Di Sione's Innocent Conquest (The Billionaire's Legacy)

“MATTEO, I WANT THAT NECKLACE. WHATEVER IT TAKES, FIND IT AND BRING IT TO ME.”

Prickly, buttoned-up racing team owner Abby Ellison isn’t legendary playboy Matteo Di Sione’s type. But Abby has something he needs—a necklace prized by his grandfather—and where his lethal charm doesn’t work, sponsorship of her team does!

As they travel from Dubai to Monte Carlo to Brazil, Matteo thrives on the thrill of the racing world and the surprising allure of innocent Abby. But when he discovers the secret that drives Abby’s ambition, Matteo realises he can’t just take the necklace and walk away...

They were wrapped in each other’s arms and the mouth Abby had wanted from the night they had met was on hers, crushing hers.

It was consuming, blatant and fierce, and unthinking, her mouth opened in delicious reflex. Matteo’s tongue went straight in, and yet she, too, sought his, like some exotic sword fight where both were winners as they partook in the deepest, sexiest kiss.

God, he was shameless, Abby thought. Then he took the energy of their kiss and didn’t just sustain it; Matteo heightened it. He was hard and pressing into her and she could feel every delicious inch. His hands were now traveling down to her bottom and pulling her into him. Yet, rather than pull back, Abby was just as on fire as he.

And then they remembered the rules and pulled their mouths rather than their bodies back.

“When we win...we kiss,” Matteo said.

She could live with that.

They were breathing so hard just staring at each other.

“When we place, we kiss,” he said, kissing her cheek as if it were her mouth, and that made her laugh. “And if we lose,” he continued, making out with her ear, “then we have to commiserate...”

The Billionaire’s Legacy

A search for truth and the promise of passion!

For nearly sixty years, Italian billionaire Giovanni Di Sione has kept a shocking secret. Now, nearing the end of his days, he wants his grandchildren to know their true heritage.

He sends them each on a journey to find his “Lost Mistresses,” a collection of love tokens—the only remaining evidence of his lost identity, his lost history...his lost love.

With each item collected, the Di Sione siblings take one step closer to the truth...and embark on a passionate journey that none could have expected!

Find out what happens in
The Billionaire’s Legacy

Di Sione’s Innocent Conquest
by Carol Marinelli
The Di Sione Secret Baby
by Maya Blake
To Blackmail a Di Sione
by Rachel Thomas
The Return of the Di Sione Wife
by Caitlin Crews
Di Sione’s Virgin Mistress
by Sharon Kendrick
A Di Sione for the Greek’s Pleasure
by Kate Hewitt
A Deal for the Di Sione Ring
by Jennifer Hayward
The Last Di Sione Claims His Prize
by Maisey Yates

Collect all 8 volumes!

 

CAROL MARINELLI

Di Sione’s Innocent Conquest

Carol Marinelli
is a Taurus, with Taurus rising, yet still thinks she is a secret Gemini. Originally from England, she now lives in Australia and is the single mother of three. Apart from her children, writing romance and the friendships forged along the way are her passion. She chooses to believe in a happy-ever-after for all and strives for that in her writing.

Books by Carol Marinelli

Harlequin Presents

The Playboy of Puerto Ban
ú
s
Playing the Dutiful Wife
Heart of the Desert
The Only Woman to Defy Him
More Precious than a Crown
Protecting the Desert Princess

Irresistible Russian Tycoons

The Price of His Redemption
The Cost of the Forbidden
Billionaire Without a Past
Return of the Untamed Billionaire

Playboys of Sicily

Sicilian’s Shock Proposal
His Sicilian Cinderella

The Chatsfield

Princess’s Secret Baby

Empire of the Sands

Banished to the Harem
Beholden to the Throne

Visit the Author Profile page at Harlequin.com for more titles.

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PROLOGUE

M
ATTEO
D
I
S
IONE
knew only too well his shortcomings.

He didn’t need to have them pointed out to him.

Again.

Summoned by his grandfather, Giovanni, it was with a sense of dread that Matteo drove towards the Di Sione estate—a magnificent, sprawling residence set in the Gold Coast of Long Island.

