navy seals innocent italian

Navy Seal’s Innocent Italian

By Leslie North

The Denver Men Series Book 4

 

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Dedications

 

I dedicate this book to you, my loyal readers. Thank you for all the lovely e-mails, reviews and support. Without you, this wouldn't be possible.

 

Contents

Navy Seal’s Innocent Italian

Dedications

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Epilogue

Chapter 1

 

Rome, Italy…

 

Marco Bresi stepped off his private plane and headed
for the limousine that stood waiting for him. Greeting the driver, he settled into the backseat, his mind still trying to come to terms with his actions before he’d left Colorado.
Revenge was supposed to feel good. Right?

Serena.
Just thinking about his actions, had him recalling his beautiful daughter. She’d taken the fashion industry by storm at the tender age of sixteen. By the time she’d turned twenty-one, she’d travelled the world, and could have wiggled her pinky finger, and a room full of men would have come running to her side.

But she hadn’t attracted just any man; she
’d caught the attention of American business tycoon, Trent Coldwell. Then she had gone and fallen for him. Hard. She and Trent had quickly become a couple and Marco had finally been able to relax where his daughter was concerned. Or so he’d thought.

Marco sighed at what might have been. Trent had been a leveling force for his headstrong
daughter; one he had hoped would become a permanent part of her life. She and Trent had been
the
relationship the tabloids wrote about, the couple the paparazzi hounded, and they hadn’t cared. When Serena had landed the contract in Milan, he’d worried that her wild ways would surface, and he’d been right.

Why couldn’t Trent have just taken her back to the states with him? Marco had heard the rumors about his daughter’s illicit affairs, and the parties she attended while away from Trent.
Milan wasn’t that far from his home in Verona, and bad news loved to travel! She’d been on a rollercoaster to disaster, with no end in sight. He’d tried to contact her himself, but she’d been too busy to return his many phone calls. Evidently, Trent hadn’t been willing to stick around and deal with things either.

Marco’s mouth thinned as he thought about the object of his hatred for the last three years. His bitterness had been horrible company, and now that he’d accomplished his act of revenge, he found it leaving much to be desired.

His mind recalled the phone conversation he’d had with Brianna while on his way to the airport. She’d been devastated.
“I haven’t even held my daughter!”
Her words, said amidst uncontrollable crying, echoed in his heart and mind and he found himself wondering if he’d taken things a step too far.
You liked Brianna! How could you be so heartless!

Shutting off the voice in his head, he mentally reminded his conscience that he’d given her a chance and she’d chosen Trent.  Trent Coldwell.
Yes, he blamed Trent for his daughter’s suicide. He blamed him for the death of his unborn grandchild. Trent’s defection had devastated Serena to the point she had taken her own life. The letter she had left for her father had very clearly stated her reasons.

He glanced out the window as the limousine came to a stop outside a luxurious office building, the construction having been designed
in such a way, that the architecture fit in with the historic buildings surrounding it. Pushing thoughts of Trent and Serena from his mind, he exited the car and headed inside.

Petro Scalinni
, the man he left in charge of his vast business holdings while he was out of Italy, was waiting for him in the foyer, “
Buon giorno!
I trust you had a pleasant trip?”

Marco returned the greeting, but chose not to answer his question verbally. He hadn’t had a pleasant trip; his conscience had been in overdrive, refusing to let him enjoy his act of revenge for more than a few moments.

“Are the people from Daramark here yet?” Marco inquired as he and Petro headed for the bank of elevators. He’d been in negotiations to purchase Daramark for several months, and the deal was supposed to have closed this week while he was still in America. Petro had notified him not twenty-four hours ago that the deal had hit a snag that only he, Marco Bresi, could untangle. In person. Hence, his mad rush across the Atlantic Ocean.

Petro nodded, “Yes, they arrived over an hour ago.”
Petro Scalinni was like a son to Marco, having started working for Diamante Global right out of university, and at the age of 48, he had spent the majority of his adulthood working under Marco’s guidance.

“Good. Any major problems come up yet?” Marco asked, straightening his tie and buttoning his suit jacket. As the CEO and owner of Diamante Global, he knew that appearances were very important.  Especially when dealing with the
old world owner of a company he’d been trying to purchase for the last eight months.

Daramark was a small, family-owned business that had done very well in the shipping industry. Specializing in both imports and exports, the business should have been expanding exponentially in today’s market. However,
lack of leadership and direction, coupled with the failing health of the owner, Roberto Moretti, had stalled the business’s progress.

When rumor
s had surfaced that the company was only months from succumbing to the competition, unless new management was found, Marco had become very interested in acquiring it as his own. Unlike other businesses he went after, this one simply needed a few adjustments to turn the tide and a nice profit. He had the money and the resources necessary to see that happen. All they needed now was a signed deal! That, and a good manager at the helm.

