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Грэхем Линн

The Greek's Christmas Bride

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THE POLICEMAN WHO arrived was familiar—a middle-aged man who patrolled the streets of the small town. Pixie had seen him around but had never spoken to him because she gave the police a wide berth. Acquainted with most of the local traders, however, he was on comfortable terms with her boss, Sally.

By the time Apollo had been asked to give his name and details he was beginning to wonder if it had been a mistake to call in officialdom. He didn’t want to be identified. He didn’t want to risk the media getting involved. And if she had taken his wallet wasn’t it really only the sort of behaviour he had expected from Pixie Robinson? She was desperate for money and he was well aware of the fact that his wallet would offer a bigger haul than most. The constable viewed him in astonishment when he admitted how much cash he had been carrying.

Pixie gave her name and address in a voice that trembled in spite of her attempt to keep it level. Sick with nerves, she shifted from one foot onto the other and then back again, unable to stay still, unable to meet anyone’s eyes lest they recognise the panic consuming her. Perspiration beaded her short upper lip as the police officer asked her what had happened from the moment of Apollo’s arrival. While she spoke she couldn’t help noticing Apollo lounging back in an attitude of extravagant relaxation against the edge of the desk and occasionally glancing at his gold watch as though he had somewhere more important to be.

She had never been violent but Apollo filled her with vicious and aggressive reactions. How could he be so hateful and Vito still be friends with him? She had known Apollo wasn’t a nice person on the day of Holly’s wedding when his speech had made it obvious that Holly and Vito’s son had been conceived from a one-night stand. Since then she had read more about him online. He was a womaniser who essentially didn’t like women. She had recognised that reality straight off. His affairs never lasted longer than a couple of weeks. He got bored very quickly, never committed, indeed never got involved beyond the most superficial level.

‘Don’t forget to mention that you went back to the coat stand when the old lady knocked some of the coats to the floor,’ Apollo reminded her in a languorous drawl.

‘And you’re suggesting that that’s when I took your wallet?’ Pixie snapped, studying him with eyes bright silver with loathing.

‘Could it have fallen out of the jacket?’ the police officer asked hopefully, tugging a couple of chairs out from the wall to glance behind them. ‘Have you looked under the desk?’

‘Not very likely,’ Apollo traded levelly. ‘Is no one going to search this woman? Her bag even?’

‘Let’s not jump to conclusions, Mr Metraxis,’ the policeman countered quellingly as he lifted the rubbish bin.

Apollo raised an unimpressed brow. He was so judgemental and so confident that he was right, Pixie thought in consternation. He was absolutely convinced that she had stolen his wallet and it would take an earthquake to shift him. Her stomach lurched again and she crossed her arms defensively, the sick dizziness of fear assailing her once more. She didn’t have his wallet but mud would stick. By tea time everyone local would know that the blonde stylist at Sally’s had been accused of theft. At the very least she could lose her job. She wasn’t so senior or talented that Sally would risk losing clients to her nearest competitor.

The policeman lifted the newspaper lying in the bin and, with an exclamation, he reached beneath it and lifted out a brown hide wallet. ‘Is this it?’

Visibly surprised, Apollo extended his hand. ‘Yes...’

‘When the coat stand tipped, your wallet must’ve fallen out into the bin,’ Sally suggested with a bright smile of relief at that sensible explanation.

‘Or Pixie hid it in the bin to retrieve at a more convenient time,’ Apollo murmured.

‘This situation need not have arisen had a proper search been conducted before I was called in,’ the policeman remarked. ‘You were very quick to make an accusation, Mr Metraxis.’

Impervious to the hint of censure, Apollo angled his arrogant dark head back. ‘I’m still not convinced my wallet ended up in the bin by accident,’ he admitted. ‘Pixie has a criminal background.’

Pixie froze in shocked mortification. How did Apollo Metraxis know that about her? That was private, that was her past and she had left it behind her a long time ago. ‘But not a criminal record!’ she flung back curtly, watching Apollo settle a bank note down on the desk and Sally hastily passing him his change.

‘We shouldn’t be discussing such things in public,’ the policeman said drily and took his leave.

‘Take the rest of the day off, Pixie,’ Sally urged uncomfortably. ‘I’m sorry I was so quick to call the police..


‘It’s OK,’ Pixie said chokily, well aware that her employer’s business mantra was that the customer was always right and such an accusation had required immediate serious attention.

