The Playboy of Argentina(6)

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She would be swaddled in Do Not Disturbs and deep, deep sleep. He could just cross her off his list and move to the next name. There were bound to be hundreds.





CHAPTER TWO


‘So MANY GIRLS, so little time,’ Dante mouthed, and winked at him over the heads of the two dancers from Rio who had just wound themselves around him.

Well, that was him taken care of for the evening—or the next couple of hours at least.

Rocco had just peeled a sweet little blonde from hm. Normally his preferences did run to sweet little blondes, but tonight … He strode to the wide windows that ran the length of the Art Hotel penthouse—Dante’s go-to joint for post-match partying. Tonight he was well off his game.

He braced his hands on the glass and stared out across Palermo to the outskirts, where he knew her hotel was. One phone call and he’d found out everything he needed to know. One phone call that had confirmed she was in town long enough for him to scratch the itch that had started all those years ago.

The blonde put her arms around his waist again. He was losing patience with her, but she would be well looked after—by someone else.

He looked round at his team members and friends. All getting into the party spirit one way or another. For Rocco the party wouldn’t start until he had Frankie Ryan in his arms. Then and only then would he get rid of this tension that had built almost to a frenzy since he’d seen her sneaking into the transporter.

He checked his watch.

Too early, but he had a feeling she wasn’t going to be waiting on the steps of her hotel wearing an expectant look and a corsage. No, something told him that she was going to be a little less easy to convince than the nowsulking blonde, who’d finally realised he wasn’t just playing hard to get.

He called his driver. He couldn’t wait anymore.

‘Dante—I will catch you up.’

His brother, busy, lifted an arm in acknowledgement. He hadn’t told him he’d seen her at the match. Wasn’t in the mood for questions. Why? Because he barely understood himself why this slip of a girl, now a woman, had occupied so much of his head for so long.

The last time Dante had raised the subject with him, after a particularly broody day in Dublin when he’d failed to make contact with her, it hadn’t gone well. He’d called her Rocco’s ‘Irish obsession’. It was probably the only time they’d failed to agree on anything. He’d admit it now, though. He was definitely obsessing about her now.

He checked his phone, his money and, for the first time in a long time, his appearance. He knew how he looked. He wasn’t coy or stupid. Normally it was irrelevant. There were far, far more important things in this world—like loyalty, like honour. Like family …

And if he was honest, that penthouse full of beautiful women back there …? None of them interested him more than the skinny, hazel-eyed Irish kid he’d met ten years earlier. A little bit of closure on that particular puzzle would be good—it had been a long time coming.

He swung into the back of the sedan. An hour earlier than he’d suggested and the city was limbering itself up for the night ahead. The party at Molina Lario would be good, for starters. But he was feeling post-match wired and just this side of in control. He spread his arms across the back of the seat, watched the sights of his town slip past. A bit of Barcelona here … a look of Paris there. The spill of people on wide streets, corners alive with café culture. Vibrant, creative and free.

But he was no romantic fool. Yes, he loved it. Loved it that he had run its streets and slept in its parks. Loved it that he had survived. Was grateful that he had survived when so many others had fallen or, perhaps worse, were living the legacy of those years in prisons or still on the streets. He would never, ever forget or take that for granted.

But all he had—his wealth, his businesses, his health, his adoptive family—all of that he would trade right now for one more day with Lodo. One more chance to shield him and protect him and cherish him—better than he’d managed last time …

The car cruised to a stop. They were here. He hadn’t been in this part of town for years. Villa Crespo was outside Palermo and on the up, but he would have preferred that she’d stayed closer to the centre, where the worst that could happen was pickpocketing. He got out. Looked around. It seemed quiet enough. The hotel was traditional—a single frontage villa. Ochres and oranges. Cute, he supposed. He went inside.

The concierge was startled to see him, and he jumped up from his TV screen, gave him the details he needed. Her room, first floor; her visitors, none; and her movements, she’d been in her room since her return earlier.

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