Marco had met with Roberto personally on several occasions, feeling sympathy for the
ailing man whose only child didn’t seem interested in taking over the company. While having never met Alex Moretti, Marco had wondered several times during the meetings why the father hadn’t pushed his son more towards the business. He’d asked several times, and each time Roberto had smiled and said that Alex was more interested in musical pursuits than becoming the next CEO of Daramark.

“Things seem to be going smooth
er since hearing that you were personally coming back for the final negotiations. Roberto has a few changes he wishes to make, and seems to think that speaking with you directly is to his benefit.”

Marco shook his head, “I thought we’d already dealt with
all the changes? Any idea where this is going?” When Petro shook his head, he sighed before asking, “So, tell me who’s waiting upstairs. I assume Roberto is here. Did he happen to bring any of his board of directors with him? Or maybe his son, Alex?”

Alex Moretti was Roberto’s son?
Petro gave his boss a quick glance only to find Marco wasn’t making a joke. He swallowed loudly and shook his head, “Uhm...well, about his son…Did you ever see a picture of his son, or meet him personally?”

Marco caught the hint of something in Petro’s voice and looked at him questioningly, “
No. Why do I feel like I’m missing something?”

Before Petro could answer, the elevator door
s opened and Marco stepped out, looking towards the conference room with its frosted glass walls. He saw the shadows of two people sitting inside, but no one else. Turning back to Petro, his raised his eyebrows, still waiting for an answer to his question.

“Roberto is here, and he brought Alex with him.
” Petro paused and then said, “She’s a lovely young woman…”

Chapter
2

 

Petro’s voice died off at the look of incredulity on Marco’s face. “You really didn’t know that Roberto’s heir was female?”

Marco shook his head and turned back towards the conference room,
“No. I had no idea. The way the man talked about Alex, I just assumed he was talking about his son.”

Petro hid his smile at the look of confusion upon his boss
’s face. It wasn’t often that someone managed to surprise Marco Bresi, and Petro filed this moment away for later contemplation. At the age of sixty-two, Marco Bresi was a shrewd businessman and excellent judge of people. How the gender of Roberto’s only child had slipped by him, he couldn’t imagine.

“Well, I assure you Alex Moretti is most definitely a female. I should probably warn you that she claims to have known Serena.”

Marco stopped and let that thought resonate for a moment.
Roberto Moretti’s heir was female, and had known his daughter?
Feeling like he had missed something important, he squared his shoulders and pushed through the doors of the conference room.

When he spied the young woman sitting next to Roberto, his heart stalled and his breath stuck in his throat.
Alex Moretti was absolutely gorgeous!
She reminded him so much of his daughter he felt tears prick the back of his eyes.

Alex Moretti looked up as the older gentleman entered the room
with Petro, smiling warmly at the man who was so much like her own father. Classic Italian looks, dark brown eyes, and dark hair, just starting to grey at the temples. 

“Roberto, I hope you had a pleasant trip?” Marco inquired, still watching father and daughter as he walked further into the room.


Si
, a very nice trip indeed.” Roberto pushed himself slowly to his feet, “Marco, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Alexandra Moretti.”

Marco stepped forward to shake the hand she held out, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Alexandra.”

She smiled at him, “Please, call me Alex. Everyone else does.”

“Very well. I understand you knew my daughter?” Marco inquired, gesturing for everyone to take their seats again.


Si.
I met Serena about three months before her accident while in Milan. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Marco acknowledged her sentiments and then
stated, “Serena’s death was a senseless tragedy. May I inquire in what context you and she met each other?”

Alex smiled, “Sure. I was p
laying keyboards with an up-and-coming band back then, and she met our bass player at a fashion dinner. They seemed to hit it off and were pretty inseparable during that time.”

“Bass player?” Marco asked, alarmed that his daughter’s indiscretions had been played so out in the open.
Serena, what had you been thinking? Had Trent gotten wind of her actions and called it quits because of them?

“Yes. They only dated for a few months
before we left Milan for a small tour. We’d only been gone from Milan for about six weeks when I read about her accident. I was really surprised when I first met her. According to the tabloids, she was still seeing Trent Coldwell, but the tabloids rarely get things correct. Right?”

Marco nodded his head, “Unfortunately, they do seem to survive on untruths.”  Not wishing to discuss the topic further, in case he
inadvertently said something that would indicate Serena had killed herself, rather than having succumbed to a tragic accident, he looked to Roberto. “I understand from Petro that you wish to make a few changes to our negotiations?”

Roberto sighed and then nodded his head, “
Si.
Alex and I have spoken, and she has zero interest in ever running Daramark.” He looked at his daughter fondly before continuing, “She wants to continue exploring her music and working with children. It is not what I would have wished, but I also cannot condemn her to a life of drudgery either.


