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The Greek Tycoon's Disobedient Bride

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«The Greek Tycoon's Disobedient Bride» - Линн Грэхем

Bought: one house, one wife! It amazed Ophelia that Lysander Metaxis – a Greek billionaire notorious for his harem of adoring women – wanted to marry her, a humble gardener with a crumbling old manor house and debts up to her ears…But soon she realised Lysander didn’t want her – he wanted her property and her body. But marry him she would – because she had no choice if she wanted to keep what she cherished most… And disobedient she would be – because her new husband had no intention of loving her… Virgin Brides, Arrogant Husbands A new trilogy by Lynne Graham
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‘I expect you to behave in public!’

‘I expect you to behave in private,’ Ophelia responded with spirit. ‘You told me to act like a wife and that’s what you’re getting. No bride in her right mind would put up with this kind of treatment on what is supposed to be her honeymoon!’

Lysander startled her by throwing back his arrogant dark head and laughing with husky appreciation. ‘If I make it back tonight, I promise not to ignore you,’ he murmured huskily, his slumberous metallic eyes full of sensual promise.

Her rising temper was punctured by the shock of that unsettlingly direct masculine response as it made nonsense of her attempt to call him to book and shame him for his attitude. Ophelia went red to the roots of her hair. ‘That isn’t what I meant,’ she hissed. ‘You are not welcome in my bed. There’s not going to be any more of that kind of nonsense—’

In silent answer, Lysander clamped her up against the hard contours of his lean, muscular frame and ravished her soft mouth with devouring hunger. A glittering ripple of white-hot heat and energy snaked through her, and she fought a pitched battle with her response before the sudden sound of the passenger door opening made both of them pull apart in a simultaneous action…


Demure but defiant… Can three international playboys

tame their disobedient brides?

Lysander, the gorgeous, dynamic Greek tycoon…

Nikolai, the ruthless, charismatic Russian magnate…

Leandro, the sexy, aristocratic Spanish billionaire…

Proud, masculine and passionate,

these men are used to having it all. But enter Ophelia,

Abbey and Molly, three feisty virgins to whom their

wealth and power mean little. In stories filled with

drama, desire and secrets of the past, find out how

these arrogant husbands capture their hearts…








THE Greek billionaire Lysander Metaxis strode into the luxurious salon of his fabulous yacht, where his personal staff awaited him. It was half past seven in the morning. Aware that their hugely wealthy and dynamic employer usually started work at six and rarely slept more than five hours, everyone was striving to look wide awake.

His senior PA, Dmitri, presented him with a folder. ‘I hope you’ll be pleased, sir.’

His lean, dark, handsome face intent, Lysander withdrew the photographs of Madrigal Court. Dense woodland on all sides screened the Elizabethan manor house from curious eyes, but not from the air. His only previous acquaintance with the ancient building was through his mother’s childhood photograph albums. The superb definition of the aerial shots revealed the extensive deterioration that had taken place in recent decades.

His metallic-bronze gaze grew steadily harder and colder, for it was clear that the listed building was in serious need of repair. The roof was in a mess, the brickwork required attention and there was a suspicious bulge in a gable wall. Yet, Gladys Stewart had repeatedly refused to sell the property to his late father, Aristide. However, the old lady was dying now and he could only assume that her demise would finally make the purchase of the house possible.

Madrigal Court had belonged to his mother’s family for over four hundred years before financial adversity had forced its sale. Over time the reacquisition of Madrigal Court had become a matter of Metaxis family honour. And family honour was an issue that Lysander, who was Greek to his backbone, held in very high regard. His ruthlessness was legendary and he was a dangerous man to cross. But even though he was one of the richest men in the world, he had never forgotten his humble beginnings or the cruel neglect he had endured before fortune had smiled on him and given him Virginia and Aristide Metaxis as adoptive parents.

The acknowledgement of that inestimable debt spawned dark brooding thoughts, which cast disturbing shadows across Lysander’s usual emotional coolness. Recent developments had made buying back Virginia’s ancestral home a burning mission, as opposed to an ambition to be attained at some unspecified future date. Whatever it took he had to get the house back and quickly. All of a sudden time was of the essence, he conceded bleakly.

