The power of the legendary greek

“It is by no means unusual for journalists of both sexes to invade my beach, nor for young women to arrange to be stranded there.”

“In the hope that you’ll come to the rescue?”

“Their hopes are usually higher—or lower—than that,” said Luke, his mouth twisting in distaste. “I do not,” he added sardonically, “delude myself that women are attracted to me in person. Only to my money.”

“And the power you used to amass it. Isn’t power supposed to be the ultimate aphrodisiac?” Isobel smiled politely. “You Greeks have a word for everything.”

Luke inclined his head. “The rest of the world owes a lot to us.”

“What happens to trespassers when you’re not here?”

“My security deals with them. You would have been removed before I arrived.”

“Which would have saved a lot of trouble.” One way or another.

Luke gave her the unsettling smile again. “But it would also have deprived me of the pleasure of meeting you.”

CATHERINE GEORGEwas born on the border between Wales and England, in a village blessed with both a public and a lending library. Fervently encouraged by a like-minded mother, she early developed an addiction to reading.

At eighteen Catherine met her husband, who eventually took her off to Brazil. He worked as chief engineer of a large gold-mining operation in Minas Gerais, which provided a popular background for several of Catherine’s early novels.

After nine happy years, the education of their small son took them back to Britain, and soon afterward a daughter was born. But Catherine always found time to read, if only in the bath! When her husband’s job took him abroad again she enrolled in a creative writing course, then read countless novels by Harlequin authors before trying a hand at one herself. Her first effort was not only accepted, but voted best of its genre for that year.

Catherine has written more than sixty novels since, and she won another award along the way. But now she has come full circle. After living in Brazil, and in England’s the Wirral, Warwick and the Forest of Dean, Catherine now resides in the beautiful Welsh Marches—with access to a county library, several bookshops and a busy market hall with a treasure trove of secondhand paperbacks!

THE POWER OF THE LEGENDARY GREEKCATHERINE GEORGE

~ The Greek Tycoons ~

THE POWER OF THE LEGENDARY GREEKCONTENTS

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

PROLOGUE

HE STRODEalong the top floor of the building towards the double doors standing open at the far end, savouring the moment as he entered the room to smiles of welcome from eleven members of the board. The twelfth member, the only woman present, speared him with eyes like shards of black jet as he gave her a formal bow. The tall windows looked out on a panoramic view of Athens, but inside the boardroom all eyes were riveted on his face as he took the only empty chair and sat, composed, to open his briefcase.

The woman at the head of the table watched his every move like a cat ready to pounce on its prey, but Luke ignored her, supremely confident of success. Due to weeks of secret negotiations held with every man in the room, the meeting today was a mere formality. Once formal greetings were concluded, Luke got to his feet to outline details of his proposal, ignoring the mounting fury of the woman as he brought his bid to a conclusion.

He scanned each face in turn.

‘All those in favour?’

Every hand but one shot up in instant approval as Melina Andreadis surged to her feet in furious dissent. Dressed in stark couture black, her signature mane of ringlets rioting incruelly youthful contrast around her ageing face, she directed a look of such venom at her adversary he should have turned to stone where he stood.

She swept the basilisk stare over every man at the table. ‘You fools think you can turn my company over to this—this playboy?’ she shouted, incensed, and shook her fist at the man unmoved by her tirade. ‘I voteagainst! I refuse to allow this.’

Luke stared her down, his face blank as a Greek theatre mask to hide the triumph surging through his veins. ‘It is already done. My more than generous terms are accepted by the Board by majority vote.’

‘They cannot do this. I forbid it. This ismyairline,’ she hissed, enraged.

His eyes glittered coldly as they speared hers. ‘No,kyria. Itwasmy grandfather’s airline, never yours. And now it is mine. I, Lukas Andreadis, own it by right of purchase—and of blood.’

CHAPTER ONE

THEsmudge on the horizon gradually transformed into an island which surged up, pine-clad, from the dazzling blue sea. As the charter boat grew nearer, Isobel could see tavernas with coloured awnings lining the waterfront, and houses with cinnamon roofs and icing-white walls, stacked like children’s building blocks on the slopes above. She scanned the houses as the boat nosed into the harbour, trying to locate the apartments shown in her brochure, but gave up, amused, when she saw that most of them had the blue doors and balconies she was looking for. She hoisted her backpack as the boat docked and picked up her bags with a sigh of relief. She’d arrived!

Isobel’s first priorities were lunch and directions to her holiday apartment on this picture-perfect island of Chyros. The taverna her brochure indicated for both was inviting and lively, its tables crammed inside and out with people eating, drinking and talking non-stop. She made a beeline for one of the last unoccupied tables under the awning outside, and tucked her bags close to her feet as she sat to study the menu. With a polite ‘parakalo,’ she pointed out her choice to a waiter and was quickly provided with mineral water and bread, followed by a colourful Greek salad with feta cheese. She fell on the food as though she hadn’t eaten for days; which wasn’tfar off the truth. She enjoyed the arrival part of holidays a whole lot more than the travelling.

‘You enjoyed thesalata?’ asked the waiter, eyeing her empty plate in approval.

Isobel smiled, delighted to hear English. ‘Very much; it was delicious.’ She produced her brochure. ‘Could you help me, please? I was told I could collect the keys to one of these apartments here.’

He nodded, smiling. ‘My father has keys. He owns the Kalypso. Wait a little and I take you there.’

Isobel shook her head, embarrassed. ‘That’s very kind of you, but I can’t interrupt your work. I can take a taxi—’

He grinned. ‘My father is Nikos, also owner of the taverna. He will be pleased if I take you. I am just home from the hospital.’

She eyed the muscular young man in surprise. ‘You’ve been ill?’

‘No. I work there. I am a doctor. But at home I help when we are busy. I am Alex Nicolaides. If you give me your name for my father, I take you to the Kalypso.’

She told him she was Isobel James and, by the time she’d downed more water and paid the bill, the helpful Alex was on hand again.

‘It is near enough to walk,’ he informed her and picked up her luggage, but Isobel hung on to the backpack.

‘I’ll take this.’

‘It has your valuables?’ he asked as they walked along the marina.

‘In a way.’ She pulled the peak of her cap down to meet her sunglasses. ‘Some of my drawing materials.’

‘You are artist, Miss James?’

Isobel smiled. ‘I try to be.’

Her escort was right. It was not far to the Kalypso holidaylets, but in the scorching sunshine it was far enough for Isobel to feel very hot and travel-weary by the time they reached a group of six white cottages scattered on the hillside on the far side of the waterfront. Offset at different angles amongst the greenery, all of them had blue-painted balconies overlooking the boats bobbing on the brilliant waters below.

Her guide checked the number on Isobel’s key tag and eyed her doubtfully. ‘Your house is last, high on hill. You will not be lonely?’

She shook her head. Far from it. The peace and semi-isolation of the cottage was exactly what she needed.

The other houses had been left quite a distance behind by the time the young man led the way up a steep path quilted with soft, slippery pine needles. He put the bags down on a veranda furnished with reclining chairs and a table, and with a flourish unlocked the door of Isobel’s holiday home.

‘Welcome to Chyros, Miss James; enjoy your stay.’

She turned from the view. ‘I’m sure I will. One last thing—where exactly is the nearest beach?’

‘Next to the harbour. But down here is one you will like better.’ He pointed to a path among the Aleppo pines behind the house. ‘Smaller, very pretty, and not many people because the path is steep.’

‘Sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for your help.’ Isobel gave him a warm smile as she said goodbye and went inside to inspect her new quarters, which consisted mainly of one big air-conditioned room with a white-tiled floor and yellow-painted walls. It was simply furnished with a sky-blue sofa and curtains, two white-covered beds and a wardrobe; and through an archway at the end a small kitchen and adjoining bathroom. Everything was so scrupulously clean and peaceful it felt like sanctuary to Isobel.

Her friend Joanna, her regular holiday companion in the past before her marriage, had disapproved of Isobel’s choice and had urged her to stay at a hotel on somewhere lively like glitzy Mykonos. But Isobel had opted for quiet, idyllic Chyros, where she could paint, or do nothing at all for the entire holiday, with no demands on her time. Or her emotions.

Isobel unpacked, took a quick shower and, cool in halter neck and shorts, went outside on the balcony. She sent a text to Joanna to report safe arrival and sat down with her guidebook, hair spread out on a towel over her shoulders to dry a little in the warm air before she set about taming it. A fan of Greek mythology from the time she could first read, she checked the location of the island of Serifos, where legend said Perseus and his mother Danae had been washed ashore in a chest set adrift on the sea, but decided the journey there could wait until she’d recovered from this one.

Isobel sat back, content to do nothing at all for a while, but in the end balanced a pad on her knee as usual and began to sketch the boats in the harbour below. Absorbed, she went on working until the light began to fade and sat up, yawning, too tired to go back down to the taverna for supper. Instead, she would eat bread, cheese and tomatoes from the starter pack of supplies provided with the cottage, then, with her iPod and a book for company, she would go early to bed. Tomorrow, as Scarlett O’Hara said, was another day.

Isobel lingered on the veranda as lights came on in the boats far below, and in the houses climbing the slopes above them. Music and cooking smells came drifting up on the night air as she leaned back in her chair to watch the stars appearing like diamonds strung across the dark velvet sky. Contrary to Joanna’s worried forecast, she felt peaceful rather than lonely. For the first time in weeks she was free of the darkcloud she had been unable to shake off, no matter how hard she worked. And there had to be something really special in the air here, because she felt sleepy, even this early. It would be no hardship to go to bed.

She woke early next morning, triumphant to find she’d not only fallen asleep easily, but passed the entire night without a bad dream to jolt her awake in the small hours.

After breakfast Isobel dressed in jeans and T-shirt over a pink bikini, pulled her hair through the back of a blue baseball cap and set out in the cool morning air to find her way back down to the harbour. She strolled past the boats on the waterfront and then turned up towards the town square, returning friendly smiles from ladies in black and from old men already seated outside their doors. She found a little kiosk-type corner shop already open and bought postcards, bread, mineral water and luscious grapes, then retraced her route back to the cottage. Finally, armed with sunglasses and a few basic necessities in her backpack, Isobel set off on the path recommended by Alex Nicolaides.

He was right. It was steep enough to make the descent downright scary in places. But the beach, deserted and utterly beautiful, was well worth the effort when she finally arrived, panting, on the bone-white shingle edging the crescent of sand. Isobel gazed, entranced, itching for paint to capture the way the sea shaded in jewel colours from pale peridot-green, through aquamarine and turquoise into a deep celestial blue. Greenery grew surprisingly close to the water’s edge, with tamarisk and something she thought might be juniper among the pines and aromatic maquis-type vegetation. She sighed, frustrated, as a salt breeze rustled the pines. The scene cried out for watercolour. But getting the necessary materials down that path would be tricky. For now she would settle for justsketching it. Isobel chose the nearest rock formation as a base, took off her jeans and shirt, slathered herself in suncream, then pulled the peak of her cap down low, settled herself on a towel with her backpack to cushion her against the rock and began to draw.

No one climbed down the path to join her, but after an hour or so of perfect peace, small boats began discharging passengers at intervals and soon there were people sunbathing and picnicking, and children playing ball, shrieking joyfully as they ran in and out of the sea. So much for peace and quiet. Smiling philosophically, Isobel braced herself for the climb up the cliff to go in search of an early lunch. But while she gathered up her belongings she spotted a gap in the rocks on the far side of the beach and couldn’t resist strolling over to investigate. On closer inspection, the fissure was very narrow and dark with overhanging shrubbery. But, by taking off her backpack and hugging it to her chest, she could just manage to squeeze along the rocky passage, which narrowed so sharply at one point Isobel almost gave up. But when the passage widened again curiosity propelled her forward, her sneakers slipping slightly on the wet rock as she emerged at last into a much smaller cove sheltered by high, steep cliffs. With not a soul in sight.

Isobel surveyed her deserted paradise in delight. She would make do with grapes and water for lunch, right here. She stripped down to her bikini again and settled under the overhang of a rock formation shaped so much like a rampant lion she promised herself to sketch it later. She drank some water, nibbled on her grapes, then took off her cap and moved further into the shade of the rock to catnap.

But her newfound peace was soon shattered by the roar of some kind of engine. Basic survival instinct sent Isobel scrambling up on to the steep rock as a man on a Jet Ski shot straight towards her. At the very last minute he veered away, laughing his head off as he went speeding out to sea again. Heart hammering, Isobel cursed the idiot volubly, so furious she lost her footing as she turned to jump down and flailed wildly to avoid falling, her scream cut off as her head met rock with a sickening crack that turned the world black.

 

Lukas Andreadis was looking forward to a swim followed by a good dinner and an entire evening with no discussion of takeovers, air travel, shipping, or any other form of transport. After working towards it all his adult life, he would celebrate his triumphant defeat of Melina Andreadis alone, in the place he loved best. He began to relax as the helicopter flew over familiar blue waters. When the island finally came into view his spirits rose as usual at the mere sight of Chyros, which stood for peace and privacy in a life which held precious little of either back in Athens. But, as he took the helicopter low on its descent to the villa, Luke cursed in angry frustration. A naked female was sunbathing on his private beach. Again.

He set the machine down on the helipad at the back of the house, switched off the engine and jumped out, crouching low until he was free of the rotating blades. He hurried past the pool to make for the trees lining the cliff edge, and scowled down at the figure lying motionless far below. Why, in the name of all the gods, couldn’t they leave him alone? He turned as his faithful Spiro came rushing to greet him, and exchanged affectionate greetings before pointing down at the beach.

‘Someone down in the cove again. Where the devil is Milos?’

‘He needed time off. Shall I take the boat?’

‘No; leave it to me.’ Luke collected his bags and strode past the palms and oleanders in the lush garden. Instead of goingthrough his usual ritual of breathing in the peace and welcome of his retreat, he raced up the curving staircase, threw off his clothes, and pulled on shorts and T-shirt, thrust bare feet into deck shoes, smiling in reassurance at Spiro as the man began to unpack. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t hurt the woman.’

‘I know that!’ retorted the man, with the familiarity of one who’d known—and loved—his employer from birth. ‘Wear your dark glasses—and don’t drive too fast.’

Luke Andreadis collected two sets of keys, stopped in the kitchen for an affectionate greeting with Eleni, Spiro’s wife, then checked again from the cliff edge, his face grim when he saw the prone figure still frying down on the beach. The stupid woman was risking a bad case of sunstroke at the very least—but not for long.

He ran back through the garden, vaulted into the jeep parked behind the villa and drove up the cypress-lined drive and out on to the road, taking the twists and turns of the tortuous descent at a speed which would have given Spiro a heart attack. Forced to slow down as he reached the town, Luke drove more circumspectly through the main square and on past the tavernas and coffee shops on the waterfront, then parked well out of sight at his secluded private mooring at the far end. He leapt onto the deck of theAthena, cast off and switched on the engine and, once clear of the marina, sped across the water past the crowded beach and round the cliffs to his private cove. He moored the boat at a jetty hidden among the rocks, his eyes smouldering. The woman was still there.

‘You’re trespassing,’ he bellowed, storming across the shingle. But as he reached her he realised that the woman was unconscious. Sprawled at an awkward angle, she lay face down and utterly still, a mass of long fair curls streaming over her shoulders. He reached up to turn her face towards him,but dropped his hand when she opened pain-filled blue eyes which darkened in terror at the look of menace on the face close to hers.

‘You had a fall. What are you doing here?’ he demanded.

‘Sorry—don’t understand,’ she said faintly, shrinking from him, then stifled a moan, her face screwed up in pain as she tried to back away.

‘You fell. Your head is injured,’ he said in English, cursing silently as her move brought blood trickling from a gash on her temple.


