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Greek Tycoon, Inexperienced Mistress

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«Greek Tycoon, Inexperienced Mistress» - Линн Грэхем

The right mistress…but the wrong bride!Lindy was amazed when shipping tycoon Atreus Dionides made her his mistress. Her – with her fuller figure and lowly lifestyle, making candles and pot-pourri! However, Atreus seemed enchanted by her curves when he made passionate love to her at his country retreat.But Lindy came down to earth with two bumps – first when Atreus revealed she was just his weekend mistress; his bride would be selected from the upper echelons of Greek society. The second bump she wouldn’t be able to hide…because she was carrying Atreus’s baby! Pregnant Brides Inexperienced and expecting, they’re forced to marry!
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‘We share the most unbelievable chemistry. No other woman has ever given me so much pleasure in bed.’

‘We share the most unbelievable chemistry. No other woman has ever given me so much pleasure in bed.’

Lindy’s mind was still working back over what he had said only minutes earlier. ‘Why did you say a mistake with contraception would wreck everything?’

Atreus tensed. ‘Because it’s the truth. I don’t want a child with you.’

Inside herself, where he couldn’t see, Lindy recoiled from that cruel candour. ‘Don’t you like children?’ she asked.

‘A couple of paternity battles took the edge off any desire I might have to reproduce.’

‘Paternity battles?’ Lindy parroted in dismay. ‘Are you saying that you already have a child?’

‘None that I know of—a reality that some women have in the past chosen to regard as a challenge.’

‘In what way…a challenge?’

‘A rich man is a lucrative target in the paternity stakes,’ Atreus extended with rich cynicism. ‘I will only want a child when I’m married.’

Greek Tycoon, Inexperienced Mistress


Lynne Graham

Table of Contents


Title Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten



Chapter One

AS TWO of the more elderly directors of Dionides Shipping again pressed questions that had already been answered Atreus let his attention stray to the Art Deco bronze on the far side of the boardroom. It was of a voluptuous Spanish dancer, only half-clad in what might once have been a romanticised concept of gipsy clothing.

When Atreus had first taken over as CEO of the family business he had been stunned by the sexy statue, which had seemed so out of step with his grandfather’s stern, old-fashioned outlook on life.

‘She reminded me of my first love,’ the old man had confided with a faraway look in his faded eyes. ‘She married someone else.’

Atreus could not imagine such a disappointment happening to him. The women he met these days were financially astute and a challenge to shake off. Ever since he’d been a teenager he had been relentlessly hunted by gold-digging beauties who would throw themselves in his path in attempts to ensnare him and his wealth. Black-haired, with eyes dark as sloes, and six foot three inches in height, Atreus had always been an object of desire. By the time he had twice become the unhappy focus of false paternity claims he had decided that he would only marry a woman with a fortune and social standing to match his own. His late father, Achilles, had set his only son a chilling example by living an exemplary life until the age of forty, when he had inexplicably gone off the rails by abandoning his wife and only child to run off with an artist’s model famous for dancing on tables. From then on wild self-indulgence and extravagance had ruled the lives of both Atreus’s parents, and he had lost his early childhood to their excesses. After that, raised almost entirely by his strict paternal uncle and aunt, Atreus had been deeply suspicious of any inner prompting to step off the straight and narrow. That had been his father’s fatal flaw; it would not be his.

Regardless of that fact, the Art Deco bronze had contrived recently to acquire a strange significance for Atreus. It reminded him of an episode some weeks earlier that had taken place on his country estate. On a warm summer afternoon while he had been walking through the woods he had come upon a curvaceous brunette skinny-dipping in the river.

Her presence on private land had infuriated him. After all, he had paid a fortune for the seclusion of his large estate, and he employed numerous staff to guard his privacy from trespassers and camera lenses. Ironically, ever since then the memory of the brunette’s indescribably lush and creamy curves had had an extraordinarily erotic hold on him—awake and asleep. Yet she had been a woman who had borne not the slightest resemblance to the slender elegant blondes who usually attracted him…

In fact she had not been his type in any way, Atreus acknowledged impatiently. According to his estate manager, Lindy Ryman was an eccentric animal-lover who scratched a living making and selling pot-pourri and candles. A regular churchgoer, she was also a well-respected member of the local community, who hid her remarkable curves beneath drab long skirts and wintry woollens. Atreus had been tough on her in the woods, for at first he had been convinced that she had deliberately schemed—like so many women before her—to set up their encounter. Once he’d appreciated that she was no cunning temptress he had sent her flowers and an apology. He’d been amazed when she’d ignored those olive branches and failed to make use of the phone number he had included.

