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"You can ask me anything," replied Adam.

"Did you marry me, because you felt sorry for me?"

The question stunned Adam into silence. Still waiting for her answer, Charlie turned her tear streaked face toward him.

"What gave you that idea?" he breathed soberly.

"Did you?" pressed Charlie.

"Of course not!" Adam nearly rebuked her for asking such a question.

His massaging had suddenly stopped, but Charlie could still feel the warmth of his fingers on her back. "Do I take advantage of you?" she questioned.

At this, Adam completely froze. "Shirley's been talking to you." The silence that ensued, confirmed Adam's suspicions. He jumped to his feet and stormed from the garden, while Charlie tried in vain to call him back.

In the courtyard, Shirley was waiting with everyone else by the kitchen. She looked up in surprise to see her brother coming straight towards her.

"Is Charlie all right?" inquired Shirley.

Adam stopped a few feet from his little sister and stared at her disbelievingly.

Charlie came running after him, and tugged at his shirt sleeve. "Adam, please," she begged, "don't do this! It's my fault, not hers!"

Pulling his arm free from Charlie, Adam glared at Shirley. "You've gone too far this time," he told her through gritted teeth. "It's one thing for you to come to me with your concerns, but when you start making Charlie question my love for her..." Adam caught his breath and let out an anguished cry. "Charlie actually wanted to know if she took advantage of me!"

When Shirley's jaw muscles began to work, Adam knew for certain that she had been the one to plant the question in Charlie's heart.

"Adam," Charlie softly pleaded, "I'm the one you should be angry with."

"I refuse to listen, Charlie," warned Adam, as the rest of the party stood frozen to where they stood. "It's Shirley speaking-- not you."

"But, she's right," Charlie struggled not to cry. "I take advantage of you. I talked you into so many things, and you only did it to make me happy!"

"Are you hearing this?" Adam angrily asked his sister.

Shirley finally defended herself. "You never would have bought Villa Rosa, unless she had talked you into it."

"SHE'S MY WIFE!" bellowed Adam, his voice loudly echoing throughout the courtyard. He was too angry to say another word.

When Charlie began to cry, Adam took her in his arms. He did it right in front of Shirley and the others. From over Charlie's shoulder, Adam gave Shirley a piercing stare.
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