Page 48 of Expectant Bride

Nathan shot his friend a helplessly amused look and laughed outright. 'Dio, that says it all, it really does! Are you aware, Ellie, that Dio didn't even know how to switch on a kettle when he first came to stay with us?'

'They're a lovely couple,' Ellie whispered when they' were eating their meal at the top table. 'Have you known Nathan long?'

"I was in a car smash when I was nineteen. Nathan was doing his stint as a med student in the casualty unit.’ For some reason that recollection made Dio's firm lips curve into a surprisingly amused grin.

'What's so funny about that?'

'I only had concussion, but my father was in a highly emotional frame of mind when he arrived.' Dio grimaced. 'He behaved as if Nathan had saved me from certain death and embarrassed the hell out of both of us. I think Nathan agreed to spend the weekend on our yacht just to escape being wept over and embraced!'

'Of course your dad was upset. You were an only child,’ Ellie scolded, dismayed even by the mention of a car accident that had happened a decade earlier, simply terrified at idea of anything ever happening to Dio.

Dio gazed deep into her anxious green eyes and his month quirked. 'I wish he'd met you—'

'No, you don't!' Ellie told him roundly. 'He'd have locked you up before he'd have let you marry someone like me!'

'What is this "someone like me" stuff?'

'It's my Cinderella complex talking. I certainly don't mean that you're my prince, Dio, so don't be getting a swollen head!' Ellie cautioned. 'You're the guy who first switched on a kettle as an adult...and I was the latch-key kid who got my own tea from the age of seven!'

Dio wasn't amused. 'No damn wonder you find it so hard to lean on me.'

'Most people I've tried to lean on in life fell over!' Ellie joked instantly, hoping to make him lighten up again, wishing she hadn't mentioned her childhood.

  ‘But I won't,' Dio intoned very seriously. 'You have to learn to trust me, pethi mou.'

Sometimes men were a tonic, she decided. He had said that without a shade of irony. Yet he didn't trust her. At least, her word didn't yet carry the same weight and value as his lifelong friend Helena's, Ellie couldn't help reflecting. But she swiftly suppressed that thought. They were married now, and it was early days yet. Time would take care of that problem. She couldn't see that he would be meeting up with Helena Teriakos very much in the future, and she was too practical to make a running battle of that issue in the short term. A new marriage was a fragile thing. Wouldn't it be foolish to make the beautiful Greek woman a bone of contention?

A few hours later, in the luxurious room set aside for her use, Ellie removed her wedding gown with rueful regret and put on the travelling outfit she had purchased. A loden-green suit, its fitted jacket adorned with snazzy gold buttons and teamed with a fashionable short skirt. It had cost the earth and she had picked it with great care. But the more mature appearance she had initially attempted to strike hadn't come off. Those kind of clothes didn't look right on her yet. She was twenty-one and she didn't look older than her years.

When she returned to the crush of guests awaiting their departure for the airport, she was rewarded by the apprecia¬tive gleam that awakened in Dio's expressive eyes the instant I be saw her. Her rather anxious smile became downright sunny.

'You look about eighteen. I should be hung,' Dio groaned, but he curved a wonderfully possessive arm round her small thin figure. 'Go on, throw your bouquet'

'No, I want to keep it.'

'I thought it was tradition.'

'No, I'm having mine preserved and framed...or some¬thing,' Ellie told him stubbornly.

The number of people wishing to exchange last words with Dio briefly forced them apart. Ellie watched Dio laughing at some sally, and something akin to pure joy blossomed within her. He really did look happy and relaxed, just as a new husband should look.

And then, from behind her, a cool smooth voice remarked, 'I pity you, Ellie. Playing the whore between Dio's sheets won't hold him for long. And you don't have anything else to offer him, do you?'

In shock, Ellie froze, and then she spun round with a jerk. But Helena Teriakos had already moved on to chat to an older couple some distance from her. However, Sally Parkes was standing only a foot away, her mouth wide, her eyes almost as appalled as Ellie's. 'I was just hurrying over to speak to you before you left. Did I really just hear what I thought I heard?' she demanded in an incredulous whisper. 'My goodness, I never thought that cold fish had it in her to be that spiteful!'

That surprising comment dredged a nervous giggle from Ellie. 'Now you know.'

'Go and tell Dio right this minute,' Sally urged her keenly.

'No, I'll handle it myself...' Ellie said awkwardly, mor¬tified colour now banishing her previous pallor. 'I did kind of steal her man, so, well...I can't blame her for hating me.'