Dante Claiming His Secret Love-Child(4)

By: Sandra Marton


“Father.”

“Thank you for coming.”

“You summoned me. What do you want?”

Cesare sighed, shook his head and folded his perfectly manicured hands on the desk.

“‘How are you feeling, Father? What is new in your life, Father? Have you done anything interesting lately?’” His bushy eyebrows rose. “Are you incapable of making polite conversation?”

“I know how you’re feeling. Hale and hearty, despite your conviction you’re approaching death’s door, just as I know whatever might be new in your life is best left unmentioned.” Dante smiled coldly. “And if you’ve done anything interesting lately, perhaps you should entertain the Feds by telling it to them, not to me.”

Cesare chuckled. “You have a good sense of humor, my son.”

“But not much tolerance for BS so let’s get to it. What do you want? Is this another session of ‘I am dying and you must know certain things’? Because if it is—”

“It isn’t.”

“Straight and to the point.” Dante nodded. “I’m impressed. As impressed as I can ever be, by the likes of you.”

Cesare flushed. “Insults from two sons, all in one morning. It is I who am impressed.”

Dante grinned. “I gather your conversation with Rafe was so pleasant he decided to leave through the garden rather than spend an extra minute under your roof.”

“Dante. Do you think you might grant me time to speak?”

Well, well. A new approach. No barking. No commands. Instead, a tone that bordered on civility.

Not that it changed anything, but Dante was, he had to admit, curious.

“Sure,” he said politely, checked his watch then met the old man’s eyes. “How’s five minutes sound?”

A muscle knotted in Cesare’s jaw but he kept silent, opened a desk drawer, took out a manila folder and slid it toward his son.

“You are a successful investor, are you not, mio figlio? Take a look and tell me what you think.”

Damn, another surprise. That was as close as his father had ever come to giving him a compliment. Clever, too. The old man surely knew he couldn’t resist opening the folder after that.

The sheaf of papers inside was thick. The top sheet, labeled Overview surprised him.

“This is about a ranch,” he said, glancing up.

“Not just a ranch, Dante. It is about Viera y Filho. Viera and Son. The name of an enormous fazenda in Brazil.”

Dante’s eyes narrowed. “Brazil?”

“Si.” His father’s mouth twitched. “You have heard of the place, I assume?”

“Very amusing.”

“The ranch covers tens of thousands of acres.”

“And?”

“And,” Cesare said with a casual shrug, “I wish to purchase it.”

Dante stared at his father. Cesare owned a sanitation company. A construction company. Real estate. But a ranch?

“What the hell for?”

“It is, according to those documents, a good investment.”

“So is the Empire State Building.”

“I know the owner,” Cesare said, ignoring the remark. “Juan Viera. Well, I did, years ago. We, ah, we had some business dealings together.”

Dante laughed. “I’ll bet.”

“He came to me for a loan. I turned him down.”

“So?”

“So, he is ill. And I feel guilty. I should have—” Cesare’s eyes went flat. “You find this amusing?”

“You? Feeling guilt? Come on, Father. This is me, not Isabella or Anna. You don’t know the meaning of the word.”

“Viera is dying. His only son, Arturo, will inherit the property. The boy is unfit. The ranch has been in the Viera family for two centuries, but Arturo will lose it, one way or another, before Viera is cold in the ground.”

“Let me get this straight. You expect me to believe your motives are purely altruistic? That you want to buy this ranch to save it?”

“I know you do not think highly of me—”

Dante laughed.

“Perhaps I have done some things I regret. Don’t look so shocked, mio figlio. A man nearing the end of his life is entitled to begin thinking about the disposition of his immortal soul.”

Dante put the folder on the desk. This was turning into one hell of a strange day.

“I ask only that you fly to Brazil, look things over and, if you deem it appropriate, make an offer on the ranch.”

“The market’s going to hell in a hand basket and you expect me to set aside my work, fly to South America and make an enemy of yours an offer he cannot refuse?”

“Very amusing. And very incorrect. Viera is not my enemy.”

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