A stunning brunette, clad in a transparent wrap that concealed nothing of her astonishing figure, strolled in. Her caressing fingertips inscribed a provocative pattern on the back of his hand. ‘Come back to bed,’ she whispered invitingly.

Almost imperceptibly, Lysander stiffened. ‘I’m busy,’ he drawled without expression.

His staff exchanged significant glances. No woman ever held Lysander’s attention for longer than a few weeks. His current lover might not know it yet, but shewas already history.

‘Dmitri…’ Lysander lifted his well-shaped dark head ‘…who authorised polythene tunnels to be installed inside the walled garden?’

The PA stepped forward and frowned down at the photo in frank bewilderment. ‘Er…isn’t that part of Madrigal Court’s grounds, sir? I’m afraid I have no idea.’

Lysander dealt Dmitri a fulminating appraisal and told him to get the Metaxis legal team on the phone for a conference call.

For his UK lawyers, it became a day of unalloyed misery and grovelling apology. The rolling of heads was threatened, sacrifices were made. They promised immediate action, but the Greek tycoon commanded them to do nothing for the present. When he wanted action, he would choose the timing.


‘THE Metaxis family are waiting for me to die.’ Feverish hatred burned in Gladys Stewart’s embittered gaze. ‘Vultures—that’s what they are!’

‘Well, whoever they are they’ll have to wait a little longer,’ the nurse informed the older woman cheerfully while she checked her blood pressure. ‘You have great vitality.’

‘You’ve got no business interrupting a private conversation!’ her patient hissed in a tone of pure vitriol, her thin hands clenching on the bedclothes. ‘I was addressing my granddaughter. Ophelia…where are you? Ophelia?

A young woman with unusual pale blue eyes was engaged in piling up discarded bed linen. Directing an apologetic glance at the district nurse, she moved forward. Small in stature, she wore a loose sweater and trousers that only hinted at her hourglass figure. Hair the colour of ripe wheat was tied up with a piece of gardening twine. But nothing could hide her beauty.

‘I’m here,’ she told her grandmother.

As she studied her Gladys Stewart’s narrow mouth compressed with furious resentment. ‘If you made more effort, you’d have had a husband years ago!’ she condemned bitterly. ‘Your mother was a complete fool but at least she knew how to make the most of her looks!’

Ophelia, who was single by choice and inclination, thought wryly of her late parent’s love affair with the mirror and almost shuddered. She liked comfy clothes and fresh air. ‘Unfortunately it didn’t do her much good.’

‘I always swore I’d make the Metaxis family pay and I have and—listen to me—I’m not finished yet!’ The claw-like hand that closed in a painful grip round Ophelia’s slender wrist forced the younger woman to lean down. ‘You just might have Lysander Metaxis himself knocking on this door!’

Ophelia was noticeably unimpressed by the highly unlikely forecast that a womanising billionaire, notorious for carrying the equivalent of a harem on board his giant pleasure-yacht, would ever seek her out. ‘I really don’t think so.’

‘All you need is this house,’ Gladys hissed with wheezing satisfaction in her granddaughter’s ear, ‘and I promise you—it’ll make your every hope and dream come true.’

The fierce conviction of that final startling statement pinned Ophelia’s attention squarely on her grandmother. The confusion in the younger woman’s eyes was replaced by a burgeoning look of hope. ‘Are you talking about…Molly?’ she whispered unevenly.

Well aware that Ophelia was now hanging on her every word, Gladys turned her head away, triumph etched in every line of her bony face. ‘That’s for me to know and you to wonder. But if you do your duty by me and play your cards right, you won’t be disappointed.’

‘Finding out where my sister is would be everything I’ve ever dreamt of,’ Ophelia admitted steadily. ‘It would mean the world to me.’

A harsh laugh escaped the woman in the bed. ‘You always were a sentimental idiot!’

