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The Greek Tycoon's Blackmailed Mistress

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AT NINE the following morning, Ella slid into a silver limousine and watched her cases being loaded. Her hair anchored in a knot at the nape of her neck, she was dressed with care in a narrow grey skirt and a pinstripe shirt. She was well aware that she didn’t look like mistress material, but was proud of that fact. If Aristandros wanted to waste his time trying to turn a level-headed unfashionable woman into a seductive bedroom hottie who dressed to impress, then he’d one of those challenges that he so professed to love on his hands.

Ella closed restive hands round the handbag on her lap. Sex was just sex, and of course she could handle it. Technically she knew a lot about men. Most probably she wasn’t the sexiest woman around—after all, she had lived for years as if sex as an activity didn’t exist. Celibacy had only bothered her once, and that was while she’d been seeing Aristandros. She could feel her cheeks warming as she recalled that burning kiss on his yacht. He was so slick, so practiced, that he knew all the right moves to make. And she had always hated that sense of being out of control. Aristandros, on the other hand, would love getting her in that condition as it would crown his conviction that he was a hell of a guy both in and out of bed.

When the limo drew up by the kerb, Ella climbed out and surveyed the building before her in surprise. The sleek logo of a city lawyers’ office greeted her frowning gaze. She walked into Reception, where she was immediately greeted and shown into a room. Aristandros swung round from the window to study her.

‘What am I doing here?’ Ella questioned before he could even part his chiselled lips. As always he looked amazing, the broodingly handsome image of bronzed good looks and highly expensive tailoring, a sophisticated business-tycoon to his fingertips. But even at first glance he was a great deal more than that, for he exuded a potent aura of power and self-assurance.

Dark-golden eyes narrowed and rested on her, roving from the full curve of her mouth to the swell of her breasts with a sensual appreciation that was as bold as it was blatantly male. Maddeningly aware of his appraisal, and conscious of the wanton awareness tingling between her thighs, Ella flushed a fierce pink.

‘I have had a legal agreement drawn up by my lawyers here,’ Aristandros informed her. ‘I want you to sign it so that there are no misunderstandings between us in the future.’

As he gave her that explanation, Ella went very still and lost some of her colour. ‘Why am I only being told about this now? For goodness’sake, I’ve already resigned from my job and agreed to sell my apartment!’

‘Yes,’ Aristandros agreed softly, not an ounce of apology in his reply.

Ella worked his agenda out for herself. ‘You planned it that way? Now that I’ve burned my boats, I’m less likely to argue the terms?’

‘What I love about you is your lack of illusion about me, glikia mou.’ Aristandros drawled with sardonic amusement. ‘You expect me to be a devious bastard and I am.’

Ella struggled to master her rocketing fury at the manner in which he had closed off any potential escape-hatches and destroyed any bargaining chips in advance. Aristandros was famed for his astute manipulative skills in business and his ability to spring a surprise on his opponents. No doubt it had been naïve of her not being better prepared for such tactics to be used against her. In fact it had not occurred to her that Aristandros might think it necessary to tie her up in some legal agreement, particularly as their arrangement was of an intimate nature.

‘Did you actually discuss our future relationship with your lawyers?’ Ella demanded, cringing at the idea, and incredulous that he could have gone to such insensitive lengths in his determination to bind her in legal knots.

‘I always try to anticipate problems in advance. And a woman as strong-minded as you is likely to cause trouble if she can,’ Aristandros forecast.

‘But you discussed the fact that you want me to be your mistress!’ Ella launched back at him in raw condemnation.

‘It’s scarcely going to be a secret when you live with me and are constantly seen by my side,’ Aristandros responded in a direct challenge. ‘I’m not going to pretend that you’re just the nanny.’

Air scissored painfully through her dry throat as she dragged in a charged breath, for the level of his insolent indifference to her feelings infuriated her. ‘You really don’t give a damn about how all this makes me feel, do you?’

Should I?’ Aristandros raised an ebony brow. ‘How much of a damn did you give when I had to tell all my friends and family that you were not, after all, about to become my wife?’

That controversial question flamed in the air between them like a physical blow. Ella paled, recalling the awful, squirming embarrassment and guilty discomfiture that she had suffered over the whole wretched mix-up that night seven years ago. ‘I was very upset about it. But it wasn’t my fault that you decided to simply assume that the fact I loved you meant I would give up medicine and marry you!’ she replied accusingly. ‘There was no malice on my part, either. Although I didn’t want to marry you, I really did care about you, and the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you in any way.’

