“You love me?” She was still back on those words. The rest of the conversation seemed a muddle, and she was fixated on those three words.
He gathered her in his arms again and held her as delicately as a piece of hand-blown glass. “I’ve not done a good job of showing you, but I do love you. I want the chance to prove it to you. I want you to marry me. Please.”
She shook her head in confusion at his humble plea. “You still want me to marry you?”
He tugged her closer to him until his lips pressed against the top of her head. “I don’t expect you to answer now. I know I have said much to shock you. But give me a chance, Marley. You won’t regret it, I swear. I’ll make you love me again. I’ll never abuse your precious gift as I have done.”
She’d gone mad. She’d finally lost her mind. Chrysander was holding her in his arms, declaring his love for her and wanting her to marry him. For real this time. No pretense. No lies or half-truths between them.
Gently, he pulled her away and pressed a light kiss to her lips. “Think about it, agape mou. I’ll wait as long as it takes for your answer.”
He stood as if sensing her desire to be alone. He walked to the door but turned to look at her one last time before disappearing from view.
Marley sat there for a long time simply staring at the now-empty doorway. Her hands shook and her stomach rolled. He loved her? Roslyn had planted the papers in her bag and then destroyed the ransom demands?
She shivered. Had Roslyn hated her so much? Or had she just wanted Chrysander that badly? Maybe both. Or maybe Roslyn had just been working for Chrysander’s competition all along.
The events of the last few days still weighed heavily on her. She couldn’t just forget everything because he apologized and offered her love and marriage, could she? She couldn’t even return that declaration because he’d never believe it if it came now.
She sighed and lay on her side, curling her knees to her swollen belly. She was so tired. So very worn out, both physically and emotionally. She rubbed her stomach, smiling when her son rolled and kicked beneath her fingers.
“What should I do?” she whispered. She was so afraid to trust Chrysander with her love again. She was also afraid to be without him. As much damage as he’d done to her heart, she ached at the thought of leaving him.
She closed her eyes for just a moment. Exhaustion permeated every pore. She couldn’t make such a monumental decision in a few minutes’ time. Too much was at stake. She had a child to consider. She had herself to consider.
Over the next few days, Chrysander saw to her every need. He coddled her, pampered her and fussed endlessly over her. He told her often that he loved her, though he was careful to keep a respectable distance between them.It would seem he went to great pains not to pressure her in any way. He wouldn’t use the passion that sparked between them as a means to sway her, and for that she was grateful.
Two days after Chrysander had asked her to marry him again, his brothers came to visit. Marley tried to excuse herself, thinking that they’d want to discuss business with Chrysander, and to be honest, she still felt awkward and shamed in their presence even though she’d done nothing to deserve their censure.
But it was her they asked to speak to, and she stared at them in bewilderment as they looked gravely at her.
“We have acted unforgivably toward you, little sister,” Theron said.
Piers nodded in agreement. “It is understandable if you never forgive us. We were harsh. There is no defense for our treating you, especially since you are pregnant with our nephew, as we have.”
Guilt was etched heavily into their faces, and they looked so uncomfortable, but she had no idea what to do or say to ease the situation.
Theron moved forward and put his hands gently on her shoulders. He kissed her on both cheeks then stepped back as Piers did the same.
She glanced toward Chrysander, who watched her with solemn eyes. His face was drawn and seemed thinner as though he’d lost weight. He looked…unhappy. It wasn’t guilt, though there was a lot of that floating around the room. He genuinely looked as though he’d lost the one thing that mattered most to him.
The thought nearly paralyzed her. She smiled shakily at Theron and Piers and then excused herself, nearly running from the room in her haste to get away.
She threw open the door to the patio and welcomed the chilly air. She stepped outside taking deep breaths and trying to settle her rioting emotions.
Her mind skated back over everything she’d felt for the last several days. Betrayal. She’d been lied to. She stopped there, because now she wondered if Chrysander really had lied to her about his feelings.
He looked like she felt. Lost. They were both obviously hurting. If he hated her, truly hated her, then why would he enact such an elaborate charade when she lost her memory? Why would he feel obligated to someone who had stolen from him?
“You’re pregnant with his child,” she murmured. And yes, she could see how a fair amount of care would be due the mother of his child, but why wouldn’t he have done as Theron suggested and merely set her up in an apartment somewhere? Why would he woo her, make love to her, act as though she mattered to him?
Did he love her? The declaration couldn’t have been easy for him to make. Chrysander wasn’t a man prone to sharing his emotions. In all the time they were together before her kidnapping, he’d never spoken to her of his feelings. But he’d shown her in a dozen ways that she had mattered to him.
Could she trust him again? The thought frightened her, and at the same time it offered her a measure of peace. The choice was hers. Her future would be of her own making.
Even as her options rolled over and over in her mind, she knew what she would do. She knew what she wanted, even knowing it might not be the best choice for her. The heart didn’t always choose wisely, she thought with a grimace.
Still, she found herself returning inside and going in search of Chrysander. Worry knotted her belly, but she knew she was making the right decision, even if it didn’t feel quite right at this very moment.
She found him in the room she’d left him in, staring out the window, a drink in his hand. His brothers were gone and heavy silence lay over the room. She paused for a moment, gathering her courage. He looked as though he hadn’t slept in days. His slacks were wrinkled and his shirt sleeves were unbuttoned and rolled partway up his arms. A shadow of a beard covered his jaw, and his hair was rumpled.
And still, he looked so desirable to her. She wanted to cross the room and melt into his arms. She wanted him to hold her and coax away her fears and doubts. The knot in her throat grew bigger, and she knew she had to speak now or risk being unable to.
“Chrysander,” she called softly.
He whirled around. He set his drink down and hurried toward her. “Are you all right, agape mou? Is there anything I can get you? I’m sorry if my brothers upset you.”
