Vicenzo Valentini stood for a long moment looking down at the set and cold features of the dead woman. His baby sister. She was only twenty-four. Her whole life ahead of her. But not any more. That life had been snuffed out like a candle in the mangled wreckage of a horrific car crash.
And he’d been too late to stop it, to protect her. What felt like a granite block weighted down his insides.
He should have followed his instincts and insisted that she come home weeks ago…if he had he would have realised how much danger she was in.
That thought made his fists clench as pain and guilt surged through him, so strong that he shook with the intensity it took to not let it out in front of the anonymous morgue attendant. He’d been kept away deliberately. A crude ruse to ensure he didn’t come to check up on his sister. When he thought of how awfully futile it made him feel he wanted to rant and rail, to smash something. He fought to regain control. He had to keep it together. He had to bring his sister home. He and his father would mourn her there. Not in this cold country where she had been seduced out of her innocence and led down a dark path to this tragic end. He stretched out a shaking hand and ran a finger down one icy cold cheek. It almost undid him. The crash hadn’t marked her face, and that made it even harder to bear, because like this she might almost be eight again, clinging onto Vicenzo’s hand tightly. Summoning all his control, he leant forward and pressed a kiss against her clammy, lifeless forehead.
He stood and turned away abruptly, saying in a voice clogged and hoarse with grief, ‘Yes. This is my sister. Allegra Valentini.’ A part of him couldn’t believe he was saying the trite words, that this wasn’t just an awful nightmare. He stepped out of the way jerkily to let the attendant zip the body bag back up.
Vicenzo muttered something unintelligible and strode from the room, feeling constricted and claustrophobic, making his way up through the hospital, just wanting to get back outside and breathe in fresh air.
Although that was laughable. The hospital was right in the smog-filled centre of London.
Outside, he sucked in deep breaths, unaware of the gaping looks he drew with his tall, lean body, and dark olive-skinned good-looks. He stood out like an exotic beacon of potent masculinity against the backdrop of the hospital in the harsh early-morning light.
He saw nothing, though, but the pain inside him. The doctor had described it as a tragic accident. But Vicenzo knew it had been much more than an accident. His fists clenched at the sides of his body in rejection of that platitude. Two people had died in the crash: his sister—
his beautiful, beloved, irrepressible Allegra—and her duplicitous lover, Cormac Brosnan. The man who had calculatedly seduced her, with one grasping hand out for her fortune and the other hand holding Vicenzo back from interfering. Rage burned inside him again. He’d had no inkling of Brosnan’s influence and cunning until it was too late. He knew it all now, but that information amounted to nothing any more, because it couldn’t bring Allegra back.
But one person had survived the crash. One person had walked out of this hospital just an hour after being admitted last night. The words of the doctor came back to him. ‘Not even a scratch on her body unbelievable, really. She was the only one wearing a seatbelt and undoubtedly it saved her life. Lucky woman.’
Lucky woman. The words made a mist of red rage cloud Vicenzo’s vision. Cara Brosnan. Cormac’s sister. Reports stated that Cormac had been behind the wheel of the car, but even so Cara Brosnan had been no less responsible. Vicenzo’s hands clenched even harder, his jaw so tight it hurt. If he’d only got here sooner he would have made sure that she had not walked anywhere until he’d looked her in the eye and made it his business to let her know that he would make her atone. He’d had to endure that soul-destroying moment when the doctor had informed him that his sister had had high levels of drugs and alcohol in her system.#p#分页标题#e#
His driver, who must have seen him standing on the steps of the hospital, pulled up in front of him, the powerful engine of the sleek car purring quietly. Vicenzo forced himself to move and sat in the back. As they swung away from the front of the grim hospital he had to stifle a moment of blind panic, stop himself demanding that the car be stopped so he could go back and see Allegra one more time. As if he had to make sure for himself that she was really dead. Really gone.
But he didn’t. And he willed the awful, uncustomary feeling of panic down. She was dead. Only her body lay back there. He was aware that this was the first time in years anything had struck him through the iron-clad high wall he’d built around his emotions. And his heart. He’d grown strong and impervious since that time. And he had to draw on that strength now. Especially for his father’s sake. On the news of the death of his beloved only daughter his father had suffered a minor stroke and was still in a hospital albeit stable enough to allow Vicenzo to make this trip.