Page 2

‘Ankle, too.’ She swallowed painfully. ‘I slipped when you came roaring out of the sea at me on that Jet Ski—’

‘Jet Ski?’ Luke glared at her. ‘You are delirious from your fall,kyria. I do not own such a thing. I came by boat.’ Scowling, he examined the foot wedged tightly in a crack in the rock. ‘I must pull it out. But it will hurt.’

She clenched her jaw stoically and turned her head away.

Luke untied the laces on the blue sneaker but, as he tried to ease the foot out of it, she gasped in pain, beads of sweat rolling down her face.

‘Please. Just pull!’

He obliged, but as the foot came free the girl passed out cold again. With a savage curse he yanked his phone out of his back pocket. ‘Spiro, the woman’s had an accident. She’s unconscious. The clinic will be shut at this hour so I’ll have to bring her up to the house.’ He cut off Spiro’s exclamation. ‘Find Dr Riga, please. Tell him it’s urgent.’

Luke decided against trying to revive the girl. Better she stayed out of it while he manhandled her. Cursing because she was virtually naked except for scraps of pink fabric, he found a towel nearby and shook it free of sand to drape over the girl. He searched in a backpack lying at the foot of the rock, hislip curling as he found a notebook and pencils. But otherwise there was only a small purse with some currency, and a paperback novel in English. No identity. He hooked his arms into the straps but, as he bent to pick her up, her eyes flew open, wild with fear again.

‘You are perfectly safe,’ he snapped impatiently. ‘I shall carry you to my boat.’

Luke was as careful as possible as he carried his burden across the narrow beach, but she was unconscious again by the time he deposited her in the well of the boat. In a black mood, he cast off and set off across the water on the short trip back to moor the boat at the marina, thankful, not for the first time, that his berth was well away from the tavernas. He secured the boat, then, praying she hadn’t fractured her skull, Luke picked up his unconscious passenger who, though slender, was a dead weight. He braced himself, stepped up onto the quay and buckled her in the passenger seat of the Cherokee. Annoyed because he was breathing hard, he tucked the towel around her, shrugged off the backpack and drove back to the villa.

Spiro and Eleni hurried out to meet him, followed by Milos, the gardener, all of them exclaiming volubly over his unconscious passenger.

‘My apologies,kyrie,’ said Milos remorsefully. ‘My mother needed me. What happened to the lady?’

‘She fell on the rocks,’ Luke growled, jumping out.

‘Dr Riga is out on a call,’ reported Spiro, looking worried.

Luke swallowed a curse. ‘Will he be long?’

‘Alex Nicolaides is home,kyrie. I saw him this morning. I could go down and fetch him,’ Milos suggested.

Luke nodded grimly as he checked the girl’s pulse. ‘Get him here as fast as you can, please.’

‘The poor young lady!’ Eleni bent to mop the blood from the unconscious girl’s temple as Milos rushed off. ‘She has hurt her pretty face.’

‘Let me help carry her upstairs,’ offered Spiro, but Luke shook his head.

‘I can manage. But I need you with me, please, Eleni.’ As he released the safety belt the girl came round and struggled to sit upright, shrinking away from him in such terror that Luke’s patience suddenly ran out.

‘You are not in danger,’ he snapped. ‘I have brought you to my house.’

‘No, really—I must get back to my cottage,’ Isobel protested, horrified. Before he could stop her, she slid from the car, then gasped in agony as she put her weight on her injured ankle.

With a face like thunder, Luke scooped her up, ignoring Eleni’s protests when the towel was left behind. He strode up the curving staircase to a large airy bedroom and deposited his unwilling burden in a chair. ‘I will leave you with my housekeeper,’ he panted and stalked out of the room.

The woman smiled sympathetically. ‘I am Eleni. I speak a little English, but not good.’ She took the girl’s arm to help her over to the inviting white bed, but Isobel shook her head, a move she deeply regretted when the pain struck so hard the room swam before her eyes.

‘Sick,’ she gasped, clapping her hand to her mouth, and Eleni acted like lightning to help her hop into the adjoining bathroom. After a painful, humiliating episode, Isobel gasped her thanks and eventually gave in to Eleni’s insistence that she remove the bikini, which had suffered badly during the day’s various adventures. By this time totally beyond embarrassment, Isobel submitted to Eleni’s ministrations as the womanhelped her sponge her face and hot, aching body, then wrapped her in a white towelling robe.

‘Thank—you—so—much,’ said Isobel, teeth chattering in reaction as the woman helped her lie down against banked snowy pillows on the bed.

Eleni picked up the bikini. ‘I wash this. You rest,’ she said firmly and went out, closing the door behind her.

The session in the bathroom had rocketed Isobel’s headache to hammer-blow dimensions, which almost blotted out the pain of her ankle but only accentuated her raging thirst as she tried to make sense of her accident. She remembered some idiot on a Jet Ski coming straight at the beach from the sea, then hitting her head and nothing else until she opened her eyes on the angry, handsome face of a stranger and assumed he was the culprit. Which had infuriated him. She tensed as the door opened and her hostile rescuer approached the bed.

‘How do you feel?’ he asked curtly.

‘Not too well.’ She swallowed. ‘I’m so sorry to be a nuisance, but could I possibly have some water?’

Cursing silently for not thinking of it first, Luke nodded stiffly. ‘Of course.’

Isobel watched him as he strode out of the room. He was tall, with a fabulous physique, and in a better mood would be very good-looking. Not that she was concerned with his hostility, or with anything else other than how in the world she was going to get herself out of here—wherever ‘here’ was—and get back to the little cottage she’d paid good money for. And one day of her holiday was already ruined. Tears leaked out of her eyes at the thought, but she knuckled them away, impatient with self-pity as her host returned with her backpack, followed by Eleni with a tray. The woman poured water intoa glass and handed it to Isobel, then, at a look from her employer, went from the room, leaving the door wide open.

‘Eleni has looked after my family for years,’ he stated.

Desperate to gulp the water down, Isobel forced herself to sip cautiously. ‘She’s very kind.’

‘I am not?’

‘Of course.’ Her face grew even hotter. ‘I’m extremely grateful to you. And very embarrassed for causing so much trouble.’

Luke shrugged negligently. ‘Tell me your name.’

‘Isobel James.’ She drank the rest of the water and held the cold glass to her cheek, eyeing him questioningly. ‘And you are?’

He laughed scornfully. ‘You do not know?’

She stiffened. ‘I’m afraid not. I only arrived on the island yesterday.’

His dark eyes narrowed to a cynical glitter. ‘So why were you on my beach? You paid someone to take you there by boat?’

Isobel’s knuckles clenched on the glass. ‘No. I went down the path nearest the cottage to the beach adjoining yours. But by mid-morning it was crowded, so when I spotted the gap in the rocks I went to explore.’

‘That way is blocked!’

‘Not quite. I managed to squeeze through.’

‘You were so determined to invade my privacy?’ His eyes flamed with distaste, which touched Isobel on the raw.

‘Certainly not,’ she snapped. ‘I had no idea it was a private beach, nor who it belonged to. I apologise—humbly—for trespassing. And now, if you’ll be kind enough to call a taxi, I’ll get dressed and leave.’

He raised a cynical eyebrow. ‘And how do you propose to walk?’

‘I’ll manage,’ she snapped, praying she was right.

Eleni knocked at the open door and ushered in a familiar figure armed with a medical bag. The two men embraced each other and exchanged greetings before Alex Nicolaides moved to the bed, his eyes wide in consternation as he recognised his patient. ‘Miss James! What happened?’ He turned to her glowering rescuer, obviously asking him the same question in his own language.

‘The lady,’ Luke informed him in very deliberate English, ‘was trespassing on my private beach when she suffered a fall. She was unconscious when I found her. Thank you for coming, Doctor. Please examine her injuries and tell me what must be done for her.’

‘I need Eleni to stay, please,’ said Isobel urgently.

Luke motioned the woman to the bed, but stayed at the foot of it, obviously determined to monitor the proceedings.

Eleni patted Isobel’s hand comfortingly as Alex bent over her.

‘This is very bad luck for you, Miss James,’ he said gently.

His sympathy was so genuine tears welled in Isobel’s eyes, burning as they trickled down her flushed cheeks. Eleni produced tissues to dry the patient’s face so Alex could examine the wound, then he shone a torch in her eyes, held up a finger and told her to follow it with each eye in turn.

‘You have vomited?’

‘Yes.’

‘Does your head hurt very badly?’

‘Yes.’

‘Examine her foot; she hurt that, also,’ Luke said, sounding bored.

Alex frowned as he eyed the swollen ankle. ‘It is necessary to examine for fracture,’ he told Isobel. ‘I will be quick.’

‘Careful,’ warned Luke. ‘She faints a lot.’

A lot?Until today, she’d never fainted before in her life!Isobel clenched her teeth, determined not to faint again as Alex probed gently, though at one point it was a near thing.

‘The ankle is badly sprained only, not broken, Miss James,’ Alex assured her. ‘I will apply temporary bandage, then report to Dr Riga, who will take X-rays to confirm. I will also put a dressing on your face, and give you mild painkillers. Take with much fluid.’

‘Thank you.’ She tried to relax as he strapped her ankle. ‘Did you come here in a car, Doctor?’

He looked up in surprise. ‘No, on back of Milos’s motorbike. Why?’

‘I was hoping for a lift back to the cottage,’ she said, disappointed, and eyed him in appeal. ‘Would you be kind enough to arrange a taxi for me?’

Alex shot a startled look at Luke, who showed his teeth in a cold smile.

‘Miss James may stay here as long as she wishes.’

Not one second longer, if she could help it. ‘How kind,’ said Isobel frostily. ‘But I wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing you. So will you sort out a taxi for me, Doctor?’

Alex looked so uncomfortable Luke took pity on him.

‘I will drive you myself, Miss James,’ he said impatiently. ‘But only when you can manage alone. Demonstrate this for us.’

Isobel summoned every scrap of willpower she possessed to sit up straight. She paused for breath, swivelled round until she could put her good foot on the floor and then took the hand Eleni held out to help her as she struggled to stand. ‘You see?’ she said through her teeth. ‘If you gentlemen will kindly leave, I’ll get dressed.’

‘Miss James, this is not a good idea,’ said Alex, plainly expecting her to collapse in a heap at any second.

‘I must try. The cottage is all on one floor. I have food there, so if Mr—’

She glanced at her host. ‘I’m afraid I don’t know your name.’

‘No?’ He raised an eyebrow in scornful disbelief. ‘I am Lukas Andreadis.’

‘How do you do?’ She turned to Alex. ‘If Mr Andreadis will drive me, I’ll be just fine.’ She swallowed hard on rising nausea and wavered slightly, her hand tightening on Eleni’s.

Luke shook his head. ‘I will drive you when youarefine, Miss James, but that is most obviously not today. Put her back, Eleni.’

‘That is best, Luke,’ said Alex, relieved.

Isobel gave up. She let Eleni make her comfortable, then turned her face into the pillows in despair. Her longed-for odyssey had come to a grinding halt before it had even started. She ignored the hushed interchange in their own tongue between the men, wishing they’d just go away and leave her to wallow alone in her misery.

‘Miss James,’ said Alex, coming back to the bed.

Isobel opened her eyes. ‘Yes?’

‘If you allow me to have your keys, I will take my sister to your house to pack for you.’

‘How kind,’ she said unsteadily. ‘The keys are in my backpack.’

‘I am most happy to do this, but it was Luke’s idea,’ he added.

She turned unsmiling eyes on her host. ‘Then thank you, too, Mr Andreadis.’

‘Here in Greece we believe in helping travellers,’ he informed her indifferently.

‘Unless they invade your beach.’

‘True.’ He unbent enough to smile faintly. ‘Come, then, Alex. I will drive you.’

Eleni closed the door behind them, poured iced fruit juiceinto a glass and gave Isobel two of the tablets. ‘Drink,kyria,’ she said firmly.

Isobel obediently swallowed the painkillers and drank some of the juice. ‘Efcharisto, Eleni.’ She managed a smile. ‘But please call me Isobel.’

Eleni repeated the name shyly, put the glass on the table, then opened the carton of yoghurt.

Isobel eyed it in alarm. ‘I’m so sorry, but I really can’t eat anything right now.’

‘Ochee, not for eating. For your face. It is burning,ne?’

‘Oh, yes,’ sighed Isobel, and submitted to an unexpected beauty treatment. Eleni smoothed the blessedly cool, creamy yoghurt over her face, left it there until it warmed up, then gently cleaned it off with tissues.

‘I will do it more later,’ she promised, ‘but now you sleep, Isobel.’ She smiled and went from the room, leaving the door ajar.

Eventually the pills took enough edge off her aches and pains to let Isobel take interest in her surroundings. Filmy white curtains stirred at glass doors which led on to a balcony, and the room itself was furnished with the type of elegant simplicity that cost the earth. She groaned in sudden despair. She’d come all this way to Chyros to regain her normal perspective on life, yet one day into her holiday and here she was, stranded in a wealthy—and hugely unfriendly—stranger’s house, with no way of escaping until she was more mobile. But why had the man been so sure she’d known who he was? And felt so ticked off about it, too. Perhaps he was some kind of celebrity here in Greece. Her mouth twisted. He needn’t worry where she was concerned. He was good-looking enough in a forceful kind of way, but his personality was so horribly overbearing it cancelled out any attraction he might have had for her as a man…


Page 3

When Isobel opened her eyes again they widened when she found another stranger looking down at her.

‘Dr Riga, Isobel,’ said Eleni, hurrying to help her to sit up.

The large, bespectacled man gave her a reassuring smile. ‘Kalispera. How do you feel?’ he asked in heavily accented English, and took her pulse.

‘Not too well,’ she admitted.

He nodded, his eyes so sympathetic her own filled with tears again.

‘I’m so sorry, Doctor,’ she said huskily, and took the tissue Eleni had ready.

‘You suffer much pain; you are also in shock and alone in a strange country, Miss James. Tears are natural,’ he assured her. ‘I must take X-ray at my clinic. Eleni will help you dress.’ He smiled reassuringly and went from the room.

‘Eleni,’ said Isobel urgently, ‘will you help me wash again? Did Mr Andreadis bring my clothes?’

The woman nodded and helped Isobel out of the bed, supporting her as she hopped awkwardly to the bathroom. ‘I used iron,’ she said severely. ‘Alyssa Nicolaides packed too quick.’

‘You’re an angel, thank you, Eleni.’ Isobel tried to hurry. ‘I mustn’t keep the doctor waiting.’

Eleni shook her head. ‘He is gone.KyrieLuke will drive you. Not rush,’ she warned.

After the hurried bathroom session Isobel felt relatively presentable in a white denim skirt and blue T-shirt, though the effect was marred by wearing only one sandal. Otherwise she felt horribly queasy still, and her head was pounding like a war drum. Eleni helped her to the stool in front of the dressing table, anointed her face with more yoghurt, then wiped it away and handed Isobel her zippered travel pack. Resignedto see faint bruising under her eye, Isobel used a comb gingerly, decided against lip gloss and smiled wanly at Eleni.

‘I’m ready.’

The woman nodded. ‘I tell him.’

Isobel would have given a lot to walk downstairs on her own two feet when Luke Andreadis appeared in the doorway in a crisp white shirt and jeans which were obviously custom made by their fit.

‘How do you feel now?’ he asked, his eyes on the bright hair curling loosely on her shoulders.

‘Cleaner.’

‘But you are still in pain.’

‘Yes.’

He picked her up with exaggerated care. ‘I will strive not to cause you more.’

‘Likewise, Mr Andreadis,’ she returned, holding herself rigid, face averted, as he carried her from the room.

He frowned. ‘Likewise?’

‘Carrying me around can’t be doing your back much good.’

He laughed sardonically as he descended the curving staircase into a marble-floored hall with an alcove containing a striking half-size statue of Perseus brandishing the severed head of the gorgon Medusa. ‘I will survive. You are not heavy.’

‘As soon as humanly possible, I’ll get back to the cottage.’