But recent events have changed her focus, and she now feels her future is in America.”

“Recent events?” Marco inquired, looking between father and daughter and making note of the sadness that was evident on Alex’s face.

Roberto sighed, “Alex was betrothed as a young child to the son of a neighboring wine maker. Unfortunately, that young man has proven himself unworthy of her hand and the contract has been cancelled. Alex is ready for a change of scenery, and I find it is high time she quits humoring this old man and seeks the fulfillment of her dreams.

“To that end, I will agree to everything we have already discussed concerning Daramark, but I want you to take Alex to America and help her
get settled. My health prevents me from making the trip myself, and I don’t trust anyone else to look after her properly.”

Marco was trying to follow Roberto’s line of thinking when it suddenly hit him what he was being asked to do. He opened his mouth to protest, but Roberto just kept talking.

“You had a daughter about her age, so I know that you will ensure Alex is treated fairly, and no harm comes to her. The doctor’s tell me I should not take on such a lengthy trip at this time, and I agree with them. You’ve spent time in America, enough to understand their culture. I will rest easy knowing that you are helping her get settled over there. I know that you will care for her as if she were your own flesh and blood.”

Marco was shocked!
Roberto wanted him to take Alex under his protection and get her settled in America?
Looking to Alex, he saw only resignation on her face, “Alexandra, are you on board with your father’s wishes in this matter?”

Alex slowly nodded her head, “
I am. I need a change of location. As long as I can pursue my music, I’ll be happy. The ending between my betrothed and myself was not a pleasant experience and I wish to start in a new place.” There was a hint of sadness in her voice and Marco briefly wondered just how bad her fiancé had been, but was prevented from asking when she suddenly smiled broadly and added, “Oh, and it might be nice if I met a handsome American while I was there. Some of them are very good looking,” she added with a wink and a grin.

Marco grinned back, wishing he’d had this kind of relationship with Serena. She had always been very demanding and more concerned with appearances and such. Alex Moretti seemed more down to earth and easier to get along with.

Looking at Roberto, he asked, “So, if I agree to take Alex to America and help her get settled, there are no more negotiations to be done on this deal?”

Robert nodded, “
Si.
I’m sorry to have pulled you away from your travels, but I wanted to make this request in person. I’m sure you understand.”

Marco nodded. He certainly understood, and would have done the same thing for his own daughter. “So, how soon can you be ready to travel?” he asked Alex.

“A few days?” Alex offered, biting her lip at the thought of leaving her father while his health was failing. “Papa, I don’t like leaving you…”

“Nonsense. I expect to
hear from you often and who knows, maybe you will find your heart’s desire across the ocean. I am still waiting for you to give me my first grandchild. Don’t you worry about me. Go find your future. Be happy!”

Alex leaned over and kissed her father on his weathered cheek, forcing the tears that threatened back.
She had seen the recent decline in her father’s health, and she knew she would only have a few more years with him. There would be plenty of time to grieve her father’s passing, after he was gone. Now, she was headed out to find her future and put a smile upon his face.

Marco heard his personal cell phone ring and glanced at the number.
Bruno! I hope everything’s all right back in Colorado.
Seeing Roberto and Alex watching him, he silenced his phone and gave them his attention. Whatever was happening back in the states could wait for another few minutes. Bruno and Mrs. Panturo were more than capable of handling anything that came up. He was sure of it.

Chapter 3

 

Rocky Mountains, Colorado…

 

“Did he answer yet?” asked Mrs. Panturo, trying to stop wringing her hands. She had turned on the local news just before retiring
the night before, only to hear that the kidnapped baby had been returned to her parents. The story about an elderly, confused man having mistakenly taken the baby had her calling urgently for Bruno.

After taking a quick glance at the television, Bruno had hurried to the nursery, only to find it empty of both people and many of the items that had been purchased for the infant
’s care. Bruno had quickly pulled up the security tapes, alarmed to see the young nurse leaving the mountain hideaway with a large man at her side.

The time
stamp on the video showed the couple had been gone for several hours and Bruno worried that the authorities would be arriving soon. He’d retired for the night, hoping that the police would wait until sunrise to head up the mountain road.

He
hadn’t recognized the man in the video, but assumed that he must be one of the hired mercenaries employed by Trent’s long-time friend Shawn Marshall. He’d attempted to reach Marco, but the jet was still in the air and no service was available unless he notified the pilot through a flight control office. Marco did not like bringing attention to himself, and Bruno decided he would wait until morning and then tell his boss the news.

“He’s still not answering his phone. I know he landed, I talked to Petro’s
secretary, and she said Marco arrived and immediately joined the meeting taking place in the conference room.”

“Should we have her interrupt him?” Mrs. Panturo inquired.