She tried to laugh, but it ended in a small sob. She drew in a deep breath and worked to compose herself.
“I’ll marry you,” she said.
A dark fire sparked in his eyes, making the amber glow more golden. He grasped her shoulders in his hands and stared down at her. “Yes?” he asked in a hoarse voice.
He closed his eyes and then crushed her to him. For a long moment, he just held her, and then he stepped back to stare intently at her.
“You mean it? You’ll marry me?”
She licked her lips nervously. “I want a small ceremony. No fuss. As quiet as we can make it.”
He nodded and cupped her chin in his hand. “Whatever you’d like.”
“And I want…” She looked away and drew her bottom lip between her teeth.
“What do you want, agape mou? Tell me. There’s nothing I won’t do for you. You have only to ask.”
“I don’t want to stay here,” she said quietly. “I’d like to go back to the island.” She gripped her fingers together until the tips shone white.
His expression softened, and he dropped his hands to hers and gently uncurled her fingers until they were twined with his.
“We’ll fly there as soon as we’re married.”
Relief surged through her veins. “You mean it? You don’t mind?”
“Your happiness is everything to me. You ask such a small thing. How could I not grant it? We’ll make the island our home if that is your wish.”
She nodded. “I’d like that.”
“Then I’ll make the arrangements at once.”
Chrysander wasted no time in finalizing plans for their wedding and preparing for them to travel to the island. He single-handedly rearranged his business schedule, made sure everything Marley could possibly need was purchased, though they’d already shopped for her wedding gown. She stood in awe of all he could accomplish in such a short time.The authorities questioned her now that she’d regained her memory, and she spent several exhausting hours providing them with the few details she could remember. The kidnappers hadn’t harmed her and had actually shown her consideration when her pregnancy became obvious. They had watched her, knowing she was close to Chrysander, and had struck when the opportunity arose. They’d asked for a small ransom, certain they would get it with no fuss. When no ransom had been forthcoming, they abandoned the kidnapping and arranged for Marley to be found.
It was the realization that Chrysander had ignored the ransom that had pushed Marley beyond her limits. It was that moment in the kidnapping that she blocked out her past, so devastated was she over his betrayal. Overwhelming emotion had crippled her—fear of being abandoned by the kidnappers, the terror of being left alone and having nowhere to go, no one to turn to.
Marley became distraught during the retelling, and Chrysander suffered the agony of being confronted by all she’d gone through. Because of him. He hovered protectively throughout, and finally called a halt when it was clear she was past all endurance.
The police were given their contact information so that Marley could be reached if arrests were made or there was a need for her to testify.
Two days later, they were married. Theron and Piers both attended, and Patrice was the only other witness to the ceremony. Afterward, Piers gave her a somewhat reserved welcome to the family while Theron’s was more warm and enthusiastic.
“You’ve made him very happy, little sister,” Theron murmured as he gathered her in his arms for a hug.
She offered a small smile, but she knew Theron wasn’t fooled by it.
Soon after, Piers and Theron left, Theron to return to London and Piers to fly to Rio de Janeiro to oversee plans for the new hotel. Patrice returned to Athens, where she’d be met by Dr. Karounis. While Chrysander wanted to wait a day for their own departure, Marley was adamant that they leave as soon as the ceremony was done. She wanted to return to the island, a place she’d been happy even if only for a short time. New York held too many unhappy memories, and she just wanted to be away.
Chrysander bundled her on the plane and insisted she sleep for the duration of the flight. It was late when they landed and later still by the time the helicopter touched down on the island. But Marley felt relieved that she was home.
Chrysander carried her into the house and didn’t relinquish her until they were upstairs in the bedroom. He set her down on the bed and then busied himself undressing her and tucking her underneath the covers.
When he crawled in beside her and merely held her lightly against him, as though he was afraid of touching her, she frowned in the darkness. She rose up and reached across him to turn on the light he’d extinguished a moment earlier.
“Marley, what is wrong?” he asked as she stared down at him.
She studied him, the lines around his mouth, the worry in his eyes. In that moment, she understood. He was afraid.
“Make love to me,” she whispered.
His eyes darkened and turned to liquid. A ragged breath tore from his mouth.
“I need you to make love to me.”
“You have to be sure about this, agape mou. I don’t want to pressure you into doing anything you aren’t ready for.”
With a tortured groan, he rolled her beneath him. Every kiss, every touch was so exquisitely tender. He touched and stroked her with infinite care.
Her gown was removed, and he slid out of his boxers. His body, hot and straining, covered hers. Pleasure streaked through her body in waves when he closed his mouth over her nipple. He sucked lightly, tonguing the small bud, then he turned his attention to her other breast.
His hand cupped her belly protectively, cradling her against him as he kissed his way up her neck and finally to her lips.
“S’agapo, pedhaki mou. S’agapo,” he murmured in a voice so husky, so emotional, that it brought tears to her eyes.
She cried out as he moved over her. “Please,” she begged. “I need you.”
He entered her slowly, his movements careful and measured. But she didn’t want him to treat her so carefully. She wanted all of him. She arched into him and wrapped her legs around his hips.
Sobs of need, of pleasure, ripped from her throat, and for once, pain had diminished to a distant memory. There was only here and now and the man who loved her.
She raced up a mountain slope and hurtled into a free fall of ecstasy. Chrysander was there to catch her, gathering her close against him as he murmured words of love against her lips.
She snuggled into his embrace, melding herself as close to him as she could. She needed this. Needed him.
“Don’t let me go,” she whispered.
“Never, agape mou,” he vowed. He stroked her hair, her back, the swollen mound of her belly as she drifted off to sleep. The last thing she was aware of was him telling her he loved her.