‘When Dr Riga says you are fit to do so,’ he said dismissively and carried her through a large plant-filled conservatory to put her in the passenger seat of the Cherokee Jeep parked at the back of the villa. Which, now she had attention to spare for it, Isobel could see was a dream of a house.

‘You have a beautiful home,’ she said politely as Luke got in beside her.

‘Efcharisto. I bought it years ago, and altered it to suit my taste. I look on it—and the beach that came with it—as my private retreat.’

‘Is that why you were so furious when you found me down there?’

He lifted a shoulder. ‘Trespassers are a common occurrence.’

She clenched her teeth. ‘Once again, I apologise.’

It was no surprise to find that Luke Andreadis drove with panache. They swerved at speed round one dizzying bend after another on the tortuous descent until at last Isobel had to beg him to stop.

Luke came to a screaming halt, raced round the Jeep and hauled her out, then, to her hideous embarrassment, supported her as she retched miserably over a clump of bushes at the roadside.

‘Can you continue now?’ he demanded as she straightened.

‘Yes,’ she gasped, sending up a prayer that she was right.

He put her back in the Jeep and handed her bag over. ‘I will drive slowly the rest of the way,’ he said stiffly.

‘Thank you,’ she managed, the pain in her head now so unbearable again she could hardly speak.

The doctor hurried out of the modern clinic building as they arrived, his face anxious.

‘You are late. I was worried.’

‘We had to stop on the way because Miss James was sick,’ Luke informed him. ‘I am so used to the road I drove too fast.’

‘Ah, poor child. Bring her in, Lukas. My radiologist is waiting, and also Nurse Pappas with a wheelchair.’

Luke lifted Isobel out of the car to transfer her to the wheelchair, his mouth tightening as he felt her shrink from him. ‘You will obviously prefer this.’

You bet, thought Isobel, as the friendly nurse wheeled heraway. Later, after X-rays and a trying episode while her wound was thoroughly cleaned and dressed again, she was given painkillers and water, then wheeled back to the reception area.

‘There is no fracture to the skull or the ankle, but you are suffering from mild concussion,’ Dr Riga reported and smiled encouragingly at Isobel. ‘You need light nourishment and much rest. I will give you more medication for the headache, but take no more until bedtime. And Nurse Pappas has a crutch for you.’

‘Thank you,’ said Isobel gratefully, smiling at both of them.

‘Are you ready?’ Luke tossed the crutch in the back of the Jeep, then installed Isobel in the passenger seat. His face was so grim as he took the wheel; the drive back to the villa was accomplished in silence so tense until Isobel felt obliged, at last, to break it.

‘I’m very grateful for all your help, Mr Andreadis,’ she said formally. ‘Would you give me Dr Riga’s bill, please?’

‘I have settled it,’ he said dismissively.

‘Then I will pay you,’ she persisted.

Luke Andreadis, accustomed to women who expected him to foot bills far more expensive than Dr Riga’s, shot her a scathing look. ‘I require no money from you, Miss James.’

Isobel had no energy to argue, even though the mere thought of owing this man anything at all acted like fire on her skin—which was hot enough already.

Once back at his house, Luke lifted Isobel out, then handed her the crutch. ‘Welcome back to the Villa Medusa,’ he said formally. ‘You can manage with this?’

‘Yes, thank you.’ Even if it killed her. But, by the time they made it through the conservatory, Isobel felt too exhausted to protest when Luke handed Spiro the crutch and picked her up to carry her upstairs.

CHAPTER TWO

ELENIand Spiro hurried behind, listening closely as Luke reported in their own language on Dr Riga’s treatment.

‘Eleni asked when you last ate,’ he reported, letting Isobel down in the armchair.

‘This morning on your beach,’ she gasped. No point in mentioning that grapes had been the only thing on the menu. Nor that she’d parted with them and everything else in her system in the guest bathroom, with an encore on the way down to the clinic.

‘I bring food to you very soon, Isobel,’ promised Eleni.

Relieved to have her catering arrangements decided for her, Isobel smiled wearily. ‘Efcharisto, Eleni. But I’m not at all hungry.’

Luke took the crutch from Spiro and propped it against Isobel’s chair. ‘You have everything you need?’

Heartily sick of being heaved around by a man who made it so plain it was a tiresome chore, Isobel made no attempt at a polite smile. ‘Yes. Thank you. I shan’t trouble you again.’

Luke’s smile set her teeth on edge. ‘You were trouble from the moment I first saw you, on my flight over the beach.’

‘Flight?’

‘In my helicopter. It is my habit to scan the beach as I come in to land.’

‘To scope out trespassers!’ She looked him in the eye—or as well as she could with one of her own half closed. ‘At the risk of boring you, I apologise once again for my intrusion, Mr Andreadis.’ Her mouth twisted. ‘Lord knows, I suffered such swift retribution I’ll never do it again.’

‘Even though you failed in your aim?’

Isobel frowned, her thought processes fighting a losing battle with her headache. ‘I don’t understand.’

Luke eyed the motionless Spiro, who obviously intended standing his ground until his employer was ready to leave. ‘With your permission, Miss James,’ continued Luke, ‘I will return after you have eaten. I wish to talk to you.’

Isobel inclined her sore head gingerly. As if she could say no!

Alone, she sagged for a moment in relief, then pulled herself together and tried putting her crutch through its paces. To her intense satisfaction she found that, headache and sprained ankle or not, she was now mobile, if not agile. Hallelujah! After the talk with the hostile Mr Andreadis, a lift back to the cottage was all the help she would need from him.

When Eleni came in, followed by Spiro with a tray, Isobel smiled persuasively and pointed to the balcony doors. ‘Could I eat out there, please?’

‘It is dark,’ said the woman, astonished.

‘Not with the stars and the light from the lamps in here.’

‘Whatever you wish,kyria,’ said Spiro, and took the tray out to the small table on the balcony. He rearranged the chairs, opened the other door to make it easier for her and bowed to her, smiling.

‘Efcharisto, Spiro,’ said Isobel gratefully and limped out onto the balcony to sit at the table, smiling in such triumphat Eleni as she parked the crutch that the woman laughed and patted her shoulder.

‘You are better. Good, good. Now, eat.’ She took a silver cover from an inviting omelette and left Isobel to her solitary meal.

To her surprise, Isobel’s taste buds sprang to life with the first mouthful. Once it seemed her stomach meant to behave, she ate all the omelette and some of the salad and bread that came with it, finding that eating alone, with only the stars for company, did wonders for her appetite. Isobel drank some water and then sat back to gaze out over the garden, her eyes fixed in longing on the floodlit pool. She’d love a swim in it before she went back to her cottage. But fond hope of that with Mr Congeniality on the premises.

A knock on the bedroom door brought her out of her reverie. She picked up the crutch and went slowly into the room, smiling at Eleni. ‘It was a lovely supper. I’ve taken some pills and I feel much better now.’

‘Good, good,’ said the woman, beaming. ‘I bring more yoghurt for face. Use before bed. I help you to bathroom now?’

‘No, thank you. I can manage myself.’

The woman frowned. ‘Then I come back later when time to sleep.’

‘All right, Eleni,’ sighed Isobel, knowing when she was beaten. ‘Before you go, could you put the big chair near the veranda doors?Efcharisto poli.’

Isobel eyed her reflection critically in the large bathroom mirror. Her eye was ringed with interesting shades of plum, but at least it was now almost open again, and her sunburn had toned down, thanks to Eleni’s yoghurt. Pleased with her new mobility, Isobel limped back into the room to sit in the big, comfortable chair, content just to look out into the night while she waited for her visitor.

‘Come in,’ she called later, in answer to the expected knock.

Luke strolled in, his eyes on her face. ‘Kalispera. You look better. Eleni tells me you ate most of your supper.’

‘Yes. It was delicious.’ Isobel sat still and tense, wondering what he wanted to talk about.

‘May I sit down?’

‘Of course.’

Luke drew the dressing table stool nearer Isobel and stood by it for a moment. ‘Shall I fetch your notebook? Since you suffered so much to achieve it, I have decided to grant your interview.’

Isobel stared at him blankly. ‘Interview?’

‘I collected your belongings on the beach,’ he informed her. ‘There was a notebook, also several pencils in your bag. Do you deny that you are a journalist, Miss James?’

Isobel took in a deep calming breath, then took the pad from the backpack on the floor beside her and handed it over. ‘Look for yourself.’

Luke’s mouth tightened as he turned over pages of drawings. ‘What are these?’

‘I would have thought that’s obvious, Mr Andreadis. I drew the boats from the veranda of the cottage when I first arrived, and the other sketch this morning on the beach next to yours. Ideally, I would have used watercolour, but I had no way of getting the materials down such a steep path.’ Isobel looked at him coldly. ‘Other people take holiday snaps. I make sketches.’

‘Which,’ he said slowly, leafing through them again, ‘are most accomplished.’

‘Thank you.’

Luke ran a hand through his thick curls, then looked up, surveying her in silence for so long that Isobel grew restive. ‘It is now I who must make apology,’ he said at last, as though the words were drawn out of him with pincers.

‘Accepted.’ She eyed him curiously. ‘You dislike journalists and guard your privacy very fiercely, Mr Andreadis, so are you some kind of celebrity here in Greece?’

He shook his head. ‘No, just a successful businessman, Miss James. I am in shipping, but also much in the news lately, due to a successful takeover of a private airline.’ His mouth turned down. ‘And I have no wife. This also attracts interest from the press.’

‘About whether you’re gay?’ she said, secretly delighted by the look of outrage on his face.

‘Ochee! I may lack a wife, but it is common knowledge that I enjoy the company of women. Didyouthink I was gay?’ he demanded.

‘Not easy to tell on such brief acquaintance.’

His eyes narrowed to a glitter, which put her on the alert. ‘Even though we have been in enforced physical contact from the first moment of our meeting?’

Isobel’s face heated. ‘I wasn’t conscious for most of it. And, now that I am, no further contact is necessary. Not,’ she added hastily, ‘that I’m ungrateful for your help.’

He shrugged. ‘I had no choice but to give it, Miss James.’

She eyed him in disdain. ‘You made that very clear—but I’m grateful just the same.’

His eyes softened. ‘It has been a bad start to your holiday.’

‘It has indeed.’ She pushed her hair away from her throbbing forehead. ‘So, if you can spare the time to drive me to my cottage tomorrow to get on with it, I’d be very grateful, Mr Andreadis.’

‘You cannot manage alone there yet,’ he said dismissively.

‘I most certainly can. There is absolutely no difference between getting myself around this room and doing the same at the cottage.’

‘And how will you feed yourself?’

She’d been prepared for that. ‘If Eleni will buy food for me before I go, I’ll manage very well until I can walk properly again. My ankle feels better already,’ she lied. ‘In a day or so I’ll be back to normal.’

He eyed her in silence for a moment. ‘Before you make your escape from the Villa Medusa, please indulge my curiosity. Tell me something about yourself. From your drawings, your interest obviously lies in art, Miss James.’

‘Yes. I have a Fine Art Degree.’

‘You teach?’

‘No. I manage an art gallery and live in the flat over it as part of a deal which includes putting my work on sale at the gallery, as well as the paintings I sell privately.’

‘You live near your family?’

Isobel looked down at the hands she’d folded in her lap. ‘No. My wonderful grandparents brought me up, but they’re dead now.’

Luke leaned forward slightly. ‘And your parents?’

‘I never knew them. They were killed in a motorway pile-up in fog when I was a baby.’

‘That is a sad story,’ he said sombrely. ‘But you were fortunate to have grandparents who cared for you.’

‘True. They were the only parents I ever knew, and I couldn’t have wished for better. But, though I’m short on family, I’m blessed with very good friends,’ said Isobel, trying to ignore her headache. ‘In the past my holidays were spent with one of them but, since her marriage a couple of years ago, I travel alone.’

Luke got up. ‘Have you informed this friend of your accident?’

‘I saw no point in worrying her. I’ll be fine in a day or two.’

‘But you are not fine now. Your headache is bad again, yes?’

‘Afraid so,’ she admitted.

He looked down at her, frowning. ‘I shall send Eleni to help you to bed.’ He held up a peremptory hand. ‘Yes, I know you can manage without her, but she insisted. Is there anything you would like her to bring you?’

Isobel smiled hopefully. ‘I would really love some tea.’

‘Of course. You shall have it immediately.Kalmychta—goodnight, Miss James.’

‘Goodnight, Mr Andreadis.’

Isobel was very thoughtful after he’d gone, wondering why he’d asked so many questions. It made her doubly wary of Lukas Andreadis, mainly because her current opinion of his sex was at an all-time low. But, looked at objectively, from an artistic point of view he was a formidable specimen, with the physique and sculpted features of the Greek statues she’d studied in college. Though more like the Renaissance muscular versions than the androgynous Apollo Belvedere of Ancient Greece. Similar curls, maybe, but Luke Andreadis was very obviously all male, his impressive build a definite plus when it came to carrying her about. His one concession to vanity seemed to be the hair he grew long enough to brush his collar. But she would have expected those curls of his to be black, like his eyes. Instead, they were bronze with lighter streaks, courtesy of the sun. Her mouth tightened. Good-looking he might be, but when she’d first seen him, down on his precious private beach, he’d been so menacing he’d frightened her to death.

Isobel took more painkillers with the tea Eleni brought her, then submitted to her yoghurt beauty treatment and let the kind little woman help her to bed. Isobel thanked Eleni warmly, wished her goodnight, and then settled down againstbanked pillows and, though fully expecting to lie awake for hours with her aches and pains for company, eventually drifted off into healing, dreamless sleep.


Page 4

CHAPTER THREE

LUKEANDREADISasked Eleni to take tea up to their guest, then went to his room, but felt too restless for sleep. He made for his balcony with a glass of brandy and leaned against the rail, breathing in the heady nocturnal scents of the garden. After the punishing campaign of the past few weeks he felt anti-climactic, already missing the adrenaline rush of corporate battle. His mouth curled in grim triumph as he relived the victory over Melina Andreadis. She must be incandescent with fury now she no longer controlled the airline acquired by the husband who had once given it to his demanding second wife as if it were a toy to play with. But now, Luke thought triumphantly, she had been rendered powerless. Her ties with the airline had been severed without mercy by the grandson Theo Andreadis refused to acknowledge.

Luke raised his glass to the stars in exultation at the memory of Melina’s fury, of her ageing face, scarlet and suffused with rage. It had been worth every minute of his years of hard, unending work just to see the harpy’s face when the vote went against her. Whoever said revenge was a dish best served cold was right on target. His long fight to wreak revenge on Melina had left little room in his life for personal relationships. But this mattered very little to him now he hadfinally exacted his revenge. His only sorrow was that his mother had not lived to share in his triumph. His face set in implacable lines. That she was not was another sin to lay at his grandfather’s door. Theo Andreadis had brought up his motherless daughter so strictly her eventual rebellion had been inevitable. The discovery that she was pregnant had enraged her father so much he’d thrown her out on the street. The desperate girl had fled from Athens to take refuge with her old nurse on Chyros, where Olympia Andreadis, daughter of one of the richest men in Greece, had supported herself by working in the kitchen of the taverna owned by Basil Nicolaides, father of the present owner, Nikos.

Luke’s eyes darkened at the thought of his frail, pretty mother, who had escaped from her home in Athens with only the jewels inherited from her mother. These had provided savings hoarded zealously for her child as he grew into a clever, determined boy who soon outstripped his peers academically at school. Young Lukas absorbed knowledge like a sponge and, with the help of a young, enthusiastic teacher early on, became fluent in English, which added to his prowess in all the other subjects on the school curriculum. Fuelled by determination to help his mother, he did odd jobs after school at the taverna to earn money, and at weekends, much to Olympia’s disapproval, went out with the local fishermen for the same purpose. He would have done anything to protect his mother from the blandishments of Costas Petrides, the wealthiest man on the island. Costas had been so eager to marry the exquisite, cultured Olympia he had even professed willingness to take her illegitimate son as part of the deal. But she had politely and relentlessly refused, secure in the protection of Spiro, son of her old nurse, and the support of Basil Nicolaides and his son Nikos, who jointly managed thetaverna. But Luke well knew that to this day Costas blamed Olympia’s son for her refusal of such a good catch for a husband.

