Authors: Leslie North
By Leslie North
The Rosso Family Series
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Table of Contents
Eva paused in her packing, underwear in one hand and a T-shirt in the other. She let out a breath and smiled at her sister. “Alexandra, I still can’t believe I was accepted to the
École des Beaux-Arts.
Paris! It’s an artist’s dream.
“I can’t wait to come visit you,” Alexandra said. She’d curled up on a chair in Eva’s room. “I just wish I was going instead of Antonio to get you settled. But Dareios—”
“Dareios doesn’t want to let you out of his sight.” Eva grinned. “If I had a guy like that wanting to hog all my time, I might be staying put, too.”
“No, you’d still be going to Paris. But you have to come home for the wedding. And Claire and I are planning to visit you—mostly to do some shopping. Now you’d better finish packing or Antonio will have a fit. And do you have those French tapes Claire bought you?”
Eva wrinkled her nose. Claire was still a new bride—but she was working so hard to be a sister to both Eva and Alexandra. But languages were something that had always eluded Eva. Both Antonio and Alexandra spoke six languages each. Eva knew Greek and English, and that was it.
Throwing the rest of her clothes into her bag, she zipped it up and glanced around the room. She had everything—she hoped. She glanced at Alexandra. “I hope you won’t wait too long to come.”
“We won’t. Maybe I’ll convince Dareios to spend part of our honeymoon in Paris.”
“Antonio said he was going to get me an apartment with enough room in it for guests to stay.”
“That sounds like Antonio. Always thinking ahead.” Standing, Alexandra pulled Eva in for a hug. “I’m going to miss you.”
Eva’s eyes stung, but she blinked and wiggled away from Alexandra. She’d never liked dragging out any goodbyes. “I’ll call you tomorrow once I’m settled.”
She hurried downstairs, a bag in each hand. Antonio was already waiting outside at the car. Throwing in her bags, Eva climbed in. She didn’t look back at her home—she couldn’t. She’d start to cry and then Antonio would comfort her and she’d change her mind, and she couldn’t do that, either. No…she was going to Paris. To become an artist.
Two days later, she was ready to change her mind, yet again. The apartment Antonio had found her was great—perfect. A charming four rooms on the third floor of an older house in the Latin
. It had window boxes filled with flowers, great light, and room for a studio. But for the rest…she tried to keep smiling. She really did.
“So what did you think of the school?” Antonio asked.
They’d stopped for coffee and croissants at a small café just outside the
École des Beaux-Arts
school. Tourists hurried past while Parisians sat smoking and enjoying the sunlit afternoon.
“Honestly?” Eva asked. She felt horrible for what she was about to say. Antonio had gone to so much effort for her. She should be happy about this. She should just be fine. But her shoulders slumped. She stirred an extra sugar into her coffee.
Antonio frowned. “Of course I want you to be honest with me.”
“I hated it.” She sat up. “And it’s not just because I don’t speak French. I hated everything about that place.”
Antonio let out a breath. “I was unimpressed as well. Okay, so you won’t go to this art school. We’ll find another one.”
Eva stirred her coffee again. Throat tight, she said, “I already know where I want to go to school, Tonio.”
“Really? That’s fabulous. Where?”
Eva wet her lips. She leaned her elbows on the table. She hoped he wasn’t going to shoot down her choice before he gave it a chance. “The United States.”
Antonio’s cappuccino cup clattered against its saucer. “That’s even further away from home. Why there?”
“Because they have some of the most innovative programs right now. The University of Delaware is making great strides in restoring paintings to their original splendor—they’re doing amazing things. I was just reading about it online.”
“And that’s what you want to do?” He nodded and gave a small shrug. “You can’t do this in Greece?”
Reaching out, she put a hand over his. “I know what I want. But…but when I applied, my test scores weren’t high enough.” She drew back and dropped her head to stare at her fingers.
“Eva?” Looking up, she saw Antonio staring at her, his eyes warm. He didn’t look embarrassed that she’d admitted she had failed at something. No one in the Rosso family ever failed. Her father had built a banking empire that Antonio now ran. Her sister was an amazing person—she’d even managed to convince Dareios to give up a playboy life. But sometimes Eva felt like a…a changeling in the family, the one who didn’t fit.
