- Genre: Romance
- Age: 18+
- Status: Ongoing
- Language: English
- Author: Angel Masterpen
“Who killed little Lionel?” a voice whispered in Leo’s head as he saw droplets of blood on the white marble staircase.
Suddenly, the body of the dead little boy appeared–bloodied and stone cold. Leo shuddered, a wave of nausea washing over him. And then, the boy’s eyes flew open, blood dripping from it.
“Who killed him?” the voice whispered again.
Leo swallowed hard and plodded back. But suddenly, he felt a hand push him down the stairs.
“No,” he cried out, struggling not to fall.
His eyelids parted abruptly to the sunlight streaming in through his room windows. He was breathing hard. Slowly, he put his fingers to his face and felt the sweat lining his skin. Yet another nightmare, he thought to himself. He sighed.
The nightmares about little Lionel had started a little over a week ago–on a rainy night. But Leo didn’t understand why he was suddenly having such nightmares.
The incident happened seven years ago. The little boy had accidentally slipped from the staircase in Leo’s family’s mansion in Napa. Sadly, it was the same incident that had caused Leo to cut off ties with his first love, Emma. Lionel was her little brother.
Leo wished things with her hadn’t ended the way they did. She was still the only girl who occupied his dreams. He sat up on the bed and stared at the naked windows. He had been very fond of Lionel, too, and had been devastated by the incident. But what her father had tried to do to his family was wicked and completely unacceptable. And she had quickly taken her father’s side. His mother had been right–people enjoyed exploiting the rich.
Gently, he fingered the black locket dangling from his neck–the same one his grandfather had given him. It had cracked on the same day little Lionel had died. Yesterday, Leo had decided on something he had sworn never to do–return to Napa Valley. He could no longer remain angry at his father. And there was his mother’s last wish, which had been tormenting him for almost two years now.
Back in Napa Valley, California, was a large wine business he was entitled to inherit. But his father had laid out a condition Leo had rejected. The same condition that had made him leave America for Italy, never to return.
His doorbell chimed. Who could it be? he thought. Today was his off day from work, and he wasn’t expecting anyone. He descended from his bed and headed to the sitting room. He was wearing black satin pajamas.
As soon as he opened his apartment door, he saw Sofia, one of his closest friends here in Italy. The last time they had seen and spoken was three days ago.
“I wasn’t expecting you,” he said softly and made way for her to walk in.
“Well, I was in the neighborhood. So, I just decided to drop by.”
She plopped on one of the sofas and put her purse aside. She was fair-haired and of average height.
Leo sat down, too, resting his head on the cushion. Wistful and nostalgic thoughts swirled in his head, his mind resting on Moon Drops and Sweet Jubilee. And on Napa Valley and the splendor of home.
“You look disturbed,” she said.
“I am,” he confessed.
He’d never been good at masking his emotions. He rubbed his forehead with his palm.
“Is this about your nightmares? Are you still having them?”
He nodded in response.
“But there’s also something else,” he said.
“What?” Her eyes turned worried.
“I’m done, Sofia. I’ve changed my mind about everything.”
She stared at him for a moment.
“I don’t understand. What do you mean by you’ve changed your mind about everything?”
“I’ve decided to move back to Napa.”
Her sea-blue eyes bulged in surprise.
“Napa? Why? You swore never to do that, Leonardo.”
“I know. But that was just my ego talking,” he said. “There’s nothing left for me here.”
“Have you told your father about this?”
“No,” he answered. He hadn’t even told his younger sister, Elena, whom he loved and missed so much.
Like his father, he was defiant and had, with that defiance, chosen to move to Florence instead of remaining in Napa to do his bidding. But he was 25 now. More mature to understand why his father had done what he did. His mother had, with her pleas, tried to convince him to return, but he’d remained defiant and angry, staying in Florence. Now, if he didn’t return, his father would have no choice but to hand over the entire Mancini fortune to his brother-in-law, Fabian, whom Leo didn’t trust. And Elena had told him that Isabella Conte was still single and was still in love with him. So he could finally fulfill his father’s condition of marrying her.
“Is this about your mother’s dying wish?” Sofia probed. “I know you’re still depressed about her death, Leonardo. But you need to think this through.”
He’d spent a long time pondering over the issue already.
“Yes, it is,” he replied. “My mother meant a lot to me, Sofia. I know I was angry at her for a long time, but I believe that I’ve been stubborn for too long. It’s time for me to go home.”
He’d been angry with his mother for taking his father’s side. And it was why he’d ignored her pleas to return. But when he’d gone home and seen her in a vegetative state, he’d felt guilty about leaving.
“So, you’ll finally let Isabella Conte have you?” Sofia said.
“I don’t really care at this point, Sofia. She’ll have a loyal man by her side and nothing more. My heart will never belong to her.”
This would, he was sure, please his dead mother. Sadly, she’d passed away a few hours after she’d made him promise that he would return home for good and marry Isabella Conte. But he’d agreed to return only because he wanted to make her feel better. Still consumed by his defiance, he’d stayed only for her burial and had quickly returned to Florence.
“The truth is I miss home, Sofia. You know, I vividly remember the days when my dreams revolved around someday running my family’s wine business.”
And marrying Emma, he thought. He wondered if she was still alive. Seven years had passed since he last saw her.