Conquer Your Love(Surrender Your Love 02)

By: J.C. Reed

Chapter 5





I SPENT THE night tossing and turning, always aware of Jett’s presence in my thoughts. When the clock hit seven a.m. I tiptoed past Sylvie’s guestroom, heading downstairs into the large living room.

Soft sunrays were streaming through the high bay windows, bathing the room in a bright golden glow. I opened the door to the veranda and let in the fresh country air and the sound of chirping birds. The clear blue water of the lake shimmered. In the distance, I could make out two sailing boats—probably early risers like me, unable to sleep for whatever reason. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, enjoying every minute of nature I’d never experienced in New York. Everything felt dreamlike in this beautiful house on this beautiful island. I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. At least not for a while.

So much had happened those past four weeks. Being transferred to Jett’s company. My sexual arrangement with him that turned into something else. Then Alessandro’s will and finding out there was more to Jett’s intentions. Was a month all it took to change my world?

Jett had hurt me by trying to use me to get his hands on the estate, yet I still couldn’t deny the fact that we had amazing chemistry. The time we spent together was one of the best in my life—I was truly happy. At some point I honestly thought we belonged together. He was the first man to create so much contradiction inside me: love and hate. Lust and contempt.

I had thought by sneaking away from him I’d put enough time and distance between us so I could recover. He managed to shatter all my hopes in the blink of an eye. Even though things were definitely finished between us and I had no intention to rekindle our romance, it bothered me that I had been genuinely happy to see him. It was wrong in every sense of the word, but I could do nothing about it. After seeing him again last night, I had no idea where I was standing in terms of feelings. And I certainly didn’t want to find out. He could break down my walls too easily. Shatter my resolution and make me want to give in to my foolish heart. He wasn’t worth the pain nor the feelings of guilt. In the end, I knew I’d end up hurt again. With his green eyes and his strong body, he once possessed my body but I wouldn’t want him to possess my heart and soul.

By the time I closed the doors and headed for the kitchen, the sailing boats were long gone and my stomach grumbled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten since the evening before. Opening and closing cupboards, I peered inside to familiarize myself with the contents. Whoever did the shopping had stocked up on everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to bread, bacon, and cheese, probably expecting or believing Sylvie and I could cook. Sylvie barely knew how to make an omelet and I wasn’t much better. As I filled the coffee filter the bell rang, startling me. My heart began to hammer in my chest and certainly not because I was scared. I hadn’t told Jett I was staying at the Lucazzone estate, but for some reason I expected to see him here. Sort of looked forward to it. When I opened the door and realized it was Clarkson, I couldn’t help the disappointment washing over me.

Forcing my mouth into a smile, I motioned him to come in. Dressed in a suit, he looked as though he was coming straight from the office and, judging from his no-nonsense expression, he obviously thought seven a.m. was the appropriate time for a business meeting.

“Good morning, Brooke.” He returned the smile and his glance scanned the front of my bathrobe. “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

I ignored the urge to ask him to stop by later—preferably when I was showered and dressed, and Sylvie wasn’t still sleeping off her hangover. Instead, I wrapped my bathrobe tighter around my body and decided to lie.

“No. I’ve been up for a while.” My voice sounded a little hoarse from the lack of sleep, but you could attribute it to anything from a sore throat to a heated verbal discussion the previous night. I headed for the kitchen, expecting him to follow. “Do you want coffee?”

“That’d be lovely.”

“Cream? Sugar?”

“No, thank you. I have to watch my cholesterol level.”

He laughed briefly and I smiled because it was the polite thing to do. It had always bugged me to laugh when people said that line. There’s nothing funny about a health concern so why would you try to laugh it off? Opening a cupboard, I rose on my toes to reach a mug and filled it with the still hot coffee, then handed it to him.

“Please, take a seat.” I pointed at the polished mahogany table. He sat down and I followed suit, choosing the chair opposite from his. My hand wrapped around my half-full coffee mug but I didn’t take a sip until he did.

“It’s such a beautiful day,” Clarkson started. I hope you and Sylvie are enjoying your stay. Is she still asleep?” It seemed a harmless question, but for some reason I cringed inwardly. I didn’t like him asking questions about her. He was twice her age and it felt creepy. Too personal.

Maybe he was trying to be polite, like most Brits I had met.

