Broken Queen

Page 44

“His properties are locked up tight. From the fencing to whatever is within,” I say.
“Only one person would have access,” Bastian adds as he walks into the overgrown grass and looks around. I know what he’s looking for. A grave.
We’re talking about the same person. The only person who would have cause to hurt Vittoria like that. To break her like only something like this would.
“I need a drink,” I say.
“Me too.”
They aren’t going to let me go. I know this. And as confused as my own feelings are, I have to think of Emma.
Bruno seems busy with something and leaves me alone for the most part, so the flight to Ravello is quiet. Once we’re in Naples, I’m ushered into a waiting SUV and driven straight to the Ravello house while Bruno returns to his home in the city.
Once I’m settled in the SUV, I take the envelope Mr. Brady gave me out of my purse and open it. I actually opened it on the flight, but when I saw what was inside, I discreetly tucked it back into my purse before Bruno or the soldiers could see. Now the two are riding in the front, and I’m alone in the back seat.
I take out the stack of papers. A lot of it is just copies of what I signed and what it means. I set most of those aside. I’ll look those over later. One gives me details of the bank account where Amadeo will deposit my monthly allowance. I find a debit card, a credit card, and two wads of cash. The brand-new hundred-dollar bills are secured with a rubber band in an envelope inside the larger envelope. At a quick glance, there’s maybe ten thousand dollars in here. But best of all, there’s a cell phone. I leave it switched off and drop the whole lot into my purse. This gives me options I didn’t have before.
I sit back in my seat and watch the blue sky and bluer ocean as we drive toward the Ravello house. When we arrive, my smile is genuine when the front door opens. Emma comes rushing out with Hyacinth behind her, and Nora and Francesca behind them. All of them are smiling and looking happy. Emma has rosy cheeks, and the shadows under her eyes are almost gone. She looks like a child of five should look.
“Emma!” I rush to her, set my tote on the ground, and hug her tight.
She pulls away but tugs at my hand as Hyacinth comes to give me a hug too. She tells Emma to give me a minute, but Emma shakes her head vehemently.
“We have a surprise for you,” Nora says, unable to help herself as she takes Emma’s other hand. Emma smiles up at her, and it’s amazing what a difference these few days in this house have made for my quiet, frightened sister. I wonder if it’s all the women around her and all the attention and love they’re showering her with. The soldiers keep to the periphery for the most part.
“What surprise?” I ask Emma as I retrieve my tote from the ground. Her smile grows huge as they lead me into the kitchen. The counters are dusted with flour, and the sink is full of bowls, but on the table is a beautiful birthday cake, homemade with pink icing and colorful sprinkles and a badly written Happy Birthday, Vitto on it.
I swipe icing with my finger and taste it as I giggle. “Who’s Vitto?”
Emma shrugs her shoulders and puts her hands up smiling a naughty smile I’m so happy to see on her little face.
“We ran out of icing,” Nora says with a laugh.
Emma goes to her, takes her hand, and leads her to the cabinet in the corner. She opens it and points at a shelf she can’t reach.
“Ah, yes! Candles!”
“Sit down,” Hyacinth says. “Time for cake.”
I sit, setting my tote at my feet, unwilling to be parted from it because it’s our way out. It’s our only way.
* * *
That night,I lie in bed with Emma and wait for her to fall asleep. I doze as I do, tired from the travel. I wonder if Mr. Brady has gotten the word out to all the sites yet to stop construction. I can imagine how much it will cost, but this is their plan. It was all along. My coming to Italy to bury my father just made it easier for them to initiate things. Hell, my father dying was a stroke of luck for them.
Feeling nauseous at the thought, I sit up. Emma doesn’t stir as I slip out of bed and leave her room, taking my tote bag with me. I haven’t left it out of sight since getting here.
The house is dark, and when I get to the library, I see it’s past midnight. I switch on a light, set the bag down, and am pouring myself a whiskey just as a soldier opens the library door, clearly alerted. I guess this is a good test of whether or not I’m a prisoner.
“What are you doing?” he asks.
“I’m going to read some riveting legal paperwork and drink some of this excellent whiskey.” I raise my glass to him in a mock toast and drink. “Why don’t you call your bosses and tell them?”
“No need,” he says. “Don’t go outside.”