Antonio smiled. “I’ll find you a tutor. Easy enough to do.”
“They were really low in some areas,” she warned. She bit her lower lip. Language wasn’t the only area where she was weak. Math was even worse. Art was the only place where she’d felt comfortable and happy. But her passion was for restoration work—that was really exciting.
Reaching out, Antonio tapped her on the nose. He pulled out his tablet computer. “You’ll need a student visa to live and study in the States. You already speak the language, so that at least is a plus.” He grinned at her.
Some of the tension unwound from her shoulders. She watched him work on his tablet, but a loud American voice distracted.
“Mom, I know you want me to come home, but I just can’t afford it. I’m barely keeping a roof over my head. Yeah…yeah, I know. My student visa expires in three weeks, so I’ll let you know what’s happening as soon as I get my crap together.”
Eva glanced to Antonio’s right. A young man with shaggy blonde hair was talking into his cell phone. He was cute in a grungy way, with blue eyes and a strong chin. But he needed a haircut, and his jeans—while clean—weren’t exactly new. He had on a baggy denim shirt, so it was impossible to see if he was skinny or fat, but Eva was going for skinny based on his lean face. He was also talking too loud—typical American. Some of the other patrons were already staring at him.
The young man hung up muttering. “Just graduated from the American University, and she thinks I should already have a teaching job lined up. Mothers!”
Antonio glanced at the young man now. Eva was waiting for him to tell the guy to be quiet, or ask him to leave, but Antonio said, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhears. You’re from America, right, and trying to get home?”
The guy glanced from Antonio to Eva. She looked away and sipped her coffee. Even if he was cute, she wasn’t talking to him. But she had to glance back. He pushed the hair out of his eyes. “I’m not into drugs or anything illegal.”
Eva smothered a laugh. Antonio frowned. “My name is Antonio Rosso. This is Eva, my youngest sister. She wishes to attend your University of Delaware. However, she needs a tutor to get her scores high enough for entry.”
The young man glanced from Antonio to Eva again. He narrowed his eyes. “And you want to hire me? Right out of the blue?”
Antonio smiled. “Not quite. I would have a background check done first. If you pass, I can offer a very good salary, provide you room and board for two months, and offer you a ticket home.”
The young man’s jaw dropped. “Are you for real? I mean…you don’t know me from Adam.”
“I’d know you if you have the manners to introduce yourself.”
Standing, the young man came over to their table. He held out a hand. “Sorry. Sorry. Callum Woods, from New York.”
Eva crossed her arms. She wasn’t shaking hands—she wasn’t even sure this guy was either all that bright or all that good at teaching. If he had been good, why didn’t he have a job lined up? She also wasn’t sure she approved of him talking to his mother as he had—didn’t he appreciate having a mother?
Antonio shook Callum’s hand and waved at the chair next to him. “Give me your cell phone number. If you check out, I’ll have someone contact you to make arrangements for your visa transfer and to move your belongings to my home. You don’t mind staying in Greece for a time, do you?”
“Uh…Greece. No…uh, sounds…sounds good.”
Antonio nodded. “How much time will you need to get your things together?”
Callum grinned. “How’s anytime sound. I pack light.”
“You sound pretty light in the loafers,” Eva muttered.
Callum shot her a suspicious stare. She smiled and sipped her coffee. She doubted he’d pass any kind of check. He was probably the typical American overseas—arrogant, into drugs, and looking for a good time more than anything else.
Closing his tablet, Antonio stood. “I believe this is going to work out very well for everyone involved.”
Eva stood as well and glanced from Antonio to Callum. The wind flattened Callum’s shirt to his chest and she saw not the skinny boy she’d expected, but a wide, muscular chest. For a moment, he reminded her of the Beach Boy posters some of her classmates had smuggled into the school—tousled blond hair, tanned skin, muscles, and ocean blue eyes.
Callum seemed to feel her stare on him. He dropped Antonio’s hand, looked her up and down and crossed his arms over his chest. “So do you know anything about art or are we starting from scratch?” He looked down at her as if she was an idiot child.
Chin lifting, Eva stared back. Great—she’d just landed a surfer tutor who had less brains than the average street bum. She gave a sign and turned away. She was going to hope Callum totally failed his background check. And then she could ask Antonio to find her a real tutor.