“No.” Bruno thought for a moment and then made a decision. Glancing at the clock, he realized it was only 5:30 in the morning and shook his head. No doubt Mrs. Panturo hadn’t slept either. A quick glimpse out the large picture window showed the sun was just beginning to break over the horizon. If the authorities were going to visit, it would most likely occur in the next several hours.

“Pack everything
you need and I’ll take care of closing the house up. We’ll take the limo to the airport and catch a commercial flight back to Italy. I don’t want to be here when the authorities show up.”

“Are you so sure Trent will call them?” she asked.

“No. But I don’t want to confront Trent himself either. Are you prepared to explain why Mr. Bresi stole his baby?”

Mrs. Panturo quickly shook her head, “No. I’ll be ready to go inside the hour.” She turned to head back towards the housekeeper
’s suite, “In fact, I can be ready to go in thirty minutes.”

“Good,” Bruno told her with a smile. “
I’ll call down to the cleaning agency and let them know we’ve had to leave on an emergency and they can send someone up this afternoon to clean and empty the fridge.”

“Good. Okay,” Mrs. Panturo took a breath and then hustled to pack her belongings. She had been completely on board with Marco’s plan to exact his revenge for the loss of his daughter and unborn grandchild. But now that the game was up, she wanted to be nowhere near Trent Coldwell. She hoped Bruno would be able to advise Marco to stay in Italy before too much time passed. Marco needed to distance himself from these proceedings and gain a new perspective on things.

She missed Serena terribly, having considered her a surrogate daughter, but Serena was gone. Nothing was ever going to change that fact. And stealing someone else’s child, while it might offer some momentary satisfaction, the more she’d thought about it, the more she felt for the mother who was still alive and missing her child. Two wrongs never made a right, and she’d been planning to have a talk with Marco upon his return. It seems some act of fate had taken matters into their own hands and saved her the aggravation. Now, Marco needed to move on and forget all this revenge talk.

As she finished closing her suitcase, she consoled herself with the knowledge that the infant
’s mother was holding her daughter closely this morning, Trent was rejoicing in the birth of his first child, and for the first time since Serena’s death – Mrs. Panturo was able to find peace. She only hoped she could help Marco do the same.

             
                                                                      *****

Rome, Italy….

 

Marco and the Moretti’s had a light luncheon together, and plans were made to finish the business acqu
isition by the end of the week. Petro would take care of the final details, whereas Alex would be joining Marco on his return trip to the United States in two days’ time.

As he headed towards his home outside
the city, he tried to contact Bruno, but received no answer. He then tried to call the mountain home, but again, received no answer. Neither occurrence caused him any panic as the cell service in the mountains of Colorado was known to be unreliable and spotty. He’d try again later.

After showering and taking care of a few more business matters, he met Petro and Roberto back at the office, where the final paperwork was signed and notarized. Petro would be assuming the lead position as manager
of Daramark for the next six months while a suitable manager was found. Roberto had been unable to recommend any of his current employees for the task, and Marco had assured him Petro would locate just the right person.

Alex had returned home to begin packing her belongings. Marco had encouraged her to bring only a few suitcases, telling her that once she decided where she was going to live, her other belongings could be shipped easily enough.

When asked where she might want to settle down, she had stated a small community just outside Denver, Colorado, where they were making remarkable strides with children who suffered from learning disabilities.

Marco had been very impressed as Alex told him of her work with musical therapy, and the amazing results she had been obtaining in her current research. Several
organizations in the states had expressed a desire to see her work personally, and more than a dozen universities had offered her a place to continue her research. Alex’s eyes had lit up when she talked about helping young children achieve new things.

She had the classic northern Italian looks, long honey-blonde hair, the classic Italian nose, and vivid green eyes. Her eyes had come from her mother’s side, who was decidedly Irish, along with her musical talent.

Alex not only had a beautiful singing voice, she played piano, cello, and the flute. She had inquired about bringing her instruments, and Marco had said all but her piano were welcome aboard his jet. She’d laughed and told him she would purchase a piano in the states once she was settled. With money no object, she could afford to do that and more once she decided where she wanted to live.

Returning to his home, he once again tried Bruno, only to have it go to voicemail yet again. It was a full day before he finally made contact with the bodyguard and chauffeur. “Bruno, I’ve been trying to contact you since yesterday.”

“Sir, I’ve been trying to contact you as well. Have you seen the news?” Bruno asked, gesturing for Mrs. Panturo to follow him to the baggage claim area.  They had taken a commercial flight from Denver to Atlanta, where they had then boarded a flight bound for Paris. Their flight to Verona, Italy – the home of the Bresi family estate, was on a different carrier. Thus, the need to retrieve their luggage.

“I haven’t seen any news. What’s happening?” Marco asked, concern in his voice. “Is the baby doing well?”

