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The Venetian's Defiant Woman

Written by Susan Stephens

Chapter twenty

Charlie had missed Orlando so much in the short time they’d been apart. Life was too precious for them to be parted for even a moment.

Orlando took her to a central London park where they stopped on a bridge to watch the river sweeping away toward the sea.

“Orlando Rossi, the man the world sees only as a successful businessman, is a man like any other. He feels,” he said.

Charlie smiled with happiness as Orlando tapped his chest with his clenched fist. There was a time when he would have been incapable of making such a statement.

“I have been thinking about all the things we could do together—”

“Together?” Charlie blushed. All she could think about now was Orlando making love to her.

“Are you listening to me, cara?”

She had to resist the temptation to show the love she felt for Orlando. The one thing Charlie was sure about was that they were worlds apart. But try as she might, she found herself slipping into the easy relationship that had developed after their picnic on the gondola.

“I’m not talking about money or paintings, I’m talking about us,” Orlando explained, “and what you and I can achieve together.” He grasped her arms in his enthusiasm.

She longed to share his dream, but...

“With your help I’m going to build an art collection such as the world has never seen. It will be called the People’s Collection, and it will be housed in one of my palazzos on the Grand Canal in Venice.”

One of his palaces? Didn’t that emphasize the gulf between them? Still, the dream was tempting. “Are you serious, Orlando?”

“I’m certain,” he said with a fierceness that reminded Charlie yet again that nothing was ever done halfway where Orlando was concerned.

“Well?” he demanded, cupping her chin to stare into her eyes. “Will you help me, Charlie? Will you be my partner in life, in work, in everything?”

“That’s quite an offer...”

“If you’re not up to it...” He shrugged expansively—very Latin, very sexy. “I need you, Charlie Bennett,” he said, “every bit as much as you need me.”

“No—”

Orlando stopped her with a kiss. “You don’t have to ask the question—I do believe in love at first sight. How could I not? So tell me. What’s your answer? Will you leave me to my locked rooms of paintings, or will you rescue me?”

“But I’m not rich or beautiful or special in any way.”

“How wrong you are,” Orlando argued. “Marry me, Charlie Bennett, and save me from myself.” He grinned.

“You’re not supposed to start laughing at a moment like this.”

“I can’t help it, I’m so happy.”

“But I haven’t given you my answer yet.”

“But you will.”

Yes, she would, Charlie realized, suddenly overwhelmed by the rightness of it all. The sun dipped behind the horizon as they left the bridge, and by that time two very different worlds had merged effortlessly into one.

The End 

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About the author

I was a professional singer before I met my husband on the tiny Medite...

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Susan Stephens

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