It was over. A faint shudder racked Pixie’s slender frame. The nightmare was truly over. Apollo had his wallet back even though he still couldn’t quite bring himself to accept that she hadn’t stolen it and hidden it in the rubbish bin. But it was over and the policeman had departed satisfied. The fierce tension that had held Pixie still left her in a sudden rush and she could feel herself crumpling like rice paper inside and out as a belated surge of tears washed the backs of her eyelids.

‘Excuse me,’ she mumbled and fled to the back room to pull herself together and collect her bag.

She sniffed and wiped her eyes, knowing she was messing up her eyeliner and not even caring. She wanted to go home and hug Hector. Pulling on her jacket, she walked back through the salon, trying not to be self-conscious about the fact that the customers who had witnessed the little drama were all staring at her. A couple who knew her called out encouraging things but Pixie’s entire attention was welded to the very tall male she could see waiting outside on the pavement. Why was Apollo still hanging around?

Of course, he wanted to apologise, she assumed. Why else would he be waiting? She stalked out of the door.


‘You bastard!’ she hissed at him in a raw undertone. ‘Leave me alone!’

‘I came here to speak to you—’

‘Well, you’ve spoken to me and now you can...’ Pixie swore at him, colliding with his scorching green eyes and almost reeling back from the anger she saw there.

‘Get in the car. I’ll take you home,’ he said curtly.

Pixie swore at him again and, with a spluttering Greek curse and before she could even guess his intention, Apollo stooped and snatched her off her feet to carry her across the street.

Pixie thumped him so hard with her clenched fist, she hurt her knuckles.

‘You’re a violent little thing, aren’t you?’ Apollo framed rawly as he stuffed her in the back seat of the waiting limo.

‘Let me out of this car!’ Pixie gasped, flinging herself at the door on the opposite side as he slid in beside her.

‘I’m taking you home,’ Apollo countered, rubbing his cheekbone where it was turning slightly pink from her punch.

‘I hope you get a black eye!’ Pixie spat. ‘Stop the car...let me out! This is kidnapping!’

‘Do you really want to walk down the street with your make-up smeared all over your face?’

‘Yes, if the alternative is getting a lift from you!’

But the limousine was already turning a corner to draw up outside the shabby building where she lived, so the argument was academic. As the doors unlocked, Pixie leapt out onto the pavement.

She might be petite in appearance but she was wiry and strong, Apollo acknowledged, and, not only did she know how to land a good punch, she also moved like greased lightning. He climbed out of the car at a more relaxed pace.

Breathing rapidly, Pixie paused in the hall with the door she had unlocked ajar. ‘How did you know that about my background?’

‘I’ll tell you if you invite me in.’

‘Why would I invite you in? I don’t like you.’

‘You know I can only be here to see you and you have to be curious,’ Apollo responded with confidence.

‘I can live with being curious,’ Pixie told him, stepping into her room and starting to snap the door shut.

‘But evidently you don’t think you can live without your foolish little you?’ Apollo drawled and the door stopped an inch off closing and slowing opened up again.

‘What do you know about Patrick?’ Pixie asked angrily.

Apollo strode in. ‘I know everything there is to know about you, your brother, your background and your friend Holly. I had you both privately investigated when Holly first appeared out of nowhere with baby Angelo.’

Pixie studied him in shock and backed away several feet, which took her to the side of her bed. Even with the bed pushed up against one wall it was a small room.

She had sold off much of the surplus stuff she had gathered up over the years before moving in. ‘Why would you have us both investigated?’ she exclaimed.

‘I’m more cautious than Vito. I wanted to know who he was dealing with so that if necessary I could advise and protect him,’ Apollo retorted with a slight shrug of a broad shoulder as he peered into a dark corner where something pale with glimmering eyes was trying to shrink into the wall.

‘Just ignore Hector. Visitors, particularly male ones, freak him out,’ Pixie told him thinly. ‘I should think that Vito is old enough to protect himself.’

‘Vito doesn’t know much about the dark side of life.’

It was no surprise that Apollo considered himself superior in that regard, Pixie conceded. From childhood, scandal had illuminated Apollo’s life to the outside world: his family’s wealth, his father’s many marriages to beautiful women half his age, the break-ups, the divorces and the court battles that had followed. Apollo’s whole life had been lived in a histrionic headline-grabbing storm of publicity.

