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

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Конец ознакомительного фрагмента.

TABBY ROLLED THE soft ball back to Amber where the child sat below the dappled shade of an ancient spreading oak tree. Amber rolled over and crawled to the edge of the rug, a look of glee in her bright eyes as she scanned the wide green expanse of freedom open before her.

Tabby marvelled at the speed with which the little girl had learned to embrace independent movement. One minute she had been rolling over and over again to explore further afield and the next she had perfected crawling. At just over seven months old she was a fairly early developer but she had always been a physically strong baby who met every developmental guideline in advance, and Tabby wasn’t really surprised that Amber had discovered how to get around without adult assistance ahead of time. As she watched the little girl pulled a blade of grass and stuck it in her mouth.

‘,’ she was saying while retrieving the grass when Melinda strolled up and offered to give her a break.

‘Yes, and you’re welcome,’ Tabby confided ruefully. ‘She’s much more of a handful now, and I wouldn’t mind a little break to sunbathe and read.’

‘We can manage that. I’m going to put her in the buggy and take her for a walk,’ the blonde nanny told her smoothly. ‘I just love it here.’

Tabby glanced at the younger woman, wondering why she found it such a challenge to like her and feeling rather guilty about the fact. After all, Melinda was great with Amber, a diligent worker and friendly. Perhaps it was the hungry little glances she often saw Melinda aiming at Acheron that had prevented Tabby from bonding more with the other young woman. It was not that she was jealous, Tabby reasoned uneasily, simply that she wasn’t comfortable with a woman prepared to show that much interest in the married man who employed her. In any case, and to be fair to all parties concerned, Acheron had shown not the smallest awareness of Melinda’s curvaceous blonde allure.

‘Any idea when we’ll be leaving here yet?’ Melinda asked as she gathered up Amber’s toys and stuffed them in a bag.

‘Not yet, husband hasn’t decided how long we’ll be staying,’ Tabby replied, wryly impressed by the way that possessive label slid off her tongue. But that, she had learned, was the easiest way to refer to Acheron in front of the staff.

Yet he was as much a husband as a caged tiger in a zoo would be, she conceded unhappily, lifting her book and her sunglasses and heading for the cool courtyard in which the pool was situated. For the past week she had barely seen Acheron, who confined himself to his office most of the day and often half the night to work. Even when he was around his phone was always ringing and his single-minded focus on business was exactly what she should have expected from a goal-orientated alpha male.

Occasionally he would join her for a cup of coffee at breakfast time and he generally put in a rather silent appearance at the dinner table, eating quickly and then politely excusing himself. He was a cool and distant companion at those meals and there was never so much as a hint of sexual awareness in either his looks or his conversation. It was as though that wild bout of passion on their wedding night was the product of her imagination alone, but Tabby still found it a distinct challenge to revert to treating him like a stranger and that embarrassed her, denting her pride and her belief in her own strength and independence because no woman of character should continue to crave the attention of a man set on treating her like the wallpaper.

Yet amazingly, infuriatingly, Acheron was playing an entirely different ball game with Amber. Melinda swore that Acheron never passed the nursery door without coming in to talk to and play with her charge and Amber had already learned to make a beeline for Acheron whenever he was in her vicinity. In fact, when it came to Acheron, Amber took her welcome for granted. Maybe Acheron’s ego was flattered by the amount of attention Amber gave him. Maybe he was even belatedly discovering that he actually liked and enjoyed the company of children? How could she possibly know what motivated his interest? Tabby had not got through a week of virtually sleepless nights without acknowledging that she knew very little at all about Acheron Dimitrakos. Her husband was a mystery to her in almost every conceivable way.

* * *

Acheron stood at the window and groaned at the sight of Tabby arranging her slim pale body on a lounger like an exhibition banquet for the starving. A purple bikini cupped her rounded little breasts and slender hips and every shift of her slim thighs drew his considerable attention. He shifted uneasily, struggling to rein back the heavy pulse of arousal that was making his nights so long and frustrating.

Although he had kept watch, as he told himself a protective husband should do, he had yet to see Tabby go topless to eradicate the risk of tan marks. He frowned, not wanting her to show that amount of naked flesh when there were always staff roaming the grounds. It was very strange, he acknowledged in bewilderment, that in spite of the fact he thought it was a very old-fashioned attitude, which he would not have admitted even under torture, he didn’t like the idea of anyone but him seeing any part of Tabby bare. He thought that there was a very weird possessive streak in him somewhere and blamed it on the surprising fact that he had become his wife’s first lover.

His wife, a label he had never thought he would use, he conceded hard-mouthed, his dark eyes hooded and unusually reflective. Had Tabby genuinely been his wife, however, she would have been in his bed throughout the long hot hours of the afternoon abandoning herself to the demands of his passion and losing herself in the release he would have given her. As his body hardened afresh under the onslaught of that X-rated imagery he cursed bitterly under his breath.

Regretfully, Tabby had all the flexibility of a steel girder: he could do the rules or he could do cold showers. There would be no halfway measures, no get-out clause with her. It would be all or nothing and he knew he couldn’t do it, couldn’t walk that line and change himself to suit when he knew there was no future in it.

It wouldn’t be fair to her. Yet right at that precise moment Tabby’s rules had more pulling power than a ten-ton truck.

* * *

That evening, Tabby selected a drop-dead gorgeous blue dress from the closet. Over the past week she had worn a different outfit every day, reasoning that the clothes were there and there was little point wasting them. In any case it would be downright silly to choose to overheat in the jeans and tops that were virtually all she had left of her own clothes since her life first began to unravel after she had lost her own home. Back then she had had to surrender an awful lot of her possessions, whittling her collection of clothing and objects down until she retained only what mattered most and what she could carry.

She tossed the dress on the bed, put on her make-up and brushed her hair, not that how she looked mattered when Acheron was treating her as though she were someone’s maiden aunt. But then Acheron wasn’t the reason why she took the trouble to dress up, she reminded herself staunchly. She did it for her own self-esteem and the knowledge that behaving, at least on the outside, like a rich honeymoon bride was part of her role. Clothed, she eased her feet into perilously high heels and surveyed herself critically in the mirror, mouth momentarily drooping while she wished she were taller, curvier and more striking in Kasma? The Kasma whom Acheron never, ever mentioned? But then what business was Kasma of hers? The fiery fury, ignited only a week before by the discovery that Acheron would benefit as much as she did from their marriage, had drained away. After all, she had married Acheron for only one reason: to become Amber’s adoptive mother, and all she needed to focus on now was getting through their little charade of a marriage as smoothly and painlessly as possible. Worrying about anything else, wanting anything else was unnecessarily stressful and stupid.

Конец ознакомительного фрагмента.

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