'…visited Old Paphos yesterday. Incredible mosiac floors dating back to Roman times. Stood right where Paul had his show-down with Elymas. Cool or what?! C U next week. Love, C. xxx'
Putting down her pen, Cheryl stretched out and pulled her hat over her eyes. This was her favourite time to be on the beach. The scorching midday heat had given way to a warm afternoon glow. Lying barely clad upon the golden sand she felt enveloped in a balmy cocoon.
“Hi! Enjoying your holiday?”
She woke with a start to see dark eyes staring down at her from under a shock of thick, wavy black hair. She sat up and spluttered, “Yes, sure. You?”
“No, sweetheart. I live here. Just over the cliff tops.”
“Oh! I see. Uh, lucky you! Living in a beautiful place like this? Wow! Talk about a dream come true. ”
“The island certainly has its charm. How's about I pick you up tomorrow and take you to some places the tour buses don't visit?”
“And you agreed? Whatever got into you? You've always despised people who go in for holiday romances.” Cheryl's sister's voice sounded tinny and impersonal over the phone.
“I don't know. I guess I wasn't properly awake. That and a touch too much of the Cypriot summer sun. Anyway, the church here is so traditional and the local people really need to hear about Jesus. Maybe this is God's way of bringing Angelos to himself.”
“And his tanned, rippling muscular body and flashing white smile had nothing to do with it?”
“Give over Clare. Back home you're a honey pot and the guys are the bees. I'm always left on the side. Well, I've worked out why. My pheromones speak Greek! This could be the best thing that ever happened to me. Why not pray for him instead of spoiling everything with your doomsday predictions?”
“All right. Just be careful, OK?”
“OK. Love you sis.”
“You too. Bye!”
Cheryl caught her breath as Angelos's car rounded the final bend and brought them into the picturesque village of Ayios Nikolaos. Nestled snugly in a ravine in the Troodos mountains, its narrow streets were lined with quaint cafes, their verandahs shaded by arching vines.
“I knew you'd like it,” Angelos grinned at her obvious delight. “Let's have lunch and then I'll show you the church.”
The delicious Mediterranean spread of cheeses, green salad, olives and crusty bread washed down by smooth red wine, along with the breathtaking mountain views, left Cheryl with the peaceful feeling that she could stay there for ever.
The church was locked but Angelos knew where the priest lived and soon they were admiring the ancient frescoes decorating the heavy Byzantine walls. They stood for long moments with the image of Christ gazing down on them before Cheryl broke the silence with a hesitant, “He died because he loved you. Did you know that?”
“Uh, Yes of course! I go to church on all the high days – Christmas, Easter, saint's days. Don't worry about me. I know all about Christ.”
Then in the semi-darkness of the thousand-year-old church he took her hand and pressed it to his lips.
The following day they lay in a sheltered valley on the Akamas Peninsula, a nearly empty bottle of wine in the grass between them.
“We never have skies this blue in England.”
“Close one eye. Hold up your hand. Doesn't it just look like you're touching heaven?”
Angelos rolled onto his side. Miles of nothing lay between them and the nearest habitation. He stroked her hair, and brushed his fingertips over her eyelids. Her hands traced the curve of his neck and she inched closer to him. Their lips met. “Stay here with me,” he murmured. “We can touch heaven every day.”
“Hello. Cheryl Papadopoulos speaking....
“Oh, Hi Clare!...
“Yes we're doing fine, thanks...
“Oh please give me a break. I'm still a Christian. It's just that we're not all as fanatic as you are...
“Yes of course we take Dimitris and Helene with us...
“Christmas, Easter, saints' days...
“OK, I'll bear it in mind, but you have to realise you've got your life and I've got mine. I'm happy as I am. This is paradise on earth. Come visit and you'll see what I mean!...
“You too. Bye!”
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