He walked to the bank of floor-to-ceiling windows framing a magnificent view of a dusky, indigo-lit Manhattan—one of the perks of being CEO of his family’s international Italian conglomerate, a shipping dynasty he had evolved into a diverse empire that included hotel chains, cruise lines and real estate arms. He loved the view, but tonight, it barely penetrated the fatigue clouding his brain.
Turning, he leaned back against the glass and crossed his arms over his chest. “All right,” he said, “give it to me.”
His lawyer blinked behind gold-rimmed spectacles, flicked his tongue over his lips and cleared his throat. “We have a...situation. A mistake that’s been made we need to rectify.”
He frowned. “On the deal?”
“No. It’s a personal matter.”
Lorenzo narrowed his gaze. “I didn’t invite you in here to play twenty questions, Cris. Spit it out.”
His lawyer swallowed. “The legal firm that handled your divorce made an error with the filing of the papers. An omission, actually...”
“What kind of an omission?”
“They forgot to file them.”
A buzzing sound filled his ears. “I divorced my wife two years ago.”
“Yes, well, you see...” Another long swallow. “You didn’t actually. Not in the technical tense because the papers were never filed with the state.”
The buzzing sound in his head intensified. “What are you saying?” He asked the question slowly, deliberately, as if his brain was having trouble keeping up. “Just so we’re clear?”
“You’re still married to Angelina.” Cristopher blurted the words out, a hand coming up to resettle his glasses higher on his nose. “The lawyer who handled your divorce had an insane caseload that month. He thought he’d asked his clerk to file the papers, was sure he had, until we went back to look at the specifics after the conversation you and I had recently.”
When it had become clear Angie was never going to touch a penny of the alimony he gave her each month.
“My wife announced her engagement this week. To another man.”
The lawyer pressed a hand to his temple. “Yes... I saw the piece in the paper. That’s why I’ve been trying to track you down. It’s a rather complicated situation.”
“Complicated?” Lorenzo slung the word across the room with the force of a bullet. “How much do we pay that firm an hour? Hundreds? Thousands? To not make mistakes like this. Ever.”
“It’s not acceptable,” Cristopher agreed quietly, “but it is the reality.”
His lawyer squared his shoulders, looking ready to be verbally flogged to within an inch of his life, but Lorenzo had lost the power of speech. That his short-lived marriage to his wife, a disaster by its ignominious end, had, in fact, never been legally terminated was too much to take when heaped upon the other news his father had delivered today.
He counted to ten in his head, harnessing the red-hot fury that engulfed him. This he did not need as he attempted to close the biggest deal of his life.
“How do we fix this?” he asked icily.
Cristopher spread his hands wide. “There are no magical solutions. The best we can do is hope to expedite the process. But it could take months. It will still mean—I mean you’ll still have to—”
“Tell my wife she can’t marry her boyfriend so she doesn’t commit bigamy?”
His lawyer rubbed a palm across his forehead. “Yes.”
And wouldn’t that be fun, given Angelina was set to celebrate that engagement in front of half of New York tomorrow night?
He turned to face the jaw-dropping view, blood pounding against his temple in a dull roar. He was shocked at how much the idea of Angie marrying another man repulsed him even though he had once convinced himself if he never saw his wife again it would be too soon. Perhaps because her vibrant, sensual, Lauren Bacall-style beauty haunted him every time he thought about taking another woman to bed... Because every time he tried to convince himself he was ambivalent about her, he failed miserably.
The conversation he’d had with his father before leaving Milan filtered through his head like some sort of cruel joke, had it not been of an entirely serious nature. The chairman of Ricci International had fixed his impenetrable, ice-blue stare on him and dropped a bombshell. “Your brother Franco is unable to produce an heir, which means it’s up to you, Lorenzo, to produce one and produce it soon.”
His dismay for his younger brother, his bewilderment Franco hadn’t told him this the night before over dinner, had evaporated under the impact of his father’s directive. Him marry again? Never happening. Except, he conceded with bitter irony, he was apparently still married. To the woman who had walked out on him and said he had no capacity to love. The woman who had stolen the last piece of humanity he’d possessed.