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The Padova Pearls [Secure eReader]
eBook by Lee Wilkinson

eBook Category: Romance/Romance
eBook Description: Rare beauty Sophia Jordan has captured wealthy businessman Stephen Haviland's eye. And in Venice he'll execute his ruthless plan.... Sophia is swept off her feet by the handsome British billionaire, not realizing that Stephen knows something she doesn't: she is heiress to the priceless Padova pearls. Once the truth is revealed Stephen will see Sophia, and the pearls, in naked glory....

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Presents
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2008

7 Reader Ratings:
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THE early June evening was damp and overcast, prematurely dark. Sophia Jordan, a plastic carrier bag in her hand, a stone-coloured mac belted round her slim waist, was hurrying home. Back to the ground floor flat in Roleston Square, Belgravia, she had shared with her late father, Peter.

The thought of the empty flat still filled her with sadness for though her father had been quite ill for the past year, his death, some twelve weeks earlier, had in the end been sudden and unexpected and had left her bereft and lonely.

Old Mrs Caldwell, a widow who owned the large house in Roleston Square and, along with her niece, Eva, occupied the flat across the hallway, had understood how she felt and been very kind.

Just that morning when Sophia had knocked at her door to enquire what shopping she needed, grey-haired and stooped, cheerful in spite of her arthritis, the old lady had urged, 'Come across after work, dearie, and we'll have some supper together.

'Though with Eva being away on that special course,' she had added, 'I'm afraid you'll have to do the cooking, if you don't mind?'

'Of course I don't mind. Is there anything in particular you'd like me to cook?'

'Would it be any trouble to make a paella?'

Stooping to stroke the marmalade cat that was winding sinuously around her ankles, Sophia said, 'No trouble at all.'

'Wonderful!' the old lady had cried enthusiastically. 'I haven't had a paella since Arthur took me to Spain on holiday. Eva dislikes all rice dishes.'

'Then I'll do the shopping on my way home tonight, and pop across as soon as I've changed.'

Looking delighted, Mrs Caldwell had promised, 'I'll have the table set ready.'

Handing Sophia a list and some money, she'd added, 'It'll be lovely to have your company and a freshly cooked meal.'

On hearing about Sophia's plans for the evening, David Renton, international art dealer and owner of A Volonté, the prestigious gallery where she worked, had suggested, 'Why don't you leave half an hour early? Joanna can cope, and you've put in a great deal of extra time over your father's exhibition.'

Peter Jordan had been a very talented amateur painter and after his death, David—his long time friend—had remarked, 'His work is brilliant. It's a pity he was too modest to agree to me showing it.

'I tried to persuade him by telling him that seeing his canvases would inspire other young amateur painters. But he still held back.'

'I really think he was coming round to your way of thinking,' Sophia had said. 'He was talking about it a few days before he died.'

'Then why don't we put on an exhibition of his work as a kind of memorial? A celebration of his life? If we include his miniatures, there should be enough to fill the balcony.'

Liking the idea, Sophia had agreed.

She had collected together all her father's paintings, except for a single canvas that hung in her bedroom.

It was a head and shoulders portrait of a handsome young man with fair hair and dark eyes, and a mouth that, with its combination of asceticism and sensuality, had always affected her strongly.

Since her childhood, the portrait had held a strange fascination for her, and as a teenager she had woven extravagantly romantic dreams around it.

Knowing how much she liked it, her father had given it to her for her sixteenth birthday.

His pleasure had been in the actual painting and, with little regard for his own talent, he had often given the finished portrait to his sitter. Which meant that there weren't all that many for a lifetime's work.

However, David had collected what there were and taken them over to the gallery.

There, Sophia had worked long hours to hang them, produce catalogues and organize the advance publicity. Now the one-man exhibition was ready and due to open the following morning.

That off her mind, she had accepted David's kind offer and left the gallery at six-thirty, stopping at the local store to do the necessary shopping.

It was Friday night and the store was crowded. By the time she had succeeded in battling her way through an obstacle course of people and trolleys, one of her stockings was laddered and her heavy coil of hair was coming down.

Bundling it up again, she felt for the clip that held it in place, only to find it was missing.

The queue at the checkout was a long one and on leaving the store she found a fine drizzle had started to fall.

With an exasperated sigh, she turned up the collar of her mac and tucked the dark silky mass of hair into it as best she could.

Only when she was walking away from the 'convenience' store did she appreciate wryly that it would have been a great deal more convenient if her purchases, which included milk and tinned food for Mrs Caldwell's three cats, had been put into two carriers rather than one.

As it was, she had to keep swapping the heavy bag from hand to hand as the thin plastic handles cut into her fingers, stopping the blood flow.

She was changing hands for the umpteenth time when one of the flimsy handles gave way, letting the bag drop and spilling its contents at the feet of a tall, fair-haired man who was walking some half a dozen paces behind her.

While the other pedestrians parted and flowed smoothly either side, like water round a rock, the well-dressed stranger stooped and with deft efficiency began to gather all the items together.

Copyright © 2007 by Lee Wilkinson.

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