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The Italian's Inexperienced Mistress

By: Lynne Graham

Chapter 1

Angelo Ricardo climbed out of his limousine, a heavy-duty vehicle armored with reinforced panels and bulletproof glass, built to withstand a rocket attack. The heat outside was relentless. His sunglasses screening his hard dark gaze from the bright Venezuelan sunlight, he ignored the uneasy chatter of the English intermediary sent to greet him at the airport. While he understood the man’s tension he was also irritated by it.

Angelo had not experienced fear since childhood and the shame of it had been beaten out of him. He had known loathing, rage and bitterness, but fear no longer had the power to touch him. His relentless rise to power and influence had featured in hundreds of magazines and newspaper features, but his birth and parentage had always been shrouded in a haze of uncertainty. When he was eighteen he had been told the truth about his ancestry. Any idealistic notions he’d had had died that same day when his chosen career had become a complete impossibility. With every successive year that had passed since then he had grown tougher, colder and more ruthless. He had used his brilliant intellect and razor-sharp instincts to build a huge business empire. That he had not had to break the law to become a billionaire was a harsh source of pride to him.

‘There’s a colossal security presence here,’ his companion, Harding, muttered uneasily.

It was true, Angelo acknowledged. Armed guards were everywhere: on the rooftops of the ranch buildings, in every manicured clump of trees or bushes, their state of alert palpable. ‘It should make you feel safe,’ Angelo quipped.

‘I won’t feel safe until I’m back home again,’ Harding confided, mopping his round, perspiring face.

‘Perhaps this was not the job for you.’ He dealt Angelo a look of dismay. ‘Believe me, I meant no offence. I’m delighted to be of service.’ Angelo said nothing. He was surprised that such a man had been chosen to act as middleman in a secret meeting. But then, how many outwardly respectable men accepted the kind of undercover favours that forced them into uncomfortable repayments? He strode into the cool air-conditioned interior of the opulent ranch house where a lantern-jawed older man awaited him. Harding was dismissed like a lackey of no consequence, while Angelo was looked over and greeted with a level of respectful curiosity that bordered on awe.

‘It is a very great pleasure to meet you, Mr. Riccardi,’ the older man declared in Italian. ‘I’m Salvatore Lenzi. Don Carmelo is eager to see you.’ ‘How is he?’ The other man grimaced. ‘His condition is stable at present but it’s unlikely that he has more than a couple of months left.’ Lean, handsome features taut, Angelo nodded. He had thought long and hard before he had agreed to visit and the old man’s declining health had provided the spur.

The infamous Carmelo Zanetti, head of one of the most notorious crime families in the world, was a stranger to him. Yet Angelo had never been able to forget that the same blood that ran in Carmelo Zanetti’s veins ran in his own.

The elderly man lay propped up in a hospital-style bed surrounded by medical equipment. His face was lined with ill health. Breathing stentorously, he feasted his clouded dark gaze on Angelo and sighed. ‘I can’t tell you that you look like your mother because you don’t. Fiorella was tiny…’ Almost imperceptibly the inflexible cast of Angelo’s features softened, for his mother had shown him the only tenderness he had ever known.’Sì…’ ‘But you have the look of my father and your own. Your parents were the Romeo and Juliet of their generation,’ Don Carmelo recited with caustic humour. ‘A Sorello and a Zanetti, not a match made in heaven as far as either family was concerned and the bride and groom were at each other’s throats within weeks of the wedding.’ ‘Is that why my mother ended up scrubbing floors for a living?’ Angelo enquired smooth as glass.

The old man was unmoved by the reminder. ‘She ended up doing that because she deserted her husband and disowned her family. Who would credit that she was my favourite? It was once my pleasure to spoil her and indulge her every wish.’ ‘So, mymamma was a real Mafia princess?’ Angelo sliced in with sardonic bite, unimpressed by the misty fairy-tale aspect of that assurance.

‘Don’t mock what you don’t know about.’ Carmelo Zanetti sent him an impatient look. ‘Yourmamma had the whole world at her feet. And what did she do? She turned her back on all that education and fine breeding and married your father.

Compared to us, the Sorellos werecafoni …uncouth people. Gino Sorello was a handsome hothead always looking for a fight. She couldn’t handle him or his extra-marital activities.’ ‘How did you deal with the situation?’ Angelo was impatient to have the facts that had so far evaded his every attempt to discover them.

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