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Excerpt: The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride

Demos Atrikes lounged against a smooth stretch of wall and surveyed the strobe-lit dance floor with a jaundiced eye as music pounded and bodies writhed around him. Abstract images were projected on a rippling red curtain across from him, and the bored socialites who weren’t on the dance floor lounged artfully on curving leather sofas, watching the absurd slideshow.

He already had a headache. He didn’t normally come to these types of parties. Yet another striving socialite turning—what? Twenty-two? He glanced at the scantily clad beauties crowding the dance floor and suppressed a sigh of boredom. He generally preferred more sophisticated entertainments, although now even those had started to seem old. Empty.

He’d only come tonight because the birthday girl this time round also happened to be the daughter of one of his current clients, a financial analyst who wanted a custom designed yacht, worth around twelve million euros.

It made coming to this pop princess party worth his while, or at least half an hour of his time. He downed the rest of his drink and surveyed the writhing crowd one last time. He’d had enough.

When he’d left the office half an hour ago he had been seeking respite, but he knew the pounding music and heaving dance floor would not provide it. He’d lost himself in such amusements too many times, and now he wanted something else. Something more.

He just didn’t know what it was.

He’d begun to turn away when his eyes were drawn to a slender, dark haired beauty in the middle of the floor, gyrating closely with a greasy-haired punk wearing tight black trousers and a half-buttoned silk shirt in a violent shade of pink. She wore a slip dress in silver spangled lycra, riding high on her thighs and dipping low on her breasts so that little of that lithe young body was left to Demos’s imagination.

She smiled at the man next to her and he reached for her hips, drawing them closer to lock with his in a move so blatantly crude and sexual that Demos’s mouth thinned in distaste, even though at thirty-two years old, he wasn’t old, or innocent enough, to be a prude.

His eyes flared with awareness and curiosity—blatant interest—uncoiled inside him as he watched the girl stiffen. Was the punk’s proprietary pawing was too much even for a wild-child like her? Then she shrugged, accepting, and tossed back her tangled waves of ink-black hair in a gesture that was both brave and yet somehow wonderfully, pitiably defiant.

They danced like that for a few seconds, no more, before she suddenly twisted away, her hair lashing around her, and moved off the dance floor.

Demos watched, intrigued, as the man in the lurid shirt made to follow her, but with a flirty smile that managed to both promise and reject she shook her head and disappeared among the heated throng.

Without even thinking about what he was doing—or why—Demos followed.

It didn’t take long to find her. At six feet four, he was head and shoulders above all the women, even those tottering on their sharpened stilettos, and most of the men.

He found her curled up on one of the curving divans scattered around the nightclub’s bar area, her eyes wide and staring. Demos stopped and watched her, considering his move.

He hadn’t been in the mood to party tonight, he acknowledged, not after nine hours of staring at blueprints, followed by his mother’s reproachful telephone call. You must visit, Demos. Your sisters need you…

A mantle, a yoke, he’d taken on without a qualm or single pang of uncertainty. Yet now, twenty years later, he felt its shackling weight.

And for a moment he threw it off, let his gaze rest on a far more enticing proposition, someone who didn’t depend on him, didn’t need him, someone he just… wanted. Desire, pure, plain, simple.

He wanted her. Yet she was oblivious to his presence, even though he’d come to a halt only a metre away. He took the opportunity to study her: the sexily tousled hair, the smoky eyeliner and pink, pouty lips, the distant look in eyes the colour of lapis lazuli. She was sitting with her legs tucked under her, and her miniscule skirt rode up even higher so he could see the scrap of her thong.

As if aware of where his wandering gaze had strayed to, her own gaze snapped to his and for a heartbeat she looked surprised, shocked even. Demos held her gaze, felt its lure and promise as those pouty lips curved into a smile of sensual enjoyment, and with deliberate provocation she recrossed her legs.

Demos swallowed, not wanting to be affected by such an obvious ploy, but he was. Her lips curved more deeply, knowingly.

“Had a nice look?” she asked in a husky purr, and Demos smiled, slipping next to her on the divan.

“Yes,” he murmured back, “thanks to you.”

She glanced at him with brazen thoroughness, her gaze travelling from his face with its five o’clock shadow, down to his loosened tie, sweeping across his chest, and down farther, her smile still curving with a teasing playfulness that had Demos nearly breaking into a sweat.

He’d had his share of one-night stands, instant physical attraction that had been fulfilled—and finished—in a matter of moments. Yet he’d never reacted so strongly, so quickly, to a simple look.

“Had a good look yourself?” he asked, leaning closer to her. She shook her head, and her hair brushed his cheek. She smelled of some kind of flowery, young scent that he normally would have found overpowering, yet on her it was intoxicating.

“No… not yet.”

“We could remedy that situation.”

She pulled back, raised her eyebrows. “How?”

She was challenging him, he thought. The smile that curved her lips was both sensual and mocking. He felt a thrill of adrenalin and lust race through him. This girl was different than the spoiled socialites, the shallow models. The women he normally took to bed.

They simpered, they cooed, they draped themselves over him with nauseating predictability. She didn’t. She just smiled coolly and waited.

“How do you think?” he finally asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied, and he knew from her little smile that she was as intrigued as he was. “Maybe you can make some suggestions as to how we find out.” There was a look of challenge in her eyes and she laid one hand, as lightly as a butterfly’s wing, on his thigh. High on his thigh, and Demos reacted.

So did she.

She jerked her hand away and gave a little laugh, her glance sliding away from his before it returned, resolutely, to meet his inquiring gaze.

The skinny, silver strap of her dress had fallen off her shoulder, and Demos reached to adjust it. He couldn’t resist sweeping his fingers against that silky bit of skin, to feel if it was as soft as it looked.

Yet the moment his fingers skimmed her collarbone she jerked back, her body stiffening, her eyes blanking. She almost looked afraid.

Demos dropped his hand and leaned back, considering.

What game was she playing?

Then she smiled again, reached for her martini glass, downed the last of her drink, and thrust it towards him.

“Why don’t we start by you buying me a drink?”

January 2008