His mood darkening at the length of time his thoughts had stayed focused on the Ryman woman, Atreus suddenly wondered if he should offer her compensation to surrender her tenancy on his estate. Out of sight would be out of mind, and that might well be the best cure for what afflicted him. He had no doubt that he was too intelligent and logical to succumb to the attraction of a woman who was so outrageously unsuitable for him in every way…

‘You dumped Sarah?’ Lindy repeated, turning to glance at Ben.

‘She was getting serious. Why do women always do that?’ Ben enquired, with the pained expression of a male continually tortured by besotted females.

Look in the mirror, Lindy almost told him. She could still recall when she had fallen under the enchantment of Ben’s floppy blond hair, light green eyes and rangy frame. That had been way back when they’d first met at university, and he had put her firmly in the pigeonhole marked ‘Friends’. There had been no jumping ship. Some of the best days of her life had been wasted while she’d wished that she was tiny, cute and giggly instead of shy, sensible and quiet. Since then Lindy had got over him, and grown accustomed to watching him cut a destructive swathe through a long line of beauties. Ben didn’t want commitment, it seemed, just a good time. A City of London trader, he had a successful career and all the worldly trappings that ranged from a flash car to smart suits and the membership of the right gym. Yet Ben never really seemed happy with his lot, Lindy acknowledged ruefully.

‘If you weren’t as keen as she was, I suppose you were better breaking up with her,’ Lindy retorted evenly. Her soft heart went out to Sarah, who had sounded like a pretty nice person and who was probably grieving now over the loss of him—as Lindy had once grieved without even the excuse of ever having had him.

‘You are the most fabulous cook.’ Ben sighed, taking another bite of her crumbly iced carrot cake and savouring the taste.

Lindy compressed her lips, too well aware that no such proficiency would ever increase her appeal to the opposite sex. She was convinced that her real problem was that there was too much of her. Ever since she had been likened to a fertility statue at school, and bullied unmercifully on that basis, she had despised her full-breasted, generous-hipped body. Diets and exercise seemed to have little impact, and although she carried no surplus weight anywhere else she was embarrassed by her healthy appetite. Ben always dated small, skinny girls who made Lindy feel enormous and clumsy.

Lindy had dropped out of university when her mother fell ill. An only child from a poor home, she had had to give up studying for a law degree to nurse her mother through a long and sadly terminal decline. On the brink of returning to university Lindy had come down with a nasty bout of glandular fever. By the time she had recovered her own health she had lost interest in studying and had gone for an office job instead. Her flat-sharing days in London with her friends Elinor and Alissa had been fun, but since then both women had married, moved abroad and had families, so their meetings now were few and far between. Even so, it had been during a summer visit to Elinor and her husband Jasim’s English country home that Lindy had first fallen blissfully in love with the countryside. As soon as she had found a rural property at a rent she could afford—The Lodge, a small gatehouse at the edge of a grand estate—she had taken the plunge and jumped off the hamster’s wheel of urban working altogether.

Since then Lindy had devoted herself to making a living through pursuits she enjoyed. She grew lavender and roses, and made pot-pourri and candles which sold well via the internet. She took occasional part-time jobs when her bank account needed plumping up, but devoted most of her free time to helping out at the local animal sanctuary. She had acquired two rescue dogs: Samson and Sausage. Her friends might insinuate that she was throwing her youth away, but Lindy was content with her home, her small income and her simple life.

Of course every Eden had to have a serpent, she conceded ruefully. Hers was Atreus Dionides, the new, fabulously wealthy owner of Chantry House, a wonderful Georgian jewel of a mansion surrounded by a beautiful estate. Thanks to him, she was no longer free to roam where she liked through hundreds of acres of parkland and wood. Worst of all, her single unforgettable meeting with the wretched man had humiliated and distressed her so much that she had actually considered moving.

‘Are you quite sure that you don’t mind looking after Pip?’ Ben checked again, on his way out of the front door.

‘He’ll be fine here.

