One Night to Wedding Vows (Wedlocked!)(2)

By: Kim Lawrence


Raoul pulled his drifting thoughts back to the present, his mouth a hard line as his heavy-lidded, cynical stare drifted to the glass he lifted in a silent salute: absent friends! As the years went on, the pillow had given way to brandy. Or maybe he had simply lost the ability to cry altogether. Maybe he’d lost the ability to feel as normal people did.

Tears would not bring his brother back. Jamie was gone.

He lowered his gaze, his chest lifting as the dark mesh of his lashes shut out the grief. He refused to acknowledge the buffeting of a fresh wave of despair that no amount of brandy could numb.

‘You were missed at the wake.’ Sergio tilted his head to the spinning roulette wheel. ‘So, you have decided to follow in your father’s footsteps?’

With a jerk Raoul’s head came up. ‘It is always an option, I suppose,’ he drawled. ‘And you know what they say...an addictive personality is hereditary.’

Sergio responded to the remark with one of his inimitable shrugs. ‘I considered the possibility.’

The frank admission wrenched a hard, cracked laugh from Raoul’s throat. ‘Of course you did.’

‘No, you both escaped the taint but you are an adrenaline junkie, just like Ja—’ The old man stopped and swallowed hard several times before continuing. ‘Your brother always said that— He... Jam...’

Unable to watch his grandfather struggle for control, Raoul cut across him, throwing out harshly, ‘That if I didn’t kill myself climbing it would be behind the wheel of one of my cars.’

For a moment his brother’s voice sounded so real that he almost turned expecting to see the familiar smiling face—you’re an adrenaline junkie, little brother, and one of these days you’ll kill yourself... The irony was like a punch to the gut.

But Jamie had been the one to die young, not because he had taken a corner too fast but because life was just not fair.

Raoul took a deep swallow of the brandy swirling in his glass as anger circled in his head. It took a few jaw-clenching seconds before he trusted his voice to continue.

‘I never expected to see you slumming it in a place like this, but I have to admit you do know how to make an entrance.’ It was true. Even in his eighties Sergio Di Vittorio made an imposing figure, dressed as always in black, the abundant silver-streaked, collar-length hair catching the light cast by the glittering chandeliers overhead.

If his emotions hadn’t flatlined he might be curious about why his grandfather was here but Raoul continued to feel nothing. He took a swallow of brandy and checked—yes, nothing.

This lying to himself was actually something he might be quite good at.

‘People were asking after you.’

Raoul tipped his head down. Sergio was a tall man, six feet, deep chested and broad of shoulder, but Raoul had been four inches taller than his grandfather since he was fifteen. It still felt somehow not quite right, almost disrespectful, to look down on him.

‘Good party, was it?’ He slumped back against the column, the lazy posture giving him less height advantage. He raised his glass to his lips, the gesture going some way to hiding his expression as he thought, When did you get so damned old?

There was nothing like a funeral to make a person aware of their own mortality and that of those they loved...precious few of whom were left.

He pushed away the dark thought and took another slug of the brandy. It slid down his throat, settling in his stomach with a warmth that did nothing to alleviate the coldness that permeated his entire body, a coldness that had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.

Sergio impatiently waved away a suited figure who started to approach, and his bodyguard made sure no more attempts were made.

‘We need to talk.’

Raoul had never reacted well to orders. But this was his grandfather so he ignored how the command chafed, allowing his attention to be drawn by the cry of the middle-aged guy at the roulette wheel. It was hard to tell if it was jubilance or misery, but the distraction had served its purpose.

‘Raoul...!’

Raoul gave himself a mental shake and turned back to his grandfather. ‘We are talking.’

Sergio’s lips thinned in predictable annoyance. ‘In private.’ He made a sharp stabbing gesture with his leonine head indicating that Raoul should follow and walked off.

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