It felt even worse now. Not only had he got her pregnant but he’d lost his friend. He could cope with that if he didn’t feel so damn responsible for Alessandra and Rocco’s estrangement. Even if he couldn’t fix his own relationship with Rocco, he was determined to fix theirs.
‘The driver can take us a little further in and then we’ll walk the rest.’
‘Eccellente. I want to see as much of your home city as I can.’
‘There’s plenty of time for that. In the meantime, how have you settled in? Do you have everything you need?’
‘I’m finding it all a little strange,’ she admitted. ‘I assumed the hotel would be bursting with guests.’
‘Usually it would be.’
‘Did you have all the other guests kicked out?’ She was only half-joking.
‘Not exactly. Alternative accommodation was found for them. Hotel Parthenon is for the exclusive use of our wedding party for the next week.’
‘However did you manage that?’
‘It wasn’t difficult. I own the place.’
Her brows knitted together in confusion. ‘Seriously?’
‘I assumed you knew.’
‘I thought your business revolved around finance.’
‘On the whole it does, but in Greece it’s different. Greece is my home. I love my country but its economy is a mess. Anything I can do to invest and bring money into it, I will.’ Hotel Parthenon had been an obvious place for him to start. He’d discovered it six years before, a shabby, run-down two-star hotel situated on a prime site. He’d paid over the odds for it then set about transforming it, employing local builders and architects to renovate it into the seven-star luxury hotel complete with heliport it was today. Its growing reputation meant it was fully booked all year round.
‘I like that,’ Alessandra said, nodding her approval. ‘I always think people are too keen to disregard their roots.’
‘That’s easy for someone like you to say.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You were born with every advantage. Your roots are something for you to be proud of.’
‘You think?’ Her eyes flashed. ‘Please, tell me, what advantage did I have when my very existence is the reason for my mother’s death?’
Shocked, he momentarily lost his voice. ‘You can’t believe that?’
Confusion flitted over her features as if she’d shocked herself with her own words. ‘It’s the truth,’ she whispered.
‘Si. My mother died so I could live. If I hadn’t been conceived, she would still be here.’
A coldness lodged in his stomach. ‘But you wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be sitting here now. Our child wouldn’t be growing in your belly.’
Her eyes held his, a slight wobble in them, as if she were trying desperately not to let whatever driving emotion had caused her outburst to gain any further hold.
He could kick himself. ‘I apologise. When I said you were born with every advantage, I meant it in the respect that you were born a Mondelli.’
Alessandra swallowed back bile. She didn’t know where her outburst had come from. It was an outburst that had lived mutely on her tongue since she’d been a young girl made to feel as if she should be grateful for the privileges of her life. As if the fact she’d grown up with money could hide the circumstances of her birth and the knock-on effect that still echoed in Rocco’s and her lives. Their father’s life too, weak and spineless though he was. He’d effectively thrown his life away because he hadn’t been able to cope without his beloved Letizia. Nor forgetting her grandfather, her nonno, who’d spent the last twenty-five years of his life raising his grandchildren while his own son and heir drowned in bottles of alcohol.
All those ruined lives. Ruined dreams. Rocco ripped away from the mother he’d worshipped. And for what? For her? Was one life really a fair exchange for so much misery?
‘No, I’m the one who should apologise. You’re right. Being a Mondelli is a privilege. I’ve been given every material advantage.’