'Dio,' she murmured ruefully, green eyes very clear, ‘This isn't a very easy occasion for me...'
Dio dealt her a questioning, wary look, her change of ap¬proach disconcerting him.
'I didn't realise there would be so many guests and I hardly know anybody here,' Ellie pointed out. 'And all your friends and relatives were expecting you to marry Helena.'
Dio tensed. 'Yes, but—'
'Dio, they wouldn't be human if they weren't wondering why you are suddenly marrying me instead...' Ellie coloured. 'And if they're thinking what people usually think at times like this, well, they're dead right where I'm concerned, aren't they? I am pregnant! Naturally I feel touchy and self-conscious today.'
Dio closed an unexpected hand firmly over hers, black eyes no longer cool and distant. 'I am proud that you are carrying my baby,' he cut in with roughened sincerity.
'So maybe I went over the top about Helena—'
'No,' Dio sighed. 'Once again I was too quick to judge you, and I apologise. I honestly didn't appreciate how you were feeling.'
It was wonderful what difference a little explanation could make. Ellie watched in wonderment as Dio lifted her hand and pressed his mouth softly to the centre of her palm. Her heart seemed to swell inside her chest and her pulse-beat accelerated. A simply huge wave of happiness whooshed up inside her, dispelling all anxiety and unease.
'Even worse, you have no family here of your own to support you,' Dio conceded grimly.
'Mum would have loved all this...' Ellie's smile of acknowledgement was rather tremulous at that emotive thought. With a rueful groan, Dio pulled her all the way into his arms. 'When you said I had no tact, you hit the target!'
Ellie knew better than to remind him of his father. She hadn't the slightest doubt that the late Spiros Alexiakis would have been anything but happy to see his only son marrying! someone as ordinary as she felt herself to be. On the face of it, she conceded painfully, Helena would have been so much more suitable. She rested her cheek against his broad shoul¬der, the warm, intimate scent of him doing the wildest things to her senses.
Dio glanced down at her, dark, deep-set eyes burning gold. 'Have you ever made love in a limo?' he enquired thickly.
Ellie gave him a helpless grin. 'Oh, yeah, Dio...of course I want to walk into the Savoy and greet all these important people with my make-up half off and my hair all messed up!'
'I could persuade you—'
'But you won't. You're going to be a miracle of re¬straint... until tonight,' she told him unsteadily, her cheeks warming.
Met by Ellie's determined smile as the bridal couple greeted their arriving guests at the hotel, Helena bent to kiss her cheek with cool familiarity, exchanged a light word with Dio and moved on past. The brunette's supreme confidence and control still daunted Ellie.
Dio watched the smile drop right off Ellie's expressive face again. Try to appreciate how difficult this must be for her.'
Ellie nodded and flushed, feeling herself rebuked although she had done her utmost to look calm and friendly. She had never been very good at hiding her emotions. And it looked as if she was stuck with the stigma of having lied about what had passed between her and the older woman at their first meeting. But then wasn't it possible that in the heat of the moment Helena had acted totally out of character that afternoon? Helena might now regret her behaviour, Ellie thought with sudden hope, resolving to be more generous herself.
Natan Parkes introduced her to his wife, Sally. She was a bubbly redhead with freckles and a friendly, easy manner. ‘I wish I'd got the chance to meet you before the wedding. I did think of asking Dio for your number and calling you. But I knew you'd be frantically busy and I didn't want to seem too pushy.'
‘I’d have been delighted,' Ellie told her warmly, since she was beginning to appreciate that the tall, softly spoken gynaecologist was a much closer friend of Dio's than she had initially realised.
Great. I'm not much good at standing on ceremony,' Sally confided cheerfully. 'And I was really hoping you wouldn't be like—' As she bit back what she had been intending to say, she reddened like mad. 'What I meant to say was... we, well—'
Nathan stepped in to rescue his wife from her discomfiture, ‘Sally hopes you'll come and stay with us in the country some time soon. We warn our guests in advance—we have a muddy yard, three noisy kids and a manic dog!'
‘I’m not a cordon bleu cook or anything,' Sally warned rather anxiously.
‘I’m not a fussy eater, and I'd be happy to help out,' Ellie said quickly, thinking that their home and family sounded delightful.
Dio glanced at Ellie with a raised brow. 'Can you cook?' he asked in surprise.