Orphaned in Florence, Lucy Raymond takes the only employment she can find, that of a castrato assistant to an art and antiquities dealer. But as she grows into womanhood, her masquerade chafes, for it allows none of the romance she craves.
In her loneliness she often visits the Piazza della Signoria, where she gazes at the magnificent sculptures and dreams impossible dreams. Until one day, when she is overcome by loneliness and the oppressive heat, she faints at the feet of an enormous sculpture, only to wake in the arms of its living embodiment.
Allowing herself to be seduced is the last thing Lucy should do. But Vido is warm and vital and the living image of David, so how can she resist?
I let my gaze drift past the loggia, seeing but paying little attention to the Cellini bronze, the Donatello marble, the other works of supreme artists. The massive sculpture of Hercules was only part of the scenery, unimportant to me. It was David my eyes sought, David I drank in the sight of.
He stood across the piazza on his black marble pedestal, foursquare and firm. I walked toward him, ignoring the crowd, the babble of a dozen languages around me. As I drew near, I raised my chin, letting my gaze linger over his feet, strong white feet, able to walk all day and into the night. His ankles were slim, yet sturdy, his calves well shaped. I saw the veins in his calf, the sinews connecting lower leg to knee. His legs were long, lean, sturdy.
Have I told you of his magnificent body, of the strength of his arms, his legs? Of the beauty of his naked chest, his uncovered shoulders? Do you know what a real man looks like, how the muscles lie close to the body, so that every movement becomes a symphony in efficiency? His right leg holds him upright, while the left relaxes. His left arm is lifted, holding a sling, with which he will defend himself--or me--from harm through the long, dark night.
My mouth dried at the thought, butterflies fluttered in my middle. I imagined his hands on my shoulders, his fingers touching my cheeks, my eyelids, my lips. I felt his mouth upon mine, not cold like stone, but hot. Wet. His tongue invaded me, swooped between my teeth, tangled with mine.
My knees grew weak. I trembled. The smoldering warmth flared into flame, consuming me. Perhaps I cried out.
"Signorina, you are ill." A strong arm encircled my waist, a hard body supported me.
I smelled sweat and tobacco, a faint aroma of wine, as I was lowered to the pavement and propped against the pedestal supporting my love.
The eyes staring into mine were brown, soft like a doe's, ringed with thick, long lashes of sooty black. The face was familiar--like so many I saw daily in the streets, a poor replica of my David's. The hand cupping my cheek was hard with callus, but gentle, tender in its touch.
"No, I am not ill," I said, but my voice betrayed me. It quavered with the aftermath of my helpless passion.
His smile was quick, fleeting. "Of course you are not ill. Merely overcome with beauty. I saw you, saw how you could not take your eyes from...him...from David." He glanced upwards, a quick lift of his head. "He is indeed one to make a woman tremble, no?"
"I love him," I said, then bit my tongue. "I mean, I love the artistry, the beauty of the sculpture. It is incomparable."
"Sì. But he would be much prettier were he flesh and blood. Here, let me help you stand. I will give you wine and bread and you will feel much better."
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