And she hated him saying it felt good to see her again when it made her feel so bad. He had no idea of what he’d done to her and she hated him for that, too. She wanted to smack that smile off his face, wanted to smack him down for having the arrogance to even approach her again with his smarmy charm, but the more dignified course, the safer course was simply to dismiss him.
‘I’m a different person now to the one you knew,’ she said oddly. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’m with my mother who’ll be waiting for me to catch up with her.’
Her feet obeyed the command to side-step, get moving To her intense frustration, Ari shot out a hand, clutching her arm, halting a swift escape from him. She glared at him, resentment burning deep from the touch of his fingers on her skin, from the power he still had to affect her physically. He was so close she could smell the cologne he used. It made her head swim with memories she didn’t want to have.
The amber eyes quizzed hers, as though he didn’t understand her cutting him off so abruptly. He wanted to know more. Never mind what she wanted.
‘Your mother. And the boy …’ he said slowly, obviously considering her family group and what it might mean. ‘You’re married now? He is your son?’
Tina seethed. That, of course, would be so nice and neat, dismissing the intimacy they had shared as nothing important in her life, just as it hadn’t been important to him.
She should say yes, have done with it. Let him think she was married and there was no possible place for him in her life. He would shut the door on his charming episode with her and let her go. She would be free of him forever.
Do it, do it! her mind screamed.
But her heart was being ripped apart by a violent tumult of emotions.
Another voice in her head was yelling smack him with the truth!
This man was Theo’s father. She could not bring herself to palm his fatherhood off on anyone else. He ought to be faced with it. A savage recklessness streaked through her, obliterating any caring over what might happen next.
‘I’m not married,’ she slung at him. ‘And yes, Theo is my son.’ He frowned.
Single motherhood did not sit so well with him. She was free but not free, tied to a child.
No ties for Ari Zavros.
That thought enraged Tina further. She fired bitter truth straight at him.
‘He’s also your son.’
It stunned him.
Totally stunned him.
No seductive smile.
No twinkly interest.
With a sense of fiercely primitive satisfaction, Tina got her feet moving and strode past him, heading for the elevator where she hoped her mother and Theo would be waiting for her. She didn’t think Ari would follow her. Not only had she cut his feet out from under him, but he was with another woman and it was highly unlikely that he’d want to face her with the complication of an illegitimate son.
Though a fast getaway from this hotel was definitely needed. No loitering in the lobby. She’d tell her mother she didn’t feel well—too much rich food. It was true enough anyway. Her stomach was churning and she felt like throwing up.
She shouldn’t have told Ari he was Theo’s father. She hadn’t counted on how much he could still get to her—his eyes, his touch, the whole insidious charisma of his close presence. Hopefully telling his wouldn’t make any difference. For a start, he wouldn’t want to believe her. Men like him usually denied paternity claims. Not that she would ever make any official claim on him. All the same, it had been stupid of her to throw the truth in his face and give herself this panic attack, stupid and reckless to have opened a door for him into her life again when she wanted him out, out, out!
Please, God, let him not follow up on it.
Let him shrug it off as a put-down line.
Let him just go on with his life and leave her alone to go on with hers.
That boy … his son? His son?
Ari snapped out of the wave of shock rolling through his mind, swung on his heel, and stared after the woman who had just declared herself the mother of his child. Christina Savalas wasn’t waiting around to capitalise on her claim. Having delivered her bombshell she was fast making an exit from any fall-out.
Was it true?
He quickly calculated precisely when he had been in Australia. It was six years ago. The boy’s age would approximately fit that time-frame. He needed to know the actual birth date to be sure if it was possible. That could be checked. The name was Theo. Theo Savalas. Who looked very like himself as a child!
A chill ran down Ari’s spine. If Theo was his, it meant he had left Christina pregnant, abandoned a pregnant woman, left her to bring up his child alone. But how could that happen when he was always careful to sheath himself against such a consequence? Not once had he ever failed to use protection. Had there been a slip-up with her, one that he didn’t remember?
He did remember she’d been an innocent. Unexpectedly and delightfully so. He hadn’t felt guilty about taking her virginity. Desire had been mutual and he’d given her pleasure—a good start to her sexual life, which he’d reasoned would become quite active as time went by. Any man would see her as desirable and it was only natural that she would be attracted to some of them.
But if he had left her pregnant … That would have messed up her career, messed up her life—reason enough for those extremely expressive dark eyes of hers to shoot black bolts of hatred and contempt at him with her punishing exit line.
Impossible to ignore what she’d said. He had to check it out. If the boy was his son … Why hadn’t Christina told him about his existence before this? Why go it alone all these years? Why hit him with it now? There was a hell of a lot of questions to be considered.
His teeth automatically gritted. He hated that whiny tone in Felicity’s voice.
‘What are you standing there for? She’s gone.’
Gone but not forgotten.
‘I was remembering my time in Australia, which was where I’d met Christina,’ he said, forcing himself to return to his chair and be reasonably civil to the woman he had invited to be his companion.
‘What were you doing in Australia?’
‘Checking out the wine industry there. Seeing if any improvements could be made to the Santorini operation.’
‘Was this Christina connected to the wine industry?’
The tone had changed to a snipe.
He shrugged. ‘Not really. She was part of an advertising drive for the Jacob’s Creek label.’