“Do you have a coat?” Luca asked me.

“Yes,” I said and walked over to the hat check girl. I gave her my ticket and she came back with my aged green coat. Before I could take it from her and slip into it, Luca had taken it and was helping me into it. His warm fingers brushed my neck and I shivered.

The doorman nodded at us politely and opened the door.

A gust of cold wind blew into us as we stepped out into the night.

When we started to descend the steps, a man got out of the long black limo that was parked directly in front of us, and nodded politely at Luca. He was obviously Luca’s chauffeur. Salvatore had parked his car further down on the driveway, but it seemed as if Luca Messana had been given the honor of being able to park his mode of transport right in front of the entrance.

“Home, Cullinan,” Luca said shortly.

Cullinan, the chauffeur, was a thin man in his fifties or maybe even in his sixties. He had a stoic, distant expression on his face as he came around to hold open the door for me. Brand new, luxurious black leather waited for me inside.

For a moment I hesitated.

There would be no going back after this. I turned and looked at Luca. In the light from the overhead lamp, he looked almost sinister, the scar on his face, glowing livid, and yet that heat, that unnameable thing between us, sizzled in the cold air. He was not Salvatore. I never felt this with him.

This cold, heartless man had zero feelings for me beyond wanting me as a temporary toy to discard as soon as he was bored. But for me it was already different. Different than I had felt for any man I had ever come across before. I felt a cold finger of fear run up my spine. Some instinct told me to run away. Now. While there was still time. For this man would break me and I would never be the same again.

Then, an image of my father flashed into my head. Bald from the chemo and looking older than his years, his pale hands laying limply at his sides, but smiling bravely at me. I had known he wanted to say something to me, so I had bent my head towards his bloodless lips. “Don’t worry about me. I’m just going where I belong, with your mother,” he had whispered in my ear so my stepmother, who was standing by the door wouldn’t hear.

“No, Daddy. It’s not time for you to go. Mama can wait a little longer for you. Don’t leave me now,” I had whispered in his ear, my voice choked, and tears welling up in my eyes. At that moment, I had decided I would do everything in my power to keep him on this earth.

And I had. And not a single regret either.

I would do it all again for you, Dad. All of it. Even those unbearably long nights with Salvatore when I felt battered and bruised because he had tried and tried but couldn’t come because he was too damn high.

It was easy to slip into the car and listen to the door seal my fate with a quiet click.

Seconds later, Luca entered the plush space. I turned to glance at him. In the dim of the interior, he seemed even more aloof and forbidding. The driver took his place and the car started. Almost immediately, I noticed the two cars that rode with us. One in front and the other behind.

“Can you amuse yourself for the next hour?” Luca asked.

“Of course,” I replied woodenly.

He opened his laptop, and I turned my head and stared out of the window. I stared at the scenery and watched buildings become houses and houses become trees and countryside. Then finally, we arrived at a big set of black gates. Black lion statues sat on the pillars of the gates.

Of course, this was his house. Torrington Hall was one of the most famous houses in Boston. Once it had stood in England. Then a billionaire fell in love with it and decided to import it to the states. Every block of limestone, decorated tile, oak panel, and marble slab in it had been meticulously taken apart and put back together again in a vast estate he had purchased in the countryside. It had made the news two years prior when the billionaire who owned it sold it for sixty-two million to an opaque off-shore company.

Very bizarrely, I had once been so fascinated by it, I had even dreamed I was living in it. In my dream, I was Beauty from Beauty and the Beast and I was in its grand, tall-ceilinged dining room. I was sitting alone at a long dining table set for two. The room was lit by the many candles inside the many chandeliers and the great candelabras positioned around the room. I was dressed in a long white dress and my hair was done up in an old-fashioned style. It was as if I had gone back in time to a different century.

Tags: Georgia Le Carre Billionaire Romance
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