Luke grew up in a home where there was much love, but very little money. As he grew to adulthood he became consumed with the desire to keep his mother in luxury for the rest of her days, to repay Spiro and the Nikolaides family for their kindness, and eventually to wreak merciless revenge on those responsible for his mother’s situation, with Melina Andreadis at the top of his hit list.

And he had succeeded. He had rendered Melina powerless with the best weapon of all, the loss of backing from her own board. He smiled with grim satisfaction at the memory of her raging, impotent fury as the vote went against her. For a moment it had seemed likely she would attack him with her own red-taloned fingers as the truth struck home that she was powerless to fight against fate when the airline was torn from her grasp. And now Lukas Andreadis was the power behind Air Chyros, the new name he’d given his grandfather’s airline. In the future, instead of making money with as many cheap flights as possible under the grasping Melina’s aegis, it would be run with the emphasis on safety, reliability and luxury, the key elements Air Chyros would be offering once the new planes were in operation.

Luke drank down the last of his brandy and turned back into his room, wincing as the odd muscle protested. He smiled a little. He prided himself on his fitness, which he swam daily to maintain, but it wasn’t every day he was required to rescue a damsel in distress. A very appealing damsel, he admitted, though tumbling blonde curls and big blue eyes were not female assets which normally appealed to him. He liked his women dark, with fiery temperaments and ample curves—helaughed shortly, giving thanks to the gods that he hadn’t been obliged to carry a woman of that description about, or he might have had more than just a sore muscle or two to complain about. But, even though Miss Isobel James looked the picture of innocence, he still harboured doubts about her reasons for her presence on his beach this morning. Yet her stoicism and independence—and the feel of her slender body in his arms—appealed strongly to him. While she, very obviously, was finding it difficult to be grateful to a man she regarded with suspicion, even dislike. A new experience for him where women were concerned. He smiled slowly. Now he was here for a few days it would be diverting to see how quickly he could break down the barrier she’d erected against him. He must think up ways of keeping her here until he achieved his usual success. His mouth twisted in self-derision as he realised that a great part of the lady’s attraction was her immunity to his own—a challenge impossible to resist.

 

Blissfully unaware of her host’s plans for her immediate future, Isobel woke early again next morning and for a moment gazed blankly round the unfamiliar room until a glance at the crutch leaning against the foot of the bed brought the events of the previous day rushing back. She lay quiet for a while as she reviewed them, amazed that she’d survived the night without one of the nightmares afflicting her lately. Perhaps she was cured of them at last. She was so comfortable she was reluctant to move, but at last she had no choice. With a sigh Isobel sat up, carefully manoeuvred herself to the edge of the bed, reached for the crutch and put her good foot to the floor. Twenty minutes later she was sitting by the open veranda doors, hair combed, teeth brushed, face clean and painkillers washed down with fruit juice. And, though bothankle and head were still making their presence felt, the discomfort was bearable enough to confirm that once she transferred to the cottage she would be able to manage perfectly well on her own.

She looked up with a smile as Eleni appeared with a breakfast tray. ‘Good morning.’

The little woman returned the smile shyly. ‘Kalimera. How you feel today, Isobel?’

‘Much better,’ Isobel assured her. ‘Thank you, Eleni. You’re a star.’

Eleni carried the tray out on to the veranda, leaving the doors open wide for Isobel. ‘Eat well,’ she commanded, and left Isobel to the pleasure of breakfast in the fresh air of a Chyros morning.

Thankful to find her nausea gone, Isobel ate one of the sweet rolls and finished off the tea, looking down in longing through the balcony rails at the pool. She sucked in a sudden breath. A bronzed body had appeared in the water, cutting through it like some exotic sea creature as Lukas swam laps of his pool at a speed that tired Isobel to watch. At last he heaved himself out of the water to stand with arms outstretched and face upturned to the sun for a minute or two before he wrapped his spectacular body in a towelling robe.

Isobel let out the breath she hadn’t even known she was holding, wondering how to get herself off the balcony without attracting his attention. But before she could move he turned, gave her a mocking bow and strolled into the house.

Face flaming, Isobel did her Long John Silver act back into the bedroom to strip off her dressing gown. Time she moved out. She collected some clothes and a polythene bag used to pack shoes, and then went into the bathroom for a sponge down. It was a messy, unsatisfactory process, but she managedit without wetting the bandage on her ankle, and felt absurdly pleased with herself when it was over. She slapped on some body lotion, struggled into her underwear, then pulled on a favourite comfortable yellow T-shirt dress and, with the help of the crutch, made it back into the bedroom just as Eleni hurried in.

‘I came to help,’ said the woman reproachfully.

Isobel smiled in apology. ‘I had to see if I could manage on my own. I really must leave today and go back to the cottage. I’m afraid I used rather a lot of towels.’

The woman shrugged this off as unimportant, and went into the bathroom to collect them. ‘You sit still now. I bring coffee,’ she said firmly, and took the damp bundle away.

Isobel did her sitting still on the balcony, determined not to remain in the vicinity of Lukas Andreadis a moment longer than necessary. When Eleni came back with the coffee she would request a visit from the master of the house, preferably when he was fully clothed, and ask him for a lift down to the cottage. After that she need never see him again. Which would be good because she found his presence disturbing. For one thing, he was a man, and for another she was sure he still believed she’d been up to no good when she invaded his precious beach. While all she wanted from him was a lift back to the cottage so she could enjoy the rest of her holiday alone, in the peace she’d come all this way to find.

When she called in answer to a knock on the bedroom door she heard the slight rattling of a tray and sniffed the enticing scent of freshly made coffee. But, instead of Eleni, it was Luke Andreadis, casual in jeans and T-shirt, who came out onto the veranda to put a tray down on the table.

‘Kalimera,’ he greeted her. ‘May I join you?’

‘Of course,’ she said, hiding her dismay. ‘Good morning.’

‘How are you today?’

‘Much better.’

‘Eleni tells me you did not wait for her to help you dress,’ he said casually.

‘I had to try to manage on my own.’

Luke handed her a cup of coffee, then pulled a chair up to the table. ‘I trust,’ he said, eyeing her ankle, ‘that your bandage is still dry?’

‘I wrapped my foot in a plastic bag.’ She smiled politely. ‘I’m self-sufficient now. So if you’d be kind enough to drive me down to the cottage this morning I’ll leave you in peace.’

He shook his damp head. ‘Not this morning.’

Isobel’s heart sank. ‘This afternoon, then?’

‘Before you can stay there alone, food must be bought for you.’

‘I’ll give you money for Eleni,’ she said promptly.

‘Also,’ he went on, brushing that aside, ‘I must inspect the place for myself first, to check its suitability for your injury.’

Her chin lifted. ‘There’s absolutely no need for you to trouble yourself, Mr Andreadis,’ she said flatly. ‘If I can manage here, I can manage there.’

He raised an eyebrow. ‘Also cook for yourself?’

‘With a supply of salad vegetables, and bread and cheese, I shan’t need to cook for myself for a day or two. And by then I’ll be good on both feet,’ she assured him, resenting his tone.

‘If you will give me your key I shall go down to the cottage soon,’ said Luke. ‘And then we shall see.’

Isobel sighed, frustrated. ‘If you must. Though I thought you’d be only too pleased to get rid of me.’

His smile set off alarm bells in her head. ‘As I told you, Miss James, we revere the traveller here in Greece.’

‘You were anything but reverent when you found this one on your beach!’

‘Only because I misunderstood the reason for your presence.’ And strongly doubted her story of the Jet Ski. His eyes darkened. ‘It is by no means unusual for journalists of both sexes to invade my beach, nor for young women to arrange to be stranded there.’

‘In the hope that you’ll come to the rescue?’

‘Their hopes are usually higher—or lower—than that,’ he said, his mouth twisting in distaste. ‘I do not,’ he added sardonically, ‘delude myself that they are attracted to me in person. Only to my money.’

‘And the power you used to amass it. Isn’t power supposed to be the ultimate aphrodisiac?’ Isobel smiled politely. ‘You Greeks have a word for everything.’

He inclined his head. ‘The rest of the world owes much to us.’

‘What happens to trespassers when you’re not here?’

‘Milos deals with them. He is ex-army, and officially works as my gardener. But his main function is security. He had time off yesterday; otherwise you would have been removed before I arrived.’

‘Which would have saved a lot of trouble.’ One way and another.

Luke gave her the unsettling smile again. ‘But it would also have deprived me of the pleasure of meeting you.’

Isobel dismissed that with a shrug. ‘You speak very good English.’

‘Thank you. I had a very good English teacher in school and, due to his influence, I studied for my MBA in London.’ He got up. ‘It is good you are not a journalist. I am not usually free with my personal details.’

‘I shan’t pass them on to anyone,’ she assured him.

He looked surprised. ‘They are not secrets. I was born here on Chyros. My background is known to everyone.’

‘Even so, I don’t speak Greek so I’m not likely to talk to anyone about you.’

‘Not even to Alex Nicolaides? He speaks English.’

‘He hardly knows me! Though he was very helpful,’ she added.

‘Which cannot surprise you.’

She raised an eyebrow in silent query.

‘A look in the mirror will answer your question,’ he informed her.

She sighed. Same old, same old. ‘I seriously doubt that. I have a black eye, in case you haven’t noticed, Mr Andreadis.’

‘I could hardly help notice, but it is already fading and detracts very little from your looks, Miss James.’

‘Thank you,’ she said shortly, and bent to pick up her handbag. ‘Here are the keys. Will you let me know your verdict as soon as possible?’


Page 5

Luke took them, his eyes amused. ‘You are so eager to leave my house?’

Her chin lifted. ‘I really can’ttrespasson your hospitality any longer.’

‘You throw the word at me like a missile!’ He chuckled. ‘I shall see you at lunch.’

Isobel scowled as he strolled from the room, feeling all at sea. Lukas Andreadis in friendly mode—if you could call it that—was deeply unnerving. Yet hearing something of his background had whetted her curiosity to know more. But Eleni was the only one she could ask, so there was no way she was going to find out any more unless he told her himself. And, since she was hopefully moving out today, and it wasn’ta question she could ask anyway, that was unlikely. But she couldn’t leave until Luke Andreadis drove her to the cottage, so she would do what she always did with time on her hands—and far too often when she should have been doing other things entirely.

Isobel established herself at the balcony rail, propped one of her larger pads against it and began to sketch the pool. In the bright morning light it shone like a blue jewel in its setting of palms, oleander and feathery pink tamarisk. And as usual her concentration was soon so intense that Eleni had to clap her hands loudly to gain her attention.

‘Lunch, Isobel.’

Isobel closed the sketchbook hastily and turned to smile at Eleni. ‘I hadn’t realised it was so late.’

‘You wash now,’ said the woman. ‘Food nearly ready. You need help?’

‘No, I can manage, thank you.’ Isobel spent a few minutes in the bathroom, then went back into the bedroom to find Luke standing outside on the landing.

‘Eleni says you must come immediately or the food will spoil,’ he informed her. ‘I will carry you down.’

Isobel flushed, taken aback. ‘I thought I was eating up here again.’

‘While I thought you would enjoy lunch on the terrace. Even with the disadvantage of my company,’ he added slyly.

Isobel eyed him irritably. If she’d had prior knowledge of the arrangement, out of sheer pride she might have gilded the lily a bit—or as much as she could in her present condition. The swelling on her face had gone down, the bruise was fading slightly below her eye, which she could now open fully, but it was still no pleasure to look in a mirror. ‘You don’t have to carry me. I can manage with the crutch.’

‘That will take too long, and Eleni will be very annoyed if her food is kept waiting,’ he informed her and, ignoring her involuntary recoil, picked her up. Isobel tensed, for the first time physically aware of Luke as a man. She felt enveloped in the warmth and scent of him, and wanted to beat him away with clenched fists.

‘Eleni didn’t warn me,’ she said, voice stifled, as Luke carried her down the curving staircase to the hall.

‘I told her not to.’

‘Why?’

‘You would have refused.’

‘I hope my manners are better than that, Mr Andreadis!’

He took her through open glass doors to a pergola wreathed with greenery on the section of terrace overlooking the pool. He set her down at a table laid for lunch. ‘I think that under the circumstances we can dispense with formality. I am Luke.’

Bad idea. ‘I’m Isobel,’ she said reluctantly.

‘Much better,’ he said, and sat opposite her. ‘Will you have some wine?’

‘In deference to my head, I think I’d better stick with water.’

‘Ah, yes—excuse me for a moment.’ He went back into the house and returned with a walking stick. ‘Borrow this. When you no longer need the crutch you might find it useful.’

Isobel’s eyes lit up, winning an arrested look from him. ‘I will, indeed. Thank you.’ She hooked the stick over the arm of her chair. ‘Wonderful. Now I’m completely self-sufficient. What did you think of the cottage?’

He smiled. ‘I had already inspected the houses at various stages with Nikos Nicolaides while they were being built.’

Her eyes flashed. ‘Then you knew perfectly well mine would be suitable.’

‘More or less,’ he admitted, and filled her water glass.

‘So will you drive me there this afternoon, please?’

Instead of answering, he greeted Eleni with a smile as she delivered a large dish giving off delicious scents. ‘Ah,garides saganaki, or, for our English guest, prawns with feta in tomato sauce—and probably a few subtleties known only to the cook,’ he announced. ‘Efcharisto, Eleni.’

‘Eat while hot,’ she instructed as she left.

‘This smells heavenly,’ said Isobel with anticipation.

Luke got up to take the bowl she filled for him. ‘You like Greek food?’

‘It’s only my second experience of it. But,’ she said, after tasting the prawns, ‘this is just wonderful. I adore seafood.’

‘Which is fortunate,’ said Luke. ‘I did not ask if you were allergic to shellfish.’

‘I’m not. Nor to anything else, so far. I have a pretty iron digestive system normally.’ She flushed. ‘Which is why I was so mortified yesterday on the way down to the clinic. It was a new experience for me.’

‘For me, also,’ Luke said with feeling, and looked her in the eye. ‘You are quite well now in that way?’

‘Absolutely. Otherwise I wouldn’t be tucking into this delicious prawn dish. Eleni’s a great cook. Has she been with you long?’

‘All my life. She helped my mother with me when I was a baby. Also her husband Spiro, the son of my mother’s old nurse, Sofia. As I told you,’ added Luke, ‘everyone on Chyros knows my history.’

‘That must be rather wonderful—like an extended family.’

He inclined his head. ‘Which is why I spend as much time here as possible, when my work allows. In Athens and Thessaloniki many people know who I am, but few know the real Lukas Andreadis.’

‘Do you prefer it that way?’

‘In some ways, yes. But, like you, I have good friends—in my case, men whose interests are similar to mine.’

‘You said your interest in women is well known, too,’ she reminded him.

Luke looked her in the eye. ‘But they are—or were—just pillow friends, Isobel. I always make my views on marriage—or even commitment—very clear.’

Her hackles rose. Why did he think it necessary to tell her that? She had no designs on him. Or on any other man for the foreseeable future. ‘I thought a man like you would want a son to inherit this empire of yours. Not that it’s any business of mine,’ she added hastily.

‘Do you want a husband and family, Isobel?’ asked Luke, surprising her.

‘Not right now, no.’

‘You have never met a man you wish to marry?’

‘No,’ she said shortly, and smiled as Eleni appeared with a bowl of fruit. ‘That was absolutely delicious,’ she told her, indicating her empty dish.

