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Грэхем Линн

The Marriage Betrayal

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‘WHAT on earth have you done to her?’ Tally demanded angrily before she even reached the hall.

Sander Volakis shot her an outraged look from scorching golden eyes. ‘This is not a conversation you and I are going to have …’

Tally folded her arms and blocked his path. ‘I assure you that we are going to have that conversation, whether you want it or not. It looks as though Cosima’s been drinking. Are you aware that she’s only seventeen?’

‘Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to be looking after her?’ Sander slashed back in blatant condemnation. ‘Tonight, you’re doing a lousy job of it!’

Tally was mortified, her fair skin blossoming pink at that jibe, which hit her right where it hurt. Evidently Cosima had pulled the wool over her eyes earlier that evening by faking tiredness and assuring her that she was going straight to bed. Having got Tally off her case she had then, it seemed, gone out. With Sander? Something hideously raw and painful twisted inside Tally’s stomach as she tried to deal with that unwelcome thought. Eleni Ziakis joined them, took in the situation at a glance and stared with a raised brow at Tally, making her writhingly aware that she was only wearing a wrinkled nightie and robe. As Eleni’s kid sister appeared at her elbow, the brunette spoke quietly to her and then said, ‘Kyra will take Cosima straight up to bed. Clearly she’s been drinking. It’s really not a good idea to attract attention to her condition by causing a scene, Miss Spencer—’

Tally compressed her full pink mouth. ‘I wasn’t aware that I was causing a scene. I would simply like to know what happened.’

‘Cosima is in no fit state right now to tell you and I can assure you that her parents would prefer this matter to be kept private,’ Eleni pointed out drily as Kyra took charge of Cosima and coaxed her carefully upstairs.

Sander thrust open a door on the other side of the hall. ‘We’ll discuss it in here, Tally.’

Tally knew that she was being challenged and she reckoned that he was so sharp he was in danger of cutting himself. She recognised the angry passionate glow in his gaze and the trace of aggressive colour accentuating the angles of his superb cheekbones. He had taken offence as only a guy unaccustomed to censure could do and she suspected that he was, at heart, the owner of a temperament as volatile as a smouldering volcano. And a trait that previously she loathed in her impulsive and often contrary mother suddenly became a deep and abiding source of fascination.

‘This really isn’t necessary, Sander,’ Eleni Ziakis declared. ‘There is no need for you to make any sort of explanation to anyone. Miss Spencer is being stupid and offensive.’

‘I can handle this alone, thank you,’ Sander fielded smoothly, ushering Tally past him and shutting the door in the brunette’s face.

‘Where did you take Cosima tonight?’ Tally questioned shortly.

‘I didn’t take her anywhere. Why would I have?’ A scornful dark brow elevated at the idea. ‘To me, she’s a little girl. I believe she and a group of her friends booked a taxi to take them to the pub in the village. When I arrived there the barman was refusing to serve Cosima any more alcohol without proof of ID. She had a blazing argument with him before stalking out in a temper.’

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ Tally groaned when he had finished speaking. ‘She told me she was having an early night.’

‘How many teenagers do you know?’ Sander derided in disbelief. ‘An early night?’

‘All right, all right,’ Tally sighed, feeling very foolish for being so trusting. ‘So what happened after that?’

‘I had one drink and left the pub about an hour later. Driving back I came upon Cosima sitting on a wall about a mile out of the village. She was so drunk she could barely stand and although I really didn’t want to get involved I didn’t feel that I could just leave her there. She got into my car and started crying hysterically—apparently she had arranged to meet her boyfriend at the pub but he didn’t show up.’

Embarrassed colour was creeping up below Tally’s skin, making her feel hot and uncomfortable. As she shifted position Sander focused fully on her and his attention could only linger on the magnificent expanse of the cleavage revealed by her open robe and low-necked nightie, the lace-decorated edge of which was gradually sliding apart and performing a very poor job of hiding her superb breasts, which were high and full and round. Just looking at that magnificent swell of feminine flesh, he got hard as steel.

‘I had no idea Cosima had even gone out,’ Tally admitted, sucking in a sustaining breath in the silence that suddenly seemed deafening.

‘And if she did sneak out, you didn’t want it to be with me,’ Sander finished in shrewd silken addition.

At that crack, Tally literally froze as it hit her in the back like an unexpected bullet and left her reeling. For an instant she could not credit what he had dared to insinuate. ‘I don’t know what you’re trying to say,’ she framed, playing dumb with all her might.

