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TIMOS HONOR looked at Theo over the rim of his wire-framed spectacles and stifled a sigh of compassion and sheer frustration. They both knew what he was going to say and the fact that Theo had had him flown over at great expense on his personal jet was not about to alter his recommendations.
"Spit it out, Timos." 'There was no need to get me over here, Theo..." 'There was every need." Theo's mouth thinned in hostile acceptance of what he knew he was going to hear. He was also well aware of the wisdom of Timos's words. He had already consulted the finest specialists that London could offer and been told the same thing. What had been the point of flying over Timos Honor, old family friend and top of his field in Greece? His story was going to be the same, but Theo had needed to hear it from one of his own, someone who might just be able to understand the torture he had been going through for the past eighteen months. Maybe he had needed to hear the stark reality with just a little bit of sympathetic packaging wrapped around it.
From the dubious sanctuary of his coldly mini-malist penthouse apartment, Theo grimly regarded the thin, kindly man sitting in front of him.
"The bones in your foot have failed to heal properly and this second accident has only served to worsen the condition.What possessed you, man?"
"I wasn't skiing in the hope of finding the nearest obstacle into which I could collide, if that is what you mean."
"You know it's not." If Timos had had a full head of hair, he would have raked his fingers through it in exasperation. As it was, he made do with gently patting his balding head before linking his fingers on his lap. "One skiingaccident on a black run was bad enough, Theo, and we all understood the insanity that took you down that. Losing Elena just before you were due to be married... Well, it would be enough to send any sane man temporarily mad...but that was well over a year ago..."
"This last accident had nothing to do with Elena," Theo said abruptly.
Of course it was a lie and he knew it. Theo was an accomplished skier. Recklessness had never been part of his agenda. But the past year and a half had seen him tackle the world with scant regard for himself. He had driven himself to exhaustion, working hours that no man was constructed to work, had embarked on deals that had made his cautious partners gasp and had only succeeded with them through good luck and his own staggering talent. Not once had he lost sleep over the fact that they might not have worked out. Great wealth, he supposed, brought freedom to be, frankly, adventurous. And, at the back of his mind, he was aware that something had to change. He couldn't keep living his life on the edge. He had to move on.
"Well, here is my diagnosis, for what it's worth, Theo. That foot of yours needs time to heal. You cannot continue putting it under strain. Nature has a cunning way of healing but this time you have pushed the boundaries too far and, if you do not give yourself some rest, the bones will never heal correctly and, at the very best, you will be left with a permanent limp that will put a stop to every type of sport. At the worst, you could eventually end up in a wheelchair, and let us not get into the very real possibility of premature arthritis. Tell me that that is what you want and I will heartily recommend that you take the next flight to Val d'Isère so that you can tackle another black run."
They stared at each other in silence--Timos patiently waiting for his words to sink in, Theo bitterly aware that his behaviour had become perilously out of control. He was the first to look away with a scowl.
"So what do you suggest?" Theo finally asked, through gritted teeth.
"You need complete rest. You cannot keep covering the ground that you do. Your mother tells me that since your first accident you have barely stayed in one place long enough to have a hot meal."
"Mama is prone to exaggeration." 'As they all should be. But there is enough truth in her observation to warrant it in the first place."
"I am a working man, Timos. Sitting around watching daytime television is not going to pay the bills."
At that Timos laughed. "You could retire tomorrow, Theo, and still have enough money to last several lifetimes over.And I am not suggesting that you go into hiding for the next two years. But you could slow down considerably. Work from home.'He glanced around the expensive apartment and shuddered at the thought of doing anything in it for any stretch of time. He, himself, lived with his adored wife in a small house on the outskirts of Athens that could not have been more different.
This place reminded him of a crematorium--cold, marbled, immaculate but essentially lifeless.
"Three months would go a long way to restoring your mobility."
"Three months!" Theo nearly burst out laughing.
