Beauty and the Geek 2: When In Rome

5 years after their complicated high school relationship, Emily and Will are miles apart leading completely different lives. A chance meeting in Italy could bring them back together...but there's a couple of skeletons in Will's closet to sort out first. Will this starcrossed pair finally be together?

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6. Chapter 5.

“Engaged?” I gulped down the sudden dryness in my throat. “Wow. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Olivia’s arm looped through Will’s, reminding me painfully that he belonged to someone else. “I didn’t expect it at all – Will is just full of surprises.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I downed the rest of my drink and narrowed my eyes in his direction – the taste of the champagne almost as bitter as the resentment burning in my gut.

Will’s skin was no longer sun kissed under the low lighting of the room and had turned ghostly white instead. I kept hoping that someone would wake me up from a horrible nightmare where Will had betrayed me for the second time in our lives. It was only a few days ago that we had cleared out my office together and I had read those heart wrenching memories aloud for him to hear.

“Well,” I desperately tried to avoid making eye contact. “I’m sorry to break this up but I’m feeling a little…overwhelmed. I think I’ll call it a night.”
“Of course!” Alexander gave a funny little leap over the marble floor. “These government gatherings are rather tedious. Would you like me to escort you outside?”
“I’ll do it,” Will broke his silence for the first time in what felt like hours. “I left something in the car anyway.”

It was the worst excuse ever used in the history of excuses and I half expected Olivia and her father to turn around and call Will out for it. Instead, they acted like it was the most normal thing in the world and turned to say their goodbyes to me.

“What a gentleman!” Alexander’s eyes sparkled full of pride as he gripped his future son in law under his arm. “It was lovely to meet you properly, Miss. Masson.”
“Yes, quite lovely,” Olivia nodded, surveying the rest of the room instead of me.
“Please, call me Emily,” I returned his warm handshake and ignored Olivia.
“I hope this isn’t the last time we meet…Emily.”

I knew that this wouldn’t be the last time I would meet the Hudson family and I groaned inwardly with that knowledge. I could barely suffer spending five minutes in Olivia’s company, let alone any longer, and I got the impression she didn’t relish my company much either. I didn’t even want to think about the fact that she and Will would go home together that night and she would have her perfectly preened paws all over him.

I didn’t stick around for Will to catch up and grabbed my coat from the doorman as quickly as I could. The fresh air hit my lungs as I stalked down the gravel pathway, my heels clicking behind me. I didn’t even know how I was getting home or where I was going but I knew I didn’t want to be in that fancy house anymore.

“Are you always going to run away from me without giving me a chance to explain?” Will called with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

I felt my legs root to the spot and the savaging anger within me finally reach the edge. I couldn’t believe that Will was annoyed at me after our whole relationship had been built on a foundation of his lies for the second time. He stared at me dumbly as I turned to face him, my hand trembling as I raised it in his direction.

“How dare you dictate to me what I can or can’t do,” I raged. “You’re the one who lies constantly!”
“I didn’t lie,” He said, defensively. “I would have told the truth if you had asked but you never did.”
“Ha!” I scoffed. “Excuse me if the last thing I thought about asking the guy who was wining and dining me was if he was engaged! It’s not my job to find out what the hell you’ve been doing all of these years.”
“Well, maybe if you had been around I wouldn’t have had to find someone else!”

I delivered a slap so hard to Will’s face that it set his cheek alight and his jaw swinging in a different direction. He reached out, grabbing hold of my arm and spinning me around, pulling me tightly towards him. My eyes filled with ever-flowing tears as I advanced on him even more.

“You will not blame me for your mistakes,” I hissed.
“I-I’m sorry,” He rubbed the reddening spot on his cheek where my fingerprints were clear. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I don’t care how you meant it. Olivia is going to be your wife – you realise that, don’t you? That’s a life time commitment and you can’t just pull out whenever you feel like it.”
“But I don’t want to be with her, I want to be with you.”
“You should have thought about that before you got down on one knee.”
“I’ve never stopped thinking about you,” He reached out, trying to take my hands in his own.
“You’ve got a funny way of showing it,” I folded my arms and turned away.

He was silent for a moment, thrusting his hands into his pockets and staring at the gravel shamefully. Every now and then he would sneak a glance at my face as he waited for me to speak patiently.

“I’m done,” I met his eyes finally. “I don’t want you to contact me anymore. I’m not going to be the reason for messing up your marriage.”
“I’m not asking you to be that,” Will pleaded. “Just give me time and I promise I’ll come back to you.”
“Not this time,” I shook my head. “You chose your path and now you have to live with it. You don’t get to hurt me anymore.”

