His Virgin Mistress Anne Mather Ëèòàãåíò HarperCollins EUR Mills & Boon are excited to present The Anne Mather Collection – the complete works by this classic author made available to download for the very first time! These books span six decades of a phenomenal writing career, and every story is available to read unedited and untouched from their original release. Innocent beauty… or seductive gold-digger?Greek tycoon Demetri Kastro has dark suspicions about Joanna – the woman who is caring for his elderly millionaire father. Surely she is nothing but a gold-digger? But her kind attentions to his father, and her core of vulnerability suggest she is acting genuinely from the heart. Whatever the truth about the mysterious Joanna, Demetri is finding her impossible to resist! Mills & Boon is proud to present a fabulous collection of fantastic novels by bestselling, much loved author ANNE MATHER Anne has a stellar record of achievement within the publishing industry, having written over one hundred and sixty books, with worldwide sales of more than forty-eight MILLION copies in multiple languages. This amazing collection of classic stories offers a chance for readers to recapture the pleasure Anne’s powerful, passionate writing has given. We are sure you will love them all! I’ve always wanted to write—which is not to say I’ve always wanted to be a professional writer. On the contrary, for years I only wrote for my own pleasure and it wasn’t until my husband suggested sending one of my stories to a publisher that we put several publishers’ names into a hat and pulled one out. The rest, as they say, is history. And now, one hundred and sixty-two books later, I’m literally—excuse the pun—staggered by what’s happened. I had written all through my infant and junior years and on into my teens, the stories changing from children’s adventures to torrid gypsy passions. My mother used to gather these manuscripts up from time to time, when my bedroom became too untidy, and dispose of them! In those days, I used not to finish any of the stories and Caroline, my first published novel, was the first I’d ever completed. I was newly married then and my daughter was just a baby, and it was quite a job juggling my household chores and scribbling away in exercise books every chance I got. Not very professional, as you can imagine, but that’s the way it was. These days, I have a bit more time to devote to my work, but that first love of writing has never changed. I can’t imagine not having a current book on the typewriter—yes, it’s my husband who transcribes everything on to the computer. He’s my partner in both life and work and I depend on his good sense more than I care to admit. We have two grown-up children, a son and a daughter, and two almost grown-up grandchildren, Abi and Ben. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com) and I’d be happy to hear from any of my wonderful readers. His Virgin Mistress Anne Mather www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk) CONTENTS Cover (#ub238d752-789f-5fc9-ac9b-96e3121d438a) About the Author (#u1e9d4f13-9def-5508-a2ea-9e0960a35c7b) Title Page (#u861b491e-7233-5f07-aba7-f748f7ce331e) CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN CHAPTER FIFTEEN CHAPTER SIXTEEN EPILOGUE Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) CHAPTER ONE (#udf2f2cae-81c9-5612-afdf-c444edecfb6e) ‘IS THAT her?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ Spiro Stavros gave his employer a faintly sardonic look. ‘Not exactly what you’d anticipated, is she?’ Demetrios Kastro arched a dismissive brow. As yet his arrival had not been noticed, and he was able to look across the crowded salon to where his father and his companion were standing without being observed. They were surrounded by the guests who had been invited to welcome the old man back to Theapolis, and Demetri watched with a tightening of his jawline as his father put a possessive arm about the woman’s shoulders. ‘Perhaps not,’ he conceded at last, aware that Spiro knew exactly what he was thinking. He had expected her to be younger. A ‘blonde bimbo’ was how she had been described to him by his sister, and because it was what he had wanted to hear he had believed her. But the woman his father had adopted as his mistress didn’t look like a bimbo. There was intelligence as well as beauty in the high-cheekboned face, with its wide-set eyes and mobile mouth, and, although she was undoubtedly a blonde, she wore her hair drawn up into a severe knot that, whatever its purpose, tended to draw attention to the slender column of her neck. ‘She is certainly older than I had imagined.’ ‘And more sophisticated?’ suggested Spiro drily. ‘I have the feeling she is not going to be as easy to get rid of as you thought.’ Demetri cast his assistant a dark look. ‘You think not?’ He was cynical. ‘In my experience, my friend, everyone has their price. Man or woman. It makes no difference. If the rewards are great enough, they all succumb.’ Spiro’s snort was disbelieving. ‘Do you include me in that assessment?’ Demetri sighed. ‘We were not talking about you, Spiro.’ ‘That does not answer my question.’ ‘All right.’ Demetri scowled. ‘I would hope not. I consider you my friend as well as my assistant. But few people are as scrupulous, Spiro. You know that.’ ‘Not all women are like Athenee, Demetri,’ the other man reminded him gently. Then, aware that he was in danger of overstepping the mark, he added, ‘I suppose I must consider myself honoured.’ He grimaced. ‘So? What are you going to do now?’ ‘Now?’ Demetri’s dark, tanned features smoothed themselves into an urbane mask. ‘Why, now I am going to announce my arrival to my father, and ask to be introduced to the delightful Kiria Manning.’ Spiro’s mouth compressed and, taking a chance, he put a detaining hand on Demetri’s sleeve. ‘Be careful,’ he said, risking a rebuff. But although his hand was shaken off, Demetri merely gave him a mocking smile. ‘Am I not always?’ he enquired, loosening the button on the jacket of his dark blue silk suit. ‘Calm yourself, Spiro. I am not likely to show my hand so early in the game.’ Nevertheless, as Demetri made his way across the room he was aware of an intense feeling of irritation. Dammit, his father had only been out of hospital for a few weeks; weeks that he had spent in London, ostensibly to avoid the blistering heat of Theapolis in mid-summer. The old man had been ill; seriously ill. In God’s name, when had he found the time to meet this woman, let alone become intimate with her? He would find out. Offering a word of greeting here, an acknowledgement of welcome there, he gradually covered the space dividing him from Constantine Kastro and his mistress. What was her name? Manning, yes. But what was her first name? Demetri frowned, thinking. Joanna! That was it. Joanna Manning. Was it her real name? If so, it was elegant, just like the woman herself. ‘Do not tell me that frown is because you are sad to see me back, Demetri.’ His father’s chiding words—spoken in English for the woman’s benefit, Demetri assumed—were delivered in a mocking tone. Demetri realised he was allowing too much of his feelings to show in his face and he hastily schooled his features. Then, finding a polite smile, he shook the old man’s hand and submitted to the customary embrace with genuine warmth. ‘Forgive me, Papa,’ he said disarmingly, and no one could tell from his expression that he was anything but delighted with the present situation. ‘Naturally, I am relieved your physicians consider you well enough to return to us at last.’ Constantine looked less than pleased now, his narrow features mirroring his discontent. ‘I am not an invalid, Demetri,’ he declared irritably, even though his wasted body belied the fact. ‘The doctors have given me a clean bill of health, and I do not appreciate you behaving as if I had only just got out of hospital.’ Demetri made no response to this. Instead, his eyes moved to the woman standing at his father’s side, and, because they were surrounded by interested spectators, Constantine was obliged to introduce his companion to his son. ‘My dear,’ he said and Demetri stiffened at the implied intimacy in the term. ‘Allow me to present my son to you. Demetrios: this is Joanna. Joanna Manning. My—my friend.’ ‘How do you do?’ The woman didn’t make the mistake of calling him by his first name and Demetri’s thin lips stretched into a tight smile. ‘It is my pleasure to meet you, Kiria Manning,’ he responded politely. ‘I trust you are not finding our weather too trying for your English tastes?’ ‘On the contrary.’ Despite the faint film of perspiration on her upper lip, she denied it. ‘I love the heat. It’s so—sensual.’ Sensual? Demetri had to work hard to prevent himself from showing his incredulity. He had heard his father was besotted by the woman, but he hadn’t expected her to disconcert him. And why was she watching him with that air of amused speculation? She was taller than most of the women of his acquaintance—easily five feet eight or nine—and, although he was still almost a head taller than she was, she didn’t have to tilt her head too far to look up at him. If he hadn’t known better he’d have wondered if she wasn’t deliberately trying to irritate him. But that was ridiculous. Nevertheless, there was a definite look of challenge in her face. ‘Katalava.’ I see. Conscious that his father was enjoying his confusion, Demetri inadvertently spoke in his own language. But he quickly corrected himself. ‘You are familiar with our Greek weather, Miss Manning?’ ‘It’s Mrs Manning, actually,’ she corrected him. ‘But please call me Joanna, or Jo, if you prefer it.’ Then, with an affectionate look at Constantine. ‘Not yet. The weather, I mean. But I hope to be.’ Now, why am I not surprised? It was all Demetri could do to prevent himself from saying the words out loud. But at least he knew a little more about her now. No one had seen fit to tell him that she’d been married. But it figured. And if he’d had any doubts about her relationship with his father they’d been dispelled by the familiarity of that look. ‘Do you live on the island—um—Demetrios?’ she asked suddenly, surprising him again. ‘Or do you have your own home?’ ‘This is my home,’ replied Demetri, unable to quite disguise his indignation. ‘This house is our family home.’ He paused. ‘But do not worry, Mrs Manning. It is quite big enough to accommodate us all without any—what is it you say?—stepping on toes?’ He was pleased to see that her soft mouth tightened a little at this rebuff. The upper lip was drawn between her teeth and the lower, which was so much fuller and more vulnerable, curved protectively. Then he scowled. When had he started thinking that her mouth was soft, or vulnerable, for that matter? She was a kept woman, for heaven’s sake. Hardly better than the sluts who plied their trade on the streets of Athens. He had no need to feel sorry for her. It was his father who was the vulnerable one. Vulnerable, and foolish. What on earth did he think she saw in a man at least thirty years her senior? ‘Demetri has his own apartments in the house,’ Constantine put in now, the look he cast at his son promising retribution later. ‘As do Alex and Olivia. As my son says, this is our family home. Our island fortress, if you will. I regret you will discover that security is paramount in our situation.’ Joanna nodded. ‘I understand.’ ‘I doubt you do,’ put in Demetri pleasantly, though his feelings were anything but. ‘My father is a constant target for terrorists and paparazzi alike. Only on Theapolis can we—usually—ensure that he is not at the mercy of unscrupulous men—and women.’ Her eyes flashed then, and he noticed how deep a blue they were. ‘I trust you are not suggesting that I am any threat to your father?’ she demanded coolly, her earlier amusement all gone now. He could hardly suppress a smile. ‘Of course not,’ he said, but when his dark eyes strayed to his father’s taut face he saw he was by no means convinced by his son’s denial. ‘I am sure you and my father must have a lot in common. Tell me, Mrs Manning, do you have children, too?’ ‘No.’ Her answer was almost curt, but it didn’t have quite the effect he’d expected. Instead of showing surprise, his father put his arm about her shoulders and drew her closer to him. Demetri was almost sure Constantine was reacting to something she’d told him, and he wondered what it was. He didn’t like the idea that their relationship might be more than a temporary aberration on his father’s part. A desire to prove his masculinity was one thing; a threat to his mother’s memory was quite another. But, before he could say any more, Constantine himself severed the conversation. ‘Come,’ he said to Joanna Manning. ‘I see Nikolas Poros over there. He is a friend as well as a business colleague. I would like you to meet him.’ He looked briefly at his son. ‘You will excuse us?’ It was hardly a question. Although Demetri bowed his head in silent acknowledgement they both knew he wasn’t being given an option. Instead, he stepped back to allow them free passage, aware as he did so that Joanna gave him a covert glance as she passed. Was it a triumphant glance? he wondered broodingly, watching them make their way across the room. He couldn’t be sure. But one thing seemed apparent to him: his father’s infatuation with her went deeper than the sexual fascination he had anticipated. ‘Demetri! Demetri, pos iseh?’ How are you? ‘Na seh keraso kanena poto?’ Can I get you a drink? With an effort, he became aware that there were other people around him. Neighbours; friends, relatives. They had all gathered to welcome the old man home, and his own absence until just a few minutes ago had not gone unnoticed. Forcing himself to put the problem of his father and his mistress aside, he accepted the greetings he was offered with a grim smile, aware that for the moment he was obliged to play the devoted son. And he was devoted, dammit, he thought, taking the glass of champagne he was offered with controlled grace. But he was also his father’s son, his deputy, and he couldn’t help thinking that the last thing the old man needed at this time was the respect he’d always enjoyed among the shipping community weakened by some woman taking advantage of his vulnerability. ‘She is beautiful, is she not?’ Spiro was at his elbow and Demetri turned to give the other man an impatient look. ‘Yes, she’s beautiful,’ he agreed. ‘But what does she want, Spiro? More importantly, what does she hope to gain from this liaison?’ ‘Perhaps she loves him,’ suggested Spiro, accepting a glass of champagne in his turn and smiling at the dark-eyed waitress who had proffered the tray. ‘And perhaps she sees him as a very convenient meal ticket,’ retorted Demetri. ‘My father is sixty-seven, Spiro. A woman like that does not attach herself to a much older man for love.’ ‘How cynical you are, Demetri.’ He had been unaware that his older sister Olivia had joined them, until her soft words were whispered in his ear. ‘Mrs Manning does not look like a gold-digger, you must agree.’ ‘How do gold-diggers look?’ enquired her brother shortly, looking down into Olivia’s olive-skinned face with a softening of his expression. ‘Surely you are not championing her, Livvy? With only a week to go to Alex’s wedding, I’d have expected you to feel as I do. After all, what is Alex going to think when she discovers our father has invited a stranger to what is essentially a family occasion?’ Olivia’s lips thinned. ‘Alex will not care,’ she said. ‘But that does not mean we can ignore the influence Mrs Manning has with Papa. And making an enemy of her may not be the wisest decision. You have seen them together. Only briefly, I admit. But you must have noticed that they seem very—absorbed with one another.’ ‘Absorbed, yes.’ Demetri watched his father and his companion over the rim of his glass. ‘How did they meet? Do we know? Where has the old man been since he got out of hospital to find a woman like her?’ Joanna’s apartments adjoined Constantine’s. Each suite comprised a comfortable sitting room, a spacious bedroom, and an adjoining dressing room and bathroom. And they were sumptuously appointed. Sofas in blue and green striped linen, decorated with matching cushions, were set against walls hung with silk damask. A delicately carved writing bureau, a comprehensive entertainment centre contained in a rosewood cabinet; all were illuminated by heavy brass lamps that stood on every available surface. Long windows, closed at present, opened out onto a wraparound balcony that served all the rooms on this floor, and Turkish rugs, or kilims, splashed colour onto polished floors. There were pictures everywhere: in the sitting room, in the bedroom, even in the bathroom. And floor-length mirrors, also in the bathroom, disdained any attempt at modesty. But it wasn’t just the beauty of the things surrounding her, or their obvious value, that convinced Joanna of their exclusivity. It was the incidentals that reminded her of where she was and why she was there. The sheets being changed every day, for example; the expensive cosmetics and toiletries removed and replaced as soon as she used them; the knowledge that she had only to touch the bell for her smallest wish to be granted. This was Constantine’s world, she thought ruefully. The way he lived. She had never known such assiduous attention to detail, and although she had agreed to come here for Constantine’s sake, she had never imagined anything like this. She couldn’t help wishing he had not been so rich. Not that his son would believe that, she thought drily, wondering if Constantine had glimpsed the momentary flash of hatred in Demetrios’s dark eyes. He probably had. Constantine must know exactly how his son was feeling. After all, that was why he had persuaded her to come here. He’d known that nothing short of grim hostility would blind Demetrios to the truth. There was a light tap on the panelled double doors that connected her apartments to Constantine’s. Joanna, who had been trying to decide what she should wear for dinner that evening, hurried to answer it. She’d guessed that it was Constantine, and it was. But, just in case, she’d wanted to make sure before inviting anyone else into her room. ‘May I come in?’ ‘Of course.’ Joanna stood back to allow him into her sitting room, gazing at him intently. He’d shed his formal clothes, as she had, and he looked so frail now that the necessity to appear invincible was gone. She indicated one of the overstuffed sofas. ‘Sit down. You’re supposed to be resting, you know.’ ‘You are not my nurse, Joanna.’ Constantine’s smile was warm but defensive. He was wearing a white towelling bathrobe and the colour accentuated his pallor. ‘As a matter of fact, I am feeling a little stronger this evening. Now that Demetri is home I can relax.’ ‘Oh, right.’ Joanna closed the door behind him, tucking the folds of the scarlet wrapper she’d put on after her shower closer about her. ‘I suppose that’s because you think the worst is over.’ She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you.’ ‘Joanna, Joanna.’ Constantine sighed, but he took her advice and subsided onto the nearest sofa. ‘Do not be so cynical, my dear. Just because Demetri is not entirely happy with the situation—and, I admit, I believe he does have doubts about the suitability of our relationship—he will do nothing to jeopardise the peace of the household. Not with Alex’s wedding to consider. I am his father, Joanna. I think I know him better than anyone else.’ ‘Do you?’ Joanna wished she could feel as sure. Her own encounter with Demetrios Kastro had left a decidedly unpleasant taste in her mouth. She was convinced that he had nothing but contempt for her, that he believed she was only with his father for what she hoped to get out of him. He had been polite, but cold; saying little, but implying a lot. She was glad he hadn’t deceived his father, but she was afraid Constantine was deluding himself if he thought Demetrios had accepted her presence. ‘Anyway,’ Constantine said now, reaching out to take her hand and urge her down beside him, ‘how are you? Are you happy here? Do you have everything you need?’ ‘Need you ask?’ Joanna was rueful. ‘This place is amazing. It’s everything you said it was and more.’ ‘I am glad.’ Constantine raised her hand to his dry lips. ‘I want you to enjoy your stay. I want you to feel at home here. I know Demetri may be difficult for a while, but he will get over it. Besides, so long as I am ostensibly recuperating he will have little time to fret about our relationship. Between now and the wedding there may be occasions when he has to leave the island. With my work to do as well as his own…’ He allowed the words to trail away. ‘You understand?’ ‘I can’t wait.’ Joanna pulled a wry face. Then, withdrawing her hand from his, she got to her feet again. ‘But are you sure about this? What is Alex going to think when she finds out I’m here?’ ‘Alex will love you,’ said Constantine firmly. ‘She is not like Demetri or Olivia. She is younger; less cynical, shall we say?’ ‘All the same…’ Joanna lifted the heavy weight of her loosened hair from her neck, enjoying the coolness of the air-conditioning on her hot skin. ‘I can still go back to England, Constantine. I wouldn’t mind.’ ‘I would.’ His response was unequivocal. ‘My dear, the reasons I asked you to come to Theapolis have not changed. I need you. I need your strength and your companionship. And, most of all, I need your support.’ ‘You have that, of course.’ Joanna sighed. ‘I’m just not sure whether I can go through with it.’ Constantine pushed himself to his feet. ‘Because of me?’ he asked. ‘You find me so repulsive?’ ‘Don’t be silly.’ Joanna touched his cheek with a tender hand. ‘You’re a very attractive man. I’ve always thought so.’ ‘You have?’ He was sceptical. ‘Yes.’ She hesitated a moment, and then cupped his face between her palms and bestowed a warm kiss at the corner of his mouth. ‘Now, stop fishing for compliments and tell me what you think I should wear for dinner this evening.’ ‘What you are wearing at present seems eminently suitable to me,’ declared Constantine gallantly, his hands reaching for her waist to hold her in front of him. ‘You always look beautiful.’ Joanna shook her head, but before she could think of a response there was a knock at the outer door. ‘Beno mesa!’ Almost automatically Constantine replied, bidding the caller to enter, and Joanna turned her head as the foyer door opened. Demetrios appeared moments later, pausing on the threshold of the sitting room. He, too, had evidently taken a shower. Water sparkled on the sleek darkness of his hair, contrasting with the pearl-grey elegance of his suit. A dark blue, body-hugging tee shirt completed his outfit, and Joanna was instantly conscious of the intimacy of the scene he had interrupted. Both she and Constantine were scantily clad, and Constantine’s hands on her body looked undeniably possessive. She didn’t know which of them was the most disconcerted by Demetrios’s arrival. To his credit, Constantine seemed only mildly curious about his son’s purpose in coming here, but Joanna was definitely uneasy. And Demetrios himself was evidently taken aback by his father’s presence in her suite. Yet, what had he expected? she asked herself a little wildly. Why did he think Constantine had brought her here, if not to enjoy her company? Surely he didn’t think his father was too old to enjoy female companionship? And, most pertinently of all, what was he doing coming to her apartments uninvited? If anyone had any explaining to do, it was him. CHAPTER TWO (#udf2f2cae-81c9-5612-afdf-c444edecfb6e) ‘DEMETRI?’ His father was obviously waiting for an explanation, but right now Demetri didn’t have one to give him. He was still stunned by the sight of his father’s hands on Joanna Manning’s hips. Brown hands, already showing the spots of age, were dark against the scarlet satin of her wrapper. A wrapper that he suspected was all she was wearing. Khristo, what had they been doing? Taking a shower together? His imagination ran riot. He hadn’t realised her hair would be so long, but she had evidently washed it and now it tumbled pale and silky about her shoulders. The scarlet wrapper, too, was unknowingly provocative, drawing his attention to the slender shapeliness of her body, outlining her hips and the long, long length of her legs. To his disgust, his body stirred. He could feel his arousal pushing against the hand he’d thrust into his trouser pocket, and he quickly withdrew it. Then, angry at the immaturity of his reaction, he tried to pull himself together. His father was waiting for a reply and he had no wish for the old man to guess he was in any way attracted to his—he sought for a suitably insulting description—his paramour. ‘I—good evening, Papa, Mrs Manning,’ he essayed politely. ‘I trust you have found everything to your satisfaction?’ His father’s brows drew together. ‘We have been here two days already, Demetri,’ he reminded his son shortly. His hands fell away from Joanna’s body. ‘I cannot believe that concern for our welfare is the reason you have chosen to invade our privacy at this time.’ It wasn’t, of course. But then, he hadn’t expected to encounter his father at all. It was Mrs Manning he had come to see. He had hoped—rather foolishly, he acknowledged now—that they might have a few moments of private conversation before his father interrupted them. ‘I—wanted to speak to you, Papa,’ he said, improvising swiftly. And perhaps it was just as well that his father was here after all, he conceded. His reaction to this woman had been totally unexpected, and it would have been horribly embarrassing if Constantine had not been there and she had noticed his discomfort. Theos! The back of his neck was sweating. What the hell was the matter with him? ‘And you surmised I would be here, with Joanna?’ His father was not a fool, and Demetri had to think fast to find an answer. ‘I—tried your apartments, but could get no reply,’ he muttered, hoping that Philip, his father’s manservant, wouldn’t contradict him. ‘But it doesn’t matter now. I can see you are—’ the words almost stuck in his throat ‘—occupied with other things. It can wait until tomorrow.’ ‘I am sure it can.’ Constantine was clearly waiting for him to leave, and Demetri permitted himself only a brief glance at Joanna before striding out of the room. In the hall outside, Demetri paused for a moment, breathing deeply and running decidedly unsteady hands through the thickness of his hair. He felt unnerved, shaken, and although he knew he should get the hell away from there, he was strangely reluctant to do so. It felt as if the image of the two of them together was emblazoned on his memory, and he knew it was going to take more than the slamming of a door to get it out of his head. And how sensible was that? He glanced back over his shoulder, half-afraid that he was being observed, but the door was still firmly closed and no sounds were audible from within. His father and his mistress had evidently resumed whatever it was they had been doing before his arrival, and he didn’t need a crystal ball to guess what that was. Na pari i oryi! He swore silently, and then, gathering himself, strode back along the corridor to the galleried landing at the head of the stairs. He was going to have a great influence on his father’s behaviour if he started lusting after Mrs Manning himself, he thought contemptuously. When had he begun thinking with his sex instead