Adrianna trusted that Matteo knew exactly where he was going which allowed her time to try and calm herself down. She didn't understand why she was so nervous. There was no other man in the world she wanted to lose her innocence to than Matteo, the thought of her first time being with Count Alberto physically repulsed her, so she couldn't work out why her hands were shaking in her gloves and her stomach was tying itself in knots.
She could remember the first time Lady Lagana had spoken to her about the ways of men and women. "Your first time is precious," she had told Adrianna. "It should be saved and given to your husband on your wedding night." She dreaded to think what her mother's closest friend would think of her now. Not only was she thinking of lying with a man but the man was not her husband and he was a dangerous revolutionary to boot. She would be outraged.
And yet it wasn't disapproval that Adrianna feared. At least not Lady Lagana's disapproval. She was worried that after the event Matteo would look at her not not see the same girl. Would his opinion of her lessen if she gave herself to him completely?
There wasn't a lot of time for Adrianna to dwell on her worries as the place Matteo had chosen wasn't that far away.
"My father bought this place many years ago," Matteo explained as he helped Adrianna from the buggy. "He used it whenever there was a big shipment that meant he needed to stay close to the docks. He doesn't use it anymore but hasn't got round to selling it either. We shouldn't be disturbed here."
The building Matteo was talking about was a small house that could hold no more than two small rooms on each floor and was crushed in between two other identical houses. The large number of buildings lining the street worried Adrianna.
"Are you sure no one will see us?"
"I doubt anyone will be interested and if they do see us then I doubt they will recognise you behind your mask and in the dark." He gently laid a hand on her cheek so her face was lifted to his. "You mustn't worry, I will take care of you."
Despite this reassurance, Adrianna still felt much better when they were inside the house with the door locked behind them. It took a few minutes for Matteo to find, first, some matches, then a candle, but soon enough there was enough light for the pair to ascend the stairs.
"I shall find some more candles," Matteo said, leaving Adrianna standing awkwardly in the darkened bedroom. From what she could see there was very little furniture in the room except for the bed, a simple wardrobe and a chest of drawers. She had no idea where to put herself or what she was expected to do in this situation.
It wasn't until that moment that Adrianna realised just how much she had missed out on without a mother. Years of advice that mothers had given daughters for generations. Lady Lagana had given Adrianna advice on many occasions but it wasn't quite the same. She had no children of her own and the conversations had occasionally been stilted and awkward, neither of them feeling especially comfortable.
Matteo had been gone some time before Adrianna moved to perch on the side of the bed, more nerves collecting in her stomach. She saw the light of the candle growing closer to the doorway before Matteo appeared.
"Sorry I was away for so long," he said putting the spare, unlit candles he was holding in his free hand into candlesticks that were placed around the room, shining a warm, flickering orange glow into the darkness. "I don't know any other house where the candles are kept in a locked trunk in the drawing room."
"I don't think many people keep trunks in their drawing rooms, they're not exactly the height of sophistication." Adrianna smiled nervously as the last of the candles were lit. "So?" She said, not wanting Matteo to notice the tension in the silence.
"Wes?" He replied expectantly, his eyes fixed on her from the other side of the room. Adrianna felt a lump forming in her throat and she couldn't seem to get the words out. Her hesitation was all to clear to Matteo. "You've changed your mind, haven't you?" He stood completely still on his side of the room. "I knew it was a bad idea."
"No, you've got it wrong," Adrianna insisted, "I haven't changed my mind. I'm just a little..."
"A little what?" He asked, crossing the room and sitting next to her on the bed, his hand resting on top of hers.
"A little nervous." Adrianna hated to admit to her nerves, especially to Matteo. What would he think of her now? Would e think her a stupid fool who had no idea about the world? And if he did, was it Adrianna's fault? She had been told so little about life and hadn't been able to experience it for herself.
"What are you nervous about? Your reputation?"
"Not, it's not that."
"You're not scared of me are you?"
"Of course not!"
"Then what is it?"
"How may women have you lain with?" The words sat uncomfortably in the air. Adrianna couldn't believe she had asked the question and Matteo was unsure how to answer it.
"Does it matter?" He finally asked.
"I just need to know. How many?"
"Don't mess around with me, Matteo."
"There have been four other women."
Adrianna didn't know if that was good or bad. She knew that men could have intimate relationships without reprisal with women far more easily that women could with men. But Matteo was still young, only twenty-four, so it was possible that he wasn't as well acquainted with the world as other men.
“Please say something,” Matteo said as Adrianna carefully processed her thoughts.
“Did you love them? The other women?”
“In a way, yes.”
“Did you love them in the same way you love me?”
“No. You are so much more precious to me than ant of the others. Is that what you’re worried about?”
“You forgot about the other women, why should it be any different for me?”
“Because you’re not like the others. You’re smart and beautiful and have the same passion for the cause I believe in heart and soul.”
“Is that really all it takes for you to love someone?”
“No. I love you because I feel like I can’t live without you, that I hate watching you walk away from me. I’ve never felt this strongly about anyone before. I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”
Adrianna felt a sudden rush of love and passion towards Matteo. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips violently against his. Despite his shock, Matteo returned the kiss.
“You want this?”
“Yes,” Adrianna said. “No regrets.”