Seduced by the Hero

By: Pamela Yaye

Regret tormented his soul. After last year’s scandal, he’d had no choice but to close down his offices in Venice. But not a day went by that he didn’t think about his family, especially his grandmother, Gianna. They were close, and despite the mistakes he’d made in his past, she’d always been his most fervent supporter. “Dante found me a bachelor pad in Brookhaven, and as of last night I’m all moved in,” he said. “I’m starting to like Atlanta—”

“Liar. You’re homesick and anxious to return to Venice, aren’t you?”

“Far from it. I have my hands full at the office and more work than employees.” Immanuel had done his research, taken the time to explore the market, and realized the Peach State was an entrepreneur’s dream. It had one of the strongest economies in the United States, and was home to prominent, influential businesspeople. Within months of opening Mastermind Operations, it was the agency to the stars. Thanks to his cousins’ numerous connections, celebrities and entertainers were flocking to his agency for protection, and business couldn’t be better. He had twenty-five employees on his payroll, and planned to double that number by the end of the year. He gave his staff the freedom to be themselves, encouraged them to think outside the box, and was reaping the dividends of trusting his team. Immanuel was contemplating opening a second location in Georgia, and had commissioned his younger brother, Dante Morretti, to find another property in Savannah.

“It sounds like business is booming. Tell me more.”

Immanuel did. He told Nicco about his five-year plan, his latest ad campaign and the Fontaine case. It was the big break he’d been waiting for, and if everything went according to plan, he’d be doing business with Fontaine Enterprises for years to come. The Atlanta-based, family-operated company was one of the premier construction companies in the state. It owned dozens of local businesses and had plans to expand into other American markets.

“Jules Fontaine of Fontaine Entreprises? He’s a big fish. How’d you meet him?”

“Through a mutual friend.”

“I’m glad things are working out for you,” Nicco said, his tone filled with warmth and sincerity. “And I’m looking forward to seeing you in December.”

“You’re coming to Atlanta for the holidays?”

“No, I’m going to Venice for Emilio’s wedding. Aren’t you going?”

Immanuel raked a hand through his dark brown hair, searching his brain for a suitable excuse. His sister, Francesca, had called him weeks earlier with the news, and as she chatted about Emilio and his fiancée, Immanuel got the sense that his brother had changed his life for the better. He was proud of him, but he didn’t want to reunite with the superstar. “I can’t go to the wedding. I have to work.” He added, “You’re an entrepreneur. You know how it is.”

“Nothing’s more important than family, Immanuel. Never forget that.”

That’s easy for you to say. Your kid brother didn’t screw your fiancée.

“I called Emilio yesterday to congratulate him on his engagement, and he sounded great, all excited and amped up. His fiancée is obviously a miracle worker, because the last time I spoke to Emilio he was an emotional wreck.”

And for good reason. Immanuel thought of Lucca, and pain stabbed his chest. His nephew, an adorable five-year-old with curly hair and wide, expressive eyes, had died in a tragic pool accident at Emilio’s Greensboro estate. The last time he’d seen his brother was at Lucca’s funeral, and Immanuel cringed when he remembered the cruel things he’d said at his nephew’s grave site. He’d let his anger and resentment get the best of him, and knew deep down he owed Emilio an apology. But he wouldn’t attend his December wedding. Just couldn’t do it.

“Coz, I have to go...” Nicco trailed off and didn’t finish his thought.

Immanuel heard children’s voices, laughter and a door slam.

“I told the kids I’d take them to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and they’re getting impatient.”

“No worries, Nicco. Check you later.”

“I’ll call you next week. Love you, man.”

Immanuel ended the call and plugged his cell phone into the charger. He picked up his energy drink and took a swig from the can. He glanced at his Rolex watch and frowned. Mrs. Fontaine usually worked until six o’clock, but it was seven forty-five, and he still hadn’t seen any signs of her. Stretching, he leaned back in his seat and drummed his fingers absently on the steering wheel. Minutes later, the lights went out in Pathways Center, and the front door opened.

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