The Secrets She Carried - Page 27

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Cristo felt as if the walls of his tough shell were crumbling around him. Astonishingly, Erin’s seemingly paranoid suspicion that she was being set up for a fall by persons unknown had been proven correct. He, who rarely got anything wrong, had been wrong. He had made an appalling error of judgement. But more than anything at that moment he wanted to know who could possibly have hired a detective to discredit Erin in his eyes by fair means or foul.

CHAPTER NINE

ERIN picked at the perfectly cooked lunch served on board Cristo’s private jet without much appetite. She was still angry at Sally and bitter that the older woman had got away with destroying Erin’s reputation rather than her own. How many other people were suffering from the mistaken assumption that she was a con woman, who had escaped her just deserts solely because she was the owner’s ex-girlfriend? As someone who had always worked hard with scrupulous honesty and pride in her performance of her duties, she deeply resented the false impression that Sally had created to hide her own wrongdoing.

‘We have to talk,’ Cristo remarked flatly.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase from you before,’ she parried waspishly, recalling that once upon a time Cristo had been the first out of he door when such a suggestion was laid before him. That had certainly been his all-too-masculine reaction on every occasion when she’d tried to corner him for a serious conversation.

From the cabin next door she could hear the sounds of the children playing and talking. Jenny, the charming young brunette nanny, had turned out not to work for the spa crèche after all. No, indeed, Jenny had been specifically hired by Cristo to take care of the twins while they were in Greece.

‘That’s so unnecessary and extravagant,’ Erin had criticised when she found out about the arrangement at the airport.

‘You can’t look after them 24-7,’ Cristo had informed her authoritatively.

‘Why can’t I?’ she had asked.

‘Why shouldn’t you have a break?’ he had responded arrogantly.

‘If Jenny is your concept of responsible parenting you need to buy another handbook,’ she had retorted curtly, annoyed that he had taken such a decision over her head. He was Lorcan and Nuala’s father: all right, she accepted that, however that didn’t mean that she would accept his interference in matters about which he was scarcely qualified to have an opinion. She was no more in need of a break than any other working mother, she thought thinly, which she supposed meant that, rail as she had at him, the prospect of the occasional hour in which she could relax and think of herself again was disturbingly appealing and made her feel quite appallingly guilty.

Returning to the present and the tense atmosphere currently stretching between them, Erin shot Cristo a glance from cool amethyst eyes. ‘You think we should talk? I’ll be frank—only if you crawled naked over broken glass would I think you had redeemed yourself.’

A wicked grin very briefly slashed Cristo’s lean bronzed features, his dark eyes shot with golden amusement below his thick sooty lashes, making him spectacularly handsome. ‘Not much chan

ce of that,’ he admitted.

‘So, where’s my apology?’ Erin demanded truculently to mask the effect of her dry mouth and quickened heartbeat because, no matter how furious he made her, she could still not remain impervious to his stunning good looks, a reality that mortified her. ‘It’s taking you long enough!’

‘I was trying to come up with the right words.’

‘Even if you swallowed a dictionary, it wouldn’t help you!’

Lean strong face taut, Cristo sprang out of his seat. ‘I am sincerely sorry that I ever entertained the suspicion that you had stolen from me, koukla mou.’

‘You didn’t just entertain it,’ she objected. ‘You fell for it hook, line and sinker!’

‘My security team are even at this moment checking into this Will Grimes angle. I can’t understand why a private detective would have been interested in you.’ Indeed, having thought deeply about that particular issue, Cristo could only think that someone he knew had hired a detective in an apparent effort to disgrace Erin. But who would have wasted their money on such a pursuit and what had been the motivation? It still made no sense to him. Erin had not been his wife or fiancée? Why would anyone have wanted to harm her and, through her, him?

Erin tilted her chin, eyes glinting pure lavender. ‘Seems I wasn’t paranoid, after all. I’m still waiting on that apology too.’

His strong jaw line hardened, dark eyes gleaming. ‘And you’ll be waiting a long time because you’re not getting a second. If you hadn’t been so direct about your expectations I might have soft-pedalled for the sake of peace, but now I’ll be equally direct: you brought that theft accusation down on your own head!’

Erin stared at him aghast, totally wrong-footed by that condemnation coming at her out of the blue when she had expected a grovelling apology. Really? Well, possibly not of the grovelling variety, but, yes, she had assumed he would be embarrassed by his misjudgement and eager to soothe her wounded feelings. Now, deprived of that development and outraged by his attitude, Erin leapt out of her seat to face him. ‘And how do you work that out?’

‘As far as I was aware Sally Jennings was an exemplary long-term employee with no strikes against her and no reason to lie. Had I known she had already been caught thieving at work I would have known to take a closer look at her activities,’ Cristo shot back at her levelly.

Erin stiffened, feeling she was on weaker ground when it came to the decision she had once made over Sally and defying the reflection. ‘Sally was going through a divorce and she has two autistic sons. At the time, I believed she needed compassionate handling rather than punishment.’

Cristo expelled his breath in a hiss, his brilliant eyes cracking like whips. ‘Compassion? If I’d known then how you mishandled her dishonesty I would have sacked you for incompetence!’

‘Incompetence?’ Erin bleated incredulously, rage jumping up and down inside her like a gushing fountain suddenly switched on.

‘Yes, incompetence,’ Cristo confirmed with succinct bite. ‘How would you feel about a manager who left a thief in a position of power in your business and chose not to warn anyone about her dangerous little weakness?’

‘I dealt with the situation as I saw fit back then. Looking back, I can see I was too trusting—’

‘Correction … bloody naïve!’ Cristo shot back at her witheringly. ‘I didn’t hire you to be compassionate. Plenty of people lead tough lives but few of them steal. I hired you to take care of part of my business and that was your sole responsibility. Listening to sob stories and letting a clever calculating woman get off scot-free with her crimes was no part of your job description!’


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