Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin(3)

By: Sandra Marton


Cesare himself was seated behind his mahogany desk.

“Shut the door and wait outside,” he told Felipe, and motioned Rafe to a chair. “Raffaele.”

“Father.”

“You are well?”

“I am fine,” Rafe said coolly. “And you?”

Cesare seesawed his hand from side to side. “Cosi cosa. I am all right.”

Rafe raised his eyebrows. “Well, that’s a surprise.” He slapped his hands on his thighs and rose to his feet. “In that case, since you’re not at death’s door—”

“Sit down.”

Rafe’s dark blue eyes deepened in color until they were almost black.

“I am not Felipe. I am not your wife. I am not anyone who takes orders from you, Father. I have not done so for many years.”

“No. Not since the day you graduated from high school and told me you were going to a fancy university on a scholarship, and told me what I could do with your tuition money,” Cesare said blandly. “Did you think I had forgotten?”

“You have your dates wrong,” Rafe said, even more coldly. “I haven’t taken orders from you since I discovered how you earned your money.”

“So self-righteous,” Cesare mocked. “You think you know everything, my son, but I promise you, any man can step into the darkness of passion.”

“I don’t know what in hell you’re talking about and, frankly, I don’t care. Goodbye, Father. I’ll send Dante in.”

“Raffaele. Sit down. This will not take long.”

A muscle knotted in Rafe’s jaw. Hell, why not? he thought. Whatever his father wanted to tell him this time might be amusing. He sat, stretched out his long legs, crossed them at the ankles and folded his arms over his chest.

“Well?”

Cesare hesitated. It was remarkable to see; Rafe couldn’t recall ever seeing his father hesitant before.

“It is true,” his old man finally said. “I am not dying.”

Rafe snorted.

“What I wished to discuss with you that last time, I did not. I, ah, I was not prepared to do so, though I thought I was.”

“A mystery,” Rafe said, his tone making it clear that nothing his father could say would be of interest.

Cesare ignored the sarcasm. “As I said, I am not dying.” Another beat of hesitation. “But I will, someday. No one ever knows the exact moment but it is possible, as you know, that a man in my, ah, my profession can sometimes meet an unanticipated end.”

Another first. Cesare had never made even token acknowledgment of his ties before.

“Is this your not-so-subtle way of telling me something’s coming? That Mama, Anna and Isabella might be in danger?”

Cesare laughed. “You have seen one too many movies, Raffaele. No. Nothing is, as you put it, ‘coming.’ Even if it were, the code of our people forbids harming family members.”

“They are your people,” Rafe said sharply, “not ‘ours.’ And I am not impressed by honor among jackals.”

“When my time comes, your mother, your sisters, you and your brothers will all be well taken care of. I am a wealthy man.”

“I don’t want any of your money. Neither do my brothers. And we are more than capable of taking good care of Mama and our sisters.”

“Fine. Give the money away. It will be yours to do with as you wish.”

Rafe nodded. “Great.” He started to rise from his chair again. “I take it this conversation is—”

“Sit down,” Cesare said, and then added the one word Rafe had never heard from him. “Please.”

The head of the New York families sat forward. “I am not ashamed of the way I’ve lived,” he said softly. “But I have done some things that perhaps I should not have done. Do you believe in God, Raffaele? Never mind answering. For myself, I am not certain. But only a foolish man would ignore the possibility that the actions of his life may one day affect the disposition of his soul.”

Rafe’s lips twisted in a cool smile. “Too late to worry about that.”

“There are some things I did in my youth—” Cesare cleared his throat. “They were wrong. They were not done for the good of la famiglia but for me. They were selfish things and they have stained me.”

“And this has what to do with me?”

Cesare’s eyes met his son’s. “I am asking you to help me put one of them right.”

Rafe almost laughed. Of all the bizarre requests…

“I stole something of great value from a man who once helped me when no one else would,”

Cesare said gruffly. “I want to make amends.”

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