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The Pregnancy Shock

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«The Pregnancy Shock» - Линн Грэхем

The convenient bride…with a shocking secret When his PA asked for extended leave, Greek billionaire Alexei Drakos was extremely inconvenienced. He relied on Billie Foster for everything – running his life, even getting rid of his girlfriends. Little did Alexei know that Billie had left to have his baby! In fact, he didn’t even remember their passionate night and he had no idea she was pregnant! With Billie gone, there was something missing in Alexei’s glittering existence. When she returned, he needed to offer her something special to make her stay…like a wedding ring of convenience…? The Drakos Baby PART ONE: THE PREGNANCY SHOCK Look out for A Stormy Greek Marriage, part two of The Drakos Baby, next month.
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The Drakos Baby

Billie’s gaze flicked up to Alexei’s bold brown profile and froze at the sight of the glisten of moisture highlighting his hard cheekbones.

Silent tears were rolling down his face. She could taste his sadness, his regret for times past never to be regained. Her throat thickened, her own eyes were wet, and she looked hurriedly away, feeling that she could not possibly intrude on so intensely private a moment, in which he believed himself alone and unobserved. But, oh, how she longed for the right to push open that door and hurry to his side to offer him comfort! But, as such, freedom of expression was not part of her role, and she reluctantly walked away while scolding herself for having underestimated the depth of Alexei’s loss and his feelings. His tough self-discipline had fooled even her, persuading her that he was totally in control and that business would pretty much go on as usual…

The Pregnancy Shock


Lynne Graham

The Drakos Baby

An enthralling linked-story duet by top Modern author


A Greek billionaire with amnesia, a secret baby, a convenient marriage…it’s a recipe for rip-roaring passion, revelations and the reunion of a lifetime!

Available this month:



Billie has a job that most women would love—PA to gorgeous Greek billionaire Alexei Drakos. She tries to convince herself she’s immune to his extraordinary charms, but when events throw them inextricably together she finds herself in his bed. However, within hours Alexei has an accident and loses his memory of their special night together, and Billie discovers she’s pregnant—by a man who has no recollection of having slept with her…

Available next month:



Billie’s baby has been born, but she hasn’t told Alexei about his son’s existence. Yet when she returns to Greece and he proposes a marriage of convenience she knows she just has to take her chance to be with the man she loves. But Alexei is amazed to find his wife isn’t a virgin on their wedding night—and that’s just the first shocking revelation in this stormy marriage…

Chapter One

ALEXEI DRAKOS broodingly surveyed the crowded Port Vauban marina from the deck of his yacht, Sea Queen. There were paparazzi everywhere. As a man who set a high value on privacy, he was not impressed. He was even less impressed with the topless sunbathers on the vessel moored beside his who were calling out to him and making inviting gestures. As if, Alexei thought with all the disdain of an aristocrat for rotten meat. As a teenager he had sampled many female bodies without the need to make dates or chit-chat, but he had grown up since then.

If Calisto had not begged him to bring her to Cannes, he would have been miles away from the noise, the poseurs and the fuss. Sea Queen was easily the biggest, sleekest and most expensive yacht there but, as he was a fourth generation Drakos, and possessed of fabulous wealth and privilege from birth, such petty comparisons were beneath Alexei’s arrogant notice.

Standing six feet four inches in his bare feet, Alexei was built with the lean muscular power of a trained athlete and surprisingly fit for a noted workaholic. Half Russian and half Greek, he was a dazzlingly handsome man with a formidable reputation as a womaniser. Yet for the past few months there had been only one woman in his life: Calisto, the ex-wife of the Swiss electronics tycoon, Xavier Bethune. Keen to get back to work and aware that his business team awaited him indoors, Alexei strode back into his on-board office, which was as streamlined and technologically advanced as any on shore.

Some minutes later, Calisto stalked into the crowded room without warning. Alexei was surprised, for he had sent her down the coast to tour his magnificent villa in an effort to get some peace. An echoing silence spread even before Calisto burst into staccato speech. ‘You won’t believe what I’ve discovered at your villa!’

