Шантель Шоу
The Greek's Acquisition

‘Miss Frobisher has asked me to tell you that you knew her several years ago by her nickname—Loulou. And that she wishes to discuss Eirenne.’

Aletha was sure she had repeated the message correctly, but now the words sounded rather ridiculous, and she braced herself for an explosion of Dimitri’s anger.

His eyes narrowed and he stared at her in silence for several seconds, before to her astonishment he said tersely, ‘Inform her that I can spare her precisely three minutes of my time and show her in.’

It was so quiet in the PA’s office that the ticking of the clock seemed to be in competition with the thud of Louise’s heart. The window offered a spectacular view over the city, but the Athens skyline did not hold her attention for long. Her nerves were frayed, and the sound of a door opening made her spin round as Aletha Pagnotis reappeared.

‘Mr Kalakos will see you very briefly,’ the PA said calmly. She was clearly intrigued by the situation but far too professional to reveal her curiosity. ‘Please come this way.’

Butterflies leapt in Louise’s stomach. If you act confident he won’t be able to intimidate you, she told herself. But the butterflies still danced, and her legs felt wobbly as she balanced on her four-inch heels and entered the lion’s den.

‘So, when did Loulou Hobbs become Louise Frobisher?’

Dimitri was seated behind a huge mahogany desk. He did not get to his feet when Louise walked in and his expression remained impassive, so that she had no idea what he was thinking, but he exuded an air of power and authority that she found daunting. Her brain also registered that he was utterly gorgeous, with his dark, Mediterranean colouring and sculpted features, and as she met his cool stare her heart jolted against her ribcage.

After his PA had slipped discreetly from the room Dimitri leaned back in his chair and surveyed Louise in a frank appraisal that brought a warm flush to her cheeks. She fought the urge to tug on the hem of her skirt to try and make it appear longer. It wasn’t even that short—only an inch or so above her knees, she reminded herself. But her elegant, sophisticated outfit, yes, a little bit provocative—chosen deliberately in the hope of boosting her self-confidence—was very different from the smart but practical navy suit she wore every day to the museum.

Unlike her mother, who had been an avid attention-seeker, Louise was quite happy to blend into the background. She wasn’t used to being looked at the way Dimitri was looking at her—as if she was an attractive woman and he was imagining her without any clothes on! Her face burned hotter. Of course he was not picturing her naked. That wasn’t a glint of sexual awareness in his olive-green eyes. It was just the sunlight slanting through the blinds and reflecting in his retinas.

He had found her attractive once before, whispered a voice in her head. And if she was absolutely honest hadn’t she chosen her outfit because she’d hoped to impress him—to show him what he had lost? Once he had told her she was beautiful. But that hadn’t been real, her common sense pointed out. It had been part of the cruel game he’d been playing with her, and the memories of what had happened between them on Eirenne were best left undisturbed.

‘Are you married? Is Frobisher your husband’s name?’

The curt questions took her by surprise. Dimitri’s face was still inscrutable but she suddenly sensed an inexplicable tension about him.

She shook her head. ‘No—I’m not married. I have always been Louise Frobisher. My mother called me by that silly nickname when I was younger, but I prefer to use my real name. And I was never Hobbs. I was given my father’s surname, even though Tina wasn’t married to him. They split up when I was a few months old and he refused to support her or me.’

Dimitri’s face hardened at the mention of her mother. ‘It doesn’t surprise me to hear that your father was one of a long list of Tina’s lovers. You’re lucky she even remembered his name.’

‘You’re hardly one to talk,’ Louise shot back, instantly defensive.

In truth Tina had not been the best parent in the world. Louise had spent much of her childhood dumped in various boarding schools, while her mother had flitted around Europe with whichever man she’d hooked up with at the time. But now Tina was ill, and it no longer mattered that as a child Louise had often felt she was a nuisance who disrupted her mother’s busy social life. Even in today’s world of advanced medical science the word cancer evoked a feeling of dread, and the prospect of losing her mother had made Louise realise how much she cared about her.

‘From what I’ve seen in media reports you relish being a billionaire playboy with an endless supply of beautiful mistresses. I accept that my mother isn’t perfect, but are you any better, Dimitri?’

‘I don’t break up marriages,’ he said harshly. ‘I’ve never stolen someone’s partner or wrecked a perfectly happy relationship. It is an irrefutable fact that your mother broke my mother’s heart.’

His bitter words hit Louise like bullets, and even though she had nothing to feel guilty about she wished for the millionth time that her mother had not had an affair with Kostas Kalakos.

‘It takes two people to make a relationship,’ she said quietly. ‘Your father chose to leave your mother for Tina …’

‘Only because she chased him relentlessly and seduced him with every trick in her no doubt extensive sexual repertoire.’ Dimitri’s voice dripped with contempt. ‘Tina Hobbs knew exactly who my father was when she “bumped into him” at a party in Monaco. It was not the chance meeting she convinced you it was. She knew Kostas would be there, and she managed to wangle an invitation to that party with the absolute intention of catching herself a rich lover.’

Dimitri’s nostrils flared as he sought to control the anger that still burned inside him whenever he thought of his father’s mistress. The first time he’d set eyes on Tina Hobbs he had seen her for what she was—an avaricious harlot who attached herself like a leech to any rich man stupid enough to fall for a pair of big breasts and the promise of sexual nirvana.

That was what had got to him the most. The realisation that his father hadn’t been as clever or wonderful as he had believed had hurt. He’d lost respect for Kostas, who had been his idol, and even now he still felt a hard knot inside when he remembered how his illusions had been shattered.

