Page 39 of Expectant Bride

At one the following afternoon, a limousine with tinted win¬dows pulled up outside the shop. Ellie grinned, assuming that Dio had got back from Paris sooner than he had thought.

She immediately asked Horace Barry if it would be all right for her to take her lunch break. But a split second later she stiffened in confusion when a female figure emerged from the limousine. A tall svelte brunette sheathed in a pill¬box-red suit. Helena Teriakos, she registered in bemused rec¬ognition, just as the other woman entered the bookshop.

The Greek woman focused on Ellie with cool dark eyes, her beautiful face expressionless. 'Is there somewhere we can talk in private?' she enquired.

Disconcerted by that disdainful demand, Ellie flushed. 'Sorry, what is—?'

'We can talk in my car.' Spinning round, Helena Teriakos walked back out of the shop, evidently expecting Ellie to follow her.

Ellie hesitated. She didn't like being taken by surprise. Even less did she like being addressed as if she was a me¬dieval serf. But Helena Teriakos was related to Dio, wasn't she? Certainly she had been swarming about that palatial villa on Chindos like a family member of no small importance. There had been that family photograph in Dio's apartment as well. And if Helena had suddenly taken the trouble to seek her out, it could only be because she knew that Dio had proposed and she had something to say on the subject.

Ellie lifted her jacket, slid into it and went outside. The chauffeur ushered her into the rear of the opulent vehicle. Ellie was very tense.

Helena Teriakos studied her with narrowed eyes and slowly shook her beautiful head in apparent wonderment. 'A shop assistant and a cleaner! Dio really must have been dis¬traught that night on Chindos! I confess that I wasn't pleased when he showed up with you at his father's funeral, but in the circumstances, I was prepared to overlook that small so¬cial indiscretion—'

'Social indiscretion...?' Ellie queried flatly, her skin red¬dening beneath that derisive attack. She lifted her chin. 'Why should you have to overlook anything Dio does?'

The Greek woman elevated a brow. 'Men will be men. I'm fond of Dio, of course, but I don't have a jealous tempera¬ment. I'm not a sexually possessive woman either. I have always expected Dio to have a mistress after our marriage—'

'Your marriage?' Ellie interrupted incredulously.

Helena Teriakos appraised her bewildered face and shaken eyes and laughed with sudden amusement. 'You really didn't know, did you? Dio and I were practically betrothed in our cradles. We have known all our lives that we would even¬tually marry—'

'No...' Ellie broke in shakily. 'No, it's not true! Dio would have told me....' And then her voice just faded away into nothingness as she recalled that conversation on the beach.

'Why should he have told you? You were just one more in a long line of little amusements, none of whom were des¬tined to be of any lasting importance in Dio's life,' Helena retorted drily, watching all the remaining colour drain from Ellie's face. 'Had you belonged to our social circle, you would have been aware that our friends and families have been awaiting an announcement of a formal engagement for some time now.'

The mists of sheer disbelief had now cleared from Ellie's mind. She was absolutely gutted, her sense of betrayal im¬mense. Helena Teriakos, whom she had foolishly assumed to be a mere relative! She felt sick with pain and mortification. An arranged marriage. Only Dio had termed it, 'picking one's life partner with intelligence'. Of course Spiros Alexiakis had had a bridal candidate in mind when he'd urged his son to many! And Dio had said, ‘I’m not ready yet.' Too busy having a good time with a variety of gorgeous willing women to settle down into matrimony at the age of twenty-nine. But throughout Helena had been waiting patiently in the wings.

'I just don't understand how you could accept Dio b-being with other women...' Ellie stammered helplessly.

'Dio and I have bonds that you could never hope to un¬derstand. We share the same background, status and expec¬tations. We are a perfect match,' Helena informed her with supreme superiority. 'Unfortunately Dio rejoices in a rather touching but very destructive sense of humour. He believes that he has to marry you for his child's sake.'

Aghast that Dio had evidently admitted that she had fallen pregnant, Ellie felt horribly exposed and shamed. 'Dio told you—?'

'He flew over to Paris yesterday and spent the entire eve¬ning with me. Weren't you aware of that either?' A small scornful smile tilted the brunette's lips. 'Believe me, he was quite devastated by his over-active conscience. However, I am a very practical woman. How much will it cost me to persuade you that an abortion would be in your best interests? Five hundred thousand pounds?'