‘I’m so tired,’ she framed drowsily, for now that all her tension had been banished there was nothing left to hold back her bridal exhaustion.
‘Happy?’ Leonidas prompted.
‘Happy,’ she mumbled, pressing a sleepy kiss against a smooth brown muscular shoulder.
Leonidas decided that it would be unreasonably cruel to wake her up and tell her about the stag cruise. He would tell her in the morning…some time. He wondered if she would be upset. His arms tightened round her because he really didn’t like the idea that any oversight of his might cause her pain.
The third time Maribel woke up the next day, a Greek business channel was playing on the television at the foot of the bed. She flopped back against the pillows with an indolent sigh. It was two in the afternoon. They had breakfasted at seven with Elias and played with him on the shady terrace below the trees. A couple of hours later Leonidas had carried her back to bed. Wakening the second time, she had gone for a shower and he had joined her there. A tender smile curved her reddened mouth. She lifted the television remote and flicked through the channels until she came to a gossipy one about celebrities. She was semi-listening to the entertaining flow of light chatter when Leonidas strolled out of his en suite bathroom.
Maribel gave him a rapt appraisal. In a pair of silk boxers and nothing else, he was a magnificent sight.
‘Is it worth my while getting dressed again?’ Leonidas enquired silkily.
Maribel went pink and gave a little sensual wriggle below the sheet. It would have been true to say that she had not been slow to take advantage of his presence and his amazing stamina.
‘I take it that’s a no?’
Only the sight of herself in her wedding gown on a television screen could have distracted Maribel at that instant. She gaped. ‘My goodness…doesn’t the dress look marvellous?’
‘It wasn’t the dress, it was you, kardoula mou,’ Leonidas asserted. ‘But I can’t believe you’re watching rubbish like that.’
‘It’s more fun than the business news…’ Her teasing voice tailed away to a dying whisper because she was listening to the presenter.
“Predictably Leonidas Pallis enjoyed his final days of freedom with a wild stag party on the Torrente yacht, Diva Queen.”
A party attended by a bunch of naked women, Maribel registered in horror. Although the presenter didn’t specifically mention naked women, Maribel’s eyes were glued to the screen and she saw a bare-breasted female dancing on deck and another diving off the yacht in what appeared to be her birthday suit…
‘Shut up!’ she shouted at Leonidas when his attempted vocal intervention threatened to prevent her from hearing the rest of the item. There was a disturbing reference to the existence of more intimate photos which, it was hinted, were unsuitable for general viewing.
‘Give me that…’ Leonidas lunged for the remote, but Maribel got there first, throwing herself bodily over the top of it. Unfortunately while she won that potential struggle she also accidentally hit the off button.
‘You rat!’ she exclaimed sickly as she pushed herself back up onto her knees. ‘So you don’t do orgies? What were you doing on that yacht?’
‘Not what you obviously think,’ Leonidas countered with a composure that she felt could only add insult to injury. ‘Every move I make is sensationalised.’
‘A naked woman is a naked woman, and as sensational as things need to get to offend me!’ Maribel launched back at him.
‘You have to stop believing implicitly in what you see and what you read. Photos and stories can be fabricated.’
‘What about the pictures unsuitable for general viewing?’
‘If you really want to push this to the limits, I can show you them as well.’ Classic profile forbidding and taut, Leonidas hauled on a pair of faded jeans.
‘I want to see them.’
That news spelt out in clear defiance of his wishes, which only made her all the more suspicious, Maribel went into the dressing room to rifle cupboards and drawers for clothing. She was acting on automatic pilot. She was trying to build up the strength to deal with the situation, praying that a momentary respite would rescue her brain and her common sense from the feverish emotional grip of anger, fear and pain.
Leonidas wasn’t acting as though he had done something wrong. But then, had she ever seen Leonidas act in a guilty manner? And why should he even feel guilty? Why was it only now that she was remembering that he had still not given her an answer to the choice she had given him a month earlier? A platonic marriage in which he would retain his freedom or marital monogamy. Was this his answer? Or just another attention-grabbing paparazzi spread that a sensible woman would rise above and disbelieve as Tilda had suggested? Although Maribel couldn’t help feeling that it was rather easier for Tilda to have taken that stance when her own husband was not involved.