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Greek Escape: The Dimitrakos Proposition / The Virgin's Choice / Bought for Her Baby

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‘IT’S TIME YOU told me something about yourself,’ Acheron declared, settling back into his seat and cradling his wineglass in one elegant hand.

Tabby was ill at ease. The grand dining room and the table festooned with flowers and fancy dishes for the first meal they were to share as a married couple made her feel like Cinderella arriving at the ball without a prince on hand to claim her. He had watched her watching him to see which cutlery to use, and the awareness had embarrassed her, making her wish that she had never confessed her ignorance. ‘What sort of something?’

Acheron raised an ebony brow. ‘Let’s be basic—your background?’

He was so relaxed that he infuriated her, sheathed in tight faded denim jeans and a black shirt left undone at the throat. She had assumed he would dress up for dinner much as aristocrats seemed to do on television shows and, if she was honest, that was probably why she had picked the long dress. But instead of dressing up, Acheron had dressed down and, maddeningly, he still looked amazing, black hair curling a little from the shower, stubborn jaw line slightly rough with dark stubble, lustrous dark eyes pinned to her with uncompromising intensity and she couldn’t read him, couldn’t read him at all, hadn’t a clue what he was thinking about.

‘My background’s not pretty,’ she warned him.

He shrugged a shoulder in dismissal of that objection.

Tabby clenched her teeth and stiffened her backbone. ‘I imagine my conception was an accident. My parents weren’t married. My mother once told me they were going to give me up for adoption until they discovered that having a child meant they could get better housing and more benefits out of the welfare system. They were both druggies.’

Acheron no longer seemed quite so relaxed and he sat forward with a sudden frown. ‘Addicts?’

‘I warned you that it wasn’t pretty. Their drug of choice was whatever was cheapest and most easily available. They weren’t parents in the normal sense of the word, and I don’t think they were even that keen on each other because they had terrible fights. I was simply the child who lived with them,’ Tabby proffered tightly. ‘And I got in the way...frequently because children have needs and they didn’t meet them.’

Acheron forced his shoulders back into the chair, his astonishment at what she had told him concealed by his impassive expression. He almost told her then and there in a revelation that would have been unprecedented for him that they had much more in common than a cat and a dog.

‘Have you heard enough?’ Tabby enquired hopefully.

‘I want to hear it all,’ Acheron contradicted levelly, slowly comprehending the base level of painful isolation and insecurity from which that chippy, aggressive manner of hers had undoubtedly been forged. Tabby had been forced at an early age to learn to fight for her survival, and that he understood.

‘I was the kid in the wrong clothes at school...when they got me there, which wasn’t very often. Then my father started to take me with him as a lookout when he burgled houses,’ she confided flatly, hating every word she was telling him but somehow needing him to know that she could handle her troubled, crime-infested childhood and indeed had moved far beyond it. ‘Social Services got involved when he was caught in the act and eventually, because I was missing so much school and my parents were incapable of looking after me properly, I was put into care.’

‘As was I,’ Acheron admitted gruffly. ‘I was ten years old. What age were you?’

Tabby stared back at him wide-eyed. ‘You...were in care? But your parents must have been so wealthy.’

‘Which doesn’t necessarily mean that they were any more responsible than yours,’ Acheron pointed out drily. ‘Believe me, my mother’s money didn’t protect me, although it did protect her until the day she died from an overdose. Her lawyers rushed her out of the country before she could be prosecuted for neglecting me.’

‘What about your father?’ Tabby prompted sickly, still shaken and appalled that he, who seemed so very assured and rich and protected, could ever have lived within the care system as she had. All at once she felt guilty about the assumptions she had made.

‘His marriage to my mother only lasted about five minutes. When she got bored with him she told him that the child she was expecting—me—was the child of her previous lover...

and he believed her,’ Acheron explained flatly. ‘He couldn’t have afforded to fight her for custody in any case. I met him for the first time when I was in my twenties. He came to see me in London because a relative of his had noticed how very alike we looked in a newspaper photograph.’

‘So what did your mother do with you?’ Tabby asked, sipping at her glass of water.

‘Very little. The trust who controlled her millions paid for a squad of carers to look after her and keep her worst excesses out of the newspapers. She was addicted to drugs too,’ Acheron divulged tautly. ‘But once I was no longer a baby none of her staff had a direct mandate to look after me, and my mother was, all too frequently, high as a kite. So I was left to my own devices, which eventually attracted the attention of the authorities. I had no other relatives to take responsibility for me.’

