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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9. Chapter 8.

This chapter is dedicated to Sabnah Ifraine, she’s a very brave girl that I know will be reading this. Please send her your love and prayers she’s having a hard time and deserves better :) So thanks for reading Sabnah you’re awesome and beautiful no matter what! Much love! Xxx)


“Where are we going?” I giggled from behind Will’s warm hands.
“It’s a surprise,” He sounded distracted as our feet hit soft carpet instead of the usual marble in his hallway. “Now, open your eyes.”

I scrunched up my face as I opened one eye at a time, Will chuckling from beside me. We were in Will’s study but it looked far from any place that he would spend time in doing official work. It was decorated with a bunch of candles; different colours, flickering happily in the slight breeze coming from the balcony. I breathed in the scent of coconut and days on the beach as he laced his fingers through mine and pulled me towards the window. I finally noticed what he wanted me to see – his telescope.

It was massive – much more than I could have afforded for him – and encased in a shiny black metal exterior. The tripod beneath it was like a spider, the legs stretching across the balcony. I felt bitter for a moment that Olivia could afford to buy him something so extravagant and I knew that even if I had saved up for years I couldn't have bought him anything similar. But I knew deep down and from the admiration on Will's face that he would be happy with any telescope - no matter what the price.

I remembered back in his yard too many years ago when he had tried to teach me how to identify some stars. Now here we were standing on a balcony in Rome engaged. A shiver went down my spine as I gazed down at the beautiful ring on my left hand – engaged, I repeated. Who would have ever thought? It was crazy to think a few weeks ago I was still with Roberto and resigned to a miserable future. Now, I was standing next to the love of my life ready to start planning our life together. It would have all been so great…if he wasn’t already engaged to someone else.

“It’s crazy that you finally got this,” I smiled, touching it lightly, scared to break it. “It’s all you talked about in high school."
“Hey, I talked about other things too,” He blushed. “You make me sound like such a nerd.”
“You 
were – but you were my nerd.”

This made him blush even further before he stepped forward and adjusted some dials on the machine. I hated the way that he seemed embarrassed about his past. I loved the old Will as much as the new one, if not more and I secretly wished that he would let that side show again. I could feel it happening day by day; he was letting down his new guard and letting me in again.

“Take a look,” He stepped back, gingerly, to let me stand in front of him.

I put my eye to the telescope and peered out into the night sky. It almost took my breath away; an array of glowing rocks floating in mid air and scattered into every direction. I felt so close to the stars that I could have been on the moon looking right at them. Not for the first time, I was impressed with Olivia's choice in telescope.

“Beautiful, huh?” He said quietly.
“That’s an understatement,” I let out a deep breath and stepped back.
“I wasn’t talking about the stars," He stared at me warmly.
“I bet you say that to all the girls,” I grew red under his gaze and nudged him playfully.
“If by all the girls you mean just you, then yes.”

He pulled me close and draped an arm around me. The feeling of his arms around me would never get old; he always made me feel like nothing could touch me. He made me feel indestructible.

“So, what do you want to do now, my future wife?” His laugh tickled my ear as he leaned his head against my own.
“I don’t know,” I mused. “But that sure does have a nice ring to it.”

---

“Two please,” I motioned to the apples in muted Italian. The man on the counter seemed to understand me somehow and found a little paper bag to put them inside.
“You speak Italian?” The familiar voice slithered into my ear. “Your talents never fail to amaze me, Miss. Masson.”

I turned around to face the beautiful creature that was Olivia Hudson. Every time I was around her I was still surprised how she stunning she really was. I stared at my ordinary outfit and my hair hanging flatly around my face and sighed. I still didn’t know why Will would pick someone so uninteresting like me over Olivia. Then I remembered that I was a nice person and Olivia was a demon sent from hell.

She seemed to be in a good mood, her sunglasses finally off and perched on top of her head. More designer bags were strung over her forearms – maybe I was wrong but did Olivia
 ever work? All she seemed to do was shop.

More importantly, why did she seem to turn up everywhere that I went? This part of the market wasn’t the usual for tourists to visit and I had only ever seen locals there. Somehow, Olivia had found me again and turned up conveniently. It was beginning to make me feel unsettled.

“We keep bumping into each other like this, Olivia,” I pushed. “One could make the assumption you’re stalking me. Please, call me Emily.”

She stared at me with suspicious eyes and ordered a few apples for herself in perfect Italian. I figured that I should stay on her good side, then maybe she wouldn’t unleash her wrath on me. In the meantime, I could figure out a way to get Will out of the contract and stop them getting married. On the thought of marriage, I glanced down quickly at my engagement ring and felt the anxiety rise within me. It was too late - Olivia's eyes were now trained on my wedding finger too.

Almost in slow motion, the apples slid out of her hands. They hit the ground with a thud and we both stared at them as they rolled into the distance. Instinctively, I reached out to pick one up and showed my former naked wedding finger was now clothed in diamonds in all it's glory. Our eyes slid over to my hand, both of us focusing on the ring together and hurriedly, I gathered up the apples.

“That’s an exquisite piece of jewellery,” She said in a strangled tone. “May I have a closer look?”

Her eyes were wild as she examined the ring from a distance, licking her lips like she had just ordered a delicious meal. I became more flustered as I rose from the ground and looked at her finally. I couldn't believe that I had been so stupid to leave the ring on that morning.