The woman looked pleased as she cleared away.

‘I saw Dr Riga when I was down in the town,’ said Luke casually, once they were alone. ‘He thinks it best you remain here at the villa for a few days, rather than manage alone at the cottage.’

Isobel stared at him in astonishment. ‘But why? There’s nothing wrong with me now, except for the foot. And with my crutch and this wonderful stick I’ll be fine on my own.’

‘Nevertheless, he advises you stay here until completely recovered.’ He shrugged. ‘After a fall on the head there can be complications.’

She frowned. ‘What kind?’

‘A clot of blood on the brain, for one. There was a case only recently of a young boy complaining of head pains after a fall. Lacking the necessary equipment, the doctor performed emergency surgery with an ordinary power drill to release the pressure on the brain and saved the boy’s life.’

Isobel blanched, beginning to regret the prawns.

Luke smiled in reassurance. ‘Since there was no fracture to your skull, Dr Riga said there is no risk of this in your case. But he thinks you should stay here for a while. So do I.’ Though for a quite different reason. ‘Eleni thinks so, too.’

Isobel drew in a deep breath, deeply shaken by the idea of blood clots. ‘Poor Eleni. I’ve given her so much extra work.’

‘She does not think of it that way, Isobel,’ he assured her, peeling an orange. ‘In fact, Eleni thinks you are a very lovely young lady, so does Spiro.’ The dark, compelling eyes met hers for a moment. ‘I agree with them.’

Isobel’s eyes fell. ‘Thank you. If I had to have an accident I was very lucky to land on your beach for it. You’ve all been so kind.’

‘Including me?’ he said, eyes gleaming.

Her chin lifted. ‘Once you found I wasn’t a journalist, yes, you were—are—kind. Autocratic, too, but I suppose that’s second nature to you.’

‘If I were truly autocratic,’ he said very deliberately, ‘I would simplydemandthat you stay here. But, even on such short acquaintance, Miss Isobel James, I realise that this would work against me. So, I repeat my invitation. Stay a little while longer.’

Isobel sighed. ‘Now you’ve planted the idea of electric drills in my head, solitude at the cottage has no appeal right now. So thank you. I will stay for a day or so.’

‘Very wise. And when you do leave the villa I shall arrangefor someone to check on you at regular intervals,’ he stated, then arched an eyebrow as she smiled wryly. ‘What is so amusing?’

‘You were in touch with your inner autocrat again, Mr Andreadis.’

‘I cannot help who—and what—I am.’ Luke smiled. ‘I return to Athens shortly, so you may convalesce here in peace, Isobel. And when you are ready to leave, Spiro will drive you to the cottage.’

CHAPTER FOUR

ISOBELwas much cheered by this piece of news. It would be a lot more peaceful at the Villa Medusa without the formidable presence of its owner. But she would miss him from a transport point of view.

‘What is going on behind those beautiful blue eyes?’ Luke asked, startling her. ‘I can almost hear your brain working.’ His eyes gleamed. ‘Is it possible you might miss my help in carrying you downstairs?’

‘Yes,’ she said frankly.

‘I had thought of that,’ he informed her. ‘I considered asking Milos to carry you when necessary. But I decided against it.’

‘Why?’

Luke looked at her in silence for a while. ‘Not a suitable solution,’ he said at last. ‘Instead, we shall transfer you to a room down here.’

Isobel eyed him curiously. ‘May I ask why you didn’t put me there in the first place?’

‘It had no bed. Now it does. It will be much better for Eleni,’ he added. ‘It will save her from constant running upstairs to check on you.’

‘A definite plus,’ agreed Isobel meekly. ‘Thank you.’

‘Would you like to see the room now?’

‘Yes, please.’ She picked up the crutch and manoeuvred herself away from the table.

‘It would be easier if I carried you,’ he said, joining her.

‘Unnecessary down here. I’m pretty nippy already with my trusty crutch,’ she assured him. ‘So lead on, Mr Andreadis.’

He conducted her back into the house and along the hall into a sitting room with glass doors leading on to the terrace and an awning outside to shield the room from the sun. Furniture had obviously been rearranged to allow for the bed to be placed with the best view of the garden.

Isobel looked round doubtfully. ‘It’s lovely, but isn’t this where you sit at night?’

‘Rarely. I prefer the conservatory, or my study on the other side of the hall. Sometimes I stay out on the terrace until I go to bed.’ Luke smiled. ‘Use the room as long as you wish, Isobel. The ground floor bathroom is close by. Eleni and Spiro have one of their own, so you are assured perfect privacy.’

Isobel examined her new quarters in silence. Her belongings were already arranged on the desk, and her clothes hanging on a dress rail beside it. ‘I booked my holiday on the recommendation of a client who came here to recover from a divorce,’ she said at last. ‘She told me that Chyros was the perfect place for peace and quiet, but in my case she was wrong.’

Luke opened the doors onto the terrace. ‘Why didyouneed peace and quiet? A love affair gone wrong?’

‘No,’ lied Isobel. ‘My boss recently gave the gallery a huge makeover, and I had my work cut out to make sure it was business as usual during the alterations. At the same time I was working on a commission for a series of watercolours, and setting up an exhibition of paintings by an artist friend at the gallery for its ceremonial reopening.’ She smiled wryly.‘Not quite the same high octane stuff as your takeovers, but I was glad of some time off once everything was sorted.’

‘Then it is far better you stay here for a while and let Eleni and Spiro take care of you. You have a phone?’ he added.

‘Yes. At least I hope so.’ She limped over to the desk and looked in her bag. ‘Still here, thank goodness. In all the excitement yesterday it’s a wonder I didn’t lose that, too.’

‘Give me your number,’ he ordered, taking his phone from a pocket. He keyed the number into it, then held out his hand for hers. ‘I shall enter mine in yours.’

‘I shan’t need it,’ she said quickly.

‘You might. I shall charge this before I give it back.’ He gave her a searching look. ‘Your head is aching?’

‘Yes.’

‘I can tell. I shall send Eleni with tea. Take some medication and rest for a while. I shall see you later at dinner,’ he added as he left.

When Eleni came with the tea, Isobel asked directions to the bathroom and later, when she was propped up on the comfortable bed, looking out on the garden through the open doors, admitted that now the owner was leaving she had no objection to spending another day or two here. Talk of blood clots had given her quite a fright. On her own in the cottage, the slightest pain in her head would have sent her imagination into overdrive.

She leaned back with a sigh. Here at the Villa Medusa it would be dangerously easy to laze away the days of her holiday in true lotus-eating style, whereas part of her original intention for her trip to Greece had been to produce some watercolours she could put up for sale at the gallery on her return. Joanna had dismissed that idea out of hand, arguing that the idea of a holiday was to have fun as well as take arest. But to Isobel paintingwasfun. So tomorrow, once Luke Andreadis had left for Athens, she would set up her watercolours, paint the pool in its frame of lush greenery and, if she considered the result good enough, leave it for him as thanks for his help. The help had been hostile and reluctant at first but he’d given it just the same, even though he’d mistaken her for a journalist, or worse. And, unless she was much mistaken, he still suspected her of stranding herself on his beach like some party girl after a good time. But the fact remained that he had rescued her, arranged medical attention and taken her into his home to recover. She owed him.

Isobel slept a little, and when she woke just lay there, savouring the pleasure of simply feeling better. But after a while she sat up and stealthily eased herself out of bed. With the help of the crutch she would go exploring. Moving with care, she went out onto the terrace, wishing she had her sunglasses. Hers, presumably, were still down on that beach somewhere. Pity. With growing confidence Isobel made her way along the marble flags edging the pool and stood looking into the water in longing for a minute or two, then with a sigh turned back towards the arcaded terrace surrounding the house. But, as she turned, the tip of the crutch stuck in a crack and with a shriek she fell onto the grass.

Instantly she was swept up in strong, unfamiliar arms and a flood of anxious Greek poured into her ears. Deeply embarrassed, Isobel tried to reassure Milos she was unhurt. Her face flamed as Luke strode out of the house, holding out imperious arms, and Milos hastily surrendered Isobel to his employer and picked up the crutch. He confirmed there was no damage to it and, with a brief word of thanks to Milos, Luke carried Isobel along the terrace and out of the sun.

She eyed his stern face warily. ‘Sorry for the disturbance,’ she said at last.

‘Tell me the truth. Are you really unhurt?’ he demanded.

‘Yes. I fell on the grass—soft landing this time.’ Her smile met with a stony look.

‘And yet you are determined to go back to the Kalypso to manage alone!’

‘But when I’m there I’ll stay in the house,’ she protested, and sighed. ‘I just wanted to look at your beautiful garden.’

‘You could have fallen in the pool!’

She shrugged. ‘No problem. I’m a strong swimmer.’

‘Excellent,’ he said grimly. ‘At least I shall not worry that you drown while I am away.’ He turned away to the table to pour a glass of fruit juice for her, then perched on the edge of the table, scowling down at her while she drank it.

‘Please apologise to Milos for me,’ said Isobel.

Luke’s mouth curved in a sardonic smile. ‘No apology is necessary. Milos was no doubt grateful for the chance to hold you in his arms.’

Isobel eyed him incredulously. ‘You think I fell on purpose?’

He gave a cynical shrug. ‘Did you?’

She drank the rest of her ice-cold juice to calm down. ‘No,’ she said when she could trust her voice. ‘I did not. Thank you for the drink. Now, if you’ll excuse me?’ She stood up and limped off to her new room, filled with a burning desire to assault Luke Andreadis with her crutch as he kept pace with her. She gave him a cold little smile as he opened the door for her. ‘Thank you. Would you be kind enough to ask Eleni to see me when she has a moment?’

‘Of course. Unless there is something I can do for you instead?’ Luke eyed her challengingly when she shook her head. ‘You are angry?’

‘Not in the least,’ she lied.

‘No?’ He arched a disbelieving eyebrow. ‘I will fetch Eleni.’

‘Thank you so much.’

Isobel stared out into the garden, fuming. Did Luke really imagine she’d fallen over just so that brawny Milos could pick her up? Or, even worse, so that the lord and master himself could come to her rescue again. She ground her teeth impotently. Luke had grabbed her away from Milos as though she were a parcel. Or baggage, from his point of view. She smiled reluctantly, her sense of humour reasserting itself as Eleni came rushing in.

‘Isobel? You ill?’

‘No, no, nothing like that. I feel fine.’

‘Milos said you fell.’

‘My crutch stuck in a crack and tripped me up.’

Eleni tutted disapprovingly. ‘So what you need?’

‘I hate to make extra work for you, but could I possibly have my supper in here on my own tonight?’

The woman looked anxious. ‘You did hurt!’

‘No, no. I’d just rather eat alone. Please?’

Eleni plumped up the pillows on the bed, eyeing her narrowly. ‘You rest. Not time to eat yet.’

‘Efcharisto, Eleni.’

Although she’d opted out of dining with the lord and master of Villa Medusa, an encounter with him later was no doubt inevitable. To armour herself for it, Isobel washed carefully in the bathroom and zipped herself into a cool cotton shift in her favourite cornflower-blue. With even more care, she combed out her hair, then subsided gratefully against the pillows on the bed. The crutch was a huge help, but getting around with it was tiring just the same. She longed to ring Joanna, but if she did Jo would immediately sense something wrong and keep nagging until Isobel confessed. Time enough for that when she went home. She closed her eyes against a suddenwave of homesickness. When she opened them again she saw Luke on the terrace, watching her through the open doors.

‘May I come in?’ he asked.

‘It’s your house.’

‘But this is your room.’

She shrugged indifferently. ‘Come in, if you want.’ A pity to waste the primping.

Luke came to stand by the bed, looking down at her. ‘Eleni says you refuse to join me for dinner.’

‘Yes. I’d rather eat alone in here.’

‘Why?’

She raised a disdainful eyebrow. ‘You were insulting, Mr Andreadis.’

‘It was a shock to see Milo holding you in his arms,’ he said harshly. ‘I thought you were hurt.’

‘No,’ she corrected. ‘You thought I’d engineered a fall just so he’d pick me up.’

‘Only for a second.’ He smiled persuasively. ‘Am I forgiven?’

In his dreams! ‘Of course.’

‘Then you will dine with me?’

‘No, thank you.’

To Isobel’s annoyance, Luke drew up a chair and sat down. ‘Then I shall also eat here.’

This was silly! ‘Eleni wouldn’t approve of that,’ she told him crossly.

‘So join me on the terrace.’ He was silent for a moment. ‘I apologise, Isobel. My only excuse is my reaction to seeing you in Milos’s arms.’ His eyes locked on hers with a look which set alarm bells ringing again. ‘I was angry when I saw him touching you.’

‘How utterly ridiculous,’ she said scornfully. ‘Milos was just being kind.’

‘You will discourage him from such kindness in future!’

Isobel glared at him. ‘I will certainly make sure that neither he, nor you, Mr Andreadis, will be forced to pick me up again.’

‘No force is necessary,’ he assured her, his eyes gleaming, and took her hand. ‘To hold you in my arms is a great pleasure, Isobel. Even though you make it so clear the pleasure is not mutual.’ He smiled persuasively. ‘Change your mind. Dine with me tonight. Otherwise, poor Eleni must serve a meal in two places. Three, if you count the one she shares with Spiro.’

Isobel gave in, defeated. Eleni had been so kind it was hardly fair to cause her extra work. And Luke would be gone soon. Even if he returned to Chyros while she was here, she would be at the cottage, not the villa. She detached her hand very deliberately.

‘Oh, very well,’ she said at last. ‘But only to save Eleni.’

Luke smiled victoriously. ‘Good. Rest until dinner time. I shall come for you later.’

Alone again, Isobel lay deep in thought as she gazed through the open doors at the sunlit garden. Luke was giving out signals she identified with misgivings. Was he expecting some kind of return for her bed and board? He was a dangerously attractive man, not least for the inner force so plainly burning behind the impressive physical exterior. But she had no intention of indulging in anything remotely like a fling with him. Or any other man. Had he really been jealous just because Milos fielded her when she fell? She ground her teeth impotently. A very good thing he was leaving tomorrow. Otherwise, he might take her consent to stay on here as willingness to be his ‘pillow friend’, whatever that meant. It was not impossible. She was far from looking her best at the moment, but in her normal state men were usually attracted to her. With disastrous results in one instance. She shivered.That there was no significant male presence in her life right now was entirely her own choice. And she was going to keep it that way.

Isobel would have given much to wash her hair, but instead settled for a careful session with a hairbrush, and application of eye-shadow and concealer that worked wonders on her rapidly fading bruise. In spite of all the drama, her headache was surprisingly absent, her ankle less painful and for just moving around the room she could manage with the walking stick. But she would play safe with the crutch to make for the terrace rather than wait for Luke to fetch her.

When he joined her at the dinner table, spectacular in dark linen trousers and a shirt in a shade of pink which looked outrageously good on him, Luke raised a quizzical eyebrow.

‘I went to your room, but my little bird had flown away.’

Isobel smiled smugly. ‘I needed the exercise.’

‘While I had hoped for the pleasure of carrying you,’ he assured her suavely, and seated himself beside her. ‘Is your headache better?’

‘Touch wood,’ she said, tapping the table, ‘it seems to have gone.’

‘Excellent. In that case, will you have a glass of wine? A local label, but I think you will like it.’


Page 6

‘I’m sure I will. Thank you.’

‘Thankyou,’ he said very deliberately, ‘for joining me tonight after I made you so angry this afternoon.’

She eyed him through lowered lashes, her antennae on the alert in response to Luke Andreadis in charming mode. Why the change of attitude? She raised the glass he’d filled for her. ‘You’re leaving soon, so let’s enjoy the evening in a spirit of friendship.’

Luke raised his own glass. ‘We will enjoy the evening, certainly, but I shall return from Athens before you leave.’

‘Will you? I thought you’d be too busy with your new venture.’

