Mediterranean Millionaires - Линн Грэхем - CHAPTER FOUR Читать онлайн любовный роман

В женской библиотеке Мир Женщины кроме возможности читать онлайн также можно скачать любовный роман - Mediterranean Millionaires - Линн Грэхем бесплатно.

Правообладателям | Топ-100 любовных романов

Mediterranean Millionaires - Линн Грэхем - Читать любовный роман онлайн в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net
Mediterranean Millionaires - Линн Грэхем - Скачать любовный роман в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net

Грэхем Линн

Mediterranean Millionaires

Читать онлайн
Предыдущая страница Следующая страница


FRANTIC to conceal the fact that she had been crying, Hope utilised some eye shadow to draw attention away from her reddened lids. ‘Smile…’ she instructed her flushed and unhappy reflection and she practised curving her mouth up instead of down at the corners.

It was seven weeks since she had moved into Vanessa’s spare room. Her friend had been marvellous in every way but Hope knew that misery made other people uncomfortable. Vanessa had told her that the end of a relationship was the perfect excuse for a week of tears and laments, but that after that point it was time to move on. Ever since that week had ended Hope had been pretending that she was well over Andreas and miles down the road to recovery.

Unhappily, however, she was finding that maintaining that pretence was the most enormous strain. She assumed that stress had caused the further bouts of nausea she had suffered. Mercifully that sickness had petered out the previous month and, apart from a rather embarrassing craving for olives at certain times, she was fine. If she had a problem, it was with her state of mind. For so long Andreas had been the centre of her universe. Now every day stretched in front of her like a wasteland. Determined to keep up her spirits, she had concentrated on developing a new and much improved business plan. She had visited various financial institutions and was doing her utmost to win a business loan. So far, admittedly, she had not been lucky, but she kept on telling herself that success lay just round the next corner. In the meantime, to meet her bills, she was working in a shop and selling bags at occasional craft fairs.

‘Are you sure you don’t want any lunch?’ Vanessa called from the kitchen.

Hope emerged from her room. ‘No, I grabbed something earlier,’ she fibbed because her friend had begun to nag her about how little she was eating.

Vanessa, who ate like a horse and never put on an ounce, strolled into the ultra-modern lounge. In one hand she held a sandwich the size of a doorstep. ‘So, how did you get on with that bank this morning?’

Hope almost winced. ‘The guy said he’d be in touch but I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath.’

‘Let Ben back your business,’ Vanessa urged impatiently. ‘Your funky handbags are a much better risk than the racehorses he keeps on buying!’

Hope smiled to show that she was appropriately grateful for Ben’s offer of financial assistance. However, her smile was a little tense round the edges, for if being dumped by Andreas had taught her anything it was that caution and common sense should be heeded. ‘I don’t think that would be a good idea.’

‘Why not? Five different banks have turned down your loan application,’ the redhead reminded her baldly. ‘Ben’s got money to burn and he’s eager to help. In your position I wouldn’t think twice about it.’

‘Ben’s your cousin. You see him from a slightly different perspective,’ Hope murmured gently.

Hope felt that she had learnt the hard way that there was no such thing as a free lunch. She had lived rent-free in Andreas’s enormous apartment and that had come back to haunt her. Instead of maintaining total independence, she had allowed herself to be seduced by the concept of pleasing Andreas and had become, in his eyes at least, a ‘kept’ woman. As a result, Andreas had found it impossible to see her as an equal. Instead he had regarded her as his mistress: an object and a possession rather than a lover whom he respected. Hope now felt that she understood how rich men looked on less financially successful women. At the same time, she was beginning to value Ben’s friendship and did not want to muddy the waters by borrowing money from him.

Vanessa grinned. ‘Of course. Ben treats me like a mate but he definitely has the hots for you. I think it’s great that he’s finally getting tired of the party girls and wakening up to the idea of a real woman.’

‘I don’t think Ben feels that way about me.’ Hope was emanating embarrassment in visible waves. ‘He likes me and, although he shouldn’t, he feels a little guilty that Andreas made wrong assumptions about how well we knew each other.’

