Takeover Ch. 01

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Your hands are trembling as you carry the tray of tea and freshly-baked madeleines into the sitting room and set some down on the table before Miss Lucreza. She’s the honoured guest at your family’s home today, and you parents were eager for you to make a good impression. You’re dressed in your best suit, you hair newly cut, and there’s the gentle scent of aftershave that your father helped you apply.

“Women like it when you smell nice,” he told you.

Miss Lucreza’s eyes are glued to your hands as you take up the teapot and pour the tea for her and yourself. You glance across at her while you’re safe from the intense gaze that set your heart racing when you first met her.

Seated on the settee and dressed in a pencil skirt and white blouse she looks as if she’s come here straight from a meeting. Your parents told you that she’s the CEO of a major corporation so she probably has. She apologised profusely to your parents for coming improperly attired, but they just laughed it off and assured her that even though Collatini is an old aristocratic name your family don’t obsess about manners the way most of the newer aristocratic families do.

Miss Lucreza’s shoulder length hair is a natural chestnut-brown, her skin surprisingly pale and interspersed with a dusting of freckles. You hand a steaming cup on a saucer to her and you can no longer avoid her gaze. Her eyes are blue-green, not unlike the depths of the bay your mansion overlooks, and her features, while delicate, are defined, almost etched. But the smile on her brightly lip-sticked lips make her seem far less scary than before and as she lifts the cup to her mouth she arches her eyebrows and murmurs in appreciation.

“This is really good!” she says, placing her cup and saucer on the table. You finish pouring your own and are about to sit on the chair at right angles to Muss Lucreza when she leans over and pats the space on the settee next to her.

“Why don’t you sit here?” she says.

You stare at the space, your face growing hot. Sit next to her? A strange woman when you’re parents aren’t present? You open your mouth to say something, the twin demands of etiquette struggling inside you. You should always be accommodating to a guest, and yet….

Miss Lucreza laughs. It’s a surprisingly loud laugh which startles you. “It’s okay,” she says. “Your parents won’t be angry. They know we’re just going to be chatting. I just want us to get to know each other a bit better.”

Still blushing, you seat yourself next to her. With her body so close to yours, you can feel the warmth of her body, smell her distinct fragrance. It’s a floral perfume, not unlike your mother’s, but there’s an undercurrent of her own scent, a hint of perspiration and a certain rich spiciness that makes you swallow hard.

As you fidget, trying to get comfortable, she leans over and brings her face near to your neck. You start, but Miss Lucreza is smiling as she sits back again.

“I just wanted to find out what smelled so good. Turns out it’s you.”

You take up your tea and sip at it, hoping that having something in your hands will make your nervousness less noticeable. The tea is a little astringent, you notice; you left it standing too long. Miss Lucreza was polite to say it was delicious.

She’s watching you as you drink and when you put your cup down you accidentally spill a little of it on your hand. It’s hot and you gasp, more from surprise than anything else, but you gasp again when Miss Lucreza takes up a napkin and placing your hand in her own dabs at it.

She sighs. “There’s no need to be so nervous, you know. I won’t bite you.”

Somehow, the warmth of her hand, the softness of skin against yours, calms you. Now dry, she pats your hand and you take it back.

It’s Miss Lucreza’s turn to appear nervous. She doesn’t seem to know what to say and so you jump in to save her embarrassment. Why doesn’t she try one of the madeleines? You baked them yourself. They’re not really very good, and probably burnt, but…

She picks one up and takes an eager bite. Her blue-green eyes widen and she murmurs as she swallows a mouthful of the sweet cake.

“Delicious!” she cries. “Did you really bake these yourself?”

You drop your gaze to your lap and nod. You enjoy baking, you tell her, although you’re not good at it.

The ice broken, the two of you start to talk more freely. You tell Miss Lucreza all about yourself. As the son of an aristocratic family, it’s really just an account of your current studies: poetry, music, dance, natural science, French and of course baking. She seems impressed and starts speaking to you in French which you switch too without hesitation.

Still speaking in French, she tells you all about herself. Her full name is Fia Lucreza. “But please call me Fia,” she says.

You stammer that you could never call her by her first name, especially since you’ve just met, and she laughs and shakes her head.

“Please. I’d like you to call me by my first name. ‘Miss Lucreza’ makes me feel old.”

