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Alexander looked down at Olivia. “Thank you for letting me in, Olivia.” His lips met hers, coaxing her mouth open, the taste of champagne making her tongue taste sweet.
“I love you, Mr. Burnham,” she said, surprised at how easy it was to say those three words over and over again. She never wanted to stop telling Alexander how much she loved him.
“Looks like you’re empty. Refill?”
Olivia looked down at her glass, noticing that she had finished all her champagne. “Yes, please.”
“You got it. Be back in a second.” He kissed her neck before heading across the lawn, surprised to be met with jealous eyes as he approached the bar.
“Adele. What are you doing here?” he asked nervously.
“Your mother invited my parents. I found out about your little engagement and left Boston to get here to celebrate with you, Alex, dear,” she responded, placing her hand on his arm.
He took a step back, cringing from her touch. “Why are you really here?” he demanded.
“No reason,” she replied rather nonchalantly. “Just wanted to offer my congratulations to you and your bride-to-be.”
“Well, you’ve done it. So please leave,” Alexander growled, his eyes frantically searching for Olivia, relieved when he felt someone come up next to him.
Olivia slinked her arm around his waist and planted a kiss on his cheek before turning her eyes to the tall blonde. “Hello, Adele. What are you doing here?” she asked, her voice sweet.
“Just came to offer my congratulations to the happy couple,” she replied with a smug expression.
“Well, thank you, Adele. That’s very kind of you.” Olivia faced Alexander. “Excuse me, darling. Nature calls.” She retreated toward the house.
“If you’d rather I’d left, I understand, Alex,” Adele said once Olivia was out of earshot.
“Adele, I appreciate you coming, but there’s too much bad blood between you and Olivia, and I’m here to look out for her,” he said softly.
She shot daggers at him and took a step closer. “Making up for lost time, Alex?”
“What are you talking about, Adele?” His mind raced.
“Oh, nothing. Imagine how little Olivia will react when she finds out that you’ve been keeping secrets from her.”
He stared at her, the tension building.
“I know, Alexander,” she spat out, answering the question that was so clearly written on his face. “I know she’s your Olivia and that you’ve been keeping that secret from her. Do you think you can keep it from her forever?”
Alexander looked at her in complete shock. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. “How did you find out?” he asked quietly.
Adele’s voice softened. “Alex, I knew she looked familiar. Granted, it’s been over twenty-one years, but the similarities were too much,” she lied, placing her hand on his arm. A compassionate look crossing her face, she continued, “Do the right thing before it’s too late. I’ll keep it to myself for now, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll remain quiet forever.”
He hung his head low. “I know, Adele. Just give me some time. She needs to know.”
She walked away, smiling. She knew him well. He would keep his secret from Olivia as long as he could. He couldn’t bear to lose her, and telling her would make her run. Hell, it would make any woman furious to know that they had been lied to, and that’s what Adele was counting on.
When she received that phone call earlier in the day, she thought the man on the other end was full of shit when he said that the woman Alexander was now engaged to was Olivia DeLuca. But he had just confirmed that it was true and that he was aware of her real identity. Adele had no idea why the man on the other end of the phone was concerned with Olivia’s true identity and she didn’t really care. As long as she got her money once Olivia found out about her past, she was fine with whatever was going on.
“DO YOU EVER THINK you’ll move all your things into my place?” Alexander asked one warm evening in early May as they enjoyed a relaxing dinner out on his balcony. Since their engagement party several weeks ago, Olivia and Alexander attempted to adjust to the change in their relationship. There were quite a few arguments. Both had been so fiercely independent for the majority of their adult lives that it took time to acclimate to their new living arrangement…an arrangement Olivia was still having trouble with.
“Alexander, we’ve already discussed this. Every day. It’s just taking me some time to adjust.” She looked down at her plate, slowly losing her appetite.
“I know, love, and I’m trying to be patient. I know this isn’t easy for you, but we’ve been engaged for over a month and you’ve refused to agree on a date or move the rest of your stuff over here. What’s really going on?” He looked into her eyes, a soft expression on his face. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No!” she said forcefully. “Of course not.” She lowered her voice. “I love you, Alexander, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Damn it, Olivia. Then why don’t we start the rest of our lives now? Please?” He stood up and walked the short distance to the other side of the table, kneeling in front of her and grabbing her hands. “I want to wake up to your beautiful smile every morning. I want to feel your body next to me as I fall asleep every night. I want to finally experience all those little quirks of yours. The way you take one last look in the mirror when you’re getting ready. You simply sigh and shrug your shoulders, and it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. And I want to see that every single day for the rest of my life, Olivia. I know you like your space and that you’ve been on your own nearly your entire life. I know this is going to take some adjusting, on both our parts, but we’ll work through those things. Together.”
Olivia looked down at the man kneeling in front of her, a sincere expression etched on his strong face. At that moment, he looked so vulnerable and she immediately felt guilty for making him doubt her devotion to him. “Fine.” Her lips turned into a crooked smile. “But where am I going to fit all of my shoes?”
Alexander laughed, pulling her into his arms. “I’ll have a closet built just for your shoes, love.”
She giggled, butterflies swimming around her stomach. After all this time, she was surprised that he could still give her those butterflies. She recalled her mama’s words when she was just a small child, telling her that she’d know when she was in love by the constant butterflies. That’s how she knew he was the only man for her. “I love you so much, Alexander.” She planted a soft kiss on his lips.