‘Nah…’ Vanessa elevated a mocking brow in disagreement. ‘Ben’s not that nice. He gets a kick out of having rattled Andreas’s cage. We both think Andreas has acted like a callous bastard. But Ben also genuinely wants a chance with you—’

‘Even if that’s true, and I don’t think it is…Ben loves to tease people.

Well, I’m not in the notion of anything else right now anyway,’ Hope fielded awkwardly.

Vanessa fixed exasperated brown eyes on her. ‘Ben won’t be interested for ever. Andreas isn’t coming back, Hope. He’s history.’

Hope’s creamy skin was pale as milk. ‘I know that—’

‘I don’t think you do. Have you any idea how worried I’ve been about you? Instead of living in your little world, you should be facing some hard facts—’

‘I think I’ve faced quite a few of those in recent times,’ Hope slotted in ruefully, wishing the other woman would just stand back and give her the time to heal.

‘But let’s recap,’ the other woman said with determination. ‘Andreas accused you of sleeping with Ben and he wasn’t interested in letting you defend yourself—’

‘He believed his sister,’ Hope countered tightly. ‘I can be very hurt about that but I can’t hate him for trusting his own flesh and blood.’

‘I reckon Andreas was ready for a change and his sister’s lies gave him a fast and easy exit.’

Hope thought back to the fierce emotion that Andreas had betrayed at their last encounter and pain squeezed her heart so hard that she could hardly breathe. Had only his ego been stung by the belief that she had betrayed him?

‘Take a look at this…’ Vanessa settled a newspaper in front of her. It was folded open at the gossip page and a photo of Andreas with a beautiful skinny blonde. Hope felt as if someone had pushed her below the surface of a pool without giving her the chance to first take in a breath.

‘I don’t want to look at that,’ she whispered shakily.

The redhead grimaced. ‘I didn’t want to do this to you but you’ve given me no choice. You won’t even open the papers I keep on leaving around for you. But you need to know…Andreas is out partying like mad here in London and in New York. He’s been seen out with a string of gorgeous models and celebrities. He’s not grieving, he’s not sitting in nights missing you—’

‘I get the message…OK?’ Hope breathed chokily. ‘I didn’t expect him to grieve. I doubt if many men grieve over a woman they think slept with some other man and Andreas is too proud.’

‘I just want you to know and accept that you’ve seen the last of him.’ Her friend squeezed her arm in a show of affection. ‘It’ll help you get over him more quickly.’

The doorbell buzzed. Momentarily, Hope shut her eyes: she had been plunged into the most terrifying tide of despair by Vanessa’s lack of patience and tact. In what way was the excruciating spectacle of Andreas in the company of a breathtakingly lovely blonde supposed to help her heal?

‘I’m Vanessa…isn’t it amazing that we’ve never actually met until now? Hope’s not expecting you, is she?’ Vanessa was saying in a curiously loud and incredibly cheerful tone from the hall. ‘She’s only just got out of bed. In fact, she’s wrecked and you’ll be lucky if she can string two words together in a single sentence. She’s been out to dawn every night this week!’

Transfixed by the sound of her friend giving vent to that rolling tide of outrageous lies, Hope lifted her lashes. What she saw paralysed her to the spot: Andreas stood in the doorway. Andreas isn’t coming back…you’ve seen the last of him. Shock seemed to bounce her heart inside her, making it a challenge to catch her breath. Feeling the race of her heartbeat, she trembled. The breeze had tousled his cropped black hair. His lean, strong features were bronzed, his gleaming golden eyes veiled but intent. He looked every inch the heartbreaker he was.

‘Thank you,’ Andreas drawled smoothly as he snapped the door shut in Vanessa’s madly inquisitive face.

‘I wasn’t expecting you,’ Hope framed unevenly and she could have winced at the inanity of unnecessarily stating the obvious.

Andreas watched the light catch the faint track left by a tear on her cheek. Although her eyes still had the luminous intensity of turquoises, her familiar happy glow was gone. In response, the razor edge of his cold, aggressive mood mellowed. If she was miserable, it was only what she deserved. If she was missing him, regretting what she had stupidly thrown away, even better. If she were ready to beg for forgiveness, he would enjoy it even more.

Vanessa poked her head round the door that communicated with the kitchen.

‘Would you like me to stay, Hope?’