‘Nothing short of the Loch Ness monster in the bath tub would excuse this intrusion when I am working,’ Alexei drawled, and he was not entirely joking as he glanced up from his laptop to survey the irate blonde.

‘The place is a disgrace! The swimming pool hasn’t been serviced in months, the garden is overgrown and the house isn’t even stocked for our stay next week,’ Calisto raged, her bright blue eyes full of indignation. ‘And when I asked the housekeeper to explain herself, all she would say was that Billie always dealt with that stuff and that she had received no instructions.’

Calisto Bethune was a six foot tall beauty and former model, quite capable of stopping traffic with her stunning face and shapely body. She was Greek-born, she was gorgeous and, now that she was free of her husband, the woman whom Alexei had loved and lost as a teenager was finally his again.

‘Did you hear anything I just said, Alexei?’ Calisto prompted impatiently. ‘Last month the refit on Sea Queen overran and we couldn’t use her. Who was responsible for that? Every place I go in your life things are going wrong and I discover that this Billie creature is at fault!’

‘Until a couple of months ago, Billie took care of all my properties as well as my social calendar and travel arrangements. Unfortunately, she insisted on taking a career break and her replacement was so inept, I sacked her after a month—’

Calisto studied him wide-eyed, a frown building on her face. ‘This Billie that everybody talks about is a…woman?’

‘Why not?’ Alexei returned to his laptop with renewed energy as he was hotwired to the pursuit of profit and in no mood to hear any more about boring domestic problems. No Drakos male he had ever known had concerned himself with such trivialities. In even listening to Calisto’s tirade, he believed he was being very tolerant, offering the listening ear that all women were supposed to crave.

‘And this Billie, this woman insisted on taking time off? Since when do you allow your employees to insist on anything?’ Calisto demanded.

Alexei frowned and straightened before he rose to his full height and urged the gorgeous blonde across the hallway outside the office into the opulent and spacious salon. ‘I’ve known Billie since she was a child growing up on Speros. She has a little more licence than the rest of my team—’

A frozen look stiffened Calisto’s wide cheekbones. ‘Does she indeed?’

‘Until now Billie has always been available when I want her. Usually she doesn’t take vacations or even days off. Day or night, she has worked extremely hard for me,’ Alexei volunteered, but his tone was flat because in spite of what he was saying he too blamed Billie for the many annoying developments that had taken the edge off his comfort in recent months.

Billie Foster, his most trusted aide and gofer, his right-hand woman, had insisted on taking an eight-month-long career break to look after her recently widowed but pregnant aunt in England.

His even white teeth clenched as he mentally shifted through the aggravations he’d had to tolerate during Billie’s prolonged absence. Impersonal and personal matters that he had once taken for granted as being taken care of were suddenly rolling up in front of him undone and causing him considerable inconvenience.

He had never dreamt that Billie might act in so selfish a manner. Even though she knew he disagreed with her taking such a lengthy break, she had gone ahead regardless. He had been too soft with her. He should have told her no. He should have told her that if she left she would have no job to return to. After all, for what did he pay her such a handsome salary? To go running off to England whenever she took the fancy? Alexei had expected a lot more from a young woman whom he had known since childhood and who owed more than she knew to his family’s generosity.

‘A wife would take charge of your properties and your social calendar. It would be no big deal,’ Calisto remarked softly. ‘Then you wouldn’t need a Billie in your life.’

Alexei was too clever and wary of feminine manipulation to respond. He shrugged a broad shoulder and signalled a steward to bring coffee. Calisto might be the first woman to spend more than a few weeks with him, but marriage was another step altogether in his book. He was all too well aware of how expensive a bad marriage could be: his late father had endured three very nasty and costly divorces. No, Alexei was in no hurry to name the day. Although Calisto was the first to even consider that the altar might be within her sights, she might also yet reveal a deal-breaking flaw. In his experience, women were rarely predictable and even more rarely truthful.