"Delegate." Timos stood up and collected his case from the side of his chair. "A wise man knows when to."
"And what the hell am I supposed to do for three months, Timos? Work from home and watch the walls?"
"Take up a hobby. Paint. Write poetry. Use the time to find yourself."
The last thing Theo Andreou wanted to do was to find himself.
For the past two weeks--in fact, ever since Timos had delivered his parting shot--Theo had fought against the thought of holing up in his apartment with his foot up.
It had, he reflected now from the back seat of his chauffeur-driven Jaguar, been a losing battle because, hot on the heels of the doctor's uninvited pearls of wisdom, had come a barrage of phone calls from his mother in Greece. Roughly fifty per cent of them had involved pleas for him to come to Greece, where he could truly relax away from the pressures of London. When these had fallen on deaf ears, she had threatened to come over to England herself so that she could stay with him and make him take the time out that she claimed he needed. She had only relinquished her full frontal attack when he'd promised, swearing on the memory of his dead father, that he would leave London for a couple of months and kick about somewhere in the country. Somewhere peaceful where he would not be tempted to darken the doors of his exquisite office at the drop of a hat.
He tore his gaze away from the sullen October skies outside and did his best to focus on the colour brochure lying on his lap. He actually hadn't even seen the cottage his car was speeding towards. The deal had been done by his personal assistant, who had located the required peaceful spot and determined the necessary small but delightful cottage whose task was to provide him with rest, recuperation and not too much by way of hard work.
The fact that the place was in Cornwall was designed to deter him from any spontaneous swoops into the office.
Gloria had personally seen the place, checked out the shops nearby, made sure that it wasn't too far removed from civilisation and arranged for a housekeeper to come in every other day to keep it in order. Someone else would cook for him. His role would be to appreciate the scenery, do a little work now and again and have lots of early nights.
Theo was dreading the whole thing.
Thank God for the invention of the laptop computer and mobile phones.
"Slow down when you drive through the village," he said to his chauffeur, dumping the brochure on top of his case and staring out of the window. "I want to see exactly what I'm supposed to be enjoying for the next two months."
And there it was, suddenly in front of him, the town clinging to the sides of a hill, an engaging mixture of old and not so old buildings. Just out of sight, he knew the River Dart flowed from the wilds of Dartmoor before entering the sea just here. It was picturesque and, more importantly, not nearly so small and backward as he had imagined. Theo gave silent thanks to Gloria, who obviously knew him well enough to realise that too much nature would not be a blessing in disguise. From what he could make out, there were restaurants, cafés, some shops, at least the comfortable trappings of civilisation.
The car swerved away from the town, heading south, just as his eyes focused on the figure of a girl trying to shut the door of a small office that looked more like a house than a place of work. She was struggling with it and, for a few wild, disconcerting seconds, Theo felt his heart race. From behind, whoever she was reminded him swiftly and poignantly of Elena. Same slight frame and fair hair falling straight to her shoulders. Then he blinked and was angrily aware that his mind had drifted again.
With formidable control Theo slammed shut the door on the painful memories that were always trying to fight their way out and concentrated on the picturesque drive towards the cottage.
There had been no exaggeration on the part of the estate agents. The cottage, when it finally came into view, was every bit as charming as it appeared to be in its picture. At nearly four-thirty in the afternoon, the already fading light picked up the yellow tint of the walls and turned them into burnished gold. The garden, which was not small, was lovingly pruned and trimmed back and the small path that led up to the house was exactly like something out of a child's story book.
His mother, he had no doubt, would have heartily approved. She had always disliked his penchant for the ultra-modern.
"You can drive the car to the station when you're done here, Jimmy." He let himself out of the car and, with the aid of a stick, something he frankly found ridiculous and largely unnecessary, he began walking towards the front door, key in hand. "Just bring the bags in. No need for you to stay."
"I should make sure that everything is okay..." Theo spared him a frowning backward glance. Since when had the world started feeling sorry for him?