At the far end of a long straight drive, lined with tall Cyprus trees and surrounded by Italianate gardens, slightly elevated from the surrounding terrain, set like a pearl against the dark green of the Cyprus and the blue of the Aegean Sea beyond it, perfectly framed by its surroundings was—
‘Villa Emo,’ Lizzie announced breathlessly in a slightly dazed voice as she stared at the building. She turned to Ilios to say in disbelief, ‘It looks exactly like Villa Emo—the house Palladio designed for the Emo family outside Venice.’
To either side of the main house long, low, arcaded wings—which on the original Villa Emo had been farm buildings—extended in perfect symmetry, capped at both ends with classically styled dovecotes, whilst the main building itself was a perfect copy of the Italian original.
‘It’s so beautiful,’ Lizzie whispered, awestruck by the wonderful symmetry of the building and wondering how on earth Palladio’s beautiful villa for the Emo family had somehow transported itself here, to this remote Greek Macedonian promontory.
‘A deadly beauty, some might say, since it was someone else’s desire to possess it conflicting with my grandfather’s determination to keep it that cost my father and Tino’s father their lives.’ His voice was openly harsh with bitterness.
Without waiting to see if Lizzie was following him he started off down the steep path towards the house. Automatically Lizzie followed him, unable to stop herself from asking, once she had caught up with him, ‘What happened—to your father?’ She had lost her own parents, after all, and she knew the dreadful pain of that kind of loss.
‘What happened?’ Ilios stopped so abruptly that Lizzie almost cannoned into him, only stopping herself from doing so by placing her hand on his forearm to steady herself. She snatched it back again for her own safety and peace of mind as she felt the now familiar surge of sensual longing that physical contact with him brought her. How was it possible for this one man to do what no other man had ever done, without actually doing anything to arouse the desire she felt for him? Lizzie didn’t know, and she didn’t really want to know either. She simply wanted it not to happen.
Ilios was speaking again, and she forced herself to concentrate on what he was saying and not what she was feeling.
‘The ruling Junta at the time believed that since my grandfather would not agree to sell the villa to one of their number he should be forced to make a choice between the villa and the lives of his sons. They misjudged my grandfather, I’m afraid. He chose the villa.’
‘Over his own flesh and blood?’ Lizzie couldn’t conceal her horrified disbelief. ‘How could he do something like that?’
They had reached the gardens now, and were taking a path that skirted past them, but instead of being disappointed at not being able to see them in more detail Lizzie was too appalled by what Ilios was telling her to think about them.
‘He had no other choice,’ Ilios told her as they emerged from the shadow of a tree-lined walkway into the gravelled courtyard where he had left his car.
‘So what happened—to…to your father?’ Lizzie had to ask the question.
‘He was shot. They both were. But not at the same time. Tino’s father, the younger of the two, was set free initially. It seemed he had convinced the Junta that if they set him free he would persuade his father to change his mind. When he couldn’t, the only difference it made to their ultimate fate was that my father was blindfolded and shot by the firing squad he was facing whilst my uncle was shot in the back trying to escape them.’
Lizzie couldn’t stop herself from shuddering.
‘How awful—your poor mother.’