Page 50 of Italian Escape with the CEO

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‘No. She just won’t tell Luca where she is. After Dad died Jodi took off to go travelling. Luca said she was having a great time and then suddenly she changed. Contact lessened and now she’s asked him to leave her alone, promised that she is OK and she doesn’t want him to pull his “big brother shit”. He is really worried. It sounds like they are really close. But he won’t make any decisions on Dolci without her.’

‘That makes sense and I hope Jodi is OK. And I am so glad you have begun to sort things out with Luca.’

‘Me too. We decided that for now I’ll keep running the company but I’ll keep him in the loop. We’ll talk, conference call and he will have some input. Once Jodi is back in the picture properly we’ll go from there. I even spoke to Mum, told her what I’d done. She wasn’t happy but I did tell her that no matter what happens I will always be there for her. That I want her to be part of my life. But I realise that she will have to make that choice. And she didn’t shoot me down in flames and she’s agreed to hold fire on trying to overturn the will herself So I hope that we’ll work it out. I know it will take time but I have hope.’

‘I am so pleased for you.’ And he was, knew how much this meant to her.

‘But it’s thanks to you I did it. You’ve shown me how to be me, to stop playing a part, to stop trying to please everyone else without taking my own views into account. You’ve shown me my opinion does count. You listened to me, encouraged and supported my ideas. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.’

He grinned at her. ‘What were the others?’

‘You make me laugh, you’re loyal and caring and honourable and with you I can be myself.’

‘Always.’ He cupped her cheek. ‘Because I love you for you. I love the way you smile, the way you care about everyone, the way you

deal with difficult situations. I love that you have fun, take selfies. I love you, Ava. I want to wake up with you beside me every day. I want to be at your side for the ups and the downs. I want to have children with you, to grow old with you.’

‘That’s what I want too. You’ve shown me that love can be a good thing, a beautiful thing. That it isn’t all about need or obsession. It’s about a partnership, about reciprocity, about being there for each other. It’s not a power struggle, it’s about two people who want to be together, who work through their problems together. Because I know that’s what we’ll do.’ Her gaze encompassed him with love and he felt an awe and wonder. ‘For ever.’

‘For ever.’

Then he kissed her, a kiss that sealed their love, marked the beginning of for ever. A kiss that filled him with pure happiness that this woman loved him. And so they spent their first date, began their for ever, lying under the stars and planning their future.

* * *

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