‘But that wasn’t what you wanted?’
‘I wanted to be a doctor.’
Ella thought of the future that must have stretched in front of him and what a loss it would have been to medicine if he’d taken that path. ‘Why?’
He was unnaturally still. ‘I was more interested in medicine than hotels.’
Sensing that there was so much more that he wasn’t disclosing, Ella suppressed a sigh of frustration. ‘Your parents must be proud of you.’
‘Now? Yes, they’re proud. But back then…’ His laugh lacked humour. ‘My father was horrified that I wasn’t going to take over the business. They thought it was a whim. A teenage rebellion against the life I’d always known. And maybe it was. I don’t know.’ He shrugged his shoulders dismissively. ‘My wife died. I left Greece. I did my training. I started in paediatrics.’
He hadn’t mentioned his daughter and something about the hard lines of his jaw stopped Ella from bringing it up, either.
‘And you never had another serious relationship?’
‘I had relationships, Ella.’ There was an ironic glint in his eyes. ‘I’m not claiming to have lived the life of a monk.’
But he’d never allowed himself to be close to another woman.
Ella swallowed, remembering Helen’s words. ‘So was not telling me about the money some sort of test?’
He frowned. ‘No. Not a test.’
‘I suppose you didn’t need to test me because you had no intention of staying with me.’
He didn’t deny it. ‘I liked the fact that you knew nothing about me. That we had no baggage.’
‘Everyone has baggage. We both had baggage, Nikos.’ She gave a weak smile. ‘It’s just that yours was diamond encrusted and mine was cheap plastic.’
He didn’t laugh. ‘When you discovered that you were pregnant, didn’t it occur to you to contact me?’
‘I received the news about my pregnancy on the same day I received your email telling me that our relationship was over.’ The memory chilled her. ‘What was I supposed to do, Nikos? If a relationship is over, it’s over. A baby doesn’t change that.’
He inhaled deeply and squared his shoulders. ‘That’s where we disagree.’
‘You concealed this huge, huge part of yourself. You thought it didn’t matter that I didn’t know. What about next time, Nikos? What about next time something happens in your life that you don’t think I need to be part of?’
She just couldn’t trust him to tell her the truth.
Her imagination raced forward and suddenly she was tortured by an uncomfortably clear image of what the future could hold for her.
Agonising confessions, shock, hardship, devastation and bone-deep loneliness.
She’d seen it all before and she was never going to put herself in that position.
Yes, she loved him. Yes, there was pain. But nothing like the pain she and the baby would experience if he let them down a few years down the line.
That realisation gave her the final boost she needed to do the most difficult thing she’d ever done in her life.
Ella dragged the ring off her finger. The stone flirted with the sunlight—twinkled and sparkled, trying to seduce her. She stood up and pushed it into his hand. ‘I’m very, very sorry about your wife, but I still can’t marry you.’
And she ducked through the door and into the boat before he could stop her, discovering that the hardest thing in the world was walking away from something that you really, really wanted.
NEVER , if he lived to be a hundred, would he understand women.
Nikos swung his sleek car into his parking space directly outside the paediatric emergency department.
He’d offered her marriage.
He’d put a diamond the size of New York on her finger.
And she’d given it back.
Theos mou, what was going on in her head?
How many women had longed for him to make exactly that gesture?
Was she trying to impress him?
He sprang from the car like a tiger released from captivity and a passing nurse cast a nervous look at his face as he slammed the door and glared at nothing in particular.
He stood there for a moment, thinking. Applying the same analytical skills he used when diagnosing his patients, he examined the facts. He recalled her body language throughout the encounter, remembering her shaking hands and her pale face.