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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7. Chapter 6.

I re-read the letter over for days and each time the final line still gave me Goosebumps. Good or bad? I couldn’t tell. I only knew that it made me feel for the first time in a while and gave me so much anticipation that I couldn’t sleep at night. Although, I wanted to cut ties completely with Will after his lies part of me was still 19-year-old Emily; scared and all alone in a new country, reading those frequent letters from an old friend that made her feel safe. That kind of feeling was hard to let go.

I should have been dealing with official orphanage business; we only had just over a week left before the council finally finalised the plans to tear it down. I hadn’t made any progress with my plans. Will had seen to that by distracting me at every given opportunity. I felt awful about myself; I had to be one selfish individual to completely forget about those kids and focus on a guy who had lied to me once again. But, every time I asked myself if he was worth it the answer was always unmistakably yes.

Why couldn’t I shake the feeling that he was right? Maybe we 
were meant to be together. The way he had written it seemed like it was indefinite – that it was bound to happen and there was no other option. We were never going to be with anybody else except each other. So, why was he engaged to another girl? His boss’ daughter no less. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out over the years wealth and opportunity had drawn Will in and who knew, maybe he was even using Olivia to climb the career ladder. All I knew was that I would not process the thought that he had ever loved Olivia. I could barely stand to see them together and knowing that Will had ever been slightly invested in their future together made me shudder with disgust.

The sound of a car zooming down the highway startled me and I peered uneasily from behind the thin curtains.  An expensive, black car was nearing; chauffeur driven, of course, as the gentleman in front opened the back door with gloved hands. Out stepped the last person I wanted to see when I was thinking about Will – Olivia.

For a moment, I thought she was a crazy stalker. I’m sure she would easily find the orphanage by Google search but Olivia didn’t seem like the type of person to type anything for herself on a computer and she didn’t seem to drive anywhere herself either. Her driver looked familiar and I remembered him a few steps behind on the day in the market. I had noticed him wearing black initially and thought it was strange anyone could be dressed like that on such a hot day – now I knew that it was his job to follow Olivia around. It seemed strange to me that this well-off, career woman could still be such a little girl inside and struggle to do basic things for herself.

I opened the door before her hand could even touch the doorbell and she seemed surprised, taking a few tentative steps backwards like I was diseased and she didn’t want to touch me. Come to think of it, she even looked disgusted touching the doorbell with her exposed hand.

“Olivia,” I had to use all my might to stop my smile from falling. “What a lovely surprise.”
“Quite,” She said simply from behind her iconic sunglasses. “May I come in?”
“Of course,” I said dumbly, stepping back to let her pass.

She stepped into the orphanage, her tiny heels teetering dangerously behind her, and slid her sunglasses down her nose to get a better look. I motioned her to follow me to the office and she kept her handbag close as she passed some of the curious children like they were thieves.

“Take a seat,” I pointed at an empty chair and she dusted it lightly before sitting down.

She removed her sunglasses and I finally saw her glistening blue eyes in all their glory. I couldn’t help thinking that if I had eyes like that I would never hide them – that was until I noticed them focused directly on me. They had a quality that seemed as if she could see right into my soul and knew that I was thinking about her fiancé.

“So,” I laced my hands together over the desk, interrupting the silence. “What can I help you with?”

I was still surprised at how quickly she had managed to force herself into my home and my office considering she had only been outside a few minutes ago. The fact was that we barely knew each other and yet, there she was, sitting like an old acquaintance at my desk. I guess I had been right about the Hudson’s - they were somewhat imposing.

“My father sent me to deliver some news to you,” She said nonchalantly. “The council are delaying their plans.”
“Really?” I said, surprised.
“Yes, my father told them how passionate you were about the orphanage. He wants to give you a fair chance to give a presentation to the council, which apparently they have neglected to give you thus far.”

She looked around, her eyes fixed on the crumbling brick walls and the various children’s drawings peeling off the walls. Nevertheless, I wanted to kiss Olivia hard for having such a gracious father. I couldn’t believe that Alexander believed in me enough to give me another chance to prove myself and to prove the worth of the orphanage.

