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Грэхем Линн

Mediterranean Millionaires

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FOR the second time in as many months, Andreas made a last-minute change to his plans and turned back from the airport.

He did not feel that he had a choice: Hope was seriously distressed. In fact she seemed to be coming apart at the seams. She had slapped out at him, lost her temper and shouted at him, and she had done all of that in front of an audience of interested by standers. It was as though she had had a personality transplant. Yet he knew her as a kind, gentle and unassuming woman, who was slow to anger and blessed with a cheerful outlook on life. Clearly, Ben Campbell was responsible for the appalling change in Hope. He had destroyed her tranquillity and plunged her into so much misery and confusion that she was making wild accusations.

Of course Campbell was the father of her baby! But evidently, Hope did not want Campbell in that role. It seemed obvious to Andreas that Hope’s toy boy had cut and run from the threat of paternity and left her in the lurch. So how was that his business? And why was he getting involved? Hope was in trouble and she had approached him for help. Who else did she have to turn to? Why shouldn’t he demonstrate that he was more of a man when the chips were down than Campbell would ever be?

Back at Vanessa’s apartment, Hope was tumbling a jumble of clothes into a squashy bag and asking feverishly, ‘Are you absolutely sure it’s OK for me to use your family’s cottage?’

‘Stop fussing. My mother’s in Jersey and my aunt, Ben’s mother, is far too grand for the cottage now. At least you’ll keep it aired,’ Vanessa remarked. ‘But is it such a good idea for you to leave London right now?’

‘I need peace…I have to think.’

Vanessa gave her a wry look. ‘Well, not about what you’ll be doing with the baby. You’re crazy about babies, so I feel it’s fairly likely that you’ll be keeping the sprog. This sudden departure from city life, however, feels more like you’re running away—’

Hope lifted her head, turquoise eyes defiant at that charge. ‘I’ll only be at the cottage for a few days. I’m not running away. I just don’t want to see Andreas—’

‘I don’t see him around to bother you. I gather by your attitude that he’s not going to be pitching for the Father of the Year award?’ Vanessa could not hide her curiosity.

‘Not while he thinks Ben fathered my baby—’

‘He thinks Ben knocked you up?’ the redhead queried in lively astonishment.

‘I hate that expression. Please don’t use it—’

‘Didn’t you tell Andreas how pregnant you are?’

‘No, I didn’t stay around to exchange conversation after he had made it clear that he was convinced Ben was the guilty party,’ Hope admitted heatedly. ‘Oh yes, Andreas also accused me of trying to pin my baby on him because Ben didn’t want to know!’

Her friend gave an exaggerated wince. ‘When Andreas gets it wrong, he gets it horribly wrong.’

Hope threaded a restive hand through the pale blonde strands of hair falling across her brow. ‘I tried to understand that he trusted his sister and believed in her. I tried to be fair to him but I don’t feel like being understanding any more,’ she confessed in a driven rush. ‘I’ve put up with enough. I thought that Andreas had a right to know about the baby but now I wish I had stayed away from him.’

‘I have a confession to make.’ Vanessa stretched her mouth into a wry look of appeal. ‘I told Ben about the baby…I know, I know, it wasn’t my business. Unfortunately I let something slip accidentally over lunch and when he picked up on it, I couldn’t lie, could I?’

‘No…you couldn’t lie.’ But Hope guessed that Vanessa had quite deliberately chosen to break the news of her friend’s pregnancy to Ben. Had her friend been afraid that, on the spur of the moment, Ben might say something hurtful? Or had Vanessa decided that it was unfair that Ben should be left in ignorance while Andreas was put in the picture? Whatever, Vanessa had interfered and perhaps she shouldn’t have done. At that moment, however, Hope was guiltily grateful not to be faced with the embarrassing prospect of having to tell Ben that she was expecting Andreas’s child. Informing Andreas had been upsetting enough. Yet Ben, whom she had been seeing for just three short weeks, was entitled to hear the same announcement.

‘Ben was gobsmacked.’ Vanessa heaved a sigh and jerked a slim shoulder. ‘He’s keen on you but I don’t think he has a clue how to deal with this situation.’

‘I’m not stupid. I’m not expecting Ben to deal with it and stay around.’ Hope forced a laugh at the very idea. ‘What guy would?’

Vanessa reflected on that question. ‘A very special one,’ she said finally. ‘But I’m not sure Ben is up for the challenge.

‘Why on earth should he be? Within another month at most I’ll be a dead ringer for a barrel in shape!’ Hope quipped.

The doorbell went.

Both women stilled.

‘It’s probably for you,’ her friend forecast.

