Don Giovanni de la Fortuna
(An Italian Tale)
(An Italian Tale)
Sicilianische Mahrchen...The Pink Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang, [c. 1889]
~ Part Two ~
"Have you heard the news, sire?"
"What news?" the king inquired.
Benito glanced toward his father, his curiosity piqued.
"They say there is a man living down by the coast. He is as rich as Midas, but he shares his wealth with any in need."
King Enzo raised an eyebrow. "You don't say?"
His royal advisor nodded. "He regularly donates to charities and gives to the poor."
"That's quite commendable."
Benito absently nodded his head in agreement. Having spent his entire life growing up in the king's court, it wasn't often that he heard of someone so praiseworthy. Most at court had ulterior motives for behaving the way they did, and usually those motives weren't good. It was kind of a dog-eat-dog world.
Benito hated it, but what was he to do? He was the king's youngest son. A prince. At least he was lucky enough to have two older siblings so the chance of him inheriting the throne were little to none. As such, he was pretty much left alone to do what he wanted.
The attention of the court was centered on his brother and sister, both of whom had a chance to rule the kingdom once their father passed on. He prayed that was a very, very long time away. His father was a good king and their people needed him.
"I was thinking," the advisor continued, "with the way the last natural disaster depleted your bank account, maybe you could ask this gentleman for a low interest loan. You don't need to ask for a lot, just enough to finish rebuilding the hospital in the southern province."
Benito's heart ached for all those who had lost their homes or their loved one when floods ravaged the southern province. They were still trying to get a handle on how much damage there was, but it was estimated to be in the billions.
"Find out more about this man," the king directed. "I need to know what type of man he is before I ask him for money."
Benito thought that was a good idea. As king, his father wasn't just responsible for himself or his immediate family. He had an entire kingdom to care for. Decisions he made effected a lot of lives.
When the doors of the throne room clanked open and his brother and sister came striding in, Benito quickly stepped back into the shadows. They were years older than him and Benito felt that age gape every day of his life. Marco was the oldest with Antonia coming just a year later. Benito was the baby, having been born five years after Antonia.
Neither had time for a infant child.
As he grew older, Benito was glad he hadn't garnered their attention. They weren't mean to him exactly, but they weren't friendly either. Benito knew it stemmed from the fact that they were both preparing to rule a kingdom. Marco would take over after their father passed on, and Antonia would marry another royal and one day become queen of another kingdom.
Benito was so far down the royal list, he'd stay a prince for the rest of his life. Frankly, he was okay with that. He'd seen how the royal life had turned his siblings into self-serving, entitled jerks.
Overlooked by most due to his siblings' importance to the crown, Benito tended to spend a majority of his time with his parents and the servants. He hated being in the limelight and was able to get out of most public appearances because his parents knew he was horribly shy.
Benito stayed in the shadows and watched his siblings approach his parents. Marco flopped down in a chair next to their father. Antonio seated herself with a little bit more decorum, sitting next to their mother.
"Father, I need an advance on my quarterly allowance," Marco began. "I have found a wonderful racing horse at a ranch west of here that is sure to win every race he is entered into. The owner has offered me a fifty percent share in all the winnings if I invest with him."
The king sighed. "My son—"
"It's not that much, Father," Marco insisted. "Twenty five thousand should do it."
"For a horse?"
"He's a really fast horse."
"The money is already mine, Father. I'm just asking for an advance on the next payment."
Benito was glad Marco couldn't see him shake his head. He'd go through the roof. Benito didn't understand how his brother could go through money like it was water through his fingers. He spent more on his wardrobe than most people made in a year.
Benito worried about the state of their kingdom when Marco became king. He'd bankrupt the entire country within a year of taking the crown.
They all had the same trust funds, set up by their grandfather on the day they were each born. Each quarter, they received a small allowance. When they reached the age of thirty, they would receive the remaining bulk. Marco still had another three years to go.
Antonio was a little more reserved with her spending than their brother. She knew she was saving for the day when she would eventually marry and become the wife of a member of royalty from another country. Her trust fund would be a dowry of sorts, something to take with her so she would never be the "poor relation" of her marriage.
