Taking his phone out, he pressed the speed dial button for Vivian’s number, and his wife picked up after only one ring.
“Come va?” How are you?
Instead of answering, she said brightly, “I saw on Instagram that Maria’s in Tuscany as well.”
Ah. The note of jealousy in her voice was impossible to miss, and Luca perched himself on the edge of the balcony’s balustrade. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. This is her hometown, too.”
“And that’s all there is to it?”
At Vivian’s shrill tone, he drawled, “Do you think I’m lying?”
“What I think—-” And this time, his wife’s voice was too bright, and Luca frowned, knowing that it meant she was fighting back tears.
“—-is that you guys should have lots of fun there playing house.” Vivi’s voice cracked. “Because I’m going to have fun here, too.”
The call was disconnected before Luca could get a word edgewise, and a grim expression settled on his face. He called his head of security the next moment and asked that the number of bodyguards following his wife incognito to be doubled. He had a feeling that Vivian was about to do something…inadvisable.
When he returned to Eula’s side, his little girl stirred. “Vivi?” she asked sleepily.
“Not here, principesa,” he said gently.
“I miss Mama.”
Luca stilled. “Do you mean Vivi?”
Eula nodded, snuggling closer to her father.
Ah. It was her first time to call Vivi ‘Mama’, and his arms tightened around his daughter. “I miss Mama, too,” he said softly. And he did, more than anyone – even Vivi herself – realized.
“Why didn’t she come with us?”
“Because,” he said slowly, “she needs more time to find the treasure.”
Eula sat up. “Treasure?” And as if she couldn’t believe what she had heard, she repeated the word again, this time in Italian.
He nodded solemnly. “Si, un tesoro.”
“And what is the treasure?” Eula asked eagerly.
“It’s something that Vivian wants the most, more than anything in the world.” Luca’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. And whatever that was, only Vivian could answer it.
Luca lied awake for the rest of the night, his mind consumed by thoughts of his wife.
The desire to cage her would never go away. It was like a wound that would never heal, but its pain was made bearable by the knowledge that for as long as he found the strength to let Vivian spread her own wings—-
It meant he loved Vivian the way she deserved to be loved.
Early next day, Luca’s mother threw a party in Luca and Eula’s honor, and friends and relatives from all over Europe came jetting in to the Tuscan countryside to join in the festivities. Although the guests numbered by the hundreds, Luca’s security was able to keep a tight leash, which allowed the Italian billionaire to be informed within seconds when someone attempted to gatecrash the celebration.
Ordering his guards to show Maria to the private receiving room at the back of the chateau, Luca waited impatiently for his ex-wife to arrive.
As usual, she made a grand entrance, entering the room with her head held high, her dark hair flowing freely behind her. Her dress, what was there of it, was so tight it forced her breasts practically up to her neck, and her studded heels looked as if they were designed with hookers in mind.
Maria looked absolutely cheap, and his lips tightened at the thought that this was a woman he had once loved to the point of madness.
The Italian billionaire slowly lifted his gaze to his ex-wife’s.
“I hope you don’t mind I dropped by,” she said throatily.
“Actually…” He gave her a polite smile. “I do mind.”
“Because of your wife?” Maria inquired with a little laugh. “I know she’s been stalking me online.”
“Is that so?” The billionaire’s face remained inscrutable.
“She liked then un-liked my photo,” Maria derided. “Che patetico!” How pathetic.
Luca lowered his head at her words.
Maria smiled in triumph, thinking that she had revealed something displeasing to her ex-husband. “
But she was wrong.
The billionaire knew exactly what his ex-wife talking about. When Vivian insisted that he open an Instagram account, he had reluctantly done so and had been bemused and somewhat appalled that over a million people had immediately followed him. Even so, he had only followed one person, and that was his wife, which was also why he readily remembered that one time he had received a notification of his wife liking Maria’s photo.
At that time, it had struck him as odd, but now the billionaire realized what had happened. He could imagine it now, Vivian silently freaking out, jumping and shrieking at accidentally liking Maria’s photo and then un-liking it in panic, which of course made everything even more obvious.
Only Vivian could get rid of his black mood so easily, without even being here.
When the billionaire looked back at her, Maria expected him to thank her for exposing the truth about his second wife, but instead his tone was even more distant as he asked, “What brings you here, Maria?”