‘Anyway, I’m glad you’re here early. I have news.’
‘Yeah? Have you signed the business over to me? That’s the only news I’m interested in.’
‘I’m going to be a father.’
Salvatore’s fingers stilled. Finally he looked up. The scowl over his eyes darkened. His mouth thinned, and then broke into a mocking smile.
‘You are? Well, well… I must admit that was the last news I expected to hear. But, bravo. I take it you were as surprised as me? We can all be a little careless at times, I suppose. Who’s the mummy? Anyone I know?’
Raffaele held his fury tight, like a ball of white-hot light in his hand.
‘Actually, you do know her. You recall the photographer? Coral Dahl? The one you felt had delusions of being your half-sister? The one I threw off the island to please you?’
Salvatore’s whole face blanched. Then his brows sank lower over his eyes. He swung his legs to the floor and stood. His hands formed into fists and Raffaele braced himself for combat.
But Salvatore was smarter than that. He turned his face and walked away. ‘I can’t believe this.’
‘I need that issue to be resolved.’
‘The issue of her paternity. I need a swab or a blood sample from you, Salvatore. I’m sure you want to know the truth as much as I do.’
Gold-digging bitch—that had been the last thing Salvatore had called her when Raffaele had told him that he’d dealt with her that night. If Salvatore dared use the same language now he would rip his head off. But he didn’t. He knew better.
Salvatore turned. Outside, the white trail of a speedboat tore a slice in the sea. Sunbeams settled into a carpet of white light across the water. The Adriatic winter was as peaceful as ever. But inside it was as if hell had spewed its thick air into the room.
They paced like two dogs braced to fight.
‘You’re seriously going to believe that scheming little opportunist against your own family? After all my father did for you? He would be disgusted, Raffa. If he’d wanted her to be in his life he would have brought her here! But he didn’t. I can’t believe you let your head be turned so easily. Just because she slept with you. And after all your lectures to me!’
‘Careful what you say, Salvatore. Coral and I are having a child together. Regardless of what Giancarlo did, the fact remains that she is most probably your half-sister. So don’t push me too far on this one, because you won’t like where my sympathies lie.’
He forced himself not to move as Salvatore punched his own fist and then walked to the fireplace, his head buried in his hands. A wail came as if from deep in his stomach and it was hideous.
Then he turned and threw himself back down on the sofa. ‘Raffa, I can’t believe that you, of all people, are going to turn against me too. After everything I’ve been through. I thought you were the one person I could rely on.’
Salvatore sat sobbing, elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He turned an anguished face to Raffa, flushed and garish.
‘My life is in ruins. All those years of having to share Papa. Of never being good enough. Every day being compared to you, being told I must live up to you. Do you know how much I hated it when you came? Every single day was hellish for me—hellish.’
Raffaele swallowed. He knew this story. It was the best form of emotional blackmail and one that Salvatore always dished up when he felt cornered. But the worst thing about it was that it was true.
‘Have you any idea how it feels to not even be given my own inheritance? To not be trusted with my own money? And now you’re going to tell me there’s someone else waiting to take my place. She’s turned you against me, too.’
‘It’s not like that, Salvatore,’ he began. ‘This isn’t about you. Coral has missed out on so much, but we’re focussing on the future—not the past. Your inheritance is intact, and nothing will change between us.’
‘How can you say that? Of course it will change. As soon as she gets her results she’ll want a slice of Argento. Every single thing we’ve had as a family will be obliterated by her. Nothing will ever be the same again.’
Raffa watched the pitiful sight of Salvatore, his promise to Giancarlo churning in his mind. Of course he would never abandon him. He was weak. He needed support. But he was a grown man. Some day he had to learn to stand on his own two feet.
‘Nothing will change. Coral isn’t interested in Argento. She’s a creative. She’ll work with me at Romano. There’s nothing for you to worry about, Salvatore.’
He said the words confidently, but unease gripped his throat. They’d not discussed anything properly, but she’d been dead against having anything to do with the Di Viscontis. Surely that included Argento?