Eva watched from the cabana as Callum did another lap in the pool. She pushed up her sunglasses. So what if he was good looking—and smart. He was also a know-it-all and had started treating her like she was a kid. She was eighteen. And…okay, maybe she was just a little shy in the guy department. She’d gone to an all-girls school, but she’d learned plenty from hearing her school pals talk. But Callum…he was just a pain in the ass, and she wanted him gone.
It didn’t help that Antonio thought he was great. And not just her brother thought that. Callum had fixed Alexandra’s laptop, and he’d also starting hanging out with Dareios. Even Claire was on Team Callum—but that figured. They were both Americans and seemed to love talking about “home.” Eva pushed out a breath.
Callum had only been in Greece a week, but he’d already convinced everyone that he was…perfect. So how was she going to get rid of him and get a tutor she liked?
Climbing out of the pool, Callum called out, “How’s it going with the pages?” He’d given her extra work in math and science—her worse subjects. She waved a hand and turned a page as if she was still reading. And why did he have to be so damn cute?
He dried off with a towel. In just a week, he was already starting to tan under the strong sun in Greece. His muscles bunched as he rubbed the white towel over his skin. Eva tried to focus on something to do with amino acids. She snuck another glance.
Towel draped over his shoulders, he headed toward the cabana where she sat, books and papers spread out in the shade. She had on her swim suit under a loose black and gold cover-up—a swim was supposed to be her reward for finishing this chapter, but Callum would quiz her on the reading, and if she didn’t pass, he’d make her read it again. He was a slave driver!
He was also staying in the small guest house on the Rosso property, meaning she had no escape from his lessons. He was always asking her about her work—at dinner and breakfast, in the gym. And if she tried to escape in a car, Callum was there to ride with her. He’d turned shopping into lessons in math!
Eva heard the door open to the house. She glanced over and saw Antonio step out. He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, and glanced at her book. “How’s the studying?”
She pulled off her sunglasses. “How can anyone read about science on this beautiful a day?” She waved a hand at the blue sky.
Antonio grinned. When he smiled, he looked less like their late father.
Matthias Rosso had been a very hard, very stubborn old man—but Eva missed him. She knew their father had spoiled her—she’d been the baby of the family. But now Antonio was married, and running the Rosso banking empire. He was disgustingly happy with Claire, and it left Eva feeling almost an outsider in her own family. Alexandra was in love with Dareios—who really looked like he had reformed his playboy ways. And she…she had a tutor she hated. Who cared if he was cute if all he did was make her feel stupid and even more unwanted?
Antonio touched a finger to the tip of her nose. “You want college in the US—you have to work for it.” Turning he nodded to Callum. Antonio tossed something at Callum. Eva saw light glint off metal.
Catching the metal, Callum held up car keys. “What’s this?”
“You might need transport on your day off—you can’t keep catching rides with Eva the whole time. I’m not using the Jaguar these days, and it needs to get out of the garage.”
Walking over, Callum put the keys down on the table. “Thank you, but I couldn’t drive something like that.”
“Why not?” Antonio stiffened. His blue eyes darkened. “You’re declining my generosity?”
Eva rolled her eyes. “Stop acting the big brother, big brother.”
Callum shook his head. “No offense intended, Mr. Rosso. Really. It’s just that I’m more comfortable on a bike. A motorcycle. That’s what I had back in the States, and I don’t think my skills are quite up to driving an expensive car like your Jaguar.”
“It’s Tonio or Antonio. Mr. Rosso was my father and he is no longer with us.”
Eva snuck her hand into Antonio’s. She heard the strain in his voice. Softly, she said, “You miss him, too, don’t you?”
He glanced down at her. A reluctant smile lifted the corner of his mouth. The wind tugged at his black hair, and he nodded. “Don’t we all. I even miss him yelling at me—and telling me I’m doing everything wrong.” Letting go of her hand, he turned to Callum. “Thank you for being honest. And ask Gaia for the Ducati keys when you need a ride.”
“Ducati!” Callum opened his mouth and shut it again. “But—”
“It’s insured and there are helmets in the garage. Or can’t you handle a good Italian bike like that?”
Callum started to smile. “Oh, I can handle it.”
