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And who would have imagined that Tino would turn into such a wonderful family man? Lisa mused, pausing to watch him for a moment… or that she would have a wardrobe full of musty suits, and paint-spattered jeans?

And wasn’t this better? Wasn’t this wonderful? And wasn’t the sight of their newest taverna going up to provide training for a whole new group of youngsters the most thrilling deal either of them had ever pulled off?

‘You’re looking very thoughtful,’ Tino observed, hunkering down beside her. It took some skill to keep Lucas balanced on his shoulders when the toddler was intent on hanging upside down.

‘I’m just blessing the fact that our paths crossed at all,’ Lisa admitted wryly. ‘That was some quirk of fate.’

‘Quirk of fate?’ Tino stared at her. ‘Our meeting was no accident, Lisa…’

‘What do you mean?’

Lowering his son to the ground as Elena held out her hand to Lucas to take him out to play, Tino explained, ‘I read about you, then I saw your photograph… and the rest is history.’

‘I suppose you were determined to bring me to heel? You were,’ she accused him fondly. ‘I can see it written all over your face…’

‘Maybe,’ Tino confessed, slanting her a smile.

That was the point… the whole point. They were so similar they could read each other like a book. But it had been more than the challenge that had brought him to the offices of Bond Steel that day… When he had first heard Lisa’s story, something deep inside him had cried out to meet her. With a history such as they shared you needed more than one lifetime to try and explain yourself. With Lisa, he never had to try; she just knew.

He had always wondered, feared, that the past might have left some indelible scar on him, but, although from the earliest days Lisa had tested his control to the limits and beyond, she had helped him prove that he had left the past behind, and that none of the violence had travelled with him.

He only felt complete when she was with him, and now they had children too… a family, the one thing he had always dreamed about when he was a child in the orphanage. And even now, gazing at Lisa, and Elena, and Lucas, he could hardly believe the joy they gave him. The love of a woman was a wonderful thing, but the love of a family was the greatest gift of all.

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