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The Unfaithful Wife(8)

By:Lynne Graham

“Wh—what’s wrong...what time is it?’ she mumbled, pushing a hand through the silken disarray of the silvery hair falling round her shoulders, swallowing back a yawn as she glanced at her watch to discover that it was the early hours of the morning.

‘You have dishonoured my name,’ Nik breathed in what sounded more like broken English by virtue of the unusual thickness of his accent and his decidedly rough delivery.

Leah cleared her throat and looked back at him, still not quite awake, fighting through the fog of her slow reactions. Eyes as black as pitch clashed on a violent collision course with hers and the explosive tension emanating from him in electrifying waves was finally communicated to her.

‘Excuse me?’ she muttered, certain that he couldn’t possibly have said what she had thought he had said.

‘My wife with another man...’ He could hardly get the words out as he continued to stare at her with unwavering force as though she were some alien entity he had never seen before.

Ghostly fingers danced up her taut spinal cord. She tried and failed to swallow. But what ironically struck Leah hardest was not his evident discovery that she had been seeing another man but that truly staggering designation of ‘my wife’, a label which until now Nik had never once been heard to voice. In turn, Leah found that same label almost unbelievably offensive, not to mention ridiculous in the context of their marriage.

‘You do not deny it,’ Nik murmured, every powerful angle of his lean body rigid with raw tension.

Leah hugged the sheet, wondering dazedly why he was so incensed. For shock she should have read disbelief. Had he expected her to sit there like some wet, faithful Penelope forever, watching her life drain away into nothingness? All right, so she had been a doormat for a very long time, but surely even Nik could not have expected that to last indefinitely? And, in any case, what was it to him?

‘How did you find out?’ she asked, not as steadily as she would have liked, but fighting the intimidation of his dark, menacing attitude with all her strength.

‘You do not even seem to appreciate the magnitude of your offence.’ Nik studied her with outraged dark eyes and, if possible, he was even paler than he had been minutes earlier.

‘Have you been drinking?’ Leah prompted weakly, wondering if that was what lay at the foot of such utterly unwarranted melodrama. Coming into her room in the middle of the night, confronting her like a wronged husband...how could he possibly consider himself wronged?

‘What the hell has that to do with anything?’ Moving an unwelcome step closer, Nik abruptly spread two lean hands in a violent arc of eloquent expression. ‘I hear you on the phone with your lover. What I hear I cannot believe!’

‘Oh.’ Leah bent her head. She should have guessed. But Nik was so naturally devious, he hadn’t given a sign at the time. She tried to recall what she had said but she couldn’t, the conversation having been rushed and overshadowed by Nik’s appearance. Well, she thought, sucking in a deep breath, it wouldn’t have been the way she would have chosen for Nik to find out, but maybe it was for the best that it was all finally out in the open.

‘I had the London phone bills faxed to me and then I used the redial facility on the phone you had employed and checked it against the number you call most frequently.’

Devious didn’t begin to describe him. An odd squirming sensation afflicted Leah and she fought it, glancing up to say tightly, ‘I would have told you about him if you had asked.’

‘Told me about him? Cristo...do you have no shame?’

Her chin came up. ‘Why should I be ashamed?’ But for some inexplicable reason his attitude was having that effect on her and that made her angry.

‘You...are...my...wife,’ Nik spelt out with a flash of even white teeth and an aura of pure violence, on the brink of being unleashed.

Instinctively, Leah edged across to the far side of the bed, assailed by bewilderment and something that was coming perilously close to fear in spite of her anger. When he said she was his wife she wanted to scream back at him that she was no more his wife than a stranger in the street but his mood forestalled her. He was scaring her. She didn’t want to risk adding fuel to the fire.

‘Perhaps you’ll be feeling more reasonable in the morning.’ She placed gentle stress on the last three words.

‘Why?’ Nik demanded in a low, seething undertone, striding round the bed. ‘Why would I be feeling more reasonable?’

As Leah attempted to repeat the evasive manoeuvre she had utilised mere seconds earlier, Nik disconcerted her entirely by suddenly coming down on the bed and clamping a bruising hand round her arm to hold her in place.

