One Night with Morelli(4)

By: Kim Lawrence

The older man snorted. Draco Morelli had been born to wealth and privilege, he could have sat back and enjoyed what he had inherited, but he was a natural entrepreneur and to his Italian family’s occasional bemusement over the last ten years he had made a series of financial investments that had made his name a byword for success in financial circles.

Under his smile was iron resolve. Draco’s short-lived marriage had been by anyone’s standards a total disaster but it had given him the daughter he adored so he could never regret it—but to deliberately take that route again…?

It was not going to happen.

He had affairs, just not love affairs. He did not dress things up and recognised that for him sex was simply a basic need; he had proved over and over again that the emotional element was not necessary. It required no effort on his part to maintain an emotional buffer—there were even occasions when he did not much like the women who shared his bed. What did require some effort on his part was keeping his daughter, now a scarily mature and impressively grounded thirteen, as ignorant as possible of his affairs.

‘She’s talking custody rights or at least Edward is.’ His ex’s latest was a very unlikely choice for a woman who normally went for men considerably her junior. It was hard to think of a more unlikely couple and Draco doubted it would last despite the ostentatious rock on Clare’s finger, but if he was wrong—well, good luck to them.

But he wasn’t going to allow his daughter to have her life thrown into turmoil because Clare had discovered her inner earth mother—not on his watch!

‘I am fond of Clare—let’s face it, it’s hard not to be fond of Clare,’ her ex-husband conceded. ‘But I wouldn’t trust her to take care of a cat, let alone a teenager. Can you imagine it…?’ He shook his dark head, grimacing at the mental image.

When they handed out the responsibility gene Clare was out of the room. Josie had been three months old when his ex had gone out for a facial and manicure and not come back. Left effectively a single parent at twenty, Draco had had to learn some new skills very quickly—he still was learning.

Fatherhood was a constant challenge, as was resisting his mother’s interference. When he’d told the grieving widow that she needed a new challenge in her life, he certainly hadn’t intended that challenge to be him! When Veronica Morelli wasn’t turning up on his doorstep without warning with large suitcases she was trying to set him up with suitable women—the marrying kind.

‘She’s asking for joint custody, Draco, and she is the girl’s mother.’ Frazer held up a hand to stem the eruption his comment invited and continued calmly. ‘But, no, given the circumstances and her history I don’t think there is any prospect of any court coming down on her side, even if it got that far and she did marry Edward Weston. It’s not as if she doesn’t have access, very reasonable access, already to Josie.’

Draco nodded. No matter what her faults were, his ex-wife was Josie’s mother and she was in her own way fond of her only child. Clare’s fondness meant months could go by and their daughter would have no contact beyond the occasional text or email from her mother, then she would appear loaded with gifts and was for a time a doting mother, until something else caught her interest.

Draco’s objectivity when he thought of his ex-wife was still tinged with cynicism but the corrosive anger had long since gone. He was even able to recognise that it had always been aimed more at himself than Clare, and with some justification when you considered the stubborn sentimentalism masquerading as love that had made him go through with a marriage that had had impending disaster written all over it.

‘So you don’t think I have anything to worry about?’ he asked.

‘I’m a lawyer, Draco—in my world there is always something to worry about.’

‘Sure, I might walk under a bus.’ He glanced at his watch and got to his feet, brushing an invisible speck from the perfectly tailored pale grey jacket. Actually, he was catching a helicopter rather than a bus to the wedding of Charlie Latimer; he found weddings depressing, and boring, but Josie was very excited about dressing up and he was making an effort for her sake.

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