Hope finished zipping her bag and then, tilting her chin, she went to answer the bell.

Andreas levelled steady dark golden eyes on her. ‘Invite me in.’


Andreas angled his handsome dark head to one side. ‘Why not? Is your watchdog home?’

‘That’s no way to refer to my best friend.’

‘Are you saying she has never maligned me?’ Andreas fielded with lethal effect.

Hope flushed to the roots of her hair and deemed it wisest to say nothing. But she did very nearly confide that she had always warmly defended him from every hint of criticism. Only now she felt ashamed rather than proud of her once-unswerving loyalty. After all, that very day she had been forced to appreciate that Andreas had never had a similar level of faith in her. He found it easy to accept that she had done all sorts of unforgivable things, didn’t he?

He believed she had slept with Ben and carried on an affair with the other man behind his back. He believed she had lied about her infidelity and engaged in all the deceits that would have been required to conceal that betrayal. He believed she had made up a nasty, sordid story about his sister, Elyssa, in an effort to save her own skin. He also believed that, having found herself in the family way, she had been desperate enough and foolish enough to try and lie about who had put her in that condition in the first place.

Injured pride and deep pain warred inside Hope and produced anger. ‘Andreas…I don’t see any point in you being here. I’ve nothing more to say to you.’

‘You approached me first.’

‘Yes and I said what I had to say.’ Her heart-shaped face pale with strain, Hope folded her arms in a jerky movement.

‘But I’ve barely got warmed up,’ Andreas fenced, leaning into the apartment to call, ‘Vanessa?’

Startled, Hope exclaimed, ‘Why are you—?’

Her friend strolled out to the hall.

‘I was convinced you would not be far. Hope and I are going out—’

‘No, we’re not. I have a train to catch,’ Hope protested.

‘I should be in Athens right now and you screwed it up for me,’ Andreas delivered, lean, strong face taut with fortitude.

Hope was laced with equal determination. ‘I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m not even speaking to you—’

‘That’s not a problem,’ Andreas drawled, smooth as silk. ‘I’m perfectly happy to do all the talking. I enjoy it when people just listen to me.’

‘I’d know that without even hearing you,’ Vanessa chipped in.

If her friend had been hoping to put Andreas out of countenance, she had misjudged her man. Ablaze with confidence and purpose, Andreas vented an appreciative laugh. ‘Good.’

His amusement cut through Hope’s sensitive skin like a knife. That was how much her current crisis meant to Andreas Nicolaidis. He had refused to credit that the baby was his and he didn’t really need to care about her predicament. She studied him with helpless intensity. Getting by without him was agony and seeing him only increased her craving to be with him again. She had to get over that.

‘I don’t want to see you…or have anything to do with you,’ Hope breathed unevenly, and she reached forward and slowly, carefully closed the front door in his darkly handsome face.

‘I can’t believe you just did that!’ Vanessa gasped, wide-eyed. ‘He’s the love of your life and your idol!’

‘I need to cultivate better taste. That was the first step and overdue.’ Hope retreated back to her bedroom to retrieve her bag.

She felt as if she were bleeding to death. She wanted to run out the door and chase after him like a faithful pet. For the very first time she was learning to say no to Andreas and it did not feel good to go against her own nature. In fact it hurt like hell.

Four hours later, she was climbing out of a taxi clutching the key for the picturesque country cottage that belonged to the Fitzsimmons and Campbell families. It lay down a leafy lane and was sheltered by tall, glossy hedges of laurel. Cottage was a bit of a misnomer for a property containing more than half a dozen bedrooms. It was a substantial house.

In the charming bedroom she chose for herself below the overhanging eaves she looked out over the back garden towards the gentle winding river and the open countryside beyond. The silence and the sense of peace were wonderful. Her train had been packed and noisy and she had not initially been able to get a seat. Exhaustion was making her droop.

‘Carrying a baby is a tiring business,’ the doctor had warned her. ‘You have to be sensible and take extra rest if you need it.’

It didn’t help that it had been weeks since she had benefited from an unbroken night of sleep. Bad dreams and worries had haunted her. Shedding her clothes where she stood, she pulled on a thin white cotton nightdress and sank between the sheets on the comfortable bed as heavily as a rock settling in silt.

Wakening refreshed the following morning, Hope felt her mood lift in tune with the sunshine filtering through the curtains. It was a beautiful day. She put on a light summer dress, attempted unsuccessfully to suck her tummy in and still breathe, and finally went downstairs to satisfy her ravenous appetite for food. She blessed Vanessa when she found that the fridge already contained a few basic foodstuffs. A local woman acted as caretaker and Vanessa had evidently contacted her.

