What was she trying to prove?
Following the directions she’d drowsily given him before she’d fallen asleep, he’d parked in a deserted picnic spot next to the towpath and then walked the remaining distance to the boat, his tension mounting with every stride.
It was a security nightmare, and she was living alone.
Tomorrow he’d move her out of here, he vowed swiftly.
The scent of her blonde hair teased his senses and Nikos gritted his teeth as he unlocked the door and ducked down into the boat with her still in his arms.
Despite his efforts he still smacked his head hard on the top of the door and grunted in pain as he flashed the torch around the interior of the boat.
He needed lights. Did a boat like this one have lights?
Aware that he was less than three centimetres away from being knocked unconscious on the roof, Nikos placed her gently on the sofa.
The thought of her living somewhere so isolated brought him out in a cold sweat and he made a mental note never to let her spend five minutes on her own here again. And if that meant moving into this floating equivalent of a suitcase, then so be it.
With a grim sense of purpose he found a light and switched it on, his impression of the place not improving as an army of insects from the river swarmed towards the glow. Closing the doors, he strode down the length of the boat, cast an appalled glance at the small double bed wedged in between two cupboards and gazed in disbelief at the small bath.
How was a guy supposed to wash in that?’
Deciding that the bed should just be able to accommodate his six-foot-three frame if he slept diagonally, Nikos returned to the living area, carefully scooped Ella into his arms and transferred her onto the more comfortable mattress.
Still she didn’t wake and he shrugged off his jacket and hooked it carelessly over the corner of a convenient door, his eyes scanning her pale face and the dark shadows under her eyes, the result, he presumed, of either the pregnancy or stress or both.
Recalling her stricken expression as dressings and instruments had slipped from her shaking fingers, Nikos experienced an uncomfortable surge of guilt as he acknowledged the role he’d played in raising her stress levels.
So much for being calm and rational.
All his intentions about not losing his temper had flown out of the window when he’d seen her. He was still angry, but now the anger was permeated with a very different emotion, and it was that emotion that made him bend down and gently ease off her shoes and cover her sleeping form with a blanket.
She was trying to shut him out, but she wasn’t going to succeed.
As far as he was concerned, this situation could only have one outcome.
‘Ella?’ He spoke her name roughly but still she didn’t stir, her lashes forming perfect crescents on her pale cheeks, her pink lips slightly parted as she slept.
Discovering that his skills at undressing a woman didn’t extend to the sleeping variety, it took Nikos endless minutes and much personal frustration to part her lush body from her clothes. Deciding that removing her underwear wouldn’t earn him any thanks, he slid the covers over her.
Then he emptied the pockets of his jacket, undressed swiftly and slid into the bed next to her, gently shifting her position so that there was room for both of them.
In sleep she nestled against him and he tensed as he felt the instant, fierce response of his body.
This was the reason he’d ended their relationship.
His feelings for her had been growing and he’d promised himself that that was never going to happen to him again.
But that was before he’d discovered that she was having his baby.
That changed everything.
Ella woke to the sound of ducks and the glare of sunlight. For a moment she just lay there, smiling sleepily to herself, the sounds of nature acting like a sedative.
Gradually her brain returned to consciousness and she was dimly aware that her hand felt strange. Turning her head slightly, she realised that she was lying against a strong male shoulder and that Nikos was sprawled next to her, the tangle of bedcovers revealing tantalising glimpses of his gloriously naked body.
‘Nikos?! What are you doing in my bed?’ Aghast, she sat up instantly, clutching the sheet against her. ‘Get out of here!’
‘Go back to sleep.’
His eyes remained closed and she was temporarily distracted by his thick, dark eyelashes. Even half-asleep he was extravagantly handsome, his hard jaw darkened by stubble, his mouth a firm, sensual line in a face that might have been designed by the gods to tempt a woman to ditch common sense and morals and live for the moment.