Шантель Шоу
The Greek's Acquisition

‘How much time?’ She did not want to push him, but Tina needed to start the treatment in America as soon as possible.

‘Three days. I’ll contact you at your hotel. Where are you staying?’

‘I’m not—I arrived in Greece yesterday evening and I’m leaving tonight. I can’t be away from home for too long.’

Why not? Dimitri wondered. Did she live with a lover who demanded her presence in his bed every night? Was he the same man who had bought her the diamond pendant that sparkled so brilliantly against her creamy skin? Heat surged inside him—an inexplicable feeling of rage that boiled in his blood. It was none of his business how Louise lived her life, he reminded himself. He didn’t give a damn if she had an army of lovers.

‘Give me details of where I can contact you,’ he instructed her tersely, handing her the notepad and pen from his desk.

She quickly wrote something down and handed the pad back to him. He glanced at her address and felt another flare of anger. Property in the centre of Paris was expensive. He knew because a couple of years ago he had purchased an apartment block on the Rue de Rivoli to add to his real-estate portfolio.

She could have a well-paid job, his mind pointed out. He shouldn’t leap to the assumption that she allowed a man to keep her just because her mother had always done so. But she had told him she was selling Eirenne because she needed the money. So, had a rich lover grown tired of her? She would have to have a damn good job to afford the rent on a prime city-centre address so close to the Champs-Elysées.

Incensed by the thoughts ricocheting around his brain—about a woman he had not the slightest interest in—Dimitri strode across the room and pulled open the door for her to leave.

‘I’ll be in touch.’

Louise’s eyes flew to his face, but she could read nothing in his hard expression. Patently their meeting was at an end. The next three days were going to seem an eternity, but she could do nothing now except wait for Dimitri’s decision.

‘Thank you.’ Her voice sounded rusty and her legs felt as unsteady as a newborn foal’s as she walked out of his office. As she passed him, she caught the drift of his cologne, mingled with another subtly masculine scent that was achingly familiar even after all this time. She hesitated, swamped by a crazy urge to slide her arms around his waist, to rest her head against his chest and feel the beat of his heart next to her own as she had done a long time ago.

Of their own volition, it seemed, her eyes were drawn to his face, and just as when she had first entered his office some unseen force seemed to weld her gaze to his. Unconsciously she moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue.

Dimitri’s eyes narrowed. Theos, she was a temptress—and he was a mere mortal with a healthy sex drive. Despite his determination to ignore the smouldering chemistry between him and Louise he was conscious of an ache low in his gut, and his mouth twisted in self-disgust when he felt himself harden.

For the space of a heartbeat he almost gave in to the temptation to pull her back into the room, close the door and push her against it, so that he could grind the swollen shaft throbbing painfully beneath his trousers against her pelvis. It was a long time since he had felt such an urgent, almost primitive desire for a woman. He prided himself on the fact that he was always in control, always coolly collected. But he did not feel cool now. Molten heat was surging through his veins, and as he stared into her sapphire-blue eyes every sensible thought in his head was overruled by a sexual hunger that was so strong it took all his considerable will-power not to succumb to it.

‘Antio.’ He bade her goodbye in a clipped tone, his teeth gritted.

The sound of Dimitri’s voice shattered the spell. Louise tore her eyes from his. She discovered that she had been holding her breath and released it on a shaky sigh. She forced her feet to continue moving, and the instant she stepped into the corridor she heard the decisive snick of the door being closed behind her.

For a few seconds she leaned against the corridor wall and dragged oxygen into her lungs, conscious of her heart hammering beneath her ribs. She was shocked by the effect Dimitri had had on her. He was just a man, she reminded herself. Sure, he was good-looking, but she had met other handsome men and hadn’t felt as if she had been hit in the solar plexus.

She had never met another man as devastatingly sexy as Dimitri, a voice in her head taunted. No other man had ever turned her legs to jelly and evoked shockingly erotic images in her mind that caused her cheeks to burn as she hurried into the lift. Seven years ago she had been utterly overwhelmed by Dimitri, and she was dismayed to realise that nothing had changed.

Dimitri walked back across to his desk and drummed his fingers on the polished wooden surface. He could not forget the expression of relief that had flared in Louise’s eyes when he had told her he would consider buying the island. Maybe she had debts and that was why she needed money in a hurry, he brooded. That would explain why she couldn’t wait for a buyer who would pay the full value of Eirenne.

He dropped into his chair and stared at his computer screen, but his concentration was shot to pieces and his mood was filthy. Sexual frustration was not conducive to work productivity, he discovered. With a savage curse he gave up on the financial report, snatched up his phone and put a call through to a private investigator whose services he used occasionally.

‘I want you to check out a woman called Louise Frobisher—I have an address in Paris for her. The usual information. Where she works—’ if she works, he thought to himself‘—her friends …’ his jaw hardened ‘…boyfriends. Report back to me in twenty-four hours.’

It was past midnight when Louise arrived back at her apartment in the Châtelet-Les-Halles area of Paris. Ideally located close enough to the Musée du Louvre that she could walk to work, it had been her home for the past four years, and she let out a heartfelt sigh as she walked through the front door. Her flat was on the sixth floor, in the eaves of the building. The sloping ceilings made the compact interior seem even smaller, but the view over the city from the tiny balcony was wonderful.

The view was the last thing on her mind, however, as she dumped her suitcase in the hall and kicked off her shoes. The past forty-eight hours—in which she had flown to Athens and back again, and had that tense meeting with Dimitri—had been tiring, not to mention fraught with emotions.

As she entered the living room Madeleine, her Siamese cat, stretched elegantly before springing down from a cushion on the wide windowsill.

