Mortifying though her grandmother’s comment was, Georgie, not a person given to self-delusion, had to admit that it was essentially true.
Always a little scornful of her contemporaries’ messy and, it seemed to her, painful love affairs, she had been totally unprepared for the primal emotions Angolos had awoken in her. She had been totally mesmerised by him.
‘My son and I disagree on most things, but on that occasion we were of one mind. Robert said to her, “Sleep with the man if you must, live with him even, but marry him…! Insanity.”’
‘But one we have all experienced, Ann,’ came the rueful response.
To imagine the two elderly women experiencing the insanity of blind lust that she had felt with Angolos made Georgie blink.
‘The girl has reaped the consequences of her stupidity.’
The scorn in her grandmother’s voice brought a flush of mortified colour to Georgie’s sun-warmed cheeks. She had made a big mistake and she was willing to own up to it, but she sometimes thought that if her family had their way she would still be eating humble pie when she was eighty!
‘She was very young.’
‘Young and she thought she knew it all.’
‘The young always do. He…the man in the magazine…he looked older?’
‘Thirty-two or something like that, I believe, at the time. You have to understand that Georgie was very young for her age…very naïve in many ways, and he had been around the block several times. Oh, a handsome devil, of course. I’m not surprised she fell for him.’
The admission amazed Georgie; to her face her grandmother had never offered any understanding.
‘You think he took advantage…?’
‘Well, what do you think? A man with one failed marriage to his credit already and Greek.’
From her grandmother’s tone it was hard to tell which fault she found harder to forgive in the man: the fact he had been married or the fact he was Greek.
‘I knew the moment I saw him he couldn’t be trusted. I told her, we all told her, but would she listen? No, she loved him.’
‘Still, you must be proud of the way she has rebuilt her life, and she has a lovely child.’
‘A child who has never even seen his father.’
‘Never? Surely not…?’
‘Refused point-blank. Angolos Constantine made it clear that he wanted nothing whatever to do with the child. And neither he or any member of his precious family have ever been near…a blessing, if you ask me.’
It was foolish, but even after this time the truth still had the power to hurt. The knot of pain and anger in Georgie’s chest tightened as her glance turned towards the small figure who was crossing the patchy lawn towards her.
His small, sweet face was a mask of concentration as he carried his bucket of pebbles. Her fond gaze followed him as he placed his burden carefully down on the ground and, falling to his chubby knees, began to dig in the soft ground.
The love she felt for her child—the love she had felt for him from the first moment they had laid his warm, slippery little body in her arms—contracted in her chest. She had imagined that magic moment would be shared with Angolos.
How wrong she had been!
She had given birth alone. There had been no husband to hold her hand or breathe through the pain with her, and no one to share the magical moment of birth with.
So Angolos had fallen out of love with her…or more likely he had never been in love with her at all…?
Just why was the question mark attached to that thought, Georgie? A man could not treat anyone he had had any feelings for the way Angolos had treated her.
She had accepted that.
Sure you have!
But how could he reject this child they had produced together? Nicky was perfect… How could anyone not want him? How could any parent not love their own child?
‘It’s just as well that her family were here to pick up the pieces.’
Her grandmother’s observation was clearly audible, but Georgie had to strain to hear the other woman’s reply. That was the thing about eavesdropping—once you started it was hard to stop.
‘That’s so sad. How can a man not want to see his child?’
‘You tell me. All I know is he hasn’t given her a penny and Georgie is too stubborn to ask for what is hers by rights. I told her she should file for divorce and take him for every penny she can. There was no pre-nuptial agreement. I’m afraid Georgie is just like her mother that way—not a practical bone in her body.’
What would Gran say, Georgie wondered, if she knew about the account that Angolos topped up with money every month? Whatever she said she’d say it loudly, especially if she knew that not a penny of the money had been touched!
By now there was a lot of money in that account.
‘Mummy…’ The tired treble awakened Georgie to the danger of Nicky hearing the conversation taking place in the cottage.
‘I’m thirsty.’ The small figure, bucket and spade in hand, tugged her shorts.
With a smile, Georgie dropped down to child-level and swept a dark glossy curl from the flushed face of her son. She would never be able to forget what Angolos looked like; she saw his face, or a miniature, childish version of it, every day.
‘So am I, darling,’ she said, raising her voice to a level that the two elderly women inside could not fail to hear. ‘Let’s go and see if Granny would like a lemonade too, shall we?’
ROYALTY was attending the charity performance and the media were out in force to record the event. On the red carpet the star of a soap was denying for the benefit of the TV cameras rumours that she was about to marry her co-star.
The foyer was thronged with other famous faces all wearing their best smiles and designer outfits. Despite the fact all the men present were for the most part similarly dressed in dark, formal suits, Paul had no problem locating the person he had come looking for.
Angolos Constantine stood out in a crowd. It wasn’t just his height and looks; it was that rare commodity—presence.
‘Angolos…?’ he called out in relief.
The tall figure, accompanied by an elegant brunette who was dripping with jewels, turned at the sound of his name. A smile spread across his lean face when he identified the speaker.
‘Paul!’ he exclaimed, detaching his partner from his arm and moving forward, his hand outstretched. ‘I didn’t know you were an opera buff…’
‘I’m not…and even if I was it wouldn’t have got me in here,’ the shorter man admitted frankly. ‘I only got this far by telling them I was your personal physician.’
The groove above Angolos’s strong patrician nose deepened. ‘That was resourceful of you.’ His head whipped slowly from side to side as he searched the crowd. ‘And where is the lovely Miranda?’
Paul Radcliff shook his head and scanned the olive-skinned face of the friend he had known since their university days. ‘Mirrie’s not here.’
‘I thought you two were joined at the hip.’
‘Her blood pressure was up a little…nothing serious,’ Paul hastened to assure the other man.
Angolos clapped his hand to his forehead. ‘I forgot!’ he admitted with a grimace of self-reproach. ‘When is my god-child due?’
Angolos’s brows lifted. ‘The plot deepens.’
‘You’re looking well, Angolos.’
It struck him that this was something of an understatement. Nobody looking at the lean, vital figure would have believed that a few years earlier his life had hung in the balance… Paul was one of the few people who did know, and he scarcely believed it himself!
One dark brow slanted sardonically. ‘Always the doctor, Paul?’ came the soft taunt.
‘And friend, I hope.’ It was friendship that, after a lot of heart-searching, had brought him here—that and his wife’s nagging.
‘The man has a right to know, Paul,’ she had insisted.
He had still been inclined to leave well alone, but very pregnant wives required humouring. She had insisted that he speak to Angolos without delay and, as she had pointed out, it wasn’t the sort of thing you could hit a man with on the phone.
So here he was and he wished he weren’t.
The hard features of the darker man softened into a smile of devastating charm. ‘And friend,’ he agreed quietly. ‘So what’s wrong, Paul?’
‘Nothing’s wrong, exactly,’ Paul returned uncomfortably.
Angolos didn’t bother hiding his scepticism. ‘Don’t give me that. It would take something pretty serious to make you leave Miranda alone just now. It follows that this is serious.’
That was Angolos, logical to his fingertips, except when it came to his wife. Where Georgie was concerned he got very Greek and unpredictable, reflected the Englishman.