You kocaeli escort drop your gaze, defeated. Since she insists, you have to do as she says.

“Can you say it?” she asks you, arching her eyebrows.

“F-fia,” you say, eyes lowered, your heart racing at the intimate use of a strange woman’s first name.

Fia seems charmed by your reaction and she ruffles your hair. “Good boy,” she says. “Now I feel like we’re friends chatting rather than some job interview.”

Fia tells you she’s the Chief Executive Officer of Cantarella, a company that makes cars. It’s a name you recognise since your mother owns one.

She asks if you can drive. You shake your head. Your mother has always said that men should stick to male things, and women to female things and since you have a chauffeur, it’s never been a problem.

“Well, I’d love to teach you one day,” she says. “Driving is a skill even boys should learn.”

She goes on to tell you about where she lives, an apartment in the city which is only a short helicopter flight across the bay to her corporate headquarters. “It’s not far from here,” she says. “It’s much smaller than your mansion, though. And I don’t have any servants.”

No servants? So her husband must do all the housework, then.

Fia laughs. “Oh, I’m not married.”

The idea is shocking. Then how does she look after the cooking, her laundry, all the cleaning?

Fia’s smile is rueful. “The apartment block has a laundry and cleaning service, and I cook for myself, mostly, or have food delivered.”

But that can’t be very healthy, you say, straightaway covering your mouth with a hand and blushing at your rudeness. But Fia doesn’t seem offended. If anything, her smile grows brighter. She leans across and pats your hand.

“There’s no need to worry about me,” she says. “I make do. Although it does get lonely at times.”

You nod. It must get lonely without any servants and living alone. You can barely imagine what it’s like. You’ve spent your entire life surrounded by servants, your parents and your siblings, your three older sisters.

Fia takes a small piece of the madeleine and pops it into her mouth.

“You know, I’d really love to be able to eat your cooking every day,” she says. She glances at you, and the expression on her face is suddenly uncomfortable. “Do you… do you think you’d mind it very much if you had to cook for someone and clean and do their laundry and all that sort of thing?”

You shake your head. After all, when you’re married, it will be your job as a husband to look after your wife and keep her happy. Isn’t that the same sort of thing?

“It was lovely to meet you,” says Fia suddenly. She gets up off the settee and as you move to join her she leans across and kisses you on the cheek.

You stand there, shocked, touching the soft, warm spot with your fingers.

“I’m sorry,” she says, amused by your reaction. “I guess that was a little forward. But you really are sweet. Even sweeter than those delicious madeleines of yours.”

You escort her from the room. Your parents are waiting outside and you make your apologies before returning to tidy up the tea service, leaving the three of them to talk. You’re wiping the table when FIa ducks her head back inside.

“Thank you for the tea,” she says. “Everything was delicious.”

You return to your tidying up, a deep blush suffusing your face at her praise.

A short while later Fia leaves, apologising that she has a pressing meeting to attend to. Your parents ask you to escort her to the front door and you do so, thanking her for her visit.

As your butler opens the door, she takes your hand and lifts it to her lips. Your heart skips a beat just like before.

“See you again soon,” she says.

You watch her walk down the crushed brick path to her car. It’s sleek and black and you stare as Fia opens the door for herself and gets inside.

No chauffeur. Just like she said.

Then the car drives off and you’re left standing there, wondering why your heart is pumping so fast in your chest.

Your parents are waiting for you back in the sitting room. Your mother asks you to sit down. She leans forward, a smile on her lips, a strange sight from one who’s usually so dour and serious.

“So what did you think of Miss Lucreza?” she asks.

She seemed very nice, you say.

“Oh, I’m very pleased to hear that,” she replies, leaning back. “The wedding is on Sunday.”


You can’t sleep. You lie on your side, roll over, and finally end up on your back staring up at the ceiling.

Marriage. The word has been all you’ve thinking about since the announcement. Marriage to Miss Lucreza. Wait, no – to Fia.

You knew you’d get married one day but you never expected it to happen so suddenly. You’ll soon have to leave your family and go and live with Fia in her home, share her life and her bed.

Her bed. The thought sends your heart racing with nervous excitement.

A kocaeli escort bayan strip of pale yellow light appears next to the window. Someone has opened the door to your room. There’s the soft padding of bare footsteps and then a whisper of material against material as they get into your bed.

