It was all too much for her to take in, Lizzie admitted numbly. Physical and emotional exhaustion claimed her as the miles flew by, and her eyes ached to be closed just as her mind ached for the panacea of sleep, so that it could escape for a little while from the daunting prospect ahead of her. If it was cowardly to allow herself to find that escape in sleep, then she would just have to be a coward, Lizzie told herself, and she allowed her eyes to close.
He had got what he wanted, so why wasn’t he feeling a greater sense of triumph? Ilios wondered. Why wasn’t he filled with a sense of righteous satisfaction in having forced Lizzie to make reparation? He had the right and the justification for feeling both of those things, after all.
Some sense he hadn’t known he possessed alerted him to the fact that Lizzie had fallen asleep again. He glanced at her. At least she would make a convincing wife—which, of course, was exactly why he had hit on this method of making her pay what she owed him. It was a perfectly logical and sensible decision for him to have made, and one which would leave him with the balance sheet of his pride healthily in credit. That was why he had been able to offer her the additional inducement of a cash payment. There was no other reason. No question of him actually having felt some sort of ridiculous compassion for the plight of her family. He simply wasn’t that kind of man and never would be. If Lizzie Wareham was the victim of circumstance rather than her own greed, as she insisted to him she was, then what was that to him? Nothing.
He had no duty to take the woes of others onto his own shoulders. His duty was solely to himself alone. Because there was only himself. Alone. That was what he was—alone. And that was the way he preferred it, and it always would be.
Ilios put his foot down on the accelerator. His need to focus on the increased speed with which he was driving might be giving him an excuse not to focus on the woman sleeping at his side, but it was not an excuse he needed, he assured himself. Nor was it anything to do with him if the angle at which she was sleeping was likely to give her a stiff neck. But his foot was covering the brake in the minute gap between him recognising her discomfort and refuting his need to become involved in it.
Some instinct told Lizzie that something had changed and that she needed to wake up. A scent—alien and pulse-quickening, and yet also familiar and desired—caught at her senses, like the warmth of the heat from another body close to her own, the touch of a hand on her skin. Slowly Lizzie opened her eyes, her heart banging into her chest wall as she realised that she was practically lying flat in the front seat of the Bentley, with Ilios leaning over her. The soft light illuminated the interior of the car, and with it the carved perfection of his features.
Inside her head a tape played, trapping her when she was too vulnerable to stop it, tormenting her with images of herself reaching up to touch his face with her fingertips, exploring its chiselled features. Surely it should be impossible for a real live man to have such classically perfect male features?
She wanted to touch him, to run her fingertips over his face as though he were indeed a marvellous sculpture, created by hands so skilled that one could not help but yearn to touch the masterpiece they had created.
She could almost feel the hard-cut shape of his mouth—the lower lip full and sensual, the groove from the centre of his top lip to his nose clearly marked. A sign of great sensuality, so she had once read. His skin would feel warm and dry, and as she explored the pattern of his lips he would reach out and take hold of her wrist, kissing her fingers.
Frantically Lizzie struggled to sit upright, panicked by Ilios’s proximity and the unwanted images inside her head to which it was giving rise.