Painfully aware of the grim memories shadowing his eyes and the sad knowledge that his father could not have been waiting in the wings to take charge of him, Tabby stretched her hand across the table without even thinking about it and rested it down on his, where his long, elegant fingers were braced on the tablecloth. ‘I’m sorry.’

His arrogant dark head came up at a combative angle even as he lifted his hand to close it round hers, glancing down at their linked hands in virtual bewilderment as if he couldn’t quite work out how that connection had happened. Dark colour crawled up to accentuate the high cheekbones that gave his face such strength and definition. ‘Why would you be sorry? I imagine I got off lighter than you. I suspect you were physically mistreated...?’

Her oval face froze. ‘Yes,’ she almost whispered in confirmation.

‘I only met with physical abuse after I entered the care system. I was an obnoxious little brat by then, semi-feral and may well have deserved what I got,’ Acheron volunteered between gritted teeth.

‘No child deserves pain,’ Tabby argued.

‘I endured two years of complete hell and innumerable different homes until my mother died and the trustees rescued me. I was sent off to boarding school for what remained of my childhood.’

Tabby’s heart squeezed tight and her throat thickened at the awareness that just like her he had grown up knowing nothing of the love and security of a happy home and committed parents. She had been so wrong about him and it shamed her that she had been so biased purely because his late mother had been a famous Greek heiress. ‘You never forget powerless and lost you feel,’ she framed unevenly.

Acheron looked across the table at her, his stunning dark golden eyes glittering. ‘You leave it behind you, move on,’ he told her squarely, suddenly releasing her hand.

‘Yes, but it’s always there somewhere in the back of your mind.’ Starstruck even as she yanked her hand back, she collided with his eyes and the rare warmth of connection there and it made her feel not as if she was falling but instead flying high as a bird, breathless and thrilled.

‘Not if you discipline yourself,’ Acheron asserted smoothly.

‘Tell me about your father’s will,’ Tabby urged, already dreading the return of the cold reserve that was beginning to clench his lean, darkly handsome features again.

‘Some other time. We’ve raked over enough personal stuff for one evening...surely?’ A sleek black emphatic brow lifted, the force of his will bearing down on her from the lambent glow of his beautiful lustrous dark eyes.

And Tabby, who was usually like a nail stuck to a magnet when in the grip of curiosity, quelled her desire to know more, conceding that, for a male as famously reticent as he was, he had been remarkably frank with her when he hadn’t needed to be, for she knew of no stories referring to his dysfunctional upbringing that had ever appeared in the media. She swallowed back her questions and lifted a fork to attack the dessert that had been brought to the table.

‘I’m crazy about meringue,’ she confided. ‘And this is perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside, soft inside.’

A flashing smile crossed his wide, sensual mouth. ‘A little like you, then? All fight on the surface and then all tender when it comes to another woman’s child?’

In receipt of that rare smile, she felt her heart race. ‘I only want Amber to have all the things I never had.

‘An admirable ambition. I’ve never had the desire to reproduce,’ Acheron admitted, watching the tip of her tongue flick out to catch a tiny white crumb of meringue that could not possibly have tasted any sweeter than her lush mouth. Just like that he was hard as a rock again, imagining what else she might be able to do with her tongue, and the heavy pulse of mounting need at his groin was infuriating. It made him feel out of control and, because he despised that kind of weakness in any part of his life, he gritted his teeth and battled for restraint.

‘I’ve never been the broody sort,’ Tabby burbled, licking the fork before dipping it into the delicious dessert again, uncomfortably aware of the dark golden swoop of his gaze following her every move. ‘But I was with Sonia when Amber was born and then I had to look after her the first few weeks until Sonia was strong enough after her stroke to leave hospital. I’m afraid that by that stage I was committed heart, soul and body to Amber...our attachment just happened and then Sonia had the second stroke and died immediately.’ She paused, clashed with his caramel-shaded eyes and felt her mouth run dry. ‘Please stop staring at me.’

‘Then stop playing with the fork,’ Acheron suggested huskily. ‘Naturally I’m picturing you spread across the table as an infinitely more appealing main course than the one I’ve eaten.’

Surprised colour sprang into her face, and she dropped the fork with a clatter. ‘Do you ever think of anything but sex?’

‘And you’re not thinking about it too?’ Acheron derided thickly, studying her with burning intensity.

And the pink in her cheeks burned hotter than ever because he was perfectly correct. His raw masculine virility called to her on a visceral level. The table between them felt like a barrier she wanted to push out of the way. She wanted things she had never wanted before. She wanted to taste that intriguing little triangle of brown male skin visible below his throat, kiss a path along that stubborn jaw line, touch, explore. And even worse the mere thought of such experimentation made the blood race through her veins, her nipples tighten and push against her bodice while a liquid sensation of squirming warmth flowered between her thighs. So, this is lust, she told herself sharply. Grow up and deal with it like a woman, not a frightened little girl.

