Sicilian's Bride for a Price

By: Tara Pammi

CHAPTER ONE

DANTE VITTORI STARED at the legal document that had been delivered an hour ago. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows that made up three whole sides of his office on the forty-sixth floor of Matta Towers in Central London cast the luxurious space in an orange glow, thanks to the setting sun behind him.

Vikram Matta—his mentor Neel Matta’s son and Dante’s best friend—was now legally dead.

He felt a twinge in his chest for exactly one minute.

He’d learned that grief, like regret, was a useless emotion. He’d learned this at the age of thirteen when his father had killed himself instead of facing lifelong incarceration for his Ponzi scheme that had fleeced hundreds of people. He’d learned this when his mother had simply changed her name back to her Sicilian father’s and married a man he approved of within a year of his father’s death.

Giving in to his emotions would have crushed Dante back then. Vikram was gone; he’d made his peace with it a long time ago.

Quickly, he rifled through the documents, to ensure he hadn’t missed anything.

He was almost to the last couple of pages when he stilled.

Voting Shares of the Deceased

The hairs at the back of his neck prickled. His mind instantly rewound back to the conversation he and Vikram had had with Neel when Neel had found he hadn’t much time to live.

Neel Matta had started Matta Steel, a small steel manufacturing business, almost forty years ago, but it was Dante who had grown it into the billion-dollar conglomerate it was now. Against his own brother, Nitin’s wishes, for the first time in the history of the company, Neel had granted his own voting shares to Dante, an outsider.

He had made Dante a part of his family. And now Matta Steel was the blood in his veins, his mistress, his everything.

Instead of wasting time grieving after Neel’s death and Vikram’s horrific plane crash, Dante had taken the company from strength to strength, cementing his position as the CEO.

But with Vikram’s voting shares being up for grabs now...

His secretary, Izzy, came into the office without knocking. Being another alum of Neel Matta’s generosity, Izzy took for granted a certain personal privilege with Dante that he didn’t allow anyone else. Neither did he doubt that she’d interrupted him for a good reason.

The redhead’s gaze flew to the papers in front of him, clear distress in those green eyes for a moment. But when she met his gaze, she was the consummate professional.

Of course Vikram’s death had touched her too, but like him, Izzy was nothing if not practical.

Pushing his chair back, he laced his fingers at the back of his neck and said, “Spill it.”

“I heard from Nitin’s secretary, Norma, that he’s thinking of calling an emergency board meeting with special counsel present.”

Neel’s brother was so predictable in his greed and deception. “I was expecting that.”

“I wasn’t sure if you had realized it has to do with Vicky’s voting shares being up for grabs now.”

“I did.” Izzy was both competent and brilliant. And utterly loyal to him. The one quality he knew he couldn’t buy even with his billions. “Tell me your thoughts.”

She took a seat and opened her notebook. “I pressed a little on Norma and learned that he means to go over the bylaws in front of the board and direct the conclusion that Vikram’s shares—” an infinitesimal catch in her throat again “—should go to him, since the bylaws state that the voting shares are to be kept in the family.”

“Except when Neel modified them to grant me his shares.” They had been a gift when Dante had made a big business win. Neel had been paving his way into retirement, wanting to slow down and let Dante take over. Instead his heart disease had killed him in a matter of months.

“He means to censure that as an aberration on Neel’s part due to his ailing health.”

Dante smiled. “It’s an allegation he’s continued to make for nigh on ten years now, even though I have held the controlling stake in the company.”

“Also, he’s conveniently forgotten Ali.”

For the first time in years, Dante found his thoughts in sudden disarray.

His mentor’s rebel daughter had always been the one thorn in his rise to success. The one piece of trouble in Neel’s life that Dante hadn’t solved for the man he’d worshipped. The one element he’d never quite figured out properly.