Ella’s face was wet with tears. ‘Nikos, I’m sorry…’ Choked, she wrapped her arms around him tightly. ‘I’m sorry you couldn’t help her. You’ve saved so many lives, you’ve saved hundreds and hundreds of children—’



‘I never want another parent to go through what I went through if it’s within my power to prevent it,’ he said bleakly, but his hand came up and rubbed the tears from her cheek. ‘Don’t cry. It was a long time ago.’


‘But it’s still with you.’


‘Something like that is always with you. It shapes your behaviour. I learned not to fall in love with women. Love makes you blind. Love makes you see things you want to see.’


Ella swallowed. She knew all about that, didn’t she?


‘Well—I think I understand why you didn’t tell me about the money.’


‘You were different.’ He spoke softly, his fingers still stroking her cheek gently. ‘I always knew you were different. You were fantastic with the children at work. You were kind, generous—you were living on a shoestring budget but you always did the shopping and the cooking and you were always buying me little gifts.’


Ella blushed. ‘Very embarrassing memory,’ she muttered, ‘given how wealthy you are.’


‘I still have everything you ever gave me. A gift’s value is not its price, but the sentiment with which it is given.’


‘I’m glad you didn’t apply that rule when you chose my diamond,’ Ella joked weakly, relieved to see him smile.


‘Which brings us back to the original subject. Our relationship.’ His smile faded and he studied her face for a long, disturbing moment. ‘So far we have stumbled along and made many mistakes. If I had known about your father, I would have understood why you were so anxious about marrying me.’


Ella gave a faltering smile. ‘And if I’d known about your wife, I would have understood why you were so emotionally detached. So—where do we go from here?’


He lowered his head and kissed her gently. ‘I still have to prove to you that our relationship is not about the baby,’ he murmured against her lips. ‘Ella, I would want to marry you even if there were no baby.’


She stilled, her eyes holding his. ‘That isn’t true,’ she whispered, ‘and I don’t want there to be any lies between us.’


‘It isn’t a lie.’


‘You ended our relationship.’


‘Because I was afraid of what I was feeling for you.’ His voice was low and urgent. ‘Feelings that strong sometimes distort perception—I thought you loved me but I’d made that mistake before.’


‘You left because you loved me?’


‘Our relationship was becoming too intense.’


‘You ended it by email.’


‘You and I can’t be in the same room and not make love, Ella,’ he said dryly. ‘If I’d ended it face to face, there would have been no ending. I needed to make you hate me.’


‘I didn’t hate you. I could never hate you. I guessed there was a lot going on under the surface but at the time I didn’t know about the death of your wife.’


‘The death of my wife is a constant reminder to me that emotions are not to be played with lightly.’


‘When Helen wrote to you about the baby—’


‘I was furious, but I was also relieved because it not only gave me an excuse to see you again, it gave me an excuse never to let you go.’ He gave a shrug. ‘I just hadn’t banked on you refusing me. You are not good for my ego, agape mou.’


Ella made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob and buried her face in his shoulder. ‘I love you. I really love you.’


‘I know you do.’ His hand stroked the back of her head. ‘And I love you, too.’


Ella felt a rush of emotion. ‘I can’t believe you mean that.’


‘Of course I mean that. Look at the evidence. I slept on a boat that is the same size as my car just so that I could be near you. I slept in your single bed and ate your cheese on toast—’


‘At least you knew I was never after you for your money.’ She sniffed and pulled away slightly. ‘I’ll sign a pre-nuptial agreement or whatever they’re called—you know, those things that rich people always have so that their spouses can’t divorce them for their money. I’d hate you to ever think that the money is the reason I’m marrying you.’

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