Helen touched her arm in a gesture of female solidarity. ‘Ella, he came to find you. That has to mean something.’
‘It means a great deal of inconvenience.’ Ella toyed with her glass. ‘One of us is going to have to leave.’
‘That’s a bit extreme, isn’t it? You work really well together. You’re a fantastic team.’
‘We were a fantastic team.’ Ella corrected her softly. ‘We were a lot of things. But the only thing we are now is over. I honestly don’t think I can work alongside him. I feel dreadful about his wife and daughter, of course I do. But he kept so much from me, Helen. He kept a whole life from me. I can’t be with a man like that. At the moment I can’t even bear to talk to him.’
‘Well, if that’s really the way you feel then things are about to get a little awkward,’ Helen muttered, her eyes fixed on a point further round the harbour wall. ‘That deliciously sexy man of yours has just parked his equally sexy car on the street and is striding towards us as we speak. He isn’t exactly the hesitant sort, is he? Oh, my—I’d forgotten just how breathtaking he is to look at. If I had him in my bed I’d keep the lights on and my eyes open. I’m sorry, Ella, but it’s really hard to feel sorry for you. Rich, clever and a body to die for. The gods tripped when they made him and spilt all their gifts in one place.’
Ella turned, saw Nikos, and the glass of juice slipped from her hand and shattered. Mortified and exasperated with herself, she stooped to retrieve the pieces only to find herself hauled to her feet by strong, determined hands.
‘Theos mou, do you want to cut yourself to pieces?’ Incredulity and concern lighting his dark eyes, Nikos raised a hand and attracted the attention of one of the bar staff. A young girl with a cheerful smile and a blonde ponytail immediately hurried over to deal with the glass while Helen tactfully melted away and joined the group gathered around the large wooden table.
Wondering what Nikos was doing there, Ella looked at him warily. ‘If you’re about to lose your temper again, I’d rather you didn’t do it in public.’
His dark, speculative gaze rested on hers. ‘You don’t think I have reason to be angry?’
‘Maybe you do. I don’t know. This whole situation is—’ She broke off, uncomfortably aware that she’d been horribly tactless earlier. Whatever their differences, she couldn’t bear the fact that she’d hurt someone. ‘I didn’t know about your wife and child. I’m sorry. I—I’m sorry if I upset you.’
Before Nikos could respond, Billy, the paramedic, strolled across to them.
Ella sighed. It was going to be impossible to have a conversation here. They had no more privacy than they’d had at work.
‘Good to see you here, boss.’ Billy grinned at Nikos and slung his arm around Ella’s shoulders in a friendly gesture. ‘Is she too drunk to hold a glass? Can’t take her anywhere. One drink and she’s anybody’s. What were you drinking, beautiful?’
‘She isn’t anybody’s—she’s mine,’ Nikos said in a cool tone, ‘and she’ll drink what I buy her.’
Billy took one look at his face and removed his arm from Ella’s shoulders with exaggerated care.
‘Obviously a man of taste. Given that you’ve got bigger shoulders than me and you’re about a foot taller, I’m going to concede defeat.’ With a good-natured grin, he wandered off to join the group gathered round the table, leaving Ella with burning cheeks.
‘Thanks for embarrassing me.’
Nikos glanced at her, unrepentant. ‘He had his arm round you.’
‘He was being friendly.’
‘You’re too naïve to know the difference between friendly and flirting.’ His tone was pleasant but his eyes glinted midnight black. ‘That was flirting.’
‘So what if it was? He was just having fun. What’s wrong with that?’
‘Nothing.’ Nikos rested a lean hip against the wall, his voice deceptively mild. ‘Providing he has no wish to fulfil his full life expectancy.’
Ella gave a strangled laugh. ‘You’re such a contradiction. You stand there all sophisticated in your, oh, so expensive suit and yet underneath you’re so primitive you should be wearing a loincloth and wrestling lions with your bare hands.’
Nikos shrugged. ‘I know how to protect what’s mine.’