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     “My name is Rob Grey,” he offered to ease the tension.
     “How impolite of me!” she exclaimed. She shook her head as if scolding herself. “I have been so worried about this horrible mistake, I have forgotten all my manners.” She held out her hand and shook his. “My name is Lucrezia Adrea Vicentino. My family has lived in Venice for over four hundred years, and I must once more apologize on their behalf. We will see that you get the very best care. Where are you from Mr. Grey?” She rested her hands in her lap and stared at him with such intensity, he became mesmerized by her pitch-dark eyes.
     “Please, call me Rob. I’m from the U.S. California to be exact. But my family has lived there for less than fifty years.” Her face lit up at his simple joke, and he laughed despite the pain.
     “You have a nice humor, Rob Grey. I like that. Are you here with your family?”
     Lucrezia’s unexpected question unsettled him. His answer depended on what time period they were discussing. How could he explain it to her? Lucrezia observed his hesitation. 
     “I am sorry if my question is too . . . nosy I think is the word?” Her eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth at the irony of her words. “Forgive me, I did not mean to be impolite.”
     Robert removed the handkerchief from his nose with a chuckle. “It’s okay. To answer your question, I was with someone when I arrived, but not now. And you can talk to me in Italian, if you wish. I seem to understand your language. I just can’t speak it.”
     “I’m sorry you’re alone.” Lucrezia said quickly in Italian. She was obviously more comfortable in her own language. “It’s sad, I think, to be alone in Venice. Even though I have lived here my entire life, I still find my city captivating. Of course, I would be happier if there were fewer tourists, but that is the price we pay for such an enchanting city, don’t you think?” She glanced up as they approached a mooring. “Well, here we are.”
     Lucrezia gestured towards one of the picturesque, Byzantine-styled buildings lining the Grand Canal. Antonio promptly slipped the launch between a pair of navy-blue poles marked with twin, gold crests. The family crest, Robert wondered?