For those reasons he had, for many years, attempted to be very discreet about his particular weakness. He had even tried, a number of times, to reform.
But then there would be another woman, soft and fragrant or sultry and seductive. What was a man to do?
The weakness had eventually cost him his marriage, in a technical if not a legal sense. He and Pilar had been separated for seven years. Neither of them had made the move toward divorce. She, he knew, because she loved him. And he because it seemed like a great deal of trouble and would have seriously displeased Tereza.
In any case, as far as Tony was concerned, the current situation suited everyone nicely. Pilar preferred the countryside, he the city. They maintained a polite, even a reasonably friendly relationship. And he kept his position as president of sales, Giambelli, California.
Seven years they had walked that civilized line. Now, he was very afraid he was about to fall off the edge of it.
Rene was insisting on marriage. Like a silk-lined steamroller, Rene had a way of moving toward a goal and flattening all barriers in her path. Discussions with her left Tony limp and dizzy.
She was violently jealous, overbearing, demanding and prone to icy sulks.
He was crazy about her.
At thirty-two, she was twenty-seven years his junior, a fact that stroked his well-developed ego. Knowing she was every bit as interested in his money as the rest of him didn't trouble him. He respected her for it.
He worried that if he gave her what she wanted, he would lose what she wanted him for.
It was a hell of a fix. To resolve it, Tony did what he usually did regarding difficulties. He ignored it as long as humanly possible.
Studying his view of the bay, sipping a small vermouth, Tony waited for Rene to finish dressing for their evening out. And worried that his time was up.
The doorbell had him glancing over, frowning slightly. They weren't expecting anyone. As it was his majordomo's evening off, he went to see who was there. The frown cleared as he opened the door to his daughter.
"Sophie, what a lovely surprise."
She rose slightly on her toes to kiss his cheek. Ridiculously handsome, as ever, she thought. Good genes and an excellent plastic surgeon served him well. She did her best to ignore the quick and instinctive tug of resentment, and tried to focus on the equally quick and instinctive tug of love.
It seemed she was forever pulled in opposing directions over her father.
"I'm just in from New York, and wanted to see you before I headed up to the villa."
She scanned his face-smooth, almost unlined and certainly untroubled. The dark hair wisped attractively with gray at the temples, the deep blue eyes were clear. He had a handsome, squared-off chin with a center dimple. She'd loved dipping her finger into it as a child and making him laugh.
The love for him swarmed through her and tangled messily with the resentment. It was always so.
"I see you're going out," she said, noting his tuxedo.
"Shortly." He took her hand to draw her inside. "But there's plenty of time. Sit down, princess, and tell me how you are. What can I get you?"
She tipped his glass toward her. Sniffed, approved. "What you're having's fine."
She scanned the room as he walked over to the liquor cabinet. An expensive pretext, she thought. All show and no substance. Just like her father.
"Are you going up tomorrow?"
She tilted her head as he crossed back to her. "To the villa."
She took the glass, considering as she sipped. "You didn't get a call?"
Loyalties tugged and tangled inside her. He'd cheated on her mother, had carelessly ignored his vows as long as Sophia could remember, and in the end had left them both with barely a backward glance. But he was still family, and the family was being called to the villa.
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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