’ An essential streak of honesty made Lindy sidestep the question, for if truth be told Pip was far from being her favourite house-guest.

The Chihuahua belonged to Ben’s mother, who expected her son to look after her pet whenever she went on holiday. Unhappily, Pip was a very cross little animal. Had he been larger he would have had to wear a muzzle. As it was, the tiny canine continually growled, snapped and barked, and even Lindy’s love of dogs was taxed by Pip’s bad temper and tendency to bite.

Lindy walked Ben out to his car. ‘You shouldn’t have parked on the drive. I don’t have a parking space here. The estate manager did ask me to ensure that my visitors parked outside the gates,’ she reminded him awkwardly.

‘The new owner is really making life difficult for you. If he keeps it up, I bet it could constitute harassment,’ Ben replied, climbing into the driver’s seat and opening the window on the passenger side to continue the conversation.

Lindy tensed and then froze when she saw a long dark limousine gliding through the tall black gates. In a trice, she had dropped down into a crouch by the passenger door, so that she was hidden from view by Ben’s sports car.

‘What on earth are you doing?’ Ben demanded with raised brows.

‘Just don’t drive off until the limo has gone past!’ Lindy hissed, staying down, her face as red as a beetroot and as hot as fire.

The limousine continued down the drive at a stately pace and disappeared round a corner. Lindy slowly rose up to her medium height, glossy dark brown hair rippling round her shoulders, her violet-blue eyes strained and uneasy.

‘What were you doing?’ Ben asked in a tone of wonderment.

‘Never mind.’ Lindy shrugged rather unconvincingly. She told Ben she would see him the following Friday, when he came back to pick up Pip, and hurried into her cottage as fast as her legs would carry her, where she found the Chihuahua snarling viciously at poor Sausage, who had taken refuge beneath a chair.

Six weeks had passed since Lindy had met Atreus Dionides, in circumstances that still brought her out in a cold stricken sweat of reluctant remembrance when she strived to adjust to the reality that the Greek shipping tycoon had seen her stark naked. As he was the very first male who had ever seen her in that state, and he had utterly humiliated her, she was still struggling to get over the experience. Had she had the slightest suspicion that anyone might see her she would not have removed so much as a sock in public. After all, she was self-conscious even in a swimsuit, and skinny-dipping wasn’t something she had ever done before…or would ever do again in this lifetime.

In fact every time she thought about that afternoon she cringed and cursed her stupidity. On what had turned out to be the hottest day of the year she had spent the morning helping to unload a delivery of hay at the animal sanctuary. Riding home on her bike, her clothes sticking to her overheated skin, she had thought longingly of the river, where the rocks formed a safe natural pool. The previous summer she had paddled there on several occasions.

Of course back then the estate had been deserted, for it had still belonged to an old man who’d spent most of his time abroad and who had placed no restrictions on his tenants’ movements. Atreus Dionides, on the other hand, surrounded himself with high-tech security and knew to the letter of the law what rights he had and what rights his tenants had. The estate office had wasted no time in sending out a letter laying out the new ground rules and stressing the new owner’s desire for total seclusion and privacy within his extensive grounds.

But on that hot day six weeks ago Lindy had only intended to cool her bare feet for a few minutes. It was a quiet part of the river, where she had never seen another living soul before and where the trees and shrubs on the banks provided dense cover. Aware that Atreus Dionides usually only used the house at weekends, and that it was midweek, Lindy had succumbed to temptation and impulse and had done something totally out of character. Stripping down to her birthday suit and leaving her clothes in a pile, she had sunk slowly into the pool with a heady sigh of pleasure, revelling in the clean, cold refreshment of the water on her hot damp skin.

‘What are you doing here?’ an authoritative male voice had demanded, only minutes after her immersion, and she’d very nearly jumped out of her skin in fright.

Whirling round wide-eyed, Lindy had focused on the male poised on the bank and hastily dropped lower in the water to conceal her breasts. Sporting a sophisticated urban black business suit, teamed with a white shirt and silk tie, Atreus had looked bizarre against the backdrop of the natural woodland and all the more unreal. She had known who he was immediately as she had seen his photo when the local newspaper had published an excited article about the new owner of the Chantry estate. Even in black and white newsprint he was a very handsome man, if a little cold and grim in his chilly perfection of features. In person, however, Atreus Dionides was a glowing vision of bronzed masculinity and dark Mediterranean good-looks that would have stopped any woman dead in her tracks.

