Soon their acid heat burned their way down her cheeks and neck to soak into the lapel of the heavy Turkish robe.
Dimitri was gone.
Dimitri leaned against the wall in the hallway outside the apartment. He’d forced himself to leave when Xandra went into the bathroom. If he hadn’t, he would never have made it out the door. Even now, the temptation to go back to her and tell her it was all a mistake rode him hard.
But it was not a mistake. If Dimitri did not marry Phoebe Leonides, an old man whom Dimitri loved more than his own life or personal happiness, would die. His grandfather had refused to back down from his ultimatum and even now sat weakly in a wheelchair, refusing necessary surgery until Dimitri set a wedding date.
His fist jabbed viciously into the palm of his other hand. Why had Xandra mentioned marriage between them? Why taunt him with the impossible? She did not want marriage. She could not. If she had, at least one time over the past year, her career would have come second and he would have come first. It never had. Not once.
Xandra was angry right now, her feminine pride bruised. It had upset her to realize he had planned to marry another woman all along, but he could not take seriously the idea she thought their liaison would end in marriage. She’d made her independence too much an issue for that. However, she had obviously believed he had no plans at all in that direction.
More guilt added to the already swirling cauldron of emotions inside him.
He had not intended to make love with her again, but he’d lost his cool and his control the moment she went into seductive mode. For all her worldly sophistication, Xandra was not an aggressive lover. She was affectionate and responsive, more responsive than any woman he’d ever known, but she initiated lovemaking rarely and even then, she did so subtly. Her seduction just now had been anything but subtle and it had undermined his defenses with the impact of an invading army.
Afterward, it had been harder than he thought possible to tell her of his upcoming marriage while her body remained warm and fragrant from their intimacy.
He forced himself away from the wall and toward the elevator. A clean break was the only way.
Alexandra waited thirty-six hours to call Dimitri’s cell phone, sure with the passing of each hour, the man she loved, the father of her child, would come back to her.
He had made love to her. She was sure he hadn’t planned to do it, but he had. He’d never slept with Phoebe. He had said he didn’t love the other woman and equally important, he couldn’t possibly need her the way he had needed Alexandra for the past year.
But he did not come and she had no choice but to contact him. She was furious with him, more hurt than she’d ever been in her life, but she carried his child and she had to tell him before he made the mistake of marrying another woman.
She refused to consider what she would do if the news of impending fatherhood had no effect on his marital plans.
The sound of the phone ringing beeped in her ear three times before he picked up. “Dimitri, here.”
She was met with unnerving silence.
“We need to talk.”
More silence. “There is no more to say.”
“You’re wrong. There are things I must tell you.” Did he notice how alike her words now to the ones he’d spoken to her two days ago?
“Can we not dismiss the postmortems?”
She sucked in air, but controlled the desire to scream like a fishwife at the insensitive tycoon dismissing her like yesterday’s garbage. “No. We need to talk. You owe this to me, Dimitri.”
This time she didn’t break the silence.
Finally she heard a heavy exhalation at the other end of the line. “Fine. Meet me at Chez Renée for lunch.”
“I’d rather meet in the apartment.” She did not want to tell him of his impending fatherhood and her true identity in a public setting.
She gritted her teeth, but didn’t argue. “Fine.” Maybe a public setting would be best after all. He would hesitate to commit murder with witnesses, she thought with black humor.
They set a time and hung up.
Dimitri cut the cell connection and turned to look out the large window in his Athens office. He had flown to Athens within hours of leaving the Paris apartment. He hadn’t trusted himself to stay in France and not go back to her.
And that infuriated him.
His grandfather’s life was at stake and Dimitri refused to allow an obsession with a woman deter him from his purpose. His parents had taught him all the lessons he needed to learn in that area. His father’s obsessive need for his mother had resulted in years of volatile togetherness and ultimately both their deaths.
He could not allow a similar compulsive need for Xandra to affect the same result for his grandfather.
He’d been her first lover, but with a sensual nature like hers, he knew he would not be her last. There had even been times when he wondered if he were her only lover. There were areas of her life she kept hidden from him. She took trips abroad that were not modeling assignments, but that she refused to discuss with him.
He had told himself he was being foolish. She did not flirt or make meaningful eye contact with other men. She had always been gratifyingly hungry when they came together, but he’d never been able to dismiss the feeling she did not belong exclusively to him. If not sexually, than emotionally.
Which had led him to believe she would take their eventual but inevitable breakup with her usual cool sophistication, just as she took their many separations made necessary by her work or his. A memory of her tear-clogged voice the last time he’d called to say his stay in Greece had been prolonged rose up.
What if she had convinced herself she loved him? He shuddered at the thought. Love was an excuse women used to succumb to their passions. His mother had supposedly loved his father, but she’d also loved her tennis instructor and then the husband of a business acquaintance and finally the Italian ski instructor she’d run off with.
His mother had been a prime example of the treachery women perpetrated in the name of love. Dimitri preferred the frank exchange of sexual desire to protestations of a fleeting emotion that only caused pain in the end.
But Alexandra wanted to meet one more time. His curled fist settled against the windowsill.
He’d agreed because she was right…he did owe her.
They’d spent a year together and she had given him the gift of her innocence. She’d made little of it at the time, but his traditional Greek upbringing had planted it as a debt firmly in his mind. A debt he should not have repaid with such a soulless dismissal of their relationship.
He hadn’t even given her a gift in parting. She deserved better than that. She had been his woman for a year. He would make sure she was set for the future.
He could only hope his control at their upcoming meeting exceeded that of the last one.
ALEXANDRA remained seated while she waited for Dimitri to weave his way between the small bistro tables and join her. She’d chosen to sit outside, hoping the late spring sunshine would imbue their encounter with some much needed optimism. Dimitri’s aviator sunglasses hid his expression from her, but his mouth was set in a grim line that did not bode well for the meeting ahead.
She resisted the urge to rub her temples, giving away the anxiety she felt.
He pulled out a chair opposite her own and folded his tall frame into it. “Xandra.”
What a cold greeting for the woman he had been living with for the past year. She pulled the cloak of sophistication she wore like a protective covering around her and inclined her head. “Dimitri.”
He pulled off the aviators and tossed them on the table. His blue eyes revealed no more of his thoughts than the mirrored reflection of his glasses had. “Have you ordered?”
Why that question should cause pain to slice through her, she had no idea. Perhaps because it exemplified a new level of distance between the two of them. He had not asked how she was or how her morning had gone. Presumably those topics were no longer of concern to him.
“Yes. I ordered you a steak and salad.”
“Fine. I presume you have a specific reason for insisting we meet.” As if the dissolution of their year long relationship wasn’t enough. “There is something I forgot to do at our last meeting as well.” He grimaced. “It did not go as I expected.”
She had thought she couldn’t hurt more than she already did, but she had been wrong. Not go as he expected? They’d made love with desperate passion and then he’d ditched her. Which part hadn’t he expected?
“There’s something you need to know. Something I have to tell you before you…” She could not make herself say it.
His brow rose in query and he pulled a sheaf of papers from his briefcase. He laid them on the table and then placed a small box on top of them, a box obviously the size of a jewelry case. There was an attitude of finality in the action that cut the thread holding her composure.