A Legacy of Secrets(9)

By: Carol Marinelli


‘Just the one?’ Ella glanced over, thinking she’d get a glimpse of a smile, but Santo was just staring out of his window.

The press were still waiting but Santo didn’t duck. He just sat there as they got their shots. As Ella went to indicate, to enter the hotel via the more secure route of the basement, Santo stopped her.

‘The foyer will be fine—I don’t need the basement.’ In fact, he took off his dark glasses and pocketed them before he got out, hurling a filthy look straight in the direction of the cameras before stalking into the hotel with his head held high. Ella threw the car keys to the valet and caught up with him at the lift. As the doors closed behind them, Santo slumped against the wall for a moment, his eyes closed, and Ella was no longer just worried about Alessandro—no, she was more than a little concerned for Santo too. He was incredibly pale. Assuming that it was Alessandro who had hit him last night, then it was one very angry fist Santo would have found himself at the end of—maybe he’d been knocked out?

‘Are you hurt anywhere else?’

He didn’t open his eyes, just shook his head.

‘Were you knocked out?’ Ella checked.

‘Unfortunately, no.’ Green eyes opened and he gave a thin smile and she found herself staring back to a different Santo. It was as if all the arrogance had left him, as if, for once, she was seeing the man he really was and it was mesmerising. She simply could not stop staring—even as the lift doors opened—and for a moment the two of them just stood.

‘What happened?’ She had sworn not to ask, yet she did.

‘Why?’

‘I just...’ She flailed for words. ‘I’m concerned.’

‘Sure you are!’ There was an edge to his words that told her he considered her a liar. For a moment she was confused, but now wasn’t the time to dwell on it. Instead they walked to his suite. Of course, he couldn’t find his swipe card but, of course, she carried a spare.

As they stepped into the suite it was scandal rather than breakfast that awaited. Santo thumbed through the papers and Ella gave in and picked up one. Perhaps, she consoled herself, it was better that Alessandro was on a boat and escaping all this, for the photos and write-ups were brutal.

‘Oh!’ Ella let out a small crow of shock at one particular photo. There was Taylor Carmichael, the woman Santo should have been policing yesterday, the actress who he was relying on to behave, running true to form despite promises that she had changed.

‘Is it any surprise?’ Santo shrugged.

Probably not, Ella conceded. In fact, her only surprise was that the man in the image wasn’t Santo. But did he care about nothing? Filming started tomorrow and there had been a lot of fireworks about the casting of the leading female role. Taylor’s comeback after a spectacular unravelling was risky at best—a disaster for the film at worst.

And this looked like it was turning into a complete disaster.

Still, problems with the film would have to wait till tomorrow. Right now Ella had more pressing things to sort out—like six-foot-three of beaten-up, hungover male. ‘Go and have a bath,’ Ella said. ‘I’ll chase breakfast.’

‘I don’t want breakfast’ was his inevitable response. ‘I’m just going to go to bed. Thanks for all your help.’

‘You have to eat something,’ Ella started, and then shut up. After all, she wasn’t his mother. Not that his own mother would be worrying too much—Carmela Corretti’s only concerns were fashion and manicures.

‘Just have a bath.’ Ella settled for, ‘I don’t care whether or not you eat. I for one happen to be starving, so I’m chasing them.’

‘Sure.’

He headed to the bathroom and after a few minutes there was a knock at the door and Ella stood as the maid set up the table.

‘Thank you,’ Ella said, pouring herself a coffee and trying not to overthink who he’d been with last night. It was none of her business what Santo got up to.

She flicked through the papers, reading some of the more salacious details that had come out. They were the most complicated of families and for a while she was lost in the gossip. But later, glancing at the bedside clock, Ella realised he’d been in there ages. She thought maybe he had fallen asleep and she tried to ignore the knot of worry in her stomach, but after a moment or two she knocked.

‘Breakfast is here.’

Ella stood at the door and all she could hear was silence.

‘Santo...’ She knocked again. ‘Answer me.’

Nothing.

‘Santo!’ Ella tried to keep the note of panic from her voice as she thought of head injuries and hangovers and the fact that the newspaper headlines could be far worse tomorrow than they were now. She was actually terrified for him.