At that second revelation, an appalled look froze Ellie's fine features. 'Why didn't you tell me that before?' she de¬manded.
To be blunt,' Dio murmured steadily, black eyes challenging her now, 'I really don't think that a responsibility I accepted long before I met you is any real concern of yours.'
Ellie turned pale. That wasn't just blunt, that was brutal.
Dio released his breath in an impatient hiss. 'I want you to be rational about the fact that I meet up with Helena on a regular basis.'
'Rational...' Her husband met up with her most bitter enemy on a regular basis. That news was the equivalent of being slugged with a sandbag.
Dio came down on her side of the bed and reached for her hand.
Ellie snatched it back.
'Can't you even try to behave like a grown-up?' Dio cen¬sured with stark impatience as he sprang upright again. 'I accept that you felt insecure when we first got married—'
Ellie parted bloodless lips. 'Mr Sensitive—'
'But now you've had time to settle down—'
'You think so?' Ellie breathed shakily.
'I think you've got no choice,' Dio delivered with sudden harshness, surveying her with cool dark eyes.
'There's always a choice, Dio.'
'Not on this issue,' Dio contradicted. 'I will continue to oversee Helena's business holdings for as long as she wishes me to do so. Our meetings will also continue. She's a part of my life and you have to accept that.'
‘That's not something I can accept.' Ellie lifted her head high, colour burning in her cheeks. Suddenly she was furious with herself. 'What an idiot I've been!' she exclaimed. 'All my life I've stood up for myself, but I wanted our marriage to work and I didn't want to tear us apart.'
'What are you trying to say?'
'You refused to accept that Helena threatened me and tried to bribe me into having an abortion.' Dio raked long brown fingers through his tousled damp black hair and groaned out loud. 'Oh, please, not that non¬sense again!'
'You don't believe me. OK. Right. That's fine,' Ellie said jerkily, punching the pillows and lying down. 'Nice to know where your loyalty lies, Dio. Nice to know that you married me thinking I was a liar—'
'But kind of cute with it,' Dio incised gently.
'Don't try to make a joke out of something this important!' Ellie condemned. 'If you go to Paris tomorrow, I'm leaving you!'
Dio stilled. 'No way would you leave me—'
'Yes, I would! You trust her more than you trust me. So you make your choice,' Ellie told him bitterly. 'You get her out of your life, where she can't hurt us any more, or I'm moving out! If you can't give me one hundred per cent loy¬alty, I don't want you any more!'
'No problem,' Dio said softly.
Ellie listened to him walking out of the room, and then she leapt out of bed and hauled the door open. 'I mean it, Dio!'
Shorn of his towel and magnificently nude, Dio swung round and gazed back at her with outraged dark eyes. 'You do as you like, but I'm going to Paris and I won't be hurrying back.'
All the pain inside Ellie mushroomed. 'Dio...I'm not ly¬ing. Listen to me—'
Dio stabbed a powerful hand in the air. 'No, you listen to me! You don't own me. You don't tell me what I can do, where I can go or who I can be with. Is that understood?'
'And when you've got this jealousy jag under control, call me. But don't leave it too long. After all, Helena is a lot of things you're not,' Dio murmured in derisive retaliation.
The angry colour drained from Ellie's complexion.
Ellie slammed the bedroom door in his face and depressed the lock.
'Ellie!' Dio thundered. 'Open that door!'
Tears running down her face, Ellie crawled into bed again and curled up in a tight ball. 'A lot of things you're not.’ Well, trust Dio to state the obvious. Only it wasn't a matter of that, was it? In temper, he had revealed his true feelings, and the horribly wounding comparisons he obviously contin¬ued to make. Ellie shivered, acknowledging that the furious row that had blown up had drawn more blood than she had bargained on. Her own.
Helena was rich, educated, classy, cool, controlled, clever. Her background was identical to his own. Of course, Dio admired and respected her. Unlike Ellie, Helena would have been a bride he could have been really proud of possessing.
'The English rely on love... It's more important to pick a life partner with intelligence,' he had told her that very first night on the beach. But what had intelligence had to do with their shotgun wedding? Ellie muffled sobs in a pillow. For the past few weeks Dio had been very good at pretending to be happy. All those years of smoothie womanising, she sup¬posed wretchedly. In his heart, Dio knew she was a very poor but pregnant second best. And Elbe knew that she couldn't live with him knowing that...
SALLY PARKES' anxious face lit up with a hugely relieved smile the instant she saw Ellie walking across the park to¬wards her.