‘This is private property.’

Lindy had crossed her arms in front of her lest the water was not providing sufficient concealment. ‘Er…I’m sorry. It won’t ever happen again. If you go away I’ll get out and get dressed.’

‘I’m not moving anywhere,’ Atreus had delivered loftily. ‘You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here.’

‘It’s a hot day. I fancied a swim to cool off,’ she’d explained uneasily, while wondering why on earth he felt the need to ask when the answer should have been obvious.

‘Stripped, ready and waiting for my first appearance?’ the Greek tycoon had retorted with sizzling derision. ‘I don’t go for naked ladies in the woods, or for brief outdoor encounters. You’re wasting your time.’

As it had dawned on Lindy that he actually suspected that she might have whipped off her clothes and got in the water purely in an effort to lure him into some sleazy sexual encounter, she’s been so aghast that she’d simply gaped at him in amazement.

‘Which of my staff told you I was coming out here?’ Atreus Dionides had shot at her.

‘Are you always this paranoid?’ Lindy had questioned in disbelief. ‘Look I’m getting really cold. Move away and I’ll get out and be off your land before you know it.’

It had been immediately evident that her reference to paranoia had gone down like a brick thrown through his front window, since he’d pushed back his big wide shoulders and, his aggressive jawline clenched, fixed his dark-as-treacle eyes on her. ‘Who tipped you off about my presence here today?’

Her very blue eyes had widened. ‘Nobody, I swear. I’m just an ordinary trespasser in the woods—one of your tenants, actually—and I would like to get out of the river and go home now.’

‘You’re a tenant?’ Atreus had queried harshly. ‘So, you’re trespassing in spite of the estate office’s request that you respect my privacy?’

‘I live at The Lodge. If I’d known you were at home I’d never have dared,’ she’d admitted truthfully, trying and failing to suppress a shiver, because she had only been able to bear the cold water while she was free to move around and jump up and down to keep warm. ‘Now, please be a gentleman and return to your…er…walk.’

‘The creed of the gentleman is long dead.’ He’d produced a mobile phone. ‘I’m calling Security to deal with you.’

And that was when Lindy had really lost her head with him. ‘How much of a bastard do you have to be? I’ve said sorry. What more can I do or say? I’m a woman standing naked in freezing water and you’re threatening to muster more men to see me like this?’ she’d shouted at him in horror. ‘I’m very cold, and I want my clothes!’

Hard, dark and unrepentant eyes had rested on her hot, angry face. ’I’m not preventing you from retrieving them.’

And she hadn’t been able to wait any longer. By that stage her feet had been so cold she’d been in pain, and she hadn’t been able to bear to stand there at his mercy any more. Utterly mortified, and inflamed by his intransigence, she’d waded out without looking anywhere near him. He’d not turned his back as any half-decent man would have done either. He’d stayed where he was and he hadn’t apologised. The very fact that no man had ever seen her naked before had made the ordeal that much more painful for her. Unbearably conscious of her bare breasts, and the all too great expanse of the rest of her, almost sick with embarrassment, she’d had to struggle with the difficulty of dragging her jeans and T-shirt over her wet skin. Naturally she hadn’t extended the time of her exposure by trying either to dry herself or put on her bra and knickers first.

She’d run all the way back to The Lodge, where she’d sat shell-shocked and tearful over the indignity of the ordeal he had put her through. Forty-eight hours later Atreus Dionides had sent her a superb bouquet of expensive flowers with a card that had contained an apology and the suggestion that she call him to arrange a dinner date. She had not been able to credit his nerve. His insolent invitation had simply sent her into paroxysms of frustrated rage.

Lindy was, after all, quite friendly with his housekeeper, Phoebe Carstairs, and as such was already reasonably well acquainted with his reputation as a womaniser. Phoebe had yet to see her wealthy employer with the same woman twice. According to Phoebe, Atreus liked dainty blondes in very high heels, and they all fawned over him like groupies and slept with him the first night they arrived. Lindy had read between the lines: Atreus was accustomed to a diet of flattery, awe and easy sex, with women capable of amusing him only for a single weekend.