For all the world as though she were a little kid in need of support around the grown-ups, Hope reflected in an agony of mortification. Recognising Andreas’s derisive disbelief at that interruption, Hope almost cringed and took immediate action to avoid any further embarrassment. ‘No, thanks. Actually, we’re going into my room.’

‘Don’t be silly, there’s no need for that! Naturally you can stay in here,’ her friend exclaimed in an offended tone while treating Andreas to a sharp and unfriendly appraisal. ‘I just thought you might need support.’

‘I’m fine.’ Mortified as Hope was by Vanessa’s behaviour, she was determined to speak to Andreas in private and without fear of being overheard. She pulled open the door that led into the hall. ‘This way,’ she urged him in a rather harried undertone.

‘We could always go and sit in the limo,’ Andreas drawled sibilantly, flicking a chilling glance at Hope’s friend. An interfering brazen bully, who he could see walked all over Hope in hobnail boots.

‘No, really, that’s not necessary, ‘ Hope declared breathlessly.

It was becoming obvious to Andreas that on one score at least Hope had not lied to him: Ben might own the apartment but his cousin, Vanessa Fitzsimmons, did indeed appear to be the current tenant. Of course the flat could still have been regularly used to facilitate Hope’s affair with Campbell. Only as time passed and his powerful intellect continued to dwell on and question the few facts at his disposal, Andreas was finding it increasingly hard to credit that a lengthy affair had even taken place.

For a start, Hope had appeared to be her usual sunny self right up until the week before his sister’s party. Hope had an honest and open nature and it would be wildly out of character for her to have engaged in long-term serious deception. He found it much easier to believe that she had simply succumbed to temptation that evening. He was also highly suspicious of the fact that the male involved was closely related to her best friend. After all, before he had even met Vanessa, Andreas had guessed that the woman was hostile to his relationship with Hope. Had Ben Campbell been encouraged to target Hope with his attentions? Had Campbell pretended to be a friend to win Hope’s trust and wear down her defences? In short, had Hope been set up to fall?

‘In here…’ Hope pushed open the door of her bedroom and hoped it wasn’t in too much of a mess. Why had Andreas come to see her? Even the most vague and far-fetched possibility that Andreas might want her back reduced her mental agility to zero. Her tummy filled with fluttering butterflies of nervous tension.

Andreas studied his surroundings with eyes so keenly intent and precise that after ten seconds he could have accurately enumerated every visible item right down to the tiny corner of the chocolate wrapper protruding from a drawer. His tension dropped several degrees and his vigilance relaxed as he appreciated that there was nothing in the room that suggested even occasional male occupation. In fact the bed was clearly only occupied by one person. One person with a fondness for cuddly toys. He could not credit that any male would willingly share space with the shabby pink rabbit that had survived Hope’s childhood.

As Hope stepped away from the door the disturbingly familiar scent of her herbal shampoo flared his nostrils. Her pale silky blonde hair shimmered across her shoulders like a fall of satin. His every physical sense suddenly on full alert, he studied her. Her fabulous hourglass curves looked more pronounced than ever but he assumed his memory was playing tricks on him. Of recent he had been surrounded by some very thin women, he reminded himself absently, while he fought the treacherous buzz of his powerful sexual arousal. Such comparisons could only make Hope seem more luscious in contour. Regardless, the bountiful swell of her generous breasts below her pink T-shirt was nothing short of spectacular. His even white teeth gritted.

‘Would you like to sit down?’ she asked nervously, bending down to scoop a pile of magazines off a chair. Her top rode up a few inches at the back to reveal a slender strip of pale creamy skin.

‘No…’ His drawl was thickened by his Greek accent and his hands clenched into defensive fists. He wanted to touch that smooth, tantalising stretch of naked flesh in view. In fact he wanted to do a whole hell of a lot more than just touch Hope. After weeks of enduring a worryingly uninterested libido, he was rampant. He wanted to drag her down on the bed, rip off her clothes and have sex with her. Hot and deep and fast, out of control…mind-blowing as it was only with her.