A quiet knock on the door heralded the arrival of the vicar. ‘Try and get some rest while you’ve got the chance,’ the nurse urged Ophelia in an undertone.

Ophelia nodded, bundled up the bedding and gave the vicar a welcoming smile. He was a kind man, who made regular visits and met her grandmother’s barrage of caustic complaints with forbearance.

‘You’re wasting your time,’ Gladys told the reverend sourly. ‘I’m not leaving a penny to that church of yours!’

Ophelia marvelled that her grandmother could still talk as though she were rich when, in fact, she was up to her ears in debt. Of course Gladys Stewart would never admit that embarrassing truth; she was obsessed with money, social position and the keeping up of appearances. Yet Madrigal Court, the moated Elizabethan manor that Gladys Stewart had persuaded her late husband to buy, was crumbling into a pitiful state of disrepair. After decades of neglect the roof was leaking, damp was spreading and most of the remaining grounds had returned to nature. Letting the beautiful old house go to rack and ruin while refusing to sell it back to the Metaxis family was part of her revenge.

From the landing window, Ophelia could see beyond the rambling gardens of the Court. Almost all the surrounding area now belonged to Lysander Metaxis, the Greek shipping magnate. His father had been wealthy, but his son and heir had the Midas touch and he had billions to burn. When it came to splashing around cash nobody could do it better than Lysander Metaxis. Every time a local property came on the market it was snapped up at a price no one else could match. Thirty-odd years ago, the only stake the Metaxis family had had in the neighbourhood was the gatehouse at the foot of the drive.

Now the Metaxis estate owned most of the local farms and half the cottages in the village.

Madrigal Court was a little island of independence at the heart of a Metaxis-dominated community and very soon—for Gladys Stewart was dying—Lysander Metaxis would own the glorious old house as well. There would be no stopping him, Ophelia reflected ruefully. Even if her grandmother did leave her a share of the Court, which was by no means certain, the sheer burden of unpaid bills and death duties would ensure that the house and gardens had to be sold as soon as possible. Ophelia was hoping and praying that, when that time came, Lysander Metaxis would have no objection to her renting the walled garden for her continued use. After all, it was a good distance from the house and enjoyed a separate entrance onto the road.

Having put the bedding in the washing machine, Ophelia pulled on wellington boots and sped outdoors. She rarely managed to sleep during the day and was convinced that even twenty minutes of work in the fresh air raised her energy levels. In comparison to the rest of the grounds, which she had found impossible to maintain alone, the walled garden was an oasis of beauty and order. There, in carefully designed borders, she grew the rare perennials that she intended to make the mainstay of a small business. Although she already had a steady flow of local customers she wasn’t yet in a position to hire anyone to work with her.

After half an hour of energetic digging, she made a reluctant return indoors. Discarding her boots, she padded into the atmospheric old kitchen. A range stove installed in the nineteen twenties ensured a comforting background level of warmth and remained the most modern appliance in the room.

‘Good afternoon, Ophelia,’ Haddock greeted her in the plummy tones at which he excelled.

‘Afternoon, Haddock,’ Ophelia responded.

‘Time for tea, time for tea!’ Haddock informed her, patrolling his perch.

Ophelia took the hint and fetched a peanut to give the parrot. She was hugely attached to him. He was almost sixty years old.

‘Lovely Haddock! Lovely Haddock!’ the bird opined.

Knowing his need for affection, Ophelia smoothed his feathered head and cuddled him.

Familiar footsteps sounded in the stone corridor. Pamela Arnold, a woman in her late twenties with short red hair and lively brown eyes, strolled in. ‘You definitely need a man to get up close and personal with.’

‘No, thanks. I’m not that desperate yet.’ Ophelia wasn’t joking either for, with the exception of her long-departed grandfather, the men in her life had always been a source of trouble, heartache and disillusionment. Her father had walked out when she was very young. Once he had started a new family with his second wife he had forgotten that Ophelia existed. Her mother had dated men who’d cheated her out of money, beaten her up and betrayed her with other women. And Ophelia’s first love had told lies about her that had led to her being horribly bullied at school.

