The Italian Tycoon's Mistress(3)

By: Cathy Williams

At the back of his mind, he expected to find an office on a similar but smaller scale. Something Victorian, perhaps, with the high ceilings and understated elegance that he remembered from way back.

He was slightly taken aback when, after a slow drive out of the country into the myriad cluttered streets of the city, the driver finally pulled up outside something small, concrete and tacked onto a newsagent’s in a parade of fairly disreputable-looking shops.

‘Are you sure you have got the right place?’ Rocco eyed the dodgy front with a frown. A little gang of youths was loitering in front of the off-licence, obviously having nothing better to do on a brilliant summer day than hang out in a threatening fashion.

‘Of course, sir. I have often come to fetch Miss Hogan when her car is out of action.’

‘A frequent occurrence, is it?’

‘She’s very fond of that little Mini,’ Edward said neutrally, ‘even though it plays up from time to time.’

Rocco grunted, barely hearing this piece of uninvited information. He pushed open the car door and slung his long, powerful body out, then he leant down to prop himself against the window. ‘I will call you when I’m ready to be collected.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Which, Rocco figured, would be in under an hour. He had no intention of going over any books with the woman. That could be done in the comfort of his father’s office. No. He would simply prepare her for the possibility that all this community housing rubbish would come to a swift end should his father be unable to return to active work, leaving Rocco to take over to his satisfaction before he departed for New York. If the company wanted to donate to charitable causes, there were ways and means of doing just that, which would additionally bring in tax relief on the donations. Time, energy and manpower were to be spent on the profitable side of the business. Losi Construction was not an unofficial branch of the Samaritans.

With that objective firmly in his mind, Rocco pushed open the door to the office and stepped into a world he had not visited for a very long time indeed. The world of cheap furniture, threadbare carpets and seeming chaos. There was no reception area. Five desks were crammed into a room roughly half the size of his own office in New York and one entire wall was dominated by an intricate map of a housing estate, from an aerial view. Grimy windows had been flung open to allow some fresh air in and an overhead fan threatened to wreak havoc on any paperwork that wasn’t securely weighted down.

In this alarmingly basic atmosphere work was, however, going on, although it immediately stopped the minute he walked in, with five pairs of eyes focusing on him with unconcealed interest. Three men and two women, all in their twenties. Two of the men wore their hair scraped back into ponytails and conversely the women had short cropped hairdos.

‘I am looking for an Amy Hogan,’ Rocco said, moving forward so that several more details in the room sprang into unfortunate prominence. Such as the notice-board propped against the wall at the back, with messages tacked over every square centimetre of its surface, the wire bins most of which were full, and a box of tools whose purpose he could only guess at.

‘In the back.’ One of the lads stepped forward and eyed Rocco suspiciously, putting out one hand when Rocco tried to head in the mentioned direction. ‘Whoa! Where do you think you’re going, mate?’

‘I am here to see Miss Hogan.’

‘And you are…?’

‘Rocco Losi.’

The hand dropped and there was a heightened sense of interest now.

‘I have an appointment with Miss Hogan, in case she hasn’t mentioned it.’

‘Nope. She hasn’t. How’s your dad doing? Name’s Freddy, by the way, mate. Soz about the lack of welcome mate, but you can’t be too careful in these parts.’ Freddy held out his hand, which was surprisingly firm when Rocco shook it.

‘Off-licence was broken into a fortnight ago,’ one of the cropped-haired women interjected. ‘Three men just broke through the plate glass and hauled as much as they could, as cool as you like, never mind the alarm bells.’

‘Took the coppers a good ten minutes to get here…’

‘By which time, they’d scarpered…’

‘Old Mr Singh was pretty shaken up about it…’

‘I see you’ve met my staff.’ The voice was low, husky and threaded with amusement. Rocco looked up to see a woman standing in the doorway, dressed in the same casual style as everyone else seemed to be: jeans and a stripy teeshirt, with a pair of trainers. ‘I’m Amy Hogan and you must be Antonio’s son.’

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