She drew in a shuddering breath of despair. ‘I really don’t think that we should share a bed,’ she told Ilios carefully.
She could see immediately that he didn’t like what she was saying.
‘Why not?’ Ilios demanded. Had she somehow guessed that she aroused him, despite his determination not to admit that even to himself? Did she think that she was so desirable, so irresistible, and he so weak that he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from turning that arousal into something more intimate?
‘I just don’t think that it would be a good idea,’ Lizzie responded, wishing desperately that he would stop pressing her.
‘Because you dare to imagine that I might desire you?’ Ilios accused her. ‘Despite what I have already said about there being no intimacy between us?’
‘No,’ Lizzie denied immediately. ‘It isn’t that.’
‘Then what is it?’
‘I’m afraid I can’t say.’
‘And I am afraid that you are going to have to—or take the consequences,’ Ilios warned her quietly.
Lizzie exhaled very slowly. What he meant was that she was going to have to share his bed unless she came up with a cast-iron reason why she should not do. Her reason might be solid, but her courage certainly wasn’t. Of all the unwanted situations she could have had to face, this had to be the worst of them. She was now in a position where she had to defend herself from her own desire for a man who didn’t want her by revealing that desire to him. It was her only means of protecting herself from it.
She had never felt more vulnerable or self-conscious, but the truth was that she needed Ilios’s help to stop her from making her situation even worse. Once he was aware how she felt, she knew he would take all the steps necessary to ensure temptation was removed out of her way. Desperate situations called for desperate measures, and there was surely no more desperate measure than the one she was going to have to take now. Rather like firefighters tackling a fire that threatened to destroy everything in its path, she was going to have to create a fire-break by deliberately destroying part of her own defences in the hope that doing so would ultimately protect her from herself.
‘It isn’t your desire that worries me,’ she told him truthfully, deliberately emphasising the word ‘your’.
LIZZIE’S admission was so unexpected, so breathtakingly straightforward and honest, that it took several seconds for Ilios to accept exactly what she had said.
He looked at her, watching the way the colour came and went in her face, seeing the bruised look of misery that shadowed her eyes, and something came to life inside him that he didn’t recognise.
Why didn’t he say something—anything? Lizzie thought anxiously, even if it was just to reject her.
However, when he did speak it was slowly, spacing out the words.
‘Are you trying to tell me that you don’t want to share my bed because you want me?’ he asked in disbelief.
Lizzie’s throat had gone so tight that it ached with her tension.
‘Yes. That is, I think I do. I’m not used to feeling…that is to wanting…I’ve never actually lusted after anyone before,’ she admitted, red-faced.
Now Lizzie could see that she had shocked him.
‘I’m sorry!’ she apologised. ‘I didn’t want it to happen, but now you can see, can’t you, how difficult it would be? I’ve really tried not to…to think about it, but sometimes it just sort of overwhelms me. I’m afraid that if we were to share a bed, then…Well, what I mean is I know that you don’t want anything to happen between us. I didn’t want to have to say anything.’