‘Leave you?’ she echoed incredulously. ‘I’ve always been afraid of you leaving me.’
‘Never! Never! And after this, let me tell you, I’m going to be nervous about letting you out of my sight.’
She gave him a rueful little smile. ‘That’s how I felt … nervous when you were away from me. Women always look at you, Ari.’
‘They don’t make me feel what I do for you, Christina. You’re my woman, the best in the world. Believe me.’
Tina wanted to. Somehow it was too much … waking up from the dreadful nightmare of loss and being handed a lovely dream. She lifted her free hand to rub her forehead, get her mind absolutely clear. ‘My hair! It’s gone!’
‘It’s growing back,’ Ari instantly assured her. ‘They had to shave it for the operation.’
Tears spurted into her eyes as she gingerly felt the ultra-short mat of hair covering her scalp. Ari had liked it long so she had let it grow after their wedding. She remembered taking the taxi to the hairdressing salon …
‘She’s fine. Minor injuries. She was only in hospital for one day. Everything’s fine, Christina. Nothing for you to worry about.’ ‘Who is looking after the children?’
‘The housekeeper, the nanny for Maria, your mother, my mother, my sisters, your aunts … our home is like a railway station for relatives wanting to help.’
The sudden rush of fear receded, replaced by a weird feeling of jealousy that a nanny was replacing her for Maria. ‘I need to go home, Ari,’ she pleaded.
‘As soon as the doctors permit it,’ he promised.
‘I need to see my children.’
He squeezed her hand. ‘You rest quietly now and I’ll go and get them, bring them here for you to see. Okay?’ ‘Yes.’
He rose from the chair beside her bed and gently kissed her forehead. ‘Your hair doesn’t matter, Christina,’ he murmured. ‘Only you getting well again matters.’
The deep caring in his voice washed through her, soothing the tumult of emotions that had erupted. Everything was all right. Ari always made perfect arrangements. And he’d said he loved her.
She didn’t rest quietly. No sooner had Ari gone than doctors came, asking questions, taking her blood pressure, checking tubes and wires, removing some of them. She had questions for them, too. By the time they left she knew precisely what she had been through and how devoted her husband had been, visiting her every day, doing his best to console her whenever she’d shared her nightmare with him.
The doctors had no doubt that Ari loved her.
Tina started to believe it.
Theo came running into the hospital room, his face lighting up with joy at seeing her awake and smiling for him. ‘Mama! Mama! Can I hug you?’
She laughed and made room on the bed for him to climb up beside her. ‘I want to hug you, too.’ Her beautiful little son. Hers and Ari’s. It was wonderful to cuddle him again.
‘And here is my sister,’ he declared proudly as Ari carried their baby into the room, grinning delightedly at the two of them together.
Theo quickly shuffled aside to let Ari lay the baby in her arms. Tina felt a huge welling of love as her gaze roved over her daughter, taking in the amazing perfection of her.
‘Maria’s got more hair than you, Mama,’ Theo said, and she could laugh about it, no longer caring about the loss of her long, glossy locks.
‘She has your mother’s hair, and her eyes and her mouth,’ Ari said, as though he was totally besotted by the likeness to her.
Tina couldn’t help smiling at him. He smiled back and the words simply spilled out of the fullness of her heart. ‘I love you, too, Ari.’
His eyes glowed a warm gold. He leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. ‘I will thank God forever that you’ve come back to us, Christina,’ he murmured against her lips, leaving them warm and tingling, making her feel brilliantly alive.
A new life, she thought. Not only for the baby in her arms, but for her and Ari and Theo, too.
A family bonded in love.
It was what her father had wanted for her. No more disappointment. She had it all.
It was summer on Santorini again and both families had gathered in force to attend Maria’s christening. The same church, the same reception centre, but for Tina, this was a much happier occasion than her wedding. Although Ari’s family had welcomed her into it before, she really felt a part of it now, and she also felt much closer to her own family, no longer having the sense of being an outsider who had broken the rules.
It was a truly joyous celebration of life and love. The sun shone. There were no shadows between her and Ari. She saw desire for her simmering in his eyes all day and her own desire for him was zinging through her blood. No sooner was the party over and the children finally asleep in their part of the Zavros villa, than they headed off to their own bedroom, eager to make love. But before they did, there was one thing Tina wanted to do.
She’d put the prenuptial agreement in the top drawer of the bedside table and she went straight to it, took it out and handed it to Ari. ‘I want you to tear this up.’
He frowned. ‘I don’t mind you having it, Christina. I want you to feel secure.’
‘No. It’s wrong. It’s part of a bad time that’s gone, Ari. If you were asking me to marry you now, I wouldn’t insist on a prenuptial agreement. I trust you. I believe what we have is forever. It is, isn’t it?’
He smiled. ‘Yes, it is.’
He tore it up.
She smiled and opened her arms to him, opened her heart to him. ‘I love you. I love our family. We’re going to have a brilliant life together, aren’t we?’
He laughed, lifted her off her feet, twirled her around and dumped her on the bed, falling on top of her, although levering his weight up on his elbows as he grinned down at her. ‘Brilliant and beautiful and bountiful, because I have you, my love.’
She reached up and touched his cheek, her eyes shining with all he made her feel.
‘And I have you.’