And Eva got an idea. She wouldn’t wish an accident on anyone—but if Callum took her out for a ride and didn’t get her home in time. Or if she managed to fall off the bike—not a bad fall, just enough of one that Antonio became angry—that would be the end of Callum the tutor.
She leaned forward and rested her chin on her hand. “Why don’t we go out for a picnic today?”
Callum’s smile dropped. “Have you finished your chapters?”
“Well…” She glanced at Antonio and back to Callum. “Most of the first one.”
He waved at her book. “Finish the rest, and we’ll go over it over lunch, and if you do well, then we’ll talk about an evening ride.”
Callum strode away, taking the path to the guest house. Eva clenched a fist. She heard Antonio’s low chuckle and swung on him. “This is your fault, you know.”
He held up his palms. “You can bail anytime. And pick a school here in Greece where I can get you in with the family name. And now I’m taking Claire into town—she has to meet some producer for voice over work. Read your chapters, Eva.”
Huffing out a breath, she watched Antonio walk away.
She had to find some way to get some fun back into her life. Maybe if she found Callum a girl friend?
She heard the door open again, and Gaia came out, books in her arms. The housekeeper put them down with a thump on the table. “More books—from your American.” Straightening, Gaia pushed a strand of graying hair back into place.
Gaia looked up, eyes narrowing. “What? You would waste expensive learning. You’re spoiled, that is the real problem. And you are too good to become a trophy wife to anyone.”
Eva sighed. “I know. It’s just… I do want to be just like everyone. But for that I need college in the States.”
Gaia tapped a finger on the top book. “And for that you need learning.”
“I need a teacher, not a guy who throws reading and more reading at me, and then asks me questions.”
Gaia smiled. “He’s making you think.”
“He’s making me miserable.”
Frowning, Gaia folded her arms. “You’re not thinking too much about him are you? He’s a nobody from America. Your brother would not be happy to hear you are falling for your tutor.”
Eva sat up. “No…no he wouldn’t like that, would he.”
“What are you planning? I know that look in your eyes—it means you are up to trouble.”
Eva smiled. “No trouble at all. In fact, I’m going to get rid of trouble. Will you bring me some iced coffee, Gaia?”
Muttering about more trouble, Gaia turned and strode into the house. Eva sat twirling her sunglasses. So far her tutor had been all about work, work, work. But there had to be some way to get him to see her as a very pretty girl—and then Antonio could discover him kissing her. Yes, that would get rid of her tutor. Her stomach tightened at the idea and she shifted in her chair. But Antonio wouldn’t hurt her tutor—no matter what. And didn’t her tutor want to go back to America—that’s what he was saving for, wasn’t it. What else did he want? She bit down on the arm of her sunglasses. She didn’t know much about him, which meant she needed to find out her tutor’s weaknesses. Yes, she wanted to find out all sorts of things about Mr. Callum Woods from New York.
What was he going to do about Eva?
In the guesthouse, Callum showered and changed—a very cold shower. It was his job to teach her, and so far he’d been doing the learning. As in he’d learned Eva was a spoilt girl, used to getting what she wanted. He was lucky she didn’t seem to want him. Her brother was the one calling the shots and writing the checks, and Antonio had made it clear that Callum had better keep his hands to himself.
“Eva is young and impressionable,” he’d said on Callum’s first night here. “I will not have you breaking her heart while you are living on my estate. Are we clear?”
Callum had waved aside any worries. If he’d had a younger sister, he would have laid down the same warning. “That’s not going to be a problem.” Callum groaned now and sat on the edge of his bed to pull on his motorcycle boots. His head knew what to do, but his body kept reacting to Eva.
She was a gorgeous girl with thick, black hair, and eyes so deep a brown they seemed black. He’d seen her swimming, skimming through the water like a mermaid, slim and fit, with curves in all the right spots. If only she’d put that brain of hers to use, he could finish his job here and get back to the US. That was his focus—that had to be his only focus. Getting home.
And then what?
He shook his head. He’d wanted to be a teacher for as long as he could remember, but it seemed to him like he was failing with his first student. Maybe he wasn’t cut out for this job. Pulling on his boots, he grabbed the bike keys. He needed a ride to clear his head before he tackled the next lesson with Eva.