fixed smile was wavering though. Xander reached out to take her arm, had to feel the fine tremors shaking her and abruptly cut the goodbyes short.
Two minutes later she was walking down the corridor with his grip like a vice and his grim silence ominous. They entered a lift, the doors closed behind them. Xander propped her up against the wall then remained standing over her as they shot downwards, his grim face strapped by tension. The moment the doors slid open again, he was taking her arm and guiding her out of the lift.
Nell showed a brief start of surprise when she realised they had not arrived in the hospital foyer but in a basement car park and she had never felt so relieved about anything. Not only had Xander pre-empted the Press pack but his black Bentley stood parked right there in front of them with Jake Mather standing to attention by the open rear door.
Nell sank with trembling relief into soft leather. The door closed as another opened. Xander arrived at her side and within seconds they were on the move.
So what came next? she wondered wearily when, a short minute later, Xander was on his mobile phone, lean dark profile wearing its power mask as he talked in smooth, liquid Italian then switched to rich, sensual Greek for the second call he made.
Uttering a small sigh, she closed her eyes and just let the sound of his voice wash over her-only to open them again with a start when her door came open and she found herself blinking owlishly at Xander, who was leaning into the car and unlocking her seat belt. She must have fallen asleep. As she was too disoriented to do more than let him help her out of the car, it took a few more seconds for her brain to register that she was not standing outside Rosemere.
'What's going on?' she questioned.
'Nothing.' With a coolness that belied the alarm that was beginning to erupt inside her, he turned her round so she could see the sleek white private jet standing on tarmac a few yards away. 'We are going home, that's all.'
'By air?' She blinked again as he drew her across those few yards towards the waiting flight steps. 'But it's only an hour by car back to Rose-'
'Greece,' he corrected. 'I need to be in Athens on Monday morning, and if you think I am leaving you alone at Rosemere to plot assignations with your Frenchman then think again.' Greece, Nell repeated and stopped dead at the entrance to the plane. Her heart gave a punch against her sore ribs. 'No,' she refused. 'I don't want to go-'
'Don't make a fuss, agapita.' The flat of his hand at the base of her spine gave her a gentle push forward. Before she knew it, she'd been hustled inside the plane and the door was being closed. Staring bemusedly at her luxury surroundings, she turned suddenly to make a protest and cannoned right into Xander's chest. The breath left her body on a tense little whoosh and she tried to take a defensive step back, but his arms came around her, strong and supportive. It was like being surrounded by the enemy, frightening and suffocating.
She breathed in anxious protest. 'Please...'
His voice had deepened and roughened. Glancing up, Nell saw the dark, simmering spark in his eyes and tried one final breathless, 'No...'
But his mouth found hers anyway, moulding her lips and prising them apart to allow his tongue to make that slow, sensual slide against moist inner tissue that made her breath quiver as her senses tingled with pleasure. She wanted to pull away but instead her mouth crushed in closer. She wanted to deny this was happening at all but once again her mind was not in control. He murmured something, she didn't know what. But his tongue when it delved deeper sent her hands up to clutch at his chest and, as strong male muscle rippled beneath her fingers, he eased her even closer to him.
His thighs pressed against her thighs, the solid evidence of his desire pushing against the tense flatness of her lower stomach. Damp heat sprang out all over her and on a very masculine growl he deepened the kiss some more. Dizzily she clung to him, her breathing corning faster as the intensity of the kiss increased. Her head tilted backwards, arching her breasts into the solid wall of his chest. Her nipples sharpened like stinging arrows against him and she could feel the uneven thump of his heart and the fine tremor attacking him as he used long fingers to draw her more tightly against the sensual movements he was making with his hips. It was all so sexual, so overwhelmingly physical and exciting. A shimmering, quivering shower of desire dragged at inner muscles that seemed to scoop out the strength from her legs.
Then the plane's engines gave a sudden roar, breaking them apart with an abruptness that left Nell staring dizzily up at his face. She saw the tension there, heat streaking across his cheekbones, the flaring nostrils, the predatory burn in his eyes, and quivered out a constricted gasp.