“How’s Mr. Lucazzone today?” I had never been particularly good at small talk or changing the subject gracefully. Luckily, Clarkson didn’t seem to mind.

He inclined his head and his expression changed into a frown. “I saw him last night and he was better than most days. But his health is declining rapidly. I’m afraid he won’t last much longer, Brooke.” His tone was layered with worry, and I wondered whether he and the old man had been close.

I was about to say that I was sorry when Sylvie entered the kitchen dressed in a bathrobe similar to mine, only she looked so much hotter. Her blond hair was tied up in a high ponytail and her blue eyes, even though rimmed by dark shadows, looked sparkling and energized. I had no idea how she did that when I felt as though a train had just hit me, and I hadn’t even touched any alcohol.

At the sight of Clarkson, Sylvie’s eyes popped wide open. I could almost hear her thoughts. What was he doing here so early? I waved her closer and pressed my coffee mug into her hands—not that she needed it.

Clarkson’s eyes fixed on her and remained there for a long time. I bit my lip hard and begged my brain to come up with something—anything—to break the uncomfortable silence but, as usual, it remained surprisingly blank when it came to making small talk.

“I’ll let you ladies get dressed,” Clarkson eventually said. “Mr. Lucazzone wishes to see you today. If you could be ready in half an hour, I’d be more than happy to drive you to the hospital.” His tone was friendly but I thought I heard a clear decisiveness of tone, a force that allowed for no objection. He smiled, and I realized I was probably over-analyzing things the way I always did.

I nodded and followed Sylvie upstairs.



***



Clarkson pulled the car into a visitor spot in the hospital’s parking area, and we headed for the pretty yet inconspicuous building. With its yellow fa?ade, it would have blended right in with the other buildings on the street were it not for the double security glass doors and the large windows. Like many clinics in Italy, this particular one was a private institution—a two-story, six bedroom home in a secluded Bellagio area, not far from the lake shore. The place was a surgically sanitary haven for the rich who were on the verge of leaving this world. As we entered and walked through the hall we were met by the sight of plush leather chairs, bouquets of flowers on every table, and soft music playing from invisible speakers. Smiling nurses in green linen uniforms pushed patients in wheelchairs along the spotless hallways into the stunning green yard that faced a small pond. Sylvie and I waited near the open terrace door as Clarkson announced our presence to the receptionist.

We followed Clarkson to the second floor and down the broad hall, past several closed doors. My stomach was in knots and my breathing came in whistling heaps. While I was nervous to finally meet Alessandro Lucazzone, I also harbored a strong dislike of hospitals to the point of having a panic attack. The smell of sanitizer and disease reminded me too much of my sister. Before she died she had been hospitalized for months, during which we came to visit often, each time working hard on putting on a brave face and maintaining a fake fa?ade of normalcy. As a thirteen-year-old, I understood the importance of keeping up the protective walls that would shield our family from the devastating realization of having a drug addict as a sister and daughter. I had tried hard to see the positive side of our visits, and in my juvenile fantasy the hospital with its sickening scents and scary, white walls had been a safe haven that would help my sister get well. The impression was shattered when Jenna died and, in his grief, my father shot himself. In his last few hours, while he lay attached to various tubes and machines, the white sheets were soaked with my mother’s tears, and the room echoed with useless prayers that didn’t keep him alive. That’s when I realized hospitals were places of death. You went there to visit your loved ones before they were taken from you forever, reminding you that life could be lost in the blink of an eye.

I had managed to avoid entering hospitals ever since my father passed away, but even years couldn’t wipe away the memories of powerless dread, of endless prayers that would go unheard.

“This is it.” Clarkson pointed at a closed door. I took a deep breath to calm my racing heart and wiped my hands on the soft material of my knee-length skirt. What would I say to this stranger who had never met me and yet had decided to leave his estate to me? Saying ‘thank you’ felt wrong because, even though I was thankful, I didn’t want him to think that inheriting what belonged to him was all that mattered to me.

“Mr. Lucazzone wishes to speak with Brooke alone,” Clarkson said to Sylvie.

“You still have time to run,” she whispered to me, ignoring the lawyer. I smiled at her weak attempt at infusing some humor to ease my nerves.

“Ready?” Clarkson nodded encouragingly and knocked twice, then opened the door, stepping aside. Moistening my parched lips, I walked into the room, leaving Sylvie outside.

Top Books