To their grandfather male descendants had simply been there to fulfil and continue the Manos destiny: to own Villa Manos, the land on which it stood, and continue their once proud history. Nothing and no one else mattered.
But Lizzie had had a point. No man was immortal, and if he should die before his sons were old enough to manage their own affairs there would be plenty of vultures waiting to pick at the vulnerable flesh of their inheritance.
He and Lizzie looked at life and humankind from opposite viewpoints. She believed passionately in the power of love, in parenthood and families. He did not. When called upon to do so she had put her siblings first, and every word she spoke about them showed that she would do anything and everything she could to safeguard and protect them. Just as she would her children, should she become a mother? Ilios frowned. That did not accord with his own beliefs about her sex. He could concede that Lizzie might be that one rare exception. But so what?
The trouble was there were beginning to be far too many so whats in his reactions to Lizzie Wareham, Ilios acknowledged, remembering that he had asked himself the same question when he had been forced to admit that he was sexually aware of her—sexually aware of her and aroused by her presence. He had no rational explanation for the way she made him think and feel, and trying to find one only served to increase his awareness of the effect she was having on him and his desire to crush it.
And yet, as much as he wanted to impose his will on his awareness of her, his body refused to accept it. Quite the opposite in fact. The ache that had been tormenting him flared from a dull presence to a sharp, predatory male clamour. Totally against what he had believed he knew about himself, her admission of desire for him had increased his own desire for her rather than destroy it. Increased it, enhanced it, and made him want her with a suddenly very driven intensity that he had never experienced before.
Ilios looked at Lizzie’s half-empty glass of champagne, and then at the bottle still in the ice bucket. Picking it up, he told her, ‘You’d better finish this, otherwise we’ll offend Spiros—and I don’t want to end up never being able to get a table here again.’
Lizzie shook her head.
‘I’ve already had one full glass,’ she reminded him.
‘And two might turn your thoughts to your uncontrollable lust for my body and a whole catalogue of things you’d like to do to it?’ he taunted her.
Before Lizzie could formulate a suitable crushing response he continued easily, as he filled her glass, ‘It seems to me that the best way to quench your sexual curiosity would be to satisfy it.’
What the hell had made him say that? Ilios challenged himself grimly. But of course he already knew the answer. Lizzie wasn’t the only one battling against a desire she didn’t want. Maybe what he’d suggested was the best way for them both to rid themselves of a need that neither of them wished to have.
What was happening? Was she hallucinating or was Ilios actually suggesting…? No, she must be imagining it.
‘Is…is that an offer?’ she managed to ask Ilios, in what she hoped was a voice that suggested she knew it wasn’t.
Only she was left thoroughly bemused at his response.
‘If you want it to be.’
Did she? What was happening here? Was Ilios really implying that he wanted her? Physically? Sexually? In bed?
Lizzie refused to answer him. She simply didn’t dare.
She didn’t like the way Ilios was looking at her. And she certainly didn’t like the way that look was making tiny rivulets of giddy excitement and longing rush through her body, like teenage fans rushing towards an idol, oblivious to reality or danger. Neither did she like the way she suddenly and overpoweringly wanted to look at Ilios’s mouth and imagine…She could hardly breathe, barely think—at least not of anything that didn’t involve her getting up close and personal with Ilios and discovering if that full bottom lip did mean what it was supposed to mean. What would happen were she to touch it with her fingertips, taste it with her tongue, explore it and…?