Hope ate her toast on the sun-drenched terrace beside the river and then allowed herself five olives. She had so many decisions to make. But her friend had been right on one score: whether or not to keep her child was not one of them. She had the lucky advantage of being cushioned by the cash her brother had given her. Only now she was no longer sure of what to do with that money. Perhaps putting it into property might be the wisest move.

Her business plans would have to go on the back burner for a while. Too many new businesses failed. Having a child to care for would change her priorities. She was less keen to take on financial risk. Setting up a viable enterprise to craft handmade bags and employing even a couple of workers would always have been a risky venture. But to set herself such a task with a new baby on the way and single parenthood looming would be downright foolhardy.

Ben arrived when she was working on new ideas for bags, an exercise that never failed to relax her. Lost in creative introspection, she did not hear his car arriving. When she glanced up, she just saw Ben standing at the corner of the house watching her. Thrusting aside her sketch pad, she scrambled up, taut with apprehension. With his fair hair fashionably tousled into spikes and his green eyes usually serious, he had a rakish, boyish attraction, she acknowledged. He wasn’t a bad kisser either. Only her heart didn’t go bang-bang-bang when she saw him and the almost-sick-with-excitement sensation, which she associated with Andreas, did not happen for her around Ben.

‘You didn’t need to come down to see me,’ she said awkwardly.

‘I did.’ Ben dug restive hands deep into his pockets. ‘You should have been the one to tell me about the baby.’

‘Vanessa didn’t give me the chance.’ Hope sighed.

‘This was one of the times when she should’ve minded her own business. She made me feel like I had no place in your life.’ Ben subjected her anxious face to a rueful appraisal. ‘I’m not going to pretend that this development hasn’t knocked me for six…it has. But however this pans out, we’ll still be friends.’

Her soft mouth wobbled and she compressed it. But it was no good—her eyes overflowed and, with a sound that veered between a laugh and a sob, she groaned. ‘The slightest thing brings tears to my eyes at the minute. It’s so embarrassing…please ignore me!’

Ben draped a comforting arm round her shoulders but he did not draw her close as he would have done only days earlier. ‘You’ve had a rough week. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Vanessa says that you and Andreas are engaged in major hostilities. That’s my fault—’

‘How can it possibly be your fault?’

‘I could’ve put him right about us a couple of months back but I didn’t see why I should. I wanted a chance with you and if you stayed with your Greek tycoon, I wasn’t going to get it. I took advantage. I’m admitting it,’ Ben said bluntly. ‘But even I draw the line at continuing to muddy the water when you’re expecting his kid! That has to be sorted out.’

Ben insisted on taking her down to the medieval pub in the village and treating her to lunch. His unexpected plain common sense had left her conscience uneasy. Her own behaviour seemed less sensible. Feeling horribly hurt and humiliated, she had shut the door in Andreas’s face and refused to talk to him. It might have been what Andreas deserved and it might have made her feel less like a doormat, but important issues still had to be resolved. Andreas could not be allowed to retain the impression that Ben might have fathered her child. She was not to blame for the misunderstanding. But for Ben’s sake and for the baby’s, she needed to keep on trying to ensure that Andreas accepted the truth.

Early evening that same day, Andreas brought the powerful Lamborghini to a throaty halt in front of the thatched cottage.

He had leant on Vanessa until she had buckled and told him where Hope was. Hope might well be in need of a break in which to recoup her energies, but he was not willing to accept that she had to be protected from him. Even though he had missed a family christening in Athens, he was feeling good about what he was doing. In fact he was aware of a general improvement in his mood. That was no surprise to him. When had he ever done anything quite so unselfish? Naturally he was proud of himself. Although Hope had no claim on him and even less right to his consideration, he had set aside his perfectly justifiable anger and understandable distaste to check that she was all right.

Hope clambered out of the bath because she was terrified of falling asleep in the water. Wrapping her streaming body in a velour towel imprinted with zoo animals, she padded back into the bedroom. From the low window there she saw Andreas springing out of an elegant long, low silver car. He hit the knocker on the front door.

‘Oh, heck…’ Her first glance was into the mirror to note that, yes, her hair was damp and messy and piled on top of her head where it was anchored by a canary-yellow band. And her face was hot pink. And nobody was ever likely to suggest that her figure was enhanced by a bulky towel in primary colours. Was her tummy really that…? She flipped sideways and wished she hadn’t bothered. Sometimes ignorance could be bliss.

