Using the hat as a fan, she wafted it to and fro as she stood looking around the small cove she'd found during her first week here and since then made it her very own. It meant a stiff climb up and down the tree-covered hill to get here but it was worth it. The sand beneath her feet was sugary soft and hot, the sea a crystal-clear, smooth as glass, glistening blue, and in between the two lay a strip of cooler damp-silk sand kept that way by the flow and ebb of a lazy tide.
It was the stillest day since she had arrived here two weeks ago. Hot, breathlessly calm, exotically pine-scented and so exquisitely hush-quiet you could hear an ant move a leaf fifty feet away.
A wry smile played with her mouth as she stooped over again to place the hat over the book and sunglasses, paused long enough to scoop up a handful of warm sand then straightened again, green eyes fixed thoughtfully on her fingers as she let the sand filter through them while she tried to decide what she was going to do.
She was being watched. Not only was she very aware of that pair of eyes fixed on her, but she also knew to whom they belonged. She'd heard the helicopter fly overhead as she'd been strolling up the path that led over the pine-shaded hill on her way here. She also knew how he had found her so quickly. Yannis, the bluff, gruff odd-job man on the island and her latest guard would have told him where to look.
It made her curious as to whether it had ever occurred to Xander that having her watched for every waking hour of the day meant that Yannis often saw what he was seeing right now as he stood beneath the shade of one of the trees that edged the little cove. If her instincts were sending her the right messages, that was, and she knew that they were. Only one man had ever filled her with this tingling mix of anger, resentment and excitement just by looking at her.
There were two things she could do next, she pondered thoughtfully. She could turn round and confront him or she could ignore him and continue with what she'd come here to do. The smile on her lips stretched wider. It was not a pleasant smile. The first option had never been a real contender, Nell had known it from the moment she'd heard his first footfall on the woodland path behind. There was no way that she was going to turn and let him know that she knew he was standing there.
It did not suit her purposes because she was about to show him just what it was he had been consistently rejecting for the last year. Show him how she looked without the bruises he’d turned his back on in favour of Athens and probably Vanessa's perfect, unblemished, willing charms.
Her fingers shook a little, though, as she began to untie the knot holding her sarong in place across the warm rise of her breasts. Her heart pumping a bit too thickly as she let the fine white Indian cotton slide away from her body to land softly on the top of the hat. Underneath the sarong the new honey-gold tan she had been carefully cultivating shone softly beneath a protective layer of high-factor oil. Exercising three times a day by swimming in the pool or here in the sea had toned her up quite impressively-not that she'd been a slouch before the accident, but physical injury had taken a toll on her weight and her muscles.
Now, as she stood looking down at herself, a lazy finger absently rubbing in a previously missed smear of oil across the flat slope of her stomach, she was quietly impressed with how she looked even if it was vain to think it about herself. Whoever it was who'd packed her clothes for her in England must have been in romantic mood because they'd more or less picked out everything she'd bought for her non-starter honeymoon, like this bikini for instance, bought along with several others to seduce a husband who should have been her lover by the time she'd worn one of them.
The bikini consisted of a tiny white G-string that made only a scornful play at covering what it should, and a skimpy top made of two tiny triangles of silky fabric held together by two bootlace straps, one knotted around her neck and the other around her back. If she swam too energetically she came out of the top but-who cared? she thought with a large dose of defiance. She felt slinky and sexy and the G-string wasn't going to go anywhere because of the way it was held in place in the tight cleft of her buttocks.
So eat your heart out, Alexander Pascalis, she told him as she tilted her face up to the sun. Because here stands the unbattered version of the woman you turned your back on two weeks ago. And on that rebellious thought she moved into a long, slow, sensual stretch that accentuated every slender line of her figure from arms to spine to smoothly glossed buttocks and long, slender legs, held the pose for a few seconds then released it and began running lightly down to the sea.
