Fonseca's Fury

By: Abby Green

CHAPTER ONE

SERENA DEPIERO SAT in the plush ante-room and looked at the name on the opposite wall, spelled out in matt chrome lettering, and reeled.

Roseca Industries and Philanthropic Foundation.

Renewed horror spread through her. It had only been on the plane to Rio de Janeiro, when she’d been reading the extra information on the charity given to her by her boss, that she’d become aware that it was part of a much bigger organisation. An organisation run and set up by Luca Fonseca. The name Roseca was apparently an amalgamation of his father and mother’s surnames. And Serena wasn’t operating on a pay grade level high enough to require her to be aware of this knowledge before now.

Except here she was, outside the CEO’s office, waiting to be called in to see the one man on the planet who had every reason to hate her guts. Why hadn’t he sacked her months ago, as soon as she’d started working for him? Surely he must have known? An insidious suspicion took root: perhaps he’d orchestrated this all along, to lull her into a false sense of security before letting her crash spectacularly to the ground.

That would be breathtakingly cruel, and yet this man owed her nothing but his disdain. She owed him. Serena knew that there was a good chance her career in fundraising was about to be over before it had even taken off. And at that thought she felt a spurt of panic mixed with determination. Surely enough time had passed now? Surely, even if this was some elaborate revenge cooked up by Luca Fonseca as soon as he’d known she was working for him, she could try to convince him how sorry she was?

But before she could wrap her head around it any further a door opened to her right and a sleek dark-haired woman dressed in a grey suit emerged.

‘Senhor Fonseca will see you now, Miss DePiero.’

Serena’s hands clenched tightly around her handbag. She felt like blurting out, But I don’t want to see him!

But she couldn’t. As much as she couldn’t just flee. The car that had met her at the airport to deliver her here still had her luggage in its boot.

As she stood up reluctantly a memory assailed her with such force it almost knocked her sideways: Luca Fonseca in a bloodstained shirt, with a black eye and a split lip. Dark stubble shadowing his swollen jaw. He’d been behind the bars of a jail cell, leaning against a wall, brooding and dangerous. But then he’d looked up and narrowed that intensely dark blue gaze on her, and an expression of icy loathing had come over his face.

He’d straightened and moved to the bars, wrapping his fingers around them almost as if he was imagining they were her neck. Serena had stopped dead at the battered sight of him. He’d spat out, ‘Damn you, Serena DePiero, I wish I’d never laid eyes on you.’

‘Miss DePiero? Senhor Fonseca is waiting.’

The clipped and accented voice shattered Serena’s memory and she forced her feet to move, taking her past the unsmiling woman and into the palatial office beyond.

She hated that her heart was thumping so hard when she heard the door snick softly shut behind her. For the first few seconds she saw no one, because the entire back wall of the office was a massive window and it framed the most amazingly panoramic view of a city Serena had ever seen.

The Atlantic glinted dark blue in the distance, and inland from that were the two most iconic shapes of Rio de Janeiro: the Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer high on Corcovado. In between were countless other tall buildings, right up to the coast. To say that the view was breathtaking was an understatement.

And then suddenly it was eclipsed by the man who moved into her line of vision. Luca Fonseca. For a second past and present merged and Serena was back in that nightclub, seeing him for the first time.

He’d stood so tall and broad against the backdrop of that dark and opulent place. Still. She’d never seen anyone so still, yet with such a commanding presence. People had skirted around him. Men suspicious, envious. Women lustful.

In a dark suit and open-necked shirt he’d been dressed much the same as other men, but he’d stood out from them all by dint of that sheer preternatural stillness and the incredible forcefield of charismatic magnetism that had drawn her to him before she could stop herself.

Serena blinked. The dark and decadent club faded. She couldn’t breathe. The room was instantly stifling. Luca Fonseca looked different. It took her sluggish brain a second to function enough for her to realise that he looked different because his hair was longer, slightly unruly. And he had a dark beard that hugged his jaw. It made him look even more intensely masculine.

He was wearing a light-coloured open-necked shirt tucked into dark trousers. For all the world the urbane, civilised businessman in his domain, and yet the vibe coming from him was anything but civilised.

