Never Underestimate a Caffarelli(7)

By: Melanie Milburne

‘Oh, but that’s awful!’

The housekeeper gave a Gallic sniff of disdain. ‘I didn’t like her from the moment I met her. But then, I haven’t liked any of his mistresses. His brother’s fiancée is another story. Poppy Silverton is the nicest young woman you’ll ever meet. She’s the best thing that ever happened to Monsieur Rafe. I just hope Monsieur Raoul meets someone like her.’

No wonder he was so bitter and angry, Lily thought. How heartless of his ex-fiancée to end their relationship in such a way. It was such a cruel thing to do. Surely she hadn’t truly loved him? How could she? Loving someone meant being there for them in the good times and the bad. How could his fiancée live with the fact she’d abandoned him when he was at his lowest point? It explained so much about his attitude. It was no wonder he was so prickly and unfriendly. He was hurting in the worst possible way.

Lily followed the housekeeper into the suite that was decorated in a classical French style. The queen-sized bed was made up in snowy white linen with a fine gold trim that matched the gilt-edged paintwork of the suite. An antique dressing table with a tapestry-covered stool was positioned in front of an ornately framed mirror; there was a chest of drawers on cabriole legs and a discreetly hidden built-in wardrobe lined another wall. The heavily festooned windows overlooked the formal gardens of the estate where neatly clipped hedges, sun-drenched paved terraces and a large bubbling fountain were situated.

‘I hope you’ll be comfortable,’ Dominique said. ‘Dinner will be served at eight. I’m not sure if Monsieur Raoul will join you. He’s not very sociable these days. He spends most of his time in his study or in his room.’

‘How does Monsieur Raoul get up and down the stairs?’ Lily asked. ‘I didn’t see a stair climber on the staircase.’

‘There is a proper lift on the ground floor that goes to all four levels,’ Dominique said. ‘Monsieur Raoul had it installed a few months ago when his grandfather came for a visit after he had a stroke. Not that he got a word of thanks for his effort, mind you. Vittorio Caffarelli is not the nicest person to have around. He spoke to me as if I was the dust under his feet. I had to bite my tongue the whole time he was here.’

Lily was starting to suspect there was a lot more to the Caffarelli dynasty than she had first realised. She had read a bit online about the family—how they had made their wealth in property and a variety of timely and rather clever investments; how Raoul’s parents had been killed in a speedboat accident on the French Riviera when he and his brothers were young. The three boys had been raised by their grandfather but had spent most of their school years at boarding school in England.

Raoul had been born to wealth but brought up with tragedy. And now he had yet another blow to deal with. Not that she had read anything of his injuries in the press, which made her wonder what sort of power the Caffarellis had at their fingertips. But how long would it be before some unscrupulous journalist came hunting for a story? It was certainly a juicy one: a rich man rejected by his fiancée after a freak accident that left him in a wheelchair.

In spite of her dislike of the man, Lily couldn’t help feeling Raoul had been badly treated. Rejection was always hard, but to be cast aside because of injury went against everything she believed in.

What sort of money would be exchanged for a photograph of him now? Was that why he didn’t want anyone he didn’t know here at the château?

‘It is a pity you aren’t staying the month,’ Dominique said. ‘Even without the physical therapy you offer, I think the company would have been good for Monsieur Raoul. He spends too much time on his own.’

Lily found it ironic that she wanted to stay when only days ago she had been hunting for excuses not to come. ‘I can’t force him to let me stay. It’s his call. If he wants to work with me, then I’ll be happy to do it. But he seemed pretty adamant he wanted me out of here.’

‘He might change his mind, oui?’ Dominique said. ‘You took him by surprise. Perhaps he will have a change of heart overnight.’

Lily walked over to the windows when the housekeeper had left and looked at the view over the estate. It was certainly a picturesque setting with its beautiful gardens and lush, seemingly unending fields beyond.

But the brooding man downstairs, who so resented her being here, reminded her that in any paradise there was always the potential for trouble and temptation.

                      CHAPTER TWO