‘Forgive us for speaking in Greek, agapi mou,’ he told her. ‘We were just discussing some business. But now, Nikos, I am impatient to take my beautiful wife for a celebratory lunch.’
The notary had soon gone, and Ilios was handing her back into his car.
Lizzie had assumed that Ilios would take her straight back to the apartment, and leave her to go on to his office, but instead he parked the car in a convenient space outside an elegant-looking restaurant.
‘I didn’t think you were serious about us celebrating,’ Lizzie told him.
‘I wasn’t—but we do have to eat,’ he pointed out dismissively, before getting out of the car and coming round to her door to open it for her.
They might not be publicly celebrating their marriage, but the keen-eyed restaurant owner who had greeted Ilios so warmly on their arrival must have noticed something—her new wedding ring, perhaps? Lizzie acknowledged. Her heart sank as he approached their table now, with a beaming smile and champagne. Of course she couldn’t possibly offend him by refusing to accept his kindness, but even so she couldn’t help glancing at Ilios as their glasses were filled with the sparkling liquid.
She wished that she hadn’t when he lifted his glass towards her own and said softly, and very meaningfully, ‘To us.’
‘To us,’ Lizzie echoed weakly, quickly sipping her own drink to disguise the fact that her hand was trembling. She mustn’t blame herself too much for her reaction, Lizzie tried to comfort herself. After all a marriage, even a pretend marriage, was bound to have some effect on a person’s emotions—just as a man like Ilios was bound to have an effect on a woman’s awareness of her own sexuality.
The toast didn’t have to be taken as a toast to them as a couple, and she was sure the deliberate emphasis Ilios had put on it was a private reminder to her that he was toasting them as separate individuals rather than a couple in their newly official union .
She found that even though she had been hungry her emotions were now too stirred up for her to have much appetite for the delicious food. Desperate for something to distract her from her unwanted and growing awareness that, no matter how illogical it might be, the fact that she and Ilios were married had produced within her an unexpected feeling of commitment to him—a sort of protective, deeply female need to reach out to him and heal the damage that had been done to his emotions and his life—Lizzie glanced round the restaurant.
Her attention focussed on a family group at another table. The parents, a pretty dark-haired young mother and a smiling paternalistic-looking father, were accompanied by three children: a little boy who looked slightly older than the twins, a girl who Lizzie guessed must be about four, and what was obviously a fairly new baby in a car seat buggy combo drawn up to the table. Although the children were not all the same sex, the relationship between them reminded her of her own childhood. The little boy, serious-looking and obviously proud of his seniority, was keeping an older-brotherly eye on the little girl and the baby, whilst the little girl was leaning over the buggy, cooing at the baby. Over their heads the parents exchanged amused and tender smiles.
Hastily Lizzie reached for her champagne, to try and swallow back the huge lump of aching emotion forming in her throat. Not for herself—she and her sisters had experienced the kind of love she could see emanating from this family. No, her sadness and pain was for those other children—Ilios’s sons.
Before she could change her mind she asked Ilios, ‘Are you sure there isn’t some way that you and your cousin could mend the broken fences between you and get your relationship on a happier footing?’