Ilios watched as the wind buffeted Lizzie, whipping her hair into a tangled blonde skein, and then he realised what she was doing.
Lizzie had only gone a few feet when she heard Ilios commanding, from behind her, ‘Don’t move. Stay where you are.’
It was too much to be denied such a small pleasure on top of everything else, so Lizzie ignored him, determined to defy him and have her moment of small rebellion and triumph even though she had been forced to give in to him on the bigger issues.
When Lizzie ignored him and continued to head for the edge of the promontory, Ilios let go of her case and raced after her.
Too late, Lizzie learned the reason for Ilios’s command. The ground was shifting beneath her feet, moving. The edge of the headland was falling away—and she was going to fall with it. She was falling, in fact—but not, Lizzie recognised with relief, into the sea with the rock and earth. Instead she fell onto hard, firm ground, clear of the headland, wrapped in Ilios Manos’s arms as he grabbed her in a flying tackle, dragging her backwards with a speed and force that sent them both falling to the ground. He had saved her life.
‘Are you crazy? What the hell were you trying to do?’
‘Not throw myself off the cliff, if that’s what you thought,’ Lizzie answered. ‘Apart from anything else, I haven’t got any life insurance. So there wouldn’t be any point in trying to kill myself.’
‘So you weren’t planning some dramatic gesture, claiming you’d rather have death before dishonour?’ he taunted her. ‘That’s just as well, because you’d have been wasting your time since you have already dishonoured yourself with your debt to me.’
‘I wasn’t trying to do anything other than look at the view.’ Lizzie defended herself. ‘I didn’t know it was dangerous. There aren’t any warning signs.’
‘There don’t need to be any. It’s private property, exclusively mine, for my own use and pleasure.’
Lizzie was still in his arms, with the weight of his body pinning her to the ground. She should try to move, she knew, but those words he had used—private property…exclusively mine…for my own use and pleasure—had set off a trail of lateral thinking inside her head. Applied to herself, in the context of his insistence on her repayment of the debt she owed him, they were now conjuring up the kind of sensual scenarios that turned her body weak with a reckless longing and filled her with excitement and apprehension.
She wasn’t used to feeling like this about any man. She didn’t want to feel this way about any man—especially not Ilios Manos, who would, she felt sure, take her desire for him and use it against her to punish her. Wanting a man she barely knew wasn’t something she had ever imagined would happen to her—her whole way of life, her entire way of thinking, was diametrically opposed to such a possibility. Not for her own protection, but for the protection of her family. To have such feelings now alarmed and terrified her. Lizzie desperately wanted to ignore what she felt, to deny it completely if she could. But it wouldn’t let her. It was too strong for her, too determined to make its need felt.
Her heart was thudding under his hand, Ilios recognized, like the beat of the wings of a trapped bird, frantic for its freedom. But, like this land and everything on it, she was his by rights so ancient they were imprinted on every cell of his body. She was his. He was still holding on to her, and against the palm of his hand he could feel the soft, warm swell of her breast, more rounded and fuller than her slenderness had suggested.
Automatically, of its own accord, as though divorced from his thoughts and answerable only to its own need, his palm curved closer to her flesh, the pad of his thumb-tip moving experimentally over a nipple soft at first, but rising immediately to his touch. He cupped her breast fully, stroking her nipple, and his other hand tightened its hold to draw her closer. His body moved so that he could thrust one thigh between the jean-clad flesh of hers.