And easier for undressing afterwards, Ari thought, accepting her plan of action without argument. It was obvious that she had already showered—no invitation for him to join her—so she was putting an end to their intimacy for a while, which raised questions about how eager she was to continue it. An intriguing combination—hot in bed, cool out of it—another challenge that he had to come to grips with.
She wasn’t won yet.
‘Have a look at the menu on the desk while I shower,’ he said invitingly. ‘See what you’d like for dinner. We can order it in.’
It stopped her stroll towards the balcony. She paused at the desk to pick up the menu and began to study it, not even glancing at him as he rose from the bed and moved towards the bathroom. Was she embarrassed by her body’s response to his love-making? Was she always going to close up on him afterwards? How much was she truly willing to share with him?
Ari mused over these questions while taking a shower. In every one of his relationships with women there had always been mutual desire and mutual liking, at least at the beginning. It had certainly been so with Christina six years ago. In fact, looking back, that had been the only relationship he’d been reluctant to end. Nothing had soured it. Christina had not deceived him in any way, nor done anything to turn him off. The timing had been wrong, nothing else.
He was still sure his reasons for limiting it to his time in Australia were valid, yet his decision then kept coming between them now and he was no longer sure that good sex was the answer to reaching the kind of relationship he wanted with his wife.
Though it still made the marriage viable.
The mutual desire was right.
He just had to work on getting the mutual liking right again.
Having picked up their clothes from the floor and hung them over a chair, Tina took the menu out to the balcony and sat down at the small table for two. She was hungry, having only had a very light lunch, too full of nervous tension to enjoy food. Now that she felt less uptight about spending the night with Ari, a sunset dinner was very appealing.
She studied the list of dishes with interest, thinking this was the first meal she would spend alone with Ari since meeting him again. It was an opportunity to extend her knowledge of his lifestyle, which was an important preparation for being his wife. There was more to marriage than good sex and she wasn’t about to let Ari think that was all he had to give her.
Though it was a very powerful drawcard, completely meddling with Tina’s common sense when he strolled out to the balcony. His white kimono barely reached his knees and left a deep V of gleaming olive-skinned chest, causing her to catch her breath. He was so overwhelmingly male and so vitally handsome, all her female hormones were zinging as though caught in an electrical storm. Chemistry still humming from the sex they’d just shared, Tina told herself, but the desire for more of it could not be denied.
‘Found what you’d like?’ he asked, gesturing towards the menu.
‘Yes.’ She rattled off a starter, a main dish, and sweets, as well.
He grinned approval at her. ‘I’ve worked up an appetite, too. Give me the menu and I’ll call in an order now.’ He nodded at the lowering sun. ‘It will be pleasant to dine as we watch the sunset.’
Both the sky and the sea were already changing colour. Ari tucked the menu under his arm, picked up the half-empty champagne glasses from the balcony wall and returned to the bedroom to make the call. Tina watched the shimmering waves with their shifting shades of light, trying to calm herself enough to conduct a normal conversation without being continually distracted by lustful thoughts.
Ari brought back two clean wine glasses and an ice-bucket containing a bottle of light white wine which he said would go well with their starters. Tina decided she might as well give up her alcohol ban. Wine was part and parcel of Ari’s life and it was more appropriate for his wife to partake of some of it.
He was standing by the balcony wall, opening the bottle of wine when he was hailed from below.
‘Ari … Ari … It is you, isn’t it?’
Tina’s nerves instantly twanged. It was a female voice with a very British accent, like that of the woman who’d been with him in Dubai.
He looked down, his shoulders stiffening as he recognised the person. He raised a hand in acknowledgement but made no vocal reply, quickly turning back to the task of filling their glasses. His mouth had thinned into a line of vexation. His eyes were hooded.
Clearly this was an unwelcome intrusion and Tina felt impelled to ask, ‘Who is it?’ Facing other women who’d been in his life would have to be done sooner or later and it was probably better that she had a taste of it now, know whether or not she could deal with it.
He grimaced. ‘Stephanie Gilchrist. A London socialite.’
‘Not a fond memory?’ she queried archly, pretending it wasn’t important.
His eyes blazed annoyance. ‘An acquaintance. No more. I see she’s here with her current playmate, Hans Vogel, a German model who’s always strutting his stuff. I had no idea they were booked into this hotel.’
Just two people he didn’t want to mix with tonight, Tina thought with considerable relief. She didn’t really want to be faced with a woman who had shared his bed, not when the intimacies they had just shared were so fresh in her mind, not when her body was still reacting to them. This new beginning would not feel so good. Later on, when she felt more confident about being Ari’s partner—when he made her feel more confident—it might not matter at all.
‘Ari!’ Stephanie called more demandingly.
‘Damned nuisance!’ he muttered savagely as he swung around to deal with the problem.
Having regained his attention, Stephanie bluntly asked, ‘What are you doing here? I thought you had a home on Santorini. I’m sure Felicity told me.’
‘This hotel has a better view of the sunset,’ Ari swiftly cut in. ‘Why don’t you and Hans just lie back on your lounges and enjoy it?’
He waved his hand dismissively but Stephanie apparently had some personal axe to grind with him. ‘I’m coming up,’ she announced belligerently.
Ari cursed under his breath. He turned sharply to Tina, his brow creased with concern, the amber eyes glittering with intense urgency. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t stop her. The spiral staircase is open to all guests. I will get rid of her as fast as I can.’
Tina shrugged. ‘I can be polite to one of your acquaintances for a few minutes,’ she said, eyeing him warily, wondering if he had lied to her about the less than intimate connection to this woman.