Page 54 of Expectant Bride

'Ellie...' Dio grated.

'You really want to know who I think is likely to have been behind this newspaper stuff...?' Ellie swallowed and tilted her chin. 'In my opinion, the most likely candidate is Helena Teriakos.'

Boulders could have dropped soundlessly into the deep, deep silence that fell. She might as well have named a cartoon character. Dio stared at her with wondering black eyes as if she was intellectually challenged.

'It has to be her,' Ellie continued valiantly. 'She already knew about my background and she hates me—'

'Have you taken leave of your wits?' Dio demanded in an almost ragged plea.

Ellie jerked a slight shoulder. 'If it's any consolation, Helena has you taped too,' she added, no longer struggling to choose her words with care. 'She said that you were easily embarrassed, and she said that you'd turn on me."

Dio swept a silencing hand through the air. As a gesture, it was highly effective in its intimidating authority. 'You are so devoured by jealousy you can't see straight, never mind reason rationally—'

'Right at this moment, I am certainly not jealous, Dio.' Ellie thrust up her chin as she voiced that reality. 'If Helena came to that front door right now, I'd hand you over without a murmur!'

"That's enough!' Dio growled.

Tm not finished!' Ellie's anger was shooting higher even as his inexplicably appeared to be on the wane. 'You deserve her! I wish you had married her. You'd have got frostbite on your wedding night!'

Dio breathed in very slowly and deeply. Then he said, ‘I think this could be that stage when the honeymoon phase comes to a sudden very sticky end.'

'I've had enough of you and that malicious vixen,' Ellie announced tremulously.

‘Tough,' Dio responded with extreme quietness.

That switch in attitude bemused her. 'What do you mean, tough?’

'You're my wife and you're not going anywhere. In fact, while you're displaying this deeply disturbing manic streak where Helena is concerned, you're staying on this island. I have to confess that I literally cringe at the prospect of you meeting up with her again. Look at yourself!' Dio invited with a curled lip. 'You're practically jumping up and down with rage as it is.'

'What do you expect?' Ellie screeched so loudly her voice broke.

Dio closed a determined arm round her shivering figure. This is not good for the baby—'

'Get your hands off me!' Ellie hissed.

'No, your emotions are running out of control. It has to be your hormone level,' Dio decided, surveying her with extreme gravity but with a definite look of relief at an explanation he evidently liked very much.

'My...hormone level?' Ellie practically whispered.

'In early pregnancy a woman may be prone to emotional changes and may require extra support and understanding.'

Ellie's jaw dropped at what sounded very much like a direct quote from a textbook.

A dark flush scored Dio's stunning cheekbones as he appeared to absorb the meaning of what he had just said. 'I've been far too hard on you,' he added abruptly.

Ellie was disconcerted to find herself being herded over to a sofa and urged to sit down. 'Dio...what on earth are you playing at?' she prompted weakly.

Dio came down beside her, his dark, devastatingly handsome features now stamped with taut discomfiture. 'You were really distressed after you saw that article. Even if you had announced your pregnancy to the entire maintenance staff in my building, I should have been more sympathetic towards your feelings.'

Ellie could agree with that, at least. However, she hadn't the slightest wish to shelter behind the excuse of emotional mood swings provoked by hormonal upheaval. 'Yes, but—'

'It just made me so bloody furious to see you being at¬tacked in print!' Dio vented with sudden rawness as he folded a powerful arm round her and drew her close. 'And it was really chilling working out the sort of childhood you must have endured with two such selfish parents. That upset me too, and when I get upset, I blow a fuse. But when you dragged in Helena again, fortunately I began to see how wildly out of proportion this was all becoming.'

'I can't live with you not trusting me.'

'Of course I trust you...with one single exception,' Dio extended without hesitation. 'And I don't think we need to discuss that exception again.'

Ellie breathed in sharply. All she could taste was her own absolute defeat on the topic of Helena Teriakos. She was shaken and upset. But how did she persist with her accusations? She didn't want to destroy their marriage before it even got going. Helena was already working hard at doing Hard and successfully, Ellie reflected painfully.

And how could she possibly fight the other woman without evidence? Was she about to sink to the humiliating level of begging Sally Parkes to repeat Helena's malicious verbal attack at their wedding? The sad truth was that no spiteful comment could possibly prove her own infinitely more serious allegations against the brunette.