‘Oh, no…are you feeding us again?’ Ophelia groaned, embarrassed at the sight of the other woman settling a casserole dish on the scrubbed pine table. ‘I can’t let you keep on doing this—’

‘Why not? You’re run off your feet right now,’ Pamela pointed out. ‘You’re also my best friend and, even though I don’t agree with the way you’re sacrificing yourself, I need to help any way I can.’

Ophelia raised a brow in disagreement. ‘I am not sacrificing myself—’

‘Yes, you are, and you’re doing it for a rather unpleasant person. But I’ll button my disrespectful lips and say no more.’

‘My grandmother helped my mother out financially and gave me a home when I needed one. She didn’t have to do either of those things.’ Ophelia said nothing more because Gladys Stewart’s abrasive manner had always alienated people. A strong woman who had battled her passage out of poverty and defied the rigid British class system to marry a man from a superior background, Gladys had never been the type to turn the other cheek. But ultimately it had taken only one severe disappointment to poison Gladys’s grim disposition beyond redemption and virtually destroy Ophelia’s more fragile mother, Cathy.

Although it was more than thirty years since the day it had happened, the echoes of anger, bitterness, pain and humiliation had still contrived to leave an indelible mark on Ophelia’s life. While she had struggled to keep an open mind, the people most hurt by that calamity had been those she’d loved and depended on. Naturally her family’s suffering and bone-deep prejudice had had their effect on her as well. The very name Metaxis had a silent menace that filled Ophelia with a disquiet and antagonism that was foreign to her generous nature.

As Ophelia made coffee she screened a giant yawn.

As if he understood, Haddock whistled a stirring if tuneless rendering of a well-known lullaby.

Momentarily transported back in time, Ophelia tensed. Once, Haddock had sung nursery rhymes to her little sister at bedtime. The memory of Molly’s beaming face below her tangle of dark curls upset Ophelia. Although she’d been only eight years old when Molly had been born, she had looked after her because their mother, Cathy, had not been up to the task. But it was now eight years since Ophelia had seen her sister.

‘Shush, Haddock,’ Pamela scolded, covering her ears from the din.

Offended, the parrot pointedly turned his back on the redhead.

‘Haddock is a very clever parrot,’ Ophelia appeased the bird in a wobbly voice.

‘Haddock is a very clever parrot,’ the bird repeated smugly.

‘The Metaxis estate is putting up the money to repair the village community hall,’ Pamela said. ‘I bet it makes them more popular locally than ever.’

‘Metaxis bounder—good-for-nothing swine!’ Haddock screeched out at the highest decibel level, his beady eyes having fired up the instant he heard that name. ‘There’ll never be a Metaxis at Madrigal Court!’

An anguished groan escaped Pamela. ‘Sorry, I forgot and I’ve set him off now.’

‘Dirty rotten rascal! Makes up to one woman, runs off with another! You can’t trust a Metaxis!’

‘It’s not Haddock’s fault. People will say inappropriate things in front of him,’ Ophelia complained.

‘I know…I taught him sleazebag and creep because his vocabulary is getting very dated.’

‘Metaxis bastard!’

‘Haddock!’ Ophelia gasped.

Haddock hung his head in mock shame and shuffled on his perch. Ophelia was unimpressed because, like all parrots, Haddock craved attention and loved to entertain his audience.

‘Well, I didn’t teach him that one,’ Pamela said defensively.

Although Ophelia knew who had, she said nothing. Her way of getting through a difficult present was to stay focused on the future. She had revelled in the horticultural course she had completed at a further education college but her responsibilities at home had prevented her from pursuing an independent career. She was now twenty-five years old. The plants she grew in the walled garden had become a lifeline while she had to devote the rest of her attention to looking after a giant crumbling house and caring for a sick elderly relative. In recent times those tasks had been carried out against a stressful background of unsettled bills and an ever-dwindling income. What a shame that the billionaire Lysander Metaxis wouldn’t be coming knocking on her door any time soon! She wondered what strange fancies were playing on her grandmother’s mind, as the older woman had never been known for her sense of humour.

