One of the diamond earrings slipped from her fingers. Just in time Ilios put his palm beneath her own and caught it. Caught it, as somehow he had caught her in the net. If he knew he would throw her to one side, like a fisherman throwing back an unwanted catch. Lizzie looked up at him—and then wished she had not.
Not trusting herself to take the earring from him—because that meant touching him—Lizzie held out the jewellery box to him instead.
Exactly what point was she trying to make by refusing to take the earring from him? Ilios questioned as he dropped it into the box. That she was sexually indifferent to him? If so, why should it make him want to take hold of her and kiss her until her mouth softened beneath his and she was pleading with him for more than mere kisses?
Silently Lizzie collected the scattered jewellery boxes and offered them to Ilios.
‘Keep them yourself. You will need to wear them again,’ he told her curtly.
Lizzie shook her head. ‘I’d rather not. As I said before, they are far too valuable, and they should be in a safe.’
It was gone midnight. There was no reason for her to remain here in the living room with him—not when being with him was so very dangerous for her, she reminded herself sternly, just in case she was tempted to linger. Her will-power seemed to have become far too fragile. She had spent the evening pretending that they were intimately close, as lovers, aided in doing so by the two and a half glasses of champagne she had drunk at the gallery. All those bubbles were bound to have an effect on anyone’s system, never mind someone who was quickly discovering how vulnerable she was to the man in front of her.
Her brief, ‘I’ll say goodnight’, merely elicited a brief nod of his head from Ilios. His back was already turned towards her as she opened the door into the corridor.
Maria had obviously been in, Lizzie noted, because the bed was made up immaculately, as though for a new guest.
She went into the dressing room and opened one of the wardrobe doors, intending to undress and hang up her clothes, only the wardrobe was empty. Quickly Lizzie checked the others, and then the drawers. They were empty too. And her case had gone. Along with her toiletries and her toothbrush.
She began to panic. What was going on? She’d have to tell Ilios.
She found him in the living room, standing in front of the glass wall in his suit trousers and his shirt, a glass of wine in his hand. When he turned round as she approached him the shirt pulled across the muscles in his back, causing an aching sensation to slide through her lower body.
‘I can’t find any of my things,’ she told him helplessly. ‘They’ve all disappeared—everything, including my case and even my toothbrush. The maid’s been in, because the bed is made up.’
‘You know?’ Lizzie looked at him uncertainly. What was going on? Had he decided he didn’t like her new clothes after all and sent them back?
‘They’re in my room.’
Ilios shrugged irritably. It had been as much of an unwanted discovery for him to find Lizzie’s things in the master bedroom as it had obviously been for her to discover that they were missing from the guest room. The main source of Ilios’s irritation, though, was his own slipup in not realising that this might happen.
‘Maria obviously took it upon herself to move them. She’ll have heard that we are to marry, and it seems she has decided that since we are probably already sharing a bed, she might as well make life easier for herself by moving our things into my room.’
‘But we aren’t. I mean we can’t.’ Lizzie was aghast. ‘Everything will have to be moved back. I’ll do it myself—tomorrow—when you aren’t here—but you’ll have to tell her.’