‘There is something I need from you,’ Raul said. ‘I would have preferred not to just land on you, but you refused to take my calls.’
Bastiano didn’t say anything, but Raul saw the smile of triumph that he attempted to contain. Of course he would not take Raul’s calls—he would far prefer to witness him beg.
‘I didn’t return your calls because I don’t think I can help you, Raul,’ Bastiano answered, and his manicured hand gestured to some papers on the desk before him. ‘Alim said you have been trying to reach him. I know how badly you wanted the hotel, but a deal has been reached—the contracts are awaiting my signature.’
Bastiano thought he was here about the Grande Lucia, Raul realised.
But then why wouldn’t he think that?
A few weeks ago that had been all that had mattered to Raul—acquisitions, pipping Bastiano to the post and amassing the biggest fortune.
‘I’m not here about the hotel,’ Raul said, and he watched as Bastiano’s contained features briefly showed his confusion.
But he righted himself quickly.
‘So what is it that you want?’
‘You were considering investing in a property in the UK.’ Raul attempted to be vague, but it did not work.
‘I have many investments there.’
‘It was a castle.’
Raul knew the exact second that Bastiano understood the reason for his visit, for now he made no effort to contain his black smile as he spoke. ‘I don’t recall.’
‘Of course you do.’ Raul refused to play games. ‘If you could give me the details I would be grateful.’
‘I don’t require your gratitude, though.’
He had been mad to come, Raul realised.
But then mad was how he had been of late.
And now he sat in front of his nemesis, asking him for help.
Worse, though, there were other questions he wanted to ask him. Bastiano held some of the keys to his past.
A past Raul did not want to examine.
Yes, this was madness, Raul decided.
He stood to leave and did not even bother making the right noises, for there was nothing even to pretend to thank Bastiano for.
But as he reached the door Bastiano’s voice halted him.
‘There is something I want.’
Raul did not turn around and Bastiano continued.
‘If you return the ring I’ll give you the information.’
Still Raul did not turn around, though he halted. He actually fought not to lean on the door, for he felt as if the air had been sucked out of the room. He was back in the courtroom, staring at that emerald and seed pearl ring and wondering from where it had come.
Gino had given his mother nothing other than a thin gold band that might just as well have been a ball and chain, for in Maria’s eyes it had held her to him for life...
She had been unfaithful, after all.
Then Bastiano spoke. ‘I gave it to your mother the week before she died. It belongs in my family...’
‘Why did you give her the ring?’ Raul turned.
‘She said that she wanted to leave Casta and be with me. The ring secured our plans.’
‘You expect me to believe that you two were in love?’ Raul sneered.
‘I thought so for a while.’ Bastiano shrugged. ‘It was really just sex.’
Raul was across the room in an instant, and he reached out to upend the table just to get to Bastiano, but somehow the bastard had him halting, for he held out a pen as if it were a knife.
‘I want my ring,’ Bastiano said.
And the pen in his hand was the only thing preventing Raul from slamming him against the stone wall and exacting his final revenge.
‘You’ll get it.’
Bastiano wrote down the details, but, as he did, he said something that a few years ago would have had Raul reaching again for his throat.
Now it made Raul feel sick.
‘Don’t make her a saint, Raul,’ Bastiano said. ‘She was far from that.’
Raul felt as if his head was exploding as he walked out.
The helicopter’s rotors started at the pilot’s sight of him and Raul ran across the ground.
It took minutes.
And he was standing at his mother’s grave.
It should feel peaceful—there was just the sound of birds and the buzzing of his phone—but the roar in his ears remained.
It had never left.
Or rather it had dimmed in the brief time he and Lydia had shared.
Now he turned off his phone, and it felt as if even the birds were silent as he faced the truth.
Bastiano had not been the first affair.
He had been the last.
And there had been many.
Raul had been taught to lie—not just to save himself but to cover for his mother.
He looked back to the convent and remembered her tears when it had closed and her misery. Then he recalled her being more cheerful, when her mood would lift for a while. And while it would make most children happy to see their mother smile, Raul had known that if he were to keep her safe, then the lies had to start again.