was no longer usable. Matteo leant against one of the tables, not looking at Adrianna who stood only a few feet away from him.
“What is it?” She asked, not taking her eyes of him for a second.
“What do you think of my plan?”
“I think it’s one of the craziest ideas I have ever heard,” she replied honestly. “You’ll all either end up in prison or dead.”
“Why is everyone being so negative?” Matteo questioned. “It’s not fair.”
“And yet,” Adrianna continued, making Matteo look up from the floor, his eyes filled with hope.
“And yet if I could I would be standing right by your side, fighting for my freedom with as much energy and passion as I could muster.”
“But you won’t,” he said, his head falling back down to his chest.
“I can’t,” Adrianna replied, walking over to Matteo and cupping his face in her hands. “I wouldn’t be able to speak to anyone ever again if I were to be seen at a protest against the nobility. I would lose everything; my home and my family. They are all I have.”
“You’ll always have me,” Matteo said. “No matter what happens, you will always have me.”
“I know,” Adrianna whispered. “But if you accept me then neither of us will be able to do what we want. You’ll never get anyone to listen to you because you’ll be known as the man who stole Duke Giordano’s daughter.”
“What if I married you?”
“It would be even worse. Then you’d be Duke Giordano’s son-in-law and you would lose the support of all of the men and women out there. There is no way we can do this without hurting each other. That’s why it’s best if I keep in the shadows.”
Matteo said nothing, his hands going around Adrianna’s waist and pulling her against him.
“I hate it that we have to hide like this,” he said, his breath brushing against her cheek. “I want to tell the whole world that you are mine and that I love you and not worry about the consequences.”
“Did you just say you love me?” Adrianna said, shocked that the words had come out of his mouth so easily.
“Yes,” Matteo said, surprised at himself. “Yes, I believe I did. And I meant it.”
“Really?” Adrianna said, pulling away from Matteo so she could look him in the eyes.
“I love you,” he said earnestly, his hands cupping her face and bringing it so close her nose was touching his. “Do I need to prove it to you any further?”
Adrianna kissed him in reply, a deep, passionate kiss that made the rest of the world disappear, leaving only the two of them.
When the two parted, both breathing a little heavier, Matteo looked intently at Adrianna’s face and at the mask hiding it.
“Let me see,” he said, his hands reaching up to brush the edge of Adrianna’s purple lace mask.
“I can’t Matteo,” she insisted, brushing his hands away from her face.
“You know why not. I would be disobeying my father if I let you take off my mask.”
“And you aren’t disobeying him by being here now?” Adrianna had no response to this so Matteo continued. “You want women to have the freedom to live without having to hide their faces because it is seen as a betrayal of her master. But that’s not going to happen if people like us don’t take the first steps.”
She was breathing heavily now as Matteo turned her around so it was her with her back against the wooden table, his body pressed against hers.
“Please let me take your mask off,” he said, his hands reaching up to touch either side of her face. This time Adrianna didn’t protest, allowing him to undo the purple ribbon around the back of her head that secured the mask against her face. She felt a surge of both relief and fear as the mask was removed and Matteo could see her face for the first time. She could hear him physically take in a lungful of air, but couldn’t bear to look at him to see the expression on his face.
“Am I ugly?” She asked, scared of what the answer would be.
“No,” he responded without hesitation. “Far from it. Adrianna, you are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”
The girl felt her cheeks flush as he said this, pleasure rising up inside her as she realised that someone thought she was beautiful. No one had ever told her that before and truly meant it. Matteo did.
His hand went to Adrianna’s face, tilting it upwards into the light. She felt so naked being looked at without her mask, but it was a good feeling, like she was finally free. Matteo’s face was now only centimeters away from hers, his breath warm on her face.
“I love you,” he breathed, the words caressing Adrianna’s skin, sending waves of joy through her body.
“I love you Matteo,” She replied. “I love you with all my heart.” She looked up directly into his dark brown eyes, feeling her stomach melting and her knees beginning to turn to jelly.
Matteo leaned in, pressing his lips against Adrianna’s. In that moment she forgot about everything. She forgot that she wasn’t supposed to be here, alone in a tavern with a group of radicals just beyond the door, kissing a man who was neither her fiancé nor her husband. She just lost herself in that kiss, holding Matteo close to her and wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Don’t stop,” she sighed as he pulled away from her.
“I have to,” he replied. “I don’t know what I will do if I don’t stop now.”
“I don’t care,” she said, pulling him back in for another kiss. “I don’t care, just don’t stop.”