Carrying the Greek's Heir(6)

By: Sharon Kendrick

 The softness of her voice was hypnotic. It felt like balm being smoothed over a wound which had never really healed. And wasn’t this what men had done since the beginning of time? Drunk a little too much whisky and then offloaded on some random woman they would never see again?

 ‘It was a liberation,’ he said truthfully. ‘To cut my ties with the past.’

 She nodded, as if she understood. ‘And start over?’

 ‘Exactly that. To know that every decision I make is one I can live with.’

 His cell phone chose precisely that moment to start ringing and automatically he reached into his pocket, glancing at the small screen.

 Work, he mouthed as he took the call.

 He launched into a long torrent of Greek, before breaking into English—so that Ellie couldn’t help but sit there and listen. Though if she was being honest, it was very interesting listening to a conversation, which seemed to involve some high-powered forthcoming deal with the Chinese. And then he said other stuff, too—which was even more interesting.

 ‘I am taking a holiday. You know I am. I just thought it wise to check with the New York office first.’ He tapped his finger impatiently against the arm of the chair. ‘Okay. I take your point. Okay.’

 He cut the connection and saw her staring at him. ‘What is it?’ he demanded.

 She shrugged. ‘It’s none of my business.’

 ‘No, I’m interested.’

 She put her drink down. ‘Don’t you ever stop working?’

 His irritated look gave way to a faint smile which seemed to tug reluctantly at the corners of his lips. ‘Ironically, that’s just what my assistant was saying. He said I couldn’t really nag other people to take holidays if I wasn’t prepared to do so myself. They’ve been pushing me towards this one for ages.’

 ‘So how come you’re taking business calls at this time of night?’

 ‘It was an important call.’

 ‘So important that it couldn’t have waited until the morning?’

 ‘Actually, yes,’ he said coolly, but Alek’s heart had begun beating very fast. He told himself he should be irritated with her for butting in where she wasn’t wanted, yet right then he saw it as nothing but a rather disarming honesty. Was this why people went on vacation—because it took you right out of your normal environment and shook you up? In his daily life, nobody like Ellie would have got near him for long enough to deliver a damning judgement on his inability to relax. He was always surrounded by people—people who kept the rest of the world at arm’s length.

 But the protective nucleus of his business life suddenly seemed unimportant and it was as if everything was centred on the soft face in front of him. He wondered what her hair would look like if he shook it free from its ponytail and laid it over his pillow. How that soft flesh would feel beneath him as he parted her legs. He drained the last of his whisky and put the glass down, intending to walk across the veranda and take her into his arms.

 But she chose that moment to push the heavy fringe away from her eyes and the jerky gesture suddenly brought him to his senses. He frowned, like someone wakening from a sleep. Had he really been planning to seduce her? He looked at the cheap shoes and unvarnished nails. At the heavy fringe, which looked as if she might trim it herself. Was he insane? She was much too sweet for someone like him.

 ‘It’s getting late,’ he said roughly, rising to his feet. ‘Where’s your bike?’

 She blinked at him in surprise, as if the question wasn’t one she had been expecting. ‘In the bike shed.’

 ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘I’ll walk you there.’

 He could see the faint tremble of her lips as she shook her head.

 ‘Honestly, there’s no need. I see myself home every night,’ she said. ‘And it’s probably best if I’m not seen with you.’

 ‘I am walking you back,’ he said stubbornly. ‘And I won’t take no for an answer.’

 He could sense her disappointment as they walked over the moonlit grass and he told himself that he was doing the right thing. There were a million women who could be his for the taking—better steer clear of the sweet and sensible waitress.

 They reached the hotel and she gave him an awkward smile. ‘I have to go and change and fetch my bag,’ she said. ‘So I’d better say goodnight. Thanks for the drink.’

 Alek nodded. ‘Goodnight, Ellie,’ he said and leant towards her, intending to give her a quick kiss on either cheek, but somehow that didn’t happen.

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