The Truth About De Campo

By: Jennifer Hayward

CHAPTER ONE

UNLESS MATTEO DE CAMPO was mistaken, this conversation with his brother had all the hallmarks of a classic intervention.

It looked like it with Riccardo staring him down like a Spanish bullfighter with his eye on the unruly target. It sounded like it from his cautionary, bordering-on-aggressive tone. And it certainly felt like it with the De Campo CEO’s displeasure licking over his skin like a flame.

If the truth be known, it had always been that way. They were like night and day, he and his brother. Where Riccardo was dark and intense and bulldozed his way through life, Matteo preferred the subtle approach. Both in business and in bed. You could catch more flies with honey. Persuade more effectively with a sophisticated argument than a head-on tackle.

Entice a woman into bed with a carefully timed observation that showed you had been listening to her over that bottle of Chianti.

He brought his gaze back to his brother’s dark face. From the looks of it, Riccardo thought he was doing a bit too much of that these days.

Flicking an imaginary speck of dust off his suit, he lounged back against the floor-to-ceiling windows of his brother’s Wall Street office and cocked a brow. “So what you’re saying is your behavior was perfectly acceptable, but mine is not?”

“No,” Riccardo emitted coolly. “What I’m saying is I don’t know what in Cristo’s name is wrong with you. You’re treating the women of this planet like they’re your own personal wrecking yard.”

Matteo shrugged. “Maybe I’ve decided your way is the better way.”

Riccardo shot him an amused look. “You forget I’m a reformed man. Happily married and loving it.”

“Only because you met a goddess who’s willing to put up with you,” he muttered, digging his hands in his pockets and giving his head a restless shake. “Did you really ask me here to discuss my love life, Ric? Somehow I think you’re much too busy for that.”

“You’re the vice president of sales and marketing for De Campo, Matty. Your love life is my business when it starts disrupting things around here.”

“And how,” Matteo drawled, “do you figure it’s doing that?”

“Your antics in the tabloids are making it impossible for you or anyone else in this company to concentrate. Alex is tired of doing damage control, and frankly, I don’t blame her.”

Ebbene, so that stung. Matteo liked his sister-in-law. Didn’t like the thought of making more work for her when she already worked far too much. But he was too irritated by his brother’s rebuke not to strike back. “If I made the cover every week for the rest of the year I still wouldn’t beat your record.”

“Si, but I’m a better multitasker,” Riccardo taunted.

Matteo stiffened, straightening away from the windows and eating up the distance between him and his brother with long furious strides. “I am making a mockery of my predecessor’s numbers.”

“Exactly why I want you to straighten yourself out. Think what you can do with a clear head.”

Matteo could have told Riccardo he was definitely planning on doing that. That he’d sworn off women like an alcoholic swears off drink, potentially for the rest of his life given his recent spat of disastrous assignations. But he liked to yank Riccardo’s chain as much as his brother liked to yank his. “What are you going to do if I don’t?” he queried, leveling his gaze on his brother’s angular, unforgiving face. “Punish me? Send me off to sell wine to the devout?”

Riccardo’s coal-black eyes flashed. “As much as I would dearly love to have you out of the picture right now, I need you. And I think you need a challenge. Badly.”

Matteo couldn’t deny the truth of that statement. He’d almost doubled sales as head of De Campo’s European operations. Was killing it in his new role. But his brother continued to handcuff him, as if he was afraid to unleash him.

He sank his fingers into the knot of his tie and yanked it loose. “You don’t trust me.”

“I wouldn’t have given you the job if I didn’t trust you.”

“Then why the hand-holding?”