“He would also like me to invite you to dinner tonight,” She said with obvious distaste. “Will and I are having a few friends over and he thinks it would be nice if you got to know some of the influential figures around town. He thinks some of them could help you with your presentation.”
“I don’t know,” I gulped. “I have to check and see if I’m available…”
“Of course,” Her eyes were slants in my direction. “I’m sure someone like you has a hectic schedule.”

The sarcasm was ripe but within a moment, that same cold, polite smile had returned. I had wanted to rejoice with her only a moment ago and now I had to fight hard to stop myself from hurling a jab at her face.

I had decided to stay away from Will only an hour ago and now I was being forced back into his company again. But if I wanted to save the orphanage I needed to get as many on people on board as I could, even if it pained me to mingle with those elitist idiots.

“Okay,” I smiled. “I’ll see you there then.”
“Great,” Olivia grimaced. “I’ll get my driver to send you over the details. I understand that they still send letters by owl around here – so terribly modern.”

She got up to leave the room, hinting at the fact in the countryside we did everything the traditional way. Maybe if she had ventured on a computer or cell phone every now and then she would realise that not everybody sent letters in Italy. It confirmed to me Olivia wasn’t slightly romantic either – all of the locals enjoyed the old romance a letter could bring and Olivia’s future husband seemed to enjoy it too. After all, Italy was the land of Romeo and Juliet. But, of course she would never know that.

Olivia disappeared out the door, a scarf over her hair like an old Hollywood movie star, after a rather pointless visit. Something made me feel like she was suspicious of me; the way she had barged into my orphanage like she wanted to have a look around more than deliver any news. It seemed strange that she would come all of this way to deliver such a short message that could have been delivered easily by her father. But, I didn’t have time to think about it; I had an outfit to prepare and a dreadful night ahead.

---

Olivia’s home was similar to the one housing the fundraising mixer except, if anything, it seemed bigger. Her taste was more traditional than I thought. with Victorian wallpaper and lots of heavy, oak furniture around the place. Naturally, she still had her fair share of pointless ornaments like floating candles in a bowl and orchids in vases.

Her lounge was decorated with framed photos of her and Will happily draped over each other and I immediately turned them all over so nobody could see them anymore. I sipped the complimentary champagne with a down turned frown on my face. That would serve them right, I cackled inside.

Suddenly, a familiar hand touched my spine through my backless dress wandering dangerously low but lingering lovingly all the same.

“You don’t know how badly I wish it was you in those photos,” Will said quietly.
“I’m sure,” I said coldly, changing the subject. “Nice place.”

We both looked round and scowled – this house was neither of our tastes and I refused to admit that Will might have been involved with the design of it at some point. Nothing could shock me anymore after discovering Will’s engagement or subsequent wedding plans and I had figured that they lived together. However, to witness it in person was a different thing and I could feel my heart struggling to pump any blood out.

“You hate it,” Will chuckled.
“I know,” I admitted painfully. “It’s just so…”
“Pretentious? I know. It was all down to Olivia - she spent thousands on it, even though it's just temporary before we go back to New York. Seems like a waste."
“You're telling me. How can you live in a place like this?”
“Sometimes you have to do things that don't necessarily make you happy when you have nothing else.”

Will’s hand dropped from my back and he stepped back as Olivia and Alexander entered the room.

“Ah, Emily!” Alexander’s eyes sparkled as he crossed the room. “How lovely to see you!”
“You too,” I smiled softly. “Thank you for the invite – and for everything else of course.”
“Ah, yes – that,” He looked modest. “Don’t worry about it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in business and in life it is that we all deserve a chance to prove ourselves.”
“Yes, what a privilege that is to have,” Will looked at me knowingly.

I almost felt guilty being so hard on him and then I remembered everything that he had hidden from in the past few weeks. He could prove himself until he was blue in the face and it wouldn’t change the fact he was engaged and living with another woman.

“Come, let’s sit down for dinner,” Alexander motioned us to follow him.
“Is Olivia cooking?” I whispered to Will, worried she would poison me.
“What do you think?” He looked amused.

