The Billionaire’s Betrayal ~ Book 3
As heir of Dei Fiori Enterprises, Matteo De Luca‘s single focus after his father’s untimely death is rebuilding his family legacy and hotel empire. After two years, he’s close to achieving his goal, but there’s one person standing in his way… A sexy distraction he’d never anticipated.
Two years after her beloved husband’s death, Helena Von Lienz knows it’s finally time to let go. With her share of a hotel business, Helena heads to the Amalfi Coast in search of closure. What she doesn’t anticipate to discover during those hot Amalfi nights are some unexpected truths about her late hubby, and a strong sensual shared desire with Matteo, the sexy and ambitious CEO of Dei Fiori…
Will mixing business with pleasure be the end, or just the beginning, for Matteo and Helena?
“Your husband was a good man, Baroness. I’m sorry for your loss.” A good man. Was he? Helena Von Lienz smiled politely and bit the insides of her cheeks to keep from asking the stranger the question that had been burning in her gut since her late husband, Anton Von Lienz, died in the fiery crash off the Amalfi Coast highway six months ago with Enzo De Luca, patriarch of the esteemed De Luca family. But the well-wisher had already moved along the impromptu receiving line to speak to Matteo De Luca, oldest son of Enzo, who stood next Lena. Another unknown person stepped up to gush similar empty sentiments. Matteo had assured her only family would attend the memorial service to scatter Anton’s and Enzo’s ashes. She certainly hadn’t counted on each and every person queuing up to express their condolences. But somehow, after the memorial, she and Matteo had found themselves wedged into a corner of the terrace under a fruit-bearing lemon tree that was next to an obnoxiously lush bougainvillea. She was numb with grief, so fresh it felt as if the accident had happened yesterday rather than nearly half a year ago. In some ways, it seemed as if Anton had been gone for a long time. In other ways, it seemed as if it was just yesterday. Due to the nature of the accident – the car plunging off the cliff – the Italian police had investigated. It had taken time. So only now were they here, scattering the ashes, saying their goodbyes. Lena glanced down the seemingly endless line of well-wishers. It snaked around the lavish infinity pool that blended into the Mediterranean from its perch high atop the upper patio of the De Luca family’s compound on the aptly named crescent-shaped island of Isola della Luna. Obviously, the meaning of family was relative to the De Luca clan. Their nuclear family included the five De Luca brothers, Matteo, Rocco, Nico, Marco and Alessandro. When she factored in other blood relations such as their nona, various uncles and cousins – and who could forget Prince Santino III, the reigning monarch of Isola del Sole – he was related to them somehow, but Lena couldn’t remember exactly – the guest list became unmanageable. When the honorary family was added in – heaven forbid they left out anyone – it was downright ridiculous. Judging by the crowd, Lena wondered if there was a single soul left on the big island, Isola del Sole. But her shoes pinched and her face hurt from forced cordiality, which didn’t match how she felt inside. Inside, she was just numb. All she wanted was to excuse herself and disappear from this infernal ring of hell that had ripped wide open the wounds she’d worked so hard to heal. When Matteo had called her about plans for the joint memorial service, Lena had almost declined. Standing here now, she wished she had opted for something more private, because returning to the place where her husband had lost his life was a lot more difficult than she expected for so many different reasons. But the stark reality remained—scattering Anton’s ashes by herself hadn’t felt right either. Since Anton didn’t have family, except for three ex-wives who had come before Lena and couldn’t be bothered to attend the service, it seemed as if the De Lucas were the closest thing to relatives Anton had. He’d certainly spent enough time at the family’s private compound. In the fourteen years that Lena had been married to Anton, she’d never been invited. Until now. Her heart was heavy. But when Matteo had said, “The famiglia needs closure. Enzo’s and Anton’s friends need closure. I’m sure you do, too,” she’d agreed to leave Miami and make the trek back to the Amalfi coast she where she’d vowed she’d never return. Famous last words. When she set aside her pride, she had to admit there probably wasn’t a better final resting place for her late husband. Now that she was here, she wished she could find the peace of mind and heart that Matteo claimed would come through a simple ceremony where people told heartwarming and sometimes bawdy stories about the men. She’d declined when they’d asked if she wanted to say a few words about Anton. Because the only thing she wanted to say as she stood there in the blistering August heat with the sun beating down on her was, “Can anyone please tell me why my husband and Enzo were with two women half their age the night they died?” “Are you okay?” Matteo’s hand was on the small of her back as