On the death of Matteo’s parents, Giovanni had taken in the seven orphans that his son, Benito, and wife, Anna, had left behind. For Matteo, then only five years old, this place had become home.

Now he had a penthouse apartment in Manhattan with glittering views of the skyline and the city that never slept at his feet.

This was home though.

For better or worse, this was where his fractured, scattered family met on occasion, or returned to at times.

Now, Matteo assumed that he had been called here to be served a lecture.

Another one.

The previous weekend had been particularly wild, even by Matteo’s licentious standards. The press, who were eagerly awaiting his downfall, had been watching. They couldn’t wait for a Di Sione to hit skid row and so had taken delight in reporting Matteo’s million-dollar loss in Vegas on Saturday night. They had, of course, failed to mention that he had recouped the loss twice over by dawn. What hurt him the most, though, was that a prestigious paper had written a very scathing piece.

Arriving in Manhattan this morning, he had gone from his jet to the waiting car and checked the news—the headline he had seen had been the one he had dreaded the most.

History Repeats!

There was a photo of him coming out of the casino, unshaven, with his hair falling over his eyes. He was clearly a little the worse for wear. On his arm was a blonde.

Beside that image, there was another, taken some thirty years ago, in the very same year that he had been born.

Benito Di Sione coming out of a casino, unshaven with the same straight black hair falling over the same navy eyes and clearly a little the worse for wear. On his arm the beautiful requisite blonde, who was not Matteo’s mother.

Matteo doubted his father would have remembered who the woman was, whereas Matteo always remembered his lovers.

On Saturday night her name had been Lacey and she had been gorgeous.

He adored women.

Skinny ones, big ones and anywhere in between. Matteo had a slight yen for the newly divorced—he had found that they were only too happy to rekindle that long-lost flame of desire.

Matteo always made it perfectly clear that he was here for a good time not a long time and he was never with anyone long enough to cheat.

The article had gone on to list the similarities between father and youngest son—the risk-taking, the decadent, debauched lifestyle—and had warned that Matteo was heading towards the same fate that had befallen his father—dead, his car wrapped around a lamppost and his wife deceased by his side.

No, Matteo was not looking forward to speaking with his grandfather; after all, Giovanni often said the very same thing.

He drove into the huge estate and looked ahead rather than taking in the luxurious surrounds, for they held few happy memories.

Still, it was home and, as he parked his car and walked towards the mansion where the Di Sione children had been raised, he wondered as to his reception. Matteo stopped by fairly regularly and took Giovanni out to his club for lunch whenever he could.

He knocked on the door simply to be polite but, as he did, he let himself in with his own key.

‘It’s Matteo,’ he called out as he opened the door and then smiled when he saw Alma, the housekeeper, up on a stepladder.

‘Master Matteo!’ Alma mustn’t have heard him knock because she jumped a little. She was working on a large flower display in the entrance hall and went to get down from the ladder but he gestured for her to carry on.

‘Where is he?’ Matteo asked.

‘In his study. Do you want me to let Signor Giovanni know that you are here?’

‘No, I’ll just go straight through.’ Matteo rolled his eyes. ‘I believe he’s expecting me.’

Alma gave him a small smile and Matteo took it to be a sympathetic one. Of course she must have seen the newspaper when she had taken Giovanni his breakfast this morning.

‘How is he doing?’ Matteo asked as he often did.

‘He wants to speak with you himself,’ Alma said and Matteo frowned at the vague answer.

He walked down a long hallway and then stood at the heavy mahogany door of his grandfather’s study and took a steadying breath, then knocked on the door. When his grandfather’s voice called for him to come in, he did so.

‘Hey!’ Matteo said as he opened the door.

He looked not to his grandfather but to the folded newspaper that lay on Giovanni’s desk and, even as he closed the door behind him, Matteo set the tone. ‘I’ve already seen it and I really don’t need a lecture.’

‘Where does lecturing you get me, Matteo?’ Giovanni responded.

