'Forget that...what do you think I am? A commodity?' Ellie had demanded. 'I'm almost a twenty-first-century woman!'
'Why did twenty-first-century woman say no to me the night before last?' Dio had enquired silkily.
A squirming silence had fallen at her end of the line.
'I want our wedding night to be special. You said you understood,' Ellie had reminded him uncomfortably, her face burning.
'When I was standing under a cold shower at two that morning, aching like the very devil,' Dio had growled back in charged response, 'I changed my mind.'
It was with that memory foremost in her mind that Ellie smiled with sheer brilliance on that walk down the aisle to¬wards Dio. She was blind to the assembled guests crowding out the church, impervious to everyone but the very tall, very dark and very, very gorgeous guy waiting for her at the altar with his best man. This was her day, her moment, her guy. Mine, she thought fiercely. Well, she adjusted then, for as long as she could hold onto him.
The ceremony was beautiful. Ellie drank in every word, required no prompting when it came to taking her vows, in¬deed got in there fast. Why? At the back of her mind lurked a no doubt ridiculous but nonetheless enervating image of Helena Teriakos somehow stopping the ceremony in its tracks at the eleventh hour. 'I make a very bitter enemy,' Helena had warned. And even as the wedding ring went on her finger, Ellie's skin chilled at that memory.
Unfortunately, it hadn't occurred to Ellie that Dio would invite Helena to their wedding. So it was a shock when she saw the beautiful Greek woman approaching them outside the church.
A vision of perfection in a stunning white suit, Helena glided up, grasped both their hands and murmured with a rather sad smile, 'I am very happy for you both.' Then she paused. 'Ellie, I hope you don't mind, but I have something I really need to ask Dio.'
That touching air of plucky feminine vulnerability which had taken Ellie entirely by surprise worked like a magic charm on Dio. He was drawn off to speak to Helena and Ellie was left alone on the church steps. As the minutes ticked past, Ellie got paler and paler, her tension rising. Their guests were noticing, stealing covert glances at Dio and He¬lena, commenting. Ellie just wanted to die of humiliation.
The society photographer finally called, 'Mr Alexiakis...please!'
And only then did Dio return to Ellie's side.
'She did that deliberately!’ Ellie condemned helplessly when the photographer had finished.
Dio raised a questioning brow. 'Who? What are you talk¬ing about?'
How could he be so obtuse? Ellie was so furious she could have shaken him. 'Helena!'
A silence as thick as concrete spread.
Dio breathed in deep.
'Helena remains a close friend, a very close friend,' he spelt out with what sounded like twenty-five generations of aristocratic ice and breeding backing up his chilling drawl.
'Oh, I believe I've got that message all right,' Ellie whis¬pered tightly.
'Then understand this too. I will not allow you to embar¬rass either myself or her in public. That's my last word on the subject. Get used to the idea before I lose my temper!'
And with that blunt warning Dio turned away to speak to his best man, Nathan Parkes. Ellie quivered with sheer rage. She couldn't believe that Dio had had the nerve to speak to her as though she were a misbehaving child threatening to cause a scene. For goodness' sake, he'd got the ring on her finger and then he'd started acting like some medieval tyrant! Hadn't he seen how utterly inappropriate and unnecessary it had been for the brunette to demand his attention in the midst of their wedding photographs being taken? Evidently not.
As Dio swung back to her again, Ellie threw back her slim shoulders and lifted her chin. 'You can't talk to me like you just did, Dio—'
'Ohi...no?' Dio countered with dangerous quietness, his tone trickling down Ellie's rigid spine like the gypsy's curse. 'You've got a lot to learn about Greek men!'
Frankly, at that moment, Ellie felt she had already learnt quite sufficient. She was fizzing with fury. But before she could respond hi kind, Meg Bucknall appeared a few feet from them. 'Freeze!' she begged, and eagerly lifted her cam¬era to take a picture.
'You look just gorgeous, Ellie,' the older woman sighed appreciatively. 'You didn't have to invite me but I'm so glad you did. I'm having a great time.'
'The pleasure is ours, Mrs Bucknall,' Dio responded with a charismatic smile.
"The pleasure has just gone out of my day,' Ellie confided as they climbed into the limousine that would take them to the reception at the Savoy Hotel.
'When you're in the wrong, I'll tell you,' Dio countered without a shade of regret.
But I wasn't in the wrong, Ellie almost snapped, and then conscience spurred her into questioning that conviction. This was their wedding day. Helena's smooth little power play had embarrassed rather than injured. Possibly in allowing her own insecurity full rein, she herself had overreacted.