Шантель Шоу
The Greek's Acquisition


She did not attempt to explain that she had never felt comfortable with the fact that Kostas Kalakos had left the island to her mother rather than to his family. For one thing she doubted Dimitri would believe her, and for another she did not want to bring personal feelings into what was essentially a business proposition. She needed to sell Eirenne and she was sure Dimitri would be keen to buy it. End of story.

‘I know you tried to buy the island from my mother shortly after Kostas died, and she refused to sell it. Now I’m giving you the chance to own it again.’

Dimitri snorted. ‘Let me guess. Tina wants you to sell Eirenne because she has spent all the money my father left her and has decided to cash in her remaining asset.’

His comment was painfully close to the truth, Louise acknowledged heavily. Since Kostas’s death her mother had lived an extravagant lifestyle, and failed to heed warnings from the bank that her inheritance fund was running out.

‘I don’t intend to discuss the reason for the sale. But if you turn down my offer I will advertise Eirenne, and I’ve been told that it should attract a lot of interest.’

‘Interest, possibly. But in case you hadn’t noticed the world is in the middle of an economic recession and I doubt you’ll sell quickly. Businesses in the leisure industry won’t be attracted to Eirenne because it isn’t big enough to be developed as a tourist destination—thankfully.’

Dimitri’s words echoed what the real-estate agent had told Louise. ‘Buying a private island is not a top priority for most people right now. Even billionaires are being cautious in this uncertain economic climate, and it could be months before a buyer comes forward.’

Panic coiled in her stomach. Her mother did not have months.

Dimitri studied Louise speculatively, curious when he saw the colour drain from her face. She gave the impression of self-confidence, but he sensed a vulnerability about her that reminded him of the younger woman he had known seven years ago.

She had been in her first year at university, just stepping out into the world and brimming with enthusiasm for life. Her passion for everything, especially the arts, had captivated him. Although he’d only been in his twenties, he had already been jaded by a diet of sophisticated socialites who fell into his bed with a willingness that he’d begun to find tedious. But the Loulou he had met on Eirenne that spring had been different from any other woman he’d ever known—just as she had been different from the shy teenager he’d largely ignored on the few previous occasions when he had seen her at his father’s villa.

He had been intrigued by her new maturity, and they had talked for hours. Not pointless small-talk, but interesting conversations. As the days had passed he’d found that he valued her friendship and her honesty as much as he was entranced by her beauty, which was not just skin-deep but truly came from within her.

He had thought he had found something special—someone special. But he had been wrong.

Dimitri was conscious of a faint feeling of regret, which he immediately dismissed as he slammed the door on his memories.

‘There’s more to this than you’re telling me,’ he guessed intuitively. ‘Why are you prepared to sell the island for significantly less than it’s worth?’

When she did not reply he shrugged dismissively. ‘Thanks for the offer, but I am no longer interested in Eirenne.’ He shot her an intent look. ‘It holds too many memories that I’d prefer to forget.’

Louise wondered if he deliberately meant to hurt her. He could have been referring to his father’s affair with her mother, of course. Kostas had left Dimitri’s mother to live with Tina on Eirenne. But somehow she knew he had been talking about more personal memories—of the few wonderful days they had spent together and that one incredible night.

He drew back his shirt-cuff and glanced at his watch. ‘Your three minutes are up. A member of my security staff will escort you from the building.’

‘No … Wait!’ Shocked by his abrupt dismissal, Louise jerked forward and reached out to prevent him from picking up the phone on his desk. Her fingers touched his and the brief contact sent a quiver of electricity shooting up her arm. She could not restrain an audible gasp and snatched her hand back.

She felt his eyes on her, but she was so shaken by her reaction to him that she could not bring herself to meet his gaze. She was stunned by his refusal to buy the island. She had been sure he would agree.

Her mind whirled. If Dimitri did not want to buy Eirenne she could advertise it at the same below-value price she had offered it to him. But there was still no guarantee that it would be sold quickly, and time for Tina was running out.

She pictured her mother’s painfully thin face the last time she had visited her. The slash of bright lipstick Tina still applied every day with the help of a nurse had looked garish against her grey skin.

‘I’m scared, Loulou,’ Tina had whispered, when Louise had leaned over the bed to kiss her the day before she had flown to Greece.

‘It’s going to be all right—I promise.’

She would do everything in her power to keep the promise she had given her mother, Louise vowed. Somehow she had to raise enough money for Tina to have that treatment in the U.S., and her best chance of doing that was to persuade Dimitri to buy back the island that she believed in her heart should be his.

That was why she had offered Eirenne to him for less than it was worth. Her conscience was torn between wanting to help her mother and a desire to be fair to Dimitri. The figure she had quoted him would cover Tina’s medical costs at the specialist cancer clinic in Massachusetts, and would leave enough for her to live on once she was well again.

She had to believe it was going to happen, Louise thought emotionally. She refused to contemplate that Tina would not survive. But Dimitri’s declaration that he was not interested in the island was a serious blow to her hopes.

CHAPTER TWO

‘I THOUGHT you would jump at the chance to own Eirenne.’ Louise prayed that Dimitri could not hear the desperation in her voice. ‘I remember you told me it meant a lot to you because you’d spent happy times there as a child.’

His jaw tightened. ‘They were happy times—for me, my sister and my parents. We spent every holiday on Eirenne. Until your mother destroyed my family. Now you have the gall to want me to buy back what should have been mine? My father had no right to leave our island to his whore.