Chapter 4

 

Paris, France…

 

Bruno sighed into the phone, “The baby is doing fine. She’s with her mother.”

“What?!” came Marco’s agitated voice across the line.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. A man showed up sometime before dinner and made contact with the nurse. Seeing that he returned the baby to the hospital, and Shawn Marshall made up a story about an elderly senile man thinking the baby was his grandchild, I think the man probably was working for MJI.”

Marco was amazed at how relieved he felt, hearing that baby Coldwell had been returned to her parents.
I should be upset my plans were thwarted!
But I’m not.
“So, Trent has his baby back. What about the authorities?”

“We didn’t stick around to find out. Mrs. Panturo and I closed up the house and headed for the airport first thing
yesterday morning. I didn’t want to deal with either the police, or Trent.”

“I don’t blame you. Where are you and Mrs. Panturo now?”

“We just landed in Paris. We have a three-hour layover and then we’re headed for Verona. Are you staying in Rome?” Bruno asked, wondering if he should head directly there instead of seeing Mrs. Panturo home.

“No. As a matter of fact, I will be returning to the states sooner than expected.
The day after tomorrow. ”

Bruno digested this information before asking, “What day would you like me in Rome?”

“This time I’m going to ask you to stay here and help Petro. He will be assuming the reins of Daramark at the beginning of next week, and I would like it if you could offer him as much assistance as he needs.”

“How long will you be in the states, sir?”

How long will it take to get Alex Moretti settled and make my peace with Trent?
“At this point in time, I couldn’t really say. Petro will fill you in on everything when you come down this weekend. Please tell Mrs. Panturo I’ve said she is to rest for the first two days she is back at home. Let her know I will definitely be checking to make sure she obeyed that order.” Marco finished the last with a smile upon his face. The wonderful woman had been his saving grace after his wife died giving birth to Serena.

She and her late husband had taken very good care of him through the years, and while she still insisted she could do her job without help, Marco had seen her starting to slow down, and
often delegating the harder household tasks to others. He considered her part of the family, and made a mental note to see about getting her some other domestic help in the near future.

At the age of fifty-nine, she was a few years younger than him, but still a wonderful, nurturing woman. She had met his driver at a charity event three years before Serena was born. When she had later married his driver, he had offered the job as housekeeper and cook for his home, and as a companion for his wife.

She had done a remarkable job of caring for both he and Serena through the years, and when her husband had tragically died of a heart attack years ago, Marco had offered her a place in his home for as long as she wished to stay and work. He couldn’t imagine life without her, and one of these days he would have to tell her that.

Bruno smiled and then agreed, “I will personally see that she listens, sir. Please tell Petro I will be arriving Saturday evening. He can fill me in over breakfast Sunday morning.”

“I’ll let him know. Bruno, thank you.”

“Sir, if I might ask. Will you be seeking additional revenge against Mr. Coldwell?” Bruno asked, hoping the answer was “No!”  He and Mrs. Panturo had discussed, at length, Marco’s desire for revenge and the absurdity of continuing such a task in light of Trent Coldwell’s resources. There had been enough heartache in everyone’s lives. It was time to let go of the past!

“Bruno, I don’t know right now. I need to do some more thinking on the subject.” Sensing Bruno wanted to say something, he asked, “Did you or Mrs. Panturo have anything else you needed to tell me?”

It was silent for a moment and then Bruno said, “Only that no revenge can bring Serena back to us. Mrs. Panturo and I have talked, and we would like you to consider letting her go. Not her memory; just your need for revenge. I don’t mean to be impertinent, sir, but it’s time.”

Marco knew other men would be furious to hear such criticism coming from the “hired help,” but Marco considered Bruno and Mrs. Panturo family and knew they were only thinking of what was best for him. “Bruno, please accept my thanks, and thank Mrs. Panturo, for seeing what I’ve been too blind to see. I haven’t felt right about the baby incident since I left for the airport.”

Bruno smiled, pleased to know that Marco Bresi was still the man of honor and family-values he’d come to love and know. “What about Trent? I can’t imagine he will be content to let this incident go without reprisal.”

“No, probably not. I will think on this and maybe it’s time for Trent and I to finally sit down and talk about Serena’s last days. The man has contacted me enough, through the years, wanting to do just that. Maybe it’s time I agreed to it.”

“Yes, sir. I believe it is.”

“Thank you, Bruno. Please keep in touch and I will let you know if I require your assistance in the states.”

“Yes, sir. Goodnight.”

Marco hung up the phone and sat in the stillness of the night, for once able to think about his daughter without being consumed with both sadness and guilt. Sadness that her life had ended so young! Guilt that he’d not been able to prevent it!

He also noticed the anger was no longer directed at Trent, but he found himself angry with – Serena! She’d resisted having to grow up and take responsibility for her actions and it had ended up costing her
- her life.  Marco had foolishly tried to make Trent accountable for that, but no more.