And there he stood in her little room, the perfect figurehead for a Greek billionaire, a living legend of a playboy with a yacht known to attract an exceptional number of gorgeous half-naked women. It seemed unfair that a male with such wealth and possessed of such undoubted intelligence should also have been blessed with such intense good looks. Apollo, like his namesake the sun god, was breathtakingly handsome. And he had undeniably taken Pixie’s breath away the first time she’d seen him at Holly’s wedding.

Apollo might be a toxic personality but when he was around he would always be the centre of attention. He had sleek dark brows, glorious green eyes, a classic nose and a stubborn, wilful mouth that could only be described as sensual. His sex appeal was electrifying and it was a sex appeal that Pixie would very much have liked to be impervious to. Sadly, however, she was a normal living, breathing woman with the usual healthy dose of hormones. And that was all it was...the breathlessness, the crazy race of her heartbeat, the tight fullness of her breasts and that strange squirmy, sensitive feeling low in her pelvis. It was all hormonal and as reflexive and trivial in Apollo’s radius as her liking for chocolate, not something she needed to beat herself up about.

A faint little pleading whine emanated from the shadows and recalled Pixie to rationality. As she realised she had been standing dumbly gaping at Apollo while she thought about him an angry flush crept up her face. In a sudden move, she reached for Hector’s leash. ‘Look, I don’t know what you’re doing here but right now I have to take my dog out for a walk.’

Apollo watched her drag...literally drag...a tattered-looking and clearly terrified little dog out of the corner to clip it onto a leash and lift it into her arms, where she rubbed her chin over the crown of its head and muttered soothingly to it as if it were a baby.

‘I have to talk to you. I’ll come with you.’

‘I don’t want you with me and if you have to talk to me about anything I have to say that accusing me of theft and utterly humiliating me where I work wasn’t a good opening.’

‘I know how desperate you must be for money. That’s why I assumed—’

Pixie spun angrily, her little pearly teeth gripped tightly together. ‘That’s why it doesn’t pay to assume anything about someone you don’t know!’

‘Are you always this argumentative? This ready to take offence?’

‘Only around you,’ Pixie told him truthfully. ‘Look, you can wait here while I’m out. I’ll be about fifteen minutes,’ she said briskly and walked out of the door.

Two steps along the pavement she couldn’t quite believe she had had the nerve. After all, the way he talked he knew about Patrick’s gambling debts and the threat against his continuing health. She broke out in a cold sweat just thinking about that reality because she really did love her little brother. Patrick didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He had made a mistake. He had tried too hard to be one of the boys when he took up playing cards and instead of stopping the habit when he lost money he had gone on gambling in the foolish belief that he could not continue on a losing streak for ever. By the time he had realised his mistake, he had built up a huge debt. But Patrick was working very hard to try and stay on top of that debt. He was an electrician during the day and a bartender at night.

Apollo had dangled a carrot and that she could have walked away even temporarily from the vaguest possibility of help for Patrick shook Pixie. But was Apollo offering to help them? No, that was highly unlikely. Why would he help them? He wasn’t the benevolent, sympathetic type. Yet why had he come to the salon in the first place and sought her out personally? And then accused her of theft? Her head aching with pointless conjecture, she sighed. Apollo was very complicated. He was also unreadable and impulsive. There was no way she could guess what he had in mind before he chose to tell her.

* * *

Apollo examined the grim little room and vented a curse. Women did not as a rule walk out on him, no, not even briefly. But Pixie was headstrong and defiant. Not exactly submissive wife material, a little voice pointed out in his head but he ignored it. He trailed a finger along the worn paperback books on the shelf above the bed and pulled out one to see what she liked to read. It was informative: a pirate in top boots wielding a sword. A reluctant grin of amusement slashed Apollo’s lean, darkly handsome features. Just as a book should never be judged by its cover, neither apparently should Pixie be. She was a closet romantic with a taste for the colourful.

Registering that he was hungry, he dug out his cell phone to order lunch for the two of them.

Walking back into her room, Pixie unclipped Hector’s leash and watched her pet race under the bed to hide.

Apollo was sprawled in the room’s single armchair, long, muscular, jeans-clad legs spread apart, his black hair feathering round his lean strong face, accentuating the brilliance of eyes that burned like emerald fire. ‘Does your dog always behave like that?’ he demanded, frowning.

‘Yes. He’s scared of everything but he’s most afraid of men. He was ill-treated,’ she murmured wryly. ‘So, tell me why you’re here.’

