Nick was tapping his fingers idly on the polished surface of the table next to him, striving hard to control his impatience.
He was seated within Luca Conte’s opulent study, his drink of whiskey untouched by his elbow. His future father-in-law paced the Moroccan rug underfoot, his expression fathomless.
And yet, Nick told himself he knew what was coming. It was two days since the eventful dinner party he’d escorted Rachel to. He’d been expecting this summons from her father, who had also been a close friend and business associate to Nick’s father. Both their families went back before either of the Contes or Vitales had settled in America four generations ago, from their home country Italy.
Nick had received a call from the old man’s secretary requesting his presence at the family house that morning.
Well, here he was.
“I really must say, Nick,” Luca Conte began at long last, stopping his furious pacing to turn to the younger man. His lined yet handsome and heavily bearded face held a frown as Nick looked up at him with expectation, “That when Rachel came to me, sobbing with the news of what you did I was quite shocked. It didn’t sound like you at all.”
I’ll bet, thought Nick wryly, though he asked in a mild tone, “Just what did Rachel tell you, Uncle?” Nick had been calling Luca ‘uncle’ since his schoolboy days and even now that he was almost thirty, still gave the older man his due respect – especially since Luca had been more of a father figure to him than Nick's dad had been.
Luca’s expression looked almost like he was pleading with Nick to deny the allegations as he said, “Rachel told me that she caught you kissing some woman at the party you accompanied her to. She was mistaken, wasn’t she?”
Nick looked the older man dead in the eye. “No, Uncle Luca. She wasn’t mistaken. What Rachel said is true.”
Luca Conte looked dazed for a moment, though more at the blunt way Nick had stated it. But then what had he been expecting, Nick mused, that I would lie?
Luca shook his head at him. “Nick!” he burst out in exclamation. “I can’t imagine what could have come over you...”
Neither can I, Nick thought with a wry twist to his lips – but then the image of a sultry-eyed woman with soft, full lips and a knock-out body came to mind. Oh, he knew exactly what had come over him, he decided as a now familiar ache cut him right where he lived. Just thinking about that temptress Keyonna had his cock stirring at the memory of her taste, scent and the sexy sound of her slightly husky tone of voice.
“You think this is a joke?” Luca rasped and Nick suddenly became aware that he’d been smiling to himself. Quickly, Nick wiped the look from his face and rose from his chair.
“What can I say, Uncle?” sighed Nick. “That I had one drink too many?” He shrugged. “I really wish that was the case. I won’t go into details but I have to confess that the woman who kissed me had every cause to do so.”
Yep, she had. If he hadn’t butted into her affairs – and if he had stopped her from making a fool of him instead of kissing her right back like a starved goon, he wouldn’t be in this colossal mess...
“I see,” Luca said heavily, and then turned away. “I had hoped I could try and win you back into Rachel’s good favor, but now I see I really shouldn’t bother. It’s obvious you don’t love my daughter and never did. It was your father’s and my fault, throwing you two together since you were younger in the hope that you’d have a future with each other. And now, well...” The old man shrugged, a resigned look on his face.
Nick felt a small sigh escape him – could it be relief? To his surprised, he suddenly didn’t consider it such a disaster if Rachel wasn’t going to marry him.
“You do realize what this means?” the other man asked Nick soberly as both men stood face to face. Though Luca was tall he had grown stocky, his hair thinning at the sides yet not detracting from his darkly handsome looks that sat well on the fifty-six year old man.
Nick wasn’t sure how to respond so he waited for Luca to continue as he said, “Rachel told me that she wasn’t going through with the wedding, not after your little aberration. I think she felt more insulted than anything else. Still, she’s upstairs in her bedroom, if you want to talk with her. You’re the only one who can salvage this situation, Nick. But remember...”
Nick had already been making to leave the room, and paused in the doorway to turn and regard Luca quizzically. Luca added, “If she doesn’t agree to marry you, you’ll have to find someone who will.”
And you know exactly why, Luca’s eyes seemed to say solemnly, and Nick gave him a terse nod. Oh, I know.
He was going to lose his billion dollar inheritance if he didn’t.