He smiled and kissed her gently.
‘Let’s have some more, then. Come with me to my villa. I’ve got to sort something out with Salvatore—he wants to see me—but it won’t take long. Then we can carry on. We have so much more to learn about each other.’
In a woozy dream-like state she slipped back into her dress and shoes and walked by his side out through the villa and into a waiting car. He held her firmly by his side all the way down the narrow road, into his villa and into his bedroom.
‘Wait here. I’ll see Salvatore and then I’ll be back.’
‘I hope he wants to apologise to you,’ she said, irritated that yet again the surly Salvatore was making his presence felt in a negative way.
Raffa kissed away her scowl and watched as she removed her dress and shoes, rolled over in his bed and closed her eyes, falling into the warm embrace of sleep.
He’d lost control. For the first time ever. He’d walked away to take that call and then gone to get her, knowing they were going to make love.
Salvatore had left him a garbled message, weeping apologies and wailing about some new drama that he had to see him about urgently. As usual, he expected Raffa to sort out all his problems—immediately.
But he hadn’t wanted to. He hadn’t been able to wait for her any longer. She was unlike any other woman he had ever met. And it had felt good. It had felt amazing.
He moved the sheet over her.
Coral Dahl, he thought. The most passionate English rose he’d ever known. Driven, determined and with integrity a mile wide.
He watched her lying asleep. The auburn hair looked almost black now in the shadows of the night. Whoever her father was, her gene pool was extraordinary.
Suddenly he heard noises. He walked through to the front of house and there was Salvatore—like a swarm of bees, as usual. Raffaele wasn’t in the mood for his restless, nervous energy. Not now.
‘Whatever it is, it can wait. We’ve sorted out the girl from the party and I know you didn’t mean what you said earlier. It’s all forgotten. Just go to bed,’ he said.
‘Its her—the photographer. I can’t believe you were so stupid. I would have seen through it straight away.’
Salvatore strode right into the house, his eyes almost yellow with too much alcohol and his face a contorted mask of rage.
‘What are you talking about? Coral? See through what?’
‘Dahl. Dahl,’ said Salvatore. ‘Don’t you remember? That woman? The one who came after Dad with that fake paternity suit?’
‘What are you talking about?’ he repeated, more angrily.
Dahl… The name was familiar. There had been a Dahl once. An artist. A meeting. An accusation. Giancarlo flustered and furious.
‘What are you saying?’
‘Lynda Dahl. That bitch who claimed Papa got her pregnant. Tried to get money out of him. I dealt with her—as if I was going to let her get past me! Your photographer is her daughter. I’ve checked it out. No doubt she’s come to claim her so-called inheritance while the will is still not finalised. I’m telling you, Raffaele, she’s a con artist who’s out to get us. She thinks we’re going to roll over and give her some kind of pay-out.’
Raffaele’s head felt as if it had been hit by a truck. This made no sense. The Coral Dahl who was lying in his bed was sweet and innocent and genuine.
He walked to the laptop. Turned it on. Typed in a name.
‘It’s Lynda with a “y”,’ said Salvatore, standing over his shoulder, watching.
And there she was. Lynda Dahl—artist. A doe-eyed blonde. A mouth like a bowl of cherries and milk-white skin. Forty-five years old. Exhibited a few times in London.
The mother of the woman lying sleeping in his bed.
‘I want her off the island, Raffaele. I want her out of here. I feel violated knowing that she is breathing the same air as us.’
‘Just slow down. Stop. Where are you getting your facts?’
‘Facts? What more do you need? Don’t you remember when I told you I’d found out?’
‘Yes—you were twelve and snooping about in Giancarlo’s study, looking for God knows what, and you found a letter. Yes, I remember. And I remember what I told you to do.’
‘She came back again—demanded money for her daughter to go to college! Don’t you see what’s happening here? That so-called photographer has manipulated her way here. She’s in league with someone at your magazine—she has to be! No doubt she’s out for her own revenge and they’ve cooked this up together. Her mother tried the obvious way, and now she’s trying by the back door.’
‘Listen to yourself, Salvatore. Do you realise how paranoid this sounds?’