Dante Claiming His Secret Love-Child(6)

By: Sandra Marton



They didn’t tell him very much that he didn’t already know. The Viera ranch ran thousands of head of cattle as well as a relatively small number of horses. It had been owned by the same family for generations.

A vellum business card bore the name, phone number and address of Juan Viera’s lawyer. A note in Cesare’s handwriting was scrawled on the back:

“Deal through him, not through the Vieras.”

Fine.

He’d call the man first thing, maybe even tonight. Brazilians kept late hours; the times he’d been in Sao Paulo on business, dinner never started much before 10 p.m. Whenever he called the lawyer, he would request an immediate meeting. He’d explain the purpose of his visit and make an offer for the ranch.

How long could that take? Maybe not even the two days he’d allocated for it.

He felt his mood lighten. With luck, he might be heading back to New York in no time.

It was midevening when he stepped off the plane.

Thanks to the time change, he’d lost two hours. Too late to phone Viera’s attorney and maybe that was just as well. All he wanted to do after the seemingly endless flight was pick up a car, get to his hotel, shower and eat something prepared by a human being instead of an airline catering service’s assembly line.

The hotel, in the town of Bonito, maybe twenty minutes from the Campo Grande Airport, met the requirements he’d laid out to his travel agent. It was comfortable and quiet, as was his suite.

He showered, changed into a pale blue cotton shirt and faded jeans. Room service sent up a rare steak, green salad and a pot of coffee, and Dante settled down to leaf through the documents again.

Maybe he’d missed something the first time.

Ten minutes later he tossed the papers aside. No. He hadn’t missed anything. What he’d hoped to see was something about the filho of Viera y Filho. Why Cesare was so convinced that the son’s stewardship would lead to disaster. A hint as to why his father should give a damn.

But there was nothing.

Dante took a bottle of beer from the minibar, opened it and stepped onto a small balcony that overlooked a moonlit pool. He was exhausted but he knew he wouldn’t sleep. The long flight, the time change, the fact that he was still angry at being here…

If a man carved time out of a busy week to fly more than 5,000 miles, it should be for a better reason than running an errand he didn’t understand for a father he didn’t respect.

Like conducting business for Orsini Brothers. Or kicking back and enjoying a vacation.

Or locating Gabriella.

Dante scowled, lifted the bottle of beer and took a long swallow.

Where had that come from? Why would he want to locate her? For starters, Brazil was an enormous country. He had no idea what part she was from, no certainty she’d returned there.

Rafe’s girlfriend, Miss Germany 2000-something-or-other, Rafe’s former girlfriend, a model the same as Gabriella, had once said that was what she’d heard.

Not that he’d asked, Dante thought quickly.

He’d just sort of wondered, out loud, if Rafe’s ex had known her.

Dammit, why was he even thinking about Gabriella? The affair had been fun while it lasted. A couple of months, that was all, and then she’d slipped out of his life or maybe he’d slipped out of hers….

Okay. So it hadn’t been quite like that.

He’d gone away on business, a trip Nick was supposed to make but Nick had had other things going on and Dante had offered to go in his place.

“You sure?” Nick had said. “Because I can just postpone this for a week…”

“No,” Dante had said, “no, that’s fine. I can use a break in routine.”

So he’d flown to Rome or maybe it was Paris, and he hadn’t said anything about leaving to Gabriella because why would he? They were dating, that was all. Dating exclusively because that was how he did things, one woman at a time while it lasted, but dating was all it was.

While he was away it had hit him that the thing with Gabriella had pretty much run its course.

He’d gone to Tiffany’s as soon as he got back, bought a pair of diamond earrings, phoned her, arranged to meet her at Perse for dinner.

He’d been uncommonly nervous through the meal. Ridiculous, when he’d been through moments like this many times before. Finally, over coffee, he’d taken her hand.

“Gabriella. I have something to tell you.”

“And I…I have something to tell you, too.”

Her voice had been a whisper. Her cheeks had been flushed. Hell. She was going to tell him she’d fallen in love with him. He’d lived this scene before; he knew the warning signs. So he’d moved fast, put the little box that held the earrings on the table between them and said, quickly, how fond he was of her but how busy things had suddenly become at work, how he wished her the best of luck and if she ever needed him for anything…

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