Page 16 of Expectant Bride

'Where the hell have you been?' he breathed in a driven undertone.

But a couple of feet from her Dio ground to an equally sudden halt, an almost bemused frown pleating his winged ebony brows. Emanating megawatt tension in abundance again, he studied Ellie with ferociously intent black eyes that questioned even before he demanded, 'Why do I want to be with you right now?'

As tense now as he, Ellie jerked a slight shoulder in an awkward movement. 'Keeping tabs on me to ensure I don't get near a phone has b-become a real bad habit?' she stam¬mered in a strained and breathless rush.

At that moment, Helena Teriakos strolled unhurriedly out to join them. Beneath her coolly enquiring scrutiny, Ellie found herself reddening with fierce discomfiture, although she could not have explained why.

'Miss Morgan looks quite exhausted, Dio,' the other woman commented. 'I believe she might appreciate the op¬portunity to retire to her room.'

'Yes...yes, I would,' Ellie agreed tautly.

The beautiful brunette awarded her a faint but dismissive smile of approval. His strong jawline clenching, Dio sum¬moned a maid with an imperious snap of his fingers, his habit of command so ingrained in that gesture it caught Ellie's attention and made her look away.

‘I’ll see you later,' he informed Ellie flatly, and strode back indoors.

Why do I feel like I'm abandoning nun? Ellie asked herself in genuine bewilderment as she followed the maid. Where had this ridiculous sense of connection come from? She barely knew Dio Alexiakis. She didn't even like the guy, did she? What on earth was the matter with her?

Jet lag, exhaustion, she told herself, but she knew it was more. Helpless sympathy had flared when Dio had admitted that he'd been at odds with his father before his death. She understood that he didn't feel entitled to play the grieving role of a loving son for the benefit of an audience. Yet it was patently obvious to her that he had been a loving son. But right now, Dio was so tormented by his conscience he couldn't see the wood for the trees.

The maid led her into a lift off the huge entrance hall. They travelled down and then traversed a corridor which took them straight back out into the open air again. Mystified, but intrigued, Ellie followed the girl down a short sloping path to a low building sited right on the edge of an endless dreamy stretch of golden sand.

The interior was wonderfully cool. It was some sort of self-contained guest suite, Ellie assumed, admiring the spacious lounge and adjoining dining area. The tall windows had el¬egant shutters to keep out the sun; inviting sofas adorned the marble floor. There was no kitchen, just a concealed fridge the size of a walk-in larder, packed with snacks and soft drinks. Two en suite bedrooms completed the accommoda¬tion. Her assorted carrier bags already sat in a rather pathetic huddle on one of the beds.

With alacrity, Ellie took the opportunity to strip off every stitch she wore and head straight for the shower. Smothering yawns, she washed, but she was conscious of the weirdest sense of dislocation. Dio drifted back into her mind, and his lean, dark, devastating image wedged there, refusing to be driven out again. She frowned in confusion.

Suddenly she remembered the way Dio had stridden to¬wards her, and she shivered then, reluctant to examine her own response. 'Why do I want to be with you right now?' he had demanded, his incredulity unconcealed. Why, she should have asked herself, had she stood there waiting for him, strung out on such a high of anticipation she could hardly breathe?

That was not how Ellie acted around the opposite sex. In fact, Dio Alexiakis should already have sunk like a stone under the weight of her prejudices. Ellie thoroughly distrusted good-looking men, and was all too well aware that rich men saw women as mere trophies with which to em¬bellish their all-important image. Her own father had been just such a man.

Only now, all of a sudden, Ellie was being forced to accept that even her most cherished convictions didn't necessarily influence how she actually behaved. Dio had spellbinding physical magnetism, but that didn't excuse her for acting like a silly little schoolgirl. In real life, Cinderella would have watched her prince waltz over the horizon and out of reach with a real princess, Ellie reflected cynically. No, she didn't see Dio Alexiakis as an essentially superior being, but in terms of cold, hard cash and status, he was as far removed from someone like her as a royal prince.

She was attracted to him, that was all, she told herself uneasily. Unfortunately that didn't explain why only self-conscious embarrassment in Helena Teriakos's presence had driven her into walking away from Dio. For after the way Dio had looked at her, exhausted or not, she had the horren¬dous urge to stick to him like superglue.