Dante Claiming His Secret Love-Child(3)

By: Sandra Marton


The message she delivered from his father did.

“Dante, mio figlio, Papa wishes you and Raffaele to come for breakfast tomorrow.”

He knew what that meant. His father was in a strange mood lately, talking of age and death as if the grim reaper was knocking at the door. This would be another endless litany about attorneys and accountants and bank vaults…as if his sons would touch a dollar of his after he was gone.

His mother knew how he felt. How all her sons felt. Only she and their sisters, Anna and Isabella, persisted in believing the fiction that the old man was a legitimate businessman instead of the don he was.

“Dante?” Sofia’s tone lightened. “I will make you that pesto frittata you adore. Si?”

Dante rolled his eyes. He despised the sight, the smell, the taste of pesto but how could a man ever say such a thing to his mother without hurting her feelings? Which, he thought grimly, was exactly why Cesare sent these invitations through his wife.

So he sighed and said yes, sure, he’d be there.

“With Raffaele. Eight o’clock. You will call him, si?”

That, at least, made him grin. “Absolutely, Mama. I know Rafe will be delighted.”

All of which was why Sunday morning, when the rest of Manhattan was undoubtedly still asleep, Dante sauntered into the Orsini town house in what had once been Little Italy but was now an increasingly fashionable part of Greenwich Village.

Rafe had arrived before him.

Sofia had already seated him at the big kitchen table where they’d had so many meals a famiglia.

The table groaned under the weight of endless platters of food, and Rafe, looking not too bad for a man who’d spent last night partying with Dante, the redhead and a blonde Red had come up with after Dante had called and told her his brother needed something to cheer him up—considering all that, Rafe looked pretty good.

Rafe looked up, met Dante’s eyes and grunted something Dante figured was “good morning.”

Dante grunted back.

He’d danced the night away with Red, first at a club in the meatpacking district, then in her bed.

It had been a long night, a great night, lots of laughter, lots of sex…lots and lots of sex during which his body had done its thing but his head had been elsewhere. He’d awakened in his own bed—he made it a point never to spend the night in a woman’s bed—with a headache, a bad attitude and no desire whatsoever for conversation or his old man.

Or for the frittata his mother placed in front of him.

“Mangia,” she said.

It was an order, not a suggestion. He shuddered slightly—food was not supposed to be green—and picked up his fork.

The brothers were on their second cups of espresso when Cesare’s capo, Felipe, stepped into the room.

“Your father will see you now.”

Dante and Rafe rose to their feet. Felipe shook his head.

“No, not together. One at a time. Raffaele, you are first.”

Rafe smiled tightly and muttered something about the privileges of popes and kings. Dante grinned and told him to have fun.

When he looked back at his plate, there was another frittata on it.

He ate it, got it down with another cup of coffee, then fended off his mother’s offerings. Some cheese? Some biscotti? She had that round wheel of bread he liked, from Celini’s.

Dante assured her he was not hungry, surreptitiously checked his watch and grew more and more annoyed. After forty minutes he shoved back his chair and got to his feet.

“Mama, I’m afraid I have things to do. Please tell my father that—”

The capo appeared in the doorway. “Your father will see you now.”

“So well trained,” Dante said pleasantly. “Just like a nice little lap dog.”

His father’s second in command said nothing, but the look in his eyes was easy to read. Dante showed his teeth in a grin.

“Same to you, too, pal,” he said as he pushed past him to the old man’s study.

The room was just the way it had always been. Big. Dark. Furnished in impeccably poor taste with paintings of saints and madonnas and God-only-knew-who on the walls. Heavy drapes were pulled across the French doors and windows that led to the garden.

Cesare, seated in a thronelike chair behind his mahogany desk, gestured for Felipe to leave them.

“And close the door,” he said, his voice hoarsened by decades’ worth of cigars.

Dante sat in a chair across from his father, long legs extended and crossed at the ankles, arms folded. He had dressed in a long-sleeved navy sweater and faded jeans; on his feet were scuffed, well-worn sneakers. His father had never approved of such clothes—one reason, of course, that Dante did.

“Dante.”

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