Acheron thrust back his chair and vaulted to his full commanding height of well over six feet. ‘Come on...’

‘No, sit down,’ Tabby told him shakily, very much afraid that she knew exactly where he wanted her to go and even more afraid that she was ready to say yes, for never in her life had she ever felt anything as powerful as the primitive longing he awakened in her.

‘Don’t look at me like that and then try to tell me what to do, hara mou. It doesn’t work,’ Acheron advised, strolling round the table to move behind her and tug out the chair with her still seated in it.

‘One of us has to try to be sensible,’ Tabby protested in desperation.

Acheron bent down and scooped her out of the chair as if she were a child. ‘Why?’ he queried thickly, his warm breath fanning her throat. ‘We’re not hurting anyone. We’re both free agents. We can do as we like—’

‘That’s not how I live.’

‘You’ve trapped yourself in a cage of irrational rules because that makes you feel safe,’ Acheron countered, striding across the hall with her still cradled in his arms. ‘But I can keep you safe too...’

Only he could still hurt her, just as easily as he could silence her arguments and sweep her literally off her feet, Tabby acknowledged feverishly even as her fingers reached up of their own accord to skate admiringly along the clean, hard line of his jaw. ‘You don’t make me feel safe.’

‘But then you don’t trust anyone,’ Acheron countered with a swift downward glance at her anxious face. ‘Neither do I. Even so, I can promise you that I won’t lie to you.’

‘Not much of a comfort when you could give tips to Machiavelli on how best to get your own way by nefarious means,’ Tabby traded, provoking a surprised laugh from Acheron as he mounted the stairs. She knew decision time had come and gone and she wanted his mouth on hers so badly that it literally hurt even to think about it.

He lowered her to the carpet to open the first door, grabbed her hand as though he was afraid she would run off last minute and virtually dragged her into his bedroom. ‘Now, I finally have you where I want you. Can you believe that this is our wedding night?’

‘But it isn’t...we’re not really married.’ Tabby leant back against his bedroom door, taut with tension because she was sincerely out of her comfort zone and could scarcely breathe for nerves. ‘Let’s not kid ourselves about that. Neither one of us ever had any plans to make this a proper marriage. I may be wearing a wedding ring but it’s meaningless.’

Acheron didn’t know a single woman of his acquaintance who would have reminded him of that fact at that precise moment, or who would have come to his bedroom without a carefully set agenda of ambitious and mercenary acquisition in mind. In the strangest possible way, Tabby was a breath of fresh air in his life, he reflected, uneasy with the thought.

‘I know.’ Like a hunter stalking a wary doe, Acheron approached and closed both of his hands over hers to pull her forward into his arms. ‘But nothing that feels as exciting as this could possibly be meaningless,’ he traded huskily.

‘It’s only hormones.’

‘Says the woman who hasn’t a clue what’s going to be happening in that bed,’ Acheron teased, feathering his mouth hungrily over the soft, silky contours of hers and making her shiver.

‘Of course I know what happens...’ But she still didn’t quite know what she was doing there with him, breaking her rules of self-protection by letting him get that close, risking the vulnerability she always shunned. ‘It’s just sex,’ she told him staunchly.

‘It will be amazing sex,’ Acheron predicted, skimming the straps down on her dress, pressing his hungry mouth to a slight-boned shoulder while pressing her close, letting her feel the hard-packed urgency in his lean body while reminding himself that he would have to go slow.

‘I love your confidence,’ Tabby whispered half under her breath.

‘I thought it annoyed you.’

Tabby stretched up on tiptoe to link her arms round his neck and tug his handsome dark head down to her level. ‘Shut up,’ she told him helplessly, entrapped by dark eyes blazing like a banked golden fire across her face.

Acheron hoisted her off her feet and brought her down at the foot of the bed to flip off her shoes. ‘I don’t want to hurt you,’ he admitted.

‘If it hurts, it hurts,’ Tabby said prosaically, determined not to surrender to apprehension because, with the single exception of her deep attachment to Amber, she had never felt as much as he made her feel either emotionally or physically. She supposed she was suffering from some kind of idiotic infatuation with him but assumed it would fade as time went on. ‘Is this a one-time thing?’ she asked him abruptly.

Engaged in slipping off her shoes, Acheron glanced back at her, amusement playing attractively about the wilful, passionate set of his mouth. ‘You can’t plan everything in advance, Tabby.’

