Villa Rosa was instantly recognisable, an imposing building jutting out on the headland and, as the name implied, it was painted a bright pink. Theo had got directions when he hired the boat and, as instructed, he sailed up to the long jetty, mooring the boat carefully at the far end.
He climbed onto the jetty and looked around. The beach was idyllic, wide white sands, the famous arch right in the middle, cutting it right in two. Ahead of him were the natural thermal pools, the reason the villa had been given to Sofia by her royal lover. It was a beautiful spot, but Theo’s gaze skimmed over the natural beauty. He was looking for something – someone – in particular and the beach couldn’t seduce him from his purpose.
His heart stuttered to a stop. A girl – a woman – was making her way down a path so cleverly concealed he hadn’t noticed it, her long dark hair rippling in the light breeze.
The jetty was a good thirty metres in length but it felt like thirty miles as he walked, as casually as possible along it to meet her, not wanting to spook her by hurrying. As she got closer he saw the lines of fatigue on her face, the shadows under her eyes.
‘Theo? What on earth are you doing here?’ She sounded apprehensive as he reached her.
‘I’m pretty sure,’ he said, ‘that I didn’t approve any leave.’
Her cheeks flared red at his words. ‘I didn’t think we should work together anymore.’
‘Oh?’ Theo raised his eyebrows. ‘You’ve resigned? You know, you still have to work out three months of notice. I checked your contract.’
They had reached the beach and Theo slipped off his shoes as he stepped onto the sand. It was gloriously hot, gloriously soft under his feet. ‘I was wrong when I told you I didn’t have time for a holiday. I think a holiday is exactly what I need. But that’s not why I’m here. I owe you an apology.’
‘Me?’ Elisaveta still stood on the jetty, her arms folded defensively around her body. Theo couldn’t help but notice how the short denim shorts clung to her, showcasing long, toned legs, how the white lace blouse made her skin glow a golden olive, the soft fabric moulding to her breasts.
‘I kissed you. On my stag night. I shouldn’t have done that.’
Her eyelids fluttered, the long lashes spilling over her cheeks. ‘I am so sorry, Theo, if I could go back in time…’
‘You wouldn’t have to. Because I would have gone back first and I would never have proposed to Madeleine. I would never have kissed you when I wasn’t free to do so. I would, however, have taken the time to have got to know you properly and I really hope that, if I had, we would have been celebrating our wedding yesterday and no one would have felt it necessary to stop the ceremony.’ He paused, aware of how vulnerable he was, how vulnerable he was making himself in front of this serious, dark-eyed girl. ‘Do you think that would have been possible? Do you think that maybe, if we start again now, it might be possible, Elisaveta?’