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Грэхем Линн

Sold For The Greek's Heir

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THE INSTANT LUCY saw that untidy black hair and the gorgeous green eyes so arrestingly bright against his bronzed skin, she wanted to run and keep on running and only innate discipline kept her where she was while she questioned her reaction. Why should she want to run? What had she done to be ashamed of? She was not a coward, she had never been a coward, she reminded herself doggedly, unnerved by that craven desire to flee. Indeed if anyone should be embarrassed it should be Jax for the cruel way he had treated her.

Couples broke up all the time but the process didn’t have to be downright nasty. She hadn’t been a stalker. There had been no excuse for threats and no need whatsoever to run her out of the neighbourhood.

Recollecting that vicious goodbye, Lucy lifted her chin high. Seated centre stage at the circular table, the cynosure of all attention and conversation, Jax mercifully wasn’t looking round the room enough to notice her. Lucy might have overcome the urge to run but it did annoy her to find herself in a subservient role in Jax’s radius again. In a mad moment she had once fantasised about swanning through some swanky club some day looking like a million dollars and seeing Jax and totally ignoring him to demonstrate her disdain and overall superiority as a decent human being. But now that she was actually on the spot she discovered that she was indefensibly and horribly curious and could only stare at him.

He had kept his black hair short. Once he had worn it long but he had had it cropped not long after she’d first met him, hitting the more conventional note she had suspected his father preferred. In retrospect she found it hard to credit that they had once bonded over their absent fathers. Jax had admitted how recently his father had come back into his life and had shared his grief over the death of the half-brother he had loved, not to mention his mother’s abuse and infidelities. None of those deep conversations had fitted into what she assumed could be described as a typical short-term fling. But then that was Jax, a tough individualist, unpredictable, fiery and mysterious...the archetypal brooding hero beloved of teenaged girls with an overly romantic disposition, she concluded sourly.

That he was startlingly handsome had undoubtedly influenced the fantasies she had woven, she acknowledged, chewing at her lower lip, fingernails biting painfully into her palms. High cheekbones, strong clean jaw line, stunning eyes set beneath well-shaped ebony brows. Of course his mother had been a very famous and stunningly beautiful Spanish movie star and he had inherited her looks. In a big magazine article she had once read about him, which had been accompanied by a close-up photo, the journalist had raved about those dazzling wild green eyes and the spiky length of his sooty lashes.

Bella had his eyes. Lucy swallowed hard, recalling her feelings as her daughter’s blue eyes at birth had slowly transformed to an eerily familiar emerald in her innocent little face. Innocent, something Jax was not and had never been. And reading about his sexual exploits over the past two years had helped Lucy to understand that he had always been a selfish, ruthless womaniser but she had been too trusting and inexperienced to recognise his true nature. Her heart was fluttering a beat so fast behind her breastbone that she wanted to press a hand against it to slow it down.

And then the truth of her response hit her and she was aghast that in spite of everything her body could still react to the presence of his. He glanced up from the file he had been perusing and for a split second, a literal single heartbeat, she clashed in dismay with his fierce gaze. It was like an electric shock pulsing low in her pelvis, tightening bone and sinew, awakening sensations she had almost forgotten and had never felt since. Every pulse she possessed went crazy, her breath catching in her throat, her very skin as achingly sensitive as if he had actually touched her. And then that tiny moment was over and past as Jax blanked her and passed the file back to someone at the table while making some comment about profit margins.

Her Greek vocabulary was slowly growing but in unfamiliar scenarios she still got as lost as any non-Greek-speaking foreigner. And of course Jax was going to blank her, she told herself shakily. Had she really thought he would greet a worker bee as low on the proverbial food chain as a waitress? Her mouth compressed as she wondered anxiously how he would react to the news that he was a father were she to tell him. With furious hostility and denial, she reckoned, her skin turning clammy at the prospect. Jax had once been very upfront about the fact that he didn’t ever want children. Bearing that in mind, Lucy ruminated grimly, he should have been more careful to ensure that he didn’t get her pregnant.

