Theo rubbed his eyes, fighting off fatigue. He had trekked along the Himalayas, taken a boat down the Amazon and climbed some of the most arduous, dangerous mountains in the world. But this journey was the most difficult he’d ever undertaken.
He had no idea what awaited him at the other end. No idea of what he was striving for.
But he journeyed on regardless.
He’d meant to look for Elisaveta straightaway but by the time he had spoken to his mother, to Felix, his best man, and to the vicar, she had disappeared. After he and Madeleine had broken the news of the cancelled wedding – and invited all the guests to enjoy the reception anyway – he had headed straight back to London. But there was no sign of Elisaveta at her flat and she wasn’t answering her phone.
He’d been at a loss. All he knew was that she had a cousin who was a ballerina – a ballerina who owned a villa on a Mediterranean island.
He couldn’t know for sure that was where Elisaveta had headed but his gut told him he was right. There had been a poignancy in her voice when she spoke about the villa, a yearning. She had to have gone there.
He just needed to work out where there was.
Thanks to the power of the internet, it didn’t take too long to figure out that her Sofia was the model, actress and socialite who was once famously the lover of playboy King Ludano and the late owner of a fabulous pink villa on L’Isola dei Fiori. What did take longer was figuring out how to get there. The quickest way was via Naples but when he’d arrived at Heathrow he was told there were no seats on any plane to Naples in the next two days. He could hang on and hope for a cancellation or he could go via Rome.
Rome, a taxi to the train station, a train, the last ferry over to the island—by this time Theo was so fatigued he could barely see or speak in a coherent sentence. He just about managed to check in to a pretty little hotel near the harbour before collapsing into a deep sleep.
Theo awoke to the cheerful sounds of a harbour: boats sailing in, boats leaving, the honk of a ferry. Sun flooded in through the thin white curtains and, stepping out onto the balcony, he saw white-painted buildings with brightly coloured pots filled with flowers, narrow cobbled streets and beyond that the sea, an invitingly intense blue-green. The delightfully fresh air was tinged with lemon and, after a few breaths, Theo felt ready for anything. Even if Elisaveta wasn’t here he couldn’t regret visiting the island that meant so much to her. But she was here. He knew it with every beat of his heart. He just didn’t know what he was going to say to her. Or whether he’d be a welcome visitor at the fabled Villa Rosa.