Turning to her team, Lisa gazed enquiringly amongst them. There were no objections. ‘Yes, we’re ready.’
The deal was completed in seconds, and handshakes exchanged all round.
‘If you would all like to follow me out onto the veranda,’ Tino announced, ‘we will raise a toast to the future in champagne.’
Lisa waited until the last taxi had pulled away before turning back to the house. Tino had suggested they have supper in the village that evening. She knew she should feel excited about that, and exultant about the deal, but his nightmare still haunted her—and so far there had been no chance to talk to him about it. She fully expected that he would refuse to discuss it, but she had to try—someone had to try to get behind his iron fac¸ade.
The village square was packed with people, but Lisa felt wonderfully safe with Tino’s arm locked around her waist. He steered her towards a raised wooden stage in the centre of the square where a man had just removed the microphone from its stand. Silver haired, and with a magnificent moustache, he clearly commanded respect.
‘Takis Theodopoulus,’ Tino explained, whispering in Lisa’s ear. He is one of the finest folk singers in Greece. When he starts to sing he will explain everything you need to know about Greece and the Greeks.’
‘But I won’t understand him if he sings in Greek.’
‘You’ll understand Takis Theodopoulus.’
It was true, and when the folk singer began he tugged at her heartstrings in a way she’d never known before, and then Lisa noticed how captivated everyone else was—the music was like magic binding them together. Most people were holding white handkerchiefs aloft, and waving them in time to the beat, but then Tino tugged on her hand and she followed him back through the crowd.
‘Now you can see why I love Stellamaris so much,’ he said when they found a quieter spot. ‘Life is good here— everyone expresses themselves so freely.’
When he held her glance Lisa knew they were both thinking the same thing; the past had robbed them of that freedom. ‘Tino, there’s something I really want to ask you about.’
‘Why?’ Lisa dug in, prepared to be stubborn, but then she saw the hunger in his face.
‘Because I can’t wait any longer.’
‘The flower shop?’ She gazed around to make sure they were alone as he dragged her into the doorway. ‘No, Tino… we can’t possibly.’
‘Why not? There’s no one here. Everyone’s in the village square listening to the singing.’ Testing the door and finding it unlocked, he drew her inside.
Lisa inhaled deeply. She could grow dizzy from the scent of flowers alone, and it seemed exaggerated in the darkness… It was as if she were blindfolded and every one of her senses was enhanced… and then Tino was holding her close to him, and murmuring words in his own tongue against her neck.
‘Are you warm enough?’ he murmured, moving against her.
‘Tino, we can’t… not here. This is someone’s business.’
He didn’t tell her that every business on Stellamaris was his until the young owner was confident enough to run it by himself or herself. It wasn’t the time, and there wasn’t the time. He wanted her now with no waiting, and no explanation.
‘Tino, please—I want to speak to you.’
‘Not now.’ He could feel her softening as he ran his fingers lightly down her spine. She had changed into one of the pretty summer dresses he had ordered for her, and she felt cool beneath his hands. She shivered beneath his touch, but not from cold. He glanced out towards the square. The light from a thousand candles told him there wasn’t the slightest chance they would be disturbed… Making a sudden decision, he swung her into his arms. ‘In here.’ He shouldered open another door.
‘I only hope you don’t get splinters,’ he said as he lowered her onto the wooden worktable. He spoke against her mouth, teasing her with his tongue, eager to taste her again.
‘No chance of that,’ Lisa murmured, feeling the cool green leaves give a little beneath her weight. And then her legs were locked around Tino’s waist, and her tiny lace pants tied with ribbon had been removed.