Jax’s lean, chiselled features were rigid. He refused to look back in Lucy’s direction. He didn’t need to. That momentary image was stamped into his brain like a punch. What the hell was she doing in Athens? And her sudden appearance in his presence? Some sort of a set-up? And if so, why? Jax never took anything at face value any more. After all, he had once accepted Lucy for what she appeared to be and learned his very great error.

Bile tinged his mouth as he briefly recalled what he had read in that investigation file on her background: a string of drug offences stretching back years and convictions for soliciting sex. He had felt like a complete idiot. He had rushed off to see her, confront her even though it was late at night and then he had seen who she really was for himself...

down an alley with a man enthusiastically giving up what she had made him wait weeks to enjoy.

Disgust and distaste flooded Jax, bringing back even less welcome memories of his mother’s rampant promiscuity and empty promises of fidelity. He had seen her cheating break more than one man who had adored her. His father didn’t know it because he had never dared to ask what his son’s life had been like with his mother but Heracles had not been the only man to be chewed up and spat out in pieces by Mariana, who had wilfully followed every stray sexual impulse. As for Lucy, she was a liar and a cheat and he did not forgive betrayal. The entire episode had been sordid in the extreme. So why was he remembering that she had given him the wildest, hottest sex he had ever had?

A stubborn push of raunchily sexual images infiltrated Jax’s hind brain even while he fought to hold them at bay and kept on talking about the project on the table. Hard as a rock behind his zip, Jax went rigid with angry aggression. How dared Lucy even walk into a room that contained him? He had always told himself that he had not inherited his father’s notorious temper and equally notorious ability to hold a grudge but just then he recognised that he had lied to himself. Had it been possible to bodily throw Lucy out, he would have done so!

One of the bodyguards nudged Lucy’s elbow and she glanced up, dragged from her own bemused thoughts with a vengeance. The older man indicated the coffee on the trolley and angled his head in his employer’s direction, clearly urging her to get on with her job.

Reddening all the way up to her hairline, Lucy unfroze in an effort to behave normally. Even so she had to fight a huge inner battle to force her legs over to the trolley and pour Jax a coffee when all she really wanted to do was empty the entire contents of the pot over his hateful, arrogant head. Without him looking once at her or indeed acknowledging her in any way, she settled the coffee at his elbow with a hand that trembled slightly. Next she laid out the snacks and topped up the cups, signalling the bar waiter at the door when one of the men requested a shot of ouzo to wash down his coffee.

From below screening lashes and the almost infinitesimal movements of his proud dark head, Jax tracked Lucy’s every move like a predator planning an attack. A blinding flash of memory assailed him: skin as translucent as fine porcelain in the dawn light, his fingers knotted into tumbling golden ringlets spread across a pillow, glorious bright blue eyes holding his, a tiny slender body with surprisingly sexy little curves reaching up to his. A little curvier than she used to be, he estimated abstractedly, remembering for a few seconds and then suddenly emerging again from that uncharacteristic reverie to answer a question, angrier and hotter than he had been in years.

The louse could at least have thanked her for the coffee, Lucy reflected with growing annoyance. Even a nod would have been acceptable but then Jax had always been a law unto himself, ferociously uncompromising and challenging, driven to succeed, survive and flourish as if it was in his genes. And perhaps it was. Only in a fantasy could there ever have been a scenario in which she believed that Jax Antonakos would settle down with a humble waitress... Bitterness gripped her and resentment shot through her like a sheet of lightning flashing off all her exposed nerve endings with painful effect.

Who the hell did Jax Antonakos think he was to treat her with such derisive dismissal?

Jax summoned Zenas, his head security guard, with an almost imperceptible flicker of his gaze and passed him a note. Zenas stood back to read it and confusion gripped his features for an instant before discipline kicked in and he left the room to do his employer’s bidding. Lucy paid little heed to the byplay and only tensed when her own boss appeared in the doorway and silently summoned her out into the hallway.

A frown line bisected the older man’s brow as he studied her. ‘Mr Antonakos wants to speak to you in private when he’s finished. I’m not sure how your father would feel about that request—’

Comprehension gripped Lucy fast. Andreus had no idea that she already knew Jax. He simply thought that Jax was trying to get off with her.

