Erin was bemused. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘My mother hired Will Grimes.’
Her eyes widened while she recognised how much that staggering discovery had upset him. There was enormous sorrow in his unshielded eyes that made her wince and long to hold him close, for she knew how deeply attached he was to the couple who had raised him. In fact it hurt her so much to see him wounded in such a way that she stopped lying to herself in that same moment: all her proud pretences and defences fell away and she was left to face the inescapable truth that she still loved Cristophe Donakis and had never stopped loving him.
‘APPOLLONIA learned that you and I had been together for at least a year from one of my friends. She was always ridiculously eager for me to settle down and have a family and she became convinced that you were holding me back from that development. She was obsessed with the idea of me marrying another Greek and spending more time here in Greece,’ Cristo explained with a heavy sigh as he sat opposite Erin, who was studying him fixedly. ‘She paid a private detective to investigate you and eventually told him that she would pay him a bonus if he would use whatever means were within his power to break us up.’
‘But that’s crazy,’ Erin whispered, reeling from the unexpected tale he was telling her. ‘You’re an adult. How could your mother interfere in your life like that?’
‘Appollonia seems honestly to have believed that she was doing it for the sake of my future happiness, koukla mou. How I might feel about it or how much damage she might do in the process to me or you never seems to have entered her head until it was too late.’
‘How on earth did you realise that it was your foster mother who had hired the detective?’
‘I was telling her about you and the twins and she suddenly made a rather scornful reference to the thefts from the spa. That immediately made me suspicious because she did not get that information from me. It could only have come from the detective she hired. Once she grasped that you were the mother of my children she was very shocked and guilty and in that state she blurted out the whole story. My father, Vasos, was appalled and he asked her what she had been thinking of …’
‘Did you tell her that I wasn’t the thief?’ Erin asked ruefully.
‘Of course. She didn’t ask the detective what weapons he used to bring about our split, in fact she didn’t want to know the dirty details, and once it was achieved she invited Lisandra to dinner and dangled her under my nose. I told her about the doctored photos and Sally being rewarded for identifying you as the thief. I also told her that it was her fault that Lorcan and Nuala were strangers until I met them two weeks ago. She remembered your phone call. She did honestly believe that you had been stealing from me and that was how she justified her interference—you were a wicked woman and I needed help to break free of your malign influence. That had become her excuse and when that excuse was taken from her she became extremely distressed. Vasos was shouting at her and it all got very hysterical and overheated.’ Cristo groaned, luxuriant black lashes almost hitting his exotic cheekbones as he briefly closed his eyes in frustration. ‘In the end we called the local doctor to administer a sedative to calm her down …’
‘Oh, my goodness, is this the reason she had a nervous breakdown when your marriage went wrong?’
‘Yes, although none of us appreciated that at the time. But she felt hugely guilty at having encouraged me to marry Lisandra.’
‘No offence intended, Cristo, but right now Appollonia sounds like the mother-in-law from he
ll,’ Erin remarked with an apologetic grimace.
‘I think it is good that the truth has come out at last.’ Cristo was seemingly determined to find a positive angle. ‘Possibly Appollonia’s secret arrangement with the detective has been the burden on her conscience which damaged her recovery from the breakdown she suffered. She is still a fragile personality but she wasn’t always like that.’
‘Was your PA got to by the detective as well? Was that why my calls were never put through and my letters were returned unread?’
Cristo sighed, ‘My foster mother told her you were stalking me and that she’d be grateful if Amelia shielded me from nuisance calls and letters. Amelia probably believed she was doing me a favour.’
‘Bloody hell!’ Erin erupted furiously, standing up and walking away, only to spin back. ‘No wonder I couldn’t get hold of you!’
Cristo appraised with appreciation her slim, pale, delicately curved body in the brief red bikini she wore. ‘If it’s any consolation, Appollonia is the party most punished by the fallout from all this.’
Turning pink at the intensity of the gaze resting on her heaving breasts, Erin crossed her arms to interrupt his view. She hated the way he could just look at her and her body would have an involuntary reaction while her brain fogged over. ‘And how do you make that out?’
‘You’re the one in possession of grandchildren she has never seen. Had she known you were carrying my child she would never have targeted you and she would have supported you in every way possible. I told her how alone you had been and she felt guiltier than ever,’ he completed wryly.
‘So, what happens now?’
‘We go down to the village and see the priest and fill out the forms for our wedding.’
‘You want to get married here on the island?’ Erin was taken aback by the idea.
‘I’ll fly out your mother along with any friends you want to attend.’ Seeing that that assurance had no visible effect, Cristo unfolded to his full impressive height, adding, ‘We’ve been apart a long time—I don’t want to wait long for the wedding.’
‘I didn’t realise it would be happening so soon,’ Erin responded tentatively. ‘When I agreed to come here it was only for a week to escape the press because you got so hot and bothered about them.’
A faint smile softened the harsh curve of his shapely mouth. ‘Everything has changed between us since then, koukla mou.’
It had changed in the bedroom, Erin reflected guiltily, recalling how easily she had succumbed to his hot-blooded hunger for her. She had said yes where she should have said no and that was the only green light that a male with Cristo’s high voltage libido required.
‘I barely remember my birth parents. They’re just a stylish photo on the wall,’ Cristo remarked tautly. ‘The first five years of my life I was raised by nannies. I was always being told not to bother my parents because they were such busy people. They had no time for me and little interest.’