Шантель Шоу
The Greek's Acquisition


‘But now you have turned into a swan,’ he said softly. ‘Ise panemorfi—you are very beautiful,’ he translated, although he had no need. She spoke Greek fluently.

That had been the start of it, Louise thought, turning her head restlessly on the pillows. That moment when she had looked into Dimitri’s olive-green eyes and made the startling discovery that he desired her. That had been the beginning of a golden few days when they had become friends, while the awareness between them had grown ever more intense.

When Dimitri had learned that she was spending her birthday alone he had insisted on taking her to dinner on the neighbouring island of Andros, which was a short boat ride away from Eirenne. It had been a magical evening, and at the end of it, when he had escorted her back to the Villa Aphrodite, he had kissed her. It had only been a brief kiss, no more than a gossamer-light brush of his lips on hers, but fireworks had exploded inside her and she had stared at him dazedly, her heart thumping, longing for him to kiss her again.

He hadn’t, but had bade her goodnight rather abruptly, so that she had wondered if she had annoyed him in some way. Maybe he regretted kissing her because she was the daughter of his father’s mistress? she had thought miserably. But the next morning he had arrived as she was sitting disconsolately by the pool, facing another day on her own. He had invited her to go to the beach with him, and the day that had seemed so bleak suddenly became wonderful.

They had swum and sunbathed and talked about every subject under the sun—apart from her mother’s affair with his father. Dimitri never mentioned Tina.

Over the next few days Louise’s faint wariness had faded and she’d grown more relaxed with him, so that when he’d kissed her again—properly this time—she had responded with an eagerness that had made him groan and accuse her of being a sorceress who had surely cast a spell on him.

It had seemed entirely natural for him to take her back to the house in the pine forest and make love to her one long, lazy afternoon, with the sun slanting through the blinds and gilding their naked bodies. He had been so skilled and so gentle that losing her virginity had been a painless experience.

Dimitri had been unaware that it was her first time, and she had been too shy to tell him. She had responded to the stroke of his hands and the exquisite sensation of his mouth on her breasts, teasing her nipples until they were as hard as pebbles, with a passion that had matched his. It had been perfect, their bodies moving in total accord, until simultaneously they had reached the zenith of sensual pleasure.

She had spent the whole of that night with him, and each time he’d made love to her she had fallen deeper in love with him.

The following morning he had walked her back to the Villa Aphrodite.

‘Come and swim in the pool,’ she had invited. ‘No one is here.’ By ‘no one’ she had meant her mother.

Dimitri hesitated. ‘All right—but afterwards we’ll go back to Iremia. I hate this place. I assume Tina chose the décor,’ he said sardonically, glancing at the zebra-print sofas and the white marble pillars that were everywhere in the villa. ‘It just goes to prove that no amount of money can buy good taste.’

His dislike of her mother was evident in his voice, and Louise felt uncomfortable, but then he smiled at her and the awkward moment passed. They swam for a while, and then he carried her out of the pool and laid her on a sunbed. She had wound her arms around his neck to pull him down on top of her—when a shrill voice made them spring apart.

‘What do you think you ‘re bloody well doing? Take your hands off my daughter! ’

All these years later Louise could still hear Tina screaming at Dimitri as she tottered across the patio in her vertiginous heels, quivering with fury so that her platinum-blond beehive had seemed to wobble precariously on top of her head.

‘It’s bad enough that Kostas cut our trip short with some excuse about needing to be at a meeting in Athens. But to find you here, preying on Loulou, is the last straw. You have no right to be here. Your father banned you from the villa.’

‘Don’t you dare talk to me about rights.’ Dimitri’s anger had been explosive as he’d leapt to his feet and faced Tina.

The row that had followed had been a vicious exchange of words. Louise had said nothing, but her mother had said more than enough.

‘Do you think I don’t know what’s in your nasty, vengeful mind?’ Tina hissed to Dimitri. ‘It’s obvious you decided to try and seduce Loulou to get at me—out of some misplaced revenge for your mother.’

‘No!’ Louise interrupted desperately. ‘This has nothing to do with you.’

‘Doesn’t it?’ Tina laughed mockingly. ‘So Dimitri has told you about his mother, has he? That she took an overdose and that he blames me for her death? Has he also told you that his father has disinherited him because of the way he has repeatedly insulted me?’ Tina continued relentlessly. ‘Or that now he is no longer in line to inherit a fortune the woman he hoped to marry has dumped him? This has everything to do with me—doesn’t it, Dimitri? You hate my guts, and the only reason you’ve been sniffing around my daughter is because you want to cause trouble.’

Tina’s accusations sent a cold chill down Louise’s spine. Her mother had always been over-dramatic, she reminded herself. Dimitri couldn’t have been pretending to be attracted to her. He had been so attentive, and the passion between them had been so intense that she had even begun to think—to hope—that he was falling in love with her.

‘It’s not true. Is it?’ She turned to Dimitri, pleading for his reassurance, but inside her head doubts were already forming. She had not even known his mother had died, let alone the tragic circumstances of her death. Not once in the past few days had he mentioned it.

She had thought they were friends, and now they were lovers. But Dimitri had turned into a hard-faced stranger and the coldness in his eyes froze her blood.

‘Yes, it’s true.’

His harsh voice broke the silence, and like a pebble hitting the surface of a pool his words caused shockwaves to ripple through the tense atmosphere.

‘My mother took her own life because she was heartbroken that my father had divorced her and thrown away the love they had shared for thirty years for a worthless whore.’

He stared contemptuously at Tina, and then turned and walked away without saying another word. He didn’t even glance at Louise; it was as if she did not exist. And she watched him go, paralysed with shock and feeling sick with humiliation that she had been nothing more to him than a pawn in his battle with her mother.