‘Please don’t mention this to Dad,’ she muttered unevenly, for that was not a connection she wanted made. Once a link of any kind was established, secrets could spill out.

Andreus cast open the door of a smaller room across the corridor. ‘Wait in there...but only if you want to,’ he added with deliberate meaning. ‘This is nothing to do with your employment here or with me. I have only passed on his request because I am very reluctant to offend so powerful a man.’

Lucy turned a slow, painful red, rage mushrooming inside her again as she imagined what her employer must be thinking. Jax wouldn’t care about appearances. Jax had never had to care about appearances. For an instant she almost walked away from the opportunity to tell Jax what she thought of him. But she was too nervous, too aware of what had happened the last time her very existence nearby had become objectionable to Jax Antonakos. He had paid her then boss in Spain to sack her and she had lost her job and the accommodation that went with it. That was the kind of power the super wealthy had. Her boss in those days had been outrageously frank with her, admitting that he couldn’t afford to keep her on when so much money to do otherwise was on offer and that he had had a poor summer season.

She paced the floor in the small room that was normally used as an office by the hotel housekeeper, thinking herself lucky that Jax hadn’t had a room in the hotel and called her there, which would have looked even worse. Why on earth after ignoring her would he have demanded a meeting? From his point of view that made no sense, she reasoned with a frown. After all, he had ditched her two years earlier without an explanation or even a text. He hadn’t turned up for their last date, hadn’t phoned, hadn’t done anything and when she had tried to contact him he had blocked her calls. Either he had simply tired of her or she had done or said something that had offended.

It hurt to look back and recall how many weeks she had tormented herself by pathetically wondering what she had done to annoy Jax. But nothing could have justified his subsequent behaviour in having her sacked and forced to leave the area like some vagrant whose very presence was offensive. That more than anything was what she could not forgive.

‘You literally have three minutes or you’ll miss your flight,’ Zenas warned Jax outside the door.

Jax strode into the room, absently wondering if there was actual truth in the idea that human beings needed closure following certain experiences because he could not imagine any other reason why he should still feel driven to confront Lucy. Two years ago, he had never wanted to see or speak to her again. But possibly curiosity provided more motivation than he was willing to admit, he reasoned impatiently, angry tension tightening his lean, darkly handsome features.

‘What the hell are you doing in Athens?’ Jax demanded.

Lucy spun round from the window to face him, inwardly reeling from the shock of Jax in the flesh standing close enough to touch. He was so tall and he radiated restive energy and dominant vibes in waves. Tensing, she lifted her head up but she still had to tip it back to actually see any part of him above chest level. Not for the first time her diminutive height struck her as an embarrassing flaw. Being almost child-sized often meant that people didn’t take her seriously or treat her like an adult. ‘What’s that got to do with you?’ she slung back sharply, her tone similar to his own.

Jax drew himself up to his full six-foot-three-inch height and glowered down at her, green eyes luminescent with rage because it had been two years since anyone but his father had challenged him. ‘Answer me,’ he ground out impatiently.

‘I don’t owe you any answers... I don’t owe you the time of day,’ Lucy traded with the kind of provocation that struck a deep and unwelcome note of familiarity with Jax.

‘You will answer me,’ Jax raked back at her in a raw undertone, watching as she angled her head back and struck an attitude, hand on hip. Strawberry golden curls slid round her shoulders, her hair falling round her heart-shaped face, accentuating the defiant blue of her eyes and the lush fullness of her rosy lips.

And that fast, that urgently, Jax wanted to throw her down on the desk and control her the only way he had ever really controlled her, with the seething passion that was the mainstay of his character. For the briefest of moments he allowed himself to imagine the hot, wet tightness of her and the pulse at his groin reacted with unbridled enthusiasm. He reminded himself that it had been a toxic relationship and that she had played him like a con artist with her stories, her fake innocence and her lies. A dizzy surge of rage ignited inside him like a threatening fireball.