‘You know exactly what I’m saying.

I was looking at you when you first saw me with Cosima,’ Sander declared with supreme assurance, brilliant golden eyes astonishingly vivid below the heavy fringe of his black lashes. ‘You didn’t like it. You were angry with me more because you were jealous than because you thought I had been fooling around with Cosima!’

Tally went rigid, the colour in her cheeks seeping away as mortification crept through her like a freezing, debilitating fog. ‘That is totally ridiculous. I hardly know you—why on earth would I be jealous?’

‘You tell me.’ As Sander voiced that invitation an insolent smile crept across his beautiful wilful mouth. And it was beautiful, she thought in almost pained recognition, as truly beautiful as he was altogether. He was an almost perfect masculine specimen, so gorgeous she couldn’t stop looking and drinking him in like a life-enhancing elixir.

‘I know enough about women to know what I read in your eyes, glikia mou,’ he extended.

Her hands closed into tight angry fists. ‘You didn’t read anything in my eyes because there was nothing there to be read!’

‘Liar … liar,’ Sander rhymed smoothly and coolly enough to send a current of violent anger rushing through Tally’s small still figure. For the very first time in her life she was mad enough at a man to want to hit him and to understand why provocation made people lose control. He might as well have tossed a hand grenade into the once tranquil pool of her mood, for all of a sudden she was on edge and ready to fight to defend her pride.

‘You’re incredibly vain,’ Tally condemned furiously, watching him move closer with the same wariness with which she might have watched a lion strolling free of a cage. That lithe long-limbed grace of his simply enhanced his sex appeal so that in spite of her annoyance she found herself trapped into staring at him, studying his every move with an appetite for the visual that was new to her. ‘I don’t even like you.’

‘I don’t need you to like me,’ Sander murmured, his perceptive dark scrutiny welded to her wide green eyes as he basked in the unwilling hunger he saw etched there. ‘I only need you to want me.’

A prickling sensation touched the skin at the nape of Tally’s neck as if that keen look of his had actually touched her. Part of her wanted to run away, but an even greater part wanted to see the moment out and cap his every comment. She had the vague spooky suspicion that someone was walking over her grave and that she was getting a wake-up call to finally experience that something she had waited so very long to find. She might want to slap him, she might want to shout at him and punish him for his exceedingly arrogant assumptions, but all of those very basic promptings were outrageously entangled with a very powerful desire for him to kiss her … and for her to taste him. He exuded a masculine strength that drew her even as it awakened her hostility. A pool of heat was forming low in her stomach while her bra was starting to feel like a metal restraint over the straining curves of her breasts.

‘And you do want me,’ Sander Volakis pronounced with confidence, dark eyes flaring to hot gold as he searched her heart-shaped face because, for a moment while she sparred with him, he had wondered if just for once he could have got it wrong. She had, after all, turned him down when he’d asked her out earlier but now, seeing that familiar look of desire in her gaze, he was already wondering if that refusal could’ve been a feminine ploy to spur his interest with a false show of indifference. ‘Just as I want you, glikia mou.’

It was that roughened masculine admission that slashed through Tally’s angry defences like a cruelly efficient steel blade since, until that moment, no man had ever contrived to make Tally feel insanely attractive and sexy. But Sander Volakis achieved that miracle at one stroke. While he studied her with scorching intensity and with a hunger he couldn’t hide, excitement was lighting her up inside like a fantastic firework display and she smiled in delighted acknowledgement of an appeal she had not known she had.

In receipt of that encouraging smile he pulled her up against his lean, strongly built frame and brought his wide sensual mouth down on hers with demanding fervour. The skilled slide of his tongue between her parted lips sent a jolt of excruciating pleasure roaring through Tally like an electric shock but that initial sweetness was swiftly followed up by a fierce sense of unbearable craving. The kiss wasn’t enough, nowhere near enough to meet the hunger that had fired her every skin cell with yearning. As she made an unconscious sound of dissatisfaction, her fingers dug tautly into his broad shoulders and she strained against the hard muscular contours of his broad chest and long, powerful thighs, urgently needing that physical contact to satisfy the tingling sensitivity of her nipples and the gnawing ache stirring between her legs.