‘I do,’ she told him tautly. ‘I always need to know exactly where I am and what I’m doing.’

And his mouth claimed hers slow and deep and hungry and the tight knot of anxiety inside her unfurled because, in that moment, her senses locked to his, her body screaming with eagerness for more...more...more, and she couldn’t stay focused the way she usually did. He unzipped the dress and extracted her from its folds with an ease and exactitude that briefly chilled her because she discovered she couldn’t bear to think of him with the other lovers who must have honed his skills.

‘What’s wrong?’ he prompted, more attuned to her than she had expected, instantly picking up on her renewed tension.

Perhaps she was, at heart, a terribly jealous, possessive person, she reasoned in mortification, troubled by her thoughts and wondering how she could possibly know what she was like when she had never enjoyed a deeper relationship with a man. There she perched, shivering a little in spite of the warmth of the room, suddenly conscious that she was clad only in bra and knickers and that her body was far from perfect.

‘Nothing’s wrong,’ she breathed while he continued to study her troubled face with a frown. ‘All right!’ she exclaimed as if he had repeated the question. ‘I was just thinking that you’re very smooth at stripping clothes off a woman!’

And Acheron burst out laughing, revelling in that honesty, appreciating that she would simply say whatever she thought without considering its impact and instead saying only what he might want to hear. That quality was another rarity in his world. ‘Thank you...I think,’ he teased.

‘And you’re still wearing too many clothes,’ Tabby protested, all too aware of her own half-naked state as she struggled not to recall that she had really tiny breasts and was pretty skinny everywhere else where it was said to matter to a man. After all, regardless of her deficiencies, he wanted her. That was a certainty that buoyed her up as she watched dark golden eyes flare over her with unashamed desire and appreciation.

He laughed and shed his shirt, kicked off his shoes with the complete unselfconsciousness of a male who had never been inhibited in a woman’s presence or constrained by the fear that a woman might not admire what he had to offer. Her throat ran dry as he unveiled the superb expanse of his bronzed torso, exposing the lean, ripped muscles of his six-pack. Poised there, black stubble darkening his handsome jaw, eyes glinting, hair tousled by her fingers with his jeans hanging low on his narrow hips as he unzipped them, he was as gorgeous as a tiger in his prime: glossy and strong and beautifully poised.

She tried and failed to swallow when she saw the tented effect of his boxers, the all too prominent evidence of his readiness outlined by the fine fabric. When his long, elegant hands began to sweep off that final garment she averted her attention and reached back awkwardly to unhook her bra, peeling it off before scrambling below the linen sheet to rip off her knickers in an effort to seem a little more in control than she was.

‘I want you so much, koukla mou,’ Acheron growled, yanking the sheet off her from the foot of the bed so that she sat up again, wide-eyed and thunderously aware of her nakedness. ‘I also want to see you, watch you—’

‘There’s not a lot to see!’ she gasped, her small body crowding back against the banked-up pillows.

Acheron locked a hand round one slender ankle and pulled her very gently down the bed. ‘What I see is beautiful,’ he breathed thickly, his hungry scrutiny skimming from the tangle of blonde curls at the apex of her thighs to the glorious hint of secret pink beneath and the mouth-watering swell of her breasts topped by prominent pale pink nipples. In one movement he was up on the bed by her side.

‘I’m not.’

‘Don’t want to hear it!’ he interrupted, long fingers fisting in the tumble of her golden hair to hold her still as he skated his mouth back and forth over her lips until they parted and his tongue speared inside, delving and exploring with a thoroughness that deprived her of breath and sanity. He could kiss, oh, yes, he could kiss, and then his fingers teased very gently at her straining nipples and he lowered his mouth there, catching a painfully sensitive peak between his lips and plucking it with a tugging intensity that made her nipple throb and arrowed heat straight down into her pelvis.

She trembled, and her spine arched as he pressed her flat on the mattress, dividing his attention now between the distended buds, suckling on her, flicking his tongue back and forth until the tingles of awareness rose like a tide to engulf her. She trembled, insanely aware of the gathering of heat and moisture between her thighs and the intolerable ache building there along with the desperate desire to be touched.

‘You’re very responsive,’ Acheron purred, studying her with heavy-lidded eyes the colour of melted toffee set between the twin fringes of his black lashes. He skimmed a hand down her thigh, stroked her between her legs, and her hips shifted up in supplication. He possessed her swollen mouth again with carnal hunger before he sent a finger delving into her hot, damp heat.