Benito still had most of his trust fund. There wasn't really all that much he had to spend money on. He lived in his father's castle and was fed by the servants. While he did use some of his money to help out around the kingdom here and there, most of it was invested for the future.
He knew he would not always have the luxury of living under his father's roof. One day, after his parents passed on, his brother would take over the kingdom, and there was no way Benito was living under Marco's roof. The day Marco took the crown was the day that Benito moved out. The money he was saving was supposed to help him get set up somewhere else.
"You will just have to wait until the quarter ends, Marco."
Benito blinked in surprise when his father held up a hand. "I said no, Marco, and that will be the end of it. All of our money is going toward rebuilding the southern region at the moment. I do not have any to spare you for a horse, no matter how fast he is."
Marco's eyes narrowed and for a moment, Benito was afraid he would strike their father. He held his breath until Marco jumped to his feet and stormed out of the room. Benito knew his brother had a temper, but he had never seen his brother so angry.
There was a part of him that wondered if Marco could have truly hit their father. He had heard stories of Marco losing his temper and striking out at others in anger, but they were just rumors. He'd seen his brother get rough with the servants on occasion, but he'd never seen Marco hit anyone. It was a scary thought that he might.
"You must do something to rein that boy in, my dear," Benito's mother was saying. "His spending is out of control. What will happen to our people once he is king?"
"I know, my love." King Enzo gave his wife a weak smile as he patted her hand. "I will have a talk with him."
Benito didn't think it would do a lot of good.
"Father," Antonia began, "have you received word from Prince Albert?"
"No, should I have?"
A shy smile crossed Antonia's lips. "He said he might send word to you of his interest in courting me."
Benito winced from the shadows. Antonia's shy smile was a rues. She was no more shy than he was outgoing. Benito couldn't really blame his sister for her eagerness to wed. She wanted to get out of the country before Marco became king just as much as Benito did.
On the other hand, Prince Albert was not a man he would wish on anyone, not even his sister. The man was rude, crass, and felt as if the world owed him. He was even worse than Marco.
"I have not received word from him, daughter, but I will certainly tell my secretary to keep an eye out for any correspondence from Prince Albert."
Antonia's smile brightened. "Thank you, Father."
The king leaned over and pressed a kiss to his wife's cheek. "I must go and talk with my advisors about this man, my dear. I will see you at dinner."
Queen Sophia smiled. "Try not to work too late, my love."
The king chuckled as he bowed low. "As you say, Queen Sofia, so shall it be."
Benito smiled as he watched the byplay between his parents. That was the king of marriage he wanted. It was obvious to any and all that his parents had married for love, not position or prestige.
Granted, his mother had been the daughter of a king, but his father, while having royalty in his linage, had not been directly in line for the throne. They had each taken one look at each other and fallen madly in love. That was nearly thirty years ago, and they were still madly in love.
When his father walked out of the room, followed closely by his advisor, Benito hurried through the back hallway to meet up with him at his office. He smiled at all the servants and castle workers he passed. Most he knew by first name, some merely by face.
Those who didn't know him well were surprised by a member of the royal family walking through one of the back hallways of the castle, or the servants' hallway as it was called. They were there so the servants could move about the castle without guests seeing them. Benito preferred moving about the castle this way for that exact reason.
He knew more back hallways and hiding places in the castle than pretty much anyone. He'd been hiding in the shadows since he was a small boy. He'd been doing it so long, most no longer paid attention to him.
Every once in awhile, a new castle worker would stop him and try to give him directions back to the main part of the massive place. Benito would simply smile and introduce himself.
Benito was waiting outside his father's office by the time the king reached the large double doors. He quickly went into the arms his father held out to him. He adored his parents, and they him. He suspected it was because he had been a surprise baby, and not one planned to further the linage of the royal family. They already had their heir. He was the spare.
"How is my son today?" the king asked.
"I am fine, Father."
"I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time."
"Of course." King Enzo stepped inside his office and then shut the door before his advisor could join them. "Is there a problem, Benito?"
