Of Blood and Bone (Page 30)

Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1)(30)
Author: Courtney Cole

“Thank you again,” I tell him. “I feel a little silly.”

He frowns.  “Never feel silly,” he tells me. “You’re being smart, not silly.”

“Okay.”

The crunch of tires on gravel outside distracts me, followed by a soft knock on the door.  I answer it, to find Adrian standing on my stoop.  He is surprised to be picking Luca up from my house, I know.  His expression is polite, but curious. Perhaps even slightly dismayed.  I almost want to explain, to tell him that Luca and I didn’t do anything inappropriate together, but I don’t.  Luca and I are adults.  Even if we had done something, it wouldn’t be inappropriate.  So instead, I smile.

“Good morning, Adrian. Thank you for coming to pick us up.”

He nods, still studying me curiously. “You’re welcome.  It’s my job.”

He takes my bag and puts it in the trunk, then returns to the house.

“Luca?  Are you coming as well?”

Luca turns from where he is standing at the back windows, his face back to being impassive and curt.  The gentleness that I’d seen last night is gone.  I find that I miss it already, but I intend to not show it.  He can do what he wishes.

“Of course,” Luca answers.

We all slide into the Mercedes and are on our way to Chessarae before I even know it.

A bit later, as we pull through the gates and up the drive, Luca turns to me.

“You, of course, will have full use of the property while you are here.  Do you ride?”

I look at him.  “Horses? I used to when I was a child.”

He smiles.  “We have a stable, if you’d like to take it up again.  We also have a private beach.  Feel free to use it.  If you need anything at all, just ask a staff member. Or me.”

We walk into the house and he instructs a maid to take me to a bedroom. He tells her the one that he wants me to use, then turns to me.

“I must excuse myself.  I have a conference call.  But do settle in and make yourself at home.  Would you join me in the dining room for dinner?  I eat at 7:00.”

I nod. “Of course.”

He smiles and the room is brightened.

“I’ll see you then.”

And he’s gone. I’m left staring at the maid, who stares back at me.  It is clear that she is shocked by this turn of events and I’m left to assume that Chessarae doesn’t receive many guests.

The maid leads me through the twists and turns of the enormous house, up a grand staircase and through a long hallway.  She glances sideways at me.

“This is the family’s wing,” she tells me.  “Mr. Minaldi and his brothers have bedrooms down this hall.  Yours will be just up the hall from his.”

I gulp.  It’s clear she thinks that I will enjoy that fact, maybe even find it convenient.  She clearly thinks that he and I have a more than friendly relationship. I suppose that’s an understandable assumption, since he rarely has company.

“It’s kind of him to do this,” I tell her.  “He took pity on me last night. I was afraid to be alone after these killings.”

The maid nods solemnly. “Yes.  It’s horrible.  I can’t believe it’s happening, actually. Not here in Malta.”

She comes to a stop outside of a closed door and then opens it, gesturing me inside.   I am amazed at the luxury contained within.  It’s not just a bedroom. It appears to be a suite.

The maid turns to me.  “There‘s a living room, sitting room, bathroom and dressing room in here.  Mr. Minaldi is just three doors down.  If you need anything at all, please just let one of us know.”

And she turns around and leaves.  She isn’t quick to warm up to people, I decide.  But I am too distracted by my lavish quarters to be bothered.  The bed is enormous and cushiony, covered in a fluffy pillows and a soft duvet.  The furniture is expensive and heavy and the art hanging on the walls is priceless.  In contrast to the heavy, dark furniture, the lamps have crystal accents and there are ornate and feminine chandeliers hanging throughout the rooms, even over the sunken marble bathtub.  It’s beautiful.

I venture back out into the bedroom and find that I have a balcony there.  I stand at the rail, staring at the sea below.

I can’t believe the view. It is beautiful, as well.  

There is nothing but sea for miles and miles. 

It is apparent to me once again how secluded and quiet Chessarae is.  It’s near enough to town that Luca can jog, but it feels like it is in its own universe.

From the balcony, I have a beautiful view of the gardens, as well.  There is an intricate English Maze below and English gardens to the left and right.  A gardener is hard at work pruning one of the many rose bushes and I watch him humming to the music in his earbuds.

To my far right, I can see where the jagged horizon forms into cliffs.  The cliffs rise dramatically above the seascape, some one hundred feet or so.  Below that, the sea crashes with fierce ferocity against the rocks.  This is a place of both incredible beauty and grace, but also natural danger.  It’s a beautiful and delicate balance, something that I will forever associate with Chessarae.

As I stare absently out to sea, a movement from below, from the corner of my periphery, catches my attention. I look, only to find Melina running through the gardens.  She is in her customary white dressing gown and it is streaming behind her in the breeze, along with her long dark hair. She doesn’t have a gray hair on her head.  And she should not be out of her rooms.

I turn at once and run for the ground floor.  It takes me several minutes to burst out from the back of the house and to spill out into the gardens.  I look around, but there is no sign of her.  So I take off for in the direction I last saw her running in.

Toward the cliffs.

It doesn’t take me long to weave through the gardens and to emerge on the rocky hillscape.  As I do, I find Sophia pleading with Melina as she backs ever closer to the edge of the dangerous cliff.  My pulse is racing and I can’t breathe, but I rocket to where Sophia is standing.

Melina is having a bad day, that much is apparent.  Her eyes are crazed, her hair is unkempt and she is babbling in crazy gibberish.

“Melina?” I call.  “What are you doing?”  I hold onto Sophia’s arm to prevent her from inadvertently pushing Melina even further toward the edge.