British art conservator Charlie Bennett has arrived in Venice to advise Venetian billionaire Orlando Rossi on his most recent acquisition. Before meeting the mogul, she heads to the Rialto Bridge to do some sketching of her own. While making a caricature of the most imposing man she sees, Charlie is shocked when she is accosted by the man’s bodyguards! And she is even more surprised to learn the identity of her subject....
“Get off me!”
Fear streaked through Charlie as one man snatched the sketch pad she had been working on, while another man hauled her to her feet. A third man—the man she had been sketching—remained motionless, his proud Latin profile etched against a washed-out Canaletto sky.
Artists had always gathered on the banks of the canals in Venice to capture the local scene, and she was just one more, so why the drama?
Her eyes were blazing fire by the time his men brought her in front of him.
“Explain yourself!” The man’s voice was cold in contrast to his red-hot Latin looks.
“Explain myself?” For all her bravado, Charlie shivered inwardly; she was half his size. “How dare you set your men on me?”
“How dare you,” he countered, “invade my privacy.”
He held up the sketch she had been working on, a caricature that exaggerated his features, capturing the essence of the man and revealing a hard individual. She had sketched a good likeness, Charlie thought grimly.
“Take her.” He turned and started walking.
“Come back here!” Charlie”s voice tore into the tranquil scene, but the man ignored her and strode away.
She tried to struggle and escape, but his bodyguards soon recaptured her arms. Could this be the same magical city where her best friend, Nell Foster, had met a handsome Venetian? Dottore Luca Barbaro must be a very different breed of man to this one, Charlie concluded, as her captor’s henchmen marched her along.
She was surprised when they brought her to the side door of the hotel where she was staying. Was she was being deported? Had they brought her back to pick up her things?
The bodyguards refused to answer her questions and stared ahead as the steel doors of the elevator slid shut.
When they opened again, it was on another world, a world where even the six-star hotel situated immediately below them seemed tacky and tasteless by comparison.
A horrible realization crept up on Charlie as she walked across priceless rugs. The fabulous apartment could belong to only one man, and he was waiting for her just inside the door.
In spite of her determination not to be intimidated, she started shaking. She knew she was innocent, but she had offended Orlando Rossi, a man she had only dealt with over the Internet and by letter, previously; a man who owned not just the building they were standing in, but half of Venice and that city’s treasures, too. The man she had come to Venice to meet.
This was the worst possible outcome to what should have been a successful business trip. She was a highly respected British art conservator, and she’d hoped to develop her career internationally. That didn’t look likely now! Professionally she was finished, her reputation lay in tatters at his feet. But as Charlie met the man’s dark, watchful gaze, a different kind of response raced through her.
It was a heated situation, and she was upset, Charlie reasoned.
To be continued…..