‘If you don’t answer me you will live to regret it,’ Jax threatened in a wrathful undertone, every drop of his merciless Antonakos blood burning through him and hungry for a fight.

An angry spurt of fear made Lucy’s stomach turn over sickly. He was too influential to challenge as even her boss had reminded her. She knew Jax could cause trouble for her, maybe even for her father as well if she wasn’t careful. She might hate Jax but it would be insane to risk such penalties. ‘What am I doing in Athens?’ she repeated flatly. ‘I finally looked up my birth father and he lives here—’

‘But that was all lies,’ Jax breathed in momentary bewilderment. ‘You don’t have a Greek father.’

Her smooth brow furrowed with genuine confusion. ‘Lies? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I believe my birth certificate is as accurate as anyone else’s. At the moment I’m living with my father and his wife.’

‘That’s not possible,’ Jax told her, stiffening as a light knock on the door warned him that their time was up if he planned to make it to the airport. His long, lean frame swivelled as he half turned towards the door to leave, common sense and practicality powering him.

‘I just want you to know that I hate you and I’ll never forgive you for what you did to me,’ Lucy confided in a belated rush of angry frustration that she could not tell him what she really thought of him any more bluntly than that. In truth she wanted to scream at him, she wanted to throw herself at him and hammer him with angry fists for hurting her.

‘I didn’t do anything to you,’ Jax parried with complete cool.

‘It was vicious...what you did, unnecessary!’ Lucy condemned chokily, bitterness almost overpowering her along with a very human need to hit back. ‘Having me sacked? Leaving me penniless and homeless and forced to go back to the UK when I had nothing there!’

An ebony brow elevated at that improbable accusation of bullying behaviour on his part, Jax swung back to her just as another knock sounded on the door. Whatever else he might be, Jax prided himself on never having treated a woman badly. ‘I don’t have time for this and I shouldn’t make time for it either,’ he acknowledged grimly. ‘You’re a liar and a cheat—’

‘Of course you’re going to say stuff like that, rewrite history, because you’re so up yourself now,’ Lucy shot back at him in disgust as she thought about her innocent, trusting little daughter. ‘But I never lied to you or cheated on you and you never once thought about consequences, did you?’

He wanted her phone number but he wouldn’t ask for it, wouldn’t allow himself to ask for it. He knew what she was. He didn’t want anything to do with her. So, having reached that decision and feeling invigorated by it, he could not explain why he then turned back like a man with a split personality and told her to meet him for a drink the following evening at a little bar he patronised on the marina, a haunt of his for quiet moments, which the paparazzi had yet to discover. Even as he walked back out again, he was questioning the decision and regretting it, lean brown hands clenching into impatient fists. What the hell had he done that for?

But what had she meant by ‘consequences’? And how come she did have a Greek father when according to that file she did not?

He was simply curious, nothing wrong or surprising about that. His libido was not in the driver’s seat, he assured himself with solid conviction. Stray memories had briefly aroused him when he saw her again, nothing more meaningful. All men remembered incredibly good sex. Furthermore, he had a little black book of phonebook proportions to turn to when he felt like sex, hot and cold running women on tap wherever he travelled. That was the world he lived in. There was no way he could ever be tempted to revisit a manipulative little cheat like Lucy Dixon, he reflected with satisfaction.

Naturally, becoming the Antonakos heir had ensured that Jax became significantly more cynical about women. He didn’t listen to sob stories any more, he didn’t let his inherently dangerous streak of chivalry rule him. Indeed the sight of a woman in need of rescue was more like aversion therapy to him now. He knew from experience that that kind of woman was likely to be far more trouble than she was worth.

After all, how many times had he felt he had no choice but to race to his mother’s rescue? When the men she betrayed became violent as her lies were exposed? When she needed another spell in some discreet rehabilitation facility before she could be seen in public again? When he was forced to lie to protect her?

