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After the Greek Affair

After the Greek Affair

Mills & Boon Modern Romance

August 2011

ISBN: 0263886816

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Harlequin Presents Extra

May 2012

ISBN: 0373528663

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About the Book

The passion pay-back...

Billionaire tycoon Loukas Christakis has learned the hard way never to trust a woman. The only female he cares about is his soon-to-be-married little sister. And that's why he's reluctantly allowed struggling designer Belle Andersen to make the wedding dress on his private island - where he can keep an eye on her!

Alone with her as she works, the virile Loukas finds innocent Belle becomes an unexpected temptation. But what should just have been a short paradise affair has consequences. And, as Belle is about to find out, Loukas will do whatever it takes to secure what he feels is rightfully his...

 


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...All I care about is ensuring that the run-up to the wedding is as stress-free as possible for Larissa, and one way to do that is for you make her dress here on Aura.'

Where he could keep a check on her progress, Belle thought furiously. He hadn't said the words out loud, but she knew what he was thinking and anger surged through her. Here again was another example of how Loukas liked to be in total control. But how could she argue with his desire to help his sister? She hadn't missed the hopeful look on Larissa's face when Loukas had made his suggestion.

'You seem to forget that I have a business to run in London,' she murmured, trying to keep her tone light for Larissa's benefit.

'Do you have many other commissions at present?' Loukas gave her a bland smile, but beneath his polite tone she detected his steely determination to have his own way. 'Perhaps one of your staff could be left in charge of your company while you stay here? There will of course be a financial reward for your co-operation. And let's not forget the valuable media exposure Wedding Belle from will gain from this commission.'

Belle knew she was beaten, and her fears were confirmed when Larissa said excitedly, 'Oh, Belle, it would be wonderful if you could stay. It will mean I can be involved with my dress at every stage. And you'll be an honoured guest at the wedding.'

How on earth could she disappoint Larissa, who had already suffered one disappointment when the first designer she had commissioned had let her down, and who was now clearly worried about her fiancé's father? 'I suppose it's possible,' she said slowly.

'Excellent, that's settled then.' Loukas's smile revealed his white teeth and reminded Belle of a predatory wolf. He was certainly as cunning, she thought grimly. 'Give me a list of the things you'll need for your workroom and I'll arrange for them to be delivered.'

His satisfied tone infuriated her. Loukas was king of his island and he was clearly used to always having his own way. She threw him a fulminating glance, which he returned with a mocking smile, but it was the gleam in his eyes, the silent reminder of the sexual attraction between them, that sent a frisson of unease down her spine. She had expected to stay on Aura for five days, but now she was committed to stay until the wedding. That meant five weeks of trying to fight her overpowering awareness of Loukas. It was no wonder her hand shook slightly as she picked up her glass of champagne and took a long sip.

The rest of the evening was torture for Belle as she struggled to hide her intense awareness of Loukas. She tried to relax and chat to Larissa, Georgios, and his sisters, but all the time she was conscious of Loukas's speculative gaze, and she could not prevent herself from constantly glancing at him. She blushed when their eyes met, and hastily looked away, but even when she was not looking at him her body sensed when he was near and each of her nerve-endings quivered when she inhaled the spicy scent of his aftershave.

She did not know what to do - how to deal with her unexpected and utterly overwhelming attraction to him. It was terrifying and yet exciting. She had never felt this alive before. But her instincts were screaming danger. Loukas was too powerful, too strong-willed, and so out of her league. Maybe she should turn down the commission and go home? she thought wildly. Flee back to London and try to forget she had ever met Loukas Christakis.

She looked across the room to where Larissa was standing with Georgios, laughing at something he had said. She looked so happy, and was so excited about her wedding. How could she let her down? Belle thought heavily. And how could she consider giving up the most important commission of her career just because she was attracted to Larissa's brother? If only she could avoid him for the next few weeks, everything would be fine.

Larissa detached herself from her fiancé and crossed the room to speak to Belle. 'I'm returning to Athens with Georgios tonight. He's much more worried about Constantine than he lets on and I know he won't sleep in case there's a call from the hospital. If I promise to sit by the phone, I may be able to persuade him to get a few hours rest, and I'll come back first thing in the morning.' She looked anxiously at Belle. 'I'm sorry to leave you alone on Aura. Although of course you're not alone – Loukas is here,' she added, her face brightening. 'If you need anything, or have any problems, he'll be pleased to help.'

'I'm sure I'll be fine,' Belle murmured, refraining from mentioning that Loukas was the problem. She wished she could go to Athens too. The prospect of spending the night alone at the villa with him filled her with panic, but she managed to hide her inner turmoil and smiled reassuringly at Larissa.

After bidding everyone goodnight she returned to her room, and a few minutes later heard the sound of the helicopter taking off. It seemed days rather than hours ago since she had left England. Now it was almost midnight, but she felt too keyed up to go to bed, her mind returning inevitably to Loukas and how he had manipulated her to stay on Aura.

He was as domineering and forceful as her step-father, she thought darkly. But that was not really true, her mind pointed out. It was obvious that he adored his sister, and she could not blame him for wanting to ensure that Larissa's wedding would be perfect. John Townsend had been a bully, but although Loukas was a powerful man he had a softer side to him, she acknowledged reluctantly. The tragic events in his life had made him hard and uncompromising, but he was fiercely protective of his sister, and beneath his tough exterior he must have a heart – a heart which, according to Larissa, had once been broken by the woman he had hoped to marry.

Belle knew she would never sleep while her brain was racing. She often worked late at night - for some reason it was her most creative time - so she slipped out of her room and made her way up to the top floor of the villa and along the hall to the room she was to use as a studio. On the way she passed the staircase which Larissa had told her led to the roof terrace, and after a moment's hesitation changed course and climbed the stairs.