In answer, Sander wrapped his arms round her and crushed her ripe mouth beneath his again, revelling in the taste of her and the lush firm softness of her shapely body against him. He wanted to gather her up and carry her off to bed to sate the fierce hunger she roused in him. He laced long fingers into the mass of her blonde curls and tipped her head back, meshing with glorious green eyes enhanced by skin the colour of clotted cream. Once again he attempted to pinpoint the source of her powerful attraction. Was it the fearless honesty of those eyes, which met his with no hint of the coy suggestiveness and secrecy he was more accustomed to seeing? Or the wild sensuality with which she surrendered to his mouth and gave him back kiss for fiery kiss, stoking his desire to ever greater heights? In bed, he suspected, her passion would be a perfect spontaneous match for his own.

A mobile phone buzzed. Tally blinked like someone who having been hypnotised, was now being called back to awareness and immediately raised her hands to break free of his hold and step back from him, her sudden rigidity an instant rejection of the new intimacy they had established.

Perfectly attuned to her, Sander frowned as he switched his phone off. ‘Don’t be like that,’ he groaned.

Tally was hot and dizzy. Dismayed to see that her robe was hanging open, she wrapped it more securely round her and reknotted the sash. Her hands were trembling and she was breathing rapidly, her bemused thoughts in freefall but that fast she understood that what he had just made her feel was the biggest temptation she had ever withstood. And she knew that what they had both felt was almost frighteningly powerful. Her nipples were tight, hard and almost stinging in response and at the heart of her she was uncomfortably hot and damp with a desire that clawed at her every sense. The taste of him? He tasted so unbelievably good that she could only want more …

Sander extended a lean brown hand. ‘Come …’

‘No, don’t say it!’ Tally urged, backing off another defensive step, feeling ridiculously like a woman in danger of losing her immortal soul.

‘Goodnight, Sander.’

‘You’re not serious?’ Sander breathed incredulously as she reached the door.

‘Very serious.’ Her hand closed tightly round the door knob and she refused to take the chance to turn her head and look at him again. ‘I don’t want anything else to happen.’

As the door swung shut on her quick exit Sander swore in raw and angry disbelief below his breath. What was the matter with her? Was the cut and run response her concept of flirtation? He had never ever got so hot with a woman only to have her walk away from him, leaving him unsatisfied. Nor had he ever been so surprised by the power of a woman to attract him. The prospect of a cold shower to cool his urgently aroused body had zero attraction.

Tally went to check on Cosima and found her sound asleep on top of the bed. Slipping off her half-sister’s shoes, she arranged a throw over the younger girl and suppressed a sigh. She would not hold spite: tomorrow she would try harder to win Cosima’s trust and perhaps she would get the chance to persuade her sibling that she was not sharing her weekend with some kind of prison warder.

But as Tally crept into the room she was sharing and slid back below the duvet on her bed, she was most troubled on her own behalf. When it came to the male sex she had always believed that she was intelligent and sensible and she had, if she was honest, looked down on several of the impulsive romantic choices her mother, Crystal, had made over the years. Yes, she acknowledged shamefacedly, she had felt quite superior in that field, convinced that she would never do anything half so foolish, so possibly she had deserved to be shot down in flames for being smug and short-sighted.

She had thought she knew it all and learned that in truth she was no more sophisticated than a toddler when it came to men. One salient fact had escaped her. Until she had actually experienced a genuinely powerful attraction to a man, she had not known what she was talking about. In the space of twenty-four hours, Sander Volakis had taught her things about herself that she really hadn’t wanted to find out. Meeting Sander had proved to be a horribly humbling experience, she reflected ruefully. She had learned that just being near him could make her as giddy, hot and incapable of rational thought as an empty-headed adolescent. She had learned that she was human and fallible and capable of doing foolish things. She had also learned that refusing to give way to so strong a desire and practising self-denial could actually hurt.

Little wonder, then, that her mother had wrecked so many of her relationships by being unfaithful. Crystal Spencer had never said no to such an attraction when it came her way, had never put her current lover or indeed her child’s stability ahead of sexual temptation. Crystal had done as she liked, when she liked, and had often paid the price for it. But Tally had also paid a high price too.

On more than one occasion, a young Tally had become attached to one of her mother’s live-in boyfriends and that man’s subsequent sudden disappearance from her life had distressed and confused her. At a tender age she had decided that men weren’t reliable and that it was safer not to care for them. It was only when she was older, and with hindsight, that she’d had to admit it was her mother’s behaviour that had often destroyed those relationships.

