Nikos slowly and deliberately turned the key in the lock, securing the door from the inside. ‘I’ll stay,’ he said softly, ‘but only if you promise that tomorrow you’ll move out of this place.’



Ella’s heart was thudding. ‘Nikos, I—’


‘Do you want to spend tomorrow night alone here?’


‘No.’ She shook her head, hating herself for being so wimpy. ‘It’s gorgeous during the day. I love the water and the wildlife, but…it’s spooky at night.’


What was the point of denying it?


Given her dramatic performance over the past few minutes he was only too aware of how spooky she found it. His shirt was still wet from her tears and he probably had scratch marks from where she’d clung to him for dear life.


He picked up the saucepan and returned it to the kitchen area, amusement in his dark eyes. ‘We won’t be needing that any more. If I am required to repel an intruder I would choose to use hand-to-hand combat rather than kitchen utensils.’ Then he took her hand and pulled her gently to her feet. ‘Time for bed, agape mou. You are exhausted and I am too tall for this boat. It will be more relaxing for both of us if we lie down.’ Without giving her time to pass comment on that suggestion, he tugged her along the narrow passageway that led to the bedroom area.


Ella recoiled as she saw the insects. ‘Oh, dear—I must have left the window open.’ She eyed an enormous spider with horror and wondered if she dared ask him to remove it. But she’d already made such an utter fool of herself that this time pride was the stronger force and she remained silent. But she watched the spider, desperately willing it to find its own way to the window.


Nikos angled his glossy dark head and looked at her quizzically. ‘I thought you liked the wildlife. Being close to nature.’


‘Ducks,’ Ella muttered. ‘I like the ducks. And the dragonflies are pretty from a distance.’


To give him his due, he didn’t tease her. He simply scooped the spider up in his palm and gently tipped it out of the window. ‘Anything else?’


Ella’s face was scarlet. He already knew she was a coward, so what was the point in pretending? ‘The daddy-long-legs on the ceiling?’


Nikos rehoused the daddy-long-legs outside the boat and Ella gave a weak smile.


‘OK. This is embarrassing. You think I’m completely pathetic.’


There was laughter in his eyes as he cupped her face in his hands. ‘I think you are beautiful,’ he said huskily, ‘and you are all woman. I think perhaps a canal boat is not the best setting for you. You should be sharing luxurious surroundings with an over-protective Greek male, not a selection of British wildlife. You should be pampered and cosseted and spoiled.’ He drew her T-shirt over her head in a decisive movement and then reached for the snap of her jeans.


As his warm fingers brushed against the sensitised skin of her stomach, a spasm of excitement shot through her and she gave a soft little gasp.


‘No, honestly Nikos, we shouldn’t do this. It will just confuse everything.’


‘I’m not confused.’ He gave a sexy, possessive smile. ‘Your jeans are tight, agape mou. Soon this baby of ours will begin to show and people will ask questions.’ He lowered his head and his mouth gently brushed that one sensitive place at the base of her throat. ‘By the time that happens, you will be my wife.’


‘Nikos—’


‘We will spend the night here,’ he purred, ‘and I will protect you, no?’


There seemed little point in protesting that she could protect herself after her miserable performance so far, so she kept silent.


And suddenly she realised that the only really threatening thing left in the boat was him. The way he made her feel.


It felt as though there was a war going on in her head.


Dizzy with longing, Ella rested her forehead against his chest, breathing in his tantalising male scent, reminding herself of all the reasons she shouldn’t be doing this. And then his strong hands slid down her bare arms, the slow, sensual slide of his flesh against hers a promise of things to come.


It was impossibly intimate, just the two of them in this small, enclosed space surrounded only by nature.


A raw, primal sound came from outside the boat and she gave a start. ‘What was that?’


With soft laughter, he tipped her back onto the bed and came over her, his body powerful and protective. ‘Foxes mating,’ he breathed huskily, a smile touching the corners of his mouth as he gently brushed her face with his fingers. ‘And now you need to block out the sounds you hear or by the morning you will be taking tranquillisers. You have no reason to be afraid of anything because I am here.’

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