He headed for his office and quickly set plans in motion for
making amends with Trent. He would figure out a way to meet with him, once he returned to the states and had Alex settled down.  It was definitely time he and Trent talked about his daughter. It was time for Marco to apologize and gain closure on the entire incident. He would be returning to the states in two days and somehow, he would make amends to both Trent and his beautiful wife.

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

New York City…

 

Jake Travers had just turned onto the highway, after having spent a pleasant evening with several guys from his military unit. They had thrown him a surprise retirement party, brought in dancing girls, and the liquor had flowed like water.

Jake himself, had spent most of the night watching the antics of his fellow soldiers, having no interest in partaking of the feminine offerings so blatantly displayed by the girls in attendance.  He was still pondering those decisions, when his cell phone rang through the speakers of his helmet.

“Yeah?” Jake answered his cell phone, having pulled his bike over to the side of the highway upon hearing it ring for the fifth time. Sitting the helmet he’d just removed on the bike between his legs, he then shut the engine off on his custom Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle.

“Travers, how ya doin’?” came the voice of Shawn Marshall.

“Shawn, not bad. What’s up? You still kickin’ it in Denver?”

“Yeah. Just waiting on you to take me up on that offer. I heard you were out.”

Jake nodded his head, putting the kickstand down on the bike and pulling his right leg over the seat, “I got out a few days ago. I’ve been thinking about calling you.”

“Yeah?”

“I’ve never been to Colorado and thought maybe I’d drive out and take a look around.” Jake didn’t add that he also was seriously considering joining the team of former military personnel who worked at MJI Securities. That went without saying.

For men like Jake Travers, being released from active duty wasn’t something to look forward to. Jake was an only child having grown up in the State of New York’s foster care system, and with no family to call his own, the military had filled that void.

Jake had enlisted two days after turning eighteen and had served his country faithfully for the last ten years. He’d gone into the Navy, and then on to become a Navy Seal. He’d met Shawn and Seth while serving overseas, and after completing over twenty missions with one or both of them, they were the closest thing to family he had.

Jake Travers had earned himself the nickname “Pretty Boy” from his fellow marines, his rugged good looks guaranteed to turn every female head when he walked into the room.  Before enlisting, his hair had been worn longer, just brushing the collar of his favorite t-shirts, and always looking like it needed combed.

His dark blue eyes were often filled with mirth and a twinkle designed to gain him the attention of any available skirt in the area. He had dated a myriad of women during the last ten years, usually the type that hung out around the military posts, looking for a quick thrill and no commitment.

Since deciding not to re-up, Jake had taken a good hard look at his future and didn’t like what he saw. For the last two months, he’d been laying the groundwork to settle down. His goals were to get settled in Colorado, find an attractive woman who was looking for more than just a quick tumble between the sheets, and have a couple of kids.

Thanks to some well-heeded advice from men like Trent Coldwell, Jake had taken his military earnings and invested them wisely. The market had been kind to him and he was now sitting on a sizable amount of money, making it unnecessary for him to work unless he wanted to. 

At the age of twenty-eight, he wasn’t necessarily old, but he wanted to have kids before he was too old to enjoy them.  He was also tired of living alone, and the thought of coming home to the same woman each night was a pleasant thought, rather than a nightmare to be avoided at all costs.

Shawn’s voice brought him back from his thoughts, “…anyway, I was hoping you could check things out before you headed this way.”

Shaking his head, he made a face and then said, “Sorry, I didn’t catch all of that. Run it by me one more time.”

Shawn complied, “We’ve had a problem out here. An old nemesis kidnapped Trent and Brianna’s baby from the hospital.”

Whoa!
What?!
How could anyone do that!

Shawn continued before Jake could react, “Seth managed to recover the child, but the man who took her left the country. I just got word that
he’s back and his jet landed at JFK thirty minutes ago.  We don’t know what else this man is capable of, or if he’s still intent on revenge. Trent wants eyes on him in case he decides to do something else.”

Jake shook his head.
You had to be either stupid, or crazy to cross a man like Trent Coldwell.
“Who took the baby?”

“Marco Bresi.”

“Do we know why?” Jake asked, knowing there must be a story behind such a foolhardy act.

“Long story short – Marco’s daughter and Trent were an item. Something happened and Trent broke it off. She committed suicide several weeks later and was also found to be pregnant.”

“Wasn’t his daughter some famous fashion model?” Jake asked, trying to recall news that had happened over three years prior

“Serena Bresi. And yes, she was a well-paid, high fashion model. News of her suicide and the pregnancy never came out. Marco wields some pretty impressive power in that part of the world. Anyway, he blames Trent for her death and that of the baby. Stealing Trent’s baby was an act of revenge on his part. “

“But the baby’s okay?” Jake asked, wondering how anyone could possibly try to use an infant for revenge.