In the shade of the tree, Xander watched the start of her little exhibition from a lazy, relaxed stance with one shoulder resting against the tree trunk. She knew he was here, he was almost certain of it. She had to have heard his footfall on the path on such a still day. So, what was she thinking about as she stood there sifting sand through her fingers? Was she contemplating how he would react to a handful of the sand thrown in his face? He knew she was angry with him. He knew she felt dumped and deserted when he'd left her here the way that he did. But what other choice had he had at the time? He had a wife who was not yet a wife and a marriage bed that was not yet a marriage bed that his aunt fully expected them to share. Playing the loving husband who'd had a whole year to lose the edge to his sexual desires for this woman had not been an option he had been able to take. Put him in a bed next to Nell and despite the bruises he would not have been able to keep his hands to himself.
She was beautiful-look at her, he told that nagging part of his conscience that kept on telling him he could have sorted something out which had not involved shifting himself across the Aegean in a bid to put temptation out of reach.
The long, slender legs, the slender body hidden beneath the white sarong she had tied round the firm thrust of her breasts. The pale copper hair left free to ripple across slender shoulders tanned to a smooth honey colour since he'd seen them last.
Turn to look at me, yenika, he urged silently. Give me that slow, sensual glide with your eyes that turns up my sexual heat. I don't mind paying the price of the sand in my face.
But she didn't turn. Leaning there against the tree while willing the little witch to turn, Xander watched through eyes narrowed against the sunlight as she untied the knot holding the sarong in place then allowed the scrap of fine white Indian cotton to slide away from her body and fall on top of the hat.
His heart stopped beating. His shoulder left the tree trunk with a violent jerk. He could not believe what he was seeing. In fact he refused to believe it. It was the sun playing tricks with his eyes, he decided as he watched her move into a long, lithe stretch, which lifted her arms up as if in homage to the sun.
'Theas,' he breathed as his senses locked into overdrive.
He'd seen many women in many different stages of undress. He'd seen them deliberately playing the temptress in an effort to capture his interest but he never expected to see this woman do it-never expected to see her wearing anything so damned outrageous!
Maybe she did not know of his presence. Maybe she was playing the siren like this because she truly believed there was no one to see!
Then he remembered Yannis-warned to follow her every move because he did not trust her not to find some way to flee again. The idea of any other man enjoying the sight of his wife parading herself in what could only be called a couple of pieces of string had a red-hot tide of primitive possessiveness raking through him and sent his head shooting round, glinting black eyes flashing out a scan around the area, hunting out places a silent guard could watch unseen.
Then she dropped out of the stretch and his attention became riveted on Nell again as she began to run down to the sea, light steps kicking up soft, dry sand then leaving small footprints in the wet as she went. She hit the water at a run, her beautiful hair flying out behind her. In a smooth, graceful, curving dive, she disappeared beneath the smooth crystal water, leaving him standing there hot, damp in places, feeling as if he had just imagined the whole thing!
Nell swam beneath the surface until her lungs began to burst then she bobbed up like a seal, took in a deep breath then struck out with a smooth, graceful crawl towards the edge of the little cove where the rocky landscape on this side of the island rose up in a sheer slab for several feet she'd always thought would be great to dive from but had not yet found a way to reach the edge up there.
The tiny cove was perfect for swimming in because its two flanking outcrops gave her something to aim for when she swam across the cove. Making a neat racing turn, she started back in the other direction. She loved swimming, always had from being small. She'd swum for her school and won a few gold medals too. In Canada she'd scared her mother by swimming in the Kananaskis River, and before getting married had been a regular visitor to the local public swimming pool. When she'd married Xander, he had changed all of that by closeting her at Rosemere, which had its own pool, so she did not have to leave home to swim. On the rare occasions he'd turned up at the house unexpectedly to find her using the pool, she'd glimpsed him standing by the bevelled glass doors watching her cut a smooth line through the water-not that she'd ever let him know that she'd known he was standing there. When you hated and resented someone you ignored them as much as possible, then they could never know what was really fizzing around your insides.