Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Cover design by D. J. Meyers
What can ignite a cold heart?
Can opposites attract? For how long?
Robert falls for Lara, a Turkish heiress who has erased love from her heart. She has her reasons, but they’re deeply buried. He’s a writer, concerned with the spiritual, the subject she chooses to ignore. Lara is interested only in physical love. Commitment is not for her.
They meet in Rome and travel to London together, and the affair continues between London and Istanbul, with visits to other European cities as Robert launches his books. Many years her senior, he wants more than Lara is prepared to offer. Should he continue a relationship with this young woman who seems unwilling or unable to express any feelings? Or seek inner peace elsewhere?
When Lara gets something she wants, but was not expecting, she wonders if fate has stepped in. The love she feels for her child of passion is like nothing she’s felt before.
Three years later, an unexpected visit from Robert stirs something in her heart despite her vows. A devastating turn of events compels her to re-evaluate her past, the feelings she tries to hide, and her present circumstances …
This story is a Work in Progress.
Via Veneto, Rome
A copy of The Sunday Times under her arm, Lara strolled through the outdoor area of Café Doney on Via Veneto. Searching for a sunny spot, she dropped the heavy newspaper on the table of her choice before settling in a comfortable chair. While looking around for a waiter, she saw him for the first time, engrossed in a book, as he drank his espresso.
Clad in a white, open-neck shirt with the sleeves rolled up, she noticed his slender wrists as he held the coffee cup to his lips. Ray-Ban Wayfarers, exactly like hers, but in black, contrasted with his grey hair tied up in a ponytail.
Lara ordered a cappuccino to savour while she perused the paper and began going through the supplements to decide which one to read first. The glossy magazine chosen, she flicked idly through the pages, before turning her attention to the news.
A plumy English accent intruded into her space, and she lifted her eyes from the paper.
“Excuse me, where did you manage to get a copy of The Sunday Times?”
She smiled at the tall, slim man with the Wayfarers. “From the kiosk, across the street, but I think I bought the last copy.”
“Oh,” he said, “I guess it’s not my lucky day.”
She observed him with a cool gaze. “Well, I won’t be able to read all this in a week, so we might as well share. Please, join me. I’m Lara, short for Dilara.”
“Thank you, that’s most kind of you, Lara. I’m Robert. I’ll be right back.”
He walked to his table and collected his book. His shirt was unusual. An unbuttoned V-neck with a collar like the ones the Three Musketeers wore, tucked into beige trousers buckled with a thin belt. He looked smart and casual, more continental than an Englishman.
He returned, and indicated the empty table next to her. “I think I’ll sit here and wait for any donations you’re not reading,” and smiled.
“Ok, I’m a smoker, anyway, so I might disturb you.” Pointing to the supplements, she continued, “Please pick any you like. You can have the paper when I’m finished.”
“Don’t worry about smoking. Nearly everyone in Italy seems to smoke. I also commit the sin, occasionally. Can I offer you a drink? Or more coffee, perhaps?”
She scrutinized him. “You mean a drink, drink? Well, it’s almost lunch time, why not?”
“Great idea, I love that. Nice way to start the afternoon.”
He called the waiter and gave the order. They continued to share the paper and the supplements while sipping their drinks.
Robert remembered seeing her in the lobby of the Excelsior, the previous day. Her shoulder-length straight brown hair shone with fine highlights. A white, short sleeved t-shirt clung to her slender frame, over tan Capri pants. Her flat gladiator sandals revealed French pedicured toes, matching the nails of her fine, long fingers adorned with many silver rings. Everything about her indicated a subtle elegance, liberated from any loud designer labels, except the chunky Bulgari sports watch around her wrist. Her refined appearance conjured a strange, undefined remoteness.
She handed him the paper. “Gloomy stories about the world and the economy, too boring on such a lovely day …”
She rummaged through her bag and took out her cigarettes. Lighting one and inhaling deeply, she exhaled and lifted the glass to her lips. She glanced at the busy Via Veneto, buzzing with smartly dressed, animated crowds, heading for the cafés and the restaurants. The hubbub of traffic, hands on horns, swarms of mopeds, competing with the Italian chatter began to fill the atmosphere.
