She needed to forget Paris.
To put the diamond business behind her, pack her bags and pack away all thoughts of hard rocks, hard cash and most of all hard business men with their hard, hard hearts.
What better place could there be for a doomed lover than Verona?
At least she wasn’t dead she thought, that was something she had on that pair.
Yes, it was a trade fair, but as her boss had said – this was Italy, it was bound to be more fair than trade.
Then the dates came through.
Who holds a jewellery fair in Verona on St Valentine’s weekend?
The Italians apparently.
She wanted to cancel, but the tickets were bought and she didn’t want another ticking off from on high. Her stock was low and her star falling at work, she “wasn’t on her game” they said, since, “you know, since the split”.
She arrived at Venice airport in a failing mood and the coldest winter the Veneto had known in a generation.
Her rooms were pretty but chilly and summer-ready sparse. Outside the air was so cold that her breath froze in it and the wind so sharp that it cut through her cashmere layers of comfort.
All she did was shuttle to and from the exhibition halls and her hotel, eating on the hoof or at home, drinking too much red wine too late at night.
At the show, she could muster no sparkle to match the precious stones, no gleam to glisten and gloss deals as she would have done before.
Except, at one stand, where something of her lustre returned. A local craftsman presided, only here by means of patronage to promote the city’s produce.
Here was an artisan, tanned even in the off season, with thick hands and thicker hair, shining even where it greyed at the temples.
He spoke softly and tried to sell her nothing. And yet he had the only thing she wished to buy: a small golden broach in the shape of a dragon’s head, encrusted with rubies and diamonds that gave its skin an immaculate sheen.
She must have returned to the see the dragon a dozen times, not asking once how much it cost, it was sure to be too much to treat herself.
At the end of Saturday’s session she went back for a final fleeting farewell. The stand was packed away, the dragon and its master had disappeared.
She felt as though she should weep, but not why.
Resolving to walk back, whatever the weather decided to throw at her, she passed by the Old Castle high up on the hill and in its lea next to the river a ristorante, warm lights lit within.
Without thinking she went in. After the heat it was the scent that struck her first and then the thought that she hadn’t worn perfume the whole trip.
She never forgot her fragrance.
Here was a warm cloud of gourmand steam. Of honey glazed meats roasting, and behind the soft yielding flesh a haze of the pastry chef’s creation: gently bubbling caramels, melting dark chocolate preparing to fall onto choux buns, almond tartlets just crisping in the wood oven.
Lunch had finished, but she was welcome to take a seat and wait for the dinner service.
She looked around her at thick silk wall hangings, crystal chandeliers and aged dark wood paneling and was about to decline her place amongst such luxuries.
She opened her mouth to speak and a voice, not hers, emerged up from behind a smoked glass partition, a head followed: it was the jewellery maker.
‘But you must stay, dinner’s not far away and the wine is good’.
He persuaded her into a seat, saying good bye at once to his colleagues from the business council.
She needed something to stave off hunger. He ordered biscotti di Prato and vin santo, apologising that she should be starting her meal at the end.
In his company she unfurled, she opened up to the warmth of his conversation. He ordered Amaretto with more playful apologies and cantuccini biscuits for the both of them.
The afternoon became a honeyed, slightly intoxicated evening.
She felt safe enough at last to ask.
‘What happened to the broach? The dragon’s…’
The jewel appeared.
‘The Dragon’s Kiss? It’s here. I kept it for you’.
A wonderfully romantic fragrance with the savour and scent of Northern Italy, le Baiser Du Dragon by Cartier is, like the best love affairs sensuous and consoling in equal measure.
The opening thrill, a mix of boozy Amaretto and sweet flaked almonds stays in place for the whole relationship.
As time passes and the affair solidifies into something more concrete the composition gains a rich wooden form with some patchouli that softer notes of caramel, dark chocolate and sweet amber can be draped on.
Though gourmand, the whole effect is honeyed without being syrupy, comforting rather than cloying.
This is a nurturing, nourishing passion that smoulders with a soft intensity for a long while.
The eternal question? Man or woman?
Surely in matters of the heart we are all lovers.
Well, one knows it’s some six months out of time for St Valentine’s… but Autumn needs a little comfort and warmth and Amaretto and love supply both.
The Perfumed Dandy.