‘I don’t like having my time wasted,’ Lysander Metaxis informed his most senior London lawyer.

‘I have established that, surprising though it may seem, you do appear in Mrs Stewart’s will as a beneficiary. I understand that your presence is crucial to the reading of the will and her solicitor has agreed to a date that will be convenient for you.’

Lysander released his breath in a slow soundless hiss. He had no time for mysteries. Why would Gladys Stewart have included him in her will? It made no sense at all.

‘Possibly the lady regretted her behaviour towards your family while she was alive and this may be her way of smoothing matters over now that’s she gone,’ the lawyer proffered, unnerved by his most powerful client’s continuing silence. ‘Deathbed changes of heart are more common than you might think.’

‘I don’t require the woman’s blessing to buy the place.’ Lysander had never met Gladys Stewart. His late father, however, had once described her as a malevolent gold-digging harpy. Certainly, her ongoing hatred had caused his parents, Aristide and Virginia, a certain amount of angst over the years. Lysander had placed that at the door of his adoptive parents’ overactive consciences. After all, what was the big deal? His father had only broken off his engagement to Gladys’s daughter, Cathy, to marry Virginia instead. These things happened and normal people learnt to deal with them.

Forty-eight hours later, Lysander’s helicopter landed at Madrigal Court. As usual, he did not travel alone. With him was a mini-posse of attentive staff and his most recent bed partner, Anichka, a six-foot-tall Russian blonde who featured on the front cover of no less than two exclusive fashion magazines that month.

‘What a beautiful house,’ a female aide pronounced in an unexpectedly dreamy voice.

The huge rambling manor was built of mellow brick and adorned with gracious mullioned window bays and a fantastical roofline that was a riot of tall ornate chimneys, gables and turrets. Lysander was unimpressed. History had never held much attraction for him and a dilapidated building surrounded by unkempt gardens offended his partiality for order and discipline. If so many flaws were visible at first glance, they were probably only the tip of the iceberg, Lysander thought grimly, his sensual mouth hardening. Carrying out repairs quickly would be an enormous challenge.

‘It’s falling apart,’ Anichka remarked with distaste, brushing herself free of the rust particles that adhered to her skin when she was unwise enough to rest a hand on the wrought-iron balustrade that edged the stone bridge over the moat.

The medieval studded oak door stood ajar on a cluttered stone porch. In a critical glance Lysander took in walls in dire need of paint, gloomy, heavily carved dark panelling and shabby Victorian reproduction furniture. It was a dump, a genuine twenty-four-carat dump, on the brink of ruin. But, no matter what the price, he was going to have to buy it. Billionaire that he was, he was also a hard-hitting businessman. The prospect before him was the ultimate challenge for a male who had never before been forced to put sentiment ahead of practicality.

Morton, the solicitor, greeted Lysander in the Great Hall, suggested his party await him there and escorted him into a faded drawing room where most of the furniture was eerily shrouded in dust covers.

‘Unfortunately, Mrs Stewart’s granddaughter, Ophelia, has been delayed, but she should be along soon,’ the older man advanced in a tone of abject apology.

At that same moment, Ophelia was ramming her ancient and battered Land Rover to a shrieking halt in the courtyard. She was running late and furious about it because even though she had told the solicitor that she had a prior arrangement for that afternoon he had ignored the information. Money talked, as the old saying went, and self-evidently a Greek billionaire was a much more important person than she was.

That attitude infuriated Ophelia because it was barely a week since her grandmother’s funeral had taken place and her every free moment had been taken up with the mountain of tasks that followed bereavement. Indeed, so busy had she been that she’d had to offer a personal delivery of plants for her best customer, who had twice called at the walled garden and found her not to be there. Furthermore, the solicitor had sat on the information that Lysander Metaxis would also be attending the will reading and had only given Ophelia twenty-four-hours’ notice of that extraordinary fact.

