Page 36 of The Amalfi Bride

RebeccaHewit had worked for Black Boar for twelve years. A methodical person, she’d carefully collected dozens of memos and documents that proved Black Boar was recklessly pouring carcinogenic toxins into a municipal water supply. While still on the job, RebeccaHewit had told management to change its ways or she’d blow the whistle.

Black Boar had fired her. When Hewit didn’t disappear quietly, Black Boar’s corporate attorneys had made threatening calls. RebeccaHewit had recorded them all. She’d spent the past six years collecting incriminating evidence, keeping a detailed diary, and printing and saving damaging e-mails.

Regina flipped through the formal complaint slowly. She even replayed one of the taped copies of a telephone threat. Black Boar’s henchmen sounded rough, scary. Rebecca had grit. Maybe because her little girl had leukemia.

Just yesterday, Regina had watched her niece, Gina, play in her backyard kiddie pool, immersed in gallons of water.

Nobody except Black Boar executives and a few corrupt, local officials probably had any idea what Black Boar was up to.

Black Boar had to be stopped.

Not your job, sweetheart. You’re on the other side. You’re one of the bad guys.

Ever since middle school, Regina had known where she wanted to go. She’d made a plan, and she’d stuck to it. Valedictorian, National Merit Scholarship, RiceUniversity, University of TexasLawSchool, Law Review. And those weren’t all her honors.

Landing this job at Merrit, Riley & Whitt, the hottest firm in Austin, a year ago had been sweet. And she was still here, climbing the ladder, even dreaming that someday, maybe even before she was forty, she’d make partner.

The Hewit file burned her hand, and she dropped it.

Her plan didn’t matter. None of the ambitions that had driven her so long mattered. She simply couldn’t do this.

Why? What was wrong with her?

She was shaking when she picked up the file again, but when her hand finally steadied, she charged out of her office and down the hall to talk to Robert Riley, Sr., the man she’d once believed would be her father-in-law.

“I can’t make RebeccaHewit go away. I can’t represent Black Boar.”

Robert didn’t open the file when she thrust it at him. He did listen patiently, at least, for nearly a full minute, before smiling paternally, indulgently.

“I don’t like the way Italy affected you. You’re different.”

“Read the file.”

“I don’t need to. But you need to take a long lunch and think this over. Very carefully.”

Not good.

She barged ahead with the rest of her speech anyway.

The sky was still ablaze in a magical way, as was the sea. But long shadows were creeping across the Amalfi shore.

Nico strode past the kiosk selling tabloids that ran front-page stories about his developing romance with Viola and saw only the beach and the empty bench under the lemon tree.

He stopped. He’d had a long day at the office, and he was tired and in no mood to see Viola.

He was still staring at Regina’s bench when a woman in veils driving a red Maserati much too fast screeched to a stop behind him. She tapped her horn mischievously just to startle him.

“Damn.” Nico spun on his heel. “Someday you’ll give me a heart attack doing that.”

“You won’t be the first man. But never with a car.” She winked at him. “Nico. My precious little love.”

As always, his grandmother spoke to him in French. Since her mother had been French, it was her favorite language.

“Grand-mère,” he said, smiling when he saw that the veils blowing about her papery, blue-veined skin were pink. “Aren’t you too old for pink?”

She smiled wickedly, her face crinkling in all sorts of places it shouldn’t have.

“Old. Awful word. Someday you’ll know just how cruel it is. All my life people have tried to tell me how to live.”

“Tried and failed.”

“Thank goodness.” She laughed. “I did listen to them when I was too young to know better…as you are now trying. And I failed. I think you have my genes.”

How beautiful she still was, he thought, even if her skin, which had seen too much of the Mediterranean sun and had known the caresses of so many younger lovers, was as dry as parchment. Like a faded movie star, she had the painted brows and lips of another age, but beneath the makeup, her eyes were young and bright and shone with all the love for him that filled her generous heart.

“Get in,” she commanded. “I’ve been trying to call you. Of course, all your mother’s dreadful people told me you weren’t in. Gloriana even came to the phone and told me herself.”

His mother, her daughter, did not approve of his relationship with his scandalous grandmother, the artist who’d divorced her royal prince, but doing so only after she’d done her duty and had produced heirs.

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