‘I shall be. But I employ clever people more than capable of keeping the engines running when I take time off,’ he assured her, and drank some wine. ‘Even Air Chyros, my new baby, has a specialist department to look after it and can therefore function without me for short periods. So,’ he added, ‘should you have a problem, just ring me and I can arrange for whatever help you need. But if you feel ill in any way tell Spiro to contact Dr Riga immediately.’

‘I’m sure I’ll be fine from now on. But I appreciate the thought.’

‘You value your independence very highly,’ said Luke indulgently. ‘Is there no man at all in your life, Isobel?’

Her eyes shadowed. ‘No.’

He shook his head. ‘Amazing. Why not?’

Isobel shrugged. ‘Because I haven’t met anyone remotely suitable lately.’

Luke’s eyebrows shot into his hair. ‘A cold attitude! A lover must be more than just suitable. Have you never met a man who makes your heart beat faster?’

Yes, but for entirely the wrong reasons. ‘I was in a relationship quite recently,’ she admitted.

He waited, but when Isobel merely drank her wine he stared at her in frustration. ‘So what happened?’

‘We broke up due to irreconcilable differences.’ She shrugged. ‘I wanted his friendship. He was fixated on my appearance. He just couldn’t see past it to the personality—and hopefully brain—behind the hair and eyes.’

Luke frowned. ‘But surely a man can be attracted by both your looks and your brain?’

‘Very few, unfortunately.’

Luke offered her a plate of olives. ‘You must eat well tonight to gain your strength. You are too thin, Isobel.’

‘I’m sure you were glad of that when you were forced to carry me around so much!’

‘Very true. Most ladies of my acquaintance are more generously built,’ he admitted, and smiled into her eyes. ‘In Athens I will think of you when you are eating alone here.’

Isobel shook her head. ‘You’ll be too busy.’

‘Not too busy to think ofyou, Isobel,’ he assured her, a gleam under the heavy, lazy lids she was getting to know. And suspect.

‘Amazing!’ she said, shaking her head in wonder.

‘What is amazing?’

‘How you’ve changed from the man who was so furious at finding me on his beach.’ She eyed him curiously. ‘If I had been just a sunbathing trespasser, instead of injured and unconscious, what would you have done?’

‘My usual treatment is a harsh lecture, after which I give the trespasser a swift passage back to the harbour.’ He eyed her thoughtfully. ‘IthinkI would have done the same for you, but that is very hard to imagine. Now.’

‘I’m sure you’d have sent me packing, just like the rest.’

He smiled indulgently. ‘I doubt it.’

Isobel took refuge in her wine. Unless she was mistaken, Luke really was showing signs of fancying her as one of his ‘pillow friends’. And because he’d rescued her from his beach and taken her into his home, he probably thought he had the right to expect it. Which would make for a very difficult situation when she refused. As she would.

‘You’re very quiet,’ he commented.

‘Anticipation of dinner. And here comes Eleni with it right now,’ she added, relieved.

‘Which I trust you will eat. Otherwise, you will be too weak to get back to your cottage before you fly home. Right, Eleni?’

The woman nodded vigorously. ‘Much better stay here.’ She patted Isobel’s shoulder as she left.

‘Eleni’s very sweet,’ said Isobel.

‘I shall tell her you said so. She will be pleased—she has taken a great fancy to you.’ He shrugged. ‘I have never brought a woman here. She is enjoying the experience.’

To Isobel’s irritation, this information pleased her. How silly was that? His social life was nothing to do with her. ‘You keep that side of your life for Athens, I suppose?’

‘That side of my life?’

‘The pillow friends and so on.’

‘By that particular term I mean those ladies who are happy to wine and dine and stay the night occasionally. I make my intentions clear from the start,’ he added deliberately, ‘so that no one is misled—or hurt.’

She seriously doubted that. Probably they all hoped that wining and dining—and a sleepover—would just be the opening bout for the main event of something permanent with a man like Lukas Andreadis, who possessed physical appeal, success and wealth as the triple layer of icing on the cake. A combination far too overpowering for Isobel.

After the meal Luke suggested she might like to sit in one of the reclining chairs beside the pool.

‘I would, indeed—’

Before the words were out of her mouth, Luke picked her up and carried her along the terrace to lay her carefully in one of the chairs. ‘Are you comfortable?’ he asked as he straightened.

‘Yes—thank you,’ she said through clenched teeth, irritated to find that, while her brain repudiated physical intimacy withLuke as total disaster, the fleeting physical contact with him had sent her hormones running riot, damn them.

‘What is wrong, Isobel?’ he asked, taking the chair beside her.

‘Nothing. How could anything be wrong?’ she said, getting a grip. ‘It’s so beautiful here.’

‘True—’ He groaned as his phone rang. ‘Forgive me for a moment?’ he asked, identifying the caller. ‘I must answer this.’

‘Of course.’ Isobel watched him stride into the house, talking to his caller in tones which made it obvious, even though she couldn’t understand a word of it, that the news he was being given was bad. She sat back in her chair, giving her hormones a stringent lecture as she watched the play of lights on the pool.

Luke looked grim when he rejoined her. ‘I must leave for Athens at daybreak.’

‘Trouble?’

‘Of a kind, yes. During the airline takeover there was one solitary dissenter when the board voted for my acquisition.’

‘And he’s making difficulties for you?’

‘She,’ he corrected, with a harsh note in his voice that won him a sharp look. ‘The woman previously in charge of the airline. When she found there was no way to stop the merger going through, the lady was so enraged she eventually suffered a stroke. I have just been informed that she died of it today.’

‘Do you feel you’re to blame?’ asked Isobel soberly.

Luke looked at her in surprise. ‘No. If the gods struck her down it was her fate.’

‘That’s very—Greek of you.’

He shrugged. ‘Even if I am to blame for her strokeandher death, I am merely the instrument fate chose for this.’

Her eyes widened. ‘You obviously didn’t like her much.’

‘Like her?’ Luke gave a mirthless bark of laughter. ‘Itmay shock you to hear this, but I hated her so much I rejoice in her death.’

His brutal honesty sent shivers down Isobel’s spine. ‘Will you go to her funeral?’

‘Of course. It will be expected. Funerals take place here as soon as possible after death, so tonight there will be theTrisagion, or vigil, with prayers for the departed. I would not have attended that even if I were there, but I shall put in the necessary appearance at the church tomorrow, complete with black arm band. Unless her husband turns me away at the door,’ he added grimly.

‘But if his wife had a stroke, it’s hardly reasonable to blame you for her death!’

‘He has never been a reasonable man.’

‘You know him well?’

‘I knowofhim well enough!’

‘Was he involved in the takeover negotiations?’

Luke smiled coldly. ‘For some reason he chose to stay behind the scenes and let his wife Melina do the talking, which was his big mistake. If he had conducted the negotiations himself, things might not have gone so well for me. But from the day he gave her nominal control of the airline, his wife made enemies of every man on the board. The result was unanimous acceptance of my offer.’

‘Not a nice lady.’

Luke smiled grimly. ‘Not nice at all, Isobel.’

‘But her husband must be grieving for her, just the same.’

‘Possibly. But he has many business interests to console him. I doubt he will grieve for long.’

‘That’s cold! You obviously don’t like him, either.’

Luke’s teeth showed white in the semi-darkness. ‘Likeis too lukewarm a word, Isobel.’

‘You know him well, then?’

‘No. If I meet him tomorrow it will be for the first time. Yet Theodore Andreadis is my grandfather.’

CHAPTER FIVE

ISOBEL’Seyes widened in astonishment. ‘Yourgrandfather? And you’ve never met him?’

‘He does not acknowledge the relationship.’ The words sounded like pebbles dropped in a dish. Luke shrugged. ‘Not that I wish him to, nor do I trade on the fact that I am his grandson. To me, he is just a tyrannical old man I cannot forgive for his treatment of my mother. If I tell you what he did it may help you understand.’ He turned to look at her. ‘Though normally this is not a subject I discuss.’

‘Your confidence is safe with me, I promise.’

‘I do not doubt it. So, let me explain the rift. My grandmother, the first wife of Theo Andreadis, left him for a lover when their daughter was a baby, but died soon afterwards. To avoid history repeating itself, Theo brought Olympia up very strictly, educated at home instead of sent to school, and allowed contact with only one friend he considered suitable. In time he remarried and presented her with Melina, the archetypal wicked stepmother. She,’ he added harshly, ‘made life a living hell for the young Olympia.’

‘So that’s why you hated her!’

‘There was worse to come. Coaxed by her friend to break out and go to a party, Olympia met a man there. Afterwards,having tasted freedom, Olympia stole out of the house at night to meet him as often as she could. Her absences went unnoticed, due to the discretion of loyal servants who adored Olympia. But I was the inevitable result of these secret meetings. When Melina found out about the pregnancy, she urged Theodore Andreadis to throw his daughter out of the house for disgracing his name, as her mother had done before her. So he did,’ Luke added harshly.

Isobel eyed him in horror. ‘How did your mother survive?’

‘With the help of her faithful friend Chloe, she managed to get to her old nurse, here on Chyros, and begged a job from Basil Nikolaides in the kitchen of his taverna. After I was born she kept her job, saved everything she could for my education, and after school hours and at weekends I worked, too, usually as deck hand on one of the fishing boats. The jewels left to her by my erring grandmother were all my mother took with her from her home in Athens, and sales of these saw me through college and financed my MBA. But, to my great sorrow, my mother died before I began making money with my freighters.’ Luke’s mouth tightened. ‘So you see why I have no love for Theo Andreadis; even less for his harpy of a wife.’

Isobel was silent for a while. ‘When did you start thinking about revenge?’

His lips tightened. ‘From the day I heard what happened to my mother.’

‘It must have been hard for her to tell you.’

Luke shook his head. ‘She did not. I had it all from old Sofia, who would have murdered Theo Andreadis with her own bare hands if she could, and Melina with him. I swore I would one day take my revenge. But not with murder, as Sofia thirsted for. I had something more subtle and painful in mind. Taking over the airline was the perfect revenge onMelina because it was the ultimate humiliation for her. She was so incandescent with fury it is no surprise that she had a stroke afterwards. Nor am I hypocrite enough to pretend regret that she is dead.’

Isobel was silent as she stared out into the starlit night, feeling chilled to the bone.

‘You are shocked?’ he asked.

‘Stunned, rather. It’s like a Sophocles tragedy.’ She turned to him. ‘You’ve had your revenge on Melina, but what about your grandfather? Is his wife’s death enough revenge for you, or do you have something different planned for him?’

‘I did not plan Melina’s death—fate did that for me. And no doubt it will do the same for Theo Andreadis one day without my help. Even though I have no love for him, I will not seek revenge on someone of my own blood,’ Luke assured her and smiled faintly. ‘Isobel, you have not asked me the all important question.’

‘I wouldn’t dream of asking you any questions at all,’ she assured him. ‘I’m gratified that you told a stranger like me even this much.’

‘It is not normal dinner table conversation,’ he agreed. ‘But you must surely be curious about the identity of my natural father.’

‘I’m only human, so of course I am,’ she said frankly. ‘But only if you want to tell me.’

To his surprise, Luke found that he did. ‘Chloe, the friend who took Olympia to the party, had a brother who excelled at athletics. He introduced the shy Olympia to the gold medallist swimmer he brought home from college for the party. It was love at first sight for both of them. After a series of brief stolen meetings, arranged with help fromthe faithful Chloe, the secret lover left to train for his next championship, promising to return to marry Olympia straight afterwards.’

‘I’m not going to like the next bit,’ said Isobel with foreboding. ‘He didn’t come back, obviously.’

‘No. His plane crashed.’

‘Oh, Luke, that’s so sad!’

He nodded sombrely. ‘All she had of him were his gold medals and the son he gave her. Apparently, I resemble him very closely. And,’ he added with a smile, ‘I have always been a powerful swimmer.’

‘I saw you in the pool.’

‘I know, Isobel.’ He chuckled softly. ‘Were you impressed?’

‘Yes,’ she said honestly. ‘Though very embarrassed when you caught me watching.’ She gave a sudden yawn, more from nerves than weariness. ‘Sorry.’

‘You are tired. It is time you went to bed.’ Deaf to her protests, he picked her up and carried her along the terrace to her room, finding that his senses were stirred by emotions he normally kept under rigid control—the direct result of sharing such personal information with Isobel. Combined with the scent and warmth of the slender body in his arms, they filled him with a sudden urgent need for the kind of solace only a woman could provide and, instead of setting her down on her feet he sat down in the armchair with her in his lap. ‘When a man rescues a damsel in distress he deserves a reward,ne?’

She stiffened, pulling away in alarm. ‘What kind of reward do you have in mind?’

‘Just a goodnight kiss.’

Isobel shook her head vehemently, pushing him away in such frenzied rejection Luke got up, grim-faced, and laid her down against the pillows on the bed.

‘Do not look at me like that,’ he said harshly, staring down into her ashen face. ‘I am not a rapist.’

‘Maybe not.’ She hugged her arms across her chest, unable to meet his eyes. ‘But neither am I applying for the post of pillow friend.’

Luke stood utterly still for a moment. ‘A word of advice, Isobel,’ he said after a pause. ‘Wait until asked to apply for such a post before you refuse.’

She burrowed into the pillows, burning with mortification as he strode through the open doors. Thank God he was leaving tomorrow. Before he came back—if he did come back while she was here—she would be at the cottage. With a gasp, she shot upright again as he reappeared from the terrace with her crutch.

‘I will send Eleni with tea,’ he said curtly.

‘No! Please tell her I don’t need anything tonight.’

‘As you wish.’ Luke gave her a formal nod. ‘I leave early in the morning. I shall say goodbye now.’

‘Goodbye.’ Isobel pulled herself together. ‘Thank you again for all your help.’

He shrugged negligently as he made for the door. ‘It was nothing.’

Isobel slumped against the pillows, fighting the urge to cry her eyes out. But if she gave in to tears the headache would come back and, threat of blood clots or not, tomorrow she was determined to leave the Villa Medusa. She looked at her watch and groaned. It was still quite early and she was no longer tired. Quite the reverse. The brief episode had sent her into such a spin she would take some calming down if she was to get to sleep any time before morning.

Later, propped up against pillows ready for the night, Isobel felt better, grateful to her head for letting her read. Atleast she wouldn’t have to lie awake all night, mulling over the mortifying episode with Luke. But she couldn’t explain why she’d shied off like a frightened virgin. Although he’d surprised her with details about his background, her own experience was too new and raw to talk about to a man who was virtually a stranger. So if Luke had harboured any idea about a holiday fling it was better to nip it in the bud right now. She sighed heavily. The physical contact of carrying her about so much had been to blame, creating intimacy from the word go.

Isobel steeled herself to concentrate on her book. Then looked up in surprise as someone knocked on her door.

‘Come in,’ she called, expecting Eleni, her body instantly rigid as Luke came in and closed the door behind him.

‘I saw your light.’ He approached the bed, something in his eyes pressing her panic button again. ‘I knew you were awake, Isobel. I brought your phone.’

‘Thank you,’ she said stiffly. ‘I’d forgotten all about it. I was reading.’

‘The phone was just an excuse.’ He sat on the edge of the bed, frowning as she backed away. ‘Isobel, did you really believe that I would force you? You are a guest in my house, and still recovering from an accident. Do you think I am such a monster?’

‘No. I don’t.’ Her eyes fell.

‘Thank the gods for that,’ he said dryly. ‘Then why such panic?’

She drew in a deep, unsteady breath. ‘Bad experience lately.’

‘A lover who refused to take no for an answer?’

‘Something like that.’

Luke’s eyes darkened. ‘He hurt you?’

She nodded.

‘Can you talk about it?’

‘No.’

‘Perhaps it would be good for you if you did.’ He put a finger under her chin to turn her face up. ‘Tell me, Isobel.’

