The Italian's Deal for I Do(4)

By: Jennifer Hayward

He leveled a look at the lawyer. “Give me what you have on her. I’ll deal with Olivia Fitzgerald.”

Adamo nodded. Ran a hand over his balding head and gave him another of those hesitant looks, so uncharacteristic of him.

Rocco arched a brow. “Per favore, tell me there are no more mistresses.”

A faint smile crossed Adamo’s lips. “Not that I know of.”

“Then, what? Spit it out, Adamo.”

The lawyer’s smile faded. “Giovanni has left you a fifty percent stake of House of Mondelli, Rocco. The remaining ten percent controlling stake has been allocated to Renzo Rialto to manage until he sees fit to turn it over.”

Rocco blinked. Attempted to digest. Giovanni hadn’t left him a controlling stake in Mondelli? Prior to his grandfather’s death, the Mondelli family had held a 60 percent share in the company, with outside shareholders holding the remaining 40 percent, leaving the family firmly in control of the legendary fashion retailer. Giving him the power he had needed as CEO to guide Mondelli forward. Why would Giovanni have taken that power out of his hands and given it to Renzo Rialto, the chairman of the board, who had always been Rocco’s nemesis?

Adamo read his dismay. “He didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed without him. He wants you to be able to lean on the board for support. Find your feet. When the board feels you’re ready, they’ll hand over the remaining shares.”

“Find my feet?” White-hot rage sliced through him, rage that had been building since his grandfather’s death. Steel edged, it straightened every limb, singed every nerve ending, until it escaped out his fingertips as he slapped his palms down on the desk and brought himself eye to eye with the lawyer. “I have built this company into something Giovanni could never have envisioned. Taken it from prosperous to wildly successful. I don’t need to find my feet, Adamo. I need what’s rightfully mine—control of this company.”

Adamo lifted a hand in a placating gesture. “You have to consider your personal history, Rocco. You have been a renegade. You have not listened to the advice the board has tried to give you.”

“Because it was wrong. They wanted to keep Mondelli languishing in its past glory when it was clear it needed to move with the times.”

“I agree.” Adamo shrugged. “But not everyone felt that way. There is a great deal of conservatism within the board, a nostalgic desire not to strip away what made the company great. You’re going to need to use more finesse to work your way through this one.”

The blood in his head tattooed a rhythm against his skull. Finesse? The only thing that worked with the board was to whack them over the head with a big stick before they all retired in a wave of self-important glory.

Adamo eyed him. “There is also your personal life. You are not what the board considers a stable, secure guiding figure for Mondelli.”

Rocco reared his head back. “Do not go there, Adamo.”

“It was a...delicate situation.”

“The one where the board castrated me for an affair I didn’t even know I was having?”

“She was a judge’s wife. There was a child.”

“Not mine.” He practically yelled the words at Adamo. “The DNA is in.”

“Not before the entire affair caused Mondelli some considerable political difficulties.” Adamo pinned him with a stern look of his own. “You weren’t careful enough about which playgrounds you chose to dip into, Rocco. You play too fast and easy sometimes, and the board doesn’t like it. They particularly worry now that Giovanni isn’t here to guide you.”

So his grandfather had thought it a good idea to handcuff him to the chairman of the board? To assign him a babysitter? He eyed the lawyer, his temper dangerously close to exploding. “I am CEO of the House of Mondelli. I do not need guiding. I need for a woman to tell me when she’s still married. And if you think I’m going to sit around while the board rubber stamps my every decision, you and they are out of your minds.”

Adamo gave a fatalistic lift of his shoulder. “The will is airtight. You have a fifty-percent share. The only person who can give you control is Renzo Rialto.”