He wanted what? To take her back to bed and repeat his reckless behaviour? Double the chances of her becoming pregnant? Was that really what he wanted? The ferocity with which his heart slammed into his ribs caught him off guard. It was the realisation of what could happen that had caused that surge of emotion inside him, that was all. Nothing else. The last thing he wanted was for Lizzie to be carrying his child.

Ilios forced himself to focus on Lizzie’s question.

‘Yes and no,’ he answered. ‘It is both similar and different—you will have to judge for yourself. However, what I can tell you is that structurally my ancestor followed Palladio’s measurement ratio for the interior, just as he did for the exterior, so the villa follows Palladio’s beliefs in the importance of architectural harmony. Internally, the living space forms a classical central square core, within which are six rooms that sizewise form repetitions of one of Palladio’s standard modules. For instance, either side of the entrance hall are two rooms which are sixteen Trevisan feet in width by twenty-seven Trevisan feet in length.’ He paused, in case what he was saying was going over Lizzie’s head, but he could see from her expression that she was following what he was saying perfectly.

‘To create a ratio of six to ten,’ she agreed. ‘The perfect numbers in Renaissance architecture. I’ve read references to Palladio’s buildings being like frozen music, because he adopted the proportions that Pythagoras said produced combinations of notes that fall harmoniously on the human ear.’

Ilios gave an approving nod of his head. ‘That Greek connection had great appeal for my ancestor, according to our family lore. As far as Villa Manos goes, in between the smaller rooms—the two I’ve already mentioned—facing east and the west of the villa, are four more rooms which together have the same Palladio measurements. The central grand salon comprises two of those modules side by side, and the floor plan of the piano nobile is repeated in a second piano nobile over it, with mezzanine rooms in between.’

‘Like Villa Cornaro?’

‘You’re obviously a Palladio fan.’

‘It’s impossible not to be if you love classical architecture.’ Lizzie smiled. ‘I was half toying with the idea of training as an architect when my parents died. It hadn’t been my first choice of career, but working as an interior designer showed me how important structure is. From there…What is it?’ she asked, when she saw how his own expression had changed and hardened.

Reluctantly he told her, ‘My father was an architect, and as a boy it was my ambition to follow in his footsteps in that regard—to build modern structures in celebration of Palladio’s own style, based on his principles. Of course there wasn’t the money, although as a boy I didn’t realise that. The Junta imposed such heavy taxes and fines on those who antagonised them, as my grandfather did, that they beggared him. He was left with nothing, and he had to watch Villa Manos falling into disrepair, unable to do anything to halt that process. Keeping it in defiance of the Junta was something of a pyrrhic victory for him. By the time the Junta was deposed there was nothing left for him to sell or mortgage, and certainly no money to educate me to the standard necessary for me to train as an architect. He loved the villa more than he loved any living person.’

Abruptly Ilios stopped speaking, wondering why he had allowed himself to reveal so much about his childhood and his family, telling Lizzie things he have never disclosed before to anyone, much less a woman who had shared his bed.

What was it about her that caused him to react in the way he did? As though she was different—and special? He must not exaggerate the situation, or his own reactions to it, Ilios cautioned himself. It was the fact that Lizzie was knowledgeable about Palladio and his work that had led to him confiding in her the way he had, nothing more.

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