She stared at him in indecision, then sighed wearily. Why not? It was supposed to be easier to confide in a stranger. ‘I have this problem,’ she began very quietly. ‘Due to my lack of relatives, I tend to look for friendship and caring rather than heat and, well, sex, when it comes to relationships. A few months ago I met an artist whose work we put on display at the gallery. He became a regular fixture in my life, good company for meals and concerts and so on. But nothing more than that. But when we got back from what turned out to be our last evening together he asked to see my latest series of watercolours. They were still in my flat, so for the first time I invited him up there.’ She pushed the hair back from her face. ‘He mistook the invitation for something else entirely. I tried to fight him off, but he’s a big man and things got rough.’

Luke’s eyes smouldered into hers. ‘He raped you, this friend?’

Her hands clenched. ‘He had a good try. But I fought him so hard I managed to jab him with a stiletto heel in a place which put a stop to proceedings.’ She shivered. ‘But not before he hurt me badly. Psychologically as well as physically.’

He swore under his breath. ‘It would have been even worse if he had succeeded. You could have been left with child.’

Isobel flushed, and shook her head. ‘I have close friends—twin brothers who are both doctors—and, on their advice, I’ve taken the necessary precautions for years against that kind of accident.’ She sighed, depressed. ‘Up to that point I’d really thought Gavin was a true friend like the Carey twins. But it was the same old story. He just wanted to get me into bed. And I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since.’ Sheshrugged. ‘I’ve given up on men since then. Other than the friends I’ve known forever.’

‘I rejoice to know it is not something I have done.’ Luke smiled wryly. ‘I was most cast down when you refused to eat with me earlier. My dinner invitations are usually accepted more eagerly.’

She gave a choked little giggle. ‘I bet they are.’

His eyes lit up. ‘That is better. You are even more lovely when you smile, Isobel. But, if I say so, you will accuse me of appreciating your beauty more than your intellect.’

She smiled. ‘Since you’ve been so kind I’ll make an exception in your case, Luke.’

‘So we are friends again?’ He smiled slyly. ‘You said you like men who wish to be friends.’

‘I do. Not that it matters. I’ll be back in England soon.’

‘It is not time for you to go yet. And I shall return here in a few days,’ he went on, surprising her. ‘After the funeral I will work very hard to make sure I get away. By then,’ he added, ‘you will be well again. So take care this week. No climbing down cliff paths even when your ankle is better. If you want to sunbathe on my beach, Spiro will take you over in theAthena. Spiro,’ he repeated significantly, ‘not Milos.’

She smiled wryly. ‘Actually, I won’t bother either of them, thanks just the same. I’ll be quite happy to sit on my veranda at the cottage, and when I can I’ll stroll down to the taverna to eat.’

Luke frowned. ‘It would be more sensible to stay here, Isobel.’

Not if he was coming back. She shook her head. ‘It’s very kind of you, but I really must get back to the cottage. Before I do, have I your permission for a swim in your pool?’

‘Wait until I return. I will swim with you,’ he said quickly. ‘Dr Riga is coming to check on you tomorrow, and you must do as he says,ne?’

‘Yes,’ she said, resigned.

‘And when you return to the cottage, take both walking stick and crutch.’

‘Absolutely.’ Isobel held out her hand, but her smile faded as her eyes met his. There was sudden taut silence between them, then Luke pressed a kiss on the hand. He leaned nearer, his eyes intent on hers. ‘Normally,’ he said softly, ‘I like my women dark and voluptuous. Unlike you, my little English friend.’

‘I definitely don’t tick your boxes,’ she said, determinedly prosaic. ‘My hair is fair—’

‘Golden,’ he corrected.

‘And I’m not in the least voluptuous. Nor,’ she said firmly, ‘am I one of your women.’

‘No? But I saved your life,’ he reminded her, his voice deepening. ‘In some cultures that means you belong to me now.’

‘Not in my culture! Besides, you just wanted to throw me off your island at first. Not quite the same as saving my life, Lukas Andreadis.’

‘Was it not? You were unconscious and your foot was caught in the rock. What would have happened to you if I had not found you? I was destined to rescue you, Isobel. It is useless to struggle against the fates.’ He smoothed the hair back from her forehead, careful to avoid her wound as he twisted a curl round his finger. ‘This hair of yours fascinates me,hriso mou.’


Page 7

‘What does that mean?’

‘In this instance, golden one.’ He smiled into her eyes. ‘I would like your friendship, Isobel.’

If only she could believe him. ‘Why did you come back, Luke?’

‘I had a brainwave,ne? Your phone!’ He chuckled as he played with her hair. ‘It was the perfect excuse. But now Imust go.’ Even though he wanted to stay. Whatever her motive for landing on his beach, he had a sudden desire to lie with her like this all night, hold her close and keep her safe, a discovery which shot Luke upright in panic. She was meant to be a diversion, not a complication in his life. Which had complications enough already. ‘Goodnight,’ he said abruptly, and made for the door.

‘Goodnight,’ said Isobel, surprised by his sudden hurry.

He opened it and turned, his eyes holding hers. ‘Sleep well.’

 

As he went upstairs to his room Luke smiled wryly. His plan to charm his little golden bird into bed was not progressing according to plan, exactly. But she could not escape the fate that had sent her to him. His mouth twisted. He had spent too much of his life in plotting revenge to have much softness left in his psyche. His relationships with women were always transitory affairs to satisfy his male needs, with no emotions involved. But this English rose touched him in ways new to him. It was surprisingly vital for his peace of mind that she remained safe and well cared for at the villa rather than return to the Kalypso and risk relapse from her injuries. And he was only too willing to be Isobel’s ‘friend’ for the short time they would have together before he let his little bird fly away.

So close a friend that soon he would make love to her with all the subtlety and skill at his command and erase all bad memories of men from her mind forever.

CHAPTER SIX

ISOBELhad barely closed her eyes before the sound of the helicopter woke her next morning. As she listened to it chop its way up into the sky above the villa she was thoughtful. He’d taken her rejection far better than expected. Not that one solitary ‘no’ from a woman he’d only known five minutes was likely to upset a man so comfortable in his own skin; especially smooth, bronzed skin that sheathed a muscular body so appealing to women he probably had to beat them off with a stick. And, with the kind of day he had in front of him today, he had probably forgotten her the moment he’d taken off into the sky. Yet now he’d gone the Villa Medusa felt oddly empty.

Eleni brought breakfast earlier than usual. ‘Helicopter wake you,ne? I go shopping today,’ she announced.

Isobel smiled cajolingly. ‘Eleni, if I give you money, would you mind buying some food for me to take to the cottage? I’m going back there tomorrow.’

Eleni was dead against this idea and said so in all the English she had at her command, but Isobel was adamant.

‘You’ve been so kind, but I’m giving you far too much work. If Spiro will drive me there tomorrow I’ll be fine.’

‘Dr Riga comes today,’ said Eleni firmly. ‘He must say.Then I buy food. And now you must eat, Isobel.KyrieLuke said I must take care of you.’

This information pleased Isobel more than she cared to admit as she mapped out her programme for the day while she ate her breakfast. Before Dr Riga came she would enjoy a proper shower. And later she planned to settle herself on the shaded part of the terrace to paint, so she could leave the watercolour of the pool for Luke as a permanent reminder of his trespasser.

To begin on her programme she removed the ankle bandage and the dressing on her temple, then turned on the shower. It was wonderful to stand under a warm spray and get totally clean, and she stayed under it so long Eleni was banging on the door before she’d finished.

‘Come in,’ Isobel called. ‘It’s not locked.’

Eleni hurried in, frowning in disapproval at the discarded bandages.

‘I had to take them off. I just had to get clean, Eleni.’ Isobel moved the foot experimentally. ‘It feels a lot better. I thought I’d go outside—let the sun dry my hair a bit before it gets too hot.’

Dr Riga arrived soon afterwards. ‘Kalimera, Miss James,’ he said, smiling. ‘Lukas asked me to check on you before I start my clinic. How are you feeling?’

‘Much better.’ Isobel indicated her damp hair. ‘I had a proper shower for the first time this morning.’

‘You have made good progress.’ The doctor took her pulse, then examined her face and bent to probe her ankle. ‘I shall strap this up again to give support,’ he told Isobel, ‘but your head wound needs no more dressing; it is healing well.’

When Dr Riga had finished he gave a few more instructions, but agreed that she could return to the holiday cottage next day on condition that she was careful.

When he’d gone Isobel stood up and, with the aid of the crutch, took a few confident steps, delighted with the ankle in its smaller, neater strapping. She collected her bag of drawing materials and went back to the terrace.

‘You see, Eleni?’ said Isobel jubilantly when the woman brought coffee. ‘Dr Riga says I can manage quite easily at the cottage now, so if Spiro will be kind enough to drive me I’ll move back there tomorrow.’

The woman sniffed. ‘Then I come to cottage every day. Make sure,’ she said, eyeing the bag with suspicion. ‘What you do with that?’

‘I’m going to paint a picture for Luke as a present,’ Isobel informed her, and won a broad smile of approval.

‘Good, good,’ said Eleni. ‘Spiro drives me to shop now, Isobel, but Milos will guard you.’

Like the crown jewels, thought Isobel, amused. She drank her coffee while she laid out her drawing materials, then made a couple of trips to the bathroom to fill her water pots, delighted with her new mobility. She set up the light folding easel she’d brought with her and wetted the first sheet of paper. Even in the relatively temperate heat of early morning the paper had dried taut as a drum by the time she’d mixed her first batch of paints, and she was able to lay down her first background wash. The drying time was so much quicker than at home it was exhilarating to put down wash after wash at such speed. By the time Eleni and Spiro returned the background of her painting was well under way, but Isobel was flagging and glad to sit down.

She smiled as the couple came to check on her. ‘You were quick!’

Spiro shook his head, smiling. ‘We were long time, Miss Isobel.’

‘I didn’t notice!’

‘Milos say he looked from garden, but you worked all the time,’ said Eleni, her eyes admiring on the watercolour. ‘You are so clever. Kyrie Luke will like very much, Isobel.’

‘I hope so. But don’t tell him what I’m doing. It’s a surprise.’

‘You hungry now?’

Isobel nodded with enthusiasm.

‘How is your foot,kyria?’ asked Spiro, picking up the coffee tray.

‘Much better. Soon I’ll be able to manage without the crutch.’

‘Not today,’ said Eleni firmly.

 

Isobel’s phone rang as she was about to get back to work after lunch.

‘How are you today, little friend?’

‘Luke! Where are you?’

‘In the car, on the way to the funeral. Has Dr Riga been to see you?’

‘Yes. He’s strapped my ankle again, and says I’ll be fine on my own now.’

‘I shall ring you tonight,’ he promised. ‘Rest this afternoon, Isobel. I wish…’ But whatever Luke wished was lost in a burst of static.

 

Luke’s sombre dark suit matched his mood as he arrived at the church shortly after the priest had received the grieving widower and family with the coffin at the front door. Theo Andreadis ignored Luke, but Zena and Zoe Karras, sisters of the dead Melina, eyed him with open venom behind their brother-in-law’s back. Luke stared them out, then slipped into the back of the church after the cortege entered and prepared to endure the ceremony, his face a rigid mask as he listenedto the white-robed priests intoning prayers for forgiveness and repose of the soul of the departed. What soul? thought Luke savagely.

When the interminable service was over at last he was the first to leave, in such a hurry to avoid his grandfather that the man who hurtled out of the crowd with upraised knife took him by surprise. Luke’s lightning reflexes sent him ducking sideways and the glancing blade pierced the sleeve of his jacket to cut his arm as he slammed his fist into the assailant’s stomach, then, with a swift upper cut to the jaw, sent the man sprawling on the ground. Suddenly there were women screaming and police everywhere. Luke caught sight of his grandfather’s shocked face, but it was the gloating eyes of the Karras sisters that remained with him afterwards, not least because the gloating changed so quickly to furious disappointment. That he was still alive, obviously. He shot a cold, scathing smile at the women, then turned away to the police officers waiting to question him. Ambulances came rushing to the scene, but he held the paramedics off, determined to give all help possible to the police before he allowed anyone to attend to his wound.

 

Inspired by talking to Luke, Isobel quickly immersed herself in her painting. The noon light was brighter, more vivid than before, and she spent a long time mixing paints to capture the play of sunlight on the pool. Its frame of greenery was equally challenging. The lush plant life seemed to encompass every shade of green, with overtones of blue and vivid splashes of contrast colour from tamarisk, oleander and geranium; a challenge she responded to with her usual concentration.

When Eleni coughed tactfully, rattling a tray, Isobel looked up, blinking owlishly, and smiled.

‘Drinks—wonderful; I’m thirsty.’

‘Isobel, you have visitor.’

Isobel stared in surprise. ‘Really? Who?’

‘Alyssa Nicolaides. No worry. She speak English.’

‘How very nice.’ Isobel sat back in her chair, rotating her neck as she stretched. ‘A break would be good. Could you bring her in while I have a wash?’ She waggled her stained fingers and went off with her crutch to change her paint-spattered T-shirt and do something to her face and hair.

When Isobel got back to the terrace a young woman with a mass of dark curling hair spun round from an intent study of the watercolour and smiled warmly.

‘Hello. I’m Alyssa. I was speaking to Dr Riga today, and he said you might like some company now Luke’s gone.’

Isobel smiled back, delighted. ‘I would, very much. How kind of you. Now I can thank you for packing my clothes.’

‘I was glad to help. Alex told me about your accident.’

‘Your brother was very kind, too. Please thank him when you speak to him again. Is he back at the hospital now?’

‘Yes. He was just here for his days off.’ Alyssa gestured to the painting. ‘I’m impressed. You have enormous talent.’

‘Thank you. How about some fruit juice, or water?’

‘The juice will be fine. Shall I pour some for you?’

Isobel nodded. ‘Please. Do sit down—I’ve been standing too long.’

Alyssa eyed the strapped ankle doubtfully as she pulled up a chair. ‘Will you be able to manage at the cottage on your own?’

‘Once Spiro drives me there, yes. The cottage is all on one floor, so with my crutch and the walking stick Luke gave me, no problem.’ Isobel eyed her guest with interest. ‘You speak very good English.’

‘We had a marvellous English teacher here in school. I alsostudied it along with my business degree, and went to work in England. I was there for several years.’ Alyssa grinned. ‘The accent is still strong, but I pride myself I’m fluent.’

‘You certainly are. What did you do?’

‘I worked in a London bank, with all those hotshot City boys.’ She fluttered her eyelashes. ‘One of them even tried to persuade me to share his trendy riverside apartment.’

With those eyes and curves and the luxuriant hair, Isobel could well believe it. Alyssa was probably exactly the type of woman Luke usually went for. ‘But it didn’t happen?’

‘No. He was a charmer, and I was tempted, but I was homesick. By that time I had saved a fair sum of money, so home I came. Soon afterwards my baby brother introduced me to a handsome surgeon at his hospital.’ She waggled a hand adorned with an impressive ring. ‘And in a few weeks I’m going to marry my Dimitri. In the meantime I keep my English up with tourists at the taverna. But that’s enough about me. Tell me about you.’

Alyssa listened, fascinated, as Isobel described her painting commissions and her job at the gallery, then bluntly asked her opinion of Luke. ‘He’s a great guy. Do you like him?’

‘Yes. He’s been very kind.’

Alyssa gurgled. ‘How very British and restrained.’

Isobel felt her colour rise. ‘Actually, he wasn’t kind at all at first. He was downright menacing when he thought I was one of the paparazzi, lying in wait for him on his beach. But once I put him right about that he’s been very—hospitable. But I can’t trespass on his hospitality any longer.’ She looked up in alarm as Eleni came rushing in, wailing and incoherent, and Alyssa jumped up, firing questions at the woman.

‘Grab your crutch, Isobel,’ she said tersely. ‘There’s atelevision in Luke’s study. Eleni saw an incident in Athens on the news.’