Yet even in profile, Andreas looked stunning, his bold, bronzed features vibrant with dark, intrinsically male beauty. Tall and well built, he emanated powerful energy. Her hand flew up to tug off the band restraining her hair. In a panic, she finger-combed the resulting tangle. The door knocker went a second time. Breathless and reckless as a teenager, terrified he would decide she was out and leave if she did not hurry, she raced down the stairs as though her feet had wings and dragged open the door.

His dark, deep-set gaze narrowed below thick black lashes and roamed from the lush pink cupid’s bow of her mouth to the voluptuous creamy swell of her breasts. Not even the sight of a pink elephant marching across the towel could dim Andreas’s appreciation of her fabulous shape. His eyes flared to smouldering gold.

Her mouth ran dry. ‘How did you find out where I was?’

‘Vanessa told me.’

Hope was amazed. ‘She…did?’

‘I said I was concerned about you. That unnerved her. Suddenly she didn’t want the responsibility of withholding information from me,’ Andreas explained lazily.

‘I’m glad…we do need to talk,’ Hope conceded quietly, backing towards the stairs. ‘If you wait in the sitting room, I’ll get dressed.’

‘Why bother?’ Andreas was tracking her every tiny move with keen male attention.

‘Because I’m not wearing enough clothes,’ she mumbled uncertainly, finding it incredibly hard to concentrate beneath Andreas’s steady appraisal.

‘You’re not wearing any,’ Andreas contradicted huskily. ‘Do you hear me complaining?’

‘Don’t talk like that,’ she begged, her tension rising because she knew she wanted him to talk like that to her. In fact her protest was a truly appalling lie when she knew that more than anything else in the world at that moment she wanted him to kiss her.

Her retreat from the door had exposed the jacket slung down carelessly across the window seat. Andreas treated the garment to a fulminating scrutiny. His hard jaw line clenched taut. ‘Whose jacket is that? Daddy Bear’s?’

Disconcerted, Hope followed the path of his eyes. Her fine brows pleated when she saw that Ben, who had departed a couple of hours earlier, had forgotten to take his jacket with him.

‘Hope?’ Andreas prompted icily. ‘That’s a man’s jacket.’

Never in her life until then had Hope been so tempted to tell a lie for the sake of peace. While she was wondering whether an elderly gardener with expensive tastes could be the likely owner of a designer leather jacket, time ran out.

‘Is Campbell here?’ Andreas slung at her wrathfully. ‘Upstairs in the bedroom?’

Hope exploded into emotive speech, ‘No, of course not. He’s not here but he would have every right to be if he wanted to be! Vanessa may have given me permission to be here but the cottage belongs to her family and Ben’s.’

Andreas paced forward a step. His lean, strong face was set like stone, his brilliant eyes hard as steel. ‘When was Campbell here?’

‘That’s none of your business,’ Hope dared shakily.

His intent gaze flared to a volatile gold. ‘You made it my business again. Either you’re with him or you’re alone. If you’re still with him, I want to know about it!’

‘I’m not discussing Ben with you. You have no right to ask me these questions—’

‘If you’re still involved with Campbell, why did you approach me?’ Andreas launched at her in raw condemnation.

Hope lifted her head high, turquoise eyes dark with stress. ‘This is your baby. It’s got nothing to do with Ben, so just leave him out of things—’

‘That’s a fantasy…I finished with you months ago. How the hell could it be my baby?’ Andreas thundered at her in fierce frustration.

Hope flinched from the violence flaring like a silent lightning strike in the atmosphere. ‘In another week, I’ll be six months pregnant. Six months ago I hadn’t even met Ben Campbell.’

Andreas had fallen very still. He fixed sceptical eyes on her and stared. ‘You can’t be six months pregnant.’

‘The doctor says that some women…of my build,’ she selected with care, ‘don’t look like they’re expecting until the last couple of months.’

His normal healthy colour noticeably absent below his bronzed skin, Andreas coiled his restive hands into powerful fists and half lifted his arms in emphasis. ‘There’s no way you can be six months pregnant,’ he repeated, less stridently it was true, but the repetition of that assurance broke the thin hold she had on her control.

‘Isn’t there?’ Hope gasped, angry pink blooming in her cheeks. ‘You could not be more wrong. Furthermore, if it’s anyone’s fault I’m going to be a mother, it’s yours!’

