‘This is one thing I just don’t talk about. I never have.’ Ella leaned down and put her glass on the floor. ‘It doesn’t do a lot for your confidence, having your father walk out on you. You have to understand that my family was nothing like your family.’
Nikos ran his hand over the back of his neck. ‘This is why you’ve been so reluctant to marry me?’
‘I suppose it’s all linked. You hid so much from me, Nikos—it just felt too much like something my father would have done. All those secrets. When I found out all those things about you it was a massive shock.’
‘And then when I found out that your wife and…about the accident…’ She swallowed, struggling to put her feelings into words. ‘I don’t even want to bring the subject up because I know you don’t want to talk about it with me. You don’t share what you’re feeling. You’ve switched yourself off, emotionally, and I understand that. You don’t love me, so why would you talk to me?’
His dark brows met in a sharp frown. ‘That is female logic. The fact that I don’t spill my guts has nothing to do with my feelings for you. I don’t choose to talk about the past, that’s true. And clearly you are the same, agape mou, or we wouldn’t be in this position now.’
‘It really doesn’t matter.’ Ella focused on the picture hanging across from her. It was a modern seascape, painted in blues and whites. ‘Feelings can’t be forced.’
‘You think I’m not capable of feeling?’
‘I know you’re capable of feeling,’ she said softly, turning her head and looking at him. ‘I just don’t think you’re capable of feeling the right way about me.’
For a moment their eyes held and then he sat down on the sofa next to her and took her hand in his.
‘And it is my fault that you think that,’ he said gruffly, ‘because I have never given you reason to think differently.’
‘I don’t expect you to apologise for the way you feel—’
‘You know nothing about the way I feel.’ His voice was fierce and his hand tightened on hers. ‘Nothing.’
Ella sat still, afraid to move. Afraid to speak—unnerved by the depth of emotion she saw in his eyes.
‘I was eighteen when I met my wife. We had a wild, crazy affair. I thought I was in love with her—I thought she was in love with me.’ He gave a bitter laugh. ‘I was so arrogant back then, so sure of myself—of everything. I didn’t think to question her motives. I married her against the advice of my parents but with the full blessing of hers. They were delighted that their daughter had hit the jackpot. She didn’t even wait for the ink to dry on the marriage certificate before she filed for divorce.’
Ella didn’t know what to say so she just squeezed his hand gently in a gesture of sympathy.
‘I would have given her a divorce,’ Nikos muttered, ‘because I knew by then it was a mistake. But I found out that she was pregnant. She’d tried to hide it from me—’ He broke off and Ella slid her arms round him, suddenly understanding why he’d been so angry that she’d hidden the news of her own pregnancy.
‘She was afraid you wouldn’t give her a divorce?’
‘Yes. And she was right.’ His tone was harsh. ‘I did refuse. We owed it to the child to try and make it work. So that’s what I did. Unfortunately she didn’t feel the same way. She was only interested in living a single life, backed up by the financial security of my money. I kept her with me until my daughter was six months old and then we had a terrible row. Awful. We were outside at the front of the house and she had Katerina strapped in the car, ready to take her to see her parents. She issued an ultimatum. I was to give her a divorce or she’d take the baby. It was the worst possible threat because we both knew she had no interest in the child.’
Ella sat still, horrified by what she was hearing and knowing that there was worse to come. ‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered, but it seemed as though he didn’t even hear her.
‘She was in a vicious mood,’ he said thickly, ‘and she drove away before I could stop her, with Katerina in the car. I followed her in my car, intending to take the child and let her go, but she wasn’t concentrating and she lost control on a bend. They were both killed instantly. There was nothing I could do. I had all that money, but it was worth nothing when it came to saving my daughter.’