The fact there was no man in her life was a matter of choice. Not that she had ruled out the possibility of meeting someone; she just couldn’t imagine it.
Sometimes she tried to. She tried to imagine another man touching her the way Angolos had. She did now, and it was a mistake. Her nerve endings started to ache as she thought of his long, cool fingers on her skin.
Angolos had made her ache a lot.
When she wasn’t thinking about Angolos’s ability to make her ache, she occasionally wondered what sort of person she might have been if she had never met him. Would she still be as naïve and trusting as she had been that summer?
Such speculation was pointless, because she had met him, and every detail of that fateful occasion, the moment she had laid eyes on Angolos Constantine, the moment her life had changed for ever, was burnt into her brain.
She had been sitting on a blanket, one eye on the paperback she had been trying to finish and the other on her stepbrother, who had been playing with a group of boys farther down the beach. His shoes had been the first thing she had seen, shiny, hand-tooled leather, and then the exquisitely tailored legs of his dark trousers, expensive, tasteful, and wildly inappropriate for a beach.
She’d just had to see who would be stupid enough to venture onto the beach in a get-up like that! Georgie had lifted a hand to shade her eyes, squinting against the sun as her glance had travelled upwards.
Oh, my goodness…!
The owner of the shoes had had long legs, very long legs; the rest of him had been a lot better than OK too. In fact, if you went for lean and hard—and what woman wouldn’t, given half the chance?—he was as close to perfect as damn it.
By the time she had reached his face the last shreds of amused mockery had vanished from her amber eyes—the eyes he had professed to love—and she had been smitten and had stayed that way until the day he had told her he wanted her to go away.
‘Go away…?’ Uneasy, but sure this was all a silly mistake, she had asked, ‘How long for?’
‘For ever,’ he had replied and walked away.
But on that first summer’s afternoon there had been no hint of the casual cruelty he was capable of. She had been totally overwhelmed and too inexperienced to hide it as she’d stared back into those dark eyes shaded by preposterously long lashes that had thrown a shadow across the prominent angle of his chiselled cheekbones.
Those seductive, velvety depths had held a cynical world-weariness that her impressionable self had found fascinating, but then she’d found everything about him fascinating, she reflected grimly, from his sable-smooth hair to the mobile curve of his sensual lips.
Tall and lean, darkly arresting, his olive-skinned face an arrangement of strong angles and fascinating bone structure, he was the essence of male beauty.
‘Hello,’ he said, flashing her a seriously gorgeous smile. Like his appearance his voice with its faint accent marked this most rampantly male of males out as fascinatingly different.
She was hot, her face was sticky, her skin was glossed with a film of sweat and the salty dampness had gathered in the valley between her breasts. The jacket casually slung over one shoulder was the only concession this stranger made to the heat, which appeared not to affect him.
She lifted a self-conscious hand to her hair and discovered it was full of salt from an earlier dip in the sea. She wanted desperately to be cool and say something intelligent but all she could manage was a breathless, ‘Hello.’ Her heart was beating so fast she could barely hear her own voice.
She knew she was staring, but she couldn’t help it. She simply couldn’t tear her eyes off this incredible man. Men like this did not walk down the beach of an old-fashioned family resort… She hadn’t actually believed they existed outside the pages of popular fiction!
Did wondering what a total stranger looked like naked make her depraved? This had never happened to her before; maybe it was the weather? Hadn’t she read somewhere that heat had an effect on the libido? But her libido had never given her any problems; in fact she had occasionally wondered if it wasn’t a little underdeveloped.
‘I’m not familiar with the area.’
One darkly defined brow lifted and she rushed on in hot-faced explanation.
‘This is a small place and strangers…well, they stand out.’ In the most fashionable and glamorous watering holes on the planet he would have stood out! She couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to walk into a room and have heads turn and conversations stop. What would he feel like?
She lowered her gaze. Stop this, Georgie!
‘Then you live here?’
He’s talking to me. This incredible man is actually talking to me. What did he say…?
‘Do you live locally?’
The creases around his stupendous eyes deepened. ‘Which?’
Oh, no, he was going to go back to whatever planet he came from—clearly he was too gorgeous to be earthbound—and laugh about the mentally challenged locals. She made a supreme effort to act as though her IQ reached double figures.
‘We spend the summer holidays here. My…’ Her eyelashes lowered, as she repressed the embarrassing impulse to give him her life story. Even if that life could be summed up in a paragraph, his stupendous eyes would have glazed over with boredom before she got to the end.
One noteworthy thing had happened in her life and she didn’t even remember it! She had been a baby when her mother had run away with a Greek waiter. Since then her deserted father had refused to travel abroad, hence the house here where she had spent every summer she could remember, firstly with just her father and grandmother, latterly with her stepmother and stepbrother.
‘But you know the area well? You know all the places to go?’
‘Places to go…?’ Her puzzled expression cleared. ‘I suppose I do.’ She was delighted to be able to be of use to this most amazing man. ‘Well, actually, it depends,’ she told him seriously.
‘If you have a head for heights.’
‘Not me,’ she admitted regretfully. ‘The headland walk along the nature reserve is apparently marvellous, but if you prefer something a little gentler the trail across the marsh is very well marked and there are hides where you can… Are you interested in birds?’ The area drew a lot of people who were; they arrived with their binoculars in their droves. ‘It’s not the breeding season, but there are still some—’
‘I am not a bird-watcher; I prefer more…active pursuits.’
Now that he said it she had no problem seeing him fitting into the mould of those tough, reckless individuals who indulged in extreme sports… Extreme as in those extremely likely to result in injury or worse!
The thought of him breaking his beautiful neck made her unthinkingly blurt out, ‘You should be careful.’
‘At the moment I’m under strict instructions to relax.’ A slow smile that made her tummy flip spread across his lean features. ‘And suddenly,’ he confided in a husky drawl that made Georgie’s skin prickle, ‘that doesn’t seem such a bad idea.’
Was he flirting with her…? Georgie dismissed the thought even before it was fully formed.
‘I was actually wondering about the night-life…?’ he went on.
‘Night-life?’ she parroted. The distracting shadow of dark body hair visible through the fine fabric of his shirt was making it hard for her to concentrate on what he was saying.
‘As in nightclubs.’
‘Nightclubs?’ she echoed as though he were talking a foreign language. ‘Here?’
His beautifully moulded lips quirked. ‘No nightclubs.’ She shook her head. ‘Restaurants…?’
Georgie’s eyes had got even wider. ‘I think you might have got the wrong place. There’s the teashop next to the post office—they do a great cream tea—and the fish and chip shop, but… Are you laughing at me?’
Even though she realised he probably meant delightful in a cutesie, cuddly, clumsy puppy sort of way, she couldn’t stop smiling.
‘And this feels like the first time I’ve laughed in a very long time.’
Georgie was pondering this enigmatic statement when a football landed in her lap, spraying sand all over her. There was the sound of laughter as she sprawled inelegantly backwards onto the sand.
‘Jack Kemp!’ she yelled, spitting out a mouthful of sand as her stepbrother approached. She struggled into an upright position and glared at the guilty figure.
‘What’s got into you?’ asked the freckle-faced twelve-year-old. ‘It wasn’t hard,’ he added scornfully.
Clicking her tongue, she threw the ball back, with an admonition to be careful. ‘And five minutes only,’ she cautioned, glancing at her watch. ‘I promised I’d get dinner tonight,’ she reminded him.