Determinedly Lizzie concentrated on texting the twins, adding a few words for her sister, telling her that she was still involved in discussions about the letter and would be in touch again as soon as she had something concrete to report to them.
‘I take it that your sisters are aware of the purpose of your journey to Greece?’ Ilios asked Lizzie.
‘Yes,’she agreed. ‘They saw your letter.’ The thought of how her sisters would feel if they knew what Ilios had said to her—what he had demanded of her—brought a lump to Lizzie’s throat. They would be dreadfully shocked—and worried too, for their own security.
That thought had her turning impetuously towards Ilios to beg him emotionally, ‘Surely we can come to some kind of sensible arrangement that would enable me to repay you?’
‘What do you mean by “sensible”?’ Ilios asked.
Lizzie shook her head. ‘Perhaps I could work for you as an interior designer?’
‘The constructions in which I am involved are very large-scale commercial projects—schools, offices, corporate buildings, that kind of thing. However…’ Ilios paused, turning to give her an assessing look in the shadowy darkness of his car. ‘There is an alternative means by which you could clear the debt between us.’
Lizzie moistened her suddenly dry lips with the tip of her tongue, before asking in a voice that was slightly hoarse with tension, ‘And that is?’
The Bentley picked up speed as Ilios overtook the car in front of them. The delay in answering her ratcheted up Lizzie’s tension.
It seemed an aeon before he turned towards her, his profile outlined by the moonlight beaming into the car. It was an undeniably handsome and very sensually male profile, Lizzie admitted, but there was a harshness in the downward turn of his mouth, that made her shiver inwardly. She wasn’t sure which she feared the most: the effect of his harshness on her too easily bruised emotions, or the effect of his sensuality on her equally easily aroused senses.
‘Marriage,’ Ilios told her.
‘MARRIAGE?’ Lizzie repeated unsteadily, feeling that she must somehow have misunderstood him.
‘According to my solicitors I am in need of a wife,’ Ilios informed her curtly. ‘And since you claim you cannot repay me in cash, and since I have no appetite for the kind of woman who so easily shares her body with any man who has had the price to pay for it, I have decided that this is best way for me to recoup what I have lost and take payment from you.’
Lizzie felt as though glue had been poured into her brain, locking it together and jamming her ability to think.
The only words she could summon were the words, Ilios Manos, marriage, and danger—all written large in bright red ink.
‘No,’ she told Ilios shakily, before she could do the utterly reckless, dangerous and unthinkable and say yes. Whatever the reason Ilios might want her as a wife, it was absolutely not because he wanted her, and she had better hang on to that fact, Lizzie told herself, not start spinning crazily foolish fantasies and daydreams about Mr Right, Cinderella and happy ever after, filled with nights of sensual delight and days of blissful joy.
A categorical no was not the answer Ilios wanted, and nor was it the answer he had expected. He knew of a dozen women at least who would have been delirious with joy at the thought of becoming his wife, quite apart from the fact that Lizzie Wareham was in no position to dare to refuse him anything. She was certainly not going to be allowed to do so. Didn’t she realise the position she was in? A position in which he held all the aces and she held none. If not, then perhaps it was time he made that position completely clear to her.