Lindy was not and never would be that kind of a woman. Furthermore, how dared he even suggest that she would want to lay eyes on him again after the brutal, callous way he had treated her? He had shown the true colours of his character by the river. On the surface he might well be everything the newspaper had suggested—a phenomenally brilliant businessman who had taken a failing family company and transformed it into a contemporary Goliath which dominated the world shipping markets. And he was breathtakingly handsome and extraordinarily rich and privileged. But below that lustrous, classically beautiful surface he was a hatefully cold and unfeeling guy, with no manners and a considerable contempt for women. If Lindy had to wait a lifetime to see Atreus Dionides again it would be too soon.

But in fact she was to see Atreus again much sooner than she expected—and in circumstances that would prevent her from expressing her antipathy in the manner she would have liked.

Her bedroom was the only room in her compact gatehouse which provided her with a view of Chantry House. All she could actually see was the west wing of the extensive property, and at present that was not a pretty view because for many weeks that part of the building had been shrouded in unsightly scaffolding while it was being converted into staff accommodation. It was a clear night, without clouds, and when Lindy was closing the curtains shortly before midnight she immediately noticed a puff of smoke issuing from the roof. A frown line dividing her brow, she stared until she saw another, floating up slowly into the night sky. There was no chimney, and nobody living there yet either. She snatched in a dismayed breath, her fingers biting into the curtain as she peered out at the house. She was striving to crush back the bone-deep terror of fire that was already bringing her out in a cold sweat. Could it really be a fire? A suspicion of an orange glow behind a formerly blank window unfroze her from her position. She immediately reached for the phone to call the emergency services.

Then, in a frantic rush, she raced downstairs and snatched up her mobile phone to ring Phoebe Carstairs, who lived in the village and was the sister of Emma, who ran the animal sanctuary.

Phoebe ran out into her garden to take a look at Chantry House from across the fields.

‘Oh, my goodness, I can see the smoke from here! We’ll have to try and get the house cleared—it’s full of priceless furniture and paintings!’ Phoebe exclaimed in consternation.

‘Phoebe…’ Lindy interrupted as the other woman outlined her plan to call in the neighbours to help. ‘Is there anyone staying in the house at present?’

‘Mr Dionides arrived this afternoon…Oh, yes, and the cat—Dolly. I borrowed her from Emma to catch mice. I’m trying to call Mr Dionides…on the landline right now…but he’s not answering. Oh, no, maybe he’s been overcome by smoke! Look, you’re much closer than I am. You’d better go and knock him up before he gets incinerated in his bed!’

Wincing in reaction at that unfortunate turn of phrase, and suppressing the panic and reluctance awakened by Phoebe’s instruction, Lindy fled outside and jumped on her bike. She knew she had no choice but to get involved, and she was determined not to let her fear of fire prevent her from doing what she had to do. She pedalled frantically down the drive. There were no lights on. The mansion looked dead. Letting the bike fall to the gravel, she took the steps to the front door two at a time and hammered as noisily as she could on the giant knocker. Breathless and fiercely concerned, she kept on thumping the knocker until her arm ached and she had to change hands. By the time the big door finally opened, she could hear cars coming up the drive.

‘What the hell—? It’s after midnight.’ Atreus Dionides stared out at her with a frown of incomprehension. He was still fully dressed in an elegant pinstriped suit. With his luxuriant black hair dishevelled and a blue-black shadow of stubble roughening his strong jawline, he was no longer immaculate in appearance, but he looked startlingly masculine and…sexy, Lindy conceded—in some shock at this awareness occurring to her. Her tummy flipped, and perspiration dampened her short upper lip. She was embarrassed for herself.

‘The west wing is on fire!’ she gasped.

Atreus dealt her a look of frank incredulity. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘Look, your house is on fire…don’t be pigheaded!’ Lindy yelled at him, sensing that being obstinate and independent of thought ran through his every fibre, like a name stamped indelibly into a stick of seaside rock.

Atreus strode down the steps. ‘On…fire?’

‘West wing. Top floor!’

His long, powerful legs cut the distance to the corner of the house at a rate she could not keep up with. Once there, he stilled at the sight of the glow lighting the darkness, while Lindy’s tummy gave a sickening lurch and cold fear chilled her to the marrow. A biting phrase of guttural Greek escaped him before he was galvanised into action.

