Marrying Cade

By: Sally Clements


“Florence. I have a degree from the university there.”

“Didn’t you want to work in the family business?” A vague memory niggled of Melo talking of her hopes, her dreams. He was pretty sure she’d wanted to be involved in the Bellucci winery.

“Not anymore.” Melo shook her head and pursed her lips. “Papa is very independent. He doesn’t need my help.” Her fingers dropped from the rose and she clasped them in her lap. “And now he has Adam working with him, he’s preparing for the future.”

Cade nodded, he’d spent long hours listening to Adam’s plans.

“Don’t you want to be involved?”

He couldn’t work her out. When she’d been a teenager she’d been so passionate about the island he couldn’t imagine her abandoning her dreams easily.

“My father is a very traditional man, Cade,” Melo said huskily. “He feels the Bellucci winery should be run by men. Some of my male cousins work there, but the only position offered to me was that of secretary—whether I came into the business with a degree or not.” She crossed her arms, drawing his attention to her chest. “In my business I don’t have to deal with sexism. The quality of my work speaks for itself.” She glanced at him. “My business has become very successful. It’s grown by word of mouth. I don’t have to lean on my family name or connections.” Her tone and the flash from her bright eyes indicated she was proud of it too.

She was confident and self-assured. As well as her appearance, the whole way she interacted with people was different. She’d been in the shadow of her sister when she was younger, that much was evident.

Cade stroked a finger down her smooth arm. He leaned closer. “You’ve changed.” And how. She was nothing like that lanky kid. Back then, he hadn’t even thought of her as a female. Now he couldn’t think of anything else but kissing her. Running his lips over the soft curve of her neck.

“Outside, maybe. Inside I’m the same.”

She trembled at his touch. Her irises expanded. She licked her lips nervously. Awareness flared and he couldn’t look away.

A noise on the gravel outside their hidden idyll alerted him to the fact they were no longer alone. A throat cleared, and his hand dropped from her arm instantly.

“Scusami, Melo. Tuo padre vuole parlare con te…” The stranger sounded apologetic.

Melo shot to her feet, replying to the woman in Italian. She turned to Cade.

“My father is looking for me. I have to go.”

He nodded. The night was young. “I’ll see you later.”

****

Marco Bellucci sat on the chair in his room, fully dressed in a dark suit, which emphasized his pallor. He looked frail. His mouth was twisted and worry added years.

“Hello, Papa.” Melo sank down next to him. She pushed an errant lock of hair back from her face. The heavy swathe was beginning to unravel. She should have taken advantage of the hairdresser seconded to the island for the duration when pinning it up. She reached up and pulled out the clips, letting it swing around her shoulders, before it fell down on its own accord.

“Melo. I need to talk to you before the dinner.” Her father’s weak voice trembled. He twisted his hands together, agitation rising with every breath.

Melo breathed deeply. “Okay, Papa.”

Marco’s eyes avoided hers.

She had to lean forward to hear the words he muttered slowly.

“I have been very foolish. And now, I am ill, and I need you to sort out my problems for me.” His jaw was clenched tight. He was a proud man. He’d never asked for her help before. “You remember the investment opportunity in Mezzuti?”

How could she forget? The Mezzuti Group was known for building large, showy hotels and, flushed by their success, had offered an incredible investment opportunity in their growing apartment business. She’d been asked her advice on it for a number of her clients. She’d pored through the figures. The paperwork was long and complex, and for the average person, incomprehensible. It had taken hours of evaluation before she’d seen the catch. The returns were immense, but the risks enormous. And there were no guarantees.

She’d had no compunction about advising her clients to avoid it like the plague. In fact, her advice about Mezzuti was the reason her company had gone from strength to strength. The catastrophic collapse of Mezzuti’s apartment fiasco had been front page news for weeks now. Investor upon investor had lost their shirt in the ill-advised property developments. Her blood ran cold as she eyed her father’s pale face. Her father hadn’t mentioned Mezzuti before. Hadn’t asked for her advice.

“I know all about Mezzuti, Papa. Some of my clients were interested in investing.”

“And your advice to them?” There was devastation in his eyes.

“I advised them against it.”

His eyes fell, and her worst fears were realized.

“I should have asked you but I thought I knew better.” Marco’s fingers clutched the rug on his knees. His lips stretched the paper-thin skin of his cheeks in a deathlike grimace. “I invested heavily in them, Melo, and lost it all. In mere weeks I have to pay. We’re ruined.”