- 5. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 05
- 6. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 06
- 7. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 07
- 8. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 08
- 9. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 09
- 10. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 10
- 11. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 11
Pineapple lights were strung in the trees, their bright colours reflected in the inky darkness of the lake. The private landing stage was lit with flaming torches positioned at convenient intervals to guide the guests along the deck and up to the house. Gentle water slapped the sides of the jostling boats as yet more arrivals disembarked.
“It’s like something out of a fairy tale,” May said to the maid as they circuited the house.
The maid left her in the care of another attendant who handed her a wrap.
May had not realised she was shivering, whether it was from the cool night air or a premonition of what was to come she wasn’t sure, but she accepted the peacock blue silk shawl with a smile and draped it around her shoulders. Clutching the fringed edge helped to steady her nervous hands.
She saw a small group of guests gathered around an elderly gentleman. He was dressed in a white-jacketed dinner suit. It emphasised his tan and with his swept back grey hair May could see in his youth he had been outstandingly handsome. He exuded an air of power and authority and May was convinced this was Sr Lombardi.
As he glanced up at her she walked towards him. She could feel his eyes fixed on her and drawing on her drama school training May placed one leg carefully in front of the other and looking straight ahead willed her body not to tremble.
A figure materialised out of the shadows. Vin Piace was dressed in a dinner suit but unlike Auguste Lombardi his tie was slightly crooked. May longed to tell him but before she could speak he took hold of her elbow.
“You’re ready?” His eyes swept over her appearance.
Feeling like a puppet being pulled in directions she wasn’t sure she wanted to go, May was grateful for the strength of Vin’s arm against hers.
“Yes,” she said summoning up a light smile.
“Good,” he acknowledged. “Let me introduce you to Sr Lombardi.”
AS introductions went, it was a disappointment. After a brief glance in her direction and an acknowledgement of her presence, Sr Lombardi waved her away. Deflated, May allowed Vin to lead her to the buffet table. He handed over a flute of champagne and chinked his glass against hers.
“That went well,” he said in a quiet voice. “Sr Lombardi does not usually take to outsiders,” he explained.
“Why not? May frowned.
“For various reasons.” Vin paused. “You’re not a journalist, are you? I should have asked earlier.”
“I’m an actress.”
“And are you acting a part now?” Vin asked.
“I suppose I am,” May replied. “I mean I don’t belong here.”
“Where do you belong?”
“Limester. Have you been to England?”
“Once many years ago on a school trip to
“Limester is a small West Country community not far from the sea.”
“I like the sound of it.” Vin’s reply
surprised May. “I grew up in an Italian village where you were liked for who you were, not for what you had in life.”
May sensed that, like her, Vin wasn’t totally at ease in such a glamorous setting. He showed no inclination of wanting to leave May’s side to mingle with the other guests for which she was grateful.
From the snatches of conversation she had overheard, the talk seemed to concern mutual friends, private parties, yachts, villas and a life very far removed from her own. “The young lady seated next to Sr
Lombardi,” May felt emboldened to ask, “who is she? I saw her yesterday getting out of a taxi.”
“Her name is Rebecca Amaria.”
May felt a quickening of her pulse.
“Is she related to Florence Amaria?”
“She is her daughter.”
“And it was Florence who arranged this party?”
“She did,” Vin replied, not volunteering further details.
May decided to change the subject.
“Can you tell me what you do for a
“You know what I do for a living. I am Sr
Lombardi’s right-hand man.”
“You’ve got oil under your fingernails and
I’m willing to say there aren’t many people here who work with their hands.”
Vin glanced down at the stains, a wry smile twisting his lips.
“No matter how hard I try it never seems to come off. I’m sorry if oil offends you.”
“It doesn’t,” May said. “My grandfather was a carpenter and he always smelt of varnish. Coco was always complaining she could never get her towels clean.”
“My grandmother. Her real name is Caroline but Coco was a childhood nickname that stuck.”
“Did you have a happy childhood?” Vin looked as though he was interested in May’s answer and not merely making polite conversation.
“Yes, very. With my mother away a lot my grandparents gave me free rein to more or less do as I pleased.”
“A philosophy you seem to have adopted in adult life,” Vin remarked.
Before May could respond, a woman tapped him on the shoulder.
“Vin, darling, you absolutely have to come and meet my latest. He has bought a new car and he’s dying to tell you all about it.” She moved in closer to him but didn’t extend the invitation to May.
“Don’t mind me.” May gestured with her champagne glass. “I’ll find someone to talk to, I’m sure.”
Wandering over to the balustrade, May watched the colourful reflections from the fairy lights swirl patterns in the water, its surface disturbed by the arrival of yet more limousines delivering guests.
May rubbed her foot against the back of her leg to ease the pressure in her toes. Her glittery sandals were very glamorous but hard work. She would have liked to sit down but all the chairs were occupied and she didn’t have the confidence to gatecrash any of the groups chatting about the latest fashions or their business deals.