‘You’re in a bind and I am as well. I think it’s possible that we could work out something that settles both our problems,’ Apollo advanced guardedly.

Her smooth brow indented. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘For starters, I will pay you if necessary to keep quiet about what I am about to tell you because it’s highly confidential information,’ Apollo volunteered.

Faint colour rose over Pixie’s cheekbones. ‘I don’t need to be paid to keep your secrets. In spite of what you appear to think, I’m not that malicious or grasping.’

‘No, but you are in need of money and the press put a high value on stories about me,’ Apollo pointed out, compressing his lips. ‘You could sell the story.’

‘Has that happened to you before? Someone selling a story about you?’ she shot at him with sudden curiosity.

‘At least half a dozen times. Employees, exes...’ Apollo leant back into the chair, his strong jaw line taut, dark stubble highlighting his full sculptured mouth. ‘That’s the world I live in. That’s why I have a carload of bodyguards follow me everywhere I go.’

Pixie had noticed the sleek and expensive car parked across the street and a man in a suit leaning against the bonnet while he talked into an earpiece and her grey eyes widened in wonderment. ‘You don’t trust anybody, do you?’

‘I trust Vito. I trusted my father as well but he let me down many times over the years and not least with the terms of his will.’

Belatedly, Pixie recalled the recent death of his parent and the reference to the older man’s will made her suspect that they were finally approaching the crux of the matter that had put Apollo ‘in a bind’. It was, however, hard for her to credit that anything could trap Apollo Metraxis in a tight corner. He was a force of nature and very rich. He had choices most people never even got to dream of having and he had always had them.

‘I have no idea where you’re going with this,’ she muttered uncomfortably. ‘I can’t even begin to imagine any set of circumstances where you and I could somehow settle Are you asking me for some sort of favour or something?’

‘I don’t ask people for favours. I pay them to do things for me.’

‘So there’s something that you think I could do for you that you’d be willing to pay that right?’ Pixie pressed in frustration as a knock sounded on the door.

Apollo sprang upright, all leaping energy and strength, startling her into backing away several steps. He didn’t want to get to the point, she registered in wonderment. He was skating along the edge of what he wanted to ask her, reluctant to give her that much information.

And Pixie understood that feeling very well. Trust had never come easily to her either. She loved Holly and her brother and Holly’s baby and would have done anything for them. Once won, her loyalty was unshakeable and it had caused her a great deal of pain in recent months that she had had to step back from her friendship with Holly because it was simply impossible to be honest about the reasons why she had been more distant and why she had yet to visit Holly and Vito in Italy. Holly would be determined to help and there was no way Pixie could allow herself to take advantage of Holly’s newfound wealth and still look herself in the face. Instead she was dealing with her problems as she always did...alone.

She stared in disbelief as a procession of covered dishes were brought in by suited men and piled up on her battered coffee table along with cutlery and napkins and even wine and glasses. ‘For goodness’ sake, what on earth is all this?’ she framed, wide-eyed.

‘Lunch,’ Apollo explained, whipping off covers as his men trooped back out again. ‘I’m starving. Help yourself.’

He whipped off the final cover. ‘That’s for the dog.’

‘The dog?’ Pixie gasped.

‘I like animals, probably more than I like people,’ Apollo admitted truthfully.

Pixie lifted the plate of meat and biscuit and sniffed it. It smelled a great deal better than Hector’s usual food did and she slid it under the side of the bed. Hector was no slowcoach when it came to tucking in and he began chomping on the offering almost immediately.

‘Where did you get the food from?’ she asked.

‘I think it’s from the hotel round the corner. There’s not much choice round here.’

Pixie nodded slowly and reached for a plate. Apollo did not live like an ordinary person. He got hungry, he phoned his bodyguards and they fetched a choice of foods at an undoubtedly very stiff price. She helped herself to the fish dish.

‘Are you going to tell me what’s put you in a bind yet?’ she enquired ruefully.

‘I can’t inherit my father’s estate without first getting married,’ Apollo breathed in a driven undertone. ‘He knew how I felt about marriage. After all, it didn’t make him very happy. He was married six times in total. My mother died in childbirth but he had to divorce the five wives that followed her.’

Pixie listened with huge eyes. ‘A bit like Henry VIII with his six wives,’ she mumbled helplessly.

‘My father didn’t execute any of his, although had he had the power I suspect he would have exercised the right with at least two of them,’ Apollo derided.

