Christos is quick to offer Katie a job, and as they work together sparks begin to flytheir reluctant respect for each other cannot hide the smouldering passion that sizzles between them. Although Christos is wary of love, he realises he must put his heart on the line and convince this beautiful English rose to stay in the sun and become his bride.
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WHERE was he?
Katie could feel her heart thumping as she keyed in the phone number of the hospital. There'd been no sign of Petros at the airport when her plane had landed. She had been waiting for over an hour now and he still hadn't turned up. She had tried his mobile phone several times but it was switched off. The only thing she could think of was to phone him at work.
"Poseidonos International Hospital. Kalimera."
"I wish to speak to Dr Constantine, please,"Katie explained as calmly as she could. She waited while her call was put through, praying that Petros would be there. Although he had told her about the villa he owned in the coastal town of Paphos, she had no real idea of its location and wouldn't attempt to make her own way there. If she couldn't get in contact with him then she didn't know what she was going to do
The man's voice cut through her mounting panic and she heaved a sigh of relief. "Petros, it's meKatie. Oh, I am so glad to hear your voice!"
"I'm sorry, but there has been a mistake. My name is Christos Constantine."
"Oh, excuse me," Katie said hastily. "I didn't realise there were two doctors by the name of Constantine on the staff. It's Petros I want to speak to. Would you be kind enough to have my call transferred? My name is CarlyonKatie Carlyon."
"And why do you wish to speak to him, Miss Carlyon?"
"I think that's my business, don't you?" Katie bridled at the arrogant note in the man's voice. Now that some of her initial panic had subsided, she could hear the difference. This man's voice was much deeper than Petros's voice. It also didn't hold that hint of amusement which she always found so attractive.
"No, I don't. It is very much my business, in fact. Petros warned me that you might show up. However, if you imagine that I am going to let you ruin his wedding day, young lady, you can think again."
"Wedding day," Katie repeated numbly. "I don't understand. Are you saying that Petros that he's getting married?"
"Of course. Don't pretend that you didn't know. Petros assured me that he had told you about Eleni in the hope that it would put an end to all this nonsense. He has been distraught about the number of messages and phone calls you have made to him recently."
"I have no idea what you're talking about! I've never even heard of Eleni. Petros certainly never mentioned her to me. The last thing he said to me was that he loved me."
Katie bit her lip when she felt tears well in her eyes. She had no idea why this man was saying such things. Petros loved herhe did! But if that was the case, why was he planning on marrying someone else?
She took a deep breath, fighting down the feeling of dread that filled her. "I need to speak to Petros so we can sort this out. Please have my call transferred to his office."
"I have no intention of allowing you to hound my cousin, Miss Carlyon."
"Hound Petros? If anything, it was the other way round. It was Petros who bombarded me with invitations to go out with him!"
It appeared that her claim must have held the ring of truth because there was a brief pause before the man said curtly, "Where exactly are you calling from?"
"The airport. My flight landed just over an hour ago and I've been waiting here for Petros ever since."Her voice caught when it struck her it was unlikely that Petros was on his way to meet her if what this man had said was true. Just for a moment the enormity of what was happening engulfed her. She had given up her job and her home to start a new life with the man she loved but it appeared that he no longer wanted her. It took a huge amount of effort to focus as the man continued speaking.
"Stay there. I'll come and find you. It will take me about twenty minutes to get there, maybe a little longer if I get held up in traffic."
"How will I recognise you?" she said quickly, but he'd already hung up.
Katie took a deep breath as the line went dead. It was all very well for him to tell her to wait until he arrived, but she couldn't stand here and do nothing. Maybe she should telephone the hospital again, only make sure that she asked for Petros Constantine this time. It had to be some sort of mistake, of course. She really couldn't believe that Petros had said those awful things about her. She only had to remember the number of times he had told her that he'd loved her to prove that.
After all, it wasn't as though she had rushed into an affair with him. She had always been extremely cautious when it came to relationships. Watching their parents go through an acrimonious divorce while she and Kelly had been growing up had left its mark, and Katie knew it was the reason why she had been so wary about getting involved in the past. Although she had been out with several men, she had always refused to be rushed into a relationship. She hadn't wanted to find herself in the same position as her parents had been in.
Her mother and father had met and married within a few months. They hadn't taken the time to get to know one another and cracks had soon appeared in their marriage when they'd discovered that they'd had very little in common. When their daughters had arrived the following year it had put an added strain on the relationship. Katie had been ten when they had divorced and she had prayed that it would put an end to all the arguments, but it hadn't happened.
There had been more fights, over custody this time. Then, once it had been decided that she and Kelly should live with their mother, there had been rows every time their father had wanted to see them. Life hadn't settled down until she and Kelly had been old enough to leave home, and by that time the damage had been done.
Katie had made up her mind that she would wait until she was sure before she committed herself. She knew that she had gained a reputation in the hospital where she'd worked as a staff nurse for being very choosy when it came to men, but it hadn't worried her. She didn't intend to take any chances.
When she'd first met Petros, she hadn't been overly impressed. He'd been working on the exchange programme and he'd seemed rather too keen on enjoying himself to take him seriously. When he had asked her out, she had refused, but he had asked her again and had kept on asking her until in the end she had agreed.
She had always been rather quiet, but Petros had drawn her out of herself and made her laugh. He had been so handsome and so charming, so different to the other men she had known that she had found herself falling in love with him. Even then she had held back, but when he'd told her that he had loved her, too, she had been completely won over.
