Page 49 of Expectant Bride

Sally Parkes frowned. 'Her man? They weren't even dat¬ing, never mind engaged. Surely you don't believe she's been sitting home just waiting for Dio to pop the question! If a richer, more powerful prospect had come along, she'd have married him years ago!'

Ellie felt uneasy. She liked Sally, but, although it was com¬forting to be told such things, she didn't want to discuss Helena with anyone.

'Honestly!' Sally was into full swing now, venting what were obviously pretty personal feelings about the other woman. 'Helena's all sweetness and light around Dio. I'd just love him to know what she's really like! Men can be so blind.'

'Yes,' Ellie agreed, frantically trying to think of a change of subject.

'He's had a real narrow escape. She's the original ice queen and the most awful snob. Nat and I just aren't good enough to share the same room with her!' Sally shared feel¬ingly.

'Who aren't you and Nat good enough to share the same room with?' Dio enquired with amusement. He closed a pow¬erful arm round Ellie as he spoke, only to glance down at his bride in surprise when she jumped in guilty dismay.

"What's wrong?'

‘I’m feeling a bit dizzy,' Ellie announced, and right then she genuinely was. Dizzy with apprehension. She was terri¬fied that Sally was about to name Helena and give Dio the impression that they had been enjoying a mutual muck-raking session.

But a split second later she saw that she needn't have wor¬ried. Poor, outspoken Sally was hotly embarrassed by Dio's untimely interruption. And, as a distraction, Ellie's plea of dizziness worked a treat. Dio assisted her into the limousine as if she was an elderly lady of at least a hundred and one. Then he climbed back out again to stride over to Sally's husband, Nathan.

From her stance a few feet from the car, Sally made the most comical grimace of relief. She pretended to mop her brow, evidently as aware as Ellie of Dio's high opinion of Helena and grateful not to have caused offence.

Dio swung into the limousine beside Ellie. "The instant the jet's airborne, you're going to rest,' he informed her with determination, fresh from what appeared to have been an ur¬gent consultation with Nathan in his professional capacity.

'But I'm OK!' Ellie protested in dismay.

'I should never have invited so many people. It's been a hell of a demanding day for you... and I know it sounds crass but I keep on forgetting that you're a pregnant lady!' Dio told her apologetically.

Actually, no news could have pleased Ellie more. Only by the time she heard it, it was too late. There she was, longing to be passionately kissed, and Dio was behaving as if she had turned into some kind of invalid. When she argued, he simply assumed that she was striving not to be a sickly wet blanket. He then told her off for trying to take such an atti¬tude with him, and pointed out that she had to accept the need to take extra care of herself now.

As soon as the jet was on route to Greece, where they were to spend a couple of weeks, Dio stashed Ellie on the bed in the cabin and helped her out of her shoes. He would have helped her out of her suit as well, but Ellie pulled away.

'Go to sleep,' he urged bossily. 'I know you have to be exhausted.'

‘I’m not' Ellie groaned in despair.    

Dio crouched down lithely by the side of the bed. Vibrant dark eyes swept her mutinous but pale face. 'Don't you want to be awake for our wedding night?' he murmured silkily.

'I thought Nathan might have put that on the forbidden list as well,' Ellie said crossly.

Dio gave her a shimmering smile of amusement and smoothed her tumbled hair gently off her brow. 'You're such a kid sometimes.'

Ellie was so annoyed at that assurance she flipped over to turn her face to the wall and presented him with a stiff back.

'And that's really good for me!' Dio protested with a tremor of laughter disturbing his usually even diction. 'Oc¬casionally I now have to think for two people instead of one. For a male who has been extremely selfish and spoilt for most of his life, that's really terrific therapy!'

'Oh, really?' Ellie muttered sniffily. Tm so glad one of us is having fun!'

Dio burst out laughing. Ellie flipped back over, real temper sparking, and then she collided with his beautiful dark eyes. Her heart skipped a beat and she totally forgot what she might have been about to snap back.

'I promise you, agape mou. The fun will include you to- night,' he swore, not quite steadily.

And only when she was free of the undeniable distraction of his vibrant presence did Ellie feel the heaviness of the exhaustion she had rigorously denied slowly creeping over her to weight her limbs.

 'Stop it,' Ellie surfaced to mumble in complaint when she sensed disturbance some timeless period later.

'Hush,' Dio soothed.

Ellie slid a sleepily seeking hand beneath his jacket. She spread possessive fingers across the silk shirt separating her from his warm, virile body and sighed with contentment. Dimly assuming he was lying down beside her, she sank back into peaceful sleep.