As we sat down, Will scrambled for a seat next to me and Olivia was happy to sit across the way. Their lack of chemistry still surprised me; she barely looked at Will during the evening and instead spent it chatting to the rest of the guests. Luckily, I was at the very end of the table so could make a run for it if needed. It also made Will and I nearly unnoticeable to everyone else as the table stretched on.

Silver platters of food were placed in front of us by smartly dressed waiters and I realised I was stupid to ever think Olivia would cook anything. I was also surprised to notice no authentic Italian food in sight, only lots of salad and fish; probably down to Olivia who looked like she only consumed green foods and juices to maintain her lithe figure. I was hungrier than ever and craving solid food. I was so hungry I was even ready to discount how weird this evening was and that I was sitting next to my ex and his new fiancé. I could feel Will looking at me, a coy smile on his face.

“I know,” He stifled a laugh in his napkin. “The food is awful.”
“Right?” I felt a smile creep onto my face and finally had permission to stop pushing raw fish around my plate.

Every now and then I would forget I was annoyed at him and lapse into our old ways. It annoyed me more than anything that I didn’t have self control and the ability to avoid him. Everybody else seemed to be enjoying their food and chatting between themselves including Olivia and Alexander who were speaking in heated French to a foreign businessman next to them. Will took it as his chance to strike.

“For all it’s worth I am sorry, Em,” He said quietly. “I didn’t want it to turn out this way.”
“I know you didn’t,” I said solemnly. “But, it 
has turned out this way and we just need to live with it.”
“I meant what I said in the letter – all of it.”
“It just doesn’t change anything,” I met his eyes finally. “You’re still engaged.”
“I’ll call the wedding off.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Yes, I do,” There was determination in his eyes. “But you need to give me time. It’s not how it seems.”

He looked around carefully and placed his hand on my knee under the table. I felt a lump appear in my throat and suddenly, I didn’t feel so hungry anymore. I had forgotten how much I missed the touch.

“I’m still the same guy you knew years ago,” He said low in my ear, his breath on my neck causing me to shiver. “I know it doesn’t seem like it. But, haven’t you ever made a mistake? We all do. And I’m paying for mine. I thought I’d lost you forever, what was I supposed to do? Now life has thrown me this hand of cards that I just didn’t expect. If I had known you would ever come back to me I never would have gotten into this mess with Olivia."

“So, you don’t love her?” I asked cautiously, finally looking at him in the eye. I was almost scared the hear the answer but I knew from the sad smile on Will’s face that his response would be what I wanted to hear all along.

“No, I never have,” He confessed. “Olivia is a business deal, Em – I’m doing this for her father. If she doesn’t get married within the next year she can’t inherit the company. Alexander offered me co-inheritance. At first, I wanted it - why else would I sell out and marry someone like her? But, now I’ve found something more important than money. You.”
“That's ridiculous," I almost laughed. "Could you really do that to Alexander? He doesn’t deserve to have a company in ruins.”
“You’re more important to me than Alexander. If there's anybody I want to marry it's you."

I turned to face him, flabbergasted. He looked at me, seriously, like he had never meant anything more in his life.

“What did you just say?"
“I didn't want to do it this way...but if you say yes I promise I'll never let you down again."
"Will, you need to stop. You cannot do this right now..."
"I can do whatever I want. It killed me watching you walk away from me that day but I knew you needed to find yourself and you have. Now, I need you to help me do it too. I'm lost, Em and you're the only way to getting back the old me and the old us."

I was sweating, hoping that nobody could hear what was going on at the end of the table and the desperation in Will's voice.

"So, I'm going to ask you something as the stuttering Will who used to take you to rock concerts and do your homework. I'm going to ask you as the Will who you made sand angels with and more importantly, the Will you gave a chance to that he didn't deserve. I promise I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you and taking care of you the way I should have years ago. Alexander was right - everybody deserves a chance to prove themselves and this is mine..."

"Will," I warned, feeling tears stinging my eyes as I looked at him, horrified. I had imagined this moment for so long but I had never thought it would be in such horrible circumstances.
"Please, let me say it," He interrupted, his hands clasped in my own under the table and away from sight. "Emily Masson, will you do me the honour of spending the rest of your life with me? Will you marry me?"

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