Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin(2)

By: Sandra Marton


“Look, I don’t want to listen to more endless speeches about where his banks are and what the combination is to his safe and the names of his lawyers and his accountants any more than you do. But could I tell that to Mama?”

Rafe’s scowl deepened. “All right. Eight o’clock. I’ll meet you guys there.”

“It’s just you and me, man. Nick’s leaving for London tonight, remember? Falco heads for Athens in the morning.”

“Terrific.”

There was a brief silence. Then Dante said, “So, it’s over with you and the Valkyrie?”

Rafe thought of saying everything from “No” to “What makes you think that?” Instead, he shrugged.

“She said it was time to reassess our relationship.”

Dante offered a succinct, one-word comment. It made Rafe laugh; he could almost feel his black mood slipping away.

“I’ve got a cure for Relationship Reassessment,” Dante said.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve got a date with that redhead in half an hour. Want me to call, see if she’s got a friend?”

“I’m off women for a while.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. Well, if you’re certain…”

“On the other hand, what is it they say about getting right back on a horse after you fall off?”

Dante laughed. “I’ll call you back in ten.”

Wrong. He called back in five. The redhead had a friend. And she’d be delighted to meet Rafe Orsini.

Well, hell, Rafe thought smugly as he hailed a cab, what woman wouldn’t?

He overslept the next morning, showered quickly, skipped shaving, pulled on a black cotton sweater, faded jeans and sneakers and got to his parents’ place before Dante.

Cesare and Sofia lived in a town house in Greenwich Village. Half a century ago, when Cesare had bought the house, the area had actually been part of Little Italy. Times had changed. The narrow streets had turned upscale and chic.

Cesare had changed, too. He’d gone from being a low-ranking mobster to being first a capo—the head of the syndicate—and then the boss. A don, though in Sicilian vernacular, the old Italian title of respect had a meaning all its own. Cesare owned a private sanitation company and half a dozen other legitimate businesses, but his true profession was one he would never confirm to his wife, his sons, his daughters.

Rafe went up the steps of the town house and rang the bell. He had a key but never used it. This place had not been his home for many years; he had not even thought of it as home long before he’d left it.

The house was enormous, especially by Manhattan standards. Cesare had used the increasingly large amounts of money brought in by his various enterprises to buy the houses on either side and convert the three buildings into one. Sofia presided over it all with no domestic help. A proper Sicilian housewife, she had always cooked and cleaned for her family. Rafe suspected it helped her cling to the fiction that her husband was just an everyday businessman.

Sofia greeted him as she always did, with a kiss on each cheek and a hug, as if she had not seen him in months instead of a couple of weeks. The she stepped back and gave him a critical look.

“You have not shaved this morning.”

To his chagrin, Rafe felt himself blush. “Sorry, Mama. I wanted to be sure I got here on time.”

“Sit,” she commanded, as she led him into the vast kitchen. “Have breakfast.”

The oak table was covered with bowls and platters. Telling her he’d already had the half grapefruit and black coffee that was his usual morning meal would have invited a lecture on nutrition, Orsini-style, so Rafe took a little of this, a little of that and put them on a plate. Dante sauntered in a couple of minutes later. Sofia kissed him, told him he needed a haircut and pointed him at the table.

“Mangia,” she commanded, and Dante, who took orders from no one, sheepishly complied.

The brothers were on their second espresso when Cesare’s capo, a man who had served him for years, appeared.

“Your father will see you now.”

The brothers put down their forks, patted their lips with their napkins and stood. Felipe shook his head.

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

Rafe and Dante looked at each other. “It’s the prerogative of popes and kings,” Rafe said with a tight smile, his words soft enough so they wouldn’t reach the ears of Sofia, who was stirring a pot of sauce at the stove.

Dante grinned. “Have fun.”

“Yeah. I’m sure it’ll be a blast.”

Cesare was in his study, a dark room made even darker by its overabundance of heavy furnishings, walls crowded with melancholy paintings of madonnas and saints and framed photographs of unknown relatives from the old country. Wine-colored drapes hung at the French doors and windows that overlooked the garden.

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