‘Don’t give me that look,’ Louise murmured as she lifted the cat into her arms and Madeleine fixed her with a reproachful stare from slanting eyes the colour of lapis-lazuli. ‘You weren’t abandoned. Benoit promised he would feed you twice a day, and I bet he made a fuss of you.’

Her neighbour, who lived in the flat below, had been a great help recently, offering to feed Madeleine while Louise spent time with Tina at the hospital. She would visit her mother after work tomorrow. For now, she knew she should eat something, but her appetite was as depleted as the interior of her fridge. A quick shower followed by bed beckoned, and half an hour later she slid between crisp white sheets and did not bother to make even a token protest when Madeleine sprang up onto the counterpane and curled up in the crook of her knees.

Sleep should have come quickly, but it eluded her as thoughts chased round inside her head. Seeing Dimitri again had been so much more painful than she had been prepared for. It had been seven years, she reminded herself angrily. She should be over him by now—was over him. And what was there to be over, anyway? The brief time they had spent together had hardly constituted a relationship.

But as she lay in bed, watching silver moonbeams slant through the gap in the curtains, she could not hold back her memories.

She had gone to Eirenne for the Easter holidays. Her friends at university had tried to persuade her to stay in Sheffield, but she’d had exams coming up and had guessed she wouldn’t get any studying done if her flatmates planned to hold parties every night. Besides, she had planned to spend her nineteenth birthday with her mother.

But when she had arrived at the island she’d found Tina and Kostas about to leave for a holiday in Dubai. It wasn’t the first time Tina had forgotten her birthday, and Louise hadn’t bothered to remind her. All her life she had taken second place to her mother’s lovers. At least she would be able to get her assignment finished, she’d consoled herself. But she had been lonely on Eirenne with only the villa’s staff for company, and she had missed her new university friends.

One afternoon, bored with her studies, she had decided to ride around the island on her pushbike. Eirenne was a small island, but on previous visits she had never strayed far from the grounds of the opulent villa that Kostas had built for his mistress.

The road that ran around the island was little more than a bumpy track and Louise had been carefully avoiding the potholes when a motorbike had suddenly shot round the bend and swerved to avoid hitting her. In panic she had lost her balance and fallen, scraping her arm on the rough ground as she landed.

‘Theos, why weren’t you looking where you were going?’

She had recognised the angry voice, even though she had only met Kostas’s son Dimitri a handful of times when he had happened to visit his father at the same time as she had been staying on Eirenne. She had never really spoken to him before, although she had overheard the arguments he’d had with Kostas about his relationship with Tina.

‘You nearly crashed into me,’ she’d defended herself, her temper rising when he grabbed her arm none too gently and hauled her to her feet. ‘Road hog! Some birthday this is turning out to be,’ she had added grumpily. ‘I wish I’d stayed in England.’

For a moment his unusual olive-green eyes darkened. But then he threw back his head and laughed.

‘So you do speak? You’ve always seemed to be struck dumb whenever I’ve met you.’

‘I suppose you think I’m over-awed by you,’ she said, flushing. Not for the world would she allow him to know that since she was sixteen she’d had a massive crush on him.

He stared down at her, his eyes glinting with amusement in his handsome face. ‘And are you over-awed, Loulou?’

‘Of course not. I’m annoyed. My bike’s got a puncture, thanks to you. And I’m going to have a lovely bruise on my shoulder.’

‘You’re bleeding,’ he said, noticing where she had scraped her arm. ‘Come back to the house and I’ll clean that graze and fix your tyre.’

‘But the Villa Aphrodite is that way,’ she said in a puzzled voice when he turned in the opposite direction. ‘Where are you staying, anyway? I haven’t seen you around. I thought Kostas had banned you from the villa after your last row with him.’

‘It suits me never to set foot inside that tasteless monstrosity my father has built for his tart.’ The anger returned to Dimitri’s voice. ‘I’m staying at the old house my grandfather built many years ago. He named the house Iremia, which means tranquillity. But the island is no longer a tranquil place since your mother came here.’

Leaving his motorbike by the side of the track, he pushed Louise’s bicycle. She followed him in silence, daunted by the rigid set of his shoulders. But his temper had cooled by the time they arrived at the house, and he was a polite host, inviting her in and instructing his butler to serve them drinks on the terrace.

The house was nestled in a dip in the land, surrounded by pine trees and olive groves so that it was hidden from view. It was not surprising that Louise had never seen it before. Unlike the ultra-modern and to Louise’s mind unattractive Villa Aphrodite, Iremia was a beautiful old house built in a classical style, with coral-pink walls and cream-coloured wooden shutters at the windows. The gardens were well-established, and through the trees the cobalt-blue sea sparkled in the distance.

‘Hold still while I put some antiseptic on your arm,’ Dimitri instructed after he had led her out to the terrace and indicated that she should sit on one of the sun-loungers.

His touch was light, yet a tiny tremor ran through Louise at the feel of his hands on her skin. His dark head was bent close to hers, and she was fiercely aware of the tang of his aftershave mingled with another subtly masculine scent that caused her heart to race.

He glanced up and met her gaze. ‘I hardly recognised you,’ he said, his smile doing strange things to her insides. ‘The last time I saw you, you were the proverbial ugly duckling.’

‘Thanks,’ she muttered sarcastically, flushing as she remembered the thick braces she’d worn on her teeth for years. Thankfully she’d had them removed now, and her teeth were perfectly straight and white.

As a teenager she had been slow to develop, and had despaired about her boyish figure, but in the last year or so she had finally gained the womanly curves she had longed for. However, she still lacked self-confidence, and Dimitri’s comment hurt. She tried to jerk away from him, but instead of releasing her arm he trailed his fingers very lightly up to the base of her throat and found the pulse that was beating frantically there.
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