He was executive vice president of Giambelli, Venice, was he not? Any business that needed to be conducted required him, not his family.
Why had God plagued him with such a family?
Not that he didn't love them. Of course he loved them. But the baby was as fat as a turkey, and there was Gina pulling out a breast for its greedy mouth.
Once, that breast had been a work of art, he thought. Gold and firm and tasting of peaches. Now it was stretched like an overfilled balloon, and, had he been inclined to taste, flavored with baby drool.
And the woman was already making noises about yet another one.
The woman he'd married had been ripe, lush, sexually charged and empty of head. She had been perfection. In five short years she had become fat, sloppy and her head was full of babies.
Was it any wonder he sought his comfort elsewhere?
"Donny, I think Zia Tereza will give you a big promotion, and we'll all move into the castello." She lusted for the great house of Giambelli-all those lovely rooms, all the servants. Her children would be raised in luxury, with privilege.
Fine clothes, the best schools and, one day, the Giambelli fortune at their feet.
She was the only one giving La Signora babies, wasn't she? That would count for quite a bit.
"Cezare," she said to her son as he tore the head off his sister's doll. "Stop that! Now you made your sister cry. Here now, here, give me the doll. Mama will fix."
Little Cezare, eyes glinting, tossed the head gleefully over his shoulder and began to taunt his sister.
"English, Cezare!" She shook a finger at him. "We're going to America. You'll speak English to your zia Tereza and show her what a smart boy you are. Come, come."
Tereza Maria, screaming over the death of her doll, retrieved the severed head and raced up and down the cabin in a flurry of grief and rage.
"Cezare! Do as Mama says."
In response, the boy flung himself to the floor, arms and legs hammering.
Don lurched up, stumbled away and locked himself in the sanctuary of his in-flight office. Anthony Avano enjoyed the finer things. He'd chosen his two-story penthouse in San Francisco's Back Bay with care and deliberation, then had hired the top decorator in the city to outfit it for him. Status and style were high priorities. Having them without having to make any real effort was another.
He failed to see how a man could be comfortable without those basic elements.
His rooms reflected what he thought of as classic taste-from the silk moiré walls, the Oriental carpets, to the gleaming oak furniture. He'd chosen, or his decorator had, rich fabrics in neutral tones with a few splashes of bold colors artfully arranged.
The modern art, which meant absolutely nothing to him, was, he'd been told, a striking counterpoint to the quiet elegance.
He relied heavily on the services of decorators, tailors, brokers, jewelers and dealers to guide him into surrounding himself with the best.
Some of his detractors had been known to say Tony Avano was born with taste. And all of it in his mouth. He wouldn't have argued the point. But money, as Tony saw it, bought all the taste a man required.
He knew one thing. And that was wine.
His cellars were arguably among the best in California. Every bottle had been personally selected. While he couldn't distinguish a Sangiovese from a Semillon on the vine, and had no interest in the growing of the grape, he had a superior nose. And that nose had steadily climbed the corporate ladder at Giambelli, California. Thirty years before, it had married Pilar Giambelli.
It had taken that nose less than two years to begin sniffing at other women.
Tony was the first to admit that women were his weakness. There were so many of them, after all. He had loved Pilar as deeply as he was capable of loving another human being. He had certainly loved his position of privilege in the Giambelli organization as the husband of La Signora's daughter and as the father of her granddaughter.
Reprinted from The Villa by Nora Roberts by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Nora Roberts. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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