His Sicilian Cinderella(5)

By: Carol Marinelli


She actually laughed as she walked up the garden path, recalling her mother coming home some mornings and emptying out her shoes!

Her mother’s heart had just about broken last night as Bella had dressed for work. Now Bella pictured her face when she told her mother that Matteo had offered them both a way out of Bordo Del Cielo.

They were leaving today.

Her head was spinning with possibilities as she stepped into the house but then, in one second, it all changed.

Like stepping off a merry-go-round, everything slowed down and, stifling a scream, Bella took in the chaos. Their house was always neat but now the hall table was overturned and the vase of flowers from their garden lay strewn on the floor. And there, in the middle, lay Maria.

‘Ma!’

Bella dropped to the floor and cradled her mother. Blood was pouring out of a head wound and for a terrible moment Bella thought this must be Malvolio’s work. Briefly she wondered if somehow he had found out that she had made plans to leave...

‘I fell...’ Maria slurred.

‘Were you drinking again?’ Bella asked, because her mother had been so ill lately but she had promised that she had stopped all that.

‘No.’

It took a moment to register that her mother was only able to move one arm and when Bella saw that one side of her face was weak it dawned on Bella that at just thirty-four years of age her beautiful mother had suffered a stroke.

‘I’ll call for the doctor,’ Bella said.

As they waited, Bella ran and got a blanket from her mother’s bedroom and made her as comfortable as she could.

The doctor arrived and then he called for an ambulance. It was five minutes after nine as the ambulance blasted its way through the town and then took the road that ran the opposite way from the airport.

Bella knew that she would never get there now.

She held her mother’s hand as she held in her tears.

Her chance to escape had gone. She thought of Matteo at the airport, waiting for them to arrive.

* * *

He was.

Matteo stood with Luka, scanning the small airport, just waiting for the sliding doors to open and for Bella to appear.

‘We should go through,’ Luka said.

‘Soon,’ Matteo responded.

‘They’re boarding.’

‘I just have to make a call...’ Matteo had Maria’s number because he would call her before he came to collect any money for Malvolio. He waited and there was a small beat of hope as it rung out.

They must be on their way, Matteo thought, but after another twenty minutes all hope had gone.

‘Final call,’ Luka said.

When he could wait no more Matteo boarded.

‘Have you ever flown?’ Luka asked, frowning because his friend had always been so worldly, so completely ahead of everyone’s games, but it had just dawned on Luka he had never seem him out of Bordo Del Cielo and also he could feel Matteo’s tension.

‘Never,’ Matteo answered, then sat silent beside his friend as the plane taxied down the runway and lifted into the sky.

Matteo wasn’t nervous about flying, or leaving Bordo Del Cielo.

It was stay and become what, till now, he had avoided—a killer.

Or leave everything behind.

He chose the latter.





CHAPTER ONE

Five years later

BELLA GATTI.

Matteo did not want to hear her name, yet tonight it had peppered the conversation.

Neither did he want to remember a love that had made him a fool.

And so he sat through his closest friend and business partner’s small engagement party, which was being held at Luka’s luxurious Rome penthouse, avoiding, as best he could, any references to an extremely chequered past.

Matteo and his girlfriend of three months, which was a bit of a record for him, had flown in from London for the occasion. Knowing that Luka and Sophie’s engagement was an extravagant farce, Matteo just wanted the night to be over and done.

Sophie Durante had turned up at Luka’s London office just a few days ago and demanded that, on her father Paulo’s release from prison, Luka uphold their long-abandoned engagement for the little time that her father had left.

Had Luka sought advice from Matteo they would not be sitting here now.

He had not and so they were.

Paulo kept speaking about Sicily, or rather the beautiful west and the people he had known there. Matteo, doing his level best not let his mind return there, had kept guiding the conversation back towards his true passion.

Work.

No, his passion wasn’t Shandy, the woman who sat beside him, even though she would prefer that it was.

Honest work was his passion.

Matteo’s reputation in the business world was his most prized possession. He had clawed his way back from less than nothing. He had made something of himself after a violent, criminal past and nothing and no one would ever reduce him or drag him back to the ways of old.