‘Don’t tell me you were falling for him?’ her mother said, when she caught sight of Louise’s stricken face. ‘For God’s sake, Lou, until recently he was engaged to Rochelle Fitzpatrick—that stunning American model who is regularly on the covers of the top fashion magazines. He wasn’t really interested in you. Like I said, he just wants to cause trouble. A while ago Dimitri overheard me telling Kostas how keen I am for you have a good career,’ Tina continued. ‘He knew I would be upset if you dropped out of university to have an affair with him. I imagine he thought that if you fell for his flattery he would be able to turn you against me. And of course his ultimate goal was to cause friction between me and his father.’

Tina prattled on relentlessly, unaware of the agonised expression in Louise’s eyes. ‘It’s lucky I came back before he persuaded you into bed. The villa staff told me he’s only been hanging around for a couple of days. Go back to university and forget about Dimitri.’ She gave Louise a sudden intent look. ‘You’re clever. You can make something of your life. You don’t need to rely on any man. And if you take my advice you’ll never fall in love like I did with your father. I swore after him that I’d never let myself care about any man ever again.’

Shaken by Tina’s reference to her father, whom she had never known, and traumatised by the scene with Dimitri, Louise left Eirenne within the hour. She hadn’t expected to see him again, but as she climbed into the motor launch that would take her to Athens she was shocked to see him striding along the jetty.

‘Loulou … wait!’

Wearing bleached jeans and a black tee shirt that accentuated his incredible physique, he looked unbelievably gorgeous, and it struck her then that she’d been mad to believe he could have been attracted to her. He could have any woman he wanted, so why would he want an unsophisticated student whose looks could at best be described as passable?

Overwhelmed by self-doubt, she instructed the boatman to start the engine.

Dimitri broke into a run. ‘Theos! Don’t go. I want to talk to you about what I said up at the villa.’

‘But I don’t want to talk to you,’ she told him stonily. ‘You made everything perfectly clear.’

She felt a fool, but she’d be damned if she would let him see that he had broken her heart. The boat engine roared, drowning out Dimitri’s response. He looked furious as the boat shot away from the jetty, and shouted something after her. But she didn’t hear his words over the rush of the wind, and told herself she did not care that she would never speak to him again.

She had been unaware when she had left Eirenne that a few weeks later she would urgently need to talk to Dimitri …

Louise tossed restlessly beneath the sheets. She sat up to thump her pillows and flopped back down again, wishing the bombardment of memories would stop. Tiredness swept over her, and her last conscious thought was that in a few short hours she had to get up for work.

She must have fallen into a deep sleep at first, but towards dawn the dream came. She was running down a long corridor. On either side were rooms like hospital rooms, and in each room was a baby lying in a cot. But it was never her baby. Every time she went into a room she felt hopeful that this was the right one—but it was always someone else’s child looking up at her.

She ran into the next room, and the next, feeling ever more frantic as she searched for her baby. She was almost at the end of the corridor. There was only one room left. This had to be where her child was. But the cot was empty—and the terrible truth dawned that she would never find her baby. Her child was lost for ever.

Dear God. Louise jerked upright, breathing hard as if she had run a marathon. It was a long time since she had last had the dream, but it had been so real she was not surprised to find her face was wet and that she had been crying in her sleep. For months after the miscarriage that she’d suffered, three weeks after discovering she was expecting Dimitri’s child, she had dreamed that she was looking for her baby. And each time she had woken, just as now, feeling a dull ache of grief for the new life she had carried so briefly inside her.

Seeing Dimitri again yesterday had triggered memories buried deep in her subconscious. She had never told anyone about the baby, and had struggled to deal with her sense of loss alone. Maybe if she had been able to confide in someone it would have helped, but her mother had been totally absorbed in her relationship with Kostas, and as for Dimitri—well, it was probably better that he had never known she had conceived his child.

No doubt he would have been horrified. But she would never know how he might have reacted, because he had refused to speak to her when she had plucked up the courage and phoned him to tell him she was pregnant. A week later, when he had finally returned her call, she had switched off her phone. There hadn’t seemed any point in telling him she had lost his baby. At the time there hadn’t seemed a lot of point in anything. The weeks and months following the miscarriage had been desperately bleak, and she had just wanted to stay in bed and hide from the world, she remembered.

She had told herself it would not have been ideal to bring a fatherless child into the world. She knew only too well what it was like to grow up with only one parent, to feel the nagging sense of failure that perhaps it was her fault her own father had rejected her. She had tried to convince herself it was for the best that her pregnancy had ended. Yet even now, whenever she saw a child of about six years old, she imagined what her child would have been like and wished she could have known him or her.

Tears filled her eyes and she blinked them away. There was no point in dwelling on the past. She stroked Madeleine’s downy-soft, cream fur. ‘At least I’ve got you,’ she murmured to the cat. And Madeleine, who seemed to possess an intuition that was beyond human understanding, gently purred and rubbed her pointed chocolate-coloured ears against Louise’s hand.

CHAPTER THREE

‘ON THIS tour of the Louvre you will be able to admire some of the world’s greatest masterpieces, including the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Venus de Milo, and of course, the Mona Lisa.’

Louise addressed the group of visitors who were assembled in the Hall Napoléon, beneath the spectacular glass pyramid. One of her duties as a visitors’ assistant was to give tours in both French, which she spoke fluently, and English. Her group this afternoon seemed to be mainly American and Japanese tourists, who nodded and smiled to show that they had understood her.

‘If you would like to follow me, we will go first to the Denon Wing.’
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