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THE MARRIAGE GAME

 

Margaret Mayo

 

Miranda had to know what was wrong!

When Georgios, her husband of three months, hurried back to Greece because of family troubles, Miranda wasn’t too alarmed. When he didn’t come back, she decided to look for him.

The problem was that Georgios, member of a wealthy shipping family, acted as if he’d never seen Miranda before in his life.

Miranda was sure if she could talk to Georgios alone, things would work out. If only his dictatorial older brother, Theo, wouldn’t interfere. Theo, however, flatly refused to believe that they had ever been married....

 

“Calm down, Miranda.” Theo took her hands

She tried to pull free, but his fingers were like an iron clamp. “How I hate you!” she cried. “You have no right to do this. Let go of me.”

Instead, he moved even closer, his warm breath fanning her cheek. “You’re very beautiful when you’re angry. You’re irresistible.”

She knew he was going to kiss her. She became mesmerized by the dancing lights in his eyes. She forgot to breathe, although her heart beat a painful tattoo against her ribs. It had never been like this with Georgios.

She closed her eyes. Forget Georgios, some devil inside her said. Here’s a real man. Take what’s being offered and enjoy it. She had no option. Theo’s mouth was already on hers, moving sensually, expertly, demanding and exacting a response.

 

Margaret Mayo
began writing quite by chance when the engineering company she worked for wasn't very busy, and she found herself with time on her hands. Today, with more than thirty romance novels to her credit, she admits that writing governs her life to a large extent. When she and her husband holiday—Cornwall is their favorite spot—Margaret always has a notebook and camera on hand and is constantly looking for fresh ideas. She lives in the countryside near Stafford, England.

 

CHAPTER ONE

‘I
have
no choice,' Miranda said firmly, shaking her head so that her fine golden hair swept the curve of her cheek. Tm going to Salamyndros. Georgios can’t do this to me! He’s the father, the baby’s as much his responsibility as mine.’

‘You could be asking for trouble.’ Sallianne, always the cautious one, looked at her friend and neighbour worriedly. ‘If he’d wanted you there, he’d have written, wouldn’t he? Perhaps he hasn’t told them yet that he’s married? I mean, if his mother’s ill, he might not want to upset her. Aren’t they a bit funny about these things in Greece? Wouldn’t they want him to marry a Greek girl?’

‘It’s a bit late to think about that,’ returned Miranda sharply, her eyes flashing more green than grey because she was angry. ‘There’s the baby to consider now. It puts a completely different picture on the situation.’

After three happy months of marriage she had returned one day from a shopping spree to find a note from Georgios saying he had rushed back to Salamyndros because his mother had suffered a heart attack.

She had felt compassion, naturally, a swift stab of concern for the woman she had not yet met. But primarily she was hurt because he had not taken her. Another hour would have surely made no difference, and she really wanted to see the beautiful island he had told her so much about.

With great difficulty she had made a pretence of taking his absence in her stride. Sallianne had a lively three-year-old as well as a six-month-old baby to contend with, and they had welcomed Miranda’s company. And Miranda, because she loved children, had found their demanding, and often tiring, attention the perfect antidote for her unhappiness.

Sallianne had no idea how deeply Georgios had hurt her. She hid it beneath a cloak of humour that had little Adam laughing until he cried, and baby Sara chuckling even when her mother could not put a stop to her tears.

But as the weeks passed and it became evident he was not going to send that promised letter, it was difficult to keep up her façade. And when her own letters were returned unopened she could not understand it and became deeply depressed.

It seemed as if Georgios regretted marrying her. Why else would he act this way? But if it was the case surely he could tell her, instead of leaving her in this state of limbo? It was the not knowing that was the hardest thing to bear.

He had mentioned a rift with his family, although he had not gone into details. In fact he had been remarkably reticent about his home life, extolling instead the virtues of the sun-drenched island in the Ionian Sea. So far as Miranda knew he had not even let them know he was married.

She had asked him to, but he had convinced her that they were no longer a part of his life, that he had made a new home for himself in England. Obviously, though, family ties came first when he heard of his mother’s illness. He had given no thought to his wife in their nice new suburban home, instead he had rushed off to Greece without delay. How he had heard the news was a puzzle, but she was more concerned by his not taking her than anything else.

When she began to feel vaguely ill she put it down to nothing more than not eating properly and feeling lovesick for her handsome husband. But when the nausea continued Sallianne had insisted she see her doctor.

It had been a shock to discover she was expecting Georgios’s baby, and for the first time she felt resentment towards this man who had torn her emotionally apart.

When they met at a party they had been immediately attracted. Georgios had loved Miranda’s femininity. Her wide eyes and golden hair, her grace of movement and her aura of serenity had captivated him.

And she had been impressed by his dark good looks and the way he treated her as though she was someone precious. They had seen each other constantly for three months and eventually had decided to get married.

Miranda’s parents had died in a car accident when she was small and she had been brought up by a succession of foster-parents, finally moving into her own flat in London when she was eighteen.

Becoming Georgios’s wife had been the ultimate. At last there was someone who really loved her, whom she would be with for the rest of her life. She had grown tired of being shuttled from one person to another, one place to another.

She had given up her job and he had sold his apartment and bought a house in a busy London suburb. Miranda had been like a child with a new toy, cleaning and polishing, looking after her new husband. It had been like a game with her, trying to please him. And suddenly he had ruined the game! She was left with a nice home, a baby growing inside her, but no Georgios.

‘I refuse to believe he wants nothing more to do with me,’ she said to Sallianne. ‘There has to be a reason, a perfectly logical reason, and if the only way I can find out is by going over there, then that’s what I’m going to do.’

