Even the rather bored court personnel stood to attention, as suddenly there was an unexpected turn in the formalities.
Raul stopped looking at the ring and Gino frowned and leant forward as all present learnt that his mother had made a secret will.
More intriguing was the news that it been amended just a few short weeks ago.
A considerable sum had been left to Maria on the death of her brother, Luigi, on condition that it did not in any way benefit Maria’s husband.
Luigi had loathed Gino.
But Luigi had died some ten years ago.
Most shocking for Raul was the realisation that his mother had had the means to leave.
Raul had been working his butt off, trying to save to provide for her, when she could have walked away at any time.
It made no sense.
Nothing in his life made sense any more.
And then Raul felt a pulse beat a tattoo in his temples as the judge read out his mother’s directions.
‘The sum is to be divided equally between my son Raul Di Savo and Bastiano Conti. My hope is that they use it wisely. My prayer is that they have a wonderful life.’
Raul sat silent as pandemonium broke out in the courthouse. Money was Gino’s god, and this betrayal hit harder than the other. He started cursing, and as he moved to finish off Raul’s work on Bastiano, Security were called.
‘He gets nothing!’ Gino sneered, and jabbed his finger towards Bastiano. ‘Maria was sick in the head—she would not have known what she was doing when she made that will.’
‘The testimonial is clear,’ the judge responded calmly as Gino was led out.
‘Bastiano used her. Tell him that we will fight...’ Gino roared over his shoulder.
Raul said nothing in response—just sat silent as his mother’s final wishes sank in.
She had chosen Bastiano as the second benefactor and had asked that her money be divided equally...
Oh, that stung.
He looked over at Bastiano, who stared ahead and refused to meet his gaze.
Why the hell had she left it to him? Had Bastiano known about the money and engineered the entire thing? Had he sweet-talked her into changing her will and then deliberately exposed their affair, knowing that the fragile Maria could never survive the fallout?
Gino was still shouting from the corridor. ‘I stood by her all these years!’
Raul sat thinking. He knew he could contest this in court—or he could wait till he and Bastiano were outside and fight. This time to the bloody end.
He chose the latter.
Outside, the sun seemed to chip at his skull and he felt like throwing up—and then Bastiano stepped out, also wincing at the bright afternoon sun.
‘So,’ Raul said by way of greeting, ‘the gossip in the valley was wrong.’ He watched as Bastiano’s brow creased in confusion, and then he better explained. ‘As it turns out—you were the whore.’
The court attendees spilled out onto the street, the guards hovered, and a police vehicle drove slowly past. Raul saw that Marco was at the wheel.
As it slid out of sight Raul knew that if Marco was summoned to a fight outside the courthouse the response time would be slow.
They stared at each other.
Raul’s black eyes met Bastiano’s silver-grey and they shared their mutual loathing.
‘Your mother...’ Bastiano started, and then, perhaps wisely, chose not to continue—though that did not stop Raul.
‘Are you going to tell me to respect her wishes?’ Raul sneered. ‘You knew she had this money—you knew...’ He halted, but only because his voice was close to faltering and he would not allow Bastiano to glimpse weakness.
He would beat Bastiano with more than his fists.
Raul cleared his throat and delivered his threat, low but strong, and for Bastiano’s ears only. ‘Collect promptly...pay slowly.’
It was an old Italian saying, but it came with different meaning on this day.
Bastiano might have collected promptly today, but he would pay.
Their eyes met, and though nothing further was said it was as if Raul had repeated those words and he watched as his threat sank in.
Raul would keep his word—the vow he had made by his mother’s grave.
Every day he would fight Bastiano—not with fists but with action, and so, to the chagrin of the gathered crowd, who wanted the day to end in blood, Raul walked away.
Bastiano might have got a payout today, but Raul would take his mother’s inheritance and build a life from it far away from here.
And in the process he would destroy Bastiano at every opportunity.
Revenge would be his motivator now.
LYDIA KNEW EXACTLY where she was even before her eyes had opened.
There was constant awareness of him, even in sleep. Hearing his deep breathing and feeling his warm, sleeping body beside her, Lydia thought it was the nicest awakening she had ever had.