She really wished she wasn’t having to do this, Lizzie admitted. Her fingers were stiff with nervousness and yet at the same time they were trembling. She could smell the scent of Ilios’s freshly showered body, mixed with some kind of discreet male cologne, and whilst she wouldn’t have said that the effect it was having on her senses was making her want to rip open his shirt and bury her face against his torso, it wasn’t far short of that.
It was a relief to finally complete her task and be able to step from him, draw in a gulp of hopefully steadying and non-Ilios-smelling air.
‘You aren’t wearing your jewellery.’
‘I…I thought it might be a bit too much.’
The dark eyebrows rose. ‘I disagree. You should wear it.’
Because if she didn’t she’d look out of place. That was the unspoken message he was giving her, Lizzie recognised as she picked up the two smaller boxes and opened them. She had to blink at the magnificence of the diamond earstuds in front of her. They had to be at least a carat each, and so brilliant they dazzled her.
Quickly Lizzie slipped them into her ears. With her hair up she did need something, she acknowledged. But merely ‘something’—not these dazzling and no doubt very expensive earrings.
‘What’s wrong?’ Ilios demanded.
‘I was just thinking how many families the price of these would feed. It seems wrong to wear something like this when so many people are going through such a hard time. It makes me feel uncomfortable.’
‘So if I were to offer them as a gift you would rather I gave their value in money to a charity? Is that what you’re saying?’ Ilios taunted her.
‘Yes,’ Lizzie responded—truthfully and without hesitation.
‘Put on the watch, and then we had better leave,’ was all Ilios said in response.
She was lying, of course; she had to be. He wasn’t deceived or taken in by her, nor would he ever be—by her or by any other woman.
The watch was discreetly expensive: a plain black leather band and a white-gold face was studded with small diamonds.
Since Ilios was already shrugging on his suit jacket, Lizzie fastened the watch quickly and went to pick up her coat—just as Ilios too was reaching for it. Their fingertips met and touched, his over her own, warm and strong, filling Lizzie with a need to simply curl her fingers into his in a silent plea for acceptance and comfort.
Frantically she pulled back, grabbing hold of her coat with her other hand and telling Ilios quickly, ‘It’s all right. I don’t need to put it on. I’ll just carry it until we get out of the car.’
She really didn’t think she was up to any more physical contact right now, with a man whose mere presence seemed to have the ability to send her body’s awareness of him to stratospheric levels.
The gallery, when they reached it, was ablaze with lights, and with the shine reflected from the stunning amount of diamond jewellery being worn. Ilios’s hand was on Lizzie’s arm as he guided her through the mass of paparazzi, waiting to snap photographs of the rich and famous as they made their way from the kerb to the door.
‘I can see now why you aren’t keen on my outfit. Obviously to be considered anything like worthy of you I’d have to have dressed very differently,’ Lizzie was forced to admit reluctantly once they had stepped inside. She had seen how many of the other women were wearing tiny little dresses, bandaged—or so it seemed—to their equally tiny bodies. The dresses revealed lengths of lean bronzed leg and the swell of quite often implausibly taut and rounded breasts.
No wonder he had derided her choice of clothes if this was what he considered normal clothing for the female body.