"No, sir. I overheard you speaking with your advisor. I know the treasury is strained due to the flooding in the south and wondered how I could help? I have a bit of money saved up. If you need it, I could—"
"Oh, my son, you are a delight." King Enzo pulled Benito into another hug. "You make me and your mother so proud."
Benito smiled as he sank into his father's embrace. Most royals he had encountered, including those in his own family, did not express affection for others. His parents had never been that way with him. He had always known he was loved.
"I thank you for your offer, my son," King Enzo said as he dropped his arms and stepped back from Benito, "but the amount of money I need to refill our treasury and finish the rebuilding in the southern region is larger than even your trust fund."
"Maybe if you used my trust fund, you wouldn't have to ask for that much."
"No, my son. That trust fund was set up for you by your grandfather. Even if I wanted to use it, I cannot. Except for your quarterly allowance, it cannot be touched until you reach thirty years of age."
"I still have the money from my investments. I can access that whenever I want to."
"I appreciate the offer, Benito, but we'll be fine."
"I know." Benito dropped his gaze to the floor. "I just hate the thought that you will have to take a loan out when I can help."
"Let me investigate this man before we make any decisions. If he is a good man, then I will feel better about taking a loan from him. If he is not, then we will talk. How does that sound?"
Benito smiled as he raised his head. "That sounds good, Father."
King Enzo patted Benito's cheek before turning toward his desk. "Run along now, Benito. I must get my work done before dinner or I will incur your mother's wrath."
Benito chuckled as he turned and walked out of the office, leaving the door open for his father's advisor. He knew his father was right about his mother. No one liked it when the queen was miffed. She didn't scream or yell or even throw things. She simply stared at the person she was vexed with such disappointment in her eyes that he felt compelled to throw himself under a bus. Everyone tried not to disappoint the queen, even her husband.
Benito felt better after his talk with his father. Still, there had to be something he could do to help. With that thought in mind, he headed for the small office down the hallway from his father's office. If anyone knew of ways to help that didn't involve depleting his trust fund, it would be the castle steward. The man had run the castle with the utmost efficiency for decades, after all. He probably knew more about running a country than the royal family did.
* * * *
Benito was sitting in his father's office when the king's advisor rushed in a week later, a letter in hand. He had been lounging on the sofa reading one of his father's books, but sat up at the anxiousness on the man's face.
"Sire," Carlos began. "I have heard back from Don Giovanni. Not only has he agreed to send you the money you requested, but he refuses to loan it to you. He says for you to use the funds as you see fit and not worry about paying him back. It is for the good of people in need."
"What?" King Enzo grabbed the letter out of Carlos's hand and began reading over it. After a moment, he plopped down in his chair, a stunned look on his face. "How is this possible? He is richer than even I am."
"Sire," Carlos said, "he sent all of the money you requested and then some."
Benito set his book down and climbed to his feet before walking over to his father's side. "Who is this man, Father?"
"His name is Don Giovanni," Carlos began. "He has a villa by the coast. It is said that he has funded many charitable organization, employing only the best workers to man the shelters, youth centers, and hospitals he has established. He pays a living wage and expects the best out of his workers. They give it because he is so generous."
Benito smiled, wishing he could meet a man of such kindness. "We must find a way to thank this man, Father."
"Yes, of course you are right. Carlos, only take the money we need to rebuild and then send the rest back. I will not be greedy."
"As you say, sire."
Benito was still in his father's office an hour later when Carlos came rushing back in. By this time, his mother had joined them and they were brainstorming on how to thank Don Giovanni for his generosity.
"Sire, he refuses to accept any of the money back."
"What?" The king stood. "He refuses?"
Benito was just as stunned as his father. Who sent someone so much money and then refused to accept any of it back?
"He told me to tell you that he was very hurt by your actions in returning the unused portion to him. He refused to take back a single cent, and if you declined to accept any of it, for me to keep it."
The king sat down in his chair again, and reached for his wife's hand. "This man is generous far beyond my imagination, my dear. I do not have words to thank him for what he has done. With the amount of funds he has sent, we can not only rebuild the hospital, but upgrade it to a state of the art facility."