You don’t need to turn your head to know it’s your sister, Loretta.

“Congrats on your engagement, little bro,” she whispers, and even though you can’t see her face, you have no doubt there’s a mocking smile on it.

She’s three years older than you, the youngest of your three older sisters and the only one still living at home. Unlike the others, she’s never shown any interest in a career or study and spends day after day in frivolous pursuits around the mansion, the main one playing pranks on you. Your parents have never really shown any interest in her, so you can’t really blame her. As the baby of the family. you’ve often felt that you get all the attention, for good or ill.

You turn over and try to discern her face in the twilight of your room. Her teeth are glistening in the half-light. She’s grinning, just like you expected.

You thank her anyway. For all her teasing, Loretta and you are close. You reach out and touch her hand and she takes yours and holds it.

Tears start in your eyes. You’ll have to say goodbye to her in a few days. She’ll be able to visit, but you’ll never again have the freedom to go on adventures like you always have. No more stealing food from the kitchens or teasing the servants or exploring the mansion grounds.

“Are you crying?” she asks.

“No,” you lie.

Loretta snorts. “Why are you crying? You’re going to get married. I’m never going to get married. You’ve heard mom: I’m totally unmarriageable. Although I guess I can always do what Miss Lucreza is doing and buy a husband.”

You ask her what she means.

“I heard mum and dad arguing again, but this time it was about you.”

Your heart skips. Have you done something wrong? Did Miss Lucreza say something about you?

You shift uncomfortably and Loretta knows straight away what you’re thinking. “Like you’d ever do anything to make them angry, Mr. Perfect. No, it’s about the marriage. Dad kept going on and on about how you’re too young to get married and that they didn’t know Miss Lucreza well enough yet.”

But she was very nice, you say. Polite and kind and…

Loretta laughs. “You know what everyone calls her? ‘The barracuda.’ She’s made all her money from swallowing up other companies into her own. Everyone drives a Cantarella now, right? And she’s the CEO. Think about how much she makes a year.”

But she lives in a small apartment, you say.

“Ha! Maybe compared to the mansion. I looked it up on the net. She has an apartment in Giada, on the bay. It’s a penthouse. It even has a helipad.” She whistles. “I’m kinda jealous, actually.”

She said something about buying a husband…

“Oh yeah,” says Loretta. She’s still thinking about the apartment. “Anyway, the argument went on and on and dad accused mom of auctioning you off to the highest bidder. You know the family’s been having money problems, don’t you?” You answer in the negative and Loretta snorts again. “Boys. You don’t know anything. Anyway, we’ve always been rich, right? Nuh-uh. We might have a big name and a title, but we’re actually pretty poor – and getting poorer. There was a problem with some of mom’s investments a while ago and we’ve been haemorrhaging money since. We lose any more, and we won’t be able to keep the mansion or the servants or any of our stuff.”

You laugh. She’s joking, right?

“Nuh-uh. It’s the truth. But we still have a name and a title. Mum’s a Contessa, don’t forget. There’s plenty of people out there than are rich but of low birth. They’d love to have a name like ours, and the only way to get one is to marry into it. So mom let people know she was looking for a wife for you.” Loretta squeezes your hand. “There was a lot of interest in you, you know. Congratulations.”

You don’t know how you feel. How could they have been interested in you if they’d never met you before? They were just interested in your family’s name.

Miss Lucreza. Fia. So she…

“Yup. She’s going to pay off all our debts. It’s just spare change for her, I guess. I read on the net she’s personally worth seven hundred million dollars.”

Seven hundred million dollars?

“You know, you can just tell mum and dad that you don’t want to get married. Dad would back you up. You know how he can make mom do whatever he wants.”

You feel a pain in your chest. So Miss Lucreza bought you, bought you for your name. She doesn’t love you. Your eyes grow hot. Stupid. Why would she love you? She just met you.

But if you want to marry someone, it means you’re in love with that person. Doesn’t it? That’s what you’ve always thought. And now…

Your parents, fighting. Losing the mansion, losing everything…


You escort kocaeli wipe at the tears in your eyes.

“So are you going to talk to dad?”

You shake your head. You’re happy to get married, you say.