At the top, an arched doorway opened onto a large roof garden, illuminated faintly by the silver gleam of the moon. It seemed as though you really could reach up and touch the stars, she mused, tilting her head to watch the countless glittering diamonds that studded the black velvet sky. The soft silence of the night air was broken only by the sound of an ornamental fountain, its fine spray of water droplets sparkling in the moonlight. A dining table and chairs were at one end of the terrace, but instead of sofas, enormous cushions were piled on the floor beneath a draped voile canopy, the effect reminiscent of a Bedouin encampment.

It was so peaceful. Belle took a deep breath, her tension seeping away. But a voice from behind her had her wheeling around, and she gasped when she saw Loukas lounging casually in the doorway.

'I see you've discovered my hideaway,' he murmured softly.

She stared at him, her tension returning and exacerbated by his indolent air that plainly said he did not have a care in the world. Well of course he hadn't. He'd got his own way. Loukas was in control of his kingdom and it was clear he regarded her as another of his puppets who would jump to his bidding. Anger flared inside her.

'I know the real reason why you're so determined that I should stay on Aura,' she challenged him, desperately trying to ignore her body's reaction to the fact that he had removed his jacket and tie and unfastened his top few shirt buttons to reveal an expanse of darkly tanned skin overlaid with black chest hairs.

His dark brows rose. 'Really? Why don't you enlighten me?'

'You still don't believe I am an experienced enough designer to make Larissa's wedding dress. That's why you want me here under your nose - so that you can keep checking on me. I've told you I'm prepared to work twenty-four hours a day if necessary to finish her gown and the bridesmaid's dresses in time for the wedding. Why don't trust me?'

'Trust has to be earned,' he said abruptly, his jaw tightening as he walked towards her. He had trusted Sadie, Loukas thought grimly. Love had blinded him, and ultimately his faith in her had made a fool of him. His gut clenched as fetid memories of her treachery seeped like poison through his veins. He had grown adept at blanking out his bitterness, just as he blanked Sadie out of his mind. But he would never forget how she had betrayed him and the child she had been carrying – his child. The idea of trusting any woman ever again was laughable.

Belle tensed when Loukas halted a few inches from her. He was too close for comfort, but she was startled when she glimpsed a sudden bleakness in his eyes. He looked almost… vulnerable, and she felt a strong urge to slide her arms around him and hold him close.

His expression altered, hardened, and the moment passed. She must be crazy to think Loukas needed anyone, she told herself impatiently. His face was all angles and planes in the moonlight. His slashing cheekbones and square jaw could have been carved from granite, and the flash of pain she thought she had seen in his eyes must have been an illusion.

She shook her hair back from her face. 'I just want you to know that the only reason I've agreed to stay and make Larissa's dress here on Aura is because it will make life easier for her. There is so little time until the wedding, and I can see she is upset about Georgios's father.'

She made to step past him, but he caught hold of her arm and swung her back to face him, his eyes glinting when she gave him a furious glare.

'I owe you an apology.'

Her eyes widened, and the words, Let go of me, died on her lips. 'What do you mean?'

The moonlight had turned her hair into a silver river streaming down her back, and her silvery dress shimmered, giving her an ethereal appearance. Loukas felt a piercing sensation through his heart - the same feeling he experienced sometimes when he watched the sun rise over the sea and he imagined that his father was out on his fishing boat.

For some reason beyond his comprehension Belle got to him in a way no other woman had done since Sadie. She was tiny and feisty and not afraid to stand up to him, and he found her a refreshing change from the simpering falseness of so many of his previous mistresses.

'I was wrong to take my anger with Larissa's first designer out on you,' he admitted. 'I am very protective of my sister and I was not prepared to risk her being hurt again.' He paused, his eyes roaming over Belle's slender figure, heat flaring inside him when he realised that she was bra-less beneath her dress. 'The evidence I've seen of your work proves that you are a talented designer. Your enthusiasm is obvious, as is your rapport with Lissa, and I'm pleased you are going to make her wedding dress.'

'Oh.' Belle was utterly taken aback by his apology. She had believed him to be as domineering as her step-father, but she had never known John to apologise for anything, not even his violent outbursts of temper which had so often resulted in the stinging slap of his palm across her cheek.

She studied his face, and felt a tightening sensation in the pit of her stomach as her gaze lingered on the sensual curve of his mouth. Her initial dislike of him had been a form of self-defence, she realised shakily. She was scared by the way he made her feel, shocked by her longing to feel his mouth on hers.

His hand was still on her arm, and a little shiver ran through her when he trailed his fingertips lightly up to her bare shoulder. His touch made her skin tingle, and her breath became trapped in her throat as her gaze meshed with his. No longer as hard as flint, his eyes burned with an undisguised hunger that evoked a primitive yearning inside her.

'Undoubtedly it will help Larissa if you make her dress here on Aura.' He paused, and the air between them seemed to tremble. 'But there is another reason why I want you to stay.'

His voice was as deep and soft as crushed velvet. Belle's heart jerked painfully against her ribs and she watched, paralysed, as his head slowly lowered and the moonlight was obscured. She licked her dry lips with the tip of her tongue. 'What...reason?' she whispered.

'This...'

He brushed his mouth over hers, capturing her surprised gasp as her lips parted helplessly. The kiss was slow and soft and unbelievably sensual, dragging her ever deeper into its passionate vortex. Pleasure exploded inside her with volcanic force. She trembled with a need that was beyond logical explanation, her body as taut as whipcord, a little moan escaping her when he tasted her again and again. She had wanted him to kiss her since she had watched him striding towards her on Kea. All day she had tried to deny her desire for him, but now it overwhelmed her in a torrent of sensation that she was powerless to resist.

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