"You must invite him here, my dear," Queen Sofia said. "Kindness of this sort must be thanked in person. A simple letter of acknowledgement will not due."
Benito silently nodded his agreement with that idea. His desire to meet this man was growing with each new thing he learned about him. Don Giovanni seemed like a wonderful man and Benito couldn't wait to make his acquaintance.
King Enzo's eyebrows drew together as a pensive looked passed over his face. "Dear wife, this man has done our kingdom a great service, and has behaved like a gentleman in not allowing me to send back the money. I wish to give him the hand of our daughter."
"Oh." The queen's eyes began to sparkle with tears she covered her mouth.
"Do not despair, my love. This might not be a royal marriage, but Antonia would be hard pressed to find a more generous man to marry. He would care well for our daughter."
Queen Sofia sniffled. "Of course, you are right, my dear. I just...I had hoped Antonia would be around a bit longer."
"Don Giovanni does not seem like a man who would cut off relations with our daughter. I have no doubt you would still be able to see her whenever your beautiful little heart desired." The king smiled as he turned to look at Carlos. "Send Don Giovanni my regards and inform him I wish to make a match with my daughter, if he is so inclined."
Carlos's smile seemed a bit strained, but the man nodded nonetheless. "Right away, sire."
Benito's heart sank a little. There would never be a match like that for him, and he knew it. He wasn't ugly by any means, but marriage with him held no value. He wouldn't inherit the throne and he would never be queen. He might someday find someone of nobility to marry, but it was doubtful.
Benito's eyebrows rose when Carlos came running back into the room. He had only been gone a few minutes. Surely that wasn't long enough for him to contact Don Giovanni and replay the king's message.
"Sire, Don Giovanni thanks you for the honor you wish to bestow upon him, but he must decline. He is...uh..."
"Well, spit it out, Carlos," the king demanded.
"Don Giovanni is gay, sire."
For a perilous minute, Benito's hear leapt in his chest, but then his father's words filtered through his brain.
"Offer him Marco. Maybe a man of his caliber can teach my wayward son some restraint."
When Carlos came back into the office for a third time, Benito knew from the excitement on the man's face what Don Giovanni's answer was. For a moment, Benito couldn't breathe. The kindness Don Giovanni had shown was something Marco would never understand. He would simply see the man as a walking, talking bank account. Benito didn't want that for the kind and wonderful man.
"Sire, Don Giovanni humbly accepts the honor of marrying your son."
Don Giovanni and Benito's story to be continued in the book "A Devil's Bargain".
This story started out on ManLove Fantasies - Winter Edition..."Mark of an Alpha" is the complete story.
MARK OF AN ALPHA
All Xias wanted to do was find a safe place for him and his cubs. With his alpha chasing after him, intent on taking one of his cubs and killing the others, racing through a blizzard in the middle of the night seemed like a good idea. He had no idea when he took shelter in a cave during a blizzard that he had found more than a place to rest. He'd found the one man determined to protect him and his cubs.
Zhuang wasn't on the run exactly, but avoiding his father's demand that he start his own clan sent him into the mountains where he couldn't be reached. When he takes shelter in a cave during a snow storm, he finds his mate and a whole lot more. He also discovers that protecting his mate means changing his entire way of life.
But even going to the shifter council won't keep them safe because the alpha who is after Xias is determined to have him, even if he has to kill everyone standing in his way. Zhuang's only hope in saving his new family is in becoming the alpha his father always wanted him to be.http://www.bookstrand.com/book/mark-of-an-alpha
"Come on, babies, just a little farther." Xias was lying through his teeth, but the cubs didn't need to know that. The longer they could remain blissfully ignorant of the danger they were in, the better.
He nudged one with his nose when it started to fall behind the other two. He knew there was a cave close by. He'd scouted it out while the cubs were still sleeping, but with the snow coming down so hard he could barely see a step in front of him, he was starting to wonder if he'd ever find it again.
The blizzard had come out of nowhere, hard, cold, and dangerous. Xias knew if he didn't find shelter for him and the cubs soon, they'd be lost in the flurry of bitter cold snow. They'd freeze to death by morning for sure.
