‘I don’t think that would be a good idea.’
‘Because the last thing we want is for her to start gossiping that we’re sleeping in separate beds.’
‘But you said our marriage would be…that it wouldn’t be…that we wouldn’t be sharing a bed.’
‘I hadn’t thought things through properly then,’ Ilios was forced to admit.
He was actually admitting that he had got something wrong? Lizzie could scarcely believe it.
‘If you’re concerned about what Maria might say, then why don’t you tell her not to come? I can do her work whilst I’m here,’ she suggested helpfully.
Ilios was already shaking his head.
‘And deprive Maria of her the money she earns? No. Maria’s family are dependent on her wages, and Maria enjoys a certain status in her community because she works for me. It wouldn’t be right or fair to deprive her of those things.’
Lizzie had to gulp back the chagrin she felt at being reproved by Ilios for her lack of awareness of the needs of others—chagrin that was all the more intense because previously she had seen the one to point out that lack of awareness to him.
‘But I don’t want to share a…a bed,’ she protested. How ridiculous that she had to struggle to force herself to say the word bed. She, an interior designer, who in the course of her work was perfectly familiar with those three small letters. Familiar with the letters, but not familiar at all with the way the word bed made her feel when she was in the presence of Ilios Manos.
‘Do you think I do?’ Ilios challenged her, immediately making her feel humiliated. ‘We don’t have any choice. Fortunately it is a very large bed,’ he told her grimly.
She should, of course, be delighted and relieved that her presence in his bed was so unwelcome, Lizzie told herself. She wanted and needed him not to want her—if only to protect her from her own feelings after all. But instead she was filled with an explosive mix of emotions and sensations—heady excitement, tingling suspense, an irrational and rebellious aching longing that defied all her attempts to subdue it, and that was only the start of it. She could have written a list a metre long of all the effects Ilios was having on her as a woman.
She wasn’t immature or unread; she knew that it was perfectly possible for a human being to experience sexual desire without necessarily being in love with the person they desired. However, she had never somehow expected to be one of those human beings who did feel like that. She had assumed that only those women with a high sex drive were likely to have their hormones drooling with longing for a man to whom they had no intention of becoming emotionally attached. But now, of course, she knew better. Much, much better. And what she knew told her very definitely that she could not risk sharing a bed with Ilios. Not under any circumstances. Of course she could and would attempt to control her feelings, but what if she failed? What if she was tempted to—? But, no—she must not, under any circumstances, allow those tormenting images she had viewed before to slip into her head.
It was a large bed, Ilios had said. But far from tamping down the fire running riot inside her, his words had only fed it. A large bed meant more space in which to enjoy the sensuality of all the delights the human body could provide.
Lizzie could feel the prickle of the nervous sweat breaking out on her skin. This couldn’t go on. If it did she might well end up doing something she would not only regret but which would cause her humiliation and shame. She felt sick with anxiety. She could not share a bed with him. She simply didn’t trust herself to be able to do so without giving in to temptation. Even if by some miracle she could control herself whilst she was awake, who knew what might happen whilst she was asleep? It was horribly easy for her to imagine herself moving closer to him, seeking his body in her sleep, wanting him, and then waking to find herself touching him.