Distracted from reading, Robert’s gaze concentrated on her. A fine nose, a long slender neck, her eyes hidden behind the sunglasses, the cigarette between her fingers. She resembled the image of a fashion photo, shot by a top photographer who captured the moment. Beautiful, distant and haughty.
He put down the paper and leaned closer. “Are you here on business or just travelling?”
She turned to him. “Both, I was in Milan for business and decided to take a few days off in Rome. I love this city, this pink city. How about you?”
“Both, too, I suppose. I’m here to launch my book, but I also have a great deal of free time between functions.”
“Oh, you’re a writer. What do you write, novels?”
“No, I write books on spirituality and spiritual teachings.”
“Hmm, I have no idea about those things. I’m more into the material side of the world. Why don’t you join me, if you’re finished reading? You can keep it for later.”
Robert smiled and moved to her table. “Thank you. The news can wait for a duller moment. Would you like another drink?”
“Sure, these things go fast, don’t they? They taste like fizzy orange juice, but have the effects of champagne.”
“Indeed, insidious little treats. What were you doing in Milan?”
“Material things,” she gave a wry laugh. “Things made from material. The rag trade.”
“The fashion business. Are you a model?”
She chuckled, flirting. Her smile revealed beautiful teeth, glimpsed behind sumptuous lips. “Oh, no, I’m too old for that. They start at fourteen these days. I was buying fashion.”
“I see. Do you work for a big company?”
“I have my own company, in Turkey. I own a few fashion and haute-couture boutiques. So, I was buying some designer wear.”
“Interesting. That’s a subject I know very little about. Are you from Turkey?
“Yes, born and bred in Istanbul.”
“I’ve never been there, but keep hearing about it lately. I’d love to visit one day. I hope one of my books will be launched there, so I get a free visit.”
“It’s a magical city. One never grows tired of it.”
“Are you going back to Istanbul next?”
“No, I’m off to London for few weeks. More business. I’ll return home after that.
“How long will you be here?”
“Until the weekend. You?”
“Would you believe it if I said I’m also flying to London on Sunday?”
“Jolly good,” she said with a wicked smile. “Here we are in a strange city, with the same destination in a few days. Are you staying at the hotel?”
“The Excelsior, you mean? Yes, they put me up here, for some reason. I couldn’t afford this hotel on my own. Your English is excellent, by the way. Did you study in England?”
“Yes, at St Martins College, but I’ve known London since my childhood. My parents have a house in Knightsbridge, so I’ve been back and forth many times since then.”
“So, you’re half a Londoner?”
“You can say that. That’s my second favourite city in the world. I live between Istanbul and London.”
“Lucky you. I live in the Midlands. Do you know Warwick? I have a cottage on the River Avon, my sanctuary to write.”
“Are you from that area?”
“No, actually, I’m from Berkshire, Maidenhead, but I wanted to move away and found a 16th-century cottage at a place called Bridge End.”
“I haven’t been there, but I know Maidenhead. The Waterside Inn.”
“Yes, that lovely restaurant by the river in Bray, an idyllic place …” He paused for a moment, picturing a warm spring day at the venue and feeding the ducks with bread from the table. “Do you have any plans for the afternoon?”
“I’m thinking about going for a walk towards Piazza di Spagna and wherever else the road will take me. I love walking around the pink city.”
“Pink city … a curious way to describe it. I don’t know Rome very well. Would you be my guide?”
She removed her glasses and looked at him.
“Why not? I can certainly show you some charming places along the way.”
He raised his glasses to the top of his head, to look into her almond-shaped hazel eyes, framed by dark, thick lashes. She paused a moment, gazing into his, and smiled. “Ray-Bans off, how do you do, blue eyes?”
He called the waiter to sign the bill and Lara asked him to deliver the paper to the reception. They left the café, crossed the road, and began to stroll down Via Veneto, towards Piazza Barberini and Via Trittone. Savouring the ornate façades of the buildings on both sides of the street and the statues in the middle of small squares, they made a handsome couple. Tall and slim, good looking, two elegant strangers with a brisk stride, from different walks of life, in the city that had brought them together …