Ophelia hurried through the kitchen, thinking of what an absolute waste of time it was to have dragged Lysander Metaxis all the way to Madrigal Court. After all, for what possible reason would her grandmother have included a member of the family she had loathed in her last will and testament? Initially incredulous at Donald Morton’s astonishing announcement, Ophelia had reached the uneasy conclusion that the inclusion of a Metaxis in the will could only mean that her grandmother had done something vindictive as a footnote to her departure from the world. But what exactly that might encompass Ophelia could not begin to imagine.

She accepted that Lysander Metaxis would very probably be the buyer and new owner of Madrigal Court. She even accepted that that was probably the kindest fate the ancient property could have, because it definitely did need someone with pots of money to spend. But, regardless of those facts, she would very much have preferred not to meet Lysander, because she could not forget that his father had totally destroyed her mother’s life and, through her, that of her children. Aristide had been a playboy as well. Rich, spoilt and selfish, a womaniser, who’d never stopped to consider the damage he’d caused. And, by all accounts, Lysander Metaxis was much worse than his late father, though society was now less censorious and he could get away with a great deal more in the field of decadent living. He would be the first Metaxis to cross the threshold of Madrigal Court in over thirty years.

A baffling collection of people were waiting in the Great Hall: three men and one woman in business suits. The second woman was an incredibly lovely blonde in a brief lime-green dress. She was engaged in displaying her extremely long legs and basking like a queen in the drooling admiration of the men present.

‘Good afternoon,’ Ophelia said as she walked past.

Outside the drawing room door, Ophelia breathed in deep. A nervous pulse had started beating horribly fast at the foot of her throat.

Donald Morton, the family solicitor, had a harassed air and he rushed to perform introductions. ‘Mr Metaxis…this is Ophelia Carter.’

‘Mr Metaxis…’ Ophelia’s response was stilted. She froze beneath the onslaught of stunning dark eyes that had the rich shimmer of bronze. Although she had seen photos of him in newspapers she had not realised how tall he would be. He towered over her easily at six feet two inches and bore little resemblance to his short, stockily built father. Her breath caught in her tight throat, as Lysander was an astonishingly handsome man with black cropped hair and lean strong features dominated by the penetrating power of his deep-set dark gaze. The perfection of his sculpted masculine mouth was accentuated by a faint dark blue rough shadow. Even she was immediately aware of his raw sexual appeal and that shook her, for in general men left her pretty much untouched.

‘Miss Carter.’ Lysander had narrowed his intense gaze, for he was ensnared by something he couldn’t quite define. She was tiny with a mass of blonde hair as golden as sunlight anchored to the top of her head. Her eyes were a clear crystalline blue, set in a beautiful heart-shaped face. At first he barely noticed that she was dressed like a tramp in a worn waxed jacket with her jeans tucked into muddy boots because, when she shed that jacket, her shirt revealed surprisingly full curves above and below her small waist. He decided she was hot seriously hot, and his sexual response was instant and painfully strong. The immediacy of that reaction startled him.

Registering that Lysander Metaxis’s gaze was welded to the swell of her full breasts, Ophelia flushed pink and she lifted her chin and whispered angrily, ‘What do you think you’re looking at?’

Lysander could not recall a single incident when a woman had reacted with hostility to his attention, especially not one the tiny size of her, he reflected with rare amusement, reckoning that he could probably pick her up with one hand. Hewondered if the impudence was deliberate and designed to enhance his interest. ‘Maybe it’s the boots…’ he murmured, slow and soft.

An indefinable undertone in his rich dark drawl made Ophelia’s entire skin surface prickle with awareness. She connected with heavily lashed bronze eyes that had the seismic effect of an earthquake on her composure. Her mouth ran dry, her heartbeat racing like a trapped bird fluttering within her ribcage.

‘I like boots,’ Lysander purred in lazy addition while the solicitor looked between them in growing bewilderment. ‘With heels. I’m not into mud or rubber though.’