In receipt of that spirited speech of self-defence, his dark eyes turned almost black with derision, and his strong jawline clenched hard. ‘You didn’t hurt me. I’m not that sensitive, glikia mou.

But his anger and desire for revenge seven years on were giving Ella a very different message. Aristandros had always enjoyed a glossy air of invulnerability over a core of indomitable strength that suggested he was too tough to be easily damaged. Yet it seemed to her now that her rejection had wounded him more than she had ever dreamt possible.

‘Whatever,’ Ella slashed back. ‘It still doesn’t excuse you for calling in lawyers to talk about the possible problems of an intimate relationship! Is nothing sacred?’

‘Certainly not sex,’ Aristandros parried drily. ‘You need to be aware that this is not a cohabitation agreement, and you will not be my partner in that sense, so you won’t be able to claim anything from me at some future date.’

‘Oh, I’m getting the message now!’ Ella flung at him, temper racing up through her like flame reacting uncontrollably to a draught, her pride stung to the quick by his assurances. ‘You’re protecting your wealth, even though you know very well that I have no designs on your wretched money! My goodness, if money had been that important to me, I’d have married you when I got the chance!’

His dark eyes blazed burning gold with anger at that blunt exclamation. ‘Here.’ Without further ado, Aristandros scooped a document off the table beside him and extended it to her. ‘Read it and sign it.’

Her slim legs feeling a tad wobbly in the support stakes, Ella sank down into the nearest armchair. It was a long and involved contract. As her angry resentment cooled, she digested the terms of the agreement. Soon horror at the extent of his ruthlessness was assailing her as heavily as a lump of concrete settling into her stomach. He had reduced their upcoming relationship to the coldest possible set of hard-hitting demands and embargos.

In return for the privilege of looking after Callie and having all her expenses met by him, Ella was to share his bed whenever he wanted while making every possible effort to meet his expectations of her in everything that she did. She was to live, dress and travel as and where he wished. In addition, she was to accept that what was referred to as his ‘private life’ was none of her business and that interference in that field would be considered a breach of their agreement. Her teeth ground together and she had to snatch in a breath to restrain another angry outburst

The conditions of what could only be called her proposed ‘service’ were unbelievably detailed and humiliating. How could any man have dared to discuss such confidential matters with his lawyers? Where had he got the nerve to dictate such unashamedly cruel and disparaging terms?

‘This….this is outrageous!’ Ella told him grittily. ‘Why don’t you just put a collar and a lead on me and refer to me as a pet?’

‘I want the job description to be accurate before you take on the role,’ Aristandros traded levelly. ‘I am honest about what I want and expect from you. You won’t be able to say that you weren’t warned.’

As Ella read on, she grew ever more tense and rattled. He was even laying down advance restrictions on her contact with Callie—she would not have the right to take Callie out without his permission and accompanying security. At all times she was to respect Aristandros’s position as her niece’s sole legal guardian and take note of his instructions. Any attempt to remove Callie from his custody or to claim any rights over the little girl would result in her access to Callie being denied. Ella shivered at that brutal threat and glanced up at Aristandros, evaluating the intractable expression stamped in his lean dark features. No, he wasn’t joking about any of it. He didn’t want a mistress, and certainly not a partner of equal status; he wanted a slave on a round-the-clock mission to please him.

‘Until this moment,’ she muttered shakily. ‘I didn’t realise how much you hated me.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ Aristandros sent her a quelling glance.

‘If I couldn’t even argue with you, I couldn’t breathe!’ Ella hurled back in response.

‘I expect occasional disagreements,’ Aristandros countered with the air of a man making a generous allowance. ‘But I will not accept continual hostility which might detract from my comfort.’

Ella was mute with dismay and disbelief at the iron rule he was trying to impose on her. The written agreement was a humiliating nightmare. She felt like her wings were being clipped and she would never fly free again. Aristandros was determined to own her body and soul, and control her every waking moment.

‘We have wasted enough time discussing this. Sign,’ Aristandros ordered flatly.

‘Aren’t I entitled to legal advice of my own before I sign anything? I haven’t even finished reading it yet!’

‘Of course you’re entitled to seek legal advice, but that will hold matters up for at least another couple of weeks and extend the time you will have to wait to meet Callie,’ Aristandros pointed out.


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