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Art for "The Count's Secret" by Meridian Rose

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Summary provided by the author:

Embarrassed by the very public failure of his son's latest romantic liaison, Leonardo's father sent him on a trip to the New World, but now Leo returns to England with as much reckless enthusiasm as ever. Temporarily moving in with the de Medici household, Leo asks about the neighbouring estate, vacated by Lucrezia Donati after Leo broke off their engagement. Lucrezia's uncle has moved in, accompanied by his son, Count Girolamo Riario.
Vanessa and Nico try to warn Leo that Riario is ill company; never impolite, but not the gregarious type that Leo likes, and that there are rumours about Riario's time in Rome. Yet from the first time Leo lays eyes on Riario he's smitten.
Leo becomes determined to win Riario over. Even Leo's father can't complain if he marries a nobleman. But Riario is reluctant, rebuffing Leo's advances though it's obvious he feels the same attraction. Leo must uncover the secrets from Riario's past if they're to have a future together.

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Leo boldly walked over to the man and stuck out his free hand, the other still nursing a drink. "I don't believe we've met. My name is Leonardo da Vinci."

The man gave him a long, appraising look. When he spoke, his voice was low and rough, a throaty sound that thrilled Leo down to his bones. "Then this gathering is in your honour." He shook Leo's hand.


Leo was wandering the estate, looking for inspiration. He heard the horse approach but paid it no mind until Riario hailed him.

"Good morning," Leo returned, running a keen eye over Riario's horse. "That's a beautiful creature."

Riario tipped his head, pleased by the flattery. "Andalusian," he said, running one gloved hand over the stallion's mane. "I'm taking him out for a good run, out to the lake and back. What are your plans today?"


Their next session was much more pleasant. Vanessa came outside to watch them for a while, taking the air with Giulio in her arms.


They'd gone for a walk and Leo had taken Riario's hand as he always did now. At the top of a hill they sat down to enjoy the scenery and take a breather. Riario and Leo had both taken off their jackets and Leo had rolled up his shirt sleeves.


Riario waited for Alessandro in the dining room, pacing the wooden floorboards. He still had no idea how best to broach the subject.

"The prodigal son returns," Alessandro said when he at last came downstairs to breakfast and took a seat at the head of the table, dismissing the servants.


"I'm not sorry," Riario told Lucrezia when she came to pay her family's respects, or possibly to make sure her uncle was dead.

"Neither am I," Lucrezia replied, staring with distaste at the fresh grave.