In the silvery moonlight, he watched her sleep. His heart kicked at the sight of her in deep repose. The sweep of shadow beneath lush eyelashes, the pale rise of cheekbone, her curled naked form barely tucked under silk covers – his Leila. His beautiful Leila. It would be foolish to deny his feelings for her now. Foolish to think it was anything else but love. It frightened him, the depth of those feelings. Scared him to death. He knew love once. Perhaps a different kind of love, but whatever its kind, it had hurt. Left scars and cracks he’d never recover from. Love, he knew, had another side.
His head snapped back with memories of a time long ago… She would kiss him awake every morning, no matter her mood. And he’d hear her hum as he cleaned his teeth, the whole house filled with either a sad tune or a happy one. But no matter how she felt, her face would light up at the sight of him. Sophia would have his breakfast of warm bread and cheese ready, another pat on his head, and a long hard look at him before she deemed him ready for the day. The day she had left, it was the silence that woke Marco up, not a kiss. She had stole away, like a thief in the night, while Giancarlo and a ten-year-old Marco slept. Giancarlo in a drunken stupor and Marco in the bone-tired exhaustion that came with sowing seeds for an entire sun-drenched day in the fields that belonged to another.
His heart squeezed. Those scars bled from time to time. Now, more. Regardless of time and life-changing circumstances, he could very well go back to being a lost ten-year-old whose mother left him without even a goodbye.
Leila held his heart in her hands. A fact he’d never ever reveal to her. Slowly he turned to her, her warmth a soothing salve, her scent a comforting balm. She inserted herself within his arms, her eyes still shut. He couldn’t imagine she would betray him, his lovely Leila.
The frothy wake created by the approaching speedboat on the tranquil sea fascinated Leila, who was reclined under the covered deck of the Flying Carpet 2. The view shimmered off the reflected sun in the pool from which she sat across. Lazily, she watched the tiny speck zip toward them. Her boneless body lay content, sated and completely relaxed. And it was all because of Marco.
A smile played at the corner of her lips. Last night had been perfect. Last night had been nothing short of mind-blowing. Last night, Marco had made love to her.
They’d left Monte Carlo at the crack of dawn along with the new tide. Like an eager child, he told her he wanted her to see his home, their home, in Italy. “The sooner we leave, the sooner we get there, Cara. I can’t wait to see it again, through your eyes.” She had felt his contagious joy and it filled her like nothing else.
Finally, it was beginning to seem like a marriage based on more than just a convenient business deal.
The clickety-clack of quick steps on the hot deck alerted Leila to Mira’s presence. “Seems like we are getting company,” Mira said and pointed to the expanding spot in their view. “The crew is getting ready to receive whoever is in that thing.” Leila wondered if it was in regards to the call Marco had to answer earlier on. Rising from her position, without letting her eyes deviate from the approaching boat, she asked Mira, “Have we missed part of the crew, is that the reason for the arrival?”
Mira shrugged her shoulders. “No. Business, I think.” The boat was almost upon them. It was small but adequately luxurious and Leila could manage to see at least two occupants.
Business? She rolled the possibility in her head. Business had been far from Marco’s head just a short while ago. That is, just before he received the call on his satellite phone. So what had changed? The deal he’d been working on the day before had been concluded as far as she knew. And it shouldn’t have bothered her, not when she had finally read through the sheaths of the contract Marco had insisted she look at. She’d been reassured of his mediator role. Yes, he would turn a small profit, but only if the people of the small village where the oil was discovered, turn one too.
Leila stood at the railing of the deck as the boat slowed to a halt at the small landing pad. Her mouth hung a little when she saw who emerged from within, helped on board by Marco. Bianca! Leila bit her lip as cold apprehension churned in her stomach again. Eyes of steel met with hers, a smirk that contained more than just a warning, it contained a flicker of triumph. The harbinger of her demise.