‘Mine?’ Andreas echoed. ‘You start telling me this crazy story—’

‘What crazy story would that be? You got me pregnant. Who was it who said that he would take care of the precautions?’ Hope shouted at him in a tempestuous fury of frustration and pain. ‘Who assured me that I could safely leave everything to you? And then who didn’t bother when it didn’t suit him? In the shower, in the middle of the night, on the bathroom floor…that time in the limo…’

A slow, dulled rise of blood below his olive skin demarcated the superb slant of his high cheekbones

‘How is it that you took that kind of risk with me? Over and over again? How is it that you then have the cheek to repeatedly insist that some other man must be the father of my child? You’ve got a very short memory, Andreas—’

‘No…I remember that time in the limo,’ Andreas breathed thickly, fabulous golden eyes not quite focused, a frown line between his ebony brows as though he were literally looking back through time. ‘I had flown in from Oslo…I called you to meet me…that…that was pretty much unforgettable.’

Her small fingers curved like talons into her palms. ‘I’m so glad it was memorable enough for you to recall.’

Andreas studied her stomach as covertly as he could. But he could not look away. His baby. It could be; it might be. He was in shock. ‘Now that you’ve said how far along this pregnancy is, I can see there’s a stronger possibility that the baby is mine.’

‘You’re so generous,’ Hope said in a small, tightly restrained voice.

‘I’ll still want DNA testing after the child’s born,’ Andreas assured her, not wishing to seem a pushover while he skimmed his gaze over Ben Campbell’s jacket. His stubborn jaw line hardened. He still had to deal with Campbell. He wasn’t prepared to accept Campbell’s inclusion in any corner of the picture. A miniature Nicolaidis, a son or daughter, his first child, his baby would soon be born. It was amazing how different a slant that put on things.

Pale and stiff, Hope inwardly cringed at the threat of DNA tests. He would take nothing on trust. All over again, she felt hurt and humiliated. ‘That’s up to you but it won’t be necessary.’

‘What’s the state of play between you and Campbell?’

Hope coloured in embarrassment and compressed her lips. ‘Take a guess.’

The inference that her pregnancy had wrecked her affair with Campbell put Andreas on a high. Satisfaction zinged through him in an adrenalin rush. He had to resist the urge to smile in triumph. ‘I imagine you don’t qualify as ideal playmate material with my baby inside you.’

‘Ben doesn’t see me in that light. He’s a friend—’

‘Whereas I never wanted to be your friend,’ Andreas incised with a look of unashamed challenge in his clear gaze. ‘I wanted you in my arms, by my side and in my bed. I didn’t feed you any rubbish lines about friendship.’

‘Nor did you mention the fact that you thought of me as your mistress.’

‘Labels aren’t important.’ Andreas angled back his arrogant dark head, refusing to award her the point. ‘Many women would be proud to be called my mistress.’

‘But you knew I wouldn’t be proud because you never once mentioned that word to me until after we broke up,’ Hope reminded him doggedly.

Andreas strolled with fluid grace across the hall. ‘Don’t argue with me. There is no longer any need. For the moment I will accept your word that the child you carry is mine.’

Hope shifted a casual shoulder as if the matter were immaterial to her. However, grudging though his concession was, it was a source of great relief to her.

‘Why did it take you so long to realise you were pregnant?’ he questioned.

‘I didn’t pick up on the signs. I had too much else on my mind over the last few months.’

‘That’s all in the past,’ Andreas asserted, gazing down at her. She met dark golden eyes and her tummy turned a somersault in response. The beginnings of a smile chased the ruthless quality from his beautifully sculpted mouth. Her heart began to beat to a very fast tempo.

‘You’ve been very unhappy, pedhi mou.’

She nodded in uncertain agreement. She was struggling to drag her attention from him but she was mesmerised by the sexual spell he could cast without even trying. A helpless rush of yearning shimmered through her. It had been so long. Her breasts stirred below the towel, her rosy nipples becoming prominent. An embarrassing ache pulsed between her thighs and her face burned with shamed awareness.

‘I like what I do to you,’ Andreas confessed huskily. ‘But you have very much the same effect on me.’

‘Do I?’ She gave way then to her weakness and let herself touch him again. Her fingers fluttered up to smooth across a hard, taut masculine cheekbone and then flirted with his luxuriant black hair. The wonderfully familiar scent of him that close intoxicated her. Her legs felt wobbly.

‘How could you doubt it?’ He bent down and let his warm tongue delve into the moist centre of her mouth and caress the soft underside of her lips. Way down low in her throat a moan escaped. She stretched up on her tiptoes and kissed him back with fervent, eager need. He reached down and lifted her up into his arms and then he took the stairs two at a time.

She let her hands sink into the springy depths of his hair. Joy was dancing through her in a heady tide of celebration. He laid her down on the bed. Her hunger for his touch felt almost unbearable. He stood over her, discarding his jacket and tie, ripping open his shirt while he kicked off his shoes. His impatience thrilled her. She lay there, anticipation a wicked spiral twisting down deep inside her.