Loretta makes unsure noises in her throat. Then she squeezes your hand. “Well, I guess you’re lucky, actually. A lot of the potential suitors were pretty old and ugly. Miss Lucreza’s still in her thirties and really good looking, don’t you think? I bet you’re going to have a lot of fun on your wedding night.”

Your wedding night.

“Hey, mom and dad told you about the birds and the bees right?”

Stammering, you tell her that of course they did.

Actually, they just gave you a book. It was very technical.

“Good,” says Loretta, relieved. Then a deep sigh. “I’m going to miss you, little bro. Promise me you’ll invite me over to your place all the time, okay? The internet says the barracuda’s apartment has a pool and a tennis court and everything.”

The excitement in Loretta’s voice steels your resolve. You have to do what’s right for your family. And she’s right, you are lucky. Miss Lucreza is rich and powerful and beautiful…

…and called ‘the barracuda.’

Loretta leans across and kisses you on the mouth. “Night, little bro. Let’s go on an adventure, tomorrow okay? I guess it’ll probably be our last.”

She closes the door and you feel the tears long burning your eyes begin to flow.


The wedding is a humble affair in the family chapel in Mattone, the little village nearest to your ancestral lands. Your entire family is there, right down to the strange, eccentrically -dressed decrepit relatives that you only ever see at weddings and funerals. But it’s your sisters that make a big deal of you. Loretta is there, of course, but rather than her usual bubbly energetic self, she’s strangely subdued. She compliments you with the others on how handsome you look and keeps on hugging you. You realise then how much the two of you love each other and you find you can barely look at her without crying.

Janisa, the eldest of your sisters, takes out her handkerchief and dabs at your eyes, murmuring. “Try not to cry too much,” she says. “People might get the wrong idea.”

“Oh, stop it, Jan, he’s just happy,” says Savina, the middle of your sisters. She’s already onto her third glass of champagne and is at her cheerful stage. Later you know she’ll start crying herself, like she always does. “Isn’t it the day every boy looks forward to?”

You smile awkwardly and nod. The truth is, though, that you never really thought about it all that much. And now here you are, on the first day of the rest of your life, your married life.

The little chapel is dominated by your family. There are very few people from Fia’s side: just a couple of people in suits who look like they must work for her. Is she somehow ashamed of taking you as her husband?

Janisa notices you glancing around and she reads your mind. “Miss Lucreza’s an only child. Adopted. After her parents died and she inherited the business there was some bad blood with the rest of her family. I remember reading about a whole bunch of legal wrangling. She won in the end, though. She always wins.”

A hush falls across the crowd. Fia has arrived. Your sisters grab you and fuss you over to the aisle where your mother is waiting.

“You look so handsome,” your mother says, tears starting in her eyes as she takes your arm. You’ve never seen your mother display that sort of emotion before and it makes you even more nervous.

The front door of the chapel opens and red afternoon sunlight spills in. Fia appears, dressed in her wedding gown. You haven’t seen her since that first meeting a week ago and your heart ends up in your throat.

You’d forgotten how beautiful she was.

Her gown is silk, classic white, reaching to the floor in a simple sheath silhouette that compliments her voluptuous hourglass shape. It suits her far more than any lacy, frilly thing with a long train ever would. As she glides into the chapel you’re once again surprised at how tall she is. With her hair done up and tastefully decorate by a small silver tiara, she almost seems like a fairy-tale princess.

Your heart races as she takes your hand in her own. She smiles at you, although you can tell she’s nervous by the way her glistening eyes flicker as she looks you over.

“You’re so handsome,” she whispers.

Then the wedding march begins and Fia leads you up the aisle between the two walls of smiling and crying faces to where the priest is waiting.

The whole ceremony passes by like a dream. The exchanging of vows, Fia slipping the ring on your finger, your first kiss. Her lips are hot against your own and luckily the gasp that escapes your mouth is drowned out by the fervent clapping and cheering that greets the kiss.

Then it’s the two of you floating like an island among a sea of happy faces, shaking hands and hugging and laughing at well-meaning jokes. You’ve never been good in crowds, but with Fia’s hand on your arm you’re not as nervous as usual.

The reception passes just as quickly with the speeches and jokes and seemingly endless series of toasts. You’re careful to only take a little sip at each of the toasts, but even so after the last one you feel a little unsteady as you sit back in your seat.

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