'Are we so alike then? Me and Fotini?'
There was no mistaking the flare of emotion in his eyes at her question. The spasm of quickly controlled movement through his big body.
Perhaps she shouldn't have asked, should have respected his obvious grief for his wife. But she had to know.
His night-dark eyes held hers as he shook his head. 'No.' He said brusquely. 'At first glance there's a superficial similarity, but the differences are much stronger.'
Oddly, instead of reassuring her, the knowledge that she was unique, not a mirror image of Fotini, didn't comfort as it should have. Or perhaps it was the dismissive way he brushed aside the resemblance. She supposed in his eyes no-one could compare to the woman he'd loved.
Sophie drew a slow breath and started up the stairs beside him. What did she want? For him to look at her and see his wife? For him to respond to her as he had to Fotini? As if she were the woman he loved?
No! Of course not.
'I hadn't realised Eleni would remember what her mother looked like so well,' she said. 'But then I don't know much about small children. If it's been a year since-'
'Ten months,' he said as they reached the top of the stairs. 'Ten months almost exactly since the accident.'
Sophie cursed her tongue as she heard the pent up anger, the fierce emotion in his tone. She wanted to reach out to him and ...
And what? Soothe his pain?
Who was she to ease another's grief? She could barely contain her own. Couldn't begin to understand what it would be like to lose a spouse, a partner you thought would be yours for life.
'Eleni has a photo of her mother in her room.' He said, interrupting her thoughts. 'I put it there when Fotini died. It seemed to help Eleni when she was missed her mother.'
Sophie wondered if photos had helped Costas deal with his own loss. Looking at the rigid set of his shoulders, she thought not. He was obviously a man still very much in love with his wife.
'Here we are,' he said briskly, standing aside and gesturing to a pair of doors. 'This is your suite. Your bags have been unpacked for you.' His smile was perfunctory as he added, 'I'll leave you to rest and settle in.'
He turned then and walked away, his whole frame rigid. With disapproval or pain?
Sophie wondered why it mattered so much to her. Why she wanted to run after him and try to comfort him.
Just as well she had too much sense for that.
* * *
The rest of the evening passed in a blur that Sophie hoped was due to jet lag. By the time she'd showered and changed and eaten the meal Costas insisted she have on a tray in her room, she was exhausted.A maid bustled out, wishing her a good night. And Sophie even managed to laugh at her earlier sense of claustrophobia, at the idea of being alone here with Costas. She hadn't been thinking clearly enough to realise that a house this size must have a full time staff on the premises.Her room alone would have swallowed up at least half of her home in Sydney. And the bathroom! A cleaner's nightmare with all that gleaming marble and the massive mirrors on two walls.
She shrugged into her old cotton wrap and padded across the thick carpet to the glass doors. Just one more look at that magnificent view and then she'd sleep. She stepped outside into the darkness, letting her eyes adjust to the silvery light of a half moon and the jewelled panoply of stars. They were away from the city here and it was quiet. So quiet she could hear the soft shushing of the waves in the cove.
Sophie drew a deep breath of fresh night air, registering the unfamiliar scents. Salt of course, from the sea, but something else too. Herbs? It smelt like oregano and thyme, rosemary and something else, spicy and sweet.
She approached the corner of the long curving balcony, only to pull up abruptly as a darker shadow detached from the gloom and blocked her way.
'Can't you sleep, Sophie?' His voice slid like heavy silk against her skin, right down her spine. And heat flared in the secret, feminine core of her.
Costas thrust his hands deep into his pockets, feeling them curl into tight fists as he caught her delicate scent on the night breeze.
He'd come out here to think, to gather the tatters of his control in preparation for another day of desperate hope and unspeakable fear. He'd begun to find solace in the still darkness.
And then she'd appeared, ripping at the shreds of his self possession like a blade.
It was torture being so close to such temptation. Craving the numbing, mindless ecstasy that he knew he could find in her body. Yet knowing he couldn't afford to act on his primitive instinct to take, to hold, to tame.
She was off-limits for all sorts of reasons. Not least that she was his guest. He had a duty to protect her, even from himself.
'I just thought I'd get a breath of fresh air,' she explained, her voice so high and light he knew with a deep, visceral certainty that she felt it too, this force that drew them inexorably together.
She half turned, as if to leave, and the light behind her silhouetted the luscious upthrust curve of her breasts.
His indrawn breath hissed between his clenched teeth and her head swung round.
For a frozen instant neither moved, his galloping pulse the only animation. Then he forced himself to speak. 'Don't leave on my account.' His throat was raw with the effort of control, making his voice a grumbling murmur. 'I was just going in.'
In the darkness he felt her eyes on him. It was a touch that heated his skin to fever pitch.
'No! Don't go. I didn't mean to intrude on your privacy.' She sounded breathless, distressed.
His mother's warning this afternoon came back to him again. She could be so easily hurt, Costa. Treat her well.
Caution didn't come easily to him. But he wasn't reckless enough to give in to this beckoning temptation and cross the demarcation line that kept them apart. Anyone could see that disaster lay that way. For both of them.
'It's all right, Sophie. I was going in to check on Eleni anyway.'
He forced himself to move forward, passed her so close that her body heat warmed his side. Her enticing fragrance filled his nostrils and his fists clenched so tight that they throbbed. Tension gripped his neck and shoulders in a vice.
He kept his eyes fixed on the door to Eleni's room further along the balcony and made himself keep walking. 'Enjoy the peace for a little longer. Then get a good night's sleep.'
She'd need it for tomorrow.
Yes, that's what he needed to concentrate on - the blood test, the options for Eleni's treatment. The long discussion he'd have with the medicos tomorrow. Anything but Sophie's lithe body, warm and inviting, just metres away.
'Good night.' Her voice was a light whisper that made him falter. Then he hunched his shoulders and strode on.Reviews Behind the Book Return