Dio moved forward. 'Ellie...I—'
'Shut up!' Ellie interrupted furiously. 'I was a total idiot to marry you in the first place! I was very upset that day—'
'You had every right to be. All I know is that I have never been closer to violence than I was when confronting Helena two weeks ago,' Dio revealed with raw force. ‘The manner in which she spoke of you almost drove me to assault!'
'Really?' Ellie was quite happy to rein back temper long enough to relish that enervating detail. 'So does that mean that there's not going to be a reconciliation?'
Dio stared back at her blankly.
'You're not planning to marry her after me, then?' Ellie rephrased.
'Are you unhinged? Marry her?' Dio exclaimed incredulously. 'She's a cold, vicious bitch!'
'Well, it took you a lifetime, but in the end you got there. Congratulations,' Ellie said very drily. 'Could you get me a case?'
Ellie was possessed by the need to keep busy. Dio was getting to her and she had been determined that he was not going to get to her. That five-letter word labelling Helena as beyond the pale, for all her background, breeding and bril¬liance, had blown a small hole in Ellie's defences. She moved forward and then almost fell over the mound of clothing heaped round her. She looked down in astonishment at what appeared to be a whole heap of Dio's suits.
Sidestepping them, she attempted to brush past Dio. He closed his hand over hers. 'You've got to hear me out!' he grated rawly.
'You didn't hear me out, did you? No, when I was trying to state my case either I was insane with jealousy or off my trolley with being pregnant! And shall I tell you something, Dio? Right now, I'm near my personal edge!' Ellie vented with ringing honesty. 'Let...go...of...me!'
Dio released her with a jerk. Dark colour scored his stun¬ning cheekbones but it was the savage pain in the depths of his dark eyes that shook her. 'I am more sorry that I have hurt you than you will ever believe,' he breathed raggedly.
Pale and trembling from that charged exchange, Ellie went off in search of a suitcase. It was mad, it was crazy to keep on trying to pack in the midst of such emotional turmoil, but she couldn't bear to see Dio in so much pain; she really couldn't! All over the head of that evil witch, who had almost sucked him in like a boa constrictor! Ellie shuddered as she banged through the closets she recalled touring two and a half weeks earlier. Locating the designated luggage storage, she grabbed up a case.
'Let me take that...' Dio took it from her again.
'You know...you don't feel it now, but sooner or later, you'll realise what a lucky escape you've had,' she muttered half under her breath, and hurried back to the master bedroom suite that they would now never share.
'Ellie...please sit down so that we can talk,' Dio urged, sounding almost pathetically humble. 'I need to tell you about Helena.'
Ellie was so appalled by that confession she sank down on the side of the bed before her legs gave out beneath her. If he needed a shoulder, why did it have to be hers? Then she understood. He wanted to make a complete confession. Nothing less would satisfy his over-active conscience. So he was about to drag out personal admissions that would very probably rip her heart out and depress her for the next thirty years.
Dio regarded her warily and very slowly set down the case. He cleared his throat. 'I—'
'Will you keep it short?' Ellie begged without pride.
Dio got even tenser. He looked so absolutely miserable her heart went out to him. She had to face it now. He had really loved Helena. He might now be repulsed, but he had loved her.
'My father first told me that Helena would make me a wonderful wife when I was five.'
'Five...five years old?' Ellie yelped. 'What age was she?'
'Five...dear heaven, that's like brainwashing!' Ellie said in disgust.
'My grandparents died in a car accident when my father was still very young. He was brought up by his father's fam¬ily. You must understand that my father was made to feel very much ashamed of his mother's more humble ancestry.'
'So he was raised to be a real snob?'
'And he wanted to be sure you didn't let the side down?'
Dio nodded again.
'So you were indoctrinated from a very early age to be¬lieve that Helena was your future.'
'A future I kept putting off.' Dio breathed in deep. 'I could never admit even to myself that I didn't like Helena—'
'You didn't...like Helena?' Ellie interrupted in astonish¬ment.
'Did you find her a warm, inviting personality when you first came in contact with her on Chindos?'
Dio's jawline hardened. 'I could never fault her behaviour. Her every accomplishment was continually paraded before me, and she is very accomplished. It was instilled in me that I had to marry her.'