When Kelly had announced that she was taking up a new job in Sardinia, Katie had realised it was time that she made some changes to her life, too. Petros had just returned to Cyprus and she was missing him dreadfully. The thought of being left behind in England without him or her sister had been more than she could bear so she had decided that she would go to Cyprus to be with him. After all, he loved her and she loved him, so what was the point of them being apart when they could build a future together?
That had been her plan right up until the time her plane had landed. It was still what she wanted, in fact, so was she really going to give up her dream of finding happiness on the strength of what some stranger had told her?
She started to key in the phone number of the hospital again then hesitated. Maybe she had believed Petros when he'd told her that he'd loved her, but what if it hadn't been true? What if it had been merely a ploy to get her into his bed? It wouldn't be the first time a woman had been taken in by claims of undying devotion so how could she be sure that it hadn't happened to her?
All of a sudden doubts started crowding into her head and she was no longer certain of anything any more. She cancelled the call and put her phone in her bag. It might be better if she waited to hear what Dr Christos Constantine had to say before she did anything.
Christos swore softly as he hurried out of his office. This was the last thing he needed! It was difficult enough to pretend that he was genuinely delighted that his cousin was marrying Eleni without having to deal with this kind of complication as well. Just for a second he wondered if he should phone Petros and tell him to sort out his own mess, but then he thought about Eleni, and how much it would upset her if she found out about this woman, and realised he couldn't do it. He cared too much about Eleni to risk her getting hurt.
"I have to go out for a while so I'll need you to take charge of the department, Yanni."
Christos stopped by the desk to speak to his senior registrar, Yanni Papadopoulous. The emergency department had been unusually quiet that day and he had been intending to use the time for some in-house training. The team had been together for only six months and it was important that their skills were constantly assessed. There were a couple of new nurses who had started that week and he was particularly keen to put them through their paces, although there was no sign of them, he realised.
"Where are the new nurses?" he demanded. "Tina had to go home because her little boy was sick, and Rachel didn't turn up this morning," Yanni explained. "We phoned her apartment and someone there told us that she'd gone back to England."
Christos sighed. It wasn't the first time they'd had problems with staff from abroad. The idea of working in another country might be appealing, but the reality often proved to be vastly different. Although the weather in Cyprus was a huge improvement on that in the UK, it didn't make much difference when you were working gruelling twelvehour shifts.
"I'll get onto the agency when I come back and see if they can find a replacement. I shouldn't be longan hour at the most. If anything urgent crops up, page me."
He left the hospital and got into his car. It was just gone noon and the roads were fairly quiet for once. Although Cyprus attracted large numbers of tourists all the year round, the real rush wouldn't start for another couple of weeks. That was when his department would really come under pressure.
As head of trauma care at Poseidonos International Hospital, Christos had seen at first hand the effects too much sunshine and wine could have on people and there was very little that surprised him nowadays. He dealt with every case with the same degree of professionalism. He had worked hard to reach his present position, adhering strictly to the path he had laid out for himself after his parents had died. They had both been doctors, too, and it had seemed only right that he should honour their memory by following them into the profession.
It had been a long and arduous journey because he had been determined to reach the very top, but he could confidently say that he had achieved everything he had set out to doin his professional life, at least. It was his private life which was such a mess, and there was little he could do about that.
The thought sent a pang coursing through him as he drew up in front of the airport, but he couldn't afford to worry about his problems right now. He had no idea what he was going to do about Katie Carlyon, but he wouldn't allow her to ruin Eleni's wedding day. Even though at one point he had hoped that Eleni would marry him, he had accepted a long time ago that it would never happen. Eleni deserved a husband who would be there for her, someone who would put her needs before everything else.
He had been far too focussed on his career since his parents had died. Even when they had been teenagers, and Eleni had used to beg him to go swimming with her, more often than not he had refused. It had been Petros who had accompanied her to the beach; he'd been too engrossed in his studies.
The situation had continued throughout his time at university. It hadn't been until he had been in his first job that he had admitted to himself how he felt about her. Maybe he could have dealt with his feelings if Eleni hadn't made it clear that she was attracted to him, too.
They had started going out together and it had been wonderful at first, but gradually it had become apparent that the relationship wasn't working. He'd been working excruciatingly long hours at the hospital and they'd hardly seen one another. Whole weeks would pass when he had been too busy even to phone her. When Eleni had told him that she'd decided they should split up it had been unbearably painful, but he had known in his heart it was the right thing to do. Eleni had deserved more than he could give her.
It had been ten years now since they had gone their separate ways and time had helped to heal the pain. However, it had still come as a shock when he had found out that Eleni was dating his cousin. And it had been an even bigger one when she and Petros had announced their engagement shortly after his cousin had returned from working on the exchange programme.
Was Petros really the right man for her? Christos wondered not for the first time. His cousin had always enjoyed playing the field and it was hard to believe that he would remain faithful to her for the rest of his life. Christos had had serious misgivings from the beginning but he had kept them to himself for Eleni's sake. After all, Petros claimed that he was madly in love with her so who was he to disagree? Although after what Katie Carlyon had told him earlier, he had his doubts. If Miss Carlyon had been telling the truth, then his cousin's idea of love was vastly different to his own!
Christos sighed as he got out of the car. There was no point worrying about it right now. Maybe he did have his doubts but he would do everything in his power to ensure this wedding went ahead as planned. And if that meant sending Katie Carlyon back to England, that's what he was going to do.