“Yeah. She was returned within a day. Trent wants this man to pay for upsetting his wife.”

“Pay? How?” Jake queried, knowing that while he’d certainly killed a few terrorists and insurgents overseas, he would have to draw the line at cold-blooded murder.

“Honestly, I don’t know. Up until now, Marco has only tried to hurt him financially, and has lost every time. I’m hoping that maybe Marco will be willing to actually listen to Trent this time and come to realize that his daughter wasn’t the angel he seems to think she was. I’ve known Trent for years, and I saw him with Serena on many occasions. He was in love with that girl. If he broke it off, there had to have been a good reason.”

“You don’t know what it is?” Jake wondered aloud.

“No one does. I don’t even think Trent’s wife knows the entire story. Anyway, I’m going to send a picture of Marco to your phone. Think you can locate him and keep me apprised of his comings and goings for a bit?”

Jake nodded his head, “Sure thing.
Any idea where he’d hole up in the city?”

“Yeah. Diamante Global has their North American offices in New York
City. According to my info, the top floor of the building is Marco’s personal residence while he’s in town. I’ll send you the address.”

“Great. I’ll let you know once I’ve located him.”

“So, does this mean I can count you as coming on board the team?” Shawn asked a smile in his voice.

“Looks like it.” Jake waited for Shawn to reply, hoping he hadn’t overstepped his bounds by assuming the job offer was still on the table.

“Nice! Seth will be happy to hear that, and so will Chance. Now that both of them have met ‘the one’ they’ll be wanting to spend less time in the field, and more time at home. Welcome aboard.”

“Thanks. Send me that picture and address. I’ll contact you when I have more information.”

 

Chapter 6

 

Jake located the posh office building, noticing that the entire ground level floor was a wide-open foyer, complete with security guard.
No arriving unannounced here!
  He parked his bike across the street, seeing a barista on the corner and headed there to wait. From this vantage point, he had a full view of the front of the building.

He didn’t have to wait long. A limousine arrived fifteen minutes later, pulling up to the front door and Jake watched Marco escort a young woman from the back of the car. Narrowing his eyes, he watched as she smiled at both Marco and the driver. She was young enough to be his daughter, but he couldn’t remember there being any mention of a second Bresi daughter.
I thought Marco only had one daughter?

He turned
to more fully observe the young woman, appreciating her lithe figure and the vibrant energy that reached to him across the street. He watched as the driver removed a large instrument from the other side of the vehicle, and how she lovingly ran her hand over the front of the case, when it was brought to her.
God that was sexy!
He wasn’t close enough to see her eyes or facial expression clearly, but just watching her stroke the instrument had his body hardening.

Pushing his libido aside, he refocused on the opposite side of the street. He’d been without female companionship for almost three
months, and now wasn’t the time for his body to start acting up!

From this distance, Jake couldn’t see exactly what sort of instrument it was, but it was definitely bigger than a guitar. H
e’d worked and saved for two summers to purchase his very own guitar while in high school, and it had become his constant companion and a source of entertainment on long flights across the Atlantic.

He watched his target interact with the young woman, wondering again what her relationship was to Marco. He watched the duo enter the building, expecting to see the limo drive off, but it just sat there.
As they disappeared from sight, he was shocked at the visceral response he’d just had to some unknown woman. 
That should make things interesting!

Glancing at his watch, he realized it was dinnertime. He finished his coffee and a few minutes later
decided the limo was waiting for them to return. Marco exited the building with the young woman in tow half an hour later. Sauntering towards his bike, he watched the limo pull away from the curb and then followed at a discreet distance.

When the limo stopped in front of a well-known restaurant, Jake parked his bike and followed the pair inside. The establishment was busy, but not too busy to accommodate another diner. Luckily, Jake was seated at a table very near Marco’
s, and able to hear most of their conversation.

He ignored the brunette waitress who flirted with him shamelessly when she took his drink and his dinner order, instead, wanting her to move along quickly so he could find something that would let him get closer to Marco and his beautiful companion.

“So, I have a meeting at Mt. Sinai Children’s tomorrow at 10 o’clock. I was wondering if I could borrow your driver.”

Jake listened to her soft melodic voice and wanted her to keep talking. There was just a hint of huskiness in her tone. He had gotten his first close up glimpse of her as he was seated, and the image was still burned into his brain.

Jake had a thing for blondes. Always had. Probably always would. As he had passed their table, she had looked up at him, and the emerald green of her eyes had caught and held his attention. She had the traditional Italian features, with a lightly tanned complexion that was smooth and healthy looking.

Her eyes were framed by dark lashes, and her mouth was – kissable. The bottom lip full and begging to be kissed. The long honey strands of her hair had been left down and brushed till they shone. He’d only gotten a quick glimpse of her figure, but what he saw ensured he’d be paying attention in the future.

