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Chapter One ~ The Secrets of Villa Rosso by Linn B. Halton


When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Johnson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.

It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?

What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever.



Staring back at me from the crystal ball cradled within my hands is the mirror image of a foetus. Then I realise it isn’t one but two little beings facing each other. The picture is so unexpected that my arms begin to tremble and I almost drop the heavy sphere. Their umbilical cords are still attached and my eyes seek out every little detail, wondering why this is being shown to me. The little faces suddenly become animated and I can see their mouths moving as they talk to each other. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling that overcomes me and I barely register that I’m no longer alone, until a familiar voice breaks the silence.

‘Oh, Ellie, you’ve found my crystal ball! It doesn’t work; no one has ever seen anything in it. I was told it belonged to a famous medium, but it’s going to end up being a very expensive ornament.’ My boss and best friend’s voice reflects amusement as our eyes meet. Stunned, I have to compose myself before I can return her casual smile and make light of the moment.

Livvie is completely unaware of the images I’m holding within my hands. As I look away from her I glance down once more. It’s only then that I notice that the two little babies are actually divided, within the globe, by a glass wall. A significant detail I nearly missed, which makes my heart race. I feel as if I’m being given a message, but I have no idea at all what it means. Or maybe I’m a desperate woman in search of peace and normality, looking for answers to a problem which has become almost too much to bear.

I replace the globe on the aged, wooden stand and a sudden chill sends a tremor through me. Livvie is already making her way back out through the house to the patio, where the party is in full swing. I follow in her footsteps, angry with myself and wondering why on earth I’d picked the damned thing up in the first place. Had it been calling out to me?

‘There you are. I’ve missed you.’ Josh wraps a comforting arm around my waist and passes me a cocktail. ‘The ice has already begun to melt; you said you’d only be a minute. You nearly missed your own toast. To us, darling!’

He holds his glass aloft and everyone steps forward to chink glasses.
‘To Josh and Ellie on their nineteenth wedding anniversary. You guys remind us all that true love really does last forever.’

Livvie’s toast is from the heart and maybe for a moment she’s wondering if she’ll ever find a Mr Right. I suspect the thought is only a fleeting one, though.

I look up at Josh, trying hard to stop my face from reflecting the rush of emotions those pale-grey eyes always stir within me. That familiar tousled, brown hair frames the face I know so well, partly obscuring the birthmark on his cheek. I call it his ‘kiss from an angel’ and that always makes him smile.

All I ever longed for was to love and be loved, and when Livvie introduced me to Josh, one tiny moment in time changed my whole life forever. He was, and is, my Prince Charming. I remember it as if it were only yesterday, wondering how nineteen years could have passed by at such a frightening speed and deposited us here. Where did all those days go? And why did my wonderful life have to be turned upside down?

Copyright Linn B Halton

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