A Pawn in the Playboy's Game(3)

By: Cathy Williams

‘Work’s fine.’ Alessandro looked at the slab of salmon on his plate with distaste. Freya was in her mid-sixties and had been his father’s cook for the past fifteen years. She was as thin as a rake, only smiled on high days and bank holidays and would never be asked to cook for the queen. Or anyone with halfway decent tastebuds. Her productions were as spartan as she was. Potatoes, some vegetables and fish, which were unadorned with anything that could fall under the heading of tasty.

‘I’ve added a niche publishing house to my portfolio, along with three small hotels on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s a little comic relief from my IT companies and telecommunications.’ He might have benefited from being the son of a wealthy man, might have been to the finest schools, been given the most pocket money, treated to the fastest car at an age when fast cars and young boys should never have had even a nodding acquaintance, but he had refused point-blank to show the slightest interest in his father’s empire. When it came to earning a living, Alessandro had always known that he would go it without any help from his austere and distant parent.

Not that Roberto had asked. Until a decade ago he had still been running his empire himself.

Neither had Alessandro accepted any start-up money. He had used his brains to super-achieve at university and he had continued using his brains to super-achieve at everything that had followed. As far as he was concerned, the less he had to do with Roberto Falcone, the better. They maintained contact, paid lip service to their relationship, and that was that. It worked.

‘And still chasing the same idiots you were chasing when I last saw you? What was the name of that one you dragged up here? Acted as though she didn’t recognise what mud was and refused to go near the garden because it had rained and her high heels couldn’t take the strain.’ Roberto guffawed.

‘Sophia,’ Alessandro said through gritted teeth. This was the first time his father had come right out and voiced his scathing disapproval of the women he had met in the past, girlfriends Alessandro had taken with him because a third party, even an intellectually challenged third party, was worth her weight in gold when it came to smoothing over pregnant pauses.

And it had to be said that the women he dated more than made up for their sometimes limited conversation with their looks. He liked them leggy, long-haired, slender and outrageously good-looking. The size of their IQs didn’t really come into it. Just as long as they pleased him, looked good, said yes when he wanted them to say yes and didn’t get attached.

‘Sophia...that’s the one. Nice-looking girl with all that bouncy hair but difficult to have a conversation with. I’m guessing that doesn’t bother you, though. Where is she now?’ He looked around him as though suddenly alert to the possibility that the six-foot-tall brunette might be hiding behind the kitchen door or underneath the counter.

‘It didn’t work out.’ The gloves were certainly off if his father was diving into his personal life. Polite was beginning to look like a cosy walk in the park in comparison. Was this how Roberto intended to retaliate to the winds of change? By getting too close to the bone for comfort?

‘Reason I brought that up...’ Roberto finished his salmon and shoved the plate to one side ‘...is if that’s the kind of people who hang around the rich in that city of yours, then it’s just another reason why I won’t be joining you. So you can start looking for tenants for that apartment you bought.’

‘There are lots of different kinds of people in London.’ And who, exactly, were his father’s friends here anyway? He’d met one or two couples, bumped into them while out to dinner locally with his father over the years, but how often did he mix with them?

Like vast swathes of his father’s life, that was just another mystery. For all Alessandro knew, his father could be cooped up in his country estate from dawn till dusk with nothing but the hired help and his plants for company.

He had long trained himself to feel no curiosity. The door had been shut on him a long time ago and it wasn’t going to reopen.

‘And some of them might have more to talk about than the weather, the tidal changes and salmon fishing. On another note, I see Freya is continuing to shine as a cordon bleu chef...’

‘Simple food for a simple man,’ Roberto returned coldly. ‘If I wanted anything fancier, I would have employed one of those TV chef types who have fish restaurants in Devon and use ingredients nobody’s ever heard of.’

For the first time in living memory, Alessandro felt his lips twitch with amusement at his father’s asperity.

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