His Sicilian Cinderella(7)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘Then you didn’t live through it,’ Matteo hissed, and dropped his arms. ‘We’re leaving now.’

He chose not to tell Shandy that Paulo was no big fish—the old man had been Malvolio’s puppet.

Malvolio had been the leader and had seen to it that Paulo had taken the fall for him.

And the reason they were here tonight was that Malvolio was Luka’s father.

Luka felt that he had a debt to pay and Sophie had called it in.

‘Thanks for this,’ Luka said, as he saw Matteo out. Shandy had gone to top up her make-up and the two men stood, uncomfortable with small talk.

Neither liked that their past was catching up with them.

They had made strong, good lives in London.

It felt strange to be back in Italy. Even Rome felt too close to Bordo Del Cielo tonight.

‘Will you let me know when the wedding is?’ Matteo’s voice was thick with sarcasm.

‘There will be no wedding,’ Luka said. ‘I just agreed to an engagement. You can surely see for yourself how sick he is. It’s a matter of days till all this is done and I can get back on with my life.’

‘Why are you going through with it?’ Matteo said. ‘You owe her nothing.’

‘I owe Paulo this,’ Luka corrected.

‘You owe that old fool nothing,’ Matteo insisted. Bile was churning and his venomous words were aimed at himself, because he had been but a day away from being Malvolio’s second man. ‘Sophie is just like Bella, both are up to no good. I’m telling you that she lies,’ Matteo said. ‘She’s not doing well, like she told you she was. That dress is not designer...’

‘Please.’ Luka shrugged. ‘I’m not like you, I don’t care for fashion and labels. You always were a dark, mistrusting bastard.’

‘A good-looking bastard, though,’ Shandy said as she returned. Matteo pulled on his jacket and checked his reflection in the mirror, and Luka gave a dry laugh.

‘Yes, Matteo, you look good,’ Luka said, and it was his turn to be sarcastic now.

Matteo and Shandy headed out to the street.

‘I like that you dress well,’ Shandy said, but her words simply irked.

Yes, he always had dressed better than the rest. His suits were the most expensive, his hair superbly cut, his stubble pure designer.

Bella Gatti knew why, though, for he had confided in her.

Never again.

His driver was waiting and opening the door but Matteo stood there in the street rather than getting in. ‘I think it might be good to walk...’

‘To walk?’ Shandy shuddered at the thought. ‘In these heels?’

‘No, I would like a walk alone,’ Matteo said. ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been back in Italy.’

‘Well, it doesn’t suit you,’ Shandy said, because he had been at his brooding best since the plane had touched down. ‘Matteo, come to bed...’ Her mouth moved in to persuade him but he dodged his head back.

‘I’ll be in later.’

No apology, no excuses, he just walked off into the night.

And he did what he wanted.

Matteo bought a bottle of wine, and though the grapes were not from Bordo Del Cielo, they were from the west. He hired a moped and drove up, ever up, and then he parked it atop Capitoline Hill and stared down at the illuminated view and there, unlit, the lone horseman. But, though ancient and beautiful, it was the wrong view he gazed upon and, of course, there wasn’t Bella by his side.

He let himself remember, not all of it, not even a lot—but something more intimate than the sex they had shared, he recalled the woman.

Black hair, green eyes and a smile that was so unexpected.

Sophie was all Sicilian fire, whereas Bella was the chameleon, the actress, the survivor who had once made his black heart smile.

Not now, Matteo thought, taking a drink from the bottle, but cheap wine didn’t work either.

Nothing deadened the ache.

She was here in this town, he knew it now.

Was she sleeping?

Or did she lie awake tonight, knowing that he was near and burning for him as he did for her?

What did it matter? he thought, tossing the bottle into a bin and heading back to the hotel.

They could never be now.

‘Where have you been?’ Shandy asked sleepily, as he came into the bedroom of the luxurious suite, flicking on the sidelight as he crept in after three.

‘Walking,’ Matteo said. ‘Go back to sleep.’

‘I ordered champagne,’ she said. ‘I thought you had brought me here to...’

Yes, there was an air of expectation from Shandy. The sheikh Matteo was meeting with had told him he was looking forward to meeting his partner. The shareholders too were braying for the wild Matteo Santini to tame his ways.