There was a light shake in Isabella’s movement as she went to sit herself down. Another message had come to her doorstep in a similar fashion as last time. Lilac flowers and a white card. The note was kept while the flowers got thrown with the garbage.
After telling Giovanni what had happened, she made sure nobody could come inside the house – the doors locked, windows shut and even the curtains weren’t left untouched.
Isabella started reading the note again but stopped once she realized nothing was getting processed by her. Never before had she been this shaken up. She let her eyelids fall, the thumping in her ears giving her a headache. Everything seemed to make so much more noise. The strong wind outside, the creaking of the leather couch under her weight and her shallow breathing.
Isabella quickly opened her eyes at the sound of loud knocking against the door. She turned her head in its direction and gulped audibly.
‘’It’s me, Isabella!’’
Giovanni?I told him not to come!
Within seconds, she was met with Giovanni’s familiar scowl. She stepped aside, allowing him to come inside and shut the door again.
‘’You shouldn’t have come,’’ she said, tears brimming her forest green eyes.
‘’If it’s your family you’re worried about then don’t. They are safe. I sent my men to pick them up.’’
‘’I know what I’m doing, Isabella,’’ he said in a final tone. ‘’Where is the note?’’
Isabella unclenched her fist, revealing the piece of paper and let him read it.
You didn’t understand my message. I figure being more direct will help. Stop associating with the De Reges. People born in that family dirty the hands of others. Your brother is one of those people who got his hands soiled because of them. I advise you not to speak about this letter to anyone. If you don’t listen, the safety of you and your family cannot be guaranteed.
I hope you like the flowers.’
Giovanni watched Isabella open the trash can in the kitchen and pluck a damaged bouquet out of it. He grabbed them from her, instantly recognising the packaging. He knew exactly where the note’s sender had bought them. It was the same place where he had bought his flowers for Isabella.
He glanced at Isabella and took her appearance in. There was a tinge of red in her eyes and dried tears stained her face. He made no move to comfort her. In his mind, that could come later as securing her safety came first.
‘’Pack your bags. We’re going to the mansion. It’s safer there.’’
She frantically shook her head. ‘’What about my family? I can’t leave them.’’
‘’They are also coming with us and should arrive any minute now.’’
‘’Do they know about this?’’ Isabella looked sceptical.
‘’No, but they will’’
Isabella’s brother was the first one to come through the door and her parents followed quickly after, a barrage of questions coming out of their mouths. Not all of them got answered. Giovanni put a stop to it since he wanted to get a move on things and get them out of the Donati house.
Donatella’s face held fraught after hearing about the threats her daughter had gotten. She embraced Isabella, cradling her daughter’s head as an overwhelming need to protect came over her.
’’Why didn’t you tell me sooner, Tesoro?’’
’’I’m sorry, Mamma.’’ Another tear flowed down her cheek. ‘’I thought it was already dealt with.’’
While Alberto wasn’t fond of the idea, he couldn’t deny that his family was in danger. Just as the others went upstairs to pack a few things, he took this moment to speak to Giovanni.
‘’Is there no other way to go about this?’’
‘’No.’’ There was no scenario in which Giovanni would let Isabella out of his sight.
‘’I don’t suppose this is how your family normally gives out protection.’’
‘’Yet you are giving it to my family. Be honest with me Giovanni, what do you want in return? We’re not poor but I’m not calling myself a rich man either.’’
‘’You think quite low of me, Alberto.’’ Giovanni let out a humourless laugh. ‘’All I want is Isabella’s safety. I can protect her.’’
Hearing the determination in the young man’s voice made Alberto put his trust in him. Then again, what little choice did he have.
Meanwhile, Isabella was throwing her clothes in a small suitcase, not bothering to stack them neatly. She was sure a few things would be left behind in the haste of it but figured she’d be fine if she had the essentials.
Isabella turned her brother down and asked whether he thought Theo had made a return.
‘’That’s not possible. It’s not from him.’’
‘’You don’t think he’s be capable of doing this?’’
‘’Well, he is in the hospital.’’ Sergio scratched the back of his head. ‘’I don’t think he is capable of doing much at the moment.’’
She gaped at her brother. ‘’How bad is his condition?’’
‘’Nothing life-threatening. Just a few broken bones – ribs to be more specific.’’
‘‘I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.’’
‘’Should probably pack some things as well,’’ he mumbled and eased out of her bedroom.
Isabella resumed her task, zipped the suitcase up and carried it downstairs.
’’Aren’t you going to bring anything, Papà?’’ the soft-spoken words turned the heads of Giovanni and Alberto.
‘’Of course, I was just-‘’ His gaze flickered to the man beside him. ‘’There were some things I needed to know,’’ Alberto said and put his hand on Giovanni’s shoulder, squeezing it lightly before leaving the room.
‘’What is going to happen now?’’ Isabella asked.
She felt his lips kiss her forehead and got pulled to his body. His comforting warmth enveloping her.
‘’I’m going to find whoever is after you.’’
‘’I don’t know who it could be.’’
‘’We’ll get there.’’ He caressed her wet cheeks, liquid salt coating his fingers.
Giovanni was fully aware of the effect she had on him. He would do anything to keep her out of harm’s way. Little by little, Isabella had gathered bits and pieces of his heart in her palm.