Dante Claiming His Secret Love-Child(5)

By: Sandra Marton



“Whatever. The point is, I am busy. I have no time to stomp around in cow manure just so you can assuage a guilty conscience.”

“This is a far simpler thing than I asked of your brother.”

“Yeah, well, whatever you asked him, I’ll bet he told you what I’m going to tell you.” Dante shot to his feet. “You can take your so-called conscience and—”

“Have you ever been to Brazil, Dante? Do you know anything about it?”

Dante’s jaw tightened. The only thing he knew about Brazil was that it was Gabriella Reyes’s birthplace, and what the hell did she have to do with anything?

“I’ve been to Sao Paulo,” he said coldly. “On business.”

“Business. For that company of yours.”

“It’s called Orsini Investments,” Dante said, even more coldly.

“It is said you are excellent at negotiating.”

“So?”

His father shrugged. “Why ask a stranger for help when one’s own son is considered the best?”

A compliment? Pure bull, sure, but, dammit, it hit its mark. Why not admit that?

“Well,” Cesare said, on a dramatic sigh, “if you will not do this thing…”

Dante looked at his father. “I can only spare a couple of days.”

His father smiled. “That will surely be enough. And, who knows? You might even learn something new.”

“About?”

Cesare smiled again. “About negotiating, mio figlio. About negotiating.”

A world away, more than five thousand miles southwest of New York, Gabriella Reyes sat on the veranda of the big house in which she’d grown up.

Back then the house, the veranda, the fazenda itself had been magnificent.

Not anymore. Everything was different now.

So was she.

As a child on this ranch, she’d been scrawny, all legs and pigtails. Shy to the point of being tongue-tied. Her father had hated that about her; the truth was, she couldn’t think of anything about herself that he hadn’t hated.

This place, the verandah, had been her sanctuary. Hers and her brother’s. Arturo had been even less favored by their father than she had been.

Arturo had left the ranch the day he turned eighteen. She had missed him terribly but she’d understood, he’d had to leave this place to survive.

At eighteen, Gabriella had suddenly blossomed. The ugly ducking had become a swan. She hadn’t seen it but others did, including a North American who had seen her on a street in Bonito, doubled back and handed her his business card. A week later she’d flown to New York and landed her first modeling assignment. She’d loved her work…

And she’d met a man.

She’d been happy, at least for a little while.

Now, she was back at Viera y Filho. Her father was dead. So was her brother. The man was gone from her life. She was alone in this sad, silent house, but then, one way or another, she had always been alone.

Even when she had been Dante Orsini’s lover.

Perhaps never as much as when she had been Dante’s lover, if she had ever really been that. She had warmed his bed but not his heart, and why was she wasting time thinking of him? There was no point in it, no reason, no logic—

“Senhorita?”

Gabriella looked up into the worried face of the ama who had all but raised her. “Sim, Yara?”

“Ele chama lhe.”

Gabriella shot to her feet and hurried into the house. He was calling for her! How could she have forgotten, even for a moment?

She was not alone. Not anymore.





CHAPTER TWO




HE FLEW to Brazil by commercial jet. Falco was using the Orsini plane.

Based on the way they were dressed, he figured that most of the other passengers in the first-class cabin were going to Campo Grande on vacation. The city was near something called the Pantanal. His travel agent had started gushing about the area’s trails, the canoeing, the amazing variety of wildlife.

Dante had cut her short.

“Just book me into a decent hotel and arrange for a rental car,” he’d said curtly.

He was most assuredly not heading to South America for pleasure.

This was strictly business. His father’s business, and that he’d let Cesare push the right buttons ticked him off no end.

“Mr. Orsini,” the flight attendant said pleasantly, “may I get you something?”

Somebody to examine my head, Dante thought grimly.

“Sir? Something to drink?”

He asked for red wine; she launched into a listing of the choices available and he stopped himself from snarling at her the way he’d snarled at the travel agent.

“Your choice,” he said, before she could ask him anything else.

Then he opened his briefcase and read through the papers his father had given him.

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