They hurried across the marble hall into a room full of electronic equipment. Alyssa gently pushed Isobel into a comfortable chair and switched on Luke’s vast flat screen television.

‘I heard Luke’s name. Did Eleni say he was involved?’ Isobel demanded, breathless from the rush.

‘She wasn’t making much sense. We’ll find out more on here. Ah, here we go. Breaking news.’

The television showed a scene of noisy chaos, with police holding back crowds in front of a church. A reporter at the scene was giving an excited running commentary as paramedics loaded a stretcher into an ambulance. Isobel grasped Alyssa’s hand urgently.

‘What’s happening?’

‘Someone attacked Luke as he came out of church after the funeral of Melina Andreadis, his grandfather’s wife. You knew about that?’

Isobel nodded impatiently. ‘Go on.’

Alyssa listened again, then in rapid monotone translated the reporter’s account. ‘The grieving widower, accompanied by his dead wife’s sisters, watched in shock as Lukas Andreadis, successful entrepreneur, knocked the attacker to the ground even though wounded himself—’

‘Wounded?’Isobel swallowed, but forced herself to keep quiet as Alyssa listened intently before translating.

‘Luke has been admitted to hospital for treatment. The body on the stretcher was the assailant. Luke obviously flattened him.’ Alyssa let out a deep breath, then turned to Eleni, who was weeping in Spiro’s arms, her eyes fixed in anguish on the screen. Alyssa patted her hand and soothed her with aflood of comfort in her own language, then took a phone from the pocket of her tangerine linen skirt.

‘I’ll get in touch with Dimitri at the hospital, or Alex if not. Don’t worry. I’ll soon find out about Luke.’ She frowned. ‘Are you all right, Isobel? You’re very pale.’

‘Startled, that’s all. Never mind me—make your calls.’

Alyssa went off with her phone, giving succinct instructions which sent Eleni hurrying off to the kitchen while Spiro escorted Isobel back to the terrace.

‘Do not fear, Miss Isobel,’ said Spiro. ‘Lukas is very strong man.’

‘Yes, of course.’ Isobel took in a deep breath and smiled brightly. ‘I’m fine. You comfort poor Eleni. She’s terribly upset.’

‘She loves Lukas like a son,’ he said quietly. ‘I, also.’

‘I know that. So please don’t bother about me,’ said Isobel guiltily. ‘I shouldn’t be here, giving you extra work at a time like this.’

‘KyrieLukas told us to take care of you.’ Spiro patted her hand for the first time. ‘It is our pleasure, not work. Eleni is making tea for you.’

The moment Spiro was out of sight Isobel knuckled tears away impatiently and fished in her bag for tissues. The knock on her head had obviously shaken something loose. She’d cried more since she came to Chyros than she had in years. But any news of Luke would be in Greek, which meant she was forced to wait in frustration until someone told her what was happening. Luke’s first meeting with his grandfather had certainly been dramatic.


Page 8

Isobel stared out at the garden, tense as a drawn bow as she waited for what seemed like years before Alyssa came rushing back to the terrace.

‘Sorry to take so long. It took a while to get through toeither of them. Luke is fine!’ She seized Isobel’s hand in a grasp which made her wince. ‘Just a small cut and some grazes and a black eye, according to Dimitri, but it was a text, so I don’t have any details. Alex will ring later with more news.’ She bent to give Isobel a sudden hug. ‘There. Don’t cry. Or maybe you should. Do you good. Now I must tell Eleni and Spiro.’

‘Thank you,’ said Isobel gruffly and blew her nose. ‘Lord knows why I’m crying.’

‘I can guess!’ Alyssa gave her a saucy, knowing grin and ran off down the hall to the kitchen.

Isobel shivered suddenly. If the assailant had a knife, Luke had been very brave—or foolhardy—to attack him. She seized her crutch and made for the bathroom to wash her face, then joined Alyssa on the terrace, smiling ruefully. ‘I just wish I understood Greek. It’s nerve-racking being unable to understand what’s happening.’

Alyssa eyed her challengingly, her big dark eyes sparkling. ‘You really like Luke, I think.’

‘I do now.’ Isobel made a face. ‘But I loathed him at first because he was so insulting. He took it for granted I was the kind of female who strands herself on his beach hoping for a fun time with him at the villa.’

‘Poor Luke,’ said Alyssa, laughing. ‘With his looks, women have swarmed around him all his life, and now he’s so successful it’s even worse. But he never brings anyone with him to the island, Isobel. This is his retreat, and the locals respect his privacy.’ She looked round with appreciation. ‘You like the house?’

‘Who wouldn’t?’ On impulse, Isobel reached out and touched the other girl’s hand. ‘I’m so glad you came today. It would have been hell with Eleni and Spiro too upset tospeak English. If you feel like popping in at the cottage once I’m back there, please do.’

Alyssa grinned mischievously. ‘I have instructions to “pop in” every day.’

Isobel sat back, startled. ‘Who from?’

‘Luke, of course. I’m to report to him if you need anything. Luke and I are old friends. We were in school together when we were young.’

Isobel eyed her narrowly. ‘Were you and Luke ever more than friends?’

‘No.’ Alyssa shook her head. ‘He was always too busy either studying or earning money any way he could to have time for girls at that stage. He looked me up in London when he was doing his MBA, but my boyfriend at the time took one look at my gorgeous old school pal and created hell. So Luke kept away.’

‘But you’re the type he goes for.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘He told me. Blondes leave him cold.’

‘Until he met you, obviously.’ Alyssa threw out a hand. ‘I think he must be pretty hot foryou, Isobel. Otherwise, why would he order his team to take such care of you?’

‘Team?’

‘Team Lukas, which means Eleni, Spiro, Milos and me, not to mention Dr Riga. We all have our instructions to take care of you. Talking of which,’ said Alyssa, suddenly very serious, ‘would you like me to come back this evening in case there’s any news?’

Isobel could have kissed her. ‘Oh,wouldyou? Have dinner with me—but won’t you be missed at the taverna?’

‘Papa won’t mind in the circumstances. He’s very fond of Luke. And I won’t be seeing Dimitri until the weekend.’Alyssa looked at her watch. ‘I’ll go back and talk to my parents, then give them a hand for a couple of hours and come back here about eight.’

‘Thanks a lot. I’ll tell Eleni.’

‘I’ll send her to you on my way out. And don’t worry. It would take a lot more than a few cuts and grazes to put Luke out of action!’

Once her vivacious visitor had rushed away, Eleni hurried out to Isobel.

‘You all right?’ she said huskily.

‘I’m fine. How areyou?’

‘Better now. Is good for you Alyssa comes back. I make nice dinner.’

‘All your dinners are nice—more than nice, they’re fabulous.’ Isobel reached out her hand and Eleni took it. ‘Don’t worry. Luke will be fine.’

The woman nodded. ‘Spiro said. But I always worry.’ She smiled shyly. ‘Spiro and I never have children, but we helpedkyriaOlympia with her baby.’

‘So he’s like the son you never had,’ said Isobel softly.

Eleni nodded and brushed a tear from her eye. ‘I go now and cook. If any news on TV Spiro will say.’

 

The light had changed so much Isobel decided against any more work on the watercolour until next day. With an early start in the morning she could easily finish the painting before she left. She saw to her brushes, then sat staring out at the garden, deeply shaken by the thought that Luke could have been killed. Which was worrying. It would be madness to let her emotions get involved when she would never see him again once she left Chyros. But when her phone rang, relief flooded her in a joyous wave at the sound of Luke’s voice.

‘Isobel?’

‘Luke!Are you all right? I saw the news. How badly are you hurt? Are you still in the hospital—?’

‘Let me speak and I will tell you! Did Eleni tell you what happened?’

‘No, she was in such a state she couldn’t speak English. Spiro, too. But luckily Alyssa had come to see me, so the four of us watched the TV in your study, with Alyssa translating the newscast. Good God, Luke, you could have been killed!’

‘Would you have mourned for me, Isobel?’

‘Of course I would,’ she said crossly. ‘How long will you be in hospital?’

‘I am not in hospital. I left straight after treatment. The man did less damage than he intended. I was too quick for him,’ he added with arrogance, which made her smile.

‘Stitches?’

‘No, just dressings. And injections to counter possible infection from the blade.’

‘Do you know the man?’

‘No—’ He cursed under his breath. ‘Forgive me, Isobel, Andres wants me. I must go.’

No longer tired, Isobel sat at the desk and, desperate for something other than Luke to occupy her mind, began writing postcards. Picturing the effect on Jo if she gave a truthful account of her adventures on Chyros, she wrote the expected things about the beautiful island and the wonderful weather, then exchanged pen for walking stick and went off to smarten herself up before the stunning Miss Nicolaides came back.

Isobel heaved a sigh as she made for the bathroom. There was such an electric sparkle about Alyssa it was hard to believe that she and Luke had never been more than friends. Though Luke probably knew a lot of women like Alyssa—vivid, voluptuous Greek beauties far more to his taste than skinny blonde Brits. Isobel laughed at her reflection when she caught herself pouting. Just like Jo’s little sister Kitty when she couldn’t get her own way. She did her best with her face, pleased that a touch of foundation made the bruise barely noticeable, and her newly washed hair shone, with lighter streaks here and there from the hours she’d spent baking on Luke’s beach. Not too bad. How she’d envied Jo’s thick straight bob when they were teenagers. And Jo had laughed her to scorn, full of envy for her friend’s blonde curls. Barbie doll fixation, she’d teased, then dodged when ‘Barbie’ started throwing things. Ready at last in a raspberry-pink shift, Isobel went back to the terrace to help Eleni lay the table.

The woman smiled in approval. ‘You look very pretty, Isobel!’

‘Why, thank you, Eleni. I heard from Luke,’ she added as she put out the silver, and the woman nodded happily.

‘He ring Spiro. Is bad he not stay long in hospital.’

Isobel smiled. ‘He doesn’t like hospitals!’

Eleni shot her a knowing look. ‘You like him,ne?’

Isobel coloured slightly. ‘Of course. He’s been very kind to me.’

‘He likesyou. He never bring woman here before.’

‘He didn’t bringme, Eleni. He was forced into helping me because I hurt myself.’

‘He likes you,’ the woman repeated firmly, then hurried away at the sound of a car.

In white palazzo trousers and a sea-green silk shirt which displayed enviable honey-toned cleavage, Isobel’s visitor looked even more stunning than before.

‘You look a lot better—nice dress.’ Alyssa pulled up a chair. ‘Recovered from the shock, Isobel?’

‘More or less. Luke rang me. He left the hospital as soon as he’d been treated.’

‘So I heard.’

Isobel shivered. ‘Any news about the man who did it?’

Alyssa shook her head. ‘The police are questioning him.’

‘Will there be anything on the news right now?’

‘The main newscast is on later, after our meal. I’ll play interpreter much better once I’ve eaten.’ Alyssa cast an eye over Isobel. ‘Are you slim like that because you work at it?’

‘No. Metabolism.’

‘Lucky you. I have to watch my weight like a hawk.’

‘What for?’ Isobel eyed her blankly. ‘You’re gorgeous.’

‘Thank you,glykia mou!But to stay that way Idohave to work at it.’

‘To please Dimitri?’

Alyssa smiled like a cat with the cream. ‘No, he loves the curves. But I want to fit into my wedding dress. I brought a box of pastries with honey and nuts for dessert, by the way, but I’ll limit myself to one only.’

‘Sounds wonderful.’

‘I brought a bottle of wine, too—a gift from my father. He says a glass of wine is good medicine in times of stress.’ Alyssa put out a hand to touch Isobel’s. ‘Don’t worry. Luke is a supremely fit man. He’ll be fine.’

Isobel flushed. ‘I’m concerned, Alyssa, that’s all. Luke came to my rescue and I’m grateful to him, and I hate to see him hurt. But there’s nothing going on between us. We’ve only just met.’

‘An hour—a minute—is all it takes to fall in love—or lust, Isobel. But I won’t tease any more. Here comes dinner.’

Entertained by Alyssa’s account of her preparations for her wedding, Isobel ate well enough to satisfy Eleni when shecame to clear away, but by then she could wait no longer. She looked at her guest in appeal. ‘Would you check the news for me now, please?’

Alyssa promptly jumped up and handed Isobel her crutch to make for Luke’s study. She brought up the required television programme, then patted Isobel’s hand as a shot of Luke came on the screen.

‘He’s been discharged from hospital after treatment, and the assailant is in police custody,’ reported Alyssa.

‘That’s it?’ said Isobel, as a shot of schoolchildren filled the screen.

Alyssa nodded and turned the set off. ‘If I hear anything more I’ll let you know tomorrow. When do you intend leaving the villa?’

But Isobel had taken time to think this over. ‘Perhaps I’ll wait one more day after all. At the Kalypso I’ll be cut off from any news. At least here I’ve got Eleni and Spiro to keep me up to speed.’

Alyssa nodded in warm approval as they returned to the terrace. ‘Very wise. You’d be a bit isolated up there. Take my advice, stay on here until you’re really mobile.’

‘Et tu, Brute?’said Isobel wryly.

‘No use spouting Latin to me,kyria, I’m Greek! And,’ she added in sudden inspiration, ‘you’re a Brit so you’re bound to like tea. Shall I ask Eleni to make some for us? I’ll mention your change of plan.’

Isobel laughed and threw up her hands. ‘All right, all right, I give in,KYRIANicolaides. I’ll stay on here for a day or two more.’

‘Be sure to tell Luke I was the one who persuaded you—he’ll owe me!’

 

By Greek standards they’d eaten early. But, after Alyssa left to drive home with a message of thanks to her father for the wine, Isobel got ready for bed, suddenly exhausted. She settled herself against stacked pillows with a book, the usual tray of drinks left beside her by Eleni. But, instead of reading, she kept thinking of how near Luke had come to death that day, and frowned. Why did that matter so much? Just a short time ago she’d actively disliked him, but somewhere along the line her feelings towards him had undergone a sea change. Whatever the reason, Isobel gave a great sigh of relief when Luke rang.

‘Did I wake you, Isobel?’

‘No. How are you?’

‘In terrible pain,’ he said promptly. ‘I need a friend to comfort me.’

‘No, seriously—’

‘I am serious. Are you in bed?’

‘Yes.’

‘I need a picture of you as I lie in my own, so tell me what you sleep in.’

She chuckled. ‘A knee-length blue T-shirt. I go for comfort, not glamour in bed.’

‘Glamour enough for me—’ He drew in a sharp breath.

‘What’s wrong?’ she demanded.

‘My various scrapes and scratches making themselves felt. Sleep well, Isobel.’

She closed her phone slowly, then turned out the light and slid lower in the bed, yawning. For some reason, just hearing Luke’s voice had been enough to settle her down to sleep. Hoping it had worked the same way for him, she stretched luxuriously and turned her face into her pillows.

 

Isobel continued work on her watercolour next day, interrupted at intervals by brief phone calls from Luke.

‘I am very glad you decided to remain at the villa. Wait there until I come back. Please, Isobel,’ he added, which was so obviously an afterthought she grinned.

‘I’ll see,’ was all she would promise, and said nothing about her intention to complete not only the watercolour of the pool before she left, but another of Luke’s beach to go with it. This was more difficult to accomplish when Eleni and Spiro learned what she had in mind, since it meant a lot of argument about working out of doors. But in the end Milos rigged up a canopy to shade Isobel from the sun as she worked at the cliff edge. The study of the pool was for Luke to remind him of her in future. The painting of the beach was for herself, who would need no reminders.

Isobel received a flying visit from Alyssa before the evening rush at the taverna, and added her bit to the concerns voiced by Eleni and Spiro.

‘Are you sure you should be doing this? Though it’s very beautiful,’ said Alyssa, peering over her shoulder. ‘Is that for Luke, too?’

‘No. This one’s for me.’

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