In any case, getting involved with Sander Volakis would lead nowhere. At least, it would have led her upstairs to his bedroom tonight, she admonished herself, well aware of his intentions. And deferred pleasure was definitely not something Sander knew much about. They had kissed and both had liked it and wanted more, and Sander would’ve seen no reason why they shouldn’t immediately satisfy that desire. She had known exactly what was on his mind, had felt the urgency of his need against her and had recognised her own.

Maybe she was going to die a virgin, Tally thought in sudden horror, untouched by human hand and unwanted. Sander was too cool to chase her uphill and down dale in the hope that she might relent. Her sudden astounding desirability to a male of his looks and worldly status must just have been a fluke, one of those crazy inexplicable things.

Utterly crazy, she repeated doggedly to herself. They had nothing in common aside of the fact that she was Greek on her father’s side and Sander didn’t even know that because her father and his family were in no hurry to tell people who she was. She and Sander inhabited different worlds. By all accounts he was a wealthy highflying businessman while she was a student. How much did she even share with Cosima who came from that same exclusive world of privilege? Precious little, she acknowledged sadly.

Yet, wasn’t this supposed to be the stage of her life when she made mistakes and discovered who she really was? When she broke the rules and experimented? But jumping into bed with Sander Volakis would definitely be a big mistake. There would be no future with him and she would only get hurt. Did every relationship have to have a future? Did serious feelings always have to be involved? Was there no room for anything lighter and more temporary?

In her single bed, Tally tossed and turned and fought with herself. It wasn’t as though she wanted to fall in love and get married any time soon. It wasn’t as though she was daft enough to imagine that Sander even cherished any long-term intentions where she was concerned. Crystal Spencer’s daughter could not be that naïve for, as a teenager, she had often been mortified to meet some strange man at the breakfast table while her mother flirted happily with her overnight guest, impervious to her daughter’s embarrassment.

As it was dawn before Tally got to sleep, she awoke late. She was utterly disorientated when she was shaken to by Cosima the next day and discovered that it was already the afternoon.

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake,’ she mumbled, pushing her tumbled curls off her brow and sitting up. ‘How long have you been up?’

Her sibling was infuriatingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a young woman who had gone to bed under the influence of alcohol. ‘Long enough to play a couple of games of tennis this morning and then have lunch. Now the men are off on a shoot and we’re going shopping, so you had better get up—’

‘Shopping? Why?’ Tally responded, pushing back the duvet.

‘That question says it all, Tally. There is no such thing as why when it comes to shopping!’ Cosima told her. ‘There’s a big party here tonight and you can’t possibly wear that cheap LBD again, and I want something new as well.’

‘About last night …’ Tally began awkwardly.

‘Don’t preach,’ Cosima urged with a steely look. ‘But I do owe you an apology for this room—it’s a dive.’

Tally absorbed the younger woman’s grimace at the faded walls and worn furniture deemed suitable for staff rather than guests and laughed. ‘It’s not that bad. What happened to Chaz last night?’

Cosima stiffened defensively at that question about her boyfriend. ‘He didn’t turn up because he couldn’t—he got lost,’ she said with an air of defiance that suggested that some of her friends might already have been less than impressed by that excuse.

Tally found herself being hustled out of the mansion and into a customised Range Rover that belonged to one of her sister’s friends. As she had not had the chance to have anything to eat her stomach was growling with hunger. During the drive back to London she tried to get Cosima to talk about Chaz but her sibling was disappointingly reluctant to part with any information.

Westgrave Manor was buzzing with bustling staff and caterers when Tally returned in a cab, the other girls having kept late beauticians’ appointments at the local spa. Her father phoned and asked how the weekend was going. Tally told no tales but she did take the opportunity to ask what he had against her sister’s boyfriend.

‘Charles Roberts has drug convictions. He’s an unscrupulous character and I don’t want him anywhere near my daughter,’ Anatole Karydas admitted grimly.

Tally made use of Cosima’s en-suite bathroom as she had been told to do, showering and washing and drying her hair. This afternoon had been fun. Her sibling had insisted on buying her a new dress and, although the turquoise satin mini dress with the bejewelled neckline had a shorter hemline than Tally usually wore, she felt amazing in it, loving the bright zingy colour and the way it seemed to light up her face. She had no idea what it had cost and had no intention of asking. Sometimes she felt aged by the lowering awareness that she was generally more sensible than her mother and just for once she wanted to feel young and carefree without sweating the serious stuff.

