Honestly, she was being ridiculous! Embarrassed for herself, Maxie stared stonily out at the passing scenery and forced her mind blank. She smothered a yawn. As the ferocious tension drained gradually out of her muscles, tiredness began to creep in to take its place.
Angelos helped her out of the car at the airport. He frowned down at her pale, stiff face. ‘Are you OK?’
‘I’m just a bit tired.’
They were flying straight to Greece and they were able to board his private jet immediately. He tucked her into a comfortable seat and, after takeoff, a meal was served. Maxie had about two mouthfuls and a glass of wine. In the middle of the conversation Angelos was endeavouring to open, she noticed that she still had the wedding ring on her finger.
He is my husband, Maxie suddenly registered in shock. And then, just as suddenly, she erased that thought. She didn’t want to think of him as her husband because she was all too well aware that he did not think of her as his wife. A private arrangement, a temporary one, not a normal marriage, she reminded herself. Her troubled eyes hardened. Sliding the slender band from her finger, she studied it with a slightly curled lip before leaning forward to set it down on the table between them.
‘You’d better take that back,’ she told him carelessly.
Angelos stared at her as if she had slapped him. A faint arc of colour scored his high cheekbones. His fulminating gaze raked over her. ‘You are a ravishingly beautiful woman...but sometimes you drive me clean up the wall!’ he admitted grittily. ‘Why should you remove that ring now, when we are alone?’
‘Because I don’t feel comfortable with it.’ To evade that hard, assessing scrutiny, Maxie rested her head back and closed her eyes. He was acting as if she had mortally insulted him. But she had no intention of sporting a ring that she would eventually have to take off. On that awareness, she fell asleep.
Angelos shook her awake just after the jet had landed at Athens.
‘You’ve been tremendous company,’ he drawled flatly.
Maxie flushed. ‘I’m sorry, I was just so tired I crashed.’
‘Surprisingly enough, I did get that message.’
They transferred from the jet onto a helicopter for the final leg of their journey to the island. As the unwieldy craft rose into the air and then banked into a turn, providing Maxie with a frighteningly skewed panoramic view of the city far below, her stomach twisted sickly. She focused on the back of the pilot’s seat, determined not to betray her fear to Angelos. A long, timeless period of mute suffering followed.
‘We’re almost there. I want you to see the island as we come in over the bay,’ Angelos imparted. His warm breath fanned her cheekbone as the helicopter gave an alarming lurch downward and she flinched. ‘Go on...look.’ Angelos strove to encourage her while she shut her eyes tight and her lips moved as she prayed.
‘I totally forgot you were afraid of heights,’ he murmured ruefully as he lifted her down onto solid ground again and steadied her with both hands. ‘I always come to Chymos in the helicopter. You’ll have to get used to it some time.’
All Maxie could think about was how soon she would have to undergo that ordeal again.
‘What you need is more of the same,’ Angelos announced in a tone of immoveable conviction. ‘I have a pilot’s licence. I’ll take you up in the helicopter every day for longer and longer periods and you’ll soon get over your phobia.’
Welded to the spot by such a threat, Maxie gave him an aghast look. ‘Is it your mission in life to torture me?’
Angelos dealt her a smouldering appraisal, his hard, sensual mouth curving in consideration while his black eyes glittered over her with what could only be described as all-male anticipation. ‘Only with pleasure, in my bed, pethi mou.’
WARM colour fingered into Maxie’s pale cheeks.
Thirty yards from them a long, low white villa sprawled in isolated splendour across the promontory. It overlooked a pale sandy beach, and the rugged cliffs and dark blue sea supplied a majestic backdrop for Angelos’s island home.
‘I was born on Chymos. As a child I spent all my vacations here. Although I was an only child, I was never lonely because I had so many cousins. Both my parents came from large families. Since my father died, this island has become my retreat from the rest of the world.’ Dropping an indolent and assured arm round her stationary figure, Angelos guided her towards the villa. ‘You’re honoured. I have never brought a woman here before, pethi mou.’
As they entered the charming hall she saw into the spacious lounge opposite. In one glance she took in the walls covered with pictures, the photographs scattered around, the shelves of books and the comfortable sofas and rugs. It was full of all the character of a family home. ‘It’s not like your apartment at all!’ Maxie surprise was unconcealed.