When Tino returned he was as good as his word. Leaning over the rail, he carefully lowered the ice-box as close to the sea as the rope would allow. He let it drop the last couple of feet and then sprang onto the side-rail. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you up.’ Crouching down, he reached out to her.
Take his hand? Not in a million years.
‘Have it your way.’ He straightened up, balancing easily on the narrow rail as the boat rocked to and fro.
‘You mean I’ve got to dive in… from up there?’
‘Unless you’d rather go to the stern and climb down the steps.’
‘No. This is fine for me.’ Thrusting her hand into Tino’s, she let him help her up.
‘You’d better take this off before you try to dive in.’
Lisa gasped as he tugged off her wrap. ‘That’s pretty slick. How many times have you done that before?’
‘Do you care?’
‘No, of course not.’
Arcing away from her with a grin, he dived backwards into the sea. Breaking the surface, he shook his hair out of his eyes. ‘It’s your turn now, Lisa. Don’t worry, I’m here to save you.’
‘Why doesn’t that fill me with confidence?’ Lisa muttered. Closing her eyes, she didn’t hesitate. If she had, she would have been forced to trudge to the stern with her tail between her legs to find the steps.
‘That was quite a dive,’ Tino said, steadying her as the waves buffeted them against each other.
‘Well, I could hardly let you get the better of me.’
He had already slipped the rope from the ice-box over his shoulder, she noticed, trying to avoid brushing against him.
‘Are you going to make it to shore all right without me?’
‘I should think I can manage.’ The sooner she left him, the safer she would be!
‘In that case, after you.’ Pulling away a couple of strokes, he gave her room to kick out.
This was not what she had imagined when she’d left home, Lisa realised, striking out for the shore. This was the first deal she had negotiated in an aquamarine sea beneath a blazing hot sun with a man like Tino Zagorakis. All the more reason to keep her wits about her.
‘You’re full of surprises.’
And he did look surprised when she opened the ice-box on the beach. She had just pulled out the sun cream and now her rather squashed hat. ‘I’m not a complete numbskull, you know.’ She rammed the battered hat onto her head. But as she dipped inside again to find the sun cream so did Tino, putting their faces millimetres apart.
‘Would you like me to rub some cream onto your back?’
‘No.’ Her voice was sharper than she intended as she pulled back abruptly. ‘Thank you,’ she managed belatedly.
Why had it never occurred to her that they would land up on a beach together practically naked? She should at least have tied her wrap around her waist. As it was they might as well have been two castaways on their own desert island… And now she was blessed with Tino for the whole day, Tino in his customary mocking mood…
Lisa looked away to distract herself. There was an apron of pristine ivory sand, beyond which the land broke up into scrub with a shading of feathery tamarisk trees, and beneath those some gnarled, and not half so friendly, prickly juniper bushes. Wild flowers were scattered about the sand dunes where they were sitting—pink campions, violet sea- lavender…
‘Do you like it here?’
‘I love it. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen—but then I thought that when I first saw Villa Aphrodite. You’re a very lucky man.’
‘Luck played no part in it.’
Lisa tensed. Tino’s voice had changed. He reminded her of Jack Bond. That was exactly the sort of comment her father would have made.
They ate in silence after that, drinking sharp green wine out of pottery beakers. The olives, soaked in oil, were plump and delicious, and the shopkeeper had included some sweet fat raisins to eat with the crusty bread and goat’s cheese. There was even a drawstring muslin bag containing some sugared almonds for their pudding. They reminded Lisa of other people’s weddings.
‘Almonds and raisins.’ Loosening the string on the muslin pack, Tino tipped some of them into his hand, and then added some raisins to the mix. ‘The bitter and the sweet, just like life.’