‘I’m so hot for you,’ Andreas growled like a hungry tiger as he came down to her.

She opened her arms wide. He tugged away the towel and she gasped and tried to cover herself again, suddenly remembering that she had rounded up in places she had had no need to fill out and stricken by the fear that he would be repulsed.

‘I’ve died and gone to heaven…’ Andreas groaned, settling that concern instantly with his bold masculine appreciation of the lush swell of her breasts.

He uncrossed her arms to bare her for his scrutiny.

‘Close your eyes…’ she pleaded. ‘I’ve expanded.’

‘Gloriously,’ Andreas declared raggedly, scorching golden eyes glittering with admiration. ‘You look like a pagan goddess…very, very sexy.’

Her spine arched a little. He used his thumbs on the tender crests of her breasts and followed with the sweet, erotic torment of his expert mouth. She whimpered, her hips shifting on the mattress.

‘I didn’t think to ask…’ Andreas stared down at her, taut with sudden anxiety. ‘Can I? Is it safe to make love?’

‘It’s OK…it’s no problem…oh, I want you so much,’ she gasped.

He traced the swollen, sensitive heart of her femininity and she jerked and writhed, losing control as the exquisite sensations came quicker and faster. The most devastating need had taken her over. She was liquid as honey heated to boiling point. He was a fantastic lover and he had primed every sensitised inch of her to the peak of sensual torment. Suddenly he was kissing her again in a deep, wild, drugging melding of their mouths that excited her beyond bearing.

‘Please…please…’ she cried.

He told her in Greek how much he needed her, his hands spread to cup her face. Lean, strong face stamped with desire and an intensity that was new to her, he tipped her back. ‘I’ll be very gentle.’

Slow and sure, he thrust into her hot, damp core, taking her by aching degrees. He stretched her and possessed her with long, hard strokes that drove her out of her mind with incredible pleasure. The tight sensation welling at the heart of her sent her excitement racing higher and higher. The surge of ecstasy she experienced plunged her into sobbing abandonment. It took a long time for the pulsing waves of delight to drain from her languorous body. Full of joy at the wonder of being with him again, she felt her eyes flood with tears and she kept her head buried in his shoulder. But she succumbed to the temptation of pressing tiny little kisses against his damp, bronzed skin, tickling him and making him laugh.

Grinning, Andreas closed both arms round her and breathed in the fresh herbal scent of her hair, revelling in the return of the harmony and satisfaction that had eluded him for months. He smoothed possessive hands over the smooth, soft curves of her highly feminine derrière. He wondered if it would seem uncool and if she would be offended if he examined the tantalising swell of her formerly flat stomach. He decided not to chance it and dropped a kiss down on the crown of her head. The unwelcome recollection of Ben Campbell’s jacket slunk into his mind like a depth charge from the deep.

Had she slept with Campbell in the same bed? What do you think, Andreas? A snide, cynical inner voice mocked. Don’t the guy’s relatives part-own the property? His sleek muscles drew taut. Suddenly a tidal wave of doubts and unease was assailing him. How could he ever trust her again? All men were vulnerable to false paternity claims. Even if DNA testing were to prove the child was not his, wouldn’t she still be able to plead that she had made a genuine error? After all, how could she know for sure that it was his baby? At best she was probably hoping like mad that it was his. The last thing she was likely to do was admit anything that might reawaken his worst suspicions.

In the course of seconds his mood had dive-bombed from the heights to subterranean-cellar level. He had dragged her off to bed as if the past few months could be wiped out. But the bitter memory of betrayal remained. Could he really be contemplating the concept of forgiving her? How could he ever forgive her for what she had done? He knew there were sad guys who did do stuff like that. Sad, weak men who let their even sadder dependency on a lying, deceitful woman overpower their brains and their pride. But he wasn’t one of those guys. His only weakness around her was lust, Andreas reasoned. That was sex, though; that was allowable. He would sleep with her as and when he liked. That was harmless. But forgiveness was impossible.

‘If you pack now, I’ll take you back to London with me,’ Andreas murmured flatly, hauling his long, powerful frame up against the pillows while at the same time shifting her off him onto the mattress. ‘The apartment already has a buyer. I’ll have to find you somewhere else to live.’

His cool detachment was as shocking to Hope as a bucket of icy water drenching her overheated skin. He had cut short the affectionate aftermath of their intimacy, Hope registered with a stark sense of panic and loss. Had she really believed that a nightmare could be eradicated and their former relationship reinstated? Why on earth had she fallen back into bed with him again? After all, she was now painfully aware of the deficiencies of what she had once mistakenly seen as a wonderfully happy relationship. Would she really sink so low as to accept being his mistress?

