Who used it at night?
Helen was right, she thought nervously, drawing the curtain across the windows so that no one could see inside. This place was too isolated.
Or maybe it was just her hormones that were making her this jumpy.
Irritated with herself, Ella made herself a cup of tea and picked up a pregnancy book. So far she hadn’t even managed to find out what should be happening to her. Perhaps she should start by looking in the index for something on hallucinations and delusions, she thought dryly, embarrassed at how nervous she’d been cycling down that path.
Honestly, what an idiot she was.
And then she heard the distinct crunch of footsteps on the path that ran alongside the boat. It was a slow, heavy sound—a menacing crunch that definitely belonged to a man.
Ella ceased to breathe. The book slipped from her fingers and hot tea sloshed onto her leg.
She’d never known fear like it.
Someone was outside. Someone was standing there in the soft, velvety darkness, watching her.
And she had nowhere to hide.
Whoever it was knew that she was on the boat. That she was alone.
They’d followed her.
All the time she’d sensed someone behind her, she hadn’t been paranoid…
There really had been someone there.
Her heart pounded hard in her chest, her palms were suddenly damp and her mouth was dry. Reminding herself that the door was locked, Ella sat frozen to the spot, trying to convince herself that it was just someone walking their dog—ignoring the terrified part of herself that was telling her that people didn’t generally walk their dogs at ten at night in total darkness.
The footsteps stopped and she knew, she just knew, that whoever had followed her was now standing directly outside her boat.
Her hand shaking, Ella fumbled in her bag for her mobile phone only to find that the battery was dead because she’d forgotten to recharge it.
She had absolutely no way of contacting anyone.
She was on her own.
Slowly, stiffly, she rose to her feet and closed her hand around a saucepan that was sitting on the top of the hob. It wasn’t much of a weapon but it was the only thing she had.
And then she heard a thud and the boat rocked slightly as someone landed on the deck.
Her scream shattered the terrifying silence.
PARALYSED with terror, Ella’s hand tightened around the saucepan.
Her heart was pounding so hard it felt as though it was about to spring out from her chest.
And then she heard someone swear and a deep, male voice called her name. ‘Ella?’
She was shaking so badly that it took a moment for her to realise that she recognised the voice.
Filled with relief, she tried to speak but instead she just burst into tears, all the pent-up tension exploding in a flood of emotion as she realised that the footsteps outside had belonged to Nikos, not an evil stalker.
‘Ella!’ His tone was savage. ‘Let me in!’
She heard him let rip a stream of Greek and then the door crashed open and he forced his way into the cabin like a warrior going into battle.
‘Theos mou, what has happened? Who has hurt you? Tell me!’ His strong hands closed over her shoulders and Ella launched herself against his powerful chest. He braced his legs to steady them both, his arms closing round her protectively as she burst into sobs. ‘Talk to me!’
Ella ignored his urgent command and clung to him, so relieved that he was there that she was totally unable to speak He swore fluently in English, then switched to Greek as he scooped her up in his arms and sat with her cradled on his lap.
She didn’t understand a word he was saying, but his deep, strong voice was so reassuringly male that she didn’t care.
‘Hush, now. Stop crying.’ His hand infinitely gentle, he stroked her hair away from her face as if she were a child. ‘Tell me what happened. What was it that frightened you?’
‘I thought someone was following me—I heard someone and my phone was dead and there was this owl…’ Babbling incoherently, Ella tried to explain, her fingers holding so tightly to his shirt that her knuckles were white.
‘You live in the country so you will hear owls, no?’ Carefully he extracted his shirt from her grip and took possession of her hand. ‘And your phone is dead because you have always been useless at remembering to recharge it. And as for the person following you—’ He broke off and muttered something under his breath.