‘Will it affect the villa?’ Lizzie asked, genuinely concerned about the villa but equally intent on distracting herself from thinking so intimately about Ilios and how much she loved him.
‘No. The promontory isn’t affected by the fault line.’
Lizzie could hear voices as people called out to one another. Ilios lifted his body from hers. She badly wanted to beg him not to do so—and not because of the earthquake. He stood up, and then reached down to help her to her feet.
‘You’ve got dust on your face.’
Before she could stop him he leaned towards her, brushing her cheek with his hand.
She wanted to stay like this for ever, Lizzie thought achingly. With Ilios’s hand on her skin, his gaze on hers, his arm supporting her—just as though she genuinely did matter to him, just as though he cared about her and wanted to protect her because he loved her. She moved towards him yearningly, only to have him move back.
What was happening to him? Ilios asked himself grimly. Increasingly his own behaviour was so alien to what he knew of himself that witnessing it was like confronting a stranger wearing his skin. A stranger who was challenging him for full possession of himself? A stranger who owed his existence to the arrival of Lizzie Wareham in his life? A stranger whose first thought was to protect Lizzie? Why?
Because it was in his own interests to protect her. He had a vested interest in her safety after all.
No one in the village seemed particularly disturbed by the tremor. Everyone was going about their normal business, and men were working to clear the debris from the hillside from the road as Lizzie got to her feet.
‘Are you okay?’ Ilios asked her.
‘Yes, thanks to you.’
Oh, yes, he was definitely withdrawing from her—rejecting her gratitude, rejecting anything remotely emotional between them, and of course rejecting her physically.
Ilios stepped back from her physically as well as emotionally with a brisk nod of his head. ‘In ancient times they used to believe that it was the gods’ anger that was responsible for these tremors,’ he commented a few minutes later as he opened the car door for Lizzie. ‘Now we construct buildings especially designed to cope with the movement caused by them.’
RIDICULOUSLY, since she had done next to nothing all day other than sightsee and enjoy the rooftop garden of Ilios’s apartment, Lizzie felt incredibly tired. She tried to stifle a yawn and look instead as though she was enjoying the reception she and Ilios were attending as part of an incentive by the Greek government to attract new business to the area. Naturally Ilios, as head of a locally based business which was successful internationally, was in great demand, and he had apologised for having to desert her to talk business with someone who had asked to be introduced to him.
She wasn’t the only wife left to stand alone nursing a drink, Lizzie recognised as she glanced round the elegant hotel ballroom where the reception was being held. But her glass merely contained water. Champagne was something she was determined to avoid for as long as she was married to Ilios.
A smile of recognition from one of the women she had met at the gallery opening had her heading towards her in relief. Now that she was a little wiser about Thessaloniki society she dressed accordingly—overdressed, in fact, by her normal standards. Tonight, in addition to her designer dress in yellow silk, she was also wearing the jewellery. Ilios had a position to maintain, after all, and not just for the sake of his own personal status. The employees of Manos Construction depended on him, and on the success of the business. An immaculately coiffed and groomed wife said that a man had both good taste and money—re-assuring values where other businessmen were concerned, no matter how much Lizzie might wish for a simpler and more straightforward way of doing business.