Raffaele’s head was pounding. He was never duped. He had everything under control. It defined him. It was incomprehensible that this could have happened.
‘We need to get her off the island. If I’m wrong, all that will have happened is that a total stranger has been wronged. If I’m right, we’ve circumvented a disaster. Raffaele—I’m getting married in a week. Can you do this for Kyla? For the family? If I’m wrong—which I’m not—I’ll apologise. I’ll send flowers, yes? Or jewellery. Just get the bloodsucker off my island.’
Salvatore’s voice was carrying through the house, bouncing off the marble and echoing on every wall and surface. Splitting Raffaele’s head open with his venom. His uncontrollable jealous poison.
He’d always been suspicious, had never been able to trust anyone. The only reason Kyla was going to be his bride was that her father’s fortune was almost as big as Giancarlo’s.
But it did sound plausible. More than a coincidence.
‘Leave this to me,’ he said.
‘There’s no time for you to work out all your angles, Raffa. This is urgent. Get rid of her and then we can work it out. It’s what we should have done at the time. You were always so sure of my father’s piety. Well, I’m not and I never was.’
Raffaele looked at his adoptive brother and friend. He had to bury his personal feelings right now. Feelings which ranged from cold, hard fury to bitter rage. How dared Salvatore slur his father’s character? How dared he make these demands? But he was the nominal head of the family, and he had always managed Salvatore’s insane insecurities.
And this one was about to play out on the world’s stage.
The wedding was imminent, and if he didn’t get things under control the whole family could be dragged through the mud, on every gossip page and on every screen.
‘I’ll deal with it. She’ll be off the island by dawn and then we’ll discuss it.’
Salvatore nodded and left.
How could his world spin like this? How could the solid foundations of his life be blasted to dust in a single moment?
Dust that he must sweep up—as he always did.
On the table below the mezzanine a gilt tray sat, with champagne and two tall flutes. He picked up a glass and held it in his hand. The crystal felt fine and delicate. There was a spot on the wall he could fire it at. Watch it smash off the plaster and shatter into a thousand shards. Hear the crash and tinkle and feel…what?
He had learned long ago not to let emotion show. He would hold it in until it dissipated. Until he didn’t feel anything.
So they’d had wonderful sex? It wasn’t the most important thing in the world. The most important thing was family. Even when it wasn’t your own blood. She had hers and he had his. And until a few hours ago everyone had been perfectly content with how things were. It was always about family. Duty and respect and doing the right thing.
And he was damn well going to do the right thing.
Even if it killed him.
CORAL OPENED HER eyes and turned her head. A lamp burned on the bedside table. There was a glass of water and a photograph next to it. She stretched. Her head felt heavy and her body languorous, loved. Heavenly.
She sighed and rolled around under the heavy cotton sheet, looking for Raffaele. She was sure he hadn’t slept beside her. It didn’t feel so long since she’d lain down, yet the night was so dark and the house so quiet she must have been out for the count for ages.
She got up. There was nothing to wear but the red dress she’d gone to the party in. She stepped into it and zipped it up, then slipped on the toe-crushing shoes. She had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. He must be waiting patiently for her. She should hurry now and find him.
She walked on through the hallway and along to the lounge. Her hair had dried in thick waves; her face, scrubbed clean, was dewy with sleep.
There was a breeze as she walked along the hallway, heels clicking, retracing her steps to the main entrance where Aphrodite’s Pool glowed with its green half-light.
And there in the doorway, bathed in a swathe of light, glass in hand, stood Raffaele.
He turned when he heard her and she almost ran into his arms.
But there was somebody there—outside. He closed the door, blocking them out. He looked down at his feet, then at her face.
‘Hi! I’m sorry, I dozed off. Has Salvatore been? Everything is all right for tomorrow? Did you tell him my thoughts?’
‘I’m sorry, Coral. I’ve had to move things around. Change some plans.’
‘Oh,’ she said, her smile slipping. Something was wrong. Badly wrong. ‘What things? What plans?’