The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 15

The Pocket Novel cover for The Lombardi Emeralds with woman in a green dressing, man in a black shirt behind her on a seaside backdrop at sunset

There was no way Tish could have afforded genuine emeralds. Could they possibly be real? Even with her prestigious job May knew her mother’s salary would not run to brilliant cut diamonds. So where had they come from?

“Signorina Maxwell is sitting here.” The footman indicated a seat in the front row and removed the card attached to the padded velvet cushion.

May was relieved to see Vin was not occupying the adjacent seat. The thought of sitting beside him for two long hours and with no means of escape was not a prospect she would have relished.

She needed to focus on her mother’s past and distractions like Vin Piace promising to help and kissing her hand would get in the way.

“What a treat,” May’s neighbour greeted her, politely standing up until she was settled in her seat before returning his attention to the programme.

“I see we have a Mozart sonata scheduled, as well as a violin solo and a piano recital, all wonderful choices. Franco Napoli,” he introduced himself, “and my wife Sofia.”

“Ms Maxwell and I have already met.” Seated on the far side of her husband, Sofia acknowledged May with a gracious nod.

“You have?” Franco turned to his wife.


“At the party the other night, we had a little chat down by the water and,” Sofia leaned forward, “perhaps in the interval we could get to know each other better?”

“Excellent suggestion,” Franco agreed. “You will join us for a drink, Ms Maxwell?”

“Thank you.” May was glad to have a further chance of avoiding Vin’s company during the interval.

Franco glanced across to the stage as a hush went round the audience.

“Here they come,” he announced as the musicians’ arrival was greeted with a polite smattering of applause.

The night air was balmy and May allowed the gentle notes of the music to soothe her troubled mind. The velvet sky was studded with stars twinkling like the diamonds in her earrings.

Franco Napoli looked at her in concern as her sigh came out as a gentle moan.

“You are unwell?” he whispered.

“The music,” May improvised. “Sorry.”

“It evokes many memories,” Franco agreed, offering her the use of his linen handkerchief. “Will this help?”

May took it with a gesture of thanks and turned her attention back to the concert. “Time for some refreshment, I think.” Franco gave her a polite nudge as the musicians left the stage. “You were lost in the moment?” he enquired with his kindly smile.

“Something got to me,” May said by way of explanation. “And it’s such a beautiful evening.”

“Franco, my love,” Sofia removed a speck of dust from the collar of his jacket, “I speak better English than you and I know you are itching to talk to your business acquaintances so why don’t you get Ms Maxwell and I a drink before you join your friends?”

“Ms Maxwell?” Franco enquired with a roguish smile. “Could you possibly live without my company for a quarter of an hour?”

“She could,” Sofia intervened, “if you bring our promised drinks.”

“Pronto, my love.” Franco bustled away.

“Shall we sit under the trees where no-one will spot us?” Sofia urged May towards some garden furniture. “And you can tell

me the real reason why you were sighing so


“I wouldn’t want to keep you from your husband or your friends.”

“I am afraid there are few people here I would count as true friends.” Sofia made a face. “I have never blended in with the party set and I am sure the sole reason they tolerate me is because I am married to one of the most influential men in Bella Acqua.”

“I see.”

“There is no need to look so shocked, darling. I love my Franco to bits but I am under no illusion. Many people thought I married him to gain respectability.”

“I’m sure it’s not true.”

“I have a past,” Sofia confided with a wink, “but let’s not waste time talking about other people. I want to know about you. Thank you, my darling.” Sofia accepted the drinks from a hovering Franco. “You will come back for us at the end of the interval, won’t you?”

“How could I forget to escort two beautiful ladies back to their seats? I shall be the envy of all the men present.”

“Isn’t he a poppet?” Sofia smiled indulgently at her gallant husband. “Now,” she turned to May, “tell me everything.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Gossip is rife. Everyone wants to know who you are and why you are occupying Auguste’s studio. It is quite an honour, you know.”

“What are people saying about me?” May asked in a shocked voice.

“You don’t want to know. What people don’t know they make up and I wouldn’t like to repeat some of the stories I heard – and before you accuse me of scandalmongering I have to say I know you are Tish Delacourt’s daughter. I am right, aren’t I?”

“How did you find out?”

“My darling girl,” her words echoed those of Florence’s, “I suspected it was so when I first met you, but to answer your question, Rebecca was broadcasting what happened, about how you had used someone else’s invitation in an attempt to gain access to the villa.

“It wasn’t difficult to find out who she was talking about. How that little troublemaker can be Florence’s daughter I do not understand. Her father Andreas was a perfect gentleman. She doesn’t take after either of her parents.”

“You knew Andreas?”

“Hmm.” Sofia gave a reluctant nod.

“Did you know my mother?”

A smile of pure happiness spread across Sofia’s face.

“She was one of the beautiful twins.”

“So Florence tells me.”

“They had quite a reputation, those girls. Florence was their driver and she used to chauffeur them around from gig to gig.”

“One last gig . . . ” May repeated thoughtfully.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Florence wrote it on my mother’s invitation.”

“The girls had their last gig a long time ago,” Sofia said in a thoughtful voice. “Can you tell me anything about the Beautiful Twins?” May asked.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!