Rigid with the force of the appetite he was containing and the temptation he was resisting with every aggressive fibre of his body, Andreas backed away until she was out of his natural reach. In an effort to control the biting heat of his unsated hunger, he focused on the magazines she had pushed onto the carpet. Evidently she was still obsessively reading interiors magazines. Publications stuffed with photos of period country dwellings groaning with oak beams and crammed with anachronistic kitchens and bathrooms. She was mad about houses. Her nest-building instincts would have terrified a weaker man. Andreas had contrived quite happily to ignore them. But now a taunting, infuriating voice was coming out of nowhere inside his head and asking him why he hadn’t given her that fantasy and bought her a country house. Had he given her the opportunity to wallow in chintz and walled gardens, he was willing to bet that she would still have been with him.

‘Coffee…?’ Hope mumbled, her mouth running dry at the high-wire tension in the atmosphere. She could not take her eyes from his extravagantly handsome features.

A tinge of dark colour highlighting his striking high cheekbones, Andreas lowered thick black lashes over his brilliant eyes. ‘I won’t be here that long.’

‘Are you sure? I’d like you to stay,’ she heard herself say without any forethought or pride whatsoever. ‘A while…’ she added jerkily, hoping it made her sound a bit less desperate.

His lashes lifted, revealing his sizzling golden gaze. A combination of sexual desire and fierce resentment held him fast. If he dragged her down on the bed, would she say no? She had never, ever said no to him. Like an executioner letting the guillotine blade fall, he clamped down on that dangerous train of thought.

‘I just want to know how you’re doing…’ Hope flinched, thinking of the blonde in that newspaper photo with all her bones on display. She breathed in hurriedly, afraid that he might already have noticed that her stomach was not as flat as it had been. Once comfort eating had kindly bestowed its largesse in less noticeable amounts on her hips and her breasts, but now visible surplus flesh was creeping onto her middle section as well.

‘I’ve only one reason for being here. I couldn’t get in touch any other way,’ Andreas asserted with chilling cool, his beautiful mouth compressed with impatience, his defiant libido willed into subjection. ‘What happened to your mobile phone?’

‘It broke,’ she confided.

‘The number here is ex-directory,’ he pointed out.

‘Why did you want to get in touch with me?’ Her nerves could no longer stand the suspense of waiting.

‘Your brother has left several messages for you on the phone at the apartment. I believe he’s visiting London next week. When he couldn’t raise you on your mobile phone, he got worried.’

‘Jonathan? Oh…’ The colour in Hope’s cheeks evaporated as severe disappointment claimed her. She felt very foolish and rather humiliated. Andreas had had the most pedestrian of reasons for coming to see her and his visit had no personal dimension whatsoever. But she could not have foreseen the likelihood of her brother suddenly trying to get in touch with her. As a rule she only heard from Jonathan with a card at Christmas and a catch-up phone call after New Year. If Jonathan were visiting London, he would be on a business trip, she thought dully.

‘Make sure that you call him. That line has now been disconnected.’

Her brow indented. ‘But why?’

‘The apartment is for sale.’

That news hit her like a slap in the face. It made everything so dreadfully final. The apartment had been her home for two years. For her, it was still a place full of happy memories. Only now was she forced to acknowledge that she had still cherished secret hopes of returning to live there. She tried and failed to find consolation in the evident fact that at least he wasn’t moving some other woman in.

‘Don’t you still need it?’ she prompted tightly.

In silence, Andreas lifted and dropped a broad shoulder in continental dismissal of the topic.

Her turquoise eyes lifted and she noticed the way his gaze was welded to her mouth. Her lips tingled, felt dry. As the tip of her tongue snaked out to provide moisture his golden eyes smouldered and he reached for her in a sudden movement that stripped the breath from her lungs with a startled gasp.

‘A-Andreas…?’ she stammered, feverishly conscious of the lean, strong hands clamped to her wrists and the scant few inches separating their bodies.

‘Don’t make yourself cheap trying to turn me on,’ Andreas delivered with derisive bite, setting her back from him in a mortifying gesture of rejection and releasing her from his hold.

Hope reeled back in shock from that icy rebuff. Somehow, heaven knew how, the distance between them had narrowed. Had she unconsciously drifted closer to him or was he the one responsible? Whatever, she had never been made to feel more humiliated than she did at that moment. ‘You actually think…but I wasn’t trying to—’

‘It’s such a waste of your time,’ he murmured silkily. ‘I’m over you.’