Turning her nose up at the coffee that powered Alexei through his long working day, Calisto put on some music and began to dance, twisting and working her hips in movements as suggestive as any lap dancer’s. Recognising that she was trying to use sex to get his attention, Alexei studiously ignored her while wondering why she thought a lap-dancing impression might get her up the aisle. If anything the demonstration repelled him. Outside the bedroom a wife should have a certain dignity, he reflected seriously, adding that quality to the mental list he cherished. Under the influence of a few drinks at a party, Calisto could well become an embarrassment.

A brilliantly coloured print scarf lying on a bar stool caught his attention. Black brows pleating, he lifted it up. It belonged to Billie, who had little sense of colour coordination. A faint old-fashioned peachy scent that was familiar assailed him and his nostrils flared. Just as quickly, his penetrating dark eyes took on a frowning expression of bewilderment. The sense of something erotic skimmed indistinctly through his mind and his body reacted with primal male hunger, hardening with instant lust. Bemused by that powerful reaction and unable to find a logical connection, Alexei registered that he was still holding the scarf. Filled with distaste at the tenor of his thoughts, for there could be no woman more sexually naïve than Billie, he tossed the material down again…

‘You’ll miss all the options here…’ As the two women emerged from the public library Billie waved a hand to encompass the busy London street, full of shops, restaurants and bustling traffic. ‘That you should return to Greece with me seemed such a great idea after John died, but now I feel horribly guilty for getting you involved in all this. The island is very quiet—’

‘You’re just tired and feeling down again,’ Hilary scolded, a tall, slender blonde with gentle brown eyes in her late thirties. She bore little resemblance to her diminutive red-headed niece with her emerald-green gaze, whose heavily pregnant state made her seem almost as wide as she was tall. She urged the younger woman onto the bus and passed the journey with a cheerful monologue about how much she hated the damp English climate and how much she was looking forward to having the peace to write the book she had long been planning.

Billie, who was more tired than she was prepared to admit, remained unconvinced. In an attempt to do the best she could for her own future and her baby’s she had ensnared Hilary in her plans but she felt increasingly guilty about that fact. It was a relief, however, to return to her aunt’s comfortable semi-detached house and sit down with a cup of tea.

‘You just don’t appreciate how desperate I am for a change of scene and direction and I couldn’t afford either without your support,’ the blonde woman declared ruefully. ‘Without your financial assistance during John’s illness, I wouldn’t even still be living in this house. Your generosity made it possible for us to stay here until he had to go into care; being able to be somewhere familiar helped John a good deal because he couldn’t cope with change.’

Hilary’s voice cracked up a little because her husband had only passed away some months earlier. As a result of early-onset dementia, the essence of John’s personality had gone long before he’d died at the age of forty-three in a care home. Towards the end, as his condition had worsened, he had become too difficult for his wife to look after alone. Prior to that, Hilary had supported her husband for several years and had had to give up working as a teacher to do so. The welfare benefits the couple were entitled to had been too meagre to meet their mortgage payments and Billie had come willingly to the rescue to ease their plight.

‘I was glad to help,’ Billie told the woman who had often been the only voice of sanity during her childhood, even though they had lived so far part.

Billie’s mother, Lauren, had moved to the Greek island of Speros when Billie was only eight years old. Lauren had always been an irresponsible parent, who’d put the latest man in her life ahead of her child’s needs. More often than Billie cared to remember, a visit or a phone call from her flighty parent’s sensible sister, Hilary, had persuaded Lauren to behave more like a normal mother.

Hilary groaned, ‘Unfortunately you helped all of us too much for your own good. You bought a house for your mother, you gave John and I an allowance—’

‘And, all on my own, I spent a foolish fortune building my own house on Speros too,’ Billie cut in, uncomfortable with the other woman’s gratitude. ‘If only I had thought ahead to a time when I might not want to work for Alexei any more. If only I had just put all that money in the bank instead…’

‘Nobody has a crystal ball. You may not feel it right now but you are still very young at twenty-six,’ Hilary reasoned soothingly. ‘You had a great job and you were earning a small fortune, so you had no reason to fear the future.’

