He lunched with his parents who were eager for another visit with their grandson. ‘Tomorrow,’ Ari promised them. ‘I’ll bring Christina and Theo and Helen back here tomorrow to sort out what is to be done.’
He had to stop them leaving Santorini on schedule. Even if Christina rejected his offer of marriage, she had to see reason about discussing future arrangements for their son. If she accepted his proposal, they would have a wedding to plan. More than a wedding. There would be many decisions to be made on setting up a life together—tying up ends in Australia, where best to make their home.
Ari was tense with determination as he drove to the El Greco resort. He told himself the meeting with Theo was relatively uncomplicated. There was no need to be uptight about his son’s response. He had wished for a Papa. Revealing who that Papa was would certainly be a pleasure. What happened afterwards with Christina was the critical time. He fiercely hoped that was going to be a pleasure, too. If it wasn’t … He instantly clicked his mind off any negative train of thought. This had to work.
Tina and her mother and Theo were sitting at one of the snack bar tables having afternoon tea when Ari arrived. He came striding down the ramp to the pool patio, a hard purposeful expression on his face, and headed straight towards where their rooms were located.
‘We’re here!’ Tina called out, rising from her chair to catch his attention, her heartbeat instantly accelerating at what his arrival meant for both her and Theo.
His head jerked around and his expression immediately lightened on seeing them. Theo jumped off his chair and ran to meet him. Ari scooped him up in his arms and perched him against his shoulder, smiling broadly at his son’s eagerness to welcome him.
‘I finished the train station. You must come and see it, Ari,’ Theo prattled happily.
‘As soon as I say hello to your mother and grandmother,’ he promised.
He shot a sharp look of enquiry at Tina as he approached their table. She nodded, assuring him her mother had been told. He smiled at both of them but the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. It made Tina wonder how tense he was over the situation. Marriage was a big step and it might not be the best course for them to take. Was he having second thoughts about his proposal?
He addressed her mother directly, speaking in a quiet tone that carried an impressive intensity of purpose. ‘Helen, I want you to know I will look after your daughter with much more care than I did in the past. Please trust me on that.’
‘Tina and Theo are very precious to me, Ari,’ her mother answered. ‘I hope your caring will be as deep as mine.’
He nodded and turned his gaze to Tina. ‘Theo wants me to see his train station.’
‘I’ll take you to our room. He did a great job putting all the Lego together.’ She smiled at her son. ‘It was very tricky, wasn’t it, darling?’
‘Very tricky,’ he echoed, then grinned triumphantly at Ari. ‘But I did it!’
‘I knew you were a clever boy,’ he warmly approved.
‘Will you wait here, Mama?’ Tina asked.
‘Yes, dear. Go on now.’
Theo was full of questions about Ari’s nephews whom he’d spent most of his time with at the wedding reception. Tina didn’t have to say anything on their walk to her room. She was acutely conscious of the easy bond Ari had already established with their son and felt fairly sure there would be no trauma attached to revealing the truth. If she made it like a fairy-tale to Theo, he might accept it unquestioningly. On the other hand, there could be a host of questions both of them would have to answer.
Her chest ached with tension as she opened the door to her room and stood aside for Ari to carry Theo inside. He paused a moment, giving her a burning look of command as he said, ‘I’ll tell him.’
She felt an instant wave of resentment at his arbitrary taking over from her, yet it did relieve her of the responsibility of explaining the situation to Theo. Let him get it right for their son, she thought, closing the door behind them, then parking herself on the chair at the writing desk while Ari duly admired the Lego train station.
‘Does your Mama tell you bed-time stories, Theo?’ he asked, sitting down on the bed beside the fully constructed station.
‘Yes. She points to the words in the book and I can read some of them now,’ he answered proudly.
‘I think you must be very quick at learning things. If I tell you a story, I wonder if you could guess the ending,’ Ari said with a teasing smile.
‘Tell me! Tell me!’ Theo cried eagerly, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of Ari, his little body bent forward attentively.
Ari bent forwards, too, his forearms resting on his knees, his gaze locked on the amber eyes shining up at him. ‘Once upon a time a prince from a faraway country travelled to a land on the other side of the world.’
Tina was totally stunned that Ari had chosen to use a fairy story to convey the truth, yet how much of the truth would he tell? The tension inside her screwed up several notches.
‘There he met a beautiful princess and she was like no one else he’d ever met. He wanted to be with her all the time and she wanted to be with him so they were together while he was in her country. But eventually he had to leave to carry out business for his kingdom back home. It hurt the princess very much when he said goodbye to her and when she found out that she was going to have a baby she decided not to send any message to the prince about it. She didn’t want him to come back, then leave her again because it would hurt too much. So she kept the baby a secret from him.’
‘Was the baby a boy or a girl?’ Theo asked.
‘It was a boy. And he was very much loved by her family. This made the princess think he didn’t need a Papa because he already had enough people to love him. She didn’t know that the boy secretly wished for a Papa.’
‘Like me,’ Theo popped in. ‘But I didn’t wish for one until I went to school. It was because my friends there have fathers.’
‘It is only natural for you to want one,’ Ari assured him.
‘Does the boy in the story get his?’
‘Let me tell you how it happened. After a few years the sister of the princess was to marry a man who came from the same country as the prince, so her family had to travel halfway around the world to attend the wedding. The princess didn’t know that this man was a cousin of the prince and she would meet him again. It was a shock to her when she did, and when the prince saw her son, he knew the boy was his son, too. They had the same eyes.’