Lisa’s heart was thumping as she walked onto the patio. It didn’t matter what type of agreement she had agreed to; after all that had happened between them she still had a lot of readjusting to do.
There was no sign of Tino. Lisa didn’t know whether to be relieved or not, but she was happy to see Stella Panayotakis sitting at the breakfast table… ‘I didn’t expect to see you today, Stella. What a lovely surprise.’
‘For me too,’ Stella assured her. ‘Won’t you join me?’
She indicated the place next to her, and Lisa saw that this was the only other place set at the table.
‘Tino will not be joining us this morning,’ Stella explained, seeing her glance. ‘He’s been called away.’
‘I see…’ Called away? Avoiding her after everything that had happened between them was more likely, she suspected.
‘Tino didn’t tell you?’
‘No, and we’re supposed to be holding meetings all this week.’ She couldn’t keep the tension out of her voice.
‘I am sure Constantine would not have left the island unless it was important, Lisa.’
‘I’m sure you’re right, Stella. But I can’t understand why he just didn’t warn me. I’m sorry, Stella, I know this isn’t your fault, but the issues I have come here to discuss with him are really important. And Tino is just so… unpredictable. Nothing happens without his approval.’
‘Please don’t get upset—and you don’t need to apologise. I can see how much this means to you.’ Sitting back in her chair, Stella stared at Lisa in silence for a moment. ‘The people in your company are very lucky to have you for their champion, Lisa.’
Stella’s endorsement only made Lisa more aware of the responsibility she had towards her co-workers at Bond Steel. ‘Do you know how I can get in touch with him? Do you know where Tino’s gone, Stella?’
‘I’m afraid I can’t help you, Lisa.’
Can’t help me, or won’t help me? Lisa wondered, sensing Stella was watching her words as if she was protecting Tino for some reason.
‘What time is your first meeting this morning?’
Stella’s question prompted Lisa to refocus on the older woman’s face. ‘Ten o’clock.’
‘But it’s only eight o’clock. Why don’t you come down to the beach with me for a stroll before you start work? You never know, Lisa—Constantine may have been in contact with his household by the time you return to the villa.’
‘I’d love to come with you.’ Lisa sighed.
‘Then why not indulge yourself for once?’
‘All right.’ She smiled. It was hard not to when Stella was around.
‘Shouldn’t you change first?’ Stella suggested, glancing at Lisa’s elegant outfit.
‘Will you give me five minutes?’
They took the funicular down to the beach. ‘It’s great to be able to admire the view without picking your way down the cliff face,’ Lisa admitted wryly.
‘You should never do that, Lisa!’ Stella warned. ‘That cliff is for mountain goats, and crazy men like Tino.’
Lisa seized the opening: ‘Have you known Tino for long?’
‘It seems like for ever.’ Stella quickly became guarded again. ‘Look,’ she said, pointing out to sea. ‘Can you see the dolphins, Lisa?’
Stella’s adroit change of subject didn’t bode well for discovering facts about Tino. Her reluctance to talk about him made Lisa more certain than ever that both of them were hiding something.
When they reached the beach and the doors slid open, the first thing Lisa saw was another couple. Engrossed in each other, they were standing at the water’s edge with their fingers entwined. The young woman’s face turned up to her dark-haired companion was like a pale flame in the morning light. A stab of jealousy made Lisa hesitate and want to turn back. Had Tino been lying to her all along? And Stella too? No, not Stella… Stella would never lie to her. But she didn’t want to see… She didn’t want to be sure… She couldn’t bear to be so cruelly disillusioned. ‘I’m sorry, Stella. I should never have come down to the beach. There really isn’t time… I should go back and prepare for the meeting.’