Page 23 of Expectant Bride

Ellie didn't open her eyes until eight the following morning. Dio was still sound asleep. He even looked gorgeous asleep, she decided, rather glad he wasn't awake, because she was sure she herself looked a mess. But Dio was a long, lithe version of sheer masculine perfection. Even his bronzed skin glowed against the pale bedding.

She crept out of bed, feeling considerably less brave than she had the night before. The ultimate ache of her body rather embarrassed her. In the clear light of a beautiful Greek morn¬ing Ellie was painfully aware that she had taken a plunge from which there was no turning back. Her emotions were involved up to the hilt, and the level of her absorption in Dio felt frankly scary.

When she put on the candy-pink shorts outfit, she was amused to discover that it wasn't one bit undersized on her. But then she didn't have four-foot-long legs like the store mannequin. She poured herself a glass of iced water from the fridge and pinched an orange and an apple from the bowl on the dining table. In need of fresh air and some temporary physical distance from the male in the bedroom, she went for a walk along the beach.

There was definitely something reassuring about a guy who mentioned having plans for you right from the word go, Ellie told herself urgently, stamping down hard on her anx¬ious misgivings. Dio seemed so honest and open. All right, so she wasn't happy that she had fallen into his bed so quickly, but she was glad that he had been her first lover. At least Dio couldn't get the idea that she made a habit of that sort of thing.

Furthermore, it was a sort of inverted snobbery to imagine that she couldn't possibly have a relationship with Dio just because she was a part-time cleaner in his wretched monolith of a building, wasn't it? It didn't seem to bother him, did it? And she managed the bookshop for Mr Barry. She had a responsible position even if she didn't earn very much. She decided that as soon as she got home she would approach the bank about a loan to buy the bookshop. Only fear of refusal had made her hang back so long.

When she checked her watch, she was surprised to realise that she had been out for a couple of hours. She walked back towards the beach house. From a distance, she saw Dio poised on the verandah, apparently waiting for her. Her mouth ran dry. The closer she got, the more she drank him in. He looked sensational. The unstructured beige jacket he wore over a black tee shirt simply shrieked cool designer elegance. Tailored black chinos hugged his long, powerful thighs. She wished he wasn't wearing sunglasses which masked his eyes.

'I got a call on my mobile,' Dio drawled when she was still several feet away.

And, that quickly, Ellie realised that something was badly wrong. His tone was ice-cold, and so empty of emotion it ran a real chill down her spine.

She came to a halt, green eyes betraying her anxious un¬certainty. 'What's wrong?' she asked tautly.

"The minute the market opened, the price of stock in Palco Technic started heading for outer space,' Dio informed her with lethal quietness.

Ellie stared back at him in bewilderment, too shaken by the change in him to immediately understand what he was telling her.

'You said you didn't manage to make that phone call from the airport. But evidently you did,' Dio continued with the same lack of emotion. 'You passed on that confidential in¬formation you overheard and naturally it's been used. I hope the tip-off paid handsome dividends.'

Ellie unfroze and started forward. "The only call I made from the airport was made on your phone! For goodness' sake, Dio...' she protested feelingly. 'If something's gone wrong, it's got nothing to do with me. I haven't passed on any information...I wouldn’t even know where to pass it to!'

'One too many coincidences, Ellie. Like where were you when I woke up this morning?'

She blinked in disconcertion. 'I—'

'Tell me, were you afraid of how I might react when the bad news broke and the balloon went up?' Dio enquired flatly. 'You knew that I'd find out what you'd done before you got off this island, but you were too greedy to stop and think about that, weren't you?'

The sun was beating down on Ellie. Perspiration was dampening her skin. But inside herself the coldness of shock was spreading like a glacier. Now that she had finally grasped what she was being accused of—selling the content of that wretched conversation in some covert phone call—if any¬thing, she felt even more bemused.

'Dio, you've got this all wrong,' Ellie protested. 'If that information has got out somehow, I'm sorry, but I don't like being accused of something I didn't do. I did warn you that there was someone else listening at that doorway—'

Savage derision curled Dio's expressive mouth. 'Don't in¬sult my intelligence—'

'What intelligence?' Ellie demanded thinly, an unstable combination of anger and piercing fear beginning to rise out of her shock. 'If you had any, it should be telling you that it's highly unlikely to be me responsible for any information leak!'