Taming the Notorious Sicilian

By: Michelle Smart


 FRANCESCO CALVETTI BROUGHT his MV Agusta F4 CC to a stop and placed his left foot on the road as he was foiled by yet another set of red lights. Barely 7:00 a.m. and the roads were already filling up.

 What he wouldn’t give to be riding with nothing but the open road before him and green fields surrounding him.

 He thought of Sicily with longing. His island had none of the grey dreariness he was fast associating with London. This was supposed to be spring? He’d enjoyed better winters in his homeland.

 He yawned widely, raising his hand to his visor out of pure habit. After all, no one could see his face with his helmet on.

 He should have gotten Mario to bring him home after such a long night, but being driven by anyone irritated him, especially in a car. Francesco was a man for whom drive had multiple definitions.

 The light changed to green. Before twisting on the throttle and accelerating smoothly, he swiped away the moisture clinging to his visor.

 What a country. At the moment it was like driving through a saturated cloud.

 As he approached yet another set of lights, a cyclist on a pushbike just ahead caught his attention—or, rather, the fluorescent yellow helmet she wore caught it. She reached the lights at the moment they turned amber. If that had been him, Francesco mused, he would have gone for it. She’d had plenty of time.

 But no, this was clearly a law-abiding woman with a healthy dose of self-preservation. She stopped right at the line. The car in front of Francesco, a large four-wheel drive, drew level on her right side.

 She had the thickest hair he’d ever seen—a shaggy mass of varying shades of blonde reaching halfway down her back.

 The light turned green and off she set, sticking her left arm out and turning down the street in that direction. The car that had been beside her also turned left, forced to hang a little behind her, with Francesco joining the convoy.

 The road ahead was clear. The cyclist picked up speed....

 It happened so quickly that for a moment Francesco was convinced he had imagined it.

 Without any indication, the four-wheel drive in front of him pulled out to overtake the cyclist, accelerating quickly, but with the spatial awareness of a cauliflower, because it clipped the cyclist’s wheel, causing her to flip forward off the saddle and land head-first on the kerb.

 Francesco brought his bike to an immediate stop and jumped off, clicking the stand down through muscle memory rather than conscious thought.

 To his disgust, the driver of the offending car didn’t stop, but carried on up the road, took a right and disappeared out of sight.

 A passer-by made a tentative approach towards the victim.

 ‘Do not move her,’ Francesco barked as he pulled off his helmet. ‘She might have a broken neck. If you want to help, call for an ambulance.’

 The passer-by took a step back and dug into his pocket, allowing Francesco to stand over the victim.

 The woman lay on her back, half on the pavement and half on the road, her thick hair fanning in all directions. Her helmet, which had shifted forward and covered her forehead, had a crack running through it. Her bike was a crumpled heap of metal.

 Dropping to his haunches, Francesco yanked off his leather gloves and placed two fingers on the fallen cyclist’s neck.

 Her pulse beat faint beneath his touch.

 While the passer-by spoke to the emergency services, Francesco deftly removed his leather jacket and placed it over the unconscious woman. She wore smart grey trousers and an untucked black blouse covered with a waterproof khaki jacket. On one of her bare feet was a white ballet shoe. The other was missing.

 His chest constricted at the thought of the missing shoe.

 He wished he could tuck his jacket under her to create a barrier between her and the cold, damp concrete, but he knew it was imperative to keep her still until the paramedics arrived.

 The important thing was she was breathing.

 ‘Give me your coat,’ he barked at another spectator, who was hovering like a spare part. A small crowd had gathered around them. Vultures, Francesco thought scornfully. Not one of them had stepped forward to help.

 It never occurred to him that his presence was so forbidding, even first thing in the morning, that none of the crowd dared offer their assistance.

 The spectator he’d addressed, a middle-aged man in a long lambswool trench coat, shrugged off his coat and passed it to Francesco, who snatched it from his hands. Francesco wrapped it across the woman’s legs, making sure to cover her feet.

 ‘Five minutes,’ the original passer-by said when he disconnected his call.

 Francesco nodded. For the first time he felt the chill of the wind. He palmed the woman’s cheek. It felt icy.

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