A Legacy of Secrets(3)

By: Carol Marinelli


Leaving the agency Ella stopped for coffee. Gazing out the window at a busy Rome morning, she told herself it was ridiculous to be so disappointed about a job she hadn’t even been interviewed for.

And even if she had... Ella looked out at the women. There was just an effortless elegance to them and if Santo Corretti went for immaculate then the bar was raised very high here in Italy. He would have taken one look at Ella in her rather boring interview suit and the answer would have been the same.

Anyway, Ella asked herself, did she really want to work in Sicily, did she really want to go and revisit her mother’s past?

Yes.

Ella’s heart started a frantic thump, because she simply wasn’t ready. Except she was walking out of the café and instead of tackling the next agency on her list, she found herself peering into the beautifully dressed windows, wondering what a PA for Santo Corretti might wear. And a few moments later she was asking a shop assistant the same.

Well, she didn’t say his name, just said that she had a very important job interview. A little while later Ella sat and had her long curly hair trimmed and tamed and then loosely tied at the nape and her make-up and nails done too.

By early afternoon she checked out of her hotel, and took the short flight to Sicily. She looked out at the land she had seen in endless faded photos that had been described to her over and over by her mother. Despite the beauty of the snowcapped mountains, the glistening azure sea and the juts of buildings vying for space on the coastline, Ella wasn’t quite sure that she was ready for this. But she was here to work, she reminded herself.

While the bravest thing she had ever done might have been to leave Australia, Ella thought as she checked her luggage into storage and stepped out into the winter sun, this felt pretty brave too.

Or foolish.

She’d find out soon enough.

Ella climbed into a white taxi. ‘Corretti Media.’

Ella held her breath, worried he might ask for an address, or say he had no idea where she meant, but the driver just nodded and Ella pulled out her mirror from her handbag, smoothed down her hair and touched up her make-up. Her newly capped gleaming white smile felt unfamiliar. No one would ever guess the price she had paid to get it—and not in money.

Snapping the mirror closed, Ella refused to dwell on it, just pushed all thoughts of her father aside. As the taxi pulled up outside the Corretti Media tower it was a very determined woman who paid the driver and then stepped into the sleek air-conditioned building and told the receptionist that she was here about the PA vacancy.

‘Un attimo, prego.’ The receptionist reached for her phone and a few moments later Ella stepped out of an elevator and was somewhat stunned by the response she received.

‘Buona fortuna!’ An exceptionally pretty and very tearful woman thrust a black leather-bound diary and a set of car keys at Ella as she wished her good luck dealing with Santo and then shouted over her shoulder an old Italian proverb that Ella had heard a few times from her mother. ‘If a man deceives me once, shame on him. If he deceives me twice, shame on me.’

‘I take it that’s a no, then?’

A deep, rich voice had Ella turn and, as he walked out of his office, she could, for a dizzying second, understand his PA’s willingness to have given this man a second chance. She clearly wasn’t giving him a third for, with a sob, she ran for the door, leaving Ella alone with him.

Green eyes met hers and there was a hint of an unrepentant smile on a very beautiful mouth and, on his left cheek, a livid red hand print.

‘Are you here for an interview?’ he asked Ella in Italian and when she nodded and introduced herself, he gestured to his office and she followed him in.

He needed no introduction.





CHAPTER ONE



SANTO JERKED AWAKE, his heart racing, and reached out for familiar comfort, but rather than in bed with a lover beside him, he was asleep alone on a couch.

What happened last night?

His mind was a cruel trickster.

It did not tell him what had happened—it showed him little clues.

There was an empty whisky bottle on the floor, which Santo stepped over to get to the bathroom, and when he looked down he saw that he was still wearing the wedding suit, but his tie was off and the shirt torn and undone.

He checked the inside pocket of his jacket, remembered Ella double- and triple-checking that he had them before she left and he went off to be best man at his brother’s wedding.

The rings were still there.

He splashed his face with water; his face and chest were a mass of bruises.

Santo looked at his neck and grimaced, but a few love bites were the least of his concerns as yesterday’s events started to come back to him.