A Legacy of Secrets(6)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘I thought you wanted us looking smart.’

He just frowned.

‘You said there were press everywhere.’

‘There are,’ Santo said. ‘I was just warning you.’

‘Here.’ She handed him his coffee.

‘You need to get one for Alessandro,’ Santo said.

‘I already did.’

‘Let’s go then.’

They jerked out of the forecourt. ‘Why do you have to have gears?’ Ella moaned, because she always drove an automatic, though of course Santo didn’t consider that real driving. Still, he didn’t answer, just sat, unusually quiet, as the car moved out into the bright sunlight. Glancing over she watched him wince and, taking mild pity, Ella put her hand in her Santo Bag and handed him a pair of sunglasses. But even they didn’t fully cover the purple bruise on his eye.

As the press surged, Ella inched gingerly forward, aware that one slip of her foot on Santo’s accelerator could flatten the lot of them.

‘Just go!’ Santo cursed as they gathered for their shots and then he cursed again as Ella blasted the horn a few times and finally dispersed them.

His mood didn’t improve as they drove through town. ‘I hate driving in this country,’ Ella muttered as she was forced to swerve and narrowly missed a Vespa. In Australia they drove on the left-hand side of the road and occasionally they even managed to follow the road rules.

Though it wasn’t the traffic that was getting to Ella, nor the 6:00 a.m. wake-up call from her boss, whatever fight he had been in last night didn’t account for the purple marks on his neck.

Bloody hell, she thought darkly, even in the middle of a family scandal, even as the Battaglia and Corretti families exploded, trust Santo to still be at it.

With who though?

No, Ella was not going to ask for details.

She really didn’t want to know if he’d run true to form and gotten off with Taylor Carmichael, the stunning American actress who was playing the leading role in the latest film Santo was producing.

Shooting started on Monday and Santo had made it his personal mission to keep Taylor out of trouble. He had insisted that she attend yesterday’s wedding to both ensure that Taylor behaved and to garner some publicity for the film. But with both their reputations, it was perhaps a forgone conclusion as to what had taken place.

It really was time to move on. If she didn’t get the new job, then maybe she could head to London, or France perhaps.

Or even go home?

He asked her to stop so that he could draw out some cash to hopefully expedite getting his brother out of the lock-up and Ella closed her eyes and leant her head back on the headrest. The thought of home brought no comfort at all. It was her mother’s birthday in a few days and Ella would be expected to call. She was gripped with sudden panic at the thought and opened her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths as she realised that no, she was nowhere near ready to go home.

She watched as Santo had a few attempts at the machine and then, with an irritated sigh, Ella climbed out of the car and walked over to him, tapping his number in.

‘What would I do without you?’ There was no endearment in his question. He turned his head for a moment and Ella felt heat rise on her cheeks, but then told herself that there was no challenge behind his words. There was no way Santo could know what she had been up to in recent days.

And, Ella consoled herself, who in her position wouldn’t be looking for another job? She was tired of bailing him out, tired because now she’d had to get up at some ridiculous hour on her one day off to bail his brother out. Tired, too, of running Santo’s not-so-little black book—sending flowers and jewellery to his girlfriends, booking intimate tables in fantastic restaurants, organising romantic weekends and then having to calm ruffled feathers when invariably, inevitably, Santo upset them in his oh-so-usual way.

‘How was Taylor?’ She simply couldn’t stop herself from asking, because it was imperative for the film publicity that Taylor had behaved herself last night.

‘Niente dichiarazione,’ Santo responded, smiling at her pursed lips. ‘I am practising “no comment” for the press today. Perhaps you could practise too.’

He was so good at deflecting questions, not just about women, about everything. Always managing to shrug off things that should matter but simply didn’t to Santo.

As they pulled up at the police station, Ella was relieved that there were no press waiting; at least word hadn’t got out yet that Alessandro was here.

‘How do you think he’ll be?’

‘Hungover.’ Santo yawned. ‘And far better off without her.’