‘And you’re still an only child? Why would he try to force you to marry?’

‘He didn’t want the family name to die out.’

‘But to prevent that from’d have to have a child,’ Pixie pointed out with a frown.

‘Yes. He stitched me up every way there is. My legal team say the will is valid as he was in sound mind when he had it drawn up. I also have a five-year window of opportunity to carry out his wishes and inherit, which is deemed reasonable,’ Apollo ground out between gritted white teeth. ‘Thee can anyone call any of it reasonable? It’s insane!’

‘It’’,’ Pixie selected uncertainly. ‘But I suppose a rich, powerful man like your father thought he had the right to do whatever he liked with his own estate.’

‘Ne...yes,’ Apollo conceded gruffly in Greek. ‘But I have been running my father’s business empire for many years now and his will feels like a betrayal.’

‘I can understand that,’ Pixie said thoughtfully. ‘You trusted him. I used to believe my father when he told me he’d never go back into prison but he didn’t even try to go straight and keep his promise. My mother was the same. She said she would stop stealing and she didn’t. The only thing that finally stopped her was ill health.’

Apollo studied her in astonishment, not knowing whether or not to be offended that she had compared his much-respected and law-abiding father to a couple of career criminals.

Enjoying her delicious fish, Pixie was deep in thought and surprised that she could relax to that extent in Apollo’s volatile radius. ‘I get your predicament,’ she confided. ‘But the terms of the will must be public property, and they aren’t confidential, so what—?’

‘I have decided that I must meet the terms,’ Apollo incised grimly. ‘I am not prepared to lose the home and the business empire that three generations of my family built up from nothing.’

‘Attachment meets practicality,’ Pixie quipped. ‘I still don’t understand what any of this has to do with me.’

Apollo set down his plate and lifted his wine glass. ‘I intend to meet the demands of the will on my own terms,’ he told her with emphasis, his remarkable green eyes glittering below black curling lashes. ‘I don’t want a wife. I will hire a woman to marry me and have my child. We will then separate and divorce and my life will return to normal again.’

‘And what about the child?’ Pixie prompted with a frown of dismay. ‘What will happen to the child in all this?’

‘The child will remain with its mother and I will attempt to be an occasional father to the best of my ability. My goal is to negotiate a civilised and workable arrangement with the woman of my choice.’

‘Well, good luck with that ambition,’ Pixie muttered, tucking into her meal with appetite while sitting cross-legged on the floor beside the coffee table because there was only one chair and predictably Apollo had not offered it to her. ‘It sounds like a very tall order to me...and anything but practical. What woman wants to marry and have a child and then be divorced?’

‘A woman I have paid well to marry and divorce me,’ Apollo said drily. ‘I don’t want to end up with one who will cling.’

Pixie rolled her eyes and laughed. ‘When a woman knows she’s not wanted, she’s rarely clingy.’

‘Then you’d be surprised to learn how hard I find it to prise myself free of even the shortest liaison. Women who become accustomed to my lifestyle don’t want to give it up.’

Pixie set down her plate and lifted the wine glass he had filled. ‘You do indeed have a problem,’ she commented with a certain amount of amusement at his predicament. ‘But I really don’t understand why you’re confiding in me of all people!’

‘Are you always this slow on the uptake?’

Her smooth brow indented as she sipped her wine and looked up at him enquiringly from below her spidery lashes. ‘What do you mean?’

She had beautiful eyes, Apollo acknowledged in surprise, eyes of a luminous clear grey that shone like polished silver in certain lights. ‘What do you think I’m doing here with you?’ he prompted huskily.

Green eyes met bemused grey and an arrow of forbidden heat shot to the heart of Pixie. She froze into uneasy stillness, her heart banging inside her chest like a panic button that had been stabbed because all of a sudden she felt vulnerable...vulnerable and...needy, the very worst word in her vocabulary when it related to a man.

‘I believe that for the right price you could be the woman I marry and divorce,’ Apollo spelt out smoothly. ‘I would get a wife, who knows and accepts that the marriage is a temporary arrangement, and you would get your brother off the hook and a much more comfortable and secure life afterwards.’

As Pixie’s throat convulsed, her wine went down the wrong way and she set the glass down on the low table with a jarring snap as she went off into a coughing, choking fit. He was thinking of her? Her? Her and him, the ultimate mismatch? The woman he had accused of being a thief? Was he certifiably insane? Or simply madly eccentric?


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