The Billionaire's Bridal Bargain

By: Lynne Graham

 * * *

 Cesare was less amused and indeed he tensed when he strolled into his city penthouse that evening to receive the news from his manservant, Primo, that his father had arrived for an unexpected visit.

 Goffredo was out on the roof terrace admiring the panoramic view of London when Cesare joined him.

 ‘To what do I owe the honour?’ he mocked.

 His father, always an extrovert in the affection stakes, clasped his son in a hug as if he hadn’t seen the younger man in months rather than mere weeks. ‘I need to talk to you about your grandmother...’

 Cesare’s smile immediately faded. ‘What’s wrong?’

 Goffredo grimaced. ‘Athene needs a coronary bypass. Hopefully it will relieve her angina.’

 Cesare had stilled, a frown line etched between his level ebony brows. ‘She’s seventy-five.’

 ‘The prognosis for her recovery is excellent,’ his father told him reassuringly. ‘Unfortunately the real problem is my mother’s outlook on life. She thinks she’s too old for surgery. She thinks she’s had her three score years and ten and should be grateful for it.’

 ‘That’s ridiculous. If necessary, I’ll go and talk some sense into her,’ Cesare said impatiently.

 ‘She needs something to look forward to...some motivation to make her believe that the pain and stress of surgery will be worthwhile.’

 Cesare released his breath in a slow hiss. ‘I hope you’re not talking about Lionos. That’s nothing but a pipe dream.’

 Goffredo studied his only son with compressed lips. ‘Since when have you been defeatist about any challenge?’

 ‘I’m too clever to tilt at windmills,’ Cesare said drily.

 ‘But surely you have some imagination? Some...what is it you chaps call it now? The ability to think outside the box?’ the older man persisted. ‘Times have changed, Cesare. The world has moved on and when it comes to the island you have a power that I was never blessed with.’

 Cesare heaved a sigh and wished he had worked late at the office where pure calm and self-discipline ruled, the very building blocks of his lifestyle. ‘And what power would that be?’ he asked reluctantly.

 ‘You are incredibly wealthy and the current owners of the island are dirt-poor.’

 ‘But the will is watertight.’

 ‘Money could be a great persuader,’ his father reasoned. ‘You don’t want a wife and probably neither of Francesca’s daughters wants a real husband at such a young age. Why can’t you come to some sort of business arrangement with one of them?’

 Cesare shook his arrogant dark head. ‘You’re asking me to try and get round the will?’

 ‘The will has already been minutely appraised by a top inheritance lawyer in Rome. If you can marry one of those girls, you will have the right to visit the island and, what is more important, you will have the right to take your grandmother there,’ Goffredo outlined, clearly expecting his son to be impressed by that revelation.

 Instead, Cesare suppressed a groan of impatience. ‘And what’s that worth at the end of the day? It’s not ownership, it’s not getting the island back into the family.’

 ‘Even a visit after all the years that have passed would be a source of great joy to your grandmother,’ Goffredo pointed out in a tone of reproach.

 ‘I always understood that visiting the island was against the terms of the will.’

 ‘Not if a marriage has first taken place. That is a distinction that it took a lawyer to point out. Certainly, if any of us were to visit without that security, Francesca’s daughters would forfeit their inheritance and the island would go to the government by default.’

 ‘Which would please no one but the government,’ Cesare conceded wryly. ‘Do you really think that a measly visit to the island would mean that much to Nonna?’ he pressed.

 ‘The right to pay her respects again at her parents’ graves? To see the house where she was born and where she married and first lived with my father? She has many happy memories of Lionos.’

 ‘But would one short visit satisfy her? It’s my belief that she has always dreamt of living out her life there and that’s out of the question because a child has to be born to fulfil the full terms of the will and grant us the right to put down roots on the island again.’

 ‘There is a very good chance that clause could be set aside in court as unreasonable. Human rights law has already altered many matters once set in stone,’ Goffredo reasoned with enthusiasm.

Top Books