Matteo looked up at the sound of his grandfather’s tired voice, and what he saw made his heart sink in dread. Giovanni looked not just pale, but so incredibly frail. His hair was as white as snow and his usually bright blue eyes seemed faded, and suddenly Matteo changed his mind—he wanted a lecture now! He wanted his grandfather to have brought him here to haul him over the proverbial coals, to tell Matteo that he must grow up, settle down and cease his hedonistic days. Anything other than what, Matteo had the terrible feeling, was about to come.

‘I’ve asked you to come here to tell you...’ Giovanni started but Matteo did not want to hear it. A master in diversion, he picked up the newspaper from his grandfather’s desk and unfolded it.

‘For all their comparisons they forget one vital piece of information,’ Matteo said. ‘
He
had responsibilities.’

‘I know that he did,’ Giovanni said, ‘but you have responsibility too. To yourself. Matteo, you are heading for trouble. The company you keep, the risks you take...’

‘Are mine to take,’ Matteo interrupted. ‘My father was married and had seven children when he died.’ He jabbed at the photo. ‘Well, seven that he had admitted to!’

‘Matteo!’ Giovanni said. This was not going as he intended. ‘Sit down.’

‘No!’ He argued not with his grandfather but himself. ‘For all they compare me to him they deliberately omit to mention that I don’t have a wife and children. I’d never put anyone through the hell he made.’

He never would.

It was a decision Matteo had made a long time ago.

He was single and staying that way.

Giovanni looked at his grandson and he worried for him.

Fun-loving and charismatic, Matteo not only acted like his father at times, he looked like him too. They had the same navy eyes, the same straight nose and even their hair fell forwards in the same way.

Giovanni, for his own private reasons, had never bonded with his son. He had never told anyone why; it was a secret he had intended to take to his grave.

In the aftermath of Benito’s and Anna’s deaths, five-year-old Matteo, a carbon copy of his father, had been too much of a visual reminder of Benito for Giovanni and, rather than learning from his mistakes, he had repeated them, and Giovanni had kept his distance from his grandson.

Matteo had run wild and that irrepressible personality had gone largely unchecked. When he had dropped out of college after just a year, a terrible row had ensued. Matteo had said that he didn’t need to be taught about the business world—playing the stock market was in his DNA and he wanted to set up a hedge fund rather than sit in lectures—and Giovanni had told his grandson that he was just like his father and that he feared he was heading the same way. Accusations that Matteo had not needed to hear and certainly not from his grandfather.

It was too late to tame him. Giovanni had shouted at the young man, and Matteo had fought back.

‘You never once tried!’ It was the only glimpse Matteo had ever given to another of the pain he carried. ‘You never once fought for me,’ he had shouted. ‘You left me to roam this house and make my own way. Don’t act now as if you care.’ Yes, harsh words had been said and their relationship still bore the scars to this day.

‘Take a seat, Matteo,’ Giovanni said.

Matteo didn’t do as asked.

Troubled by his grandfather’s appearance and unsettled as to what was to come, instead of sitting down, he walked over to the window. He looked out to the vast estate that had once been his playground. Matteo’s grandmother had died before he had been born, so his younger sisters had been taken care of by his older sister, Allegra, while his older siblings had all headed off to boarding school.

Matteo had pretty much been left to his own devices.

‘Do you remember when you used to visit me as children when your parents were still alive?’ Giovanni asked.

‘I don’t think about that time,’ Matteo answered.

He did his best to never look back.

‘You were very young, of course. Maybe you can’t remember...’

Oh, Matteo did.

He remembered only too well life before the Di Sione children had come to live here. He could still recall, with painful clarity, the fights that could erupt at any given time and just the sheer chaos of their existence. Of course, he hadn’t understood then that there were drugs involved. Matteo had just known that his family lived on the edge.

A luxurious knife edge.

‘Matteo.’ Giovanni broke into his dark thoughts. ‘Do you remember when I used to tell you all the story of the Lost Mistresses?’

