He snatched up the receiver, his heart pounding as he demanded, ‘Lizzie?’ only to be flooded with disappointment when he realised that his caller was merely an acquaintance.
After he had got rid of him Ilios replaced the receiver and stood motionless, staring into space, whilst his heart thudded with sledgehammer blows that were pounding, beating into him the message, the knowledge that he had fought so hard to deny.
Pain wrenched through him, tearing at his heart, clawing at it, filling him with despair.
He loved Lizzie. He loved her and he had lost her.
Nothing was the same in his life because nothing could be the same. The anger he felt, the fury, the grim determination to destroy what had taken root in his heart, belonged not to a brave man but to a coward. It wasn’t his love for Lizzie that was threatening his future, but his attempts to destroy it. As though light had replaced darkness Ilios could see now, when it was too late, how empty his life had been—and would be without her. In the short time they had been together she had changed him so completely, in so many different ways, that he felt he was still getting to know the person he now was—and he was in need of her support to help him do so. She had taught him so much, but there was still much he had to learn. How could he teach the sons who would follow him to be the men Ilios now knew he wanted them to be on his own? He couldn’t. Those sons, just like him, needed Lizzie. They all needed her love.
When he thought of the sons he had planned to have, and the manner in which he had planned their conception, inside his head he saw them living in the shadows, deprived of the happiness they would have known had Lizzie been their mother. He wanted to stop time and turn it back, to that moment when he had still been holding her in his arms. He could have listened to what his own heart had been trying to tell him instead of resolutely denying it. Could have told her that he was nothing without her, and could have begged her to love him. Now it was too late.
Too late. Inside his head Ilios had an image of himself as a small child, standing on the quayside with Tino and his grandfather whilst he watched his mother and her new husband stepping onto his sailing boat. His mother had held out her arms to him, telling him to jump into them. He had desperately wanted to go to her, he remembered, but he had known that his grandfather disapproved of her remarrying.
‘Mummy’s boy, mummy’s boy,’ Tino had taunted him, and so he had hesitated, and then had had to watch his mother’s smile disappear to be replaced by coldness as she turned away from him.
That had been the last time he had seen her. A month later she had drowned.
If he had jumped, if he had taken that risk, if he had trusted her love to keep him safe, how different would his life have been?
Ilios reached for his mobile. For the man with courage there was no such thing as too late. There was merely further to travel to reach what he most wanted.
HER flight had been called, but Lizzie had been attacked by a sudden surge of nausea that had forced her to make a dash for the ladies’, where she now still was as she prayed for the threatening sickness to subside.
She hadn’t texted her sisters yet. She was still trying to work out what to tell them. Another surge of nausea engulfed her.
Ilios was out of the helicopter as soon as it landed, ducking low to avoid the draught from its still-turning props as he ran across the tarmac and into the terminal building. He’d been lucky that the helicopter service he used had had a pilot on standby.
The gate for Lizzie’s flight had closed, but Ilios wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop him. He’d hire a private jet and follow her all the way back to Manchester if he had to.