That wicked combination of mockery and suggestiveness outraged and discomfited Ophelia, who didn’t know how to handle it. Her face hot enough to fry eggs on, she finally tore her eyes from him and sank down rigid-backed into an armchair, refusing to look back at him or respond.

‘Let’s get started,’ Lysander urged the solicitor.

Ophelia discovered that she was hoping that whatever was in the will that related to Lysander Metaxis would hammer a huge dent in his boundless self-assurance. How dared he poke fun at her appearance? He was a barefaced womaniser with a notorious reputation. Why was she allowing him to annoy her? Since when had she cared how she looked? She recalled her late mother’s obsession with her appearance! Money needed for food and rent had often been squandered. All Ophelia’s clothes were extremely practical.

‘There are certain points I should make clear in advance,’ Donald Morton said tautly. ‘The will was drawn up four months ago when Mrs Stewart realised that her illness was terminal. She was determined that there should be no grounds for having the terms of the will set aside by a court. To that end she underwent a medical and psychiatric evaluation, which pronounced her fully mentally fit and able.’

Ophelia’s tension grew, as it seemed obvious to her that the will was a peculiar one. She hoped she wasn’t about to be embarrassed although she could imagine no circumstances in which she would apologise to a Metaxis for anything to do with her family.

‘“I leave Madrigal Court and its contents in equal shares to my granddaughter, Ophelia Carter, and to Lysander Metaxis, provided that they marry—”’

Marry?’ Lysander Metaxis cut in in an abrasive tone of disbelief.

Shock welded Ophelia’s slim hands to the arms of the seat. Her pale blue eyes had flown wide. ‘But that’s absolutely ridiculous!’

‘I’m afraid that the terms of the will are unusual and challenging. Some effort was made to dissuade Mrs Stewart but the lady knew her own mind. If a marriage takes place certain conditions will have to be met for the bequest to be fulfilled. The marriage must last for a year or more and this property must also be occupied by both of you on a regular basis.’

It was the craziest list of demands that Ophelia had ever heard. Marriage! With their combined family history the very suggestion mortified her pride. But while the rest of the world had long since moved on, Gladys Stewart had remained stuck in the bitterness of the distant past. Evidently the will was her grandmother’s last desperate attempt to gain her revenge thirty-odd years after the day that Aristide Metaxis had jilted Ophelia’s mother, Cathy, at the altar.

The big society wedding of which Gladys Stewart had been so proud had turned into an instrument of family humiliation. When she’d been on the very brink of achieving her snobbish ambition of marrying her daughter off to a rich, well-connected man, it had all blown up in her face. The bridegroom had defected at the eleventh hour with the aristocratic and impoverished Virginia Waveney, who had then lived in the gatehouse at the foot of Madrigal Court’s drive. Unhappily all too many people had gloried in Gladys’s discomfiture, for she had never been popular, and the older woman’s raging resentment had turned inward like a canker.

‘Marriage is naturally not an option.’ The insane suggestion that it could be gave Lysander’s voice a sardonic edge of disdain.

Ophelia bridled at the soft note of silken derision that laced his accented drawl and threw her head high. ‘Not if I was dragged kicking and screaming to the altar—he’s a Metaxis!’ she vented.

The solicitor gaped at her.

‘Try to restrain your taste for melodrama until the legal niceties have been dealt with,’ Lysander advised with lethal scorn.

Ophelia honestly didn’t know how she managed not to stand up and thump him. Her eyes blazing as blue as a flame in the heart of a fire, she looked at him. ‘I didn’t like your tone of voice—’

‘I’m a Metaxis and proud of it.’ Shimmering bronze eyes struck sparks off hers in cold challenge. ‘Keep quiet and let the grown-ups deal with business.’

Ophelia plunged upright like a jack-in-the-box on a spring. His unapologetic insolence outraged her. ‘Don’t you dare speak to me like that!’ she launched at him.

Lysander was entertained by the ease with which she rose to the bait.

‘Ophelia…Mr Metaxis…please let me finish,’ Donald Morton interposed in a pained plea…


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