And yet at heart he had always known that his mother was a deeply disturbed and egocentric human being, undeserving of his care and respect. That was why his little sister, Tina, had died, he reminded himself bitterly. Mariana’s self-centred neglect of her younger child had directly led to the incident in which the toddler had drowned. But he had only been fourteen, so what could he possibly have done when so many adults had witnessed the insanity of his mother’s lifestyle and yet failed to act to protect either of her children?

Lucy walked home in a pensive mood. Of course she wouldn’t meet him, she told herself firmly. What would be the point? Bella! Jax was a father whether he liked it or not but she knew he wouldn’t like that news any more than he liked her. And why was her being in Greece such a big deal? What was it to him? It was not as though they were likely to bump into each other again in normal life. Jax lived against a backdrop of massive yachts, private jets and private islands. He didn’t rub shoulders with ordinary working people.

Yet a giant ball of despair was threatening to swallow Lucy up and she didn’t know why. Seeing Jax again, she recognised, had hurt and hurt much more than she had expected. It had brought back memories she didn’t want. She had loved him and had given her trust to a man for the first time ever. His sudden volte-face had almost destroyed her because she had given him so much she had felt bare to the world without him.

And yet he still wasn’t married. She had thought for sure that he would marry the wealthy heiress his father kept pushing in his direction, the very lovely but very bitchy Kat Valtinos. But then Jax was bone-deep stubborn. You could take a horse to water but you couldn’t make it drink and getting Jax to do anything he didn’t want to do was like trying to push a boulder up a steep hill.

Kat Valtinos had organised the party the night Lucy had met Jax on his father’s enormous yacht. Lucy’s memory wafted her back two years into the past. Back then, Jax had been in Spain setting up a new resort on the coast. When the caterers had mucked up with a double booking, Kat had personally trawled through the local bars seeking waitresses for the event.

‘You two will do,’ she had said to Lucy and Tara, looking them up and down as though they were auditioning as strippers. ‘You’re young and pretty and sexy. Just what men like. You put your make-up on with a trowel,’ she had told Tara critically and to Lucy she had said, ‘You need to show more leg and cleavage.’

If the money hadn’t been so good, Lucy wouldn’t have done it but back then she had lived on a budget where no tips meant stale bread and going hungry. Their boss didn’t feed them for free and they had no cooking facilities in their mean little attic room, which had been hot as hell up under the eaves above the restaurant kitchen. Any extra cash was deeply welcome in those days.

The party had been full of blowhard bellicose men talking themselves up in Antonakos’s company and drinking too much. One of them had cornered Lucy when she was sent to a lower deck to restock the bar from the supplies stored there. She had been trying to fight him off when Jax had intervened. Jax, blue-black glossy hair brushing his shoulders, green eyes glittering like shards of glass, who had dragged the guy off her with punishing hands and hit him hard without hesitation.

‘Are you OK?’ the most gorgeous guy she had ever seen had asked, pulling her off the wall she had slumped against, smoothing down the skirt the creep had been trying to wrench up. ‘Diavolos, you’re so tiny. Did he hurt you?’

‘Only a little,’ she had said shakily, trembling like a leaf and in absolutely no doubt that Jax had saved her from a serious assault because, with the noisy party taking place on the deck above, the lower deck had been deserted and nobody would have heard her crying out.

‘Take a moment to recover,’ Jax had urged, guiding her into an opulent saloon to push her down into a seat where her cotton-wool legs had collapsed under her as if he had flipped a switch. ‘What were you doing down here on this deck?’

He had issued instructions on the phone to a crew member to have the bar supplies refreshed. And the whole time she had just been staring at him like a brainless idiot, utterly intimidated by everything about him from the expensive quality of his lightweight grey suit and hand-stitched shoes to the sheer beauty of his perfect features from his edgy cheekbones to his sculpted mouth. It was the eyes that had got to her the most, the tender concern she’d seen there and then the budding all-male appreciation. He had the most stunning eyes and his rare smile had been like the sun coming out on a dark day.

‘Are you OK?’ he repeated.

Well, no, in fact from that moment she had never been OK again. Something she’d needed to survive had lurched into strange territory and softened to let him in, no matter that it had gone against sense and practicality and her life experience. She had truly never been the same since.


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