The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 27

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

One of the maids tapped on May’s bedroom door.

“Sr Lombardi would like you to join him for coffee, signorina.”

The direct drive back to Bella Acqua that morning had taken less than half an hour and May was still gathering her scattered thoughts as she tried to think through the events of the past 24 hours.

Alba informed her and Vin over a light croissant breakfast that the Contessa liked to sleep late and would not wish to be disturbed. She promised to make their goodbyes for them.

To May’s surprise Alba had also arranged for a can of petrol to be delivered from the local garage to the villa.

Vin had seemed as eager as May to be on his way. May still could not shake off the suspicion that the car had not run out of fuel by accident and that Vin was somehow behind what had happened. Had he wanted her kept out of Auguste’s way?

They had spoken little on the journey home, May preoccupied with her mother’s late-night text and Vin concentrating on the road ahead. Drops of rain splashed the windscreen, forcing him to raise the hood of the car reducing the seating space and creating a cramped stuffy atmosphere. May seized the chance to re-read the message from Tish.

Flying back home tomorrow, important meeting at head office. See u soon. Xxx

“Signorina?” the maid prompted May when there was no response.

“Sorry, yes.” May dragged her thoughts back to the present. “I’m coming.”

Sheltering under an umbrella emblazoned with the family crest, May and the maid crossed the camellia garden and entered the main house to where Auguste was waiting for May in the drawing-room.

“Good morning. Pour out some coffee, if you would be so kind,” Auguste said in a tone of voice she had not heard before.

With a growing sense of unease, May did as she was told.

“Then perhaps you can tell me why you did not attend my garden party yesterday afternoon or have the courtesy to send an apology for your absence.”

May flushed with embarrassment. She should have realised Auguste was of a generation that set store by such things.

“I am sorry,” she apologised. “It won’t happen again,” she added.

“And can you also supply me with an explanation as to why you did not come home last night?”

May squirmed in her seat. This wrong-doing was going to be more difficult to explain.

“I . . . ” She sipped some coffee to ease the dryness in her throat. “We ran out of petrol,” she admitted.

“We?” Auguste queried.

“Vin Piace took me for a drive around the lake to show me some of the local sights.”

“And why did you find it necessary to stay out all night?”

“The local garage was closed and we couldn’t get a mobile signal to call for help. We were stranded.”

May knew her explanation sounded weak and she wouldn’t blame Auguste if he didn’t believe her.

“So where did you spend the night?”

Something in his demeanour convinced May there was more at stake here than idle curiosity.

“At the Villa Della Pesca – it is run by an old friend of yours, the Contessa Rosamunde Novelli. She sent you her best wishes and told us she was sorry she was unable to attend your party.”

“Rosamunde?” The expression on Auguste’s face thawed a little. “How is she?”

“In good health. She opens up her villa in the summer months and she offered us accommodation for the night as she has plenty of rooms. We would have telephoned from her villa but Rosamunde asked us to stay over.”

“And you accepted her invitation?”


“I am pleased to have news of Rosamunde but disappointed the incident happened. I would have expected better behaviour from Vin.”

“It wasn’t his fault,” May insisted.

“Nonetheless, the name of Lombardi has been compromised.”

“In what way?”

“If it hadn’t been for Rebecca, I might not have been aware of the situation.”

“She told you what happened?” May stiffened. “How did she know?”

“Florence called on you last evening. She wanted to apologise for walking out on you over lunch and to tell you about the garden party. She found the studio unoccupied. Rebecca was with her. Apart from anything else I was concerned you might have met with an accident.”

“I really am very sorry. It won’t happen again,” she repeated.

“I accept your apology.”

Auguste still sounded as though the matter was not settled.

“But I don’t see how I could have compromised the Lombardi name,” May insisted.

“Don’t you?”

“You are treating me like . . .” May stopped speaking as the full impact of her suspicions took root. “A member of the family.”

Auguste did not reply.

“Is that what I am?” May plucked up the courage to ask.


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!