His BlackBerry buzzed. He glanced at the caller ID. Rafe, his brother, a yachting business owner, lived in Miami. His mood lifting, he punched the on button. “Rafe? How are you? You must not be very busy if you’re calling me.” All the Medici men were workaholics. Being farmed out to different foster homes after their parents died had left all of them with a nearly unquenchable thirst for success and control.
“On the contrary. I got married a few weeks ago, remember?” Rafe said.
“Yes. Even I was surprised you were able to pull that off. Nicole seemed very reluctant.” Michael was still amazed that Rafe had persuaded the beautiful guardian of his brother’s child to marry him so quickly.
“I have more news,” Rafe said.
“Yes?” Michael asked, hoping Rafe had learned something new about their missing brother Leo.
“You’re going to be an uncle again,” Rafe told him, joy threaded through his voice. Even though he hadn’t seen Leo in twenty years, Michael thought about his brother every day.
Michael felt a twinge of disappointment that the news wasn’t about Leo, but he couldn’t stop from smiling. “So fast?”
“Some things are meant to be,” Rafe said.
“How does Nicole feel about it?”
“Besides being mildly nauseated, she’s thrilled,” Rafe said.
“And Joel?” Michael asked, thinking of Rafe’s son.
“He doesn’t know yet. We thought we’d wait until she’s showing,” Rafe said. “But we want you to come down to visit.”
Michael shook his head. “I’m slammed at the moment. Lots of buying and selling action right now.”
“Yeah?” Rafe said. “I asked an investigator to look into leads for Aunt Emilia.”
“So did I,” Michael said, and started to pace. Their aunt Emilia lived in Italy and had sent Rafe photos and some curious letters recently. “Nothing yet. I also had my investigator run another search on Leo.”
“Nothing, right?” Rafe said.
“Right,” Michael said. “I’ve decided to try a P.I. who lives in Philly. He’s always lived in the state. Maybe a native will spot something that we can’t see.”
“It might be worth trying,” Rafe said, but Michael could hear the skepticism in his brother’s voice.
“I have to try,” Michael said. “One way or another, I need to do this for Leo.”
“You’re going to have to give up the guilt someday,” Rafe said. “You were a child when Dad and Leo took that trip on the train. You couldn’t have possibly known there would be a wreck or that they would die.”
“Easy to say,” Michael muttered, still feeling the crushing heavy sense of responsibility tighten his chest like a vise. “It was supposed to be me. Leo went in my place. The least I can do, if he really did die, is give him a proper burial.”
“If anyone can make it happen, you can,” Rafe said.
“Thanks.” Michael raked his hand through his hair.
“In the meantime, though, Damien is talking about coming for a visit. If he travels all the way from Vegas, then the least you can do is hop down here too. I’m not taking no for an answer,” he said forcefully.
“Okay,” Michael said. “Keep me posted.”
“Will do. Take care of yourself.”
Two days later, Michael told his assistant to set up another appointment for Bella. One day after that, she walked through his office door. He noticed she was dressed from head to toe in black again. She might as well have been grieving. He suspected her pride was in mourning.Her eyes—a startling shade of violet—regarded him with a combination of reticence and hope bordering on desperation.
Michael could assuage that desperation. He could make her wish come true, but Charlotte and Bella would have to do things his way. Michael had learned long ago that one of the primary reasons businesses failed was because the owners were unwilling to give up their ideas in exchange for success.
“Have a seat,” he said, and leaned against his desk.
She sank on to the edge of the leather chair and lifted her chin in false bravado. He liked her all the more for that. She might very well hate him by the end of their meeting.
“There might be a way this can work, but it will cost both you and your aunt. We do it my way, or I’m out.”
She bit the inside of her upper lip. He resisted the urge to tell her not to do that. Her lips were too beautiful. The pink-purple color of her bee-stung mouth provided a sensual contrast to her ivory skin. Her mouth was pure sex to him, and when she licked her lips…