Cinderella In The Sicilian's WorldBy: Sharon Kendrick
SALVATORE DI LUCA stared out at the bright blue Sicilian sea and felt his heart twist with something he had spent years trying to avoid. With pain. With regret. And with a bitter awareness that he had never really loved this beautiful island as much as he should have done. But how could he love it when it was bound up with so many bitter memories of the past? A past he had tried many times to escape, sometimes with more success than others.
Because wherever he went, he always took the past with him.
On this island he had possessed nothing and had known hunger. Real hunger. His clothes had been ragged and—when he hadn’t been running through the streets barefoot—his shoes second-hand. It had been a long time since he’d known hunger like that. A long time since he’d wanted for anything. These days he had everything which had once been his heart’s desire. There were properties around the world in addition to his San Franciscan home—a vineyard in Tuscany, a castle in Spain, and, up until very recently, a pied-à-terre in Paris. He had planes and cars and an Icelandic river in which to fish, whenever the whim took him. His property business had long been in the ascendancy and these days he channelled his profits into his charitable foundation, which reached out to children the world over. Dispossessed children. Children who had never been loved. Children just like him.
And there were women. Plenty of those. Beautiful, sophisticated, elegant women. He dated lawyers and bankers. Heiresses and scientists. He was highly sought after as a partner—his skill as a lover, his quick mind and vast personal wealth made sure of that. The only thing he couldn’t provide was love, because that had been removed from his heart a long time ago and that was what inevitably proved to be the death-knell on any relationship, for women craved love even when they had been warned it was never going to be on the cards.
In theory, he should have been perfectly content. Didn’t his friends—and his enemies—think he’d forged for himself the perfect life? And didn’t he allow them to carry on believing that? But occasionally he became aware of an aching emptiness deep at the very core of him, rumbling away in the background, like an incipient thunderstorm on the dark horizon. Sometimes he didn’t think that ache would ever leave him and sometimes he told himself it was better that way.
Because the memories which provoked that pain made him certain of what he did want, but equally important—what he didn’t. And if that knowledge had turned him into someone who was perceived as cold and unfeeling, then so be it. Let people think what they wanted.
It was time to embrace his freedom and drink a toast to it.
Turning away from the blinding glare of the ocean, Salvatore lifted his hand, and summoned over the waiter who had been hovering within his eyeline for the last half-hour.
The funeral was over and the inevitable introspection which followed such an event was also over. It was time to move on.
‘WHAT THE HELL do you think you’re doing, Nicolina?’
The words sounded sharp. Sharp as the tip of a needle or the sting of a bee. Lina’s throat tightened as she pulled the thin cotton blouse over her head and turned to meet the accusing gaze of the woman who had just entered her bedroom. Not for the first time, she wished her mother would knock before she came barging in, but she guessed that would be like wishing for the stars.
‘I thought I’d go for a drive,’ she said, winding a scrunchie around her thick hair, even though trying to get her black curls to obey her was a daily battle.
‘Dressed like that?’
The word was delivered viciously and Lina wondered what had caused this reaction, because no way could her outfit have offended her mother’s overdeveloped sense of decency. ‘Like what?’ she questioned, genuinely confused.
Her mother’s look of contempt was moving from the modest shirt, down to the perfectly decent pair of handmade denim culottes, which Lina had run up on her old sewing machine only last week, from some leftover fabric she’d managed to find lying around the workshop. According to the pages of one of the online fashion journals, which she devoured whenever she got the chance, they could have done with being at least five inches shorter, but what would have been the point in showing too much flesh? Why make unnecessary waves and have to listen to a constant background noise of criticism, when she spent most of her time trying to block it out?
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