The Mediterranean Billionaire's Blackmail BargainBy: Abby Green
His lights disappeared and Alicia had to concentrate. They were here, at the high wall of his villa. She cursed herself. She had to get it together. For Melanie. The effort it had taken her sister to say just a few words a week ago had been enough to tip her into unconsciousness. But they’d been enough.
They’d given Alicia all the information she’d needed.
She drove the car neatly into the space she had found earlier, partially hidden by an overhanging tree, and sat there for some moments waiting for the other car to draw up behind her. Alicia hadn’t even known about Melanie’s pregnancy until she’d come home from Africa and gone straight to the hospital after a series of panicky messages on her mobile and in their apartment had alerted her to her sister’s whereabouts.
Since Melanie’s best friend, the only other person likely to know her movements, was away on holiday, it had taken the hospital a day to properly identify Melanie and get in contact. And since that moment everything had been a scary blur. Alicia’s thoughts revolved sickeningly on her sister’s fevered words, which had led her to this place and this moment.
Melanie had gripped her hand, struggling to speak. It had made Alicia’s heart break. ‘Melanie, love, don’t try to speak; you need to keep your strength.’
Melanie had shaken her head. ‘I have to tell you. I have to see…have to talk to Dante D’Aquanni…He’s the one…’
‘Melanie—’ Alicia’s voice had been urgent ‘—what do you mean? Is he the one who did this to you? Is he the one you talked about?’
The communications between the remote area where she’d been working in Africa and the UK had been sporadic to say the least.
Melanie had sagged back against the pillows, her words were broken and her breath jagged. ‘I was on my way to see him to tell him that I’d leave the company, do anything he wanted, if only to…I was so upset and then that lorry just came out of nowhere—’ She closed her eyes at the memory, went paler and gripped Alicia’s hand even tighter as her eyes opened again. ‘You have to find him, Lissy…I need him to…’ Alicia had been horrified to see weak tears rolling down her sister’s face. ‘Oh, Lissy, I love him so much and he sent him away…and I need him.’
Alicia’s focus came back to the lake, lapping softly nearby. Her sister had been so feverish by then that she’d been incoherent, her words becoming jumbled. She’d obviously meant that he’d sent her away. The facts were stark and Alicia had pieced them together with little effort.
Her sister had had an affair with Dante D’Aquanni, the owner of the corporation she worked for. He had cast her aside. Melanie had been on her way to see him when the accident happened. She’d been made careless by her distraught state. Alicia’s insides roiled again; she felt so guilty that she hadn’t been there. She could have prevented the accident. If only she’d been able to phone more frequently. All she knew was that Melanie had been seeing someone at work. Her e-mails had been like Morse code, in an obvious effort to protect the man who had stolen her heart…her innocence.
After trying and failing to get in touch with Melanie’s friend, who might possibly know more, Alicia had turned to the Internet to find out what she could about this man. She’d seen that office affairs within the D’Aquanni corporation were sackable offences—hence Melanie’s ridiculously secretive e-mails—and yet the man himself had seen fit to be a hypocrite of the highest order…
A car door slammed behind her. She pulled back her mass of unruly hair and twisted it up, tying it with a band, putting on a battered baseball hat. Then she got out of the car, easing cramped muscles. The late summer air held the slightest of chills and she pulled on her voluminous dark sweatshirt. Then, taking her small backpack, making sure she had her phone and that it was on silent, she made her way to the two men who had just emerged from the other car.
Dante D’Aquanni drove his car to an abrupt stop on the gravel outside his villa. The feeling of relief was enormous. He vaulted out and ran up the few stone steps, his housekeeper coming out to meet him. They exchanged a few words and he strode through the open door and into the immense, palatial villa. Home. His favourite place in the world.
He recalled Alessandra’s pleas to bring her back with him for the night. How she’d whispered what she’d thought were erotic promises into his ear on the steps of the hotel, but which had made any possible lingering desire disappear completely.
He poured himself a drink and took it to the back terrace where the view of the still, dark lake acted like a balm. Alessandra Macchi was indisputably one of the most beautiful women in Italy. And she had made no secret of the fact that she desired Dante. His mouth tightened. Desired his wealth. That much was clear. When he’d arrived at Lake Como a few days ago, he’d gone for a quiet drink, a catch up with some locals, and Alessandra had appeared with some flimsy story of taking a break too…She’d proved a force to be reckoned with. His defences must have been down, or something, as he’d found himself going to her hotel this evening to take her for dinner and then had allowed her to seduce him. He rubbed a weary hand across his brow.