Inherited by Ferranti

By: Kate Hewitt

She was seven years older, and he saw it in the faint lines by her eyes and mouth. He saw it in the clothing she wore, a charcoal-grey pencil skirt and a pale pink silk blouse. Sophisticated, elegant clothing for a woman, rather than the girlish dresses she’d worn seven years earlier.

But the inner sense of stillness he’d always admired she still possessed. The sense that no one could touch or affect her. He’d been drawn to that, after the tempest of his own childhood. He’d liked her almost unnatural sense of calm, her cool purpose. Even though she’d only been nineteen she’d seemed older, wiser. And yet so innocent.

‘Signorina Rocci. I’m so glad you could join us.’ Di Santis moved forward, hands outstretched. Sierra barely brushed her fingertips with his before she moved away, to one of the club chairs. She sat down, her back straight, her ankles crossed, ever the lady. She didn’t look at Marco.

He was looking at her, his stare burning. Marco jerked his gaze from Sierra and moved back to the window. Stared blindly out at the traffic that crawled down the Via Libertà.

‘Shall we begin?’ suggested di Santis, and Marco nodded. Sierra did not speak. ‘The will is, in point of fact, quite straightforward.’ Di Santis cleared his throat and Marco felt his body tense once more. He knew just how straightforward the will was. ‘Signor Rocci, that is, your father, signorina—’ he gave Sierra an abashed smile that Marco saw from the corner of his eye she did not return ‘—made his provisions quite clear.’ He paused, and Marco knew he was not relishing the task set before him.

Sierra sat with her hands folded in her lap, her chin held high, her gaze direct and yet giving nothing away. Her face looked like a perfect icy mask. ‘Could you please tell me what they are, Signor di Santis?’ she asked when di Santis seemed disinclined to continue.

The sound of her voice, after seven years’ silence, struck Marco like a fist to the gut. Suddenly he was breathless. Low, musical, clear. And yet without the innocent, childish hesitation of seven years ago. She spoke with an assurance she hadn’t possessed before, a confidence the years had given her, and somehow this knowledge felt like an insult, a slap in his face. She’d become someone else, someone stronger perhaps, without him.

‘Of course, Signorina Rocci.’ Di Santis gave another apologetic smile. ‘I can go through the particulars, but in essence your father left the bulk of his estate and business to Signor Ferranti.’

Marco swung his gaze to her pale face, waiting for her reaction. The shock, the regret, the acknowledgement of her own guilt, the realisation of how much she’d chosen to lose. Something.

He got nothing.

Sierra merely nodded, her face composed, expressionless. ‘The bulk?’ she clarified quietly. ‘But not all?’

At her question Marco felt a savage stab of rage, a fury he’d thought he’d put behind him years ago. So she was going to be mercenary? After abandoning her family and fiancé, offering no contact for seven long years despite her parents’ distress and grief and continued appeals, she still wanted to know how much she’d get.

‘No, not all, Signorina Rocci,’ di Santis said quietly. He looked embarrassed. ‘Your father left you some of your mother’s jewellery, some pieces passed down through her family.’

Sierra bowed her head, a strand of dark blond hair falling from her chignon to rest against her cheek. Marco couldn’t see her expression, couldn’t tell if she was overcome with remorse or rage at being left so little. Trinkets, Arturo had called them. A pearl necklace, a sapphire brooch. Nothing too valuable, but in his generosity Arturo had wanted his daughter to have her mother’s things.

Sierra raised her eyes and Marco saw that her eyes glistened with tears. ‘Thank you,’ she said quietly. ‘Do you have them here?’

‘I do...’ Di Santis fumbled for a velvet pouch on his desk. ‘Here they are. Your father left them into my safekeeping a while ago, when he realised...’ He trailed off, and Sierra made no response.

When he realised he was dying, Marco filled in silently. Had the woman no heart at all? She seemed utterly unmoved by the fact that both her parents had died in her absence, both their hearts broken by their daughter’s running away. The only thing that had brought her to tears was knowing she’d get nothing more than a handful of baubles.

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