‘What are you doing?’ she shrieked in sudden panic.

He spat something in Greek at her and pinned her down by her other arm as well when she attempted to pull free. White as a sheet, her teeth chattering with shock, she gazed up at him with frightened eyes.

Blazing black eyes bit down into her. ‘How often have you been with him?’

‘I...I didn’t count.’ Her mind was a total terrified blank.

‘Theos.’ Nik intoned with vicious intent. ‘I will kill him... I will wipe him from the face of this earth! He’s dead. He may still be walking around but he is dead.’

‘Don’t s-say things like that!’ Leah gasped in horror.

‘And what about you? What do I do with you?’

‘Me?’ On the edge of hysteria and frozen there, Leah stared up at him aghast. He was unhinged. That was the only possible explanation.

‘Where did you meet him?’

‘I’m not telling you anything about him!’ she asserted, shivering as she recalled his threats.

‘Paul Stephen Woods. He’s twenty-eight. He’s a would-be artist, part-time salesman. He’s an only child, blond, blue-eyed, six feet tall and he is very ambitious. I don’t need you to tell me any of that.’

Leah was transfixed. The tip of her tongue snaked out to moisten her dry lips. She trembled. ‘Why are you behaving like this? Why should it matter to you? I’m not your wife—not really your wife...’

‘Ohi...no?’ he probed dangerously. ‘You carry my name. You wear my ring. You live in my house. I feed you, I clothe you, I keep you.’

Mortified beyond bearing, Leah reddened fiercely. ‘And I hate you!’

‘If that is true, you will hate me a lot more by the time I am finished,’ Nik responded darkly in the pulsating silence.

‘Let me go,’ she whispered shakily.

‘You will never see him again,’ he swore, his eyes smouldering down at her in barely leashed rage. In a sudden fluid movement he shifted back from her, releasing her arms. ‘But I will never forgive you for this...’

Feeling weak as a kitten, she slumped back against the pillows. Her reply just leapt off her tongue. ‘That’s OK,’ she said. ‘I’ll never forgive you either.’

It was a mistake. Halfway to the door, Nik stilled and spun back. ‘So now you tell me the truth.’

‘What truth?’

‘That this is a deliberate attempt to attract my attention,’ he condemned with splintering fury. ‘No wonder you left tracks a blind man could follow...no wonder I am treated to an open door and the sound of you exchanging sweet nothings with your lover!’

‘Attract your attention?’ Leah repeated, her exquisite face alight with unhidden incredulity, physical weakness banished as she sat up in one abrupt movement.

‘Which you have done beautifully,’ Nik conceded with a sudden blazing smile that chilled her to the marrow. ‘You haven’t even slept with him, have you? So far and no further. Perfect.’ He strolled back towards the bed, riveting dark eyes probing her with derisive brilliance. ‘Not enough to send me over the edge but enough to make me sit back and take notice...’

Momentarily she was stunned by the sheer depth of his conceit. Then she flung her head back, sapphire eyes flashing with fury. ‘I have slept with him!’ she lied hotly. ‘And I don’t want you over the edge or taking notice because I don’t give a damn about you!’

‘If he has laid one finger on your unclothed body, he’s dead. You do understand that?’ Nik surveyed her with hooded dark eyes, a lethal stillness to his lean, powerful body. ‘This is not some game. I warn you, pethi mou. If he’s had you, I’ll break him,’ he asserted with murderous cool.

Leah couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t credit that he could back her into a corner like that. And how could he possibly guess that her relationship with Paul had yet to become intimate? She had lied in temper but also out of a need to stress that it was a serious relationship, not some silly flirtation manufactured to attract an indifferent husband’s attention. The very suggestion that she might be guilty of such childishly manipulative, not to say pathetic behaviour made her blood boil in her veins. But she was simultaneously terrified that Nik might harm Paul.

‘You are having to think so hard about this, I feel almost embarrassed,’ Nik revealed smoothly.

And all the anger had gone as if it had never been, she registered in a daze. ‘OK,’ she muttered tightly, studying her tightly linked hands, hating Nik with so much venom that she was literally ill with the force of her feelings. ‘I haven’t slept with him but—’