The Wealthy Greek's Contract Wife(3)

By: Penny Jordan

Lizzie forced a small smile.

‘Surely if you tell the bank why you need to go to Greece they’ll give you a loan?’ Ruby suggested hopefully.

Charley shook her head. ‘The banks aren’t giving any businesses loans at the moment. Not even successful ones.’

Lizzie bit her lip. Charley wasn’t reproaching her for the failure of her business, she knew, but she still felt terrible. Her sisters relied on her. She was the eldest, the sensible one, the one the other two looked to. She prided herself on being able to take care of them—but it was a false pride, built on unstable foundations, as so much else in this current terrible financial climate.

‘So what is poor Lizzie going to do? She’s got this Greek threatening to take things further if she doesn’t go and see him, but how can she if we haven’t got any money?’ Ruby asked their middle sister.

‘We have,’ Lizzie suddenly remembered, with grateful relief. ‘We’ve got my bucket money, and I can stay in one of the apartments.’

Lizzie’s ‘bucket money’ was the spare small change she had always put in the decorative tin bucket in her office, in the days when she had possessed ‘spare’ change.

Two minutes later they were all looking at the small tin bucket, which was now on the kitchen table.

‘Do you think there’ll be enough?’ Ruby asked dubiously

There was only one way to find out.

‘Eighty-nine pounds,’ Lizzie announced half an hour later, when the change had been counted.

‘Eighty-nine pounds and four pence,’ Charley corrected her.

‘Will it be enough?’ Ruby asked.

‘I shall make it enough,’ Lizzie told them determinedly.

It would certainly buy an off-season low-cost airline ticket, and she still had the keys for the apartments—apartments in which she held a twenty per cent interest. She was surely perfectly entitled to stay in one whilst she tried to sort out the mess the Rainhills had left behind.

How the mighty were fallen—or rather the not so mighty in her case, Lizzie reflected tiredly. All she had wanted to do was provide for her sisters and her nephews, to protect them and keep them safe financially, so that never ever again would they have to endure the truly awful spectre of repossession and destitution which had faced them after their parents’ death.

Chapter Two

NO! It was impossible, surely! The apartment block couldn’t simply have disappeared.

But it had.

Lizzie blinked and looked again, desperately hoping she was seeing things—or rather not seeing them—but it was no use. It still wasn’t there.

The apartment block had gone.

Where she had expected to see the familiar rectangular building there was only roughly flattened earth, scarred by the tracks of heavy building plant.

It had been a long and uncomfortable ride, in a taxi driven at full pelt by a Greek driver who’d seemed bent on proving his machismo behind the wheel, after an equally lacking in comfort flight on the low-cost airline.

They had finally turned off the main highway to travel along the dusty, narrow and rutted unfinished road that ran down to the tip of the peninsula and the apartments. Whilst the taxi had bounded and rocked from side to side, Lizzie had braced herself against the uncomfortable movement, noticing as they passed it that where the road forked, and where last year there had been rolls of spiked barbed wire blocking the entrance to it, there were now imposing-looking padlocked wrought-iron gates.

The taxi driver had dropped her off when the ruts in the road had become so bad that he had refused to go any further. She had insisted on him giving her a price before they had left the airport, knowing how little money she had to spare, and before she handed it over to him she took from him a card with a telephone number on it, so that she could call for a taxi to take her into the city to meet Ilios Manos after she had settled herself into an apartment and made contact with him.

Lizzie stared at the scarred ground where the apartment block should have been, and then lifted her head, turning to look out over the headland, where the rough sparse grass met the still winter-grey of the Aegean. The brisk wind blowing in from the sea tasted of salt—or was the salt from her own wretched tears of shock and disbelief?

What on earth was going on? Basil had boasted to her that twenty per cent entitled her to two apartments, each worth two hundred thousand euros. Lizzie would have put the value closer to one hundred thousand, but it still meant that whatever value they’d potentially held had vanished—along with the building. It was money she simply could not afford to lose.

What on earth was she going to do? She had just under fifty euros in her purse, nowhere to stay, no immediate means of transport to take her back to the city, no apartments—nothing. Except, of course, for the threat implied in the letter she had received. She still had that to deal with—and the man who had made that threat.