‘I presume you would give the money to Tina, so that she can continue to fund her extravagant lifestyle?’ His lip curled in disgust. ‘What kind of sucker do you take me for? Why don’t you suggest she finds herself another rich lover? Or do what every other decent person does and find a job so that she can support herself? That would be a novelty,’ he sneered. ‘Tina actually working for a living. Although I suppose she would argue that lying flat on her back is a form of work.’

‘Shut up!’ The vile picture he was painting of her mother ripped Louise apart—not least because she could not deny there was some truth in his words. Tina had never worked. She had lived off her lovers and shamelessly allowed them to keep her—until a richer man came along.

But she was her mother, faults and all, and she was dying. Louise refused to criticise Tina or allow Dimitri to insult her.

‘I’ve told you—I am the legal owner of Eirenne and I’m selling it because I need to raise some capital.’

He frowned. ‘You’re saying the money would be for you? Why do you need a million pounds?’

‘Why does anyone need money? A girl has to live, you know.’

Unconsciously she touched the diamond fleur-de-lis pendant and thought of her grandmother. Céline had not approved of the way her daughter lived her life, but she would have wanted her granddaughter to do everything possible to help Tina. Louise had even had the pendant valued by a jeweller, thinking that she could sell it to raise funds for Tina’s treatment. But the sum she would have made was a fraction of the cost of medical expenses in America, and on the jeweller’s advice she had decided to keep her only memento of her grandmother.

She flushed beneath Dimitri’s hard stare. The contempt in his eyes hurt like a knife in her chest, but it was vital that she convinced him she was selling the island for her own benefit. If he guessed that Tina needed money there wasn’t a hope in hell he would agree to buy Eirenne. She was not being dishonest, she assured herself. She was giving Dimitri the opportunity to buy the island that had once belonged to his family at a bargain price. It was no business of his how she chose to spend the proceeds of the sale.

‘From what I remember of Eirenne it is a pleasant enough place, but I’d rather have hard cash than a lump of grey rock in the middle of the sea,’ she told him.

Dimitri felt a sensation like a lead weight sinking in his stomach. It was stupid to feel disappointed because Louise had turned out like her mother, he told himself. Tina Hobbs was the ultimate gold-digger, and it should be no surprise that her daughter shared the same lack of moral integrity.

Seven years ago he would have sworn that Louise was different from Tina, but clearly she was not. She wanted easy money. From her appearance—designer outfit and perfect hair and make-up—she was obviously high-maintenance and had expensive tastes. Her necklace was not some cheap trinket. Diamonds which sparkled with such brilliance were worth a fortune.

How was she able to afford couture clothes and valuable jewellery? Dimitri frowned as the thought slid into his head that perhaps a man had paid for her outfit in return for her sleeping with him. Her mother had made a career out of leeching off rich lovers, and he was sickened to think that Louise might be doing the same.

Seven years ago she had been so innocent, he remembered. Not sexually—although it had crossed his mind when he had taken her to bed that she was not very experienced. At first she had been a little shy with him, a little hesitant, but she had responded to him with such ardent passion that he had dismissed the idea that he was her first lover. Sex with her had been mind-blowing, and even now the memory of her wrapping her slender limbs around him, the soft cries of delight she had made when he had kissed every inch of her body and parted her thighs to press his mouth to her sweet feminine heart, caused his gut to clench.

Her unworldly air had probably been an act, Dimitri thought grimly as he dragged his eyes from her face and turned to stare out of the window. Even if she had been as sweet and lovely as he’d believed all those years ago, she was patently her mother’s daughter now.

So why was he so fiercely attracted to her? The question mocked him, because however much he hated to admit it he felt an overwhelming urge to stride around his desk and pull her into his arms. He felt a tightening in his groin as he imagined kissing her, pictured himself thrusting his tongue between her red-glossed lips and sliding his hand beneath her short skirt.

Gamoto! He cursed beneath his breath. The girl Loulou he remembered from years ago had gone for ever. Perhaps she had never existed at all except for in his mind. He had made her out to be special, but he had been kidding himself.

The woman standing in his office was beautiful and desirable—and he was a red-blooded male. He wasn’t going to beat himself up because she fired him up. But he was not some crass youth with a surfeit of hormones. Louise was off-limits for all sorts of reasons—not least because she was history and he had no wish to revisit the past.

Confident that he had regained control of his libido, he swung round and regarded her dispassionately. His first instinct when she had offered to sell him Eirenne had been to tell her to go to hell. But now his business brain acknowledged that he would be crazy to turn down the proposition. The island was easily worth double the amount Louise was asking. He did not know why she was prepared to sell it for less, and frankly he didn’t care.

Three years ago his lawyers had contested Kostas’s will and argued that Eirenne should remain the property of the Kalakos family, but to no avail. There had been no legal loopholes and Dimitri had had to accept that he would never own the island he believed was rightfully his. Now he had the chance to buy it at an exceptionally good price. He would be a fool to allow his pride to stand in the way of a good deal.

‘I need some time to consider whether or not I want to buy Eirenne,’ he said abruptly.

Louise hardly dared to breathe, afraid she had misheard him or misunderstood, and that the fragile thread of hope he seemed to be offering would be snatched away. A few moments ago he had told her he was not interested, but now, miraculously, he appeared to be having second thoughts.
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