‘Is there a street entrance?’ Lydia asked, and watched as he barely glanced up from his phone.
Raul opened the box of pastries and selected one, took a bite as he got back to his phone.
Lydia could find it herself.
‘You can see yourself out.’
ALL ROADS LED to Rome.
But today Raul hoped that Rome would lead him to Lydia.
Raul could not get her out of his mind.
Disquiet gnawed and unfinished business reared up and he simply could not let it go.
Summer was gone.
As he walked past the café where they had shared breakfast Raul looked up to the dark clouds above and it looked as if the sky had been hung too low.
It had felt like that since Lydia had gone.
Autumn had arrived, and usually it was Raul’s favourite time of the year.
Not this one.
He missed her, and Raul had never missed anyone, and he just could not shake off the feeling.
It was something he could not define.
Even if the tourists never really thinned out in Venice, La Serenissima had felt empty rather than serene. Here in Rome the locals were enjoying the slight lull that came with the change. Back in Sicily the vines that threaded the valley would be turning to russet...
Raul never went back.
Not even in his head.
Yet he was starting to now.
Lydia had been right—perhaps he should go back.
If this visit to the Grande Lucia did not work out as he hoped, then Raul would be making his first trip back to Casta since the will had been read.
The doorman nodded as Raul went through the brass revolving door, and he stood for a moment remembering their brief time there.
But that was not right. It didn’t feel brief—if anything it was the most examined part of his life.
Lydia was the most contrary person he knew.
Cold and guarded...warm and intense.
And, although they had both agreed to a one-night stand, he still could not make sense of that morning.
That kiss before he had left to get breakfast had held promise, but Raul had returned to a stranger and he had to know why.
But he didn’t even know her surname.
Raul knew some of the darkest most intimate parts of Lydia, and yet her full name he did not know.
Nor where she lived.
Usually those details did not matter to him.
Oh, but they did now.
He had searched, and so had Allegra.
There were a surprising number of castles in England, and there were many that were used for weddings.
They had got nowhere.
Allegra was working her way through them all and had flown over to England three times.
And now Raul was in Rome.
Back at the Grande Lucia, where it had all started.
Now that Raul was showing no interest in purchasing the hotel he was having trouble getting through to Sultan Alim.
And so he was here in person.
But trouble remained in the shape of the young receptionist.
‘Sultan Alim is only available by appointment.’
‘Call and tell him that Raul Di Savo is here.’
‘As I said, he only sees people by appointment. We don’t disturb him with phone calls.’
She was as snooty and as immutable as he demanded that Allegra should be if someone—anyone—tried to invade Raul’s time.
‘Is he even in the country?’ Raul asked, but that information was off-limits.
‘He would prefer that we do not discuss his movements. I shall let him know you were here.’
Did he sit in the foyer and wait for a royal sultan who might already be back in the Middle East? Or warn the poor receptionist that if she valued her job she should let Alim know...
And then Raul saw someone who might be able to help.
She was walking through the foyer carrying a huge display of roses.
The indiscreet wedding planner!
‘Hey,’ Raul said.
He had forgotten how to flirt—even for gain.
‘Oh!’ She stopped. ‘You were in the ballroom when Alim...’ Her voice trailed off.
There had been something going on that afternoon. Raul knew it. He hadn’t given it much thought until now.
‘I’m hoping to meet with him.’
‘Good luck!’ Gabi rolled her eyes. ‘He’s back home.’
‘For his wedding.’
‘I’m planning it, actually.’
She looked as if she were about to cry.
‘Can you let him know I need to speak with him?’
‘I’m a wedding planner,’ Gabi said. ‘I don’t get access to the Royal Sultan.’
And neither would he, Raul thought as Gabi flounced off.
So that left Bastiano—and Raul already knew where he was.
* * *
His jet landed at Cosimo airport, and though it was warmer the sky still seemed to be hung too low. Raul put on his shades and transferred to the helicopter he had arranged to take him to the old convent.