‘I wasn’t trying to turn you on!’ Hope persisted, writhing with horror at the charge. Her temper surged up in response to her discomfiture. ‘It’s ridiculous to accuse me of that. You’re the last guy in the world I’d want to make a play for. You’re lucky that I’m even willing to still speak to you!’

Dark deep-set eyes gleaming gold, Andreas angled his arrogant head high and loosed a derisive laugh that gave her a shocking desire to kick him. ‘And how do you make that out?’

‘Well, for a start, you’ve insulted me beyond any hope of forgiveness. You misjudged me and you dumped me for something I didn’t do. The night of that party, I hardly knew Ben Campbell but you refused to listen to me,’ she condemned with helpless bitterness. ‘When Ben found out what happened between us, he said he was willing to go and speak to you for me—’

Unimpressed, Andreas grimaced. ‘How cheap…is he now wishing he had kept his hands off my property?’

‘I’m not and I never was your property!’ Hope shouted back at him so shrilly and in so much distress that her voice broke. ‘Now get out of here!’

Ben had made a grudging offer to speak to Andreas on her behalf but she had decided that dragging the younger man into her personal problems would have been unfair, embarrassing and probably pointless. Andreas’s derisive crack about Ben had confirmed Hope’s conviction that Ben’s intervention would have been unsuccessful. Andreas believed his sister’s version of events and would discount any other. He had swallowed his sister’s lies hook, line and sinker. Nothing she could do or say would alter that.

‘With pleasure,’ Andreas spelt out.

As Andreas strode to the door it opened, framing Ben Campbell. ‘Are you OK?’ he asked Hope, ignoring Andreas.

Tears were dammed up inside her like a threatening floodtide. She thought if she let them out, she might wash both Ben and Andreas away. For the space of a heartbeat, the two men were side by side. With his slighter build, fair hair and fine features, not to mention his trendy jeans, Ben looked boyish next to Andreas, but the concern in his eyes warmed her. Andreas subjected her to a chilling glance of contempt as if Ben’s mere presence was an offence.

‘I hate you…’ Hope mumbled tautly. ‘I’ve never said that to anyone before…I’ve never felt this way before either. But what you’ve done to me and the way you’ve treated me has changed me.’

‘You shouldn’t be here upsetting Hope. Leave her alone,’ Ben said abruptly.

And the glitter in Andreas’s stunning eyes blazed as hot as the heart of a fire. A satisfied smile driving the inflexible hardness from his shapely mouth, he stepped back and hit Ben so hard that the younger man went crashing out into the hall where he fell back against the wall.

‘Theos…I owed you that,’ Andreas growled with seething emphasis, aggression etched into every taut and ready line of his big, powerful body.

‘How could you do that?’ Hope gasped in horror, appalled at his violence and guilty that she should have been the cause of it.

‘If I wasn’t averse to spilling blood in front of women, I’d kill him,’ Andreas intoned without a shred of shame.

Grimacing, Ben hauled himself up out of his slump with a groan. Flushed with anger, he launched himself away from the wall, but before he could attempt to strike a blow in retaliation Hope had stepped between him and Andreas.

‘I’m so sorry about this. But please don’t sink to his level,’ Hope begged Ben frantically, terrified that masculine pride would press him into a fight that she was certain he would lose.

‘Spoilsport,’ Andreas growled between clenched teeth, outraged by the sight of her rushing to protect the other man, the freezing cool of his innate strong will icing over the outrage and denying it.

‘And to the winner goes the spoils,’ Ben countered, closing his hand over Hope’s to anchor her to his side in a deliberately provocative statement. ‘I don’t need to hammer anyone into a pulp to impress her.’

‘That is fortunate. You’re usually too drunk even to try,’ Andreas riposted with lethal distaste.

Shell-shocked by the amount of bad feeling between the two men, Hope watched Andreas stride out of the apartment and out of her life all over again. He did it without a backward glance or a word. She shivered, feeling cold and crushed and bereft.

With a rueful sigh, Ben released Hope’s limp fingers. ‘I guess I shouldn’t have said that. But Nicolaidis is an arrogant bastard. I couldn’t resist the urge to give him the wrong impression. He deserves to think we’re together.’

