‘Will you excuse me?’ Lisa pushed up from the table. ‘I seem to have developed a slight headache… The flickering candles, perhaps.’
‘Lisa—’ Tino started to get up from the table too, and then Arianna did too.
Stella held her daughter back. ‘You must be exhausted, Lisa. I know what these meetings have meant to you. Business has taken everything out of you. You need rest now… rest, and quiet.. and, goodness knows, you won’t get that in the village. Tino,’ Stella said, turning to him, ‘see that you take care of Lisa. She must go to bed with a cup of warm milk.’
‘Of course, Stella,’ he murmured politely, giving her a small bow.
Was this payback time for the priceless emeralds? Lisa wondered, because, however much she wanted Tino, she could never be bought.
They both stood as still as statues until Stella, Arianna and Giorgio had gone, and then Tino turned to her. ‘I’m not sure about the cup of warm milk.’
‘What do you mean, don’t?’ he said, lifting his warm hands away from her shoulders.
Taking off the earrings, Lisa held them out to him. ‘I don’t need these.’
‘No one needs beautiful things, but they are an expression of…’
‘Of what, Tino?’ Lisa said tensely. ‘Possession?’
She could see he was shocked. Perhaps she had gone straight to the heart of the matter. ‘Please take them back, Tino. I can’t take them. If I did want some new jewellery, I would buy it for myself.’
‘But it gave me such pleasure to buy them for you.’
Lisa almost smiled, but it would have been a sad smile. Tino sounded like a small child who couldn’t have his own way. They were both spoiled. They spoiled themselves. They had both reached a point where they could buy anything they wanted. And none of it mattered, none of it counted for anything. They were always flailing around thinking that the next purchase would fill the gap in their hearts, but it never did. ‘You bought the earrings for me? Did you pick them out yourself? Or did you make a telephone call, and have someone else do that?’
‘I took the jet.’ His mouth curved a little in wry appreciation of the privileged position in which he found himself.
‘So, you did choose them.’
‘Yes, of course I did—there’s no need to sound so surprised.’ Opening his fist, Tino stared down at the priceless gems nestled there. ‘I thought you’d like them.’
‘I do like them, but—’ How could she put her thoughts into words? They were both hopeless, both so clumsy when it came to managing the simplest of human relationships— and theirs was scarcely that. They matched perfectly sexually but something inside was broken—for both of them. ‘If you had wanted to give me a gift, why didn’t you give me some flowers from the garden, Tino? Like you did before… that would have been lovely.’
‘But I wanted to buy you something really special.’
‘The flowers were special… but emerald earrings?’ Lisa searched for the right words, words that would make sense to a billionaire to whom priceless emeralds would make no more dent in his bank account than another yacht. ‘I feel as if you’re trying to buy me, Tino—as if you’re trying to pay me for my services.’ She made a gesture of frustration.
‘Your services?’ Now he did smile. ‘Please.’ He held the earrings out to her again. ‘Take them back as payment on account.’
‘This isn’t a joke, Tino.’
‘I agree with you.’ He lowered his voice. ‘Take them, Lisa, I beg you.’
‘You beg?’ She shook her head. ‘Put them away before you lose them, Tino. They will have to be returned. I’m sorry, but you have flown to Athens for nothing.’
‘For nothing?’ His mouth tugged up wickedly at one corner. ‘Are you sure?’
‘The earrings must be returned to the jeweller, Tino. We’ve both made mistakes. We’re both useless when it comes to knowing what to do, how to behave in situations that don’t involve business.’
‘Is that what we have between us—a situation?’