Anger filled him with a restless energy, and he scraped back his chair and jerked to his feet. He frowned when Louise immediately edged backwards towards the door. It wasn’t her fault that her mother was a greedy, manipulating bitch, he reminded himself. Louise had been a child when Tina had met Kostas—a gawky kid with braces on her teeth and an annoying habit of staring down at the ground as if she hoped she would sink through it and become invisible.

To tell the truth he hadn’t taken much notice of her on the occasions when he had visited his father on the Kalakos family’s private Aegean island and she had been staying there with her mother during the school holidays.

It had been a shock when he had gone to the island that final time—after the row with his father—and the girl he had known as Loulou had been there alone. Only she hadn’t been a girl. She had been nineteen—on the brink of womanhood and innocently unaware of her allure. He’d had no idea when exactly the awkward teenager who had been too shy to say a word to him had transformed into an articulate, intelligent and beautiful adult. For the first time in his life his usual self-assurance had deserted him and he had found himself struggling to know what to say to her.

He had resolved the problem by kissing her …

Dimitri hauled his mind back to the present. Trips down memory lane were never a good idea. But as he stared at the unexpected visitor who had interrupted his tightly organised work schedule, he acknowledged that in the past seven years Loulou—or Louise—had realised the potential she had shown at nineteen and developed into a stunner.

He ran his eyes over her, taking in her long honey-blond hair which was parted on one side so that it curved around her heart-shaped face and fell halfway down her back in a tumble of glossy curls. Her eyes were a deep sapphire-blue, and her red-glossed lips were a serious temptation.

Desire corkscrewed in his gut as he lowered his gaze and noted the way her fitted scarlet jacket moulded the firm thrust of her breasts and emphasised her narrow waist. Her skirt was short and her legs, sheathed in pale hose, were long and slender. Black stiletto heels added at least three inches to her height.

He trailed his eyes slowly back up her body and lingered on her mouth. Soft, moist lips slightly parted … He felt himself harden as an image flashed into his mind of slanting his lips over hers and kissing her as he had done many years ago.

Louise’s breath seemed to be trapped in her lungs. Something was happening between her and Dimitri—some curious connection had made the atmosphere in the room almost crackle with electricity. She could not look away from him. It seemed as if an invisible force had locked her eyes with his, and as she stared at him she felt her blood pound in her ears, echoing the frantic rhythm of her heartbeat.

When she had walked into his office her first thought had been that he hadn’t changed. He still held his head at that arrogant angle, as if he believed he was superior to everyone else. And although he must be in his thirties now there was no hint of grey in his dark-as-ebony hair.

But of course there were differences about him. In the seven years since she had last seen him his sleek, handsome, could-have-been-a-model-in-an-aftershave-advert looks had grown more rugged. His face was leaner, harder, with razor-sharp cheekbones and a square jaw that warned of an implacable determination to always have his own way. The boyish air that she remembered had disappeared, and now he was a blatantly virile man at the prime of physical perfection.

Now that he was standing she was conscious of his exceptional height. He must be four or five inches over six feet tall, she estimated, and powerfully built, with the finely honed musculature of an athlete. Superbly tailored grey trousers hugged his lean hips, and at some point during the day he had discarded his tie—it was draped over the back of his chair—and undone the top buttons of his shirt to reveal a vee of darkly tanned skin and a smattering of the dark hair that she knew covered his chest.

Memories assailed her—images of a younger Dimitri, standing at the edge of the pool at the villa on Eirenne, wearing a pair of wet swim-shorts that moulded his hard thighs and left little to the imagination. Not that she had needed to imagine him naked. She had seen every inch of his glorious golden-skinned body. She had touched him, stroked him, felt the weight of him pressing her into the mattress as he lowered himself onto her …

‘Why are you here?’

His abrupt question was a welcome interruption to her wayward thoughts. She released her pent-up breath on a faint sigh.

‘I need to talk to you.’

‘That’s funny,’ he said sardonically. ‘I remember saying those exact words to you once, but you refused to listen to me. Why should I listen to you now?’

Louise was startled by his reference to the past. She’d assumed that he would have forgotten the brief time they had spent together. They had been magical, golden days for her, but she had meant nothing to him—as she had later found out.

She moistened her dry lips with the tip of her tongue. ‘I think you’ll be interested in what I have to say. I’m putting Eirenne up for sale—and I thought you might want to buy it.’

Dimitri gave a harsh laugh. ‘You mean buy back the island that belonged to my family for forty years before your mother persuaded my father on his deathbed to amend his will and leave Eirenne to her? Morally, it is not yours to sell.’ He frowned. ‘Nor do you have the right to sell it. Kostas named Tina as his beneficiary, and the island belongs to her.’

‘Actually, I am the legal owner. My mother transferred the deeds into my name and I can do what I like with Eirenne—although Tina is in agreement with my decision to sell it.’

The first part of that statement at least was true, Louise thought. Her mother had been advised by her accountant to transfer ownership of the island for tax purposes. But Louise had never regarded Eirenne as hers, and her decision to sell it was a last resort to raise the huge sum of money needed to pay for Tina to have lifesaving pioneering medical treatment in the U.S. She had not discussed it with her mother, who was too ill to cope with anything more than getting through each day. Tina’s chances of survival were slim, but Louise was determined she would have a chance.

She held Dimitri’s gaze and tried not to feel intimidated by the aggression emanating from him. ‘The island has been valued at three million pounds. I’m prepared to sell it to you for one million.’

His eyes narrowed. ‘Why?’

She understood his surprise. The real-estate agent had clearly thought she was mad when she’d told him she was prepared to offer the small but charming Greek island set amid the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea for considerably less than its market value.

She shrugged. ‘Because I need a quick sale.’
Обратная связь