The Greek Children's Doctor(5)

By: Sarah Morgan

‘No amount of money would induce me to have a conversation with you, Philip, let alone a date,’ she said with exaggerated dignity. Having clarified the situation to her satisfaction, she turned to Andreas with a smile that would have illuminated Athens on a dark night. ‘Shall we go?’

Andreas wondered what could have upset her so much that she’d be willing to leave the bar with a total stranger. She hadn’t even asked his name and she was clinging to his hand as if it were a lifeline.

A totally inexplicable need to protect her slammed through him and he tightened his grip. ‘Yes, let’s go.’

He held the door open for her and she walked past him, long-legged and graceful, managing remarkably well on those high heels considering the volume of alcohol she appeared to have consumed. Up close she seemed more fragile than she had on the stage and he was suddenly aware of just how delicate she was compared to him. Her arms and wrists were slender, her waist was impossibly tiny and her long, slim legs seemed to go on for ever.

She climbed the stairs carefully, cheerfully greeting various members of the medical staff who passed. But he sensed that the cheerfulness was for everyone else’s benefit and his firm mouth tightened as he contemplated the possible reasons for her distress. Obviously it had something to do with the blond man who thought she was only worth £10.

They reached the top of the stairs and he took her arm as they walked towards the car park.

‘Exactly how much alcohol have you consumed?’

‘None. I don’t drink. Although perhaps I should have done tonight. At least alcohol might have numbed the utter humiliation of being on that stage. I can’t believe I ever thought it would be a good idea. Thank goodness you came when you did. That creep almost bought me,’ she slurred, bending down to remove her shoes. ‘Ouch. Sorry. They’re really uncomfortable.’

Did she think he was a fool?

It was perfectly obvious that she’d been drinking.

Andreas frowned. ‘If you found it humiliating, why did you agree to do it?’ he asked, noticing that without her shoes she had to tilt her head to look at him.

Her shoes dangled from her fingers. ‘I did it because I promised that I would and I never break promises.’

‘You didn’t want to do it?’

‘I would rather have dug a hole and buried myself,’ she said frankly. ‘Standing on that stage and trying to look cheerful was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I almost died with relief when you rescued me. For a horrible moment I thought that my rotten brother had abandoned me to my fate. Which reminds me, I need to write you a cheque.’

He looked at her blankly as she rummaged in her bag and produced a cheque book.

‘A thousand pounds, wasn’t it?’ She scribbled on the cheque, tore it out and handed it to him. ‘A bit steep, but never mind. It was very decent of you to turn up and buy me.’

She staggered slightly and Andreas closed both hands over her arms to steady her.

‘Why are you giving me a cheque?’

She stared up at him vacantly and he found himself noticing the perfect shape of her mouth.

‘Because that was the agreement.’

Still studying her mouth, Andreas struggled to concentrate. ‘What agreement?’

She hesitated, obviously trying to retrieve something from her memory that the alcohol had wiped out. ‘The agreement I made with my brother,’ she said finally, a smile of triumph on her face as she remembered. ‘He promised that if he couldn’t make it he’d send someone else to save me from Philip, and…’ she smiled at him dizzily ‘…he obviously sent you.’

Andreas dragged his eyes away from her mouth. ‘I don’t know your brother.’

She tilted her head and focused on him. ‘You don’t?’ She bit her soft lip, confusion evident in her beautiful eyes. ‘Alex promised me that if he was too busy to come he’d send someone to put in an outrageous bid for me so that no one else could buy me. I assumed it was you…’

He shook his head, totally intrigued. Her brother had promised to buy her? ‘Not me.’

She swallowed hard. ‘Well, if you didn’t buy me for my brother then why did you—?’ She broke off and backed away from him, her eyes suddenly wary. ‘Who the hell are you? And why would you pay that much money for a stranger?’

‘I thought that was the idea,’ Andreas said mildly. Clearly she was questioning his motives and he could hardly blame her for that. ‘Surely you wanted to persuade the audience to part with their money?’

‘Well, yes, but not a thousand pounds.’ She was still staring at him as if she expected him to attack her at any moment. ‘If you think that paying all that money guarantees you—I mean, if you think that I’ll…’ She stumbled over the words, clearly embarrassed, and then gave up and gave him a threatening look. ‘What I mean is, you’re in for a serious disappointment because I don’t do that!’

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