Oh, dear God, she was a lost cause.

‘I’m not a bully.’ His voice was husky and amused at the same time. ‘I just know what I want. And I know you want it too, but you’re afraid. Why?’

‘Because you’re only here because of the baby.’

‘What we just did had nothing to do with the baby.’

‘That was sex. It isn’t enough, Nikos.’ Before she could change her mind, Ella tugged the ring off her finger and pressed it against his chest.

Rolling onto his back, he closed his eyes, apparently bored with the discussion. ‘Every time you take that ring off your finger, I will put it back on again.’

Her body hummed with awareness and she knew that she had to get away from him before she made another bad decision. ‘I need the bathroom.’

He released her reluctantly and Ella slid out of bed, pulling a fresh T-shirt from the case that she hadn’t yet unpacked.

She stood in the tiny bathroom, knowing that she’d just made a hard situation even more difficult. Her body ached with delicious awareness and all she wanted to do was return to the bed and sample more of his raw male virility.

She closed her eyes for a moment, wondering why giving the ring back and leaving his bed hadn’t felt like an easy decision.

How had she let things go so far?

Why hadn’t she resisted?

But she’d never been able to resist him, had she?

She left the bathroom and walked towards the kitchen area. Rain streamed down the windows and the trees along the canal seemed greener than ever. It was indescribably beautiful and Ella wondered how on earth she could have been scared the night before.

Exasperated with herself, she reached for the kettle and then gave a tiny scream.

Instantly Nikos was by her side. ‘What? What is wrong?’ He followed her gaze and then grinned as he saw that five huge snails had crawled through the vent and were now slowly making their way down the window. ‘Ah—more nature. I suppose it is the rain that has brought them out. They climbed up the bulrushes and in through the window.’

Looking at their fat shiny bodies and the silvery trail that led into the boat, Ella shuddered. ‘They’re disgusting.’

‘They’re all part of living on the river,’ Nikos said mildly, and she closed her eyes, knowing that she didn’t have what it took to spend another night out here.

‘All right. You win. I’ll find a bedsit in town.’

In the process of relocating the snails to the river bank through the open window, Nikos frowned. ‘A what?’

‘A bedsit. It’s a room where you sleep, live.’ Ella lit the gas and put the kettle on. ‘You must know what a bedsit is. It’s basically one room.’

‘One room?’ Nikos threw a sardonic glance around their surroundings. ‘You are finding this too spacious? You would prefer to be a little more cramped, perhaps?’

‘A bedsit is all I’m going to be able to afford,’ she said irritably, wishing something would dent that cool confidence that she was finding increasingly infuriating.

‘Ella, when I said that you shouldn’t live here, I didn’t intend that you should find somewhere else.’ He gently dispatched the final snail on a new course. ‘You’re going to move in with me. And before you feel obliged to come up with a million objections, I ought to warn you that it’s not negotiable. I’m willing to postpone the wedding until you’ve got used to the idea, but you’re not spending another moment on this boat.’

Ella eyed the snails, now clinging to the dripping bulrushes. She looked at the overgrown path and the dark shadows that became even darker at night. And then she thought about how much trouble she’d had finding anywhere to rent at this time of year. ‘All right.’ Her tone was grudging. ‘But just because I’m willing to stay with you for a few nights, it doesn’t mean I’m saying yes to the rest of it. This is just temporary.’

She’d find somewhere of her own as soon as she could.

She wasn’t going to let him push her into making a decision she’d regret.

‘Of course it is temporary. We still need to have a discussion about where we will live permanently.’ Nikos opened one of her cupboards, a frown on his face. ‘Is there any food here? Get dressed. I’m taking you to your new home for breakfast.’

Ella turned the gas off, keeping one eye on the snails. ‘We’d better stop at a shop on the way because there won’t be any more food in your house than there is on this boat.’

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