A sound of helpless keening pleasure was wrenched from Tabby. All of a sudden everything she was feeling was centred in that one tormentingly sensitive area of her body. He settled his mouth to her throat and nuzzled a leisurely trail along the side of her neck, awakening nerve endings she had not known she possessed. What she could not understand was that in the space of minutes she had travelled from not being very sure of what she was doing to craving what he was offering with every straining sinew in her body.

‘If at any stage you want me to stop, just say so, koukla mou,’ Acheron husked.

‘Wouldn’t that be very difficult for you?’ she whispered, her hand smoothing down over his muscled chest to discover the thrusting power of his erection.

‘I’m not a teenager. I can control myself,’ Acheron growled, arching up into her hand as she traced the velvet-smooth hardness of his shaft while marvelling at the size of him. In that field, he had more than she had expected, more width, more length, and she didn’t want to think about how on earth he could make them fit as nature had intended. With a slight but perceptible shudder of reaction he relocated her stroking fingers to his muscled abdomen and added, ‘As long as you don’t do too much of that.’

Satisfied that she could affect him as much as he affected her, Tabby lay back only to release a whimper of startled sound as he circled her clitoris with expert fingers, unerringly striking the exact spot and the exact pace that would drive her over the edge fastest. Her heart was racing when he shifted down the bed, slid between her thighs and employed his mouth there instead. She had known about that, of course she had known, and had never thought she could be that intimate with any man but the insane pleasure he gave her drove all such logic from her mind, and she gasped and writhed and cried out. Enthralled by an exquisite torture of sensation that built and built, her body leapt out of her control altogether and jerked spasmodically into an intense climax that left her weak.

In the aftermath, Acheron rose up over her, lean, dark features taut and flushed with hunger, and she could feel the wide, blunt tip of him at the heart of her, pushing, precisely stretching her inner sheath until a sudden sharp pain made her cry out in surprise, and he froze in place.

‘Do you want me to stop?’ Acheron prompted raggedly.

‘No point now.’ Tabby could see he was in no condition to stop, could feel him hard and pulsing and alien inside her. In any case, the pain of his invasion had already faded and the ache of hollow longing he had roused still lingered. She wrapped her arms round him, instinctively urging him on, fingers smoothing across the bronzed satin of his broad back.

‘You’re so tight,’ he rasped, shifting with an athletic lift of his lean hips to surge into her again, deeper, further, harder in a technique that met every physical craving she hadn’t known she had. ‘I’m incredibly turned on.’

The flood of sensation returned as he withdrew and plunged back into her again, ensuring that she felt every inch of his penetration. The intensity of sensation shocked her and the powerful contracting bands in her pelvis turned her into a fizzing firework of wild excitement. He moved faster and she clung, riding out the electrifying storm of passion with a heart that seemed to be thumping in her eardrums. The explosion of raw pleasure that followed stunned her as the inner convulsions of her body clenched her every muscle tight as a fist. He vented a shuddering groan of completion while the waves of delight went on and on and on, coursing through her thoroughly fulfilled body.

In a dazed state of abstraction, Tabby lay in the tumbled bedding afterwards, watching Acheron stride across the room to retrieve something before vanishing into the bathroom, from which she soon heard the sound of running water. The instant their encounter had finished, the very moment he had attained release, he had rolled away from her and made no effort to touch her again. She was painfully aware of how much she would have liked him to hold her close in a caring, affectionate way that acknowledged their new intimacy and it disturbed her that she should feel so hurt by his withdrawal. After all, she wasn’t looking for, or expecting, love or commitment, was she? No, she wasn’t that naive.

She had slept with Acheron because for the very first time she had felt a fierce desire to experience that extra dimension with a man. But his swift departure from the bed had disappointed her, leaving her feeling ridiculously used and rejected. That was silly, she told herself firmly, because when it came to what they had just done he had not taken advantage of her in any way. Indeed, to some degree she was willing to acknowledge that she had taken advantage of him the moment she had estimated that he would undoubtedly possess the erotic skills that were most likely to ensure that she received pleasure from her first experience. That didn’t, however, entitle him to forgiveness for disappointing her in the sensitive aftermath of sex.

Slithering out of bed, Tabby swiftly got dressed, finger-combing her tangled hair back off her damp brow before she approached the bathroom door.

A towel linked round his narrow bronzed hips, Acheron was in the act of stepping out of the shower cubicle.

‘A-star for the sex, F for failure for the follow-up,’ Tabby pronounced with scorn, mentally blocking out the lean, powerful vibrancy of his commanding presence. Yes, Acheron Dimitrakos was gorgeous but in her scheme of things that was unimportant in comparison to the way he treated her.


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