Several powerfully built men had already jumped out of a big four-wheel-drive to race across the gravel towards him. Lindy recognised the musclebound males who seemed to travel everywhere with him as his bodyguards. He rapped out instructions to them and they walked straight into the house.

‘Is it safe to let them go inside?’ Lindy queried worriedly.

‘If it were not I would not send them. The seat of the fire is a considerable distance from the library,’ Atreus responded loftily, his irritation at that suggestion of censure unconcealed. ‘My laptop and sensitive papers must be retrieved.’

Lindy could not credit that he could still be concentrating solely on business when the superb paintings she could see decorating the hall walls were under threat. Didn’t he appreciate how terrifyingly fast a fire could move through a building? A terrifying shiver of remembrance that was a powerful hangover from her childhood experiences ran through her. Clenching her hands into fists of restraint, she turned away to approach Phoebe, who was surrounded by a cluster of locals. All of them were frozen into inactivity in the weird fascination of spectators watching a potential disaster develop.

‘There’s no time to waste. Let’s get the artworks out,’ Lindy urged.

A chain of willing helpers formed, and the first paintings were removed and passed out through the windows from hand to hand. Lindy, always a talented organiser, co-ordinated the effort, and once the Dionides bodyguards and estate workers joined them the salvage operation began to function with greater speed and efficiency. Two fire engines arrived and Atreus went into immediate consultation with the senior officer in charge. Ladders went up and hoses began to cover the ground. Chantry House sat on a hill, and water would have to be pumped up from the lake if the flames got a firm hold.

The task of clearing valuables from the vast mansion was eased by the fortunate fact that many of the rooms were awaiting redecoration and still empty. As the pressure on the salvage operation lessened Lindy watched in fierce trepidation as jets of water were directed into the burning building and billowing clouds of black smoke poured into the night sky. Even the smell of the smoke in the air made her feel queasy.

‘The fire’s travelling through the roof void,’ Atreus ground out.

‘Did the cat get out okay?’ Lindy asked, belatedly recalling Dolly, the animal the housekeeper had mentioned.

Atreus urged her back onto the lawn as the orange glare behind a sash window loudly cracked the glass. ‘What cat? I don’t have animals in the house.’

Lindy dealt him a look of consternation and raced over to Phoebe. A storage lorry was reversing in readiness to load the paintings stacked on the tarpaulins that had been spread on the grass.

‘Did Dolly get out?’ Lindy asked frantically.

‘Oh! I forgot about her!’ the older woman admitted guiltily. ‘I closed her in the kitchen for the night. I didn’t want to risk her getting out and wandering round the house.’

The fire team in the hallway told her she couldn’t enter the building. Tears of frustration in her eyes, Lindy pelted round to the back of the house. Would she really have the courage to go inside? she asked herself fiercely, doubting her strength of will in the face of such a challenge? The back door lay open. Her legs felt weak and woolly. She thought about the cat and, sucking in a deep jagged breath, conquered her paralysis and stumbled forward to race into the house. She sped down the flagged corridor and past innumerable closed doors. For a split second she froze in fear, for the smell of the smoke was rousing ever more frightening memories. But commonsense intervened and she snatched up a towel in the laundry room and held it to her face because the acrid smoke was catching horribly at her nose and her throat. Long before she reached the kitchen door, it had become a struggle to breathe.

She could hear a dull roaring sound behind the kitchen door and her courage almost failed to her, but she was powered by an image of Dolly’s terror and the sick memory of herself as a child, trapped in a burning house. Using the towel to turn the door handle, in case it was hot, she opened the door just as a man shouted at her from behind.

‘Don’t open the door…no!’ he roared, but she was on an adrenalin rush and she did not even turn her head.

She was shaken by the discovery that the ceiling was on fire. Although there was a scattering of small burning pieces of debris on the floor, the kitchen was still eerily intact within that unnatural orange glow of impending destruction. The heat, however, was intense. Dolly had taken shelter under the table. An elderly black and white cat, with big green eyes, she was clearly not her usual placid self. A smouldering piece of wood lay nearby and Dolly was snarling at it, with her hackles lifted and her fur standing on end.

