Christakis's Rebellious Wife(8)

By: Lynne Graham

Jenna shifted almost onto his lap to kiss him. In a defensive move, he threw his head back and her lips caught his jawline instead. The scent of her washed over him and she smelled wrong to him. Not bad, just somehow and inexplicably...wrong. He lifted a hand to her shoulder, long fingers accidentally brushing her hair. It felt coarse instead of silky and he didn’t want to touch it. In a fury he willed himself to stop making crazy comparisons. Maybe that was why the normal, healthy male response to an approach from a willing, attractive woman wasn’t happening for him.

Thee mou...his body was demonstrating all the reaction of a solid block of wood, he acknowledged in mounting frustration. Something was messing with his head and his libido and he didn’t know what but neither was he prepared to discuss the problem with his therapist. He had been forced to explore quite enough unpleasant issues with the good doctor and, while he had every respect for the lady’s common sense and discretion, there were still some things he refused to share. He might have unburdened himself of the dark weight of his dysfunctional past and felt stronger for it, but the freedom to return to his former taciturn habits was equally a relief. Sharing anything did not come naturally to a male with his reserved nature. And such acknowledgements were only one more unnecessary reminder that being involved in any way with Betsy was still ruining his life, cutting off his choices and reminding him of his boundaries while stifling the raw energy, the voracious sex drive and the sheer ruthlessness that had always healthily compelled Nik forward in life.

His mobile phone buzzed and he dug it out with an apology, but he already knew he wasn’t going back to Jenna’s apartment. Clearly she didn’t attract him enough, he reflected grimly. When he added in the unthinkable, that for the first time in his life he might fail between the sheets, it was sufficient to crush his need to test himself and prove that he had left his marriage behind him.

No, to achieve that goal he required a rather more civilised approach, he conceded broodingly, momentarily forgetting his companion. Taking some of the aggro out of the situation between him and Betsy would be a good strategic move. That didn’t mean he was going to give her a cartload of money or grant any of her ridiculous requests or, worse still, talk to her as Cristo had so ludicrously suggested. He didn’t want to talk to Betsy. He wouldn’t keep his temper if he talked to her and any gain from his breaking of the ice between them would be swiftly destroyed by a fresh flood of hostility and mutual resentment. No, talking of any kind was off the table. Diavelos, the lawyers could do the talking.

* * *

The day after the legal meeting, Betsy set out the items for sale on the new shelves in the shop and stepped back to assess the display.

She might have gone through hell since her marriage had broken down but, when it came to work, her overwhelming need to keep busy and mentally challenged had ironically ensured that the same months were astonishingly productive and creative in business terms. The little farm shop selling fresh veg, fruit and eggs, which Nik had grudgingly allowed her to open in one of the redundant farm buildings behind the hall, had tripled in size to house the baked goods and home-cooked ready meals she had sourced. Since then she had added the card and gift section, where she stocked everything from potpourri to local crafts. Across the yard, work was noisily progressing as a former ruined cottage was transformed into a small coffee shop.

Behind the counter, her manager, Alice, was chatting cheerfully to a regular customer stocking up for her weekly shop. Betsy had initially hired Alice to ensure that she was always available when Nik was at home, but even though she was now able to work much longer hours the arrangement still worked well. After all, the business had expanded and Alice was good at dealing with the financial side of things, while Betsy was happiest handling suppliers and sourcing new goods.

Furthermore, Alice had the wisdom to understand when not to ask awkward questions. Divorced from a cheating ex and raising three children, she knew all about sleepless nights and heartache. Alice had not said a word when she came into work some mornings and found all their produce rearranged, the fruit so shiny it looked polished and the tiled floor so clean you could see your face in it. Time after time Betsy had taken refuge in work when she couldn’t sleep. But there was a far more practical reason behind her industry and the long hours she put in.

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