Curving a casual arm to her spine to draw her to one side, Leonidas inclined his arrogant dark head. ‘When did you start learning Greek?’
‘Soon after Elias was born, but I haven’t always had the time I would like to concentrate on it.’ Although the contact between them was of the slightest, Maribel was as stiff as a stick of rock. ‘Excuse me, your great-aunts are waiting for me. I promised to show them some photos of Elias.’
‘Don’t I have priority?’ Astonished at being treated in such an offhand manner, Leonidas closed a staying hand over hers before she could walk away.
Maribel was achingly conscious of the compelling force of his dark golden eyes. He possessed an intense charisma that she could not withstand even when she was angry with him. Her heart was beating very fast. ‘Of course,’ she said very politely.
The distance Leonidas sensed in her was like a wall. He didn’t like it. He had assumed that the passage of time would take care of that problem and he had been wrong. Raw frustration raked through him. He thought of all the women in the past and the present who would have done anything he wanted, who would not have dreamt of angering him or criticising him. Or of making demands he was unwilling to meet. And finally he thought of Maribel who was just…Maribel, and unique. Her ability to wage a war of passive resistance was driving him crazy.
‘Tomorrow is our wedding day. In the light of that fact,’ Leonidas drawled with sardonic bite, ‘I will explain to you that Josette Dawnay has opened an art gallery in the same building as her apartment and I was invited to the opening, along with a lot of other people. If you feel the need to check the date, you should find ample evidence of those facts.’
A tide of guilty pink flushed Maribel’s creamy complexion. Relief leapt through her, but it was tinged by a streak of defiance, for she could not see why he could not have laid her concerns to rest at the time. ‘I suppose I should say that I’m sorry I drenched you—’
‘You should,’ Leonidas confirmed without hesitation.
‘I’m sorry, but you could have explained.’
‘Why should I have? You eavesdropped on a private conversation and jumped to the wrong conclusion,’ Leonidas countered with a sibilant cool that was a challenge. ‘How was that my fault?’
Maribel was continually amazed at the ease with which Leonidas could infuriate her. He had buckets of unapologetic attitude. Aggressive, dynamic, intensely competitive, he was a living, breathing testament to the power of testosterone. She could feel the eyes of their guests lingering on them. It was one of those times when walking away seemed the wisest option. ‘Excuse me,’ she murmured again and off she went.
If Leonidas had been astonished by her attitude just minutes earlier, he was even more stunned by this resolute retreat. For the first time in his life, he had made a conciliatory move towards a woman and what was his reward? Where were the abject apologies and the passionate appreciation he had expected to receive? Something touched the toe of his shoe. Eyes smouldering, he glanced down. Mouse had crawled out from below his table. Shaking with nerves at the number of strangers about him, the wolfhound had nonetheless battled his terror to finally sneak out far enough from cover to welcome Leonidas home. Leonidas bent down and patted the shaggy head for that much-appreciated demonstration of loyalty.
Having ensured that all the guests had had their needs attended to, Maribel wasted no time in going straight up to bed. She thought of what Leonidas had told her. All her heartache over Josette Dawnay had been needless, a storm in a teacup that Leonidas could have settled in seconds—had he so desired. That he had not chosen to do so sent her a message, one she would have sooner not received. Leonidas had declared his independence and his freedom. He had spelt out the fact that marriage wasn’t going to change his lifestyle.
Her eyes prickled in the darkness. She drew in a deep sustaining breath and scolded herself for being too emotional. She had to learn how to make the best of things, not just for her own sanity but for her son’s sake as well. Tomorrow was her wedding day, she reminded herself doggedly. So many people had gone to so much trouble to ensure that every detail would be perfect—the very least she could do was try to enjoy it.
Shortly before six o’clock the next morning, Leonidas was wakened by a phone call from Vasos. Five minutes later, Leonidas was studying tabloid headlines on a computer screen and swearing eloquently in Greek. He raked his sleep-tousled black hair off his brow. PALLIS STAG CRUISE…RIOTOUS REVELRY WITH EXOTIC DANCERS! He flicked on to another page. It only got worse. The photos made him groan out loud in disbelief.