Ilios lifted his mouth from hers, causing Lizzie to open her eyes and look up at him. Her hand trembled against his skin, betraying her emotions, and her chest lifted with the demand from her lungs for extra oxygen. The words I want you so much and Let’s go home formed inside her head, but had to be denied speech.
‘So, how did the two of you meet?’
Tino’s voice was an unwanted intrusion, reminding Lizzie of her real role, as a paid-for pretend wife. She compared all the pain that that brought her with the impossible fantasy she longed for. A fantasy in which Ilios really did love, really had meant what he had just said, really had meant the way he had just kissed her…
‘Fate brought us together, Tino,’ Ilios answered his cousin, continuing, ‘Now, if you’ll excuse us…?’
Ilios was drawing her away, his hand resting against the hollow of her back as he guided her towards Ariadne Constantin—the woman who had smiled at her earlier.
LIZZIE had to wait until she and Ilios were in the car and on their way home, having arranged to have dinner with the Constantins later in the week, to tell him, ‘You were right about your cousin. It would be impossible to entrust the future of your sons to him. Do you think he believed what you said about us?’
‘I certainly hope so,’ Ilios answered.
Because he wanted to get rid of her, of course.
Ilios was annoyed with himself. Lizzie’s admission that she had been wrong about his cousin had reminded him of her earlier warnings about the vulnerability of his children should anything happen to him. Why should he be concerned about what she thought? Why should the dangerous thought that Lizzie would be a good mother find its way into his head? He knew he had made the right decision with regard to his own life, and Lizzie could have as many children as she wanted just so long as they weren’t his.
‘I’ll say goodnight,’ Lizzie told him at the apartment, as she went to put away her coat. ‘After all, I’m sure you have work you want to do.’
Why had she said that? Ilios wasn’t stupid—just the opposite, in fact. He was very perceptive, and he was bound to hear the acid note in her voice and guess that she was deliberately needling him. She held her breath, waiting for him to challenge her, but instead he turned away from her, leaving her feeling relieved that her reckless behaviour hadn’t provoked any comeback.
In the dressing room of the master bedroom she hung up her coat and warned herself that if he had demanded an explanation of her comment, he might easily have worked out that it had been provoked by her longing for him to take her to bed again, for his love.
It was all because of that kiss he had given her earlier in the evening—the way it had made her ache with the pain of her unrequited love for him.
In the living room Ilios opened his laptop. Lizzie was right, he did have work to do—and, as he had discovered many years ago, for him work wasn’t just the panacea that stopped all his pain, it was also his most constant and trusted companion, his closest ally in the fight to remain independent of all human emotional demands. It sustained and supported him, and he knew that within seconds of studying the screen in front of him all thoughts of Lizzie Wareham and the unwanted emotions she aroused within him would disappear.
Only they didn’t. No matter how hard he focussed on the screen, all he could see was Lizzie’s image inside his head.
What was going on? Whatever it was, he didn’t want it, Ilios thought savagely. There was no place in his life for it—or for her. But the harder he clung to that thought, to his denial of what he really wanted, the more his body ached for Lizzie. His body. That was all. That was all it was—a physical desire conjured up out of a lack of regular sex and the fact that he was sharing his living space with a woman. Any woman would have had the same effect on him. Any woman? Then why was it her image he could see inside his head, her body he ached to hold, her love for which he now hungered?