he leaned down and whispered the words into her ear. She was five-ten in her stocking feet, and her Louboutins lifted her over the six-foot mark, but Matteo still had a good three inches on her. As Lena stared up into his espresso brown eyes, she thought she glimpsed genuine concern. “It’s a little warm out here,” she answered. “And I’m exhausted.” Matteo nodded. With a flick of his hand, he motioned to a middle-aged man in a gray suit who had been standing back from the fray. The man came over and Matteo said something to him that Lena didn’t hear. The next thing she knew, Gray Suit was informing the well-wishers that while the Baroness and Matteo De Luca appreciated their support, Matteo and Helena needed to leave. She hated it when people called her the Baroness. Even if it was out of respect, it made her feel ancient. “Please stay as long as you’d like,” Gray Suit said to the crowd. “Enjoy the refreshments that are set up on the lower-level terrace.” Gray Suit motioned toward a stone pathway that would take the extended family and guests away from the area where the ceremony had been and down to a lavish spread of food and drink. Before Lena could see if everyone followed instructions, Matteo slipped an arm around her waist and guided her toward the side door of the pool house. The cabana – if she could call it that – was larger than the apartments she and her mother had lived in when Lena was growing up and it had been just the two of them. “Better?” Matteo asked once they were behind closed doors and in the glorious air conditioning. “Yes, thank you,” she said. “But we didn’t have to leave the reception. Or you didn’t have to leave, anyway. I hate to pull you away.” “At the rate things were going we would’ve been cornered for hours,” Matteo said, his Italian accent coloring the words. “I was getting a little weary myself.” She doubted that, but he was a gentleman to make her feel comfortable. “Thank you for everything, Matteo. It was a lovely service and a nice turnout. I’m sure Anton and Enzo would’ve deeply appreciated it. But I need to leave.” Now she needed some time alone to process the day’s events and prepare for her trip home tomorrow. “Baroness, wouldn’t you like to rest for a while before we go back to del Sole?” he asked. “I can arrange to have some refreshment brought up.” She shook her head. “No, thank you, and please call me Helena, Matteo. When someone calls me Baroness it makes me feel about a hundred years old.” “But it’s your title.” “It was my husband’s title. For me it’s just a courtesy. The greater courtesy would be to call me by my first name. Or Lena. That’s what my friends call me.” She and Matteo weren’t that far apart in age. With Anton there had been a twenty-five year age difference. She’d met her late husband on her first job for Italian Vogue. He was a renowned fashion photographer and she was a newly discovered ingénue. They fell madly, passionately in love, despite the age difference. She’d been nineteen when they married; he had been forty-four and devastatingly handsome. Not so long ago, the twenty-five years had seemed irrelevant. So had the fact that she’d been the fourth Baroness Von Lienz. She’d been young and naive enough to believe that his other marriages hadn’t worked because—well, because he’d been looking for her. What a fool she’d been. She’d loved Anton deeply and she’d believed he’d loved her until the night of the accident eighteen months ago. Since then, she’d questioned just about everything she’d ever held sacred and true.
FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS 1. The Great Gatsby 2. Where the Wild Things Are 3. Pride and Prejudice 4. Harry Potter series 5. The Artist’s Way
FIVE FAVORITE SONGS 1. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92: II. Allegretto 2. Matchbox Twenty’s “Bent” 3. Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” 4. Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” 5. Greensleeves (No, I’m not kidding. I have a collection of several different versions of this song and I listen to them throughout the year. I’d like to believe Henry VIII wrote it, but most historians say he didn’t).
FIVE FAVORITE MOVIES 1. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (can’t wait to see the final installment in this trilogy!) 2. My Dinner With Andre 3. The Sound of Music 4. Chocolat 5. Blue from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy
FIVE THINGS I’M OBSESSED WITH RIGHT NOW 1. Les Mis (the movie) 2. Outlander 3. Queen Elizabeth 4. Art Journaling 5. The FlyLady (www.flylady.net)
FIVE LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ME 1. I know every word to every song in Les Mis, which essentially means I know the entire stage production by heart. 2. I am dyslexic and decided to write to prove to myself I could overcome my disability. 3. I have a corgi named Samantha and a pound kitty named Ruby Marie. 4. It took me three years to finish my first manuscript; one year to finish my second; six months to finish my third (It won RWA’s Golden Heart under the title of The First Kiss and it was published by Harlequin Next as Sisters in June 2006. 5. I can’t write to music with words. It has to be instrumental.