Mistress By Blackmail

By: Caro LaFever

International Billionaires I: The Italians



Chapter 1





His brother was an idiot.

Marcus La Rocca rocked back on his heels and stifled the urge to yell. The damn kid knew what was at stake, knew his assigned role. He'd agreed to the marriage months ago. Dannazione, he'd agreed enthusiastically. So why was he playing with fire at this late date? If his younger brother stood in front of him right now, he'd wring his sorry neck. But what good would it do? Matteo had been a thorn in his side from the moment he’d entered his life and would continue in the role for the foreseeable future.

Or until he succeeded in dragging the idiot to the altar.

“He doesn't know what he's doing.” His mother, Serafina, sobbed into her lace handkerchief. She sat in one of several burgundy leather office chairs across from his steel-and-glass desk. The bright overhead light shined with a harsh glare on her dyed-black hair.

With wry amusement, he noted there was no smearing of her makeup and her eyes weren’t red. His mother was a master at many things; she was pure genius at emotional manipulation. “He's twenty-five.”

“A mere baby.”

He snorted. Ten years ago, when he’d been twenty-five, he’d been running this company, making million-euro deals. Not running around and screwing around.

Her hands fisted and she threw him a glare. “You're never sympathetic.”

“I ran out of sympathy a long time ago.”

“You are always too hard on him.” Her voice rose to shrill. “This is all your fault.”

A phrase he'd heard so many times it could be tattooed on his brain. “Calm down.”

“How can I calm down when my baby is in a whore's clutches?” She jumped from the chair and began pacing, her thin body trembling with anxiety.

Examining the photos his mother had provided, he silently questioned her conclusion. The woman seemed more like an innocent girl, not the seductive siren his mother seemed to fear. “She appears harmless.”

“Uffa!” She threw her hands in the air and stopped, pinning him with another glare. “Those are the women you have to watch out for.”

Assuming what she claimed held a kernel of truth, this was a problem. However, the last thing he needed was his fiery mother going off on a tangent. If he didn't rein her in, she’d likely screech to a tabloid, or worse, gossip with her gaggle of crows. The society crows would pass the information along faster than the tabloids could print their sheets. He had to tamp this down, buy some time so he could address this situation in his usual purposeful manner.

He shrugged his shoulders and gave her a blank stare.

“You don't believe me,” she wailed.

“Momma,” he replied. “Be reasonable. Matteo is engaged.”

“Si, si, si, and that is why—”

“For all my little brother's faults, he would not betray his commitment. Nor his family.”

“He wouldn't mean to.”

“Supposing what you say is true, he's only having a last fling. Meaningless.”

The handkerchief waved his words away. “She's moved in with him.”

“What?” He stiffened and his eyes narrowed.

“Si,” she proclaimed triumphantly. “One month before the wedding!”

Marcus paced to the wall of windows lining one side of the room. Looking down, he noted the London traffic coursing through the financial district where his office building stood.

Maledizione. He did not have time for this. He had to fly to Madrid tomorrow and then to New York a few days later. Why the hell couldn't his kid brother keep his pants zipped? Didn't he understand what this marriage meant to the business? This deal would ensure Rocca Enterprises would be a big player in the emerging equity markets in Eastern Europe.

Hell, the kid had liked the girl. Had declared he was pleased. If Matteo had objected, Marcus would have let him off the hook and found another way to get the deal done. But he hadn’t, and this deal and marriage had been on the books for months. If the marriage fell through now, there’d be no way to salvage the contract. Not with the Casartelli bride’s pride and honor at risk.

“You're sure of this information?”

“Si.”

He glanced over his shoulder. “You've been keeping an eye on him.”

“It's a mother's prerogative.” She met his gaze with a defiant one of her own.

He turned and leaned on the window. The cold November wind blowing outside cooled the glass. And his irritation. Slightly. “I want all the information you’ve collected.”

A gleam of victory lit in her dark eyes. “Now you are listening.”

“If what you say is true—”

“It is.”

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