‘I’m very sorry to have deserted you, ladies.’
‘Tino.’ Lisa’s heart turned over as she gazed at him. ‘I wasn’t sure I would see you again.’
He made a casual gesture. ‘They wanted me to check on something inside the house—’
‘We ate breakfast without you,’ Stella cut in. ‘We didn’t know how long you would be, Constantine.’
‘And I apologise, Ya-ya, for not being there to greet you this morning.’ Embracing Stella, Tino kissed her affectionately on both cheeks.
‘Whatever took you away,’ Stella said, ‘I can see it was important from your face, so I will forgive you, Constantine.’
‘It was important, Ya-ya. It was of the utmost importance.’
Lisa’s stomach clenched. Why was he looking at her? ‘You haven’t been having second thoughts about the contract, have you?’
Tipping his head to one side, Tino smiled at her. ‘I do think of some things other than business, you know.’
‘But not often enough,’ Stella observed tartly. ‘And now, if you two will excuse me, I should like to take a walk around the gardens to be sure that your flowers are at their best for our festival tonight, Constantine.’
‘Of course.’ Lisa turned to her. ‘The taxi driver told me that you fill your houses with flowers for May Day here on Stellamaris.’
‘Not until later today,’ Stella explained. ‘After our siesta this afternoon there will be a procession through the village, and then when all the houses are decorated there will be a party in the village square.’
‘Another party.’ Lisa smiled.
‘Life can be hard.’ Stella shrugged. ‘So we Greeks celebrate whenever we can—’ Reaching out, she rested her hand on Lisa’s arm. ‘You must make time to be happy too, Lisa.’
‘Will I see you before I go?’ Lisa’s throat tightened.
‘I’m sure we will see each other.’
When Stella smiled at her, Lisa wanted to go and throw her arms around the elderly Greek woman and beg her not to leave. It didn’t make any sense, Lisa reasoned, watching Stella make her way down the path. She had stood on her own two feet since she could stand, she ran a huge and complex business, she had money and prestige, but right now all she wanted was for Stella to be her friend so she could learn all the things she didn’t know or understand— all the important things, the things she had never found time for in the past.
‘I’m told your suitcase is still upstairs.’
Lisa came to with a jolt. Tino couldn’t have made it any plainer that he couldn’t wait for her to leave. ‘I’m sorry, Tino, I forgot the case. I did mean to bring it down.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll do that for you. Just show me where it is. Are you thinking about business again?’ he said when she didn’t reply.
‘Actually, I was thinking about changing my life.’
‘Changing your life? That’s rather momentous, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, it is. But Stella Panayotakis talks a lot of sense… She’s made me think; she’s made me re-evaluate everything. Is Stella a relative of yours, Tino?’
‘As good as.’
‘Only Ya-ya means—’
‘Grandma. Yes, I know, Lisa. About these changes…’ He held the door into the house for her. ‘Tell me something about them.’
‘I would never relinquish my seat on the board at Bond Steel,’ Lisa began slowly, thinking aloud, ‘but I have many talented people on my team and with this cash injection they will hardly need me on a daily basis. The job isn’t enough for me any more.’ She shrugged and flashed a wry smile at him. ‘Before you ask, I don’t know what I do want to do yet. Let’s just say Stellamaris has made me greedy— and don’t look so worried,’ she added dryly. ‘What I want, we both know you can’t give me.’
‘And what’s that?’ Tino asked as he followed her into the house.
‘I want stability, a broader view on life, a long-term future to look forward to… and I don’t ever want to stop working.’