Hope tried to twitch her numb lips into a smile of agreement. Ben had got punched because of her. Ben had got punched for being kind and supportive. If he had chosen to save face by implying that they were in a relationship, he had only been confirming what Andreas already believed. Anyway, Hope reflected wretchedly, what did what Andreas thought matter any more?

Vanessa had been right. She had been hiding her head in the sand, living in the past, shrinking from the challenge of the present. Now she had to face the future and accept that Andreas was gone for good. Andreas had moved on. He was seeing other women, taking advantage of his freedom. A brief, shattering image of that lean, bronzed body she knew so well wrapped round that gorgeous blonde in the newspaper threatened to destroy her self-control. If that image hurt—well, it did hurt; in fact it was a huge hurt that hit her so hard she felt traumatised. But the point was, she had to get used to dealing with that hurt.

‘Andreas doesn’t care about what I’m doing any more,’ Hope muttered, wondering if it was possible to teach herself to fancy Ben. Loads of females found Ben madly attractive and witty. He was around a great deal more than Andreas had ever been. Of course, he did party a little too much and too often and in comparison she was really quite a staid personality. But with some give and take, who knew what might be possible? Perhaps she needed to keep in mind just how many compromises she had made on Andreas’s behalf…

When had she ever dreamt of living in the city without a garden and beside busy, noisy roads? When had she dreamt of loving a guy who did not return her love and who made her no promises? A guy who was often abroad and who was so busy even when he was not that she hardly saw him. She might be breaking her heart for Andreas but that did not mean he had been perfect.

He had acted like a Neanderthal if she’d interrupted the business news. He had woken her up for sex at dawn and referred to the candles she had placed round the bath as a fire hazard. He had ignored St Valentine’s Day. He had given her a pen that first Christmas. It had been an all-singing all-dancing pen that was solid gold and jewelled and could be used for writing at the bottom of the sea, but it had still been a pen. She had also been left alone while he’d enjoyed the festive season in Greece. Why had it taken her so long to appreciate that Andreas had treated her rather as a married man would treat a mistress?

He had agreed that they could live at the apartment without servants, but had continued to live as though the servants were still invisibly present. He had never been known to pick up a discarded shirt or bath towel. Like a domestic goddess to whom nothing was too much trouble when it came to the man in her life, she had cooked, tidied and laundered. And not once had he noticed, commented or praised. In fact Andreas was so domestically challenged that when she had asked him to make her a cup of tea he had ordered it in. Her eyes were filmed with tears but she told herself it was regret for the two years she had thrown away on such an arrogant specimen of masculinity. He had not deserved her love and it was time she got over him. If she went out with someone else, wouldn’t that be the best way to speed up her recovery?

Ben regarded her with lazy aplomb. ‘Come down to the cottage with Vanessa this weekend,’ he suggested. ‘There’ll be a crowd. We could have a blast.’

‘Just friends?’ Hope breathed tautly, tempted by the welcome prospect of being able to escape the city for a couple of days.

‘Kissing friends only,’ Ben traded teasingly, but there was an edge of seriousness in his tone.

Hope turned a hot pink and embarrassment claimed her. ‘Thanks, but no, thanks— I don’t know you well enough—’

Before she could turn away, Ben closed a hand over hers. ‘I’m not expecting you to sleep with me yet—’

She was really embarrassed. ‘No? But—’

‘I know my reputation but I’m willing to go slow for you,’ Ben promised.

Evading his eyes, Hope nodded. She did not know what to say. She did not think that there was the remotest chance of her ever wishing to become that intimate with Ben Campbell or indeed anyone else. Yet, without hesitation, Andreas had slammed shut the door on the past they had shared, she reminded herself doggedly. Presumably Andreas suffered from none of her sensitivities. But then Andreas had never loved her. That was the bottom line that she needed to remember, she told herself painfully. Sitting around alone and feeling sorry for herself would not improve her lot or her spirits. Perhaps if she went through the motions of enjoying herself, enjoyment would begin to come naturally.

