A Deal with Di Capua(9)

By: Cathy Williams

And, if he never knew where that money had gone, then so be it. That too was a story wrapped up in guilt and not one she wanted to discuss.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I’ll pay you off,” Angelo intoned harshly. For a few seconds he had lost her. When they had been lovers, he had interpreted those fleeting moments of withdrawal when her eyes had clouded over as flashes of vulnerability. He had made it his mission to wait them out until she could tell him for herself where she had gone. Now he knew the answer. She hadn’t been so much dealing with some internal tussle, which she’d had yet to confide, as calculating how much she could screw him for. Doing the maths in her head. Indulging in a bit of mental arithmetic involving his money and all those expensive items of jewellery he had lavished on her.

Angelo didn’t come from money. He’d got there the hard way, working like a beast at school, a small backwater school in Italy where it wasn’t cool to get good grades. He’d lucked out when, at the age of sixteen, he had managed to win a scholarship to study abroad.

His mother had urged him to take it. He was her only son and she had wanted nothing more than for him to succeed. She’d worked in a shop and as a cleaner on two evenings a week. Did he want to end up scraping the barrel like her? He had grabbed the opportunity with both hands and had challenged any one of those rich, private-school kids to look down on him. He had made sure to stay focused and had realised that to get on he had to do one better than everyone else. He had to go the extra mile. He had. And he had at university. The price had been steep, for during that period his mother had died and he had not been there for her.

He had reasoned that life’s experiences made you tough. He was a rock, alone in the world and determined to master it as a legacy to his mother. He wasn’t one of those gullible kids born with a silver spoon in their mouth. He couldn’t be taken in by a pretty face. Except he had been, and just thinking about it made him see red. Rosie Tom had got to him in a way no other woman ever had. Hell, she had made him start revising his priorities.

“I can have people in tomorrow evaluating its worth and I can get a cheque to you the day after.”

“Is it because it’s of sentimental value?” Rosie hazarded.

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“Do you feel attached to the place because it was somewhere she loved? I know that sometimes a person can feel helpless when dealing with someone who has a drinking problem.”

“Three years away and you really and truly imagine yourself as an amateur psychologist. Stick to the catering, Rosie, or the cooking, or whatever else it is you do.” Did she really think that he would ever fall for that sympathetic, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-the-mouth routine again?

Rosie flushed. “I don’t imagine myself as anything of the sort. I was just curious as to...”

“As to what happened once you exited the stage and the curtain fell?” He looked at her narrowly. “I really wouldn’t bother trying to fish for information. Just tell me when you intend to go to the cottage.”

“Why do you ask?” So there weren’t going to be any confidences. This was the tenor of whatever remained between them: bitterness and dislike. Well, that would make things easier, she told herself, but it still hurt to think how far they had both come from where they had once been.

“Because I intend to make sure that I’m there at the same time.”

“What for?” Rosie’s mouth dropped open as she contemplated seeing him again, having all these emotions churned up anew. “I can let you have my decision one way or another via Mr Foreman. If I decide that I don’t want the place, then I’m sure he’ll be the first to let you know. Or maybe,” she added with acerbity, “you want to make sure that there’s nothing there that doesn’t belong to you.”

“I actually hadn’t considered that possibility but, now that you’ve mentioned it, it’s certainly one worth thinking about.” The journey had passed without him even noticing. Now they were in front of a terraced house that was claustrophobically hemmed in by a sprawl of identical terraced houses on either side of it. In the depths of winter, there was nothing whatsoever charming about it, and he thought that even in the height of summer it would still proudly announce its mediocrity.

“That’s an awful thing to say.”

“Oh well, if the cap fits...” The car had pulled to a stop, smoothly pulling in to a vacant spot right in front of the house. “I see investment wasn’t part of the grand plan when you pawned the jewellery,” he observed. “Because I can’t imagine that this place will ever get to the elevated status of the up-and-coming.” Rosie flushed and paused midway to opening the car door.