Page 24 of Expectant Bride

'You blew my deal. And then you crawled into bed with me and practically prostituted yourself in the hope of placat¬ing me,' Dio spelt out with menacing softness.

That savage judgement hung there in the hot, still air. Ellie shivered, white as death, her beautiful face a frozen oval.

Dio whipped off his sunglasses and surveyed her with eyes that glittered black as night over her. 'No...looking at you now, I do believe it was a little more personal than that,' he drawled with silken insolence, his accent licking around every vowel sound in the stillness.

'You bastard,' Ellie whispered, reacting to that calculated cruelty with instinctive recoil.

'So I went slumming for one night,' Dio derided. 'It was an experience, but not one I ever intend to repeat.'

Ellie threw back her bright head, eyes burning like emerald daggers. 'No, I was the one slumming, Dio. All you've got is a bottomless bank account. You have as much class as an illiterate goat-herd!'

Dio jerked and froze to the spot. Ellie stalked up onto the verandah, brushing past him to gain entry to the beach house. All that was guiding her was a somewhat formless desire to get some shoes on and escape. She sped into the bedroom, where her clothing was.

As she crossed the threshold, a powerful hand suddenly closed round her forearm. 'Say that again,' Dio invited in a raw undertone of pure menace.

'You have as much class as an illiterate goat-herd,' Ellie framed woodenly, staring blindly into space. 'And, in making that comparison, I have no doubt that I am insulting the goat¬herd. He might well be poor and decent, and if he's poor and mean, well, at least he's got some excuse—'

'Whereas I?' Dio slotted in, a whole octave louder in vol¬ume.

Ellie's heart was hammering like a storm warning. She could feel his rage like a hurricane, churning up the atmo¬sphere, but she couldn't suppress her overwhelming need to hit back. 'You are rich and privileged and pig-ignorant. Now get your hands off me!'

A split second later, her feet left the marble floor and a strangled screech escaped her. Dio brought her down on the bed in a startlingly fast landing that left her breathless and pinned her there. He was ashen pale beneath his bronzed skin, dark, deep-set eyes now a blaze of flashing gold intim¬idation. 'If you were a man, I'd kill you for such insults!'

'You're f-frightening me...' Ellie mumbled truthfully.

An expression of extreme distaste flashed across Dio's darkly handsome features. He straightened up and backed off instantaneously. "The helicopter's waiting up at the villa for you,' he delivered between clenched teeth, with openly chal¬lenged restraint 'Pack and get out! Don't set foot in the Alexiakis International building again.

Pale as the pristine white sheet spread beneath her, Ellie swung her legs off the side of the bed and sat there. 'I thought I could love you, and now I hate you,' she muttered sickly.

With a contemptuous gesture of one lean brown hand, Dio sent a handful of banknotes fluttering down onto the soft deep carpet at her feet.

Ellie stared speechless at all those fifty pound notes.

'As you said, business comes first and last in your life. If it's any consolation, you gave me a great night.'

Ellie's innate survival skills rose above the devastating sense of betrayal that momentarily threatened to overwhelm her. 'Is this my plane fare home from Athens?'

'Cristos...what's that supposed to mean?' Dio raked at her.

"That little people like me have to think of practical stuff like that. I don't know how much a flight home would cost,' she extended doggedly, refusing to look at him, refusing to let herself feel anything at all.

'You collect your ticket at the terminal.'

‘Then all I need is transport home once I get back to Lon¬don.' Ellie picked up one note, resolving to send him the change, and then she stiffened. 'What about Meg?'

"The other cleaner? What do you think?'

'That if you sack Meg too, you will live to regret it.' Slowly, very slowly, Ellie raised her head, eyes as cold as his own now as she made the worst threat she could imagine. ‘I’ll go to the newspapers, Dio. Since they seem so interested in you, I'll give them chapter and verse on this whole sleazy little episode and then compensate Meg with the proceeds...'

Dio studied her with a quality of incredulous disgust that was unmistakable. Inwardly, Ellie cringed from that look and, terrified of betraying any further weakness, she got up on cotton wool legs. Turning her back to him, she tipped her old canvas shoes out of the relevant carrier bag and slid her feet into them. With a nerveless grip on the bag that con¬tained the rest of what she had been wearing that first eve¬ning, she walked past him, her head as high as she could hold it.

It seemed to take for ever to reach the lift in the villa, for ever to walk the length of that opulent endless hall, shoulders and spine aching with the rigidity of unnatural control. The helicopter was parked on the heli-pad a hundred yards from the entrance. She climbed in and closed her eyes tight, shallowly breathing in and out, struggling to maintain control and, most of all, not to actually think about what she had foolishly brought on herself.