Billie’s delicate features shadowed. She would not be comforted on that score for she blamed herself bitterly for her extravagance. She had grown up in poverty, had lived through the experience of going hungry at mealtimes and of hiding from view when the landlord called for his rent. With those memories behind her, she believed she should have saved up for the proverbial rainy day.

‘Nor should you have any reason to fear the future now. Your baby’s father is a very rich man,’ Hilary pointed out firmly.

Billie’s hands clenched into the tissue she was holding. ‘I think I’d rather be dead than face Alexei like this. Thank heaven I was out at a hospital appointment the day he called here at the house to see me!’

‘Yes, we weren’t expecting that. Fortunately he wouldn’t come in, so I doubt if he had the time or the presence of mind to notice that I didn’t actually look very pregnant,’ Hilary remarked wryly.

Billie was still engaged in recalling her shock on learning that Alexei, over in London on business, had decided to visit her without so much as a phone call to forewarn her of his plans. How shocked he would have been had she answered the door to him with an obviously pregnant stomach! It was pure luck that the deception she had entered into with Hilary—the planned pretence that her aunt was the one having the baby—had not been exposed on the spot. Afterwards, she had phoned him to ask if there was something he had needed her assistance with and he had laughed and said that his visit had been a last minute idea, taken when he had some time to use up before heading to the airport and his flight home.

‘If you ever feel in need of courage to face Alexei Drakos, I would face him for you.’ Hilary said this softly but the light of battle was in her usually placid gaze.

Billie lifted her chin. ‘It’s not a matter of being too scared—’

‘Oh, I know you’re not scared of Alexei Drakos. But you’re still madly in love with him and determined to protect him from the consequences of his own behaviour.’

Her colour fluctuating, Billie said sharply, ‘It’s not like that. I have my pride and my plans. I don’t need him in any way. If I continue to work for Alexei for at least a year after my baby’s born, I’ll be able to save up enough capital to start up my own business back here.’

Hilary gritted her teeth on a tart retort because she didn’t want to upset Billie. Her niece, after all, had already suffered the considerable trauma of watching the father of her child—and the man she loved—fall for an old flame from his past. Even so, Billie’s reasons for remaining silent were insufficient to satisfy Hilary’s hunger for natural justice. So Alexei Drakos had bedded Billie, an employee, one dark night, had recklessly ignored the need to use protection and had conveniently contrived to forget the entire episode by the next day? Did pigs fly too? Hilary’s only loyalty was to Billie and she was a cynic who would, had the decision been up to her, have happily destroyed Alexei’s latest liaison with a public announcement of Billie’s fecund state.

That same evening Billie went into labour. She was a week early and, in spite of all the prenatal classes she had diligently attended, she almost panicked when she awakened and realised what was happening to her. Her case was packed, everything prepared for the big event. She was thoroughly fed up with hauling round her huge bump and trying to sleep while a very lively baby seemed to be trying to kick its way out during the night. But there was also a great wellspring of hungry tenderness inside her, eager and ready for the birth of her child. Her baby might not be planned but it was already very much loved.

The first few hours she was in hospital Billie was given gas and air to cope with the contractions but nothing seemed to be happening very fast. By noon the next day the contractions were coming closer together and were more painful. Billie was getting exhausted and it was at that point that the doctor realised that the baby was in a posterior position with its head stuck in her pelvis.

‘You’re carrying a big baby for a woman of your size and I don’t think you can deliver without help. I believe the possibility of a C-section was discussed during your antenatal visits?’ the doctor questioned, while the midwife urged Billie not to push any more.

Billie nodded anxious affirmation, too out of breath to speak.

Hilary gripped her hand. ‘You’ll be fine and so will the baby be—’

Everything moved very fast from that point. The procedure had to be explained to Billie and she had to sign consent papers before she was moved out of the labour room to the operating theatre. She was given an epidural and while her lower body went numb a little curtain was erected midway down her body so that she couldn’t see anything. Time became a little blurred and there was a feeling of pressure and then suddenly Hilary was whooping with excitement.

