Page 50 of Expectant Bride

She finally wakened and stretched, only find to herself under restraint. Her eyes flew open. Dio was carrying her. ‘What...where?'

'You've slept well for a lady who wasn't remotely tired.  You've been out of it for the whole trip,' Dio drawled, with more than a hint of that satisfaction peculiar to a male who enjoys being proved right.

Ellie focused on the familiar frontage of the vast villa he was striding towards. 'For goodness' sake...put me down.'

'I can't. I left your shoes behind on the jet.'

'How on earth did you cart me through Athens airport?' she gasped.

‘The same way.' Dio laughed. 'It did cross my mind that the fact you're not as staturesque as Helena was a distinct  advantage—I'm still fit to carry you over the threshold!'

Ellie froze at his reference to the other woman, the disconcerting comparison which he had unthinkingly made. Dio tensed, closed his eyes and just groaned out loud, evidently registering what he had just said.

Ellie made an enormous effort. 'It's OK,' she stressed with a forced smile intended to soothe. 'She was part of your life for a long tune...I understand.'

As he reached the palatial front entrance of the villa, Dio sent a rueful glance down at her. 'Until I met you, I really believed I was a skilled diplomat.'

'It's all that boot-licking that goes on around you,' Ellie told him baldly.

'No, it isn't that. It's you,' he condemned with a wry light in his eyes. 'I get so used to listening to you say whatever you like that I relax my guard around you.'

Ellie thought about that. 'That's good.'

Well, sometimes it would be good—even most of the time, she adjusted inwardly. But right now she really could have done without finding out that Dio had been comparing her in even the tiniest way with Helena. Such a trivial little com¬parison too: Helena so tall and shapely, Ellie so small and slightly built. But still Ellie would have preferred not to have had the confirmation that the beautiful brunette was still so much in Dio's thoughts on their wedding day.

But then it didn't take a rocket scientist to work out why Helena was on Dio's mind. All his adult life, Dio had as¬sumed that Helena would be his wife. He had had little time to come to terms with the sudden switch in brides. And he certainly cared about Helena, Ellie was forced to concede. He praised the beautiful brunette, became angry if she was criticised and hotly defended her. As she faced those hard facts head-on, Ellie was in pain. What if Dio really did love the other woman? It was perfectly possible that he had decided to put the needs of his unborn child ahead of his own personal feelings. But if he had done that, time would weaken his resolve, wouldn't it?

As they entered the huge hall, Dio dragged Ellie back to the present by momentarily stilling with a low-pitched groan. 'We have company,' he sighed.

Two tiny old ladies with almost identical creased faces and wide smiles were waiting for them in the hall. Ellie rather thought she had noticed the elderly pair in their old-fashioned black dresses on her previous visit to the villa.

Dio greeted both women in a flow of warm Greek. He settled Ellie down on her stocking-clad feet to introduce her to his grandmother's twin sisters: Polly and Lefki.

'Dio has no mother to welcome you to your new home,' Polly—Ellie thought it was—said in heavily accented En¬glish. 'We are here to make you welcome.'

To make you welcome,' Lefki repeated cheerfully.

'Lefki, I have said that.' Her sister turned to admonish her.

'But we are not staying long.' Lefki gave her sister a de¬cidedly defiant look.

Ellie couldn't help herself. She just grinned.

An abundant supper awaited them in the big drawing room she remembered. Polly and Lefki sat perched on the sofa opposite. They were so small and shrunken that their feet didn't touch the carpet. In between arguing with each other, they urged more food on Dio and shot loaded questions at Ellie.

What did she think of the island? With pride, they an¬nounced that neither of them had ever left the island, even for a day. Didn't she think it would be a wonderful place to live all the year round? Did she know how much Dio loved Chindos? Didn't she think that Dio worked too hard and trav¬elled too much? Their love and concern for Dio became more endearingly obvious with each word.

When they finally took their leave in an elderly Rolls Royce, driven off at a snail's pace by their careful driver, Dio shot Ellie a slightly uneasy glance. 'Sorry about that. Polly and Lefki live at the far end of the island. I can appreciate that some people find them rather eccentric, but they rarely visit.'

'Oh, I hope not. They're absolutely adorable,' Ellie told him. 'What age are they? Have they always been together?'