He dipped his dark head and caught the sound, burnt this kiss onto her pulsing lips-then without warning took hold of her shoulders, turned and dumped her unceremoniously into the nearest seat then spun away in an odd jerky movement that kept her eyes fixed on him in giddy fascination.
He really wanted her. Badly. Now. The knowledge ploughed a deep furrow of heat down her front and held her utterly, breathlessly entrapped. When he suddenly twisted back round to look at her his eyes were so black she didn't even try to look for the brown. That one glance at her expression and he was growling out some kind of harsh self-aimed curse and coming down on his haunches to grimly belt her in. Her eyes clung to his taut features as he did so. She didn't even breathe when he moved away to take a seat on the other side of the aisle and strapped himself into it.
Nothing going on inside was making any sense to her any more; everything was just too new. The plane engines gave another roar then they were shooting forward with rocket propulsion that only helped to heighten the awareness pulsing back and forth.
'If you ever let another man touch you again I will kill you,' he rasped into the charged atmosphere.
Kill her-kill Marcel. The primitive man in him was beginning to take on a life of his own. Is this what untrammelled lust did to men-turned them all into angry, murderous, primeval beasts?
'Speak!' Xander lashed out, stopping her thought processes stone dead as he seared a blistering look across the aisle.
He wanted her to retaliate. To spit something back at him about Vanessa so he could shoot her down with some cruel remark. It was all to do with a need to finding an alternative release for all of this tension, but she turned her face away and refused to respond.
Couldn't respond; she was too locked up inside with what she was feeling herself. They were already in the air and still shooting higher; the pressure in the cabin hummed in her head. Lifting a set of trembling fingers, she touched the place above her nose where the last and worst bruise on her face still lingered. She thought it would be throbbing, it felt as if it was but it was all over that was throbbing.
A click followed by an angry hissing sound came at her from across the aisle and she dropped the fingers back to her lap only to find that Xander had moved with the speed of light, unfastening his belt to come to squat down in front of her again, his own long, cool fingers coming up to cover where her own had just covered.
'You are hot and in pain,' he muttered angrily. 'I apologise for my thoughtlessness.'
Sounding stiff and very foreign to her now, 'I'm all right,' she managed on a shaken breath.
'You are not.' His fingers moved to one of her burning cheeks. 'Don't give me that stiff upper-lip stuff, Nell. I treated you roughly. You now think I am crass and uncivilised,' he brusquely pronounced. 'Did I hurt you anywhere-your injured ribs?'
Nell reached up to curl her fingers around his wrist to pull it away from her cheek so she could give a negating shake of her head and was instantly assailed by the sensation of strong bone and warm skin peppered with crisp dark hair. This was mad, she tried to swallow, found her eyes lifting to clash with his. Darkened emerald-green showing a complete helplessness as to what was happening to her. She'd spent so many months blocking out what she used to feel for him; now it was all pounding about inside her and she didn't like it.
She tugged her hand down again. 'Let me go home to Rosemere,' she whispered unsteadily.
'No.' It came out hard and gruff. 'Where I go you go from now on. I want you with me.' Eyes no longer black with passion but dark-dark brown and swirling with feelings that shattered the breath she tried to take.
'So you can protect your investment?' she hit out. 'Your bodyguards can do that just as well in England.'
'So I believed. You proved me wrong.' He sprang to his feet. 'We will not discuss this again.'
She only had herself to blame for what was happening to her now, in other words. She looked away from him, and had never felt so trapped in her life.
They landed in Athens to a blistering heat wave that almost sucked her of her remaining strength as they transferred to a waiting helicopter and immediately took off again. Three and a half hours on a plane, too much tension and stress, and she was beginning to feel so wiped out she could barely sit up straight.
'Where to now?' she asked as they swung out over a glistening blue ocean with this now daunting man at the controls. 'To my private island.'