‘It’s a boy, Billie!’

‘A whopping great boy,’ the doctor added.

The cry of a baby intervened and Billie’s heart lurched. She was so eager to see him she could hardly contain herself while the staff took care of measuring him and making him presentable for his first meeting with his mum. He weighed ten pounds and he was very long, exactly what she might have expected with his father’s genes; Alexei’s family was one of tall, well-built men. At last her son was placed in her arms.

Tears stung Billie’s eyes as she looked down into that adorable little face and carefully tracked her gaze over his big dark eyes and the shock of black hair that proclaimed his paternity. ‘He’s…gorgeous,’ she whispered chokily, smoothing a wondering fingertip over his baby-soft cheek.

At that moment everything she had undergone to have him seemed worthwhile. In the early stages of her pregnancy, Hilary had talked her through every option from termination to adoption, yet nobody loved babies more than Hilary, who had never had the opportunity to have one of her own.

‘Any idea what you’ll call him?’ her aunt prompted, stepping back to let the nurse reclaim the baby, for Billie’s eyes were very definitely sliding shut.


‘What?’ Hilary queried.

‘Nikolos.’ Billie spelled out the letters through lips that barely moved.

‘Isn’t giving him a Greek name a little revealing?’

‘I’ve lived in Greece since I was eight,’ her niece reminded her, and on that thought she drifted asleep while her mind swept her back seventeen years to her very first meeting with Alexei Nikolos Drakos…

The boys shouted rude words at Bliss when she followed them onto the beach. She knew the words were wrong but she didn’t understand their meaning and refused to let their attitude bother her. At least the boys talked to her in some way, recognising her actual existence. The girls in the village school, on the other hand, shunned her, whispering behind her back and shooting disapproving looks at her while excluding her from their games and conversations. It was very similar to the way her mother was treated by the local women. After a year, Bliss had discovered that life on the Greek island of Speros could be very lonely for a little girl who didn’t fit in.

Bliss hated everything about herself: her lack of height, her fiery red head of hair and skinny body, even her pale skin, which burned horribly in the sun. The fact she had no father meant yet more mortification on an island where single parents were frowned upon. And although Bliss would never have admitted it to anyone in those days, her mother embarrassed her most of all.

As Lauren often reminded her daughter, she was only thirty years old and couldn’t be expected to live as if she were a ‘dried-up old hag’. An artist, Lauren rented a small house in the village and sold watercolours to the well-off tourists who patronised the exclusive resort spa at the other end of the island. None of the local women dressed as her mother did. Lauren was most often to be found clad in skimpy bikini bottoms with her full braless breasts bouncing in a cut-off T-shirt. Bliss believed that her mother, with her lovely long blonde hair, jewelled tummy button and endless tanned legs, was very beautiful, but she was beginning to think that only men liked that fact, for Lauren only ever had male friends.

That particular day, Alexei had come off one of the fishing boats being dragged up the sand so she hadn’t known who he was at first. He was a tall, rangy boy in his early teens, and she initially mistook him for an adult when he frowned in her direction and waded in among the jeering boys and demanded to know what was going on. Silence fell, the same sort of silence that the village priest could command. Shame-faced glances were exchanged and Alexei asked her name. One of the boys supplied it with a suggestive laugh and a gesture that set all the boys off again.

‘Bliss,’ Alexei repeated deadpan, strolling over to her. ‘You’re the little English girl. Bliss is a stupid name. I would call you Billie—’

‘That’s a boy’s name,’ she argued.

‘It suits you better,’ he told her with a shrug, lazy dark golden eyes resting on her with only the most fleeting interest before he turned away to address one of the older boys in the group, Damon Marios, the doctor’s son, and said something to him in Greek too fast for her to follow as she was still learning the language. Damon flushed and kicked the sand.

‘Who is he?’ she asked Damon when Alexei had climbed into the car waiting for him at the harbour and was driven off.

‘Alexei Drakos.’