Sallianne said quietly, 'Don’t hope too much. There might
not
be a logical explanation. He might simply have changed his mind—and run away.’

‘Then why did he marry me, if he never intended it to be permanent?’ cried Miranda passionately, tears she had so far kept hidden from her friend pricking the back of her eyelids.

‘Perhaps it was purely a physical thing,’ suggested Sallianne hesitantly. ‘I think he was intrigued by you, and you did tell me how hot-blooded he was, how he tried to get you into bed before you were married. You could have been a challenge. And with your golden hair you must be so different from the type of girl he meets back home. You’re so pretty and feminine, too, not like me.’ She looked at her trouser-clad legs and check shirt in disgust. ‘I’m more like a boy.’

‘I don’t believe you.’ Miranda shook her head angrily. ‘Why would he have bought this house, why would he have showered me with presents, if he’d merely wanted my—body?’

Sallianne twisted her fingers worriedly. ‘I don’t know. I could be wrong, Miranda, I hope I am, I really do. But I still think you’re mistaken rushing over there. Why don’t you write again, or ring him even? Surely you could find out his number? Tell him about the baby. Perhaps then he’ll come home.’

‘If he came for that reason alone I wouldn’t want him,’ said Miranda with quiet dignity. ‘I shall go and see him. I shan’t tell him I’m pregnant, and if you’re right and he no longer has any interest in me, then I shall come back and bring up the baby alone. I shan’t
put any pressures on him. It wouldn’t be fair—and besides, we wouldn’t be happy in those circumstances.’ She smiled wryly. ‘And at least the baby will have visited his father’s homeland, even if he doesn’t remember anything about it.’

A week after that conversation Miranda had her flight booked, her case packed, and was saying goodbye to Sallianne and the children.

‘Keep in touch,’ said Sallianne tearfully. ‘Let me know how things go—and I pray I’m wrong about Georgios.’

Miranda smiled convincingly. ‘Of course you are, Sallianne. You wait and see, you’ll get a letter within a week telling you that everything’s all right. Who knows, we might even settle on Salamyndros.’

Brave words indeed, but inside her heart was heavy. Her friend’s misgivings about her young Greek husband had troubled her more than she cared to admit. Had she perhaps been looking at the world through rose-coloured spectacles when she married Georgios? Had she not seen the true man that lay beneath the charming surface veneer? There was a hint of weakness to his jaw that she had chosen to ignore, and more often than not he left any decisions to her.

But until Sallianne had uttered those few unfortunate words there had been no doubt in her mind that there was a very good reason for Georgios’s disappearance. Although Sallianne had her best interests at heart, it would have been better had she kept her thoughts to herself.

During the long wait at Gatwick airport and the flight that followed, Miranda had difficulty in pushing these disquieting thoughts from her mind, and when she eventually found herself on Corfu, waiting for a boat to take her across to Salamyndros, she wished she had never come.

If Georgios had been truly happy in their marriage he would not have done this to her. He would not have left a note, but waited and explained the situation, even if he had still gone alone. She was a fool to chase after him.

Then she thought of the baby and knew she was doing the right thing. Once Georgios saw her he would forgive her for coming. He would introduce her to his sick mother and any other members of the family he had always been so vague about. His father was dead, that much she knew, but how many brothers and sisters he had she had no idea.

The
caique
which took her to Salamyndros was manned by a young Corfiote who introduced himself as Stefan. He was highly interested in the fact that she was going to Salamyndros. ‘You are a friend of the Alexidis family, perhaps?’ His English was very good.

‘Why should I be?’ she asked cautiously, not at all sure whether she should admit to being Georgios’s wife.

He shrugged carelessly. ‘They own the island. No tourists go there—and very few visitors.’

‘But there are other families on the island. How do you know I’m not visiting one of them?’ She recalled Georgios telling her about vineyards and olive groves. Someone had to tend them.

‘Workers,’ he admitted. ‘But ’ He looked her up and down, openly admiring her slim petite figure in her flowery sundress. ‘The only visitors they have are their Greek cousins. Is Mrs Alexidis expecting you?’

Far from it, thought Miranda. She would probably receive a distinct shock when she announced herself as Georgios’s wife. She kept her fingers mentally crossed that she would see her husband first and let him make the introduction. She shook her head. ‘I thought I’d surprise them.’

‘Some surprise,’ said the Corfiote youth. ‘You do know their villa is halfway up the mountain? How are you going to get there?’

‘Hire a car, of course,' she said swiftly. In fact she quite looked forward to driving on this beautiful island, picking out the spots Georgios had mentioned, seeing for herself this place where he had spent most of his life.

‘There are none for hire, not even a taxi, or a bus.’ He looked apologetic.

‘Then I’ll walk,’ she said stoically.

He looked at her tiny feet in their high-heeled strappy sandals, and then at the heavy suitcase sitting in the bottom of the boat. He grinned. ‘You could perhaps borrow a mule.’

Miranda joined in his laughter, picturing herself and her case perched on top of one of these small animals.

‘Or ’ He gave her a large unexpected wink, ‘my cousin, Spyros, will take you in his car—for a small fee. It is the only car on the island—apart from the Alexidis’s, of course.’

But Miranda did not want to be driven. She wanted to arrive at the villa alone. It could be an awkward encounter and she had no desire for anyone to witness the scene.

‘Would he, perhaps, lend it to me? I don’t wish to put him to any trouble.’

‘It would be no trouble at all,’ returned Stefan, ‘but I am sure he will be honoured to lend it to so pretty an English lady. It is his pride and joy, you understand? You will be careful?’

If he was the only person owning a car then he must certainly be very proud. ‘I am a good driver. I will treat it as if it was my own.’

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