'Where are you going?'
Ellie barely glanced over her shoulder. 'I might as well get my stuff packed up while I'm here,' she said briskly. 'It'll save me another trip.'
'Ellie...' Dio began heavily. 'I know I've acted like a total four-letter word—'
'Dio, I don't need to hear that sort of stuff.' Ellie marched on up the staircase at an even faster rate of knots. This is nobody's fault. We only got married because I was pregnant, which was just plain stupid...OK? It's no big deal, is it?'
'No big deal?' Dio repeated thickly.
Ellie could not resist the urge to turn and peer down at him from the landing, but he had swung away. 'Look, all I'm trying to say is I don't want to talk about it There's no need.'
Dio appeared hi the dressing room doorway while Ellie was frantically trailing clothes off hangers. Her hands were all thumbs. What on earth had possessed her? In another minute she would either crumple into humiliating hysterical tears or she would seize him by the throat and ask him how he could possibly prefer Arctic Woman to her.
'Helena was behind that disgusting tabloid attack on you...'
Ellie stilled, and then suddenly jerked round, eyes very wide.
Dio stared back at her with tormented dark eyes shimmer¬ing with strain, his hands clenched into powerful fists by his side. His vibrant skin had a greyish cast
'I suppose she came off that pedestal you had her on with a real shocking crash...' Ellie's heart felt as if it was cracking right down the middle, and she felt that if she didn't keep on talking she might be at serious risk of starring to sob. Every¬thing she had never wanted to see was etched in Dio's face. His appalled reaction to Helena's true nature.
'I didn't have her on a—‘
'I'm sorry, Dio. But you know a woman would have spotted her for what she was a mile off! But then...' Ellie altered direction hurriedly, not wishing to come across as spiteful 'Isn't it comforting to know that she was that determined to get you back?'
'Only because...only because of who I am and what I have.'
'Yeah, well,' Ellie managed with a sickly smile. 'Be honest. You valued those same things in her. All that background and breeding and money.'
Dio just closed his eyes and bowed his proud head. 'I don't expect you to forgive me for refusing to believe you.'
'Good. I wasn't going to make the offer.' Ellie turned back to the built-in units which blurred in front of her eyes, I understand that you thought that she was above all that kind of thing, and that you're feeling pretty bad now you know the truth...how do you, by the way?' she prompted with sudden curiosity.
'A journalist sang like a canary bird. Helena had had you investigated.'
'I could have told you that.'
'She set up a meeting with a reporter and handed over the file. She gave it on the understanding that the article would vilify and humiliate you.' Dio's dark, deep drawl roughened tellingly. 'She was too arrogant to even try to cover her tracks.'
'Maybe she thought it would be more of a risk to somebody else with that file.' Tears were inching down Ellie's cheeks, but she kept on hauling garments blindly off hangers as she struggled to get a grip on herself.
'Did you see the interview I gave about you?'
Ellie's wet eyes widened with bemusement. 'No...'
'I hoped it would bring you out of hiding. I knew you had promised to meet Sally today, but she warned me that she'd had to fight to get you to agree,' Dio disclosed tautly. 'And when you would only set a date a whole week in ad¬vance... frankly, I thought there was little hope that you would actually turn up.'
'I wouldn't have done that to Sally. She's a nice person.'
'When I faced Helena with what she had done, she kept on lying very convincingly for a long time. Then I mentioned the malice Sally had heard her spitting at you on our wedding day—'
'Isn't it wonderful the way you believed everyone but me? That journalist? Sally?' Ellie condemned with tremulous but very fierce bitterness.
'I honestly could never have imagined Helena capable of such behaviour,' Dio framed grittily. 'That is...until two weeks ago, when I confronted her and she finally lost her temper because she realised that she had lost'
'She didn't lose, Dio. She won all the way,' Ellie contra¬dicted flatly, her tears drying on her cheeks now. 'We didn't have much to start out with...and by the time she'd finished we had nothing. But don't you kid yourself that she was the one most at fault!'
'I know where the blame lies. I know I let you down and made you very unhappy. You hate me, don't you?'
'Some of the time...like right now, yes!’ Ellie suddenly snapped as she rounded on him, her green eyes emerald with anger. 'She really scared me that day with her threats. She'd have done anything to persuade me into getting rid of our baby! She sneered at my mother, she insulted me every way possible and you wouldn't even listen.'