Passion and the Prince(6)

By: Penny Jordan


He stood up and walked over to the window. He didn’t particularly care for city living—or Milan. But for business reasons it made sense to keep an apartment and an office here. It was only one of several properties in his portfolio—some bought by him and some family properties inherited by him.

If he ever had to choose only one property from that portfolio it would be a magnificent castle built for one of his ancestors who himself had been a collector of the finest works of art.

Marco had been wary at first when he had been approached by Britain’s Historical Preservation Trust, with a view to his helping with an exhibition being mounted in an Italian inspired English stately home that would chart the history of the British love of Italian paintings, sculpture and architecture via various loaned artefacts, including plans, drawings and artworks. But the assurances he had received from them about the way in which the whole project would be set up and handled had persuaded him to become involved. Indeed he had become involved with it to such an extent that he had volunteered to escort the archivist the trust were sending to Italy on a preliminary tour of the Italian properties it had been decided would best fit with what the exhibition wanted to achieve.

Dr Wrightington, who had been appointed by the Historical Preservation Trust, would be touring a selection of properties selected by Marco and the trust, and Marco would be accompanying her. Her tour was to begin with a reception in Milan, after which they would visit the first properties on Marco’s list—several villas on the banks of Lake Como to the North of Milan. He knew very little about Dr Wrightington other than the fact that the thesis for her doctorate had been based on the long-running historical connection between the world of Italian art and its artists, and the British patrons who had travelled to the great art studios of Rome and Florence to buy their work, returning home not just with what they had bought but also with a desire to recreate Italian architecture and design in their own homes. The tour would end at one of his own homes, the Castello di Lucchesi in Lombardy.

Marco looked at his watch, plain and without any discernible logo to proclaim its origins. Its elegance was all that was needed to declare its design status—for those rich enough to recognise it.

He had an hour before he needed to welcome Dr Wrightington to Milan at the reception he had organised for her in a castle that had originally been the home of the Sforza family—the Dukes of Milan—and what was now a public building, housing a series of art galleries. His own family had been allies of the Sforzas in earlier centuries—a relationship which had benefited both families.





CHAPTER TWO


LILY looked round her small anonymous hotel bedroom. Her bag was packed and she was ready to leave, even though it would be half an hour before the taxi would arrive.

The label on her laptop case caught her eye: Dr Lillian Wrightington. She had changed her surname just after her eighteenth birthday, to avoid association with her famous parents, taking on her maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

Even now, over a year after she had been awarded her PhD, it still gave her a small thrill to see that title in front of her name.

Rick couldn’t understand why she had chosen the life she had—but then how could he? His memories of their father were so different from hers.

She had had the dream again last night, for the first time in ages, knowing that she was dreaming but powerless to wake herself up from it. It always followed the same course. Her father called her into the studio, telling her that she must stand in for a model who had not turned up. The thought of being photographed brought on her familiar fear. She looked for her own camera, wanting to hold it and hide behind it. Then the door to the studio opened and a man came in. His features were obscured, but Lily still knew him—and feared him. As he came towards her she tried to escape from him, calling out to her father as she did so, but he was too busy to pay her any attention. The man reached for her …

That part of the dream had been completely familiar to her. She had dreamed it a thousand times and more, after all. But then something odd had happened—something new and unfamiliar. As the horror and revulsion had risen up inside her, accompanied by anguish that her father couldn’t see she needed help, the door to the studio had opened again, admitting someone else, and when she’d seen the newcomer she had been filled with relief, running to him, welcoming the feel of his fingers on her arms, knowing that despite the anger she could feel burning in him his presence would protect her and save her.