It fitted her perfectly. It looked and felt as though it had been made for her—as though it had been meant for her.
Emotion choked her voice and stung her eyes. The ring was an age-old symbol of human love and commitment, given to bind a couple together, and suddenly it seemed to possess a significance that touched her far more deeply than she had expected.
‘I wasn’t expecting you back until later. You said you had a lunch engagement.’ How strained and vulnerable she sounded—like someone desperately trying to make polite conversation as a means of covering up the huge, yawning dangerous pit that had suddenly opened up in front of them.
‘The lunch was cancelled.’ He was not going to tell her that he was the one who had done the cancelling.
‘This gallery-opening you said we’d be attending this evening, will it—?’ Lizzie began
‘It will be a high-profile media event—lots of society faces and photographers,’ Ilios interrupted. ‘Lots of gossip and champagne—you know the kind of thing. I have to go. I’ve got a site meeting in half an hour.’
Lizzie just nodded her head.
SHE wasn’t doing this for Ilios, she was doing it for herself—to prove to herself that she had the strength to deal with this latest obstacle in her life the same way in which she had dealt with all the others: that was with courage and fortitude and a determination that those who needed her and depended on her would not find her wanting, Lizzie told herself firmly as she studied her reflection in the guest suite’s dressing room mirror.
Matt black jersey draped her body from her throat to her knees, the dress’s long sleeves ending on her wrists. A discreet sparkle of tiny jet beads in the shape of a flower just below her left shoulder was the dress’s only ornamentation, but the way the fluid Armani dress moved when she moved really said everything about it that needed to be said, Lizzie knew.
Having had the whole afternoon in which to get ready, and having slipped out to buy a selection of glossy fashion magazines so that she could study the social pages, Lizzie could now understand why Ilios had deemed it necessary to replace her existing clothes. Greek women she could see did not believe in cutting corners or making economies about when it came to making a style statement. Designer labels, expensive jewellery, impeccable make-up and enviably glossy hair were, it seemed, de rigueur, and it was something she had decided she could not match without professional help.
As a result, and with Ilios’s warning very much to the forefront of her mind, she had gone back out in search of a hairdresser. Now, thanks to Ilios’s euros and the welcome skill of a Greek hairdresser, her hair was framing her face in a soft ‘up do’ that managed to be both elegant and yet at the same time look softly feminine, with delicate loose tendrils of hair drifting round her temples and down onto her neck, and her nails were immaculately manicured. Lizzie had refused the dark red polish the manicurist had offered—somehow it hadn’t seemed appropriate for a newly engaged woman: far too aggressive and challenging. However, conceding that anyone genuinely newly engaged to Ilios would want the world to know about it by showing off her ring, she had agreed to a muted pink polish, because it matched her favourite lipstick shade.
She looked at her watch. It was not the pretty Cartier her parents had given her when she had obtained her degree—she had passed that on to Ruby when the twins had been born—but a plain, serviceable chainstore watch. Half past six. Ilios should be back soon, and she didn’t want him to have to come knocking on the bedroom door a second time to find her.