‘You—you can’t mean that!’ she protested. But even as she protested, something fierce and elemental was flaring up inside her—a desire, an excitement, a wild surge of female longing that shook her body with its force and shamed her pride with what it said about her. She couldn’t want him—and most especially she could not want him under circumstances that should have been making her recoil with revulsion.
‘I do mean it,’ Ilios assured her.
‘I can’t believe that anyone could be so…cruel and inhuman, so lacking in compassion or understanding.’
The sudden explosion of sound from Lizzie’s mobile phone, announcing the arrival of a text message, momentarily distracted them both.
Watching the way Lizzie reached frantically for her mobile to read it, Ilios gave her a look of cold contempt.
‘You are obviously eager to read your lover’s message, but—’
‘It’s from my sisters,’ Lizzie interrupted him abstractedly, without lifting her gaze from the small screen. ‘Wanting to know if everything is all right.’
‘And you, of course, are going to reply and tell them all about the my so called cruelty and inhumanity.’
‘No,’ Lizzie told him. ‘If I did they’d worry about me, and that’s the last thing I want. I’m the eldest. It’s my job to look after them and protect them. Not the other way around.’
Ilios digested her response in silence. An eldest sister determined to protect her younger siblings wasn’t the way he wanted to think about this woman.
‘The light’s fading,’ he told her, gesturing towards the horizon where the winter sun, half obscured by clouds, was starting to dip below the horizon. ‘Soon it will be dark. I have to return to Thessaloniki. We can continue our discussion there.’
Over her dead body, Lizzie thought rebelliously, suddenly seeing an opportunity to put some much needed distance between them. She hated the thought of running away instead of staying to fight and prove her innocence, but with a man like this one, hell-bent on extracting payment from her—in kind if he could not have cash—the normal rules of engagement didn’t seem the best course of action.
‘Very well,’ she agreed, reaching for her mobile again.
‘What are you doing?’ Ilios demanded.
‘Telephoning for a taxi,’ Lizzie answered.
Ilios shook his head. ‘There’s no point. You won’t get one to come all the way out here—and anyway it isn’t necessary. You can travel back with me.’
‘No! I mean, no, thank you. I prefer to make my own arrangements,’ Lizzie insisted, whilst her heartbeat raced in panicky dread in case he guessed that the reason she was so reluctant to travel with him was not that she was afraid of the intimacy between them it would entail, but that she was afraid a part of her might actually welcome that intimacy.
‘You can drop the prim stance,’ Ilios told her. ‘I can assure you that I have no intention of using my car as a makeshift brothel—and besides, the amount you owe me would require far more in repayment than a single fumble in the back of a car.’
As he finished speaking Ilios reached for Lizzie’s trolley case, his swift possession of it leaving her with no option other than to nod her head in unwilling acceptance of his offer.
‘This way,’ Ilios commanded.
He had walked over the headland from Villa Manos, and it would be easier to walk back there rather than him leaving Lizzie here whilst he went for the car. And besides, he didn’t trust her not to try to cheat him a second time by attempting to leave without paying her debt.
The path was narrow and single track, climbing over the headland, and Ilios was making it plain that he expected her to go first, Lizzie could see. In normal circumstances she would have enjoyed such a walk, in the crisp early evening air, and even as it was when she reached the top of the incline she couldn’t help being tempted to take a few steps off the path towards the edge of the headland, drawn there by the magnificence of the scenery.