“Thank you,” I mumbled as she leaned closer to get a peek. “It belonged to my grandmother.”
“What a strange finger to wear your grandmother’s ring,” Olivia commented. “They say it’s bad luck for a single girl, like yourself, to wear a ring on that finger...”
“Yes, I suppose so," I brushed it off. "But there are a lot of strange things in the world.”
”Careful, Emily, you shouldn’t tempt fate – you may end up alone forever.”

We stared at each other, saying nothing but saying everything at the same time. I knew she had figured it out and that I was in big trouble. But in a horrible turn of events I seemed to be backed into the corner of the fruit shop with her and nowhere to run. Her crisp voice broke the silence quickly, her calculating eyes trained right on me.

“My father wants to meet up for dinner tonight,” She said suddenly. “He wanted me to extend an invite your way.”
“That’s very kind,” I nodded. “I would love to have dinner with you.”
“I’ll get my driver to send you the details.”

She flounced out the door, her sundress trailing behind her gracefully. Her movements were ninja-like, even when she was angry, as she floated down the road. The last thing I wanted to do was attend yet another dinner with Olivia and if Will. It also struck me as strange that she should want to invite me anywhere after discovering the engagement ring. Stupidly, I put it to the back of my mind and rushed home to get ready.

The whole meeting up with the Hudson family thing was getting old; I promised myself that night would be the last time I would spend with any of those people. Something told me that Olivia was dangerous and I didn't want to spend anymore time with her. Of course, that was about to be the least of my problems...

---

The bar we were supposed to meet at was lopsided with it's crumbling, brick and scraggly hand-painted signs - it was definitely less pricey than the kind of place I expected the Hudson family to go. It was a tiny place out on the outskirts of town, crowded with sweaty revellers and the smell of alcohol. As soon as I entered, I knew that Alexander Hudson would never be seen dead in that kind of place.

Olivia was sitting at the bar, drumming her long fingernails on the sodden wood absentmindedly. I could see a dozen men out of her league surveying her but, one after one, she shot them her notorious ice cold look and they disappeared. I guess her chronic bitch face disorder came in for something handy.

“Olivia!” I pretended to be enthralled by her. “Nice to see you again.”
“And you,” She said quietly sipping her drink and sliding me my own. “I didn’t know what you liked so I got you a white wine spritzer.”
“That’s perfect,” I replied, even though I hated wine.

It was then that I realised it was strange Olivia would turn up without her father or Will in tow – they usually travelled as a group. As if she could read my mind and that I was questioning how empty our little party was, she offered up a vague excuse for their absence.

“My father couldn’t make it after all,” She sounded disgusted. “Will didn’t want to intrude on our ‘girls night’ either.”
“Ah,” I felt the noise come out strangled in my throat. “Well, I’m sure we can have fun without them.”

I wanted the ground to swallow me up. A night alone on the town with Olivia Hudson. She seemed equally as disappointed with the idea and for a while we sat in silence, drinks sliding down our throats. I was already beginning to feel woozy; like the stool beneath me was made out of marshmallow and I could never get a steady balance on it.

“Listen, Emily,” She swivelled her stool towards me, her impossibly long legs on show. “Let’s be honest – you don’t like me and I definitely don’t like you. So, how about we have another drink and then call it a night? I’m sure you have better places to be, as do I.”
“Agreed,” I breathed a sigh of relief, surprised at her honesty. “Cheers, I guess?”
“Cheers.”

Our glasses clinked together, her sharp smile evident over the glass. Instead of enjoying the feeling of the wine running down my throat, I cringed at the bitter aftertaste. All of my senses were opening up; I could hear the chatter of the rest of the people in the bar like it was a foghorn and every smell that reached my nostrils lingered uncomfortably. I was beginning to feel more sick by the minute; the room began to spin and all the faces around me were morphing into one.

As Olivia tried to help me up from the stool, I felt the small beads of sweat roll down my face.

"You don't look so good, Emily," I heard her callous voice say and I knew she was behind it. "I'll call you a cab."
"N-no," I stuttered, my legs twisting beneath me as I tried to walk. "It’s fine. I can take care of my--"

I tried to make it towards the door but stumbled, my face hitting the hard wood floor first and the rest of my body following shortly after.

---

The next morning I woke up with the worst hangover of my life. Trying to piece together the events of last night seemed impossible. I knew that I had one drink; I had basically given up drinking extensively since Will and I had reunited. I didn't need it anymore. So, why had I ended up in such a bad state? I felt stripped of moisture; my lips dry and cracked and my throat tight and swollen.

I could only remember a kaleidoscope of memories - nothing certain:

A man’s voice…
The slam of a car door…
Hushed voices carrying me onto a hard mattress…
And nothing else afterwards.

Peering around uneasily at the room I was in, I felt a stab of panic as I realised it wasn’t mine.

The white paint peeled from the walls, a few photos decorating them sparsely but not much else around. Sitting up, I felt the enormity of my situation sink in. Where was I? Where was Olivia? Things got worse when I noticed the body next to me. He had rolled over towards the wall, snoring quietly in the dim light of the room. His naked skin was decorated with freckles and I was positive I had never seen him in my life before. I looked down at my own outfit and realised I was wearing an overly large man’s t-shirt over my underwear. A t-shirt that belonged to him.

I could feel the tears forming in my eyes, as I gathered my belongings quickly and ran as quickly as I could into the practical desert. I was stranded; in the middle of nowhere with no money to get home. But there was only one thing that I couldn't get out of my mind - what the hell had happened last night?

 

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