The Millionaire Tycoon's English Rose

By: Lucy Gordon

‘S LIGHTLY to your left…bit more…bit more…reach out now…can you feel it?’

‘Yes,’ Celia called in delight.

Her fingers made their way through the water until they touched the rock, eased around it, up, down, exploring in all directions, while the man’s voice on the radio spoke in her ear.

‘Try a little farther along. Feel the shape of it.’

‘I’ve got it,’ she said into her own radio. ‘Now I want to go down farther.’

Ken, controlling her lightly from on land, asked into the microphone, ‘Sure you haven’t had enough for the day?’

‘I’ve barely started. I want to do lots more yet.’

From the radio in her ear she heard Ken’s chuckle as he recognised her familiar cry of ‘lots more yet.’ It was the mantra by which she lived, her shout of defiance in the face of her blindness. She’d learned it from her blind parents whose motto had been, ‘Who needs eyes?’

‘I want to go down much deeper,’ she said.

He groaned. ‘Your boyfriend will murder me.’

‘Don’t call him my boyfriend as though we were a couple of kids.’

‘What, then?’

Good question. What should she call Francesco Rinucci? Her fiancé? No, for they’d never talked about marriage. Her live-in companion? Yes, but that didn’t begin to explain it. Her lover? That was true, she thought, shivering pleasurably with the thought. Yes, definitely her lover. But also so much more.

‘Don’t worry about Francesco,’ she said. ‘I didn’t tell him I was coming here. If he finds out, he’ll be too busy murdering me to bother with you. C’mon, let me down. You know I’ll be all right.’

‘If it’s OK with Fiona,’ Ken said, naming her diving partner.

‘Fine with me,’ Fiona sang out on the same frequency. ‘Let’s go.’

She took Celia’s hand and the two of them sank lower and lower into the water of Mount’s Bay, just off the coast of Cornwall in England. They, Ken and his crew had set out from Penzance an hour ago, stopping about a mile from the coast in a place that reputedly concealed a sunken pirate galleon.

‘Went down in a fierce battle with the British Navy,’ he’d told them as they made their way out to sea. ‘And they never recovered the treasure, so you may be lucky.’

‘You don’t need to give me your professional spiel.’ Celia had laughed. ‘Just having the experience is treasure enough for me.’

She’d forced herself to be patient while they strapped the cylinders onto her back and demonstrated how everything worked. She was wearing a full-face mask, which she had at first resisted.

‘I thought it would just be goggles and a mouthpiece connecting me to the oxygen cylinders,’ she’d protested.

‘Yes, but I want to keep radio contact with you, so you need a full-face mask,’ he had said firmly.

She’d yielded under pressure. Then Fiona had taken her hand and the two of them had gone into the water together.

Now Celia could feel her whole body deliciously chilly from the water encasing her outside the rubber suit.

There were more rocks to be felt, plants, sometimes even the exquisite sense of a large fish flapping past, which made her laugh with delight. But the real pleasure lay in the sensation of being free of the world and its tensions.

Free of Francesco Rinucci?

Reluctantly, she admitted that the answer was yes. She adored him, but she’d run away from him as far as she could go. She’d planned this dive a week ago, and kept it a secret from him, saddened by the need, but determined not to yield. If you were blind it was hard enough to keep control of your own life without having to deal with a man who loved you so much that he tried to muffle you in cotton wool.

‘All right?’ came Fiona’s voice over the radio.

‘Yes, it’s so beautiful,’ she said eagerly.

Nobody who knew Celia would be surprised at her saying beautiful. She had her own notion of beauty that had nothing to do with eyes. Everything that reached her through the pressure of the water-the coolness and the freedom-all this was beauty.

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