And that was all he had to say to her even then for her to understand. The Drakos family lived in feudal splendour in a huge villa overlooking a beautiful bay at the quiet end of the island. For more than a hundred years the Drakos family had owned the island and they also owned the resort, the businesses and most of the houses in the village. The family controlled everything that related to Speros from the planning laws to who lived and worked on the island. Speros was the Drakos fiefdom and it was ruled with a rod of iron. The locals, however, were perfectly happy with that state of affairs because there were well-paid jobs at the resort and the village businesses opening up only added to their prosperity. Alexei’s father had also built a new school and a small hospital and, at a time when other islands were losing their young people to the mainland, the population on Speros was steadily increasing.

‘Mum, is the Drakos family very rich?’ she asked when her mother was cooking a meal that evening, a rare event as Billie was often left to fend for herself when it came to food and generally lived on sandwiches and fruit.

‘They’re loaded,’ Lauren volunteered with a grimace. ‘But they don’t impress me at all. They’re not one whit better than we are, for all their cash. The old man, Constantine, was married three times and he never managed to have any children. Then his Russian mistress, Natasha—who’s half his age—fell pregnant with Alexei, his only child. Constantine divorced his third wife and married Natasha two days before she gave birth to Alexei—’

‘What’s a mistress?’ Billie asked her mother.

‘You’d never understand,’ Lauren replied, already tiring of the subject.

School became a little less unbearable for her after that night. Everyone started calling her Billie. The boys stopped teasing her and Damon’s sister, Marika, spoke to her in passing. But nobody was ever allowed to come and play at her house and she was never invited into anyone else’s home. Her mother’s boyfriends came in a continual stream from the resort where Lauren often made extra money working as a waitress. Usually backpackers, some only stayed for a night or two, while others ended up living with Lauren and her daughter for weeks on end. By the time she was eleven years old, Billie, who had abandoned her birth name entirely to avoid the sniggers it invited, understood that it was Lauren’s free and easy lifestyle with her lovers that scandalised the locals and that had led to her own exclusion from island life. Other mothers were afraid that she would grow up to live like Lauren and act as a bad influence on their daughters.

Two days after her eleventh birthday, Billie met Alexei Drakos for the second time. She was out exploring when a sudden thunderstorm sent her running along the harbour road for the shelter of home. Alexei stopped his beach buggy to give her a lift and insisted on going right to the door with her.

‘Where’s your mother?’ he asked, scanning the empty silent little house.

‘In Athens,’ she told him innocently. ‘She got the ferry on Friday—’

‘That’s four days ago,’ Alexei incised harshly. ‘Where is she staying in Athens?’

‘She has friends there.’

‘Do you have their name or phone number?’ Alexei pressed while the thunder boomed out in loud cracks beyond the house walls and made her pale and flinch.

‘No. Why would I need it?’ she asked. ‘There’s nothing wrong. I can manage fine on my own.’

‘When will she be back?’

‘She said this Friday.’

With a bitten-off exclamation, Alexei strode across the room to the refrigerator and flung the door open to study the bare shelves within. ‘What are you eating?’

‘There are tins in the cupboard,’ she answered stiffly, feeling threatened by his mood and his behaviour. ‘Not that it’s any of your business.’

‘You will have to come home with me.’

‘No, of course I won’t—why would I? I’m perfectly happy here in my own home,’ she protested.

And Alexei being Alexei, and having no patience whatsoever, simply lifted her off her feet and dropped her back in the buggy before speeding back to his home. Ignoring her protests, he dragged her inside and explained the situation to his parents in rapid Greek. His father shrugged and went back into his office, complaining at the interruption. His glamorous mother studied Billie as if she were something the cat had brought in and had asked if there were any neighbours prepared to help out. As assured and decisive as any adult, even at the age of sixteen, Alexei handed Billie over to the housekeeper and she spent that night and the two that followed housed in staff accommodation. There she was well fed and well looked after for the first time in more years than she could recall. Lauren had always lacked the maternal gene. Before that day only Billie’s aunt, Hilary, had ever paid that much heed to the little girl’s comfort.

