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The Unfaithful Wife

By:Lynne Graham

WITH A FLEETING glance over her shoulder, Leah hurried down the steps and into the wine bar. It was dark and crowded with lunchtime drinkers. She couldn’t see Paul. She wasn’t tall enough to see past the clumps of business-suited men standing around. A nervous tremor shot through her as she burrowed through the male clusters. She was so terrified of being seen, recognised. It was a relief to espy Paul’s golden head in a far corner.

He stood up as she approached, tall, sophisticated and very attractive, and her heart swelled with pride. ‘You’re late,’ he complained.

‘Sorry, I couldn’t get away.’ Short of breath, Leah dropped down on to a seat and couldn’t help spinning another glance around in fearful search of a familiar face.

‘Stop that. You’re on the wrong side of town to be seen.’

Leah bent her silver-blonde head, her face flushed and taut. ‘That man in the corner is staring at me!’

‘Most men stare at beautiful women...and you are exquisitely beautiful, my love,’ Paul murmured in a low, intimate tone, reaching for her slender-boned hand. ‘It gives me a real kick watching every male head turn when you walk by.’

‘Does it?’ Still unaccustomed to his compliments, Leah looked up at him with a shy uncertainty that was oddly at variance with her designer suit. Her flawless face between the wings of her sleekly swept up silver-blonde hair was rapt, her sapphire-blue eyes bright as the jewels in her ears.

‘Why don’t we go back to my apartment?’ Paul ran a finger along her full lower lip and smiled smoothly as her skin heated.

Leah stiffened. ‘I can’t...not yet; you know how I feel,’ she muttered in a stifled voice. Fear sprung up inside her as his handsome face turned hard and cold.

‘And you know how I feel, Mrs Andreakis. Bloody frustrated, if you must know!’

Leah went white. ‘Paul, please...’

‘For all I know, you’re just playing a little game with me while your husband’s out of town.’

Pain and distress filled her eyes. ‘I love you...’

‘Then when are you going to tell him you want a divorce?’ Paul demanded.

If possible, Leah went even paler, a hunted look tightening her exquisite features. ‘Soon... I just have to pick the right moment.’

‘Considering that on average he only sleeps one night a month under the same roof as you, I could still be sitting here this time next year. Maybe you’re in love with the bastard— ‘

‘How could I be?’ She bent her head, her hands clenching tightly together. ‘You know we don’t have a normal marriage.’

‘And wouldn’t the tabloids just love to get a load of that!’ Paul sniggered.

‘I don’t think that’s funny, Paul.’

‘Well, the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that I may not be your lover, but he isn’t either. And you’ve got to admit that that’s a real mystery. Look at you,’ Paul mused. ‘The virgin bride five years down the road and yet he’s rarely seen in public without some beautiful bimbo clinging to his arm. Maybe he’s a closet gay.’

Her sensitive stomach curdled. She must have been mad to tell Paul the truth about her marriage. Not, of course, that he would do anything with it. She trusted him absolutely but she was aware that she had been dangerously indiscreet in her need to soothe his jealousy of Nik. Nik... The very blood in her veins went cold when she faced up to what she still had ahead of her.

‘Don’t talk about him like that,’ she urged tightly.

‘You think the table is bugged? You’re scared stiff of him, aren’t you? I don’t think you’re ever going to pick up the courage to tell him you want your freedom. I think I’m wasting my time— ‘

‘No...no, never,’ Leah whispered frantically, the thought of losing him filling her with panic. She just couldn’t go back to what her life had been for the past five years. Empty, without focus, boring. Before Paul, every day had stretched endlessly in front of her. She didn’t have a social life. She didn’t have friends. She was watched everywhere she went. The door of her prison had slammed shut on her wedding-day and she had been so dumb, so naïve, she hadn’t even realised it until she’d tried to move beyond the bars.

‘Then when?’ he pressed moodily.

‘Soon...I promise you.’

‘I don’t see why you can’t just move out bag and baggage. It’s not as though you don’t have all the evidence you need to divorce him. Adultery is not about to go out of fashion with Nik Andreakis around.’

‘I have to do it right, Paul. Don’t you see that I owe him that?’

