‘We’re nearly there, Thespinis Bond. When I turn the next corner, you will be able to see the villa.’
Then I’ll close my eyes, Lisa thought, remembering to thank the kindly taxi driver. How was she going to look at Tino’s ugly villa after feasting her eyes on a clear aquamarine ocean, ochre-tinted cliffs, and pale sugar sand? The fields they had passed had all been bathed in a mellow golden light, and there was a huge orange ball of a sun hanging low out to sea. She was sure Tino would live in some vast, overblown carbuncle, possibly with gold-plated walls, and certainly with a flagpole to show when he was in residence. Hideously opulent, and grotesquely vulgar, it was sure to be an eyesore after everything else she had seen on Stellamaris… Or not. ‘Is this it?’ she said with surprise, leaning forward in her seat.
‘Ne, Thespinis Bond,’ the taxi driver confirmed, ‘this is Villa Aphrodite. Very beautiful, isn’t she?’
‘Yes, she is,’ Lisa agreed without blinking. ‘Very beautiful indeed.’ Tino’s villa was cloaked in white marble that shimmered peach and umber where the muted light washed over it, and even the shadows came in a tasteful shade of magenta. She imagined the walls might turn to a delicate shade of pink in the first rays of dawn… The building was large, but even without stepping inside Lisa guessed there would be rooms for formal entertaining as well as cosier rooms in which you could live in comfort all year round. The entrance would be grand and imposing, but beyond that there would be secret hideaways—a home within a palace, rather than a showpiece, as she had been dreading… Tino’s home…
‘I expect Constantine is down on the beach.’
The elderly taxi driver cut into her thoughts. The warmth and familiarity with which he spoke the name immediately rang alarm bells in Lisa’s mind, reminding her that Zagorakis was a complex animal—and one she must be constantly wary of.
‘Unfortunately you can’t see the beach from up here.’
Half turning to her, the taxi driver reclaimed Lisa’s attention, angling his shoulders while watching the road. ‘Tino only arrived on Friday, so I expect he will be washing all the stresses of the city out of his mind.’
Stresses of the city? She’d give him stresses, Lisa mused grimly as her thoughts turned to her mission. If Constantine Zagorakis thought he could ditch their deal by remote control while he was enjoying a swim in the sea, he was sadly mistaken.
‘It’s the first thing he does when he comes home to Stellamaris,’ the taxi driver continued, unaware of the tensions building in the seat behind him. ‘Tino loves the ocean, like all Greeks…’
Lisa let his friendly chatter roll over her. It didn’t seem possible the taxi driver was talking about the same man. Even the thought of that brute having something called a home seemed unlikely. Surely Tino Zagorakis lived out of suitcases, always restless, always searching out the next deal?
She sat back as the taxi pulled through some tall wrought-iron gates, preparing herself with some deep steadying breaths. They were travelling slowly down a long, neatly groomed avenue lined with trees. Leading up to the grand villa, it dissected a garden bursting with flowers. In such a hot climate the irrigation alone would be a mammoth task.
‘It is almost May Day—a significant day on Stellamaris. The gardens are at their best.’
Lisa met the taxi driver’s gaze in the driver’s mirror.
‘Soon everyone will be gathering flowers to decorate their houses,’ he went on. ‘You are visiting Stellamaris at the most romantic time of year.’
Lisa’s lips firmed. ‘The villa seems to be built on top of a cliff,’ she said, to distract him from a topic she had no interest in pursuing. ‘How do you get down to the beach?’
‘There are steps cut into the cliff face,’ he explained, ‘but Tino has had a funicular fitted to make it easier for his friend.’
‘His elderly friend.’
Constantine Zagorakis had more than one friend? That seemed unlikely.
‘And here we are,’ the taxi driver declared, halting at the foot of some impressive marble steps. Yanking on the handbrake, he switched off the engine.