Ellie had too much respect for the older woman to embark on frantic denials. On her first night back to work she had known that Meg was disconcerted by her failure to offer an explanation of her disappearance. 'I'll ride out the gossip,' she muttered tautly.
The older woman sighed. 'A couple of weeks ago, Mr Alexiakis walked past me and said, "Goodnight, Mrs Buck-nail," for the first time ever. I couldn't help but know that something had changed somewhere. I would have sworn he didn't even know my name, never mind take note of me being around!'
Ellie coloured as she recalled accusing Dio of not even noticing his more humble employees.
'I've no time for gossip.' Meg's eyes were troubled. 'It's you I'm worrying about—'
'I'm fine...sadder but wiser,' Ellie confided tightly as the lift reached her floor.
Meg grimaced. 'I wish I could give that young man a piece of my mind—'
'I'm not a child, Meg.'
'No,' Meg conceded grudgingly as Ellie stepped out. 'But you needn't try to kid me that you're in fast league either!'
It was no comfort to be reminded of that salient fact. Ellie was already far too well aware of it. One reckless night which could well change the whole course of her Me, she reflected with a feeling shiver. Her mother had been a single parent. Ellie knew better than most just how difficult it was to raise a child alone. She was probably being foolishly pessimistic, she told herself. Even so, she decided to buy a kit and do a pregnancy test for herself the following day. It would be a lot quicker than waiting to get an appointment with her doc¬tor.
She was emerging from one of the offices on level eight when the lift next to the reception area pinged. She turned her head, expecting to see the security guard on his round, and froze when she saw Dio Alexiakis striding down the corridor towards her.
This time she noticed every tiny detail of his appearance. He was wearing a superb silver-grey suit, cut to enhance every powerful line of his magnificent physique. Her heart¬beat thudded preternaturally slow in her eardrums. His lean, dark features had a slightly keener edge then she recalled; his sensational cheekbones were more defined, the hollows below a little deeper. But even the faint shadows now etched beneath his stunning eyes added an exotic tinge of drama to his spectacular good-looks, she reflected in a sudden surge of bitter anger. She hated the way he made her feel. Breath¬less and excited, and then foolish and unbearably sad...
Ellie spun away and plugged in the floor-polisher, deter¬mined just to get on with her job. The polisher fired into noisy motion but almost as suddenly lost power.
Ellie whirled round. Having switched off the electric cur¬rent, Dio straightened, surveying her disconcerted face with brilliant black eyes of challenge. 'Stop running away,' he derided.
Unprepared for that angle of attack, Ellie said tautly, 'I don't know what you're talking about—'
'Yes, you do. You're trying to hide behind the fact that you work for me. But it's too late for that,' Dio told her with sardonic cool.
'I just want you to leave me alone.'
Dio gazed steadily back at her. 'Every time you look at me, you tell me the exact opposite.' He reached down for her hand before she could guess his intention. 'Your pulse is racing. You're trembling—'
'With annoyance!' Ellie tugged her wrist free and spun away again. 'I know what I want out of life and, believe me, you're not part of the package!'
'What features in the package?'
'You really want to know?'
'I really want to know,' Dio confirmed levelly.
'All right. ‘I’m hoping to buy the bookshop. That's why I run two jobs. I've been saving up for a long time and I'll be applying for a loan soon,' she admitted flatly.
‘I’ll offer you a loan now, on a straight business basis,' Dio informed her lazily.
Ellie groaned out loud in frustration, marched into the next office down the corridor and snatched up the wastepaper bin. 'You just don't get it, do you?' she condemned when she emerged again. 'I don't want any favours. I don't need any help.'
'But you're making your employment here a barrier be¬tween us.'
'Dio...you wouldn't recognise a solid brick wall as a bar¬rier!' Ellie snapped.
'I shouldn't have asked you to be my mistress,' he mur¬mured sibilantly.
Ellie was tempted into looking at him again, the hard knot of anger inside her loosening ever so slightly. 'No—'
'It was too soon,' Dio completed.
'You are a really slow learner!' Ellie delivered with wasp¬ish bite.
Vibrant amusement shimmered in his stunning dark eyes. ‘I’ve missed having you around, pethi mou.'
That smile warmed her like summer sunshine. She dragged her eyes from him, as if that sudden heat burned her. 'So you're bored with sycophancy and in need of novelty. Have you ever thought of a dating agency?'