She appeared petite and very lithe, but her breasts strained against the blouse she wore and he figured they would be a little more than a handful. He’d guessed she was around 5’6” from his earlier observation of her with Marco, and as he was seated. He wondered how old she was.

Hearing her soft laughter, he tore his thoughts from her person, and once again focused on the conversation.

“…I thought we could head to Colorado
the day after tomorrow. Are you sure you don’t want to check out the west coast facilities first?” Marco was asking his companion.

“Mr. Bresi, I really don’t think so. Going to Mt. Sinai tomorrow is simply to assure myself I’m making the right decision. I don’t want to be confined to the strictures placed upon the medical community in this country.

“My research has shown that music can help kids with certain disabilities in ways no one’s even thought of before. I think the university environment will be much more suited to my future plans.”

“Very well. I just want to make good on my promise to your father. Now, I
have several meetings to attend to in the morning. I will send the driver back for you and you shall have him at your disposal the remainder of the day.” Marco smiled at the waitress as she returned to take their orders.

“Thank you. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally be in America.”
Alex gave the waitress her order and then handed back her menu. “Thank you,” she murmured, trying not to notice the fact that the waitress was paying more attention to the dinner guest sitting around the corner, than she was to them. Alex resisted the urge to turn around and look.
I wonder if it’s that hot guy that came in right behind us? He was absolutely yummy looking!

“Keep that enthusiasm.
Your father asked me for some additional assistance at our last meeting. I assume he didn’t say anything to you.”

Alex cringed inside, knowing what Marco was about to say, didn’t make it go away. She shook her head, waiting to hear her future decided for her yet again.

Marco gave her a sympathetic look before he said, “Your father has asked that I help find you a suitable husband before I go back to Italy. He was very adamant about it being a father’s responsibility. He basically gave me that responsibility and made me promise to do what I could.”

Alex brought her attention back to Marco and the conversation. Marco was talking about finding her a husband.
“Yes, well about that…I do want to get married… eventually. He’s been stuck on this subject since my betrothed and I split. He mentioned something about that to me, but I only went along with my father’s suggestions so that he’d let me come to the states. There’s really no need for you to act like a matchmaker on my account.”

Jake couldn’t hear Marco’s response because his very attentive waitress chose that exact moment to bother him again.

“All finished?” she inquired, bending at the waist to retrieve his plate and giving him an eye-full of cleavage.
Had she undone a few buttons since last visiting his table? He’d have remembered seeing those.

“Yes. Could
you please bring me the check?” he asked her politely, looking at her eyes and refusing to let them wander down to her considerable assets.

“Are you sure I couldn’t interest you in some dessert?” she licked her lips as she finished speaking.

Her flirting was so over the top, Jake had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing at her. “No, I really just need the check.”

She pouted for a moment, and then smiled at h
im, lowering her eyelids to half-mast, “What if what was being offered wasn’t on the menu?” She scooted a few inches closer so that she was barely brushing the table with her thighs. “Do you know what I mean?” she added with a wink.

Jake couldn’t continue his mirth any longer, laughing he said, “I do know what you mean, unfortunately, I can’t.”

The waitress stood back up, backing off slightly, “Can’t or won’t?” 

Jake sobered and looked her in the eye, “Can’t. I got injured overseas…”

Her reaction was not what he’d been going for at all. The waitress made a sound of distress and wrapped her arms around his head, smashing his cheek into her right breast as she hugged him, “Oh, you poor, poor man. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Jake extricated himself from her arms, pushing his chair back slightly to ensure a safe escape route if needed, “No, really. I just need the check.”

Before she could molest him again, the maître de arrived, “Melissa, is there a problem here?”

Melissa straightened up, “Oh, no sir. This poor man was injured while fighting overseas
. We were just talking for a moment.”

The maître de gave Jake a look of sympathy, “Well. Now that you’ve finished your conversation, why don’t you see about your other
customers? I’ll personally take care of ringing this gentleman out. Run along now.” He made a shooing motion, and after giving her a thorough look over, he suggested baldly, “Why don’t you make a stop by the ladies room first and fix your appearance. I do believe you might have lost a button or two and we can’t have our guests being offended by our attire, now can we?”

Melissa narrowed her eyes and paused
to consider protesting, but after meeting the maître de’s stare for a few seconds, her shoulders dropped and she walked away.

“I apologize for her behavior.”

Jake stood from the table and slapped the man on the back, “Don’t worry about it. I was just about to make my escape when you walked up.” Glancing to his left, he realized his quarry had escaped during the Melissa episode. Paying his tab, he headed for his bike and a hotel. Tomorrow would be soon enough to make himself personally acquainted with the young woman.