A Legacy of Secrets(10)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘Santo!’ She rapped loudly. ‘If you don’t answer then I’m going to have to come in.’

Still nothing.

Ella tried the handle, but of course it was locked.

Heart in her mouth she ran to her bag, rummaging through it and then through her purse to find a coin. With shaking fingers, she fitted it into the slot and turned the lock.

‘Santo!’ she shouted and when still there was no response, Ella knew she had no choice but to go in.


‘SANTO...’ AS SOON as she opened the door, Ella regretted it.

There were some things she simply shouldn’t see and immediately Ella knew why he hadn’t answered her.

Santo’s modesty was covered by bubbles, his head resting on the edge of the bath. His eyes were screwed closed, and his lips were pressed together. For once Ella wasn’t catching her boss doing something inappropriate—that she could deal with. What she couldn’t immediately deal with was the fact that Santo Corretti, a man who charmed his way through life, who always had a smart answer for everything, who, she was sure, cared about nothing other than movies and getting laid, was lying in a bath and trying and failing not to cry.

* * *

Santo never cried.

He could not remember a single time that he had. It was an entirely new experience to him.

Not when his father, Carlo, had died alongside his uncle. Nor had there been a hint of a tear at his grandfather’s death. Not even as a little boy—it was as if he’d been born knowing that tears would never work with his mother, Carmela, and any sign of weakness would only have infuriated Carlo. So instead Santo had relied solely on looks, wit and charm.

He’d just run out them today.

‘Go...’ He put his hand up, the word barely making it out of his lips, his shoulders shaking with the effort of holding it in. Both wished they were embarrassed for a rather more salacious reason.

‘I can’t just go.’ And no, this wasn’t in her job description, but Ella wasn’t just going to leave him, so she sat on the edge of the bath and pondered the man. He was unshaven, there were bruises on his chest too and he looked battered but not just physically—he looked broken.

She had at times wondered if there were any feelings to be had in that beautiful head, but now he lay clearly shattered and she watched as he blew out a breath and then finally spoke.

‘Do you really think he’ll be okay?’

‘It’s Alessandro!’ Ella said firmly. ‘Which means yes—of course he’ll be fine. He just needs some time.’

After a moment Santo nodded and then opened his eyes. Ella didn’t want him to be so beautiful, but seeing this side of him just served to confuse her more. ‘I really do think that he’ll be fine.’

‘It’s not just Alessandro...’ he admitted. ‘It’s the whole lot of them. You should have heard the stuff that came out last night,’ Santo started, but didn’t continue.

‘You can tell me.’

‘Because you care?’ There was a strange surliness to his words and Ella frowned, but then he shrugged. ‘It is family stuff—it is not for me to say.’

Ella chose not to push. She knew all about family secrets, knew there were certain things you just didn’t speak about. She had lived her life keeping quiet after all.

She looked around the bathroom and wondered how someone could make so much mess in so little time. His clothes were strewn all over the floor, the tap was still running where Santo had brushed his teeth and no, she noted he didn’t replace the cap.

‘It’s a mess,’ Santo said, only she guessed that he wasn’t talking about the bathroom.

‘Families often are.’

She looked at him then, met his eyes. Usually she pulled hers away, usually she could not stand to have anyone examine her soul. But she saw the green and the bloodshot and the pain in his and for a second she thought she might cry too, which she hadn’t since that terrible day. As Ella sat looking at Santo she was a breath away from telling him that she knew the pain the people who should love you the most could cause, but she held on to it, just as she always had.

He did not ask.

She did not tell.

It was safer that way.

‘Come on,’ Ella finally said. She knew that he would hate to have been seen like this, knew that neither would mention it again.

She put her hand in the water and met his ankle, but she brushed past that and pulled out the plug. Then standing she turned off the sink tap. But as she went to go, Santo just lay there, the water rather rapidly disappearing, and before she saw far too much of her boss Ella grabbed a towel.