Marrying Cade(8)

By: Sally Clements

Cade stroked a finger down her smooth arm. He leaned closer. “You’ve changed.” And how. She was nothing like that lanky kid. Back then, he hadn’t even thought of her as a female. Now he couldn’t think of anything else but kissing her. Running his lips over the soft curve of her neck.

“Outside, maybe. Inside I’m the same.”

She trembled at his touch. Her irises expanded. She licked her lips nervously. Awareness flared and he couldn’t look away.

A noise on the gravel outside their hidden idyll alerted him to the fact they were no longer alone. A throat cleared, and his hand dropped from her arm instantly.

“Scusami, Melo. Tuo padre vuole parlare con te…” The stranger sounded apologetic.

Melo shot to her feet, replying to the woman in Italian. She turned to Cade.

“My father is looking for me. I have to go.”

He nodded. The night was young. “I’ll see you later.”


Marco Bellucci sat on the chair in his room, fully dressed in a dark suit, which emphasized his pallor. He looked frail. His mouth was twisted and worry added years.

“Hello, Papa.” Melo sank down next to him. She pushed an errant lock of hair back from her face. The heavy swathe was beginning to unravel. She should have taken advantage of the hairdresser seconded to the island for the duration when pinning it up. She reached up and pulled out the clips, letting it swing around her shoulders, before it fell down on its own accord.

“Melo. I need to talk to you before the dinner.” Her father’s weak voice trembled. He twisted his hands together, agitation rising with every breath.

Melo breathed deeply. “Okay, Papa.”

Marco’s eyes avoided hers.

She had to lean forward to hear the words he muttered slowly.

“I have been very foolish. And now, I am ill, and I need you to sort out my problems for me.” His jaw was clenched tight. He was a proud man. He’d never asked for her help before. “You remember the investment opportunity in Mezzuti?”

How could she forget? The Mezzuti Group was known for building large, showy hotels and, flushed by their success, had offered an incredible investment opportunity in their growing apartment business. She’d been asked her advice on it for a number of her clients. She’d pored through the figures. The paperwork was long and complex, and for the average person, incomprehensible. It had taken hours of evaluation before she’d seen the catch. The returns were immense, but the risks enormous. And there were no guarantees.

She’d had no compunction about advising her clients to avoid it like the plague. In fact, her advice about Mezzuti was the reason her company had gone from strength to strength. The catastrophic collapse of Mezzuti’s apartment fiasco had been front page news for weeks now. Investor upon investor had lost their shirt in the ill-advised property developments. Her blood ran cold as she eyed her father’s pale face. Her father hadn’t mentioned Mezzuti before. Hadn’t asked for her advice.

“I know all about Mezzuti, Papa. Some of my clients were interested in investing.”

“And your advice to them?” There was devastation in his eyes.

“I advised them against it.”

His eyes fell, and her worst fears were realized.

“I should have asked you but I thought I knew better.” Marco’s fingers clutched the rug on his knees. His lips stretched the paper-thin skin of his cheeks in a deathlike grimace. “I invested heavily in them, Melo, and lost it all. In mere weeks I have to pay. We’re ruined.”

Melo sat in stunned silence. The Bellucci Winery was an old, profitable business. Surely he couldn’t be right? “Tell me everything, Papa.”

As her father detailed his reckless gamble, using all the funds The Bellucci Winery had earmarked for their modernization, the severity of the situation became clearer. She would have to look through the books, as she wasn’t familiar with the finer details, but it seemed as though her father was right. The winery, and the family were in trouble.

“But the wedding,” her voice wavered.

No expense had been spared to give Rosa everything she wanted. But at what cost? Could they even settle the bills that were flowing in?

“I put money aside for the wedding. We are covered. But when the payment comes due…” Marco broke off mid sentence and sank his head into his hands as his body shook with the force of his distress.

Marco never cried. But that was the old Marco. The man who sat on the chair next to her was an older, broken version of his former self. She put her arms around him. The stress must have brought on his heart attack.

“I fear we’re going to lose the house, and the vineyard. I have told no one but you, Melo. Rosa and your mother can’t know.” He raised his tear-ravaged face to hers. “It would destroy them.”