Dinner was served as a buffet. Starving as she was, Tally helped herself to food and then when she saw Sander’s proud dark head from a distance she abandoned that plate lest he think she was a greedy pig and filled another plate with a more sparing selection. Like lightning, she felt the excitement of him even being in the same room and she could barely credit the immaturity of her reactions, but her heart was already beating so fast and so violently it felt as though it were lodged at the foot of her throat and she couldn’t eat.

A dark-haired young man smiled down at her and pressed a moisture-beaded glass into her hand. ‘Have some champagne. I don’t think we’ve met,’ he murmured pleasantly. ‘I’m Robert Miller …’

‘Tally Spencer … gosh, this is awkward.’ She laughed, struggling to maintain a grip on the glass, the plate and the cutlery, not to mention the evening bag dangling on her wrist.

He took the plate for her and urged her over to a table.

A surge of dark fury rippling through him and sending golden sparks flaring in his dark eyes, Sander watched the whizz-kid software designer, Robert Miller, moving in on Tally. She did look incredibly sexy in her turquoise dress, its jewelled neckline seductively showcasing the creamy upper slopes of her breasts while the hemline showed off a good deal more of her shapely legs than had been on display the night before. The tightening swelling at his groin set his even white teeth on edge because he usually enjoyed a firmer hold on his libido.

As Cosima moved past, clinging to the arm of a tall man with dirty-blond hair spiked up, Tally called her name. Her sibling came to a reluctant halt to perform an introduction. While Cosima announced that her boyfriend had a booking at a fashionable club later that evening, Tally was instantly wary of Chaz, with his calculating blue eyes and tight controlling grip on the younger woman. At least thirty years of age, he was much older than she had expected and far too mature for a seventeen-year-old, she thought worriedly.

‘I’ll be leaving with Chaz soon to go to the club and I probably won’t bother coming back here,’ the teenager spelt out. ‘But you mustn’t tell Dad …’

Her heart sinking, Tally lifted her chin. ‘I won’t lie to him, Cosima.’

Angry resentment blazed in her sibling’s eyes. ‘But you have to—’

‘I don’t have to do anything,’ Tally responded with gentle regret. ‘And neither do you. I think you should finish out the weekend here with your friends.’

The younger woman hissed something very rude and stalked away. Wincing, Tally turned back to her companion. ‘Sorry about that, but I’m supposed to be looking after her.’

‘I suspect she’s quite a handful,’ Robert remarked with the wry smile of a man able to take a smart-mouthed teenager very much in his stride, pulling out a chair for her to sit down. ‘Anatole Karydas’ kid, isn’t she? Do you work for him?’

Uncomfortable with that pretence insisted on by Cosima, Tally half turned her head away. ‘Sort of …’

The passage of her uneasy gaze screamed to a halt on Sander, who was watching her from the other side of the room. One glimpse of his lean, darkly handsome features made her gulp, drove her mind blank. Even at that distance his beautiful dark deep-set eyes could make her shiver with helpless awareness and tug her nipples into stinging tightness below her clothing. She had never felt like that before and the tingling pool of warm dampness gathering low in her body fascinated her as he awakened her sexuality as no other man ever had.

A waiter approached her with a glass on the tray. ‘Miss Karydas sent it over with her compliments.’

‘Oh …’ Tally skimmed a brief glance at the fancy colourful cocktail and looked around for her sibling but couldn’t see her. Was this Cosima’s way of apologising? The glass was set down in front of her.

‘If you don’t eat your food will get cold,’ Robert Miller drawled.

Dragging her attention from Sander Volakis demanded every atom of self-discipline Tally possessed. She loved to look at him and the temptation to stare at the sculpted masculine perfection of his face pulled at her with embarrassing persistence. She sat down, glanced at the food and realised her appetite had vanished. She took an exploratory sip of the drink she had been sent instead. It was very fruity and much more to her taste than alcohol usually was.

‘Tally …’ Sander murmured, casting a long dark shadow over the table with his brooding stance. ‘Robert …’

Glancing up to encounter shimmering golden eyes and sensing the angry dissatisfaction he was struggling to hide in the set quality of his smile and his clenched fingers, Tally began to stand up. It was a visceral reaction to the unspoken emotional demand in his gaze and her immediate awareness that he did not like seeing her in another man’s company. Sander was jealous. No man had ever been possessive of Tally before and, although for the first time in her life she was feeling her power as a woman, she discovered that she had not the smallest desire to use it on him.


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