The following week, Hope met her brother for dinner at his hotel. More than two years had passed since their last meeting. She was grateful that she had not had the opportunity to mention Andreas during the annual phone calls when Jonathan had brought her up to speed on what was happening in his life. At least she did not now have to announce that she had been dumped, she told herself in consolation. Seeing her brother’s fair head across the quiet restaurant, she smiled warmly, wanting to make the most of so rare an occasion.

‘You haven’t got something to tell me, have you?’ Jonathan enquired, arranging his thin features into an exaggerated grimace as he stood up and raising a mocking brow.

‘Sorry?’ Hope stepped back from him with an uncertain look. ‘What’s the joke?’

‘Well, I suppose it’s not that funny.’ Her older brother sighed heavily. ‘But when I first saw you walking towards me, I honestly thought you were pregnant. Don’t you think it’s time you went on a diet?’

Hope reddened with hurt and embarrassment. She had forgotten just how critical Jonathan could be of a body image that was not as lean as his own. His wife, Shona, was a physical education instructor and the couple and their children led a formidably healthy lifestyle. Although it had been some time since Hope had had the courage to approach the bathroom scales, she was already painfully aware that she had put on weight and she could have done without her brother’s blunt comments. At present only the larger sizes in her wardrobe were a comfortable fit. I thought you were pregnant. How could he say that to her? Did she really look that large? Tears burned the backs of her eyes.

‘You’re letting yourself go. It’s time for a wake-up call,’ her sibling continued without a shade of discomfiture. ‘A good diet and exercise regime would transform you. Did I tell you that Shona has opened a fitness salon?’


‘Business is good, very good,’ Jonathan asserted with satisfaction. ‘I’ll get Shona to send you a copy of her favourite diet.’

Pregnant. Hope was lost in her own feverish thoughts. She was thinking of the new bras she had been forced to buy and considering her tummy’s more rounded profile. She was gaining weight in a pattern that was different from her own personal norm. Then there were those secret binges on olives. Hadn’t she once read that some women were afflicted by strange cravings during pregnancy? But aside of all those vague factors, what had happened to her menstrual cycle in recent months?

‘My firm is operating to full capacity. We can hardly keep up with the order book,’ her brother informed her cheerfully. ‘Life has been very good to Shona and I.’

‘I’m happy for you,’ Hope mumbled, transfixed by the alarming awareness that she could not recollect when she had last had a period. It was not something she took a note of or indeed looked for or had ever made welcome. But her cycle had always been a regular one. Yet if her memory served her well, her cycle had not been functioning correctly for several months at the very least. Did that mean that there was a possibility that she could be pregnant?

‘I’ll always be grateful that you had the generosity to allow me to inherit mother’s estate,’ Jonathan added squarely. ‘At the time I needed that inheritance and I was able to make excellent use of it.’

It was only with the greatest difficulty that Hope could keep up with the conversation, for anxiety had turned her skin clammy. She was being forced to acknowledge that there was a distinct chance that she could have conceived while she was still with Andreas.

‘Hope…’ Jonathan prompted.

‘Sorry, I’m a bit preoccupied today,’ Hope apologised weakly. ‘But I was listening. I know you’ll have made good use of that money.’

‘But it’s been on my conscience ever since and it’s only fair that you should get the same opportunity. After all, you cared for our mother for a long time and you sacrificed your education and prospects.’ With a look of distinct pride Jonathan laid a cheque down on the table in front of her. ‘I can now afford to return the original inheritance to you. If you’re still planning to open your own business, a cash injection should help.’

Hope stared down at the cheque open-mouthed and blinked in astonishment. Her sibling had managed to thoroughly disconcert her. Below the level of the table she had splayed her fingers across the soft swell of her stomach while she’d focused on the shattering idea that she could be carrying a baby. But now she had to concentrate on the very large cheque that her brother had just presented her with.

‘My goodness…’ she said shakily.

‘If you’re about to embark on a new business, you’ll need to be super fit,’ Jonathan warned her. ‘I still think a diet should be at the very top of your agenda.’


Получить полную версию книги можно по ссылке - Здесь

Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

Ваши комментарии
к роману Mediterranean Millionaires - Линн Грэхем

Комментарии к роману "Mediterranean Millionaires - Линн Грэхем" отсутствуют

Ваше имя


Введите сумму чисел с картинки