The Beasts' Breeding Dungeon
Ava’s jaw nearly hit the floor as she andMichelle were herded into the darkened room where the magnificentmural took up the entire wall.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Michelle whispered,walking up to study DaVinci’s masterpiece as the glass doors sealedbehind them.
“I had no idea it was so big,” Ava whisperedwith awe. While Michelle stood and marveled at the stunning artthat she had seen before, Ava took slow deliberate steps towardsThe Last Supper. A herd of Chinese tourists bustled past Ava,nearly knocking her over but she could have cared less. She had noidea that The Last Supper took up an entire wall of a church. Shethought it had simply been a painting that hung on a wall. She onlyhalf-listened as Michelle informed her about how the church hadbeen bombed during World War II.
Before Ava even realized it, their time wasup and they were being led though more doors as another group oftourists was shuffled in behind them.
“I really can’t believe how impressive thatwas,” she stammered as they exited Santa Maria delle Grazie andmade their way back up to the main street.
“I know,” Michelle exclaimed, “I knew youwould love it once you saw it.”
Ava glanced down at the small bag she heldfrom the gift shop. She couldn’t stop herself from buying a handfulof Last Supper postcards, bookmarks and magnets.
“It was so big,” she kept repeating.
Michelle tossed back her dark hair andlaughed. “That’s why you should always listen to me,” she teased asshe motioned for them to run across the busy street during a lag intraffic.
“I’m glad I did,” Ava said, craning her neckup the street to look for a bus. Much to their good fortune, a buswas making its way towards them and they hopped on board.
“Okay, what’s next?” Ava asked as Michellescrolled through her smart phone. Best friends since college, Avaand Michelle had decided to take a trip to Europe to celebratetheir recent business success.
At twenty-seven, Ava and Michelle had bothleft their careers in the fashion industry to create their ownfashion line. They both dumped their substantial 401K’s into theirbusiness, and one year later they were reaping their return with adeal with Macy’s. They were about to be thrown into a grueling workschedule and they thought the best way to celebrate was a ten daytrip to Europe, with stops in some of the biggest fashion capitolsof the world. After two days in London and two days in Paris, thewomen were enjoying a brief stint in Milan before heading down tothe Italian Riviera to relax.
The bus pulled up to Piazza del Duomo and thewomen exited before entering the large square. The square waspacked with many people bustling around and large numbers oftourists stopping to take photos. They walked towards the cathedraland then cut across to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a giantshopping mall.
They entered the huge arches, and Michelledragged Ava towards the inside of the building. Michelle had beento Milan before thanks to her Italian-born father who had numerousrelatives in Italy. Michelle was clearly her father’s daughter,with long dark hair, olive skin and big brown eyes. Ava couldn’thelp but envy her friend’s exotic look. Of course, Ava wasbeautiful too with her all American good looks: tall and curvy,with long blonde hair, cornflower blue eyes, and a smattering offreckles. Even fashionably dressed in a bold print skirt, with abolder jacket-turned-shirt, there was no mistaking that she wasAmerican.
Just as Michelle led Ava towards the bullmosaic on the ground, a well-dressed man approached them.
“Good afternoon ladies,” he said kindly in acultured Italian accent.
Ava eyed him warily but Michelle smiled andsaid hello in Italian. The man raised his eyebrows and paused, butthen spoke to Michelle in rapid Italian. Ava rolled her eyes asthey spoke and Michelle grinned as she turned towards Ava.
“So there is a brand new restaurant that isopening outside of the city and they are trying to bring in newcustomers. We can go tonight for half price and free drinks!”
“I don’t know, Michelle, it seems kind ofsketchy,” Ava whispered, her brow furrowing with concern.
Michelle smiled at the handsome stranger.“Look, this guy seems completely legit. I know all about the weirdscams that they try to pull and this doesn’t seem like one.” Shefingered the glossy business card that had the restaurant’s nameand emblem on it. “Come on! I’m so over these pricey cityrestaurant meals, aren’t you? Let’s go check out some authenticNorthern Italian food outside the city!”
Ava bit her lip with nerves, she couldn’thelp shake the bad feeling she had, but Michelle was the expert nother. “How do we get to this so-called amazing restaurant?”
Michelle smiled. “This guy offered to driveus for twenty Euros.”
“Drive us?” Ava exclaimed, “No way, Michelle!I mean, if we want to take a cab or something that is fine, but I’mnot letting some stranger drive us.” She fiddled with herengagement ring, wondering what her fiance, Drew, would say if heknew that Michelle wanted them to have some stranger drive them allover northern Italy.
“Please,” Michelle pleaded in a whisper.“This guy is so sexy and I could use a hot Italian fling before ourwork takes over.”
Ava shook her head stubbornly.
“Please,” she whined. “It’s not fair thatyou've already snagged the hottest guy in New York. I need a littleromance luck.”
Ava winced as she thought of the ugly breakupMichelle had gone through a few months earlier. Michelle thoughtshe had found The One, only to come home to find “The One” banginghis secretary in he and Michelle’s king-size bed. Apparently,Michelle wasn’t “The One” for him, and neither was his secretary,legal assistant, colleague and fitness coach, all of whom Michellelearned he was sleeping with while Michelle was putting in longhours for her new business.
“Fine. Okay,” she agreed, rolling her eyeswith exasperation.
“Yes!” Michelle squealed, before quicklyspeaking in Italian to the man. The man smiled and motioned for thewomen to follow him.
“Let’s go,” Michelle said, pulling Ava along.They worked their way out of the square to where a sleek black carsat double-parked. The man smiled at the women, and chivalrouslyopened the back door before bowing slightly. Michelle giggled andclimbed in but Ava hesitated outside of the door. She hadn’t eventexted Drew to tell him her plans.
“Ava,” Michelle groaned and Ava quicklyclimbed in behind her. A divider was up for privacy and Ava feltrelieved.
The man pulled out into traffic and Avawatched as the city began to pass outside their windows. Shequickly pulled out her phone and sent Drew a quick text. It waseleven in the morning at home, and he would be at work.
Michelle is dragging me to a new restaurantoutside of Milan. Should be interesting. I’ll call you later.
Drew responded almost instantly.
Okay. Be safe. Let me know once you make itback to your hotel tonight. Love you.
Ava smiled at his sweet text; Drew alwayswanted to know when she arrived safely somewhere. She tucked herphone safely inside the pocket of her jacket-turned-shirt, figuringthat was easier to access than being buried in her large purse.
Michelle leaned back in the soft leather andclosed her eyes. “I might take a nap,” she said happily.
“A nap? How far away is this restaurant?”
“I don’t know. It shouldn’t be too far. Whenhe was describing the area it sounded about forty minutes away,”Michelle said in a bored voice as she yawned.
“Forty minutes! You didn’t tell me that. Imean, maybe twenty minutes, but forty?”
“Relax, Ava! Thank god I’m around or I don’tknow if we would be having any fun.”
Annoyed, Ava sat back in the seat and rolledher eyes. Michelle was definitely more laid back and morespontaneous than she, and her sense of fun had certainly added totheir trip, but Ava still couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling ofhaving a stranger drive them to a restaurant that was so far out oftown.