Maybe he should have left the cubs behind where they would have been warm and dry. Xias quickly dismissed that idea. His heart ached just thinking about it. Everything in him balked at the idea of anything happening to his cubs.
They were his babies. He had carried them for four months, given birth to the three darling little fur balls. Just because clan law stated they belonged to their sire, didn't make it so, especially when the bastard decided to put two of them to death because they hadn't been born male.
Xias grew enraged every time he remembered his alpha's declaration that two of his cubs were defective. His cubs were precious, each and every one of them. He didn't care if they were boys or girls or purple penguins. They were his cubs and he'd fight to the death to defend each and every one of them.
Which was what had led him to where he found himself now. Racing through a blizzard with his cubs as he tried to find a place to wait out the storm and escape from the alpha intent of killing everything he held dear.
Xias jumped forward when Bai, the oldest of his litter of three cubs, tripped and went face first into a snow drift. He gently grabbed the cub by the back of his neck and lifted him out, giving him a little shake to get some of the snow off of him.
He set Bai on the ground and then nudged him up to his sisters, Liang and Ying. They needed to keep going. If they didn't find that cave, they would perish out here in the snow, which was getting deeper by the second. The snow was coming down in thick plumes.
"Come on, keep moving."
Xias had just about given up hope of ever finding the cave when he spotted a familiar looking rock outcropping. He was almost giddy as he herded the three cubs toward the towering wall of rock.
"Keep going, babies. The cave is just ahead."
By the time they climbed up the rock outcropping and moved toward the cave entrance, the cubs were barely moving, sluggish. Xias knew once they got warmed up and had something to eat, and then got some sleep, they would be fine.
When they reached the mouth of the cave, Xias stepped forward and drew in a lungful of air. He needed to make sure no one had found the cave and taken up residence before he was able to bring the cubs back. He didn't want to escape one dangerous situation only to take his cubs into another one.
When he didn't smell any other scent than his from inside the enclosed space, Xias urged the cubs in through the narrow opening. It was dark inside, but that was no surprise. It was a cave after all. Xias led the cubs over to the far wall, away from the cave opening.
He laid down, smiling when his cubs hurried over to him. In a matter of moments, they were snuggling in, each cub latching on to a teat. Xias began to purr as he fed his babies, leaning down to lick the snow off of each of them in turn.
By the time they were clean and dry, their little tummies were rounded with milk and their eyes were drifting closed. Xias continued to purr until they curled together in a kitten pile and nodded off.
He laid there for a few minutes, soaking in the peacefulness of the moment. There was just something about providing for his cubs that filled him with a calmness he couldn't find anywhere else. The world around him could go to hell as long as he had his cubs right by his side.
Xias glanced up toward the entrance of the cave when he heard a noise. He couldn't quite place what had made that sound, but it raised his hackles. He extracted himself from his cubs and climbed to his paws.
When he heard the noise again, Xias took a few steps forward, placing himself between the cubs and whatever was outside the cave entrance. When the strong, unmistakable scent of an alpha male floated into the cave, Xias thought his heart was going to burst with fear.
Alpha males were known to kill cubs not their own, especially those with crystal blue eyes. They saw them as threats. It didn't matter if the cubs were in their territory or not, it was instinctual to try and eliminate all threats to their rule and the succession of their own offspring.
He tried not to whimper when what was quite possibly the largest white Siberian tiger he had ever seen stepped through the opening. There was no way Xias could ever beat this tiger in a fight. The large feline easily had three hundred pounds on him, most of it muscle mass.
Xias shot his cubs a desperate look. They were partially hidden behind a small outcropping of rock. Maybe the tiger wouldn't see them. Xias could only pray they stayed asleep because he could think of only one way to keep the large cat from attacking.
Stormy believes the only thing sexier than a man in cowboy boots is two or three men in cowboy boots. She also believes in love at first sight, soul mates, true love, and happy endings.
You can usually find her cuddled in bed with a book in her hand and a puppy in her lap, or on her laptop, creating the next sexy man for one of her stories. Stormy welcomes comments from readers. You can find her website at www.stormyglenn.com.