His sharp, ‘Be still’, was harshly commanding, his eyes a deep dark gold in the soft light of the interior of the car. Hadn’t it been the Greek King Midas whose touch had turned everything before him to gold, thus depriving him of life-giving water and food? Even his son had been turned into a golden statue by his touch, leaving him unable to return his love. Was that what had happened to Ilios? Had the circumstances of his birth and the burden of his inheritance deprived him of the ability to feel love? What if it had? Why should that matter to her?
‘There is no cause for you to act like a nervous virgin. I was simply adjusting your seat so that you could sleep in it safety.’
Lizzie’s ‘Thank you’, was self-conscious and stilted.
As he moved back from her to his own seat Ilios told her in a clipped, rejecting voice, ‘There’s no need to thank me. After all, had you fallen across me my safety would have been compromised as much as yours.’
Lizzie could have kicked herself. Of course he hadn’t been thinking about her personal safety. Why should he?
Ilios had noticed her recoil from him—obviously instinctive and unplanned. But he was certainly not affected by it. Far from it. The last thing he wanted was a sexual relationship between them to add complications to the situation. Ilios looked out into the darkness beyond the car. He should perhaps make that clear to her. Not because of his own pride, of course. No. It was simply the sensible thing to do.
Restarting the car, he informed Lizzie dispassionately, ‘I should have made it clear earlier that our marriage will merely be a business arrangement. If you were thinking of adding to your bonus payment by offering a sexual inducement, then let me warn you not to do so.’
As Lizzie exhaled in angry humiliation, Ilios continued bluntly, ‘I do not want either your body or your desire. Should you be tempted to offer me either one of them, or both, then you must resist that temptation.’
There—that should have made the position clear to her, Ilios decided. It would certainly remove any future risk of his body reacting to her unwanted proximity.
He had obviously realised the effect he was having on her, Lizzie thought miserably.
Annoyingly, now that her seat was reclined and she could have slept comfortably, she felt too self-conscious to do so. So she found the buttons Ilios had used and brought her seat upright again, informing him in as businesslike a voice as she could, ‘My sisters will be expecting to hear from me. I think it will be best if I simply tell them I shall be working for you as an interior designer, rather than trying to explain about our…the marriage.’
‘I agree. However, where my friends and acquaintances are concerned the marriage will obviously become a public reality, and for that reason I think we should agree a suitable history of our relationship. I suggest we say simply that we met when I was on business in England and that our relationship has progressed from there. I kept it and you under wraps, so to speak, until I decided that I wanted to marry you.’
‘Until we decided that we wanted to marry one another,’ Lizzie corrected him firmly, refusing to give way and break eye contact with him when he flashed her a look of arrogant disbelief that said quite plainly that in his book he made the decisions.
‘We shall soon be back in the city,’ he continued, breaking the challenging silence. ‘Which hotel are you in?’
‘I had intended to stay in one of the apartments,’ Lizzie was forced to admit.
‘You mean you haven’t booked anywhere?’ His tone was critical and irritated, making Lizzie feel foolish and unprofessional. She had so much else on her mind to worry about that she’d completely overlooked the fact that she now didn’t have anywhere to stay.