Lindy surged forward and snatched up Dolly just as the most dreadful rending noise sounded from above her. Inadvertently she paused and obeyed a foolish compulsion to look up. Someone lifted her bodily off her feet and hauled her backwards. A burning beam fell on the table and rolled off again, showering sparks and choking dust only feet away from her. She had been right in its path, and the fear of what might have been hit her hard and left her limp.

Atreus carried Lindy and the struggling cat to safety and withstood a volley of reproof from the fireman who had followed his rescue bid. She was coughing and spluttering as Atreus lowered her to the cobbled yard outside, and she breathed in the clean air with feverish relief.

‘How could you be so stupid?’Atreus yelled at her, full volume. ‘Why didn’t you stop when I shouted at you?’

‘I didn’t hear you shout!’

‘You risked my life and your own for an animal!’ Atreus launched at her in condemnation.

That verbal attack shocked her, and at the same moment she feverishly fought disturbing recollections of the household fire that had many years earlier taken her father’s life. The combination made her eyes prickle and overflow and she flung him a speaking glance of reproach. ‘I couldn’t just leave Dolly to die in there!’

The cat was now curled up in Lindy’s arms, with her furry head tucked well out of view. She was paying not the smallest heed to the crackling flames leaping through the roof of the west wing, or to the noise and activity of the human beings rushing around. Dolly had had enough excitement for one day and recognised a safe haven when she was offered one.

‘You could have been killed or at the very least seriously injured,’ Atreus admonished fiercely.

‘You were a hero,’ Lindy pronounced through clenched teeth of ingratitude. ‘Thank you very much for saving my life.’

Fighting to contain his anger with her, Atreus gazed down at her defiant oval face. She wasn’t beautiful but there was something about her, a heady je ne sais quoi that made him blatantly aware of her femininity. Was it those clear bright eyes? The luxuriant mane of long dark hair? Or the voluptuous figure that had infiltrated his dreams and caused him more disturbed nights that he cared to remember? She was full of emotion, a far cry from the reserved and controlled women he was used to dealing with. Her tear-filled eyes were as bright as amethysts, her lush, vulnerable mouth as ripe as a peach, and she continued to tremble as if the fire was still overhead. Anger lurched inexplicably into more complex responses that tensed his big powerful frame with surprise and electric sexuality. Hunger for her hit him as hard as a punch in the gut.

‘I know I don’t sound grateful,’ Lindy added gruffly, staring up at him, striving not to notice how beautifully his thick black lashes enhanced his stunning dark golden eyes. ‘But I am really. Dolly was so frightened—didn’t you see her?’

‘Nasi pari o Diavelos,’ Atreus swore raggedly under his breath. ‘I saw only you.

His intensity slashed through her strained attempt to behave normally. Her mouth running dry in the tension-filled atmosphere, she collided with his smouldering gaze and her ability to breathe seized up. He swooped like the predator she sensed he was at heart. He did not ask, he simply took, and his wide sensual mouth engulfed hers with a hot, driving energy that sizzled through her unprepared body like flame consuming tinder-dry wood. She moaned at the penetration of his tongue between her lips and the slow, sensual glide of it against hers, because her body was going haywire.

Sultry heat was tingling through her nerve-endings in a seductive wave. She tried to make herself pull back from him but could not find sufficient will-power to contrive that feat of mind over matter. Her nipples were lengthening into pointed pulsing buds constrained by the lace cups of her bra, and there was a treacherous yearning burn and an embarrassing dampness between her thighs. Together those sensations were winding her up as tight as a clock spring. As he pressed her against him, even through the barrier of their clothes, she was hopelessly aware of the hard, thrusting evidence of his arousal.

‘Full marks for surprising me,’ Atreus said huskily, surveying her with bold appreciation as he tilted back his handsome head. ‘You are hotter than that fire in there, mali mou.’

Lindy, who had never seen herself as being hot in any capacity, sucked oxygen into her depleted lungs and accidentally, in her eagerness to avoid Atreus’s scrutiny, caught the eye of the woman who had taken up a hesitant stance several feet away. It was Phoebe Carstairs.

‘I’m sorry for interrupting, Mr Dionides,’ the older woman said awkwardly. ‘But I thought I could take care of the cat for you.’

On wobbly lower limbs, Lindy detached herself from Atreus and moved away to hand over the cat, who had tolerated being crushed between their straining bodies without complaint. She could not meet Phoebe’s eyes; she was in shock…


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