Baby Mine - Tressie Lockwood
Jada stepped out of the taxi, her heart pounding and her mouth dry. Behind her the driver pulled her luggage from the trunk of his vehicle. Of all times, the rain fell, ruining the hard work she’d done on her hair. Now that she had arrived at Renzo’s house, she second-guessed herself. Correction. Mansion. The man she’d had a brief six-week affair with on her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy was not the everyday Joe, citizen of Venice she’d thought he was. No, the dude was in fact a member of one of the most well known families for producing wine, and the drive where she now stood lay smack in the middle of Renzo’s vineyard in Napa Valley, California. What the heck had she been thinking coming here?
She swiped away the slick hair on her forehead and turned to speak to the driver. “I think I changed my mi—”
He’d already gotten back into his car and was pulling down the drive toward the street. A moment of panic settled in the pit of Jada’s stomach. She’d paid him before she stepped out of the car, but she’d thought he would at least wait until she was sure someone was at home and they didn’t run her off their property.
She spun back to face the imposing two-story home with cathedral windows everywhere and a roof that stretched toward the heavens with myriad spiky peaks. Nothing could have complemented the circular driveway that surrounded an incredible oasis of a fountain at the front. Even during twilight as it was now, the manicured lawns impressed her, and all of it screamed money. Who would believe her that the fact that she was pregnant with Renzo’s baby wasn’t some kind of plot to get a share of their wealth?
Jada’s limbs trembled, and her stomach threatened to give up the half sandwich she’d eaten just a half hour ago. The voice was at once familiar and yet different. She forced her head to turn, although the movements were jerky at best. The man who met her gaze was so like Renzo she had to stop herself from calling out his name. No, this man was younger, maybe a good ten years. He didn’t have Renzo’s height or his overwhelming presence. The twinkling eyes and easy smile were the same despite that.
He strolled up to her with the same gait as her former lover. “Have you lost your way? We get a lot of tourists looking for Ledson, but they stumble onto us instead.”
Jada opened her mouth to answer but couldn’t push the words out. He has a right to know. That’s the only reason I’m here. Once I tell him, I’m gone. “I—”
Grey eyes narrowed with concern. “You’re soaked. Come inside out of the rain, and I can redirect you from there. I can even call for a car to take you where you’re going.”
Jada didn’t get a chance to explain. Before she knew it, the stranger had her by the arm and propelled her toward the front entrance of the house. Over his shoulder, he called someone’s name, which she didn’t catch. A teenaged boy appeared from nowhere.
“Get her luggage,” the man ordered in a kind but authoritative tone. The boy scrambled to obey.
Jada found herself in an entryway that must be as big as the tiny house she’d just bought three years ago in Charlotte. Okay, she exaggerated, but the opulence took her breath away. Boy had she made a huge mistake coming here. She should have sent a letter, phoned, anything. The problem was Renzo hadn’t given her more than his name in Florence. She’d had to have someone look into finding him. Never in a million years had she expected this.
Stairs straight across from the main entrance led up and then curved to the left and right on the second floor. She stared in awe at the high ceiling and the two chandeliers above the staircase’s center. While she took it all in, a woman moved to the top of the stairs and smiled down at her. “Welcome. Who are you?”
Once again, Jada started to speak, but the man at her side cut her off. “Where are my manners, beautiful lady? Forgive me.” He took her hand as if he would kiss it. She raised an eyebrow, and he hesitated, but his smile didn’t falter. “I am Ettore Mariani, and this little flower is my sister, Zita.”
The grand gestures and over familiarity didn’t shock Jada. She’d seen plenty of it in