Of course, had she been a more normal girl perhaps she would have formed a crush on Alexei as she grew up. After all, he was the island pin-up, worshipped by every girl between ten and twenty-five on Speros. From his film-star looks to his growing bad-boy reputation and the sexual exploits diligently reported by the gossip magazines, Alexei made headlines almost from the moment he hit puberty and followed faithfully in the lusty footsteps of his father and his grandfather. But after the terrible row Billie had with her mother because she’d admitted to others that she’d been left alone for a week, and a subsequent, very embarrassing visit from the island priest, who had been tasked with the challenge of telling Lauren that leaving her daughter for so long was unacceptable, Billie’s main impression of Alexei was of a frighteningly dominant and interfering personality who did exactly as he liked at all times, regardless of the damage he might do to anyone else.

While Billie boarded in Athens during the week and attended secondary school, it was Damon Marios she fell for while they travelled back and forth on the ferries at weekends, he to his private school, she to her far less fancy state institution. By then she was seventeen years old and, for quite a few weeks, believed her feelings were reciprocated for she and Damon met secretly for coffee, going for walks, talking a mile-a-minute to each other and discovering similar interests.

Of course, she should have known better than to believe that dreams came true or that she could ever be seen as anything other than shameless Lauren’s illegitimate daughter, a murky step below the other girls on the island. She still remembered the cold hard fear that gripped her one evening at the ferry terminal when Damon suddenly dropped her hand and turned away from her. Looking up, she saw Alexei strolling towards them. Already a qualified pilot, Alexei had had to ditch his plane in the sea the previous month and the shock of his son’s near-death experience had traumatised his father, who had grounded him. Now in his last year at university, Alexei was very much an adult. For the rest of the journey, Damon ignored Billie as studiously as if she had been a stranger.

‘I’ll drop you off,’ Alexei declared at the harbour while Damon hurried off homeward with a down-bent head.

‘I don’t need a lift.’ Sixth sense warned her and she didn’t want to get into the sports car but she did anyway.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ Alexei said drily. ‘I’m only trying to protect you from making a big mistake. Your mother won’t bother.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about—’

‘Damon, the leading light of the Marios family. He’ll screw you but he’ll never take you seriously or take you home with him. Didn’t you get that message today when he acted like he didn’t know you around me?’

Like a knife cutting through tender flesh, his blunt forecast tore through Billie and she looked back at him, focusing on the lean bronzed beauty of his features with furious condemnation. ‘You don’t know him!’

‘I know Damon very well. His family will never accept you and he hasn’t got the backbone to fight for you. He’s a nice guy but he does as he’s told. Cut your losses and ditch him now before you get in any deeper—’

‘I don’t want your advice!’ she shrieked at him in Greek.

‘Suit yourself,’ Alexei drawled silkily. ‘But whatever you do, keep your knickers on. All Greek men fantasise about having a virgin in the marriage bed.’

‘That is a disgusting thing to say!’ Billie launched back at him in a positive rage. ‘I love Damon—’

‘You’re seventeen. You’re not old enough to love anyone,’ Alexei derided, stopping outside her house and leaning across her to throw open the door as if he couldn’t wait to be rid of her. The male scent of his skin tinged by some expensive cologne wafted across her. She froze, rigid at that first taste of intimacy with a man, a fleeting intimacy that had the miraculous power to make her body prickle all over with uneasy awareness. That response shook her up because she had never reacted that way to Damon.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever disliked anyone quite so much,’ Billie snapped in as cold and controlled a voice as she could manage.

‘I’m always knee deep in women who are crazy about me,’ Alexei countered with amusement. ‘I doubt if I’ll notice the absence of one little girl from my hordes of fans—’

‘You’re so incredibly bigheaded!’ Billie flung, stepping out of the car in one electrified movement of rejection, her cheeks still burning hotly from that crack about keeping her underwear on.

A shockingly charismatic smile slanted across Alexei’s wide sensual mouth and his stunning dark golden eyes gleamed. ‘But still much more of a man than Damon will ever be…’


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