He crossed his arms over that massive chest and then he spoke. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing here, DePiero?’

Serena moved further into the vast office, even though it was in the opposite direction from where she wanted to go. She couldn’t take her eyes off him even if she wanted to.

She forced herself to speak, to act as if seeing him again wasn’t as shattering as it was. ‘I’m here to start working in the fundraising department for the global communities charity.’

‘Not any more, you’re not,’ Fonseca said tersely.

Serena flushed. ‘I didn’t know you were...involved until I was on my way over here.’

Fonseca made a small sound like a snort. ‘An unlikely tale.’

‘It’s true,’ Serena blurted out. ‘I had no idea the charity was linked to the Roseca Foundation. Believe me, if I’d had any idea I wouldn’t have agreed to come here.’

Luca Fonseca moved around the table and Serena’s eyes widened. For a big man, he moved with innate grace, and that incredible quality of self-containment oozed from every pore. It was intensely captivating.

He admitted with clear irritation, ‘I wasn’t aware that you were working in the Athens office. I don’t micro-manage my smaller charities abroad because I hire the best staff to do that for me—although I’m reconsidering my policy after this. If I’d known they’d hired you, of all people, you would have been let go long before now.’

His mouth twisted with recrimination.

‘But I have to admit that I was intrigued enough to have you brought here instead of just leaving you at the airport until we could put you on a return flight.’

So he hadn’t even known she was working for him. Serena’s hands curled into fists at her sides. His dismissive arrogance set her nerves even more on edge.

He glanced at a big platinum watch on his wrist. ‘I have a spare fifteen minutes before you are to be delivered back to the airport.’

Like an unwanted package. He was firing her.

He hitched a hip onto the corner of his desk, for all the world as if they were having a normal conversation amidst the waves of tension. ‘Well, DePiero? What the hell is Europe’s most debauched ex-socialite doing working for minimum wage in a small charity office in Athens?’

Only hours ago Serena had been buoyant at the thought of her new job. A chance to prove to her somewhat over-protective family that she was going to be fine. She’d been ecstatic at the thought of her independence. And now this man was going to ensure that everything she’d fought so hard for was for naught.

For years she had been the enfant terrible of the Italian party scene, frequently photographed, with reams of newsprint devoted to her numerous exploits which had been invariably blown out of proportion. Nevertheless, Serena knew well that there was enough truth behind the headlines to make her feel that ever-present prick of shame.

‘Look,’ she said, hating the way her voice had got husky with repressed emotion and shock at facing this blast from her past, ‘I know you must hate me.’

Luca Fonseca smiled. But his expression was hard. ‘Hate? Don’t flatter yourself, DePiero, hate is a very inadequate description of my feelings where you are concerned.’

Another poisonous memory assailed her: a battered Luca, handcuffed by Italian police, being dragged bodily to an already loaded-up van, snarling, ‘You set me up, you bitch!’ at Serena, who had been moments away from being handed into a police car herself, albeit minus the handcuffs.

They’d insisted on everyone being hauled in to the police station. He’d tried to jerk free of the burly police officers and that had earned him a thump to his belly, making him double over. Serena had been stupefied. Transfixed with shock.

He’d rasped out painfully, just before disappearing into the police van, ‘She planted the drugs on me to save herself.’

Serena tried to force the memories out of her head. ‘Mr Fonseca, I didn’t plant those drugs in your pockets... I don’t know who did, but it wasn’t me. I tried to contact you afterwards...but you’d left Italy.’

He made a sound of disgust. ‘Afterwards? You mean after you’d returned from your shopping spree in Paris? I saw the pictures. Avoiding being prosecuted for possession of drugs and continuing your hedonistic existence was all in a week’s work for you, wasn’t it?’

Serena couldn’t avoid the truth; no matter how innocent she was, this man had suffered because of their brief association. The lurid headlines were still clear in her mind: DePiero’s newest love interest? Brazilian billionaire Fonseca caught with drugs after raid on Florence’s most exclusive nightclub, Den of Eden.

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