‘I’m not that fussed about diamonds,’ Hope pronounced grittily.

Halfway out of bed, for he was determined to remove Hope from her present accommodation as fast as he possibly could, Andreas stilled with a frown. ‘Say that again?’

Hope shot him a pained glance. ‘A mistress is supposed to have diamonds but I don’t want any. I never wanted any.’

Andreas deemed silence the best response to those incomprehensible statements. Nor did he see it as the best moment in which to confess that some of the charms on her bracelet were ornamented with diamonds of the very highest quality.

‘You never ate a grain of food in that apartment that I did not pay for…does that make you a kept man?’ Hope enquired curtly.

Stark naked, Andreas swung back at that facetious question. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘I bought all the food. My small contribution to our shared life,’ Hope informed him, her turquoise eyes overbright. ‘But you thought you had bought me.’

‘No, I never thought that.’ Andreas frowned. ‘Did you buy the food? I had no idea—’

‘I wish I’d poisoned you when I got the chance!’ Hope hissed and, grabbing up her nightdress, she pulled it over her head, leapt off the bed and vanished into the en suite.

Andreas listened to the bolt shooting home on the other side of the door and swore under his breath while looking heavenward in vague hope of divine intervention. She had seemed perfectly happy, but he was learning that he could no longer depend on that superficial calm. She could fly from apparent tranquillity to screeching fury with him now in the space of seconds. Was that his fault? Campbell’s fault? Was she only back with him because Campbell had rejected her? He could not afford to take anything for granted this time around, he reminded himself harshly.

Hope could not bear to meet her own anguished eyes in the vanity mirror. She had acted like a slut and his coolness afterwards had ensured that she felt like one too. She really hated herself. As long as she behaved like that she would never win his respect. Once again she had been too easy. How could Andreas have sunk so low as to take advantage of her again? And how could she have allowed that to happen?

She had to forget that she loved Andreas. Her baby should be her only priority now. She should never, ever have got back into bed with him again. All that was likely to do was complicate things. Andreas still believed she had slept with Ben. No affair with Andreas had the faintest hope of a promising future. He would not make any commitment to her. Such a relationship would be doomed to failure and their child would also suffer in that breakdown. Sleeping with Andreas had been a serious mistake, but it was not a mistake she had to go on repeating, was it?

Hope emerged from the en suite.

Fully dressed, only his tousled black hair revealing that he had not spent the last hour in the average business meeting, Andreas surveyed her. ‘All I want to do is take you out of here and back to London where you belong.’

‘But I don’t belong there. I always preferred the country and that’s where I’d like to live if I get the chance. Look…’ Hope shifted an awkward hand, inhibited by the need to conceal her true emotions from him with a show of indifference. ‘We slept together and we shouldn’t have. I regret it very much.’

‘You didn’t regret it while you were doing it, pedhi mou,’ Andreas spelt out with dangerous bite. ‘So, what’s changed?’

‘I’m trying to be sensible for the baby’s benefit. I don’t want to be your mistress and I don’t think you’re facing how complicated things could get with a child in the midst of it all.’

Andreas pinned smouldering golden eyes of censure on her and proved that he was not listening. ‘This is about Campbell, isn’t it?’

Hope winced, for with that one question he fulfilled her every fear. ‘It’s not even me you want—’

‘What on earth is that supposed to mean?’

‘I think you just want to take me away from Ben to prove that you can do it. And, yes, you can do it. I’m no good at saying no to you…but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how dangerous you are to my peace of mind,’ she confessed gruffly.

Andreas dealt her a look of stark and savage impatience. ‘This is all nonsense. You fell into my arms…you came back to me—’

‘No…I had sex with you,’ Hope rephrased in a mortified undertone, her face reddening as she pushed out that contradiction.

Andreas studied her in angry disbelief. ‘Don’t be coarse—’

‘You had sex with me. Are you saying that meant anything special to you?’ Hope was striving not to look hopeful.

Put on the spot, Andreas refused to yield. His stubborn mouth firmed. ‘I’m not saying anything right now. It’s too soon.’

Unbearable sadness welled up inside Hope. ‘We don’t have any kind of a future.’

‘If that baby is mine, you’ll have a role to play in my life for years to come,’ Andreas pointed out impressively.

‘A backstage role that you define: a convenient mistress. I don’t want my baby to grow up and despise me. If there’s a chance that I could be the main event in some guy’s life…I want to be free to take that chance,’ Hope answered shakily. ‘And if I end up alone, so be it. I’ll take that risk.’