‘No.’ Matteo shrugged and dismissed the conversation. As he looked out of the window to the lake, his gaze fell on a tree that was so high his stomach churned as he remembered climbing it and falling. A branch had broken his fall. Had it not, he’d probably have died.

No one had seen and no one had known.

Alma, the housekeeper, had scolded him for the grass stains on his clothes and had asked what had happened.

‘I tripped near the lake,’ he had said.

His ribs and head had hurt and his heart had still been pounding, not that he would let Alma see that.

Instead it had been easier to lie.

The sensation of falling still woke Matteo to this day but that wasn’t all that he recalled as he stood there staring out of the window. There was a darker memory that he had never shared, one that could still bring him out in a cold sweat—pleading with his father to stop, to slow down, to please take him home.

From that day to this, Matteo had never again revealed fear.

It got you nowhere. If anything, it spurred others on.

‘You surely remember,’ Giovanni insisted. ‘The Lost Mistresses...’

‘I don’t.’ He shook his head.

‘Then I’ll remind you.’

As if I need to hear this again
, Matteo thought! He said nothing, though, and let the old man speak.

‘Don’t ask me how I came by them, for an old man must have his secrets...’ Giovanni started. Matteo remained standing, his face impassive, as his grandfather recited the tale. ‘But when I came to America, I had in my possession trinkets, my Lost Mistresses. They meant more to me than you can ever know but in order to survive I was forced to sell them. My Lost Mistresses, the love of my life, we owe them everything.’ Giovanni stopped speaking for a moment and looked at Matteo’s pale features and unshaven jaw, which was now clenched. ‘You do remember.’

‘No.’ Matteo was getting annoyed now. ‘I’ve told you I don’t.’ He loathed delving into the past and he didn’t want a trip down memory lane today. ‘Do you want to go out?’ he suggested. ‘I could take you for a drive. We could go to your club...’

‘Matteo.’ Giovanni cut him off. He knew that Matteo was trying to change the subject. He loved his grandson very much. Even if they had had their problems, still Matteo came by often and took him out. He just, Giovanni knew, let no one in.

Giovanni had to put things right while he still could. ‘I have to tell you something.’

‘Come on, we’ll go for a drive...’ Matteo pushed. He did not want to be here and he did not want to hear what he knew his grandfather was about to tell him.

‘I’m dying, Matteo.’

Giovanni watched his grandson for his reaction but Matteo never gave his true feelings away.

‘We’re all dying,’ Matteo responded, trying to make light of the devastating news while his heart pounded in his chest, as still his mind fought to deny the truth.

He did not want to have this conversation.

He could not stand to think of his grandfather gone and his family together at another funeral. Images of his parents’ coffins and the children all walking behind them still appeared in magazines at times and were always in his mind.

He did not want his grandfather to die.

‘The leukemia is back,’ Giovanni said.

‘What about that treatment you had?’ Matteo asked. Seventeen years ago they had nearly lost Giovanni. A bone marrow donor had been needed and all the grandchildren had been tested but none of them had returned a match. It had been then that the eldest, Alessandro, had confessed that he knew their father had another son. They had tracked Nate down and he had returned a match. ‘Couldn’t Nate...’

‘A transplant is out of the question, and I’m not sure that treatment is the best way forward at this stage,’ Giovanni said. ‘The doctors say we can hope for remission but, failing that, it is a matter of months. The reality is, I have a year at best.’

‘You know how I loathe reality,’ Matteo said and the old man smiled.

‘I do.’

And Matteo escaped reality often—in casinos, clubs, daredevil escapades, constantly pushing both his body and the hedge fund he had set up to the very brink.

How Giovanni wished he could take back the damaging words he had said and handled this complex man so much better. Yes, while there were many similarities between Matteo and his father, there were other traits too—there was an innate kindness to Matteo that had been absent in Benito, a rare kindness of which Giovanni was immensely proud. And though Matteo was eternally restless, in other ways he was the most patient man Giovanni had ever known. As his health had deteriorated, as his stamina had waned, it was Matteo who would come around and take him out, Matteo who fell easily into a slower step beside him and let Giovanni ramble as he had just done.

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