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The Earl’s Villa Rosa Bride

Written by Jessica Gilmore

Chapter Twenty

Elisaveta couldn’t speak. All she could do was stare at the brown-haired man standing on the beach, his heart in his eyes, on his lips.

‘I…’

‘You don’t have to answer straightaway,’ Theo said. ‘I’m aware we have a lot of wooing and getting to know each other before the wedding part, if you even agree. I mean, I know you like your coffee super strong and bitter, that you like your wine red and rich. I know you could make eighties rock ballads your Mastermind subject and that you hold a tune well. I know you are extremely organized and can sort out any event in half an hour and have time to change your outfit. I know you’re lonely and you miss your parents. I know you’re wasted as my PA. I know you have an amazing heart and a huge amount of courage. I know I’m already in love with you and maybe I have been for a long time. I was just too stupid to notice.’

Every word fell into Elisaveta’s mind and heart like rain on a thirsty plant and she gulped them in with a need she hadn’t realised was so desperate and strong. He knew her. Theo Willoughby knew her, Elisaveta Marlowe, inside out. And she, she knew him, had always known him it seemed.

‘You were engaged to someone else,’ she said at last.

His smile was rueful. ‘Can you ever forgive me for that?’

He’d said she was full of courage but she didn’t feel brave just then. The step she took to reach him felt more like a leap over a burning pit, painfully aware that once she’d crossed there was no turning back. She didn’t stop, instead she walked past him until she reached the rock arch that bisected the beach, turned and waited for him to reach her.

‘This is Neptune’s Arch,’ she said, her voice a little quivery, knowing her next words would change her life irrevocably. ‘They say anyone who kisses under this arch is in love forever.’ She swallowed. They had only kissed once before, a brief kiss seared onto her brain, her heart. Was that enough? Was one kiss and a forty-eight-hour intense friendship enough to stake forever on – if you believed the myth that was. But Elisaveta had been brought up on island legends and much as she might scoff in the safety of her London flat, here, standing in the sun under the arch, she felt its ancient power reverberating through her.

Theo seemed to have no qualms as he padded up beside her and laid one hand on the arch. ‘Forever? I’m willing to take a chance on that.’ And then his hands were gentle on her neck, in her hair, his body so close to hers they were almost - almost – touching, and she could see the silver flecks in his grey eyes, eyes burning with love for her. And as his mouth touched hers, Elisaveta knew she had come home at last.

END

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Jessica Gilmore

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