That was the definitive moment that Andreas appreciated that she had raised the stakes, changed the game, if game it was, and altered the rules without telling him. Either he offered her more or he walked away. He had never surrendered to blackmail in his life. Outrage slivered through him as he angled a brooding glance at the tumbled bed. Just two years ago Hope had been a clueless virgin. But this evening she had had rampant sex with him and then announced that she intended to keep her options open in case some other man presented her with a better deal. For some other man, read Ben Campbell, Andreas reflected in volcanic fury.

‘Please say you understand,’ Hope muttered tautly. ‘I want to try to be the best mother I can be—’

‘Naturally. If your child is mine, I’m willing to acknowledge the blood tie and accept a parental role.’ Andreas refused to think about how the advent of an illegitimate Nicolaidis heir or heiress would strike the more elderly of his conservative Greek family. ‘I will also cover all your expenses and settle money on both of you so that your future is secure. Those arrangements would be separate from any more intimate bonds we shared.’

Hope was very pale and her strained eyes lowered from his to hide her pain. ‘I’m not talking about money, Andreas.’

‘I didn’t suppose you were,’ he drawled flatly, his brilliant gaze cold and level, his handsome mouth set in a hard line. ‘But financial security is the most I intend to put on the table. I have no plans to marry you. Not now, not ever.’

She hadn’t been talking about marriage either. She had been hoping for some verbal acknowledgement of reconciliation between them and the hint that a degree of caring and commitment could exist in the future. But he was not even prepared to concede the possibility that over time something deeper might develop.

‘I wasn’t referring to marriage. There are options which go beyond mistress and don’t stretch as far as matrimony,’ Hope framed with weary dignity. ‘Please don’t be offended but I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I’m feeling incredibly tired and I’d like to lie down for a while.’

Belatedly noticing her pallor, Andreas descended from his icy tower of reserve at supersonic speed. Concern in his troubled gaze, he strode across the room. With careful hands he scooped her up and rested her down again gently on the bed. ‘Let me take you back to London with me. You don’t even need to get dressed. I could wrap a blanket round you,’ he heard himself suggesting.

‘Don’t fuss. I’m too tired to go anywhere,’ she muttered sleepily.

‘Theos…I think I should get a doctor to check you over,’ Andreas continued.

‘Don’t be daft. I’m only pregnant,’ she mumbled soothingly, heavy eyelids already drooping.

Andreas had always admired Hope’s robust good health. She was never sick. Any condition capable of flattening her to a bed before nine in the evening was the equivalent of a serious illness in Andreas’s book. She looked exhausted and the translucence of her skin lent her a disturbingly fragile air. Guilt threatened to swallow him alive. He tugged the bedding up over her and tucked her in as she slid over onto her side. He had subjected her to a great deal of stress. That had to stop right now.

He shouldn’t be throwing Ben Campbell up and upsetting her either. But had he been a substitute for Campbell in the bedroom this evening? he wondered rawly. Understandably, Campbell had backed off once he’d realised Hope was carrying Andreas’s child. That would have been a distinct turn-off for the other man. Was the fact that Andreas had been a substitute the reason why Hope had referred to their recent physical encounter as being just sex?

His mobile phone vibrated. He walked out to the landing and pulled across the door before answering it.

‘Where are you?’ Elyssa demanded stridently. ‘You’ve got to come and sort Finlay out!’

Andreas raised a wry ebony brow and said nothing. He had never made the mistake of interfering between his sister and her husband. Elyssa was volatile and could be quite a handful. Finlay might worship the ground his beautiful wife walked on but he was no pushover.

‘This is serious!’ his sister gasped and an uncharacteristic sob broke up her voice. ‘Finlay says he’s leaving me!’

Switching off his phone a couple of minutes later, a grim expression stamped on his darkly handsome features, Andreas strode back into the bedroom.

Hope’s feathery lashes fluttered up on drowsy turquoise eyes. ‘Sorry…did I drift off?’

‘Come back to London with me,’ Andreas urged forcefully. ‘I don’t like leaving you here alone.’

With a shake of her blonde head, she burrowed deeper into the pillow. Andreas adjusted the sheet again and resisted an almost overpowering need to just grab her up and stow her in the front of his car. His life had been so smooth when she had just done as he’d asked. Now everything was a battle and he hated it.

He needed an edge. He needed a country house, something Hope would take one look at and fall hopelessly in love with. Cue: listed building of historical interest, oak beams, walled garden, loads of bathrooms. At least it would be a good investment. He contacted a top city estate agent and passed on his requirements.


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