‘I don’t see that you owe him anything. In the eyes of the Church and the law, he’s not even your husband,’ Paul persisted impressively.

Leah glanced at her watch and uttered a gasp of dismay. ‘I have to go!’

Paul caught her by the shoulders and kissed her with practised expertise. ‘I’ll phone,’ he promised. ‘Love you, darling.’

Leah fled. It was three blocks to the fashionable hairdressers where she had been booked in for a long session of massage and beauty treatment. She took terrible risks to meet up with Paul and her head told her that the longer she put off asking Nik for a divorce, the more chance there was of her being found out. But, then, what would it really matter?

Nik didn’t care what she did. She saw him maybe once a month when he stopped over in London, sometimes not even that over the past year. He might request that she play hostess for a business dinner, but of late even those requests had been few and far between. If he had to communicate with her, he did so through his staff.

In their entire marriage, Nik had never once taken her out in public. Not for dinner, not to the theatre, not to a party. Nik pursued his glittering social life with other women on his arm...never, ever his wife. He slept in his own wing of the house...and even that handful of nights a year that he stayed under the same roof she had heard him go out late and return after dawn, so those nights didn’t really count either.

For an instant, as she flew through the side-entrance of the hairdressers, she remembered when she had lain awake crying and listening for him, wondering in despair what was wrong with her, what she had done, what she had not done, what she could possibly do to make him notice her and acknowledge her existence. Angrily she thrust the memory away. Time had taken care of that kind of nonsense. The child bride had grown up and wised up.

‘I’m so sorry. I forgot my appointment,’ Leah murmured at the reception desk and as usual she insisted on paying anyway and she tipped as if there were no tomorrow. The proprietor, Charlie, came up to her and offered to fit her in immediately but she sighed and said she was running late and sat down to wait for her chauffeur to draw up outside.

‘Oh, by the way, Mrs Andreakis— ‘ Charlie lowered his head, his beaded locks swinging colourfully ‘— your bodyguard called in with a message for you.’

Leah went rigid, turned white as a ghost.

‘Relax.’ Wry brown eyes met hers. ‘I said you were in the massage-room.’

Leah turned scarlet. ‘Thank you,’ she managed jerkily.

‘I’d better give you the message,’ he whispered. ‘Mr Andreakis is waiting for you at home.’

Nik was what? Nik was waiting for her...Nik who had never waited for her once in five years? Nik was home when he wasn’t due back in London for another fortnight? Involuntarily, Leah shivered, her stomach turning over sickly. For a split-second she was consumed by the sort of panic that made people jump out windows in a fire. Sheer cold terror.

Charlie settled down beside her, his hands planted on his knees. ‘Baby, you’re not cut out for this game you’re playing— ‘

‘I don’t know what you’re— ‘

‘You’ve been coming here every week for five years. And the last couple of months what you’ve been feeling has been just blazing all over your face.’ He sighed. ‘But I don’t want to go down in history as the idiot stupid enough to give Nik Andreakis’s wife an alibi. He’s the kind of guy who probably breaks fingers. I get the shakes just thinking about it.’

Shame washed over her. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘And I’m sorry I can’t be more help because it’s been kinda nice seeing you happy for a change.’

‘Mrs Andreakis...?’

Leah flinched as her bodyguard, Boyce, cast a big, dark shadow over her. As she stood, he cast a suspicious, cold look at Charlie, who had been too physically close to his employer’s wife for his liking.

As soon as the door slammed on the limousine, her composure collapsed. Charlie knew she was seeing someone. Dear God, she felt so humiliated. She also felt guilty as hell. Her hairdresser was afraid of being dragged into a marital furore. Not that there was the slightest chance of that happening when Nik couldn’t give two hoots what she did. But cheerful, wisecracking Charlie, who had laughed her out of many a depression over the years, had been genuinely scared.

Everyone was afraid of Nik. And yet she had never heard him shout. Early on in their marriage Leah had walked in mortal terror of him until it had slowly sunk in on her, with the drip effect of his icy indifference, that she barely existed as a human being on his scale of importance. He had married her to gain the shares her father had signed over to her. She had been part of a business deal, nothing more.