'Are you absolutely mad?' Ellie mumbled shakily.
'Do you live alone or with your family?' he questioned.
Transfixed by her own bewilderment, Ellie muttered, 'Alone, but—'
'A winged ebony brow rose at that news, black eyes briefly welding to her beautiful face. 'You surprise me. Where do you keep your passport at home?'
'In my bedside cabinet, but why—?’
Dio Alexiakis punched out a number on his mobile phone. 'I don't see any alternative to a trip to Greece,' he informed her in a sardonic aside. ‘I could lock you up without a phone, but I think you'd be even less happy with that option. And I can hardly ask my household staff here in London to keep you imprisoned while I'm out of the country! You have to accompany me of your own free will.'
Free will? What free will? Ellie's lower lip finally dropped away from her upper as she appreciated that he was deadly serious. In the simmering silence she listened to him talk at some length on the phone in what she assumed to be Greek, his tone brusque, commanding. She heard her own name mentioned and tensed up even more.
'But I...I swear I won't tell anyone a word of what I heard!' she protested feverishly as he came off the phone again.
'Not good enough. By the way, I've just instructed one of my staff to open your staff locker in the maintenance de¬partment and extract your keys.'
'You've what?’ Ellie flew upright, angry colour lighting her cheeks.
'Your address is in your personnel file. Demitrios will pick up your passport and bring it to the airport.'
Eyes wide with incredulity, Ellie snapped, 'I don't think so...I'm going home right now!'
'Are you? It really is do or die time, Ellie,' Dio Alexiakis advanced with a measuring look of challenge. 'You can walk out through that door. I can't stop you. But I can sack both you and your friend, and believe me, if you walk out, I will!'
Halfway to the door, Ellie stilled with a jerk.
'I think it would be much more sensible for you to accept the inevitable and come along quietly. That is, assuming you're the innocent party you say you are,' he completed softly, studying her with brilliant black questioning eyes.
'This is crazy! Why would I risk my job by telling anyone what I overheard?' Ellie demanded starkly.
'That information could sell for a great deal of money. I think that would supply sufficient motivation.' Dio Alexiakis strode to the threshold of the inner office he had emerged from earlier. 'Are you coming?'
'Coming where?' Ellie muttered.
'I have a helicopter waiting on the roof. It'll take us to the airport.'
'Oh...' He might as well have admitted to having a dinosaur waiting on the roof. She could not have been more taken aback. 'A helicopter?' she repeated weakly.
Seeming finally to appreciate that she was paralysed by sheer disbelief at what he was calmly demanding of her, Dio Alexiakis strode back across the room, closed a powerful hand over hers and urged her in the direction he wanted her to go. Pausing only to lift a heavy dark overcoat off a chair-arm, he hurried her across a palatial office with huge corner windows and pressed her through a door on the far side of the room.
'This can't be happening to me,' Ellie whispered dazedly as she stumbled up a flight of steps.
‘That wish cuts both ways,' he drawled curtly from behind her. 'I have no desire for company on this particular trip.'
As he reached a long arm past her to open the steel door at the top, a blast of cold spring air blew her hair back from her face and plastered her thin overall to her slight body. She shivered violently. Having already donned his overcoat, Dio Alexiakis side-stepped her to stride towards the silver heli¬copter and the pilot stationed by its nose.
'Hurry up!' he shot at her over a broad shoulder.
'I haven't even got my coat!' Ellie heard herself shriek at him, losing her temper with a suddenness that shook her.
He stopped dead and wheeled round. With an air of grim exasperation and quite unnecessary male drama, he began to shrug back out of his coat.
'Don't waste your time!' Ellie snapped, temper leaping even higher at that display of grudging gallantry. 'I wouldn't wear your stupid coat if I had pneumonia!'
'So freeze in silence!' Dio Alexiakis launched back at her at full throttle, black eyes flashing like forked lightning.
Ellie squared her slight shoulders. Only the frank fasci¬nation of the watching pilot persuaded her to put a lid on her anger. Quite untouched by a slashing response that would have intimidated ninety per cent of the population, and keeping her wind-stung face stiff as concrete, Ellie stalked past Dio Alexiakis and climbed gracefully into the rear seat of the helicopter.
‘I’ll buy you some clothes at the airport,' the abrasive Greek slung at her as he swung in beside the pilot. He turned his head towards her, putting his hard, classic profile into stark view, adding thinly, 'We'll have plenty of time to kill. Waiting for your passport to arrive will probably cost the jet its take-off slot!'