His Sicilian Cinderella(8)

By: Carol Marinelli


And though he had told her from the start that nothing would ever become of them, Matteo had stuck at things with Shandy for longer than he did usually, though the final hurdle was proving too daunting.

Yes, Matteo knew it was time to grow up and settle down.

And he would, Matteo told himself as he undressed.

Just not yet.

He looked at the hotel suite with more than vague interest, given that Hotel Fiscella was a potential purchase that he and Luka were considering making. And so he noticed not just that the room was immaculate but that the turn-down service had been discreet. The curtains were drawn and there were chocolates and a flower by the bed that had presumably been on his pillow and there was a pleasing scent in the air.

He glanced at the note by the bed that informed him that the weather tomorrow would be stormy and hot and that if there was anything further required not to hesitate to call the desk, and it was signed...

Bella.

It could not be her, Matteo mused. Yes, while he had found out that she was a chambermaid at this very hotel Bella was still a very common name.

Was it her scent that lingered?

Was it her hands that had smoothed back the sheets and plumped the pillows? Matteo thought as he climbed into bed.

‘When?’ Shandy asked as he lay there. ‘Your friend just got engaged...’

Matteo said nothing.

‘I want a commitment, Matteo,’ she pushed.

Now he turned his head on the pillow and spoke to the face next to his.

‘Then you’re with the wrong man.’

Had she slapped him, had Shandy risen from the bed and got dressed and got out, he might have admired her.

But there she lay, clinging on with her gel nails to the image of them that the paparazzi had created and to the man she’d hoped he would one day be.

Matteo Santini, the bad boy made good.

No, he hadn’t made good, not yet.

Tonight, he was right not to ask Shandy to marry him for had he known where Bella lived, had he had Bella’s number then, Matteo knew he would have been paying a late-night visit to the whore he was hard for now.

He turned to flick off the bedside light and looked again at the signed card and he ached for Bella in a way he never had for anybody else.

Matteo fell asleep trying not to think about a woman from the past.

And then the dreams started.

On many occasions over the years Bella had attempted to frequent Matteo Santini’s dreams.

His subconscious kept perpetual guard, though.

So controlled was Matteo that even in sleep he did his level best to chase all thoughts of her away.

But even guards had to sleep at times and so, on occasion, Bella slipped through the net and would dance all night through his mind.

Some of his dreams were high-end fantasy—masquerade balls where the two of them would make love, familiar and yet unknown to each other, while others consisted of seamy situations where he watched from a distance as Bella struggled while he was held back and unable to intervene. But then there were the dreams that consisted only of memories and those were the ones that Matteo preferred.

Tonight he slept through all three.

Perhaps it was because her name had been brought up in conversation at dinner.

Or was it the knowledge that she was working in Rome as a chambermaid in the same hotel where he slept tonight?

Whatever the reason the dreams had started, they were different tonight.

The circus had come to Bordo Del Cielo. It was a strange dream, a new one, for there had been no circus that ever visited there.

And this was no circus like others for it was not animals and clowns that performed in his dreams; instead there were different beasts—the people he had grown up amongst.

There was his younger half-brother Dino, who had revealed Matteo’s plans to Malvolio the first time Matteo had tried to escape.

There was his cruel stepfather, who loathed his mother’s attention anywhere other than on him or Dino.

Matteo looked around and there was Luka dressed in an orange prison suit that he didn’t belong in. He saw Sophie being paraded around the ring and she was wearing only Luka’s shirt, just as she had been on the night of Malvolio, Paulo and Luka’s arrests.

Luka and Sophie had been in bed at the time Luka’s home had been raided and she had been hauled out in front of the townsfolk. It had been clear to all what had taken place between the young couple.

There was Talia, a woman Matteo had once helped, and she waved to him but he did not return it. No one must ever know the truth as to how he had saved her family so he ignored her.

He didn’t care for any of them.

Nothing and no one moved him—there was no mean streak to Matteo, he’d long ago learnt to simply not care.

So why did he stand, his expression impassive, as his eyes scanned the crowd for her?