Cinderella In The Sicilian's World(2)

By: Sharon Kendrick


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.



CHAPTER ONE

‘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?

‘You are supposed to be in mourning!’

Lina felt the urge to protest that the elderly man who had recently died was someone she’d never even met and whose funeral she had only attended because that was what people did in this tiny Sicilian village where she’d lived all her life. But she resisted the desire to say so because she didn’t want a row. Not when she was feeling so flat and so vulnerable, for reasons she didn’t dare analyse.

‘The funeral is over, Mama,’ she said quietly. ‘And even the chief mourner has left.’ For hadn’t Salvatore di Luca—the billionaire godson of the recently deceased—purred away in his car that very morning, leaving Lina staring glumly as the shiny limousine retreated down the mountainside, knowing she would never see him again? And wondering why that should bother her so much.

You know why. Because whenever he looked at you he made you feel alive. Because that was his skill. His special ability. To make women melt whenever he flicked that hooded blue gaze over them.

His occasional visits to her village had been something to look forward to. Like Christmas, or birthdays. Something shining bright in the future, which she would never see again. And somehow that left her feeling like a balloon which had just been popped.

‘Salvatore di Luca!’ Her mother’s voice broke into her thoughts as she spat out his name, with even more contempt than she had displayed towards Lina’s outfit. ‘In the old days he would have stayed for at least a week to pay his respects to the community. But I suppose his fame and fortune are more important than the Sicilian roots he has turned his back on in favour of his new and fancy American life!’