The Greek Tycoon's Defiant Bride(6)

By: Lynne Graham

Her son’s yelp of pain jerked Maribel out of her abstraction. Elias had stumbled and bumped his head on the fridge. Tiredness made him clumsy. Maribel lifted him and rubbed his head in sympathy. Tear-drenched, furious brown eyes met hers, for the reverse side of his warmth and energy was a strong will and a temper of volcanic strength and durability. ‘I know, I know,’ she whispered gently, rocking him until his annoyance ebbed and his impossibly long black lashes began to droop.

She took him upstairs to the bright and cheerful nursery she had decorated with painstaking care and enjoyment. Removing his shoes and jacket, she settled him down in his cot with soothing murmurs. He went out like a light, yet she knew he wouldn’t stay horizontal for very long. In sleep, he looked angelic and peaceful, but awake he could lay claim to neither trait. She watched him for a couple of minutes, involuntarily drawn into tracing the physical likeness that could only strike her with powerful effect on the same day that she had seen his father again. She wondered if her son was the only decent thing that Leonidas Pallis had ever created. It was a fight to get a grip on her thoughts again.

Accompanied by Mouse, Maribel went into the small sunlit room she used as a study and got straight down to marking the pile of essays awaiting her attention. Some time later, Mouse barked and nudged at her arm with an anxious whine. Ten seconds after that warning, she heard the approach of a car and she pushed back her chair. She was walking into the hall when she registered that other vehicles appeared to be arriving at the same time. Her brow furrowed in bewilderment, for she received few visitors and never in car loads.

Glancing out of the window, she stilled in consternation, for a long gleaming limousine now obscured her view of the garden and the field beyond it. Who else could it be but Leonidas Pallis? Her paralysis lasted for only a moment before she raced into the lounge, gathered up the toys lying on the rug and threw them into the toy box, which she thrust at frantic speed behind the sofa. The bell went even before she straightened from that task. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror: her blue eyes were wide with fear, and her face was pale as death. She rubbed her cheeks to restore some natural colour while apprehension made her mind race. What the heck was Leonidas doing here? How could he possibly have found out where she lived? And why should he have even wanted to know? The bell rang again in a shrill, menacing burst. She recalled the Pallis impatience all too well.

A dark sense of foreboding nudging at her, Maribel opened the door.

‘Surprise…surprise,’ Leonidas drawled softly.

Unnerved by the sheer smoothness of that greeting, Maribel froze and Leonidas took immediate advantage by stepping over the threshold. Her hand fell from the door as she turned to face him. After what had been a mere stolen glimpse in church, she got her first good look at him. His suit and coat were exquisitely tailored, designer-cut and worn with supreme élan. His height and breadth alone were intimidating, but for a woman his lean sculpted bone structure and utterly gorgeous dark, deep-set eyes had the biggest impact. Nor was that effect the least diminished by the fact that those ebony eyes were as dangerously direct and cutting as a laser beam. A tiny pulse began beating horribly fast at the foot of her throat, interfering with her ability to breathe.

‘So what ever did happen to breakfast?’ Leonidas murmured with honeyed derision.

A crimson tide of colour washed away Maribel’s pallor in a contrast as strong as blood on snow. Shock reverberated through her as he punched an unapologetic hole through the mind-block she had imposed on her memories of that night after Imogen’s funeral, just over two years earlier. Flinching, she tore her gaze from his, hot with shame and taut with disbelief that he should have dared to throw that crack at her in virtually the first sentence he spoke. But then what did Leonidas not dare? The last time she had met his gaze, they had been a good deal closer and he had shaken her awake to murmur with quite shattering cool and command, ‘Make me breakfast while I’m in the shower.’

In remembrance, a wave of dizziness washed over her and her tummy flipped as though she had gone down too fast in a lift. She would have done just about anything to avoid the recollection of his cruel amusement that morning. She had been gone by the time he’d emerged from that shower. She had buried her mistake as deep as she could, confiding in nobody, indeed resolving to take that particular secret to the grave with her. She was ashamed of the events of that night and all too well aware that Leonidas had not even a passing acquaintance with sensations like shame or discomfiture. She was dismayed by the discovery that, even after two years, her defences were still laughably thin. So thin that he could still hurt her, she registered in dismay.

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