Will stared at me like he couldn’t quite believe what was happening. I couldn’t believe it either. We were really over this time and he was about to marry someone else. All of those years ago when my letters went without a reply I had experienced a different kind of sadness; it wasn’t all consuming and I still had a little glimmer of hope deep down that someday we would be reunited. But, this time the sadness somehow felt indefinite, like it would never end, as the reality of what had Will had done finally set in. Will, my Will, was about to spend the rest of his life with someone else and there was nothing I could do about it.

---

“I think I’ll take off,” I managed to summon up a smile in Giovanna’s direction.
“So soon?” She seemed disheartened. “Just stay 10 more minutes.”
“I’m swamped with paperwork. I should probably get home and finish it.”

We shared a knowing glance, agreed on the fact that paperwork was the last thing I would be doing when I got home. Sitting alone on the sofa with a glass of wine in my hand seemed more plausible than doing any hard work.
I had ended up in the busy marketplace again; accompanying Giovanna to her new boyfriend’s stall so they could see each other. After the events of the weekend, the last thing I wanted to do was mingle with a happy couple, much less in the place that Will had asked me out only a couple of weeks ago.

Everywhere I turned seemed to serve as a reminder to me of times we had shared lately; the fountain where we had taken photos to add to my photo album, the cosy cafes where we had eaten Italian delicacies until our stomachs had burst and the orphanage that once seemed so special to me but was now tainted with memories of Will. We had spent the last 2 weeks rediscovering each other and spending long nights together talking about our future. Now, it all seemed like a dream that I had been unkindly woken up from far too early.

“Miss. Masson, isn’t it?” A voice interrupted my thoughts, a delicate finger tapping me on the shoulder. “We met the other night.”
“Olivia Hudson,” I said aloud, almost more to myself. “Nice to see you again.”
“Likewise.”

We exchanged an awkward silence as I fully took in Olivia’s long limbed, bronzed body. She was wearing a loose sundress, which clung to all of the right areas, and her long hair flowed from under a straw sunhat. A pair of sunglasses balanced perfectly on her face, hiding all emotion in her eyes.

“Shopping?” I asked sweetly.
“Yes,” She replied coolly. “I’m actually looking for Will’s birthday present.”

Both of our eyes slid to the array of pink, designer shopping bags strung on her arms; it seemed she had spent more time shopping for herself than Will.

“Oh really?” I peered into her bags, feeling surprised at the pang of jealousy in my voice. That should have been me buying him presents, I heard a small voice say in the back of my head.
“Nothing…yet,” Olivia shrugged. “I can go to Prada and buy something easily for myself but it’s a struggle with someone like Will – he doesn’t understand the power of an expensive suit.”

She spoke in a way that Will was a complete chore. I half smiled smugly to myself and found security in the knowledge that I could think of a million things that Will would rather have than a suit. My mind traced back to the night we had watched the stars in his back yard all of those years ago when we were both young and without any idea of the mess our futures would become.

“Why don’t you get him a telescope?” I mumbled, knowing that’s what I would have chosen.
“A telescope?” Olivia let out a solitary laugh. “But why would I ever do such a thing?”
“No reason,” I realised I had let down my guard for a second. “It was just a thought.”

Olivia looked at me strangely for a second before pushing her glasses up her nose and flicking her silky hair over her shoulder. She looked like she couldn't think of a worse gift to buy Will.

“I better go,” I put us both out of our misery. “I have a lot of paperwork to do.”
“Ah, yes,” Olivia replied, her voice almost mocking. “I’m sure you have your work cut out for you with the government’s plans – good luck.”
“Thanks – although, I’m sure I won’t need it.”
“Of course,” She smirked to herself. “Ciao, Miss. Masson.”

I wanted to punch her right in her face in that moment; her facial expression told me everything that I needed to know. Clearly, the Hudson family and the rest of the world thought I had no chance at saving my orphanage. I put all of thoughts of Will out of my head and focused on doing what was most important – proving everyone wrong.

---

A hollow knock sounded as I slid on my nightgown and rushed towards the door. Peeking out the round peephole, I noticed an empty hallway and wondered if I had imagined the visitor that had woken me up. As my feet stepped tenderly backwards, I felt a slither of paper under my feet and looked down to notice a brown envelope on the floor. As I opened it, I noticed the familiar hand writing scrawled messily across the page:

“Emily,

I know that the telescope was your idea. I’m not sure how you managed to convince Olivia to buy me it but I found it hiding in our wardrobe today and I knew you were behind it.

All I can say is thank you – you know how much that would mean to me and although, it’s from Olivia I much prefer to think it’s from you. You pretend to hate me but I know that you still care deep down – you would never have suggested something so personal to me if you didn’t. If anything your actions today have given me hope to carry on. You might not know it right now and your head may be telling you that we are wrong for each other. But I know your heart says a different thing. We are meant to be and I'll wait forever for you to realise that.

So I’ll ask you again what I asked you that day you avoided me in the library: when are you going to realise that I’m not giving up?

Will”

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