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Meg Imsey is determined to start her new job in the gardens at the Villa Castelfino, although the new count disapproves. Assuming he’ll keep well away, Meg goes off to the walled garden and loses herself in her work until Count Gianni lets himself into her sanctuary…
‘I never dreamed anyone would disturb me in here. The door was locked. I have the only key. How did you get in?’ she blustered, embarrassment mixed up with growing anger.
One hand in his pocket, Gianni strolled over to the old medlar tree where Meg had hung her hat and shirt. Plucking them from the branches like particularly desirable fruit, he made his way over to her. He took his time. It was painfully obvious to Meg that he was making her wait for her clothes. She wasn’t in the mood to be toyed with. As soon as he got close enough she snatched her things from his hands and pulled them on. He watched with something close to amusement. Then he drew a second key from his pocket with a flourish.
‘As I said –I live here. I have a copy of every key in the place.’
Barefoot but otherwise decent, Meg rallied.
‘That doesn’t explain why you felt the need to come in here.’
‘It wasn’t a need. It was a want. I wanted to see you, Megan.’
There was a haunting look in his dark eyes. It was so delicious she could hardly meet his gaze. Nervous that he might be able to read all sorts of things from her own expression, she looked down at the coarse wiry grass at her feet. All sorts of hope were beginning to stir deep within her…
Copyright Harlequin Mills and Boon Limited.
I don’t use real people in my books, but that scene is based around a spectacular medlar tree in a real Tuscan garden. It is planted directly below a terrace, which gives spectacular views of the snowy white flowers and later the strange, wide-mouthed fruit. The brownish medlars look something like giant rose hips. They are picked while still as hard as conkers and stored on flat trays until soft and wrinkled. The overripe pulp has an odd, winy smell. When boiled up with lemon juice and sugar, then strained it makes a glorious amber jelly to serve with cold meats and salamis. It’s an acquired taste, somewhere between wine and cider but without the alcohol. I’ve found a recipe for Medlar fudge, too, but that has so many other delicious ingredients (cream, brown sugar, maple syrup etc) that I suspect they mask any medlar flavour. A pile of pancakes, some home made vanilla ice-cream and a drizzle of medlar fudge sauce sounds like a perfect pudding for those freezing spring nights when summer days in Tuscany seem a long, long way away....
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