Engrossed in her own thoughts as she wove her way through the crowded room, she didn’t see Ilios’s cousin—to whom she had been introduced by Ilios earlier—making a beeline for her, until he was standing in front of her blocking her way.

Lizzie’s heart sank.

When Ilios had warned her that his cousin was likely to be present she had been curious to meet him. Her private view was that Ilios, for perfectly good reasons rooted in their shared childhood, had turned him into a more unpleasant figure than he actually was.

It had taken less than a minute in Tino Manos’s company for her to recognise that she had been wrong. If anything, Ilios’s cousin was even more unpleasant than Ilios had said.

‘So,’ he announced now, with an unpleasant leer, ‘an opportunity to talk to the new bride, my cousin-in-law, without Ilios standing over us.’

As he spoke Tino’s gaze was fixed on her breasts, discreetly covered by the high neckline of the silk dress which wasn’t in the least bit provocative. Nevertheless, the way Ilios’s cousin was looking at her made Lizzie feel like crossing her arms over her chest, to protect her body from his unwanted visual inspection.

It was strange how you could sometimes know the minute you met a person whether or not you were going to like them, Lizzie reflected, and tried not to show how desperately she wanted to escape.

Short and thickset, with overly familiar sharp dark eyes, Tino Manos was the kind of man Lizzie knew she would have disliked no matter who he was related to. She could understand now all too easily why Ilios had spoken as he had when she had suggested that for the sake of his sons he should try to ‘mend fences’ with his cousin. No sane parent would ever want to entrust his vulnerable children’s emotional wellbeing and future to a man like this.

‘You are to be congratulated on having caught Ilios. You must have something very special indeed to have persuaded him to give up his freedom having always sworn that he would never marry.’

Lizzie fought hard not to show how offensive she found his unsubtle hints as to why Ilios might have married her and to remain detached. The way Tino was looking at her and the tone of his voice repelled her physically and emotionally, and it was with great relief that she heard Ilios answering his cousin in an even tone.

‘Yes, she does, Tino—and that something is my love.’

There was no need for Lizzie to act as she turned to her husband and gave him a speaking look of gratitude for his intervention.

‘Love? I thought that was something you’d foresworn.’

Tino was like a dog with its teeth into something it wasn’t going to release, Lizzie recognized.

‘So did I,’ Ilios agreed. ‘Until I met Lizzie.’

As he spoke he turned towards her, smiling tenderly down into her eyes, reaching out to take hold of her hand, rubbing his thumb gently over her skin in a gesture that both caressed and reassured.

‘And married her with such speed that you didn’t even have time to invite anyone to the wedding.’

Tino was suspicious, Lizzie felt sure. Her hand trembled against Ilios’s, and the look she gave him mirrored what she was feeling.

‘I didn’t want to risk losing her,’ Ilios responded, still smiling down at her. ‘I never want to lose her.’

As he spoke he bent his head and kissed her, his actions taking Lizzie by surprise. She knew that Ilios was putting on an act for his cousin, but still she had not expected this. Beneath his, her own lips softened and clung. Without intending to do so she placed her hand on his arm and moved closer to him, her whole body succumbing to her love for him, yearning toward him. Beneath the silk of her dress she could feel her nipples firming and aching, desire stirring and then quickening in the pit of her stomach. Unable to stop herself, she lifted her hand from his arm to his face, tracing the line of his jaw with achingly longing fingertips.

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Tags: Penny Jordan Billionaire Romance
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