of with his head? The salon had been cleared in his absence. The huge reception room, which had earlier been thronged with the guests his sister had invited to welcome his father home, was now restored to its usual appearance. The furniture, which had mostly been moved aside during the reception, had now been gathered into small groupings, with tall crystal vases and porcelain urns spilling glossy blossoms onto every available surface. The scent of the flowers was pungent, dispelling the smells of tobacco and stale perfume. Someone had turned up the air-conditioning so that the room was decidedly chilly, but he wished it was earlier in the year so that he could fold back the long glass doors that opened onto the floodlit terrace. It would have been nice to allow the soft evening air to cool his overheated senses, but that wasn’t an option. At this time of the year there were too many insects flying about, and he didn’t wish to be bitten half to death. ‘Can I get you anything, sir?’ Demetri swung round to find a member of the household staff hovering behind him. He was tempted to order a bottle of Scotch and take himself off to the farthest corner of the estate and get thoroughly and disgustingly drunk. But he was not his father’s son for nothing, and Kastros did not make fools of themselves, particularly not in front of the servants. ‘Nothing, thanks,’ he responded now, waving the man away. Then he flung himself down into a cream velvet armchair and stared broodingly out of the windows. Spiro found him there perhaps ten minutes later. The lamplit room was shadowy, and Demetri had chosen to sit in the darkest corner, but Spiro’s eyes were sharp. Like his employer, he, too, had changed for the evening, wearing a shirt and tie instead of the casual polo shirts he preferred. ‘I believe your sister and the other guests who are staying for dinner have gathered in the library,’ he said, advancing across the room. ‘What are you doing in here? Sulking?’ ‘Watch your tongue,’ said Demetri shortly, and Spiro arched a wounded brow. ‘I gather you were sent away with your tail between your legs,’ he observed, ignoring the reproof. ‘What is the matter? Did she tell you she was playing for bigger stakes?’ ‘Do not be stupid!’ Demetri placed his hands on the arms of the chair and pushed himself to his feet. He glanced around. ‘Is there anything to drink in here?’ Spiro pushed his hands into his trouser pockets and swayed back on his heels, surveying the large room with a considering eye. ‘It does not look like it,’ he said. ‘Why do we not join your father’s guests? There is a bar in the library.’ ‘Thank you, I know that,’ retorted Demetri, scowling. ‘Look, why do you not go and join the party? I am—not in the mood for company.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Theos, Spiro, mind your own damn business!’ Demetri heaved a frustrated breath. ‘You are not my keeper, you know.’ Spiro shrugged his shoulders. ‘So you did lose out?’ ‘No!’ Demetri stared at his friend with angry eyes. Then, when Spiro didn’t back down, he gave a resigned shake of his head. ‘All right. I did not even get to speak to her. No pain, no gain. Does that answer your question?’ ‘Not really.’ Spiro waited. ‘Was she not in her own apartments?’ ‘Oh, yes.’ Demetri was sardonic. ‘She was there. She just was not alone, that is all.’ Spiro’s mouth formed a pronounced circle. ‘Oh,’ he said drily. ‘Well, there is always tomorrow.’ ‘Yeah.’ Demetri was ironic. ‘And tomorrow and tomorrow,’ he acceded flatly. ‘Come. Let us go and find a drink. I do not want the old man to think I have got anything to hide.’ ‘Do you think he has?’ ‘Who knows?’ Demetri made a careless gesture. ‘I wonder why he has brought her here.’ Spiro pulled a face. ‘I think I can hazard a guess,’ he remarked, and Demetri gave him an impatient look. ‘Yeah, right,’ he said shortly. ‘She is to be his guest at Alex’s wedding.’ He frowned. ‘I wonder where Mr Manning is.’ ‘If there is a Mr Manning.’ ‘You think she is lying?’ ‘No.’ Spiro shook his head. ‘But she is not wearing a ring. Do you think she is divorced?’ ‘Who knows?’ Demetri was weary of the whole conversation. ‘Rings do not mean a lot these days. Besides, what does it signify? She is here. That is the only thing that matters.’ ‘Do you think their relationship is serious?’ Demetri was taken aback. ‘Do you?’ ‘Perhaps.’ Spiro looked pensive. ‘Your father seems to care about her. Do you not think so?’ Demetri scowled. ‘So what are you saying? That he intends to marry her?’ ‘Hardly that.’ Spiro drew in a breath as they started towards the door. ‘But serious illness can do strange things to people, filos mou. Being reminded of your own mortality can leave you with a desperate desire to embrace life.’ Demetri snorted. ‘Since when did you become a philosopher?’ ‘I am just trying to be objective,’ Spiro protested. ‘And, despite reports to the contrary, Mrs Manning does not give me the impression that her relationship with your father is purely for financial gain.’ ‘You feel you know her that well?’ Demetri was scornful. ‘No.’ Spiro was defensive now. ‘But I have been here since yesterday, when they arrived. I have watched them together. And, if I was scrupulously honest, I would say that they have known one another a considerable length of time.’ ‘Have you known my father long?’ The question was asked by a slim dark woman, whose resemblance to her father was unmistakable. Constantine had told Joanna that Olivia, too, had married when she was nineteen. But the marriage hadn’t lasted. In Constantine’s opinion Olivia had been too spoilt, too headstrong, to submit to her ex-husband’s needs. Within months of wedding Andrea Petrou she had returned to Theapolis, and since then she had shown no serious interest in any other man. Joanna knew that Olivia was the eldest of Constantine’s three children. At thirty-six, she considered herself the mistress of his house, which was perhaps why she was viewing Joanna with such suspicion. Maybe she saw the other woman as a challenge to her authority, and Joanna was glad that her ankle-length beaded sheath bore favourable comparison with the froth of chiffon that Olivia was wearing. She had cornered Joanna beside the polished cabinets that housed her father’s collection of snuffboxes. She had chosen her moment, and Joanna realised she had been a little foolish to walk away from Constantine and lay herself open to cross-examination. ‘Quite long,’ she responded now, directing her attention to the jewelled items that had drawn her across the room in the first place. She had delivered many of these boxes to Constantine herself, and it was fascinating to see them all together in the display case. Aware that Olivia was still beside her, she added, ‘Aren’t these beautiful?’ ‘Valuable, certainly,’ said Olivia insolently. ‘Are you interested in antiques, Mrs Manning?’ Joanna ignored the implication and, taking the woman’s words at face value, she replied, ‘I—I work with antiques, actually.’ She paused. ‘As a matter of fact, that is how I met your father.’ Olivia’s thin brows elevated. ‘Really?’ ‘Yes, really.’ Joanna chose her words with care. ‘I work for an auction house.’ ‘An auction house?’ Olivia immediately picked up on the information. ‘In London?’ ‘That’s right.’ Joanna allowed a little sigh to escape her. ‘What do you do, Mrs Petrou?’ ‘What do I do?’ Olivia was clearly taken aback, but before she could say anything more her father came to join them. Slipping an arm about Joanna’s waist, he said, ‘Well, let me see: she is a fabulous dancer, an expert at water sports, and extremely good at spending money. My money,’ he added drily. ‘Is that not so, Livvy? Have I missed anything out?’ ‘Because you will not let me do anything else,’ retorted Olivia shortly. Then, struggling to contain her anger, ‘In any case, I do not think it is any of Mrs Manning’s business.’ Joanna was unhappily aware that she had made another enemy. It was obvious that none of Constantine’s offspring would blame him for his indiscretions. As far as they were concerned, she had instigated this whole affair. Deciding there was nothing she could say which would placate Olivia, she turned to Constantine instead. ‘How are you?’ she asked, before he could remonstrate with his daughter. ‘You’re looking tired. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather eat upstairs?’ ‘I am sure you would,’ murmured Constantine, for her ears only. But, for all his attempt at humour, he was looking drained. The day had taken a toll on his depleted resources and he should have been resting. But she had always admired his strength of spirit, and he demonstrated it again now. ‘How could I desert our guests? Besides, I am ready for my dinner,’ he averred, his smile warm and enveloping. ‘Are you?’ Knowing better than to argue with him, Joanna tucked her arm through his. ‘Is it time to go in?’ ‘When I have finished this,’ agreed Constantine, indicating the remnants of the spirit in his glass. He held the glass up to a nearby lamp. ‘Do you know, you can only get real ouzo in Greece? I have tried it elsewhere, but it is never the same.’ ‘Ought you to be drinking alcohol, Papa?’ Olivia had been observing their exchange in silence, but now she took his other arm. ‘You have been ill, Papa. I worry about you.’ She glanced disparagingly at Joanna. ‘It is important that you do not overstretch your strength.’ Constantine’s lips tightened. ‘I am delighted that you are so concerned for my welfare, Livvy. But I am sure Demetri has told you I am very well. Besides, I have the beautiful Joanna to look after me. I have to tell you, she can be as strict as the most costly physician.’ And twice as expensive. Joanna could practically hear what Olivia was thinking, but she held her tongue. And then Demetrios entered the room, and his sister’s eyes turned in his direction. Joanna grimaced. Was she conceivably going to be grateful to Constantine’s son for diverting Olivia’s attention from herself? Spiro Stavros was with his employer. Both men were in their early thirties, but Spiro possessed none of Demetrios’s brooding good looks. Nevertheless, they were both tall and powerfully built. But Joanna decided she preferred Spiro’s open countenance to Demetrios’s cold eyes and dark beauty. Olivia left her father’s side to greet her brother, and Constantine took the opportunity to speak privately to Joanna. ‘Do not let anything Livvy or Demetri say upset you,’ he murmured softly. ‘They are curious, that is all. So long as you play your part, and do not allow anyone to coerce you into some unguarded admission, all will be well.’ Joanna wished she could feel as confident. She wasn’t used to any of this, not to Constantine’s wealth, or his influence, or the feeling that every other person she met thought she was a fortune-hunter. She wasn’t. She wasn’t interested in Constantine’s money. But she’d also realised that the doubts she’d had in England had been justified. Indeed, they were rapidly developing into a full-blown belief that she shouldn’t be here. ‘Do you think they believe we’re lovers?’ she asked in a low voice, and Constantine grinned with a little of his old arrogance. ‘Oh, yes. They believe it,’ he said, permitting himself a brief glance in his son’s direction. ‘And do you know what?’ He arched a teasing brow. ‘I am beginning to enjoy it.’ Dinner was served in what Constantine told her was the family dining salon, but it seemed awfully big to Joanna. She was sure her whole apartment back in London would have fitted into this one room, and she thought it was just as well that the Greek islands didn’t suffer the extremes of temperature that England did. Heating this place would be a nightmare, she reflected, glancing round the high-ceilinged room with its imposing furniture and marble floor. Last evening she and Constantine had dined in his suite, and that hadn’t been half so intimidating. Although it had been her first evening, and the assiduous attention of the servants had been a little unnerving, she had enjoyed the meal. She had still been entranced by the beauty of her surroundings, and she’d managed to persuade herself that this wasn’t going to be as bad as she’d thought. How wrong she’d been! Nevertheless, Olivia’s claws had been sheathed at that first meeting. With Alex away at her fiancå’s home in Athens, and Demetri meeting with bankers in Geneva, Olivia had been alone and unprepared for Joanna’s arrival. Joanna had wondered if Constantine had really warned his family of his guest’s identity. He’d insisted he had, but there’d been no doubt that Olivia had been shocked by their relationship. Joanna sighed. She had spent most of the day avoiding the other woman’s questions and now she had Demetrios to contend with as well. She wondered if Constantine had realised how hostile his family would be. Despite his reassurances about Alex, she thought that was little consolation now. The food, as she’d already discovered, was exquisitely prepared. There were dolmades—lamb and spiced rice wrapped in vine leaves, and souvlakia—which were tiny chunks of pork grilled on skewers. There were tomatoes stuffed with goat’s cheese, cold meats and salads, and retsina, the clean aromatic wine of the region, which was flavoured with pine resin and was, to Joanna, an acquired taste. As well as Constantine’s son and daughter, and Spiro Stavros, of course, they were joined at the table by three other people. They were Nikolas Poros and his wife, who Constantine had introduced her to earlier, and an old uncle of Constantine’s second wife, who also lived at the villa. Panos Petronides was in his eighties, but he seemed years younger. He was still as alert and spry as he’d been when he’d first left his native Salonika. Conversation during the meal was, to Joanna’s relief, sporadic. She suspected that for all his assertions to the contrary Constantine was tired, and she found herself watching him anxiously, ready for any sign that he needed to escape. Demetrios had been more right than he knew when he’d questioned his father’s return to the island. Constantine was very weak, and Joanna hoped he could keep up the pretence until the wedding was over. Coffee, strong and black, was served in the adjoining drawing room. Joanna had hoped that Constantine might make their excuses and allow them both to escape to their own apartments. But, instead, he settled himself on a silk-cushioned sofa, drawing her down beside him to prevent Olivia from taking her place. He indicated the silver dishes of sticky sugar-coated pastries on the low table close by. ‘Please,’ he said. ‘Help yourself.’ Joanna, who had eaten little of her dinner, shook her head. ‘I don’t want anything else,’ she said, aware of Demetrios hovering close by, ostensibly studying the rich desserts. She waited until he had chosen a cheese-filled pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar and then retired to the nearest armchair before she felt able to continue. ‘May I get you something instead?’ ‘Not to eat,’ murmured Constantine archly, provoking a scowling look from his son. Then, to Demetrios, ‘We will talk in the morning. You can brief me on all that has happened since I have been away. For instance, I understand from Nikolas Poros that two of our tankers are lying idle at Piraeus. I hope you have an explanation for that.’ ‘They are not lying idle,’ retorted Demetrios, hot colour filling his angry face. ‘Did not Poros explain that—?’ ‘Tomorrow, Demetri,’ said his father finally. Then, to Joanna’s relief, he turned to her. ‘I am a little tired, agapi mou. Are you finished?’ ‘I—yes, of course.’ ‘But surely you are not going to deprive us of Mrs Manning’s company also?’ Demetrios broke in, earning his father’s displeasure yet again. Joanna felt Constantine stiffen beside her. ‘You have something else in mind, agori?’ he asked, and Demetrios offered a courteous smile. ‘I wondered if Mrs Manning might enjoy a stroll in the gardens,’ he suggested mildly, but Joanna detected the look that passed between him and Spiro Stavros as he spoke. ‘I believe the English are very fond of gardening. Am I not right, Mrs Manning?’ ‘I’m afraid I live in a high-rise, Mr Kastro,’ Joanna returned carefully, but Constantine intervened before she could say anything more. ‘Joanna is tired, too,’ he declared, but Demetrios was determined to have the last word. ‘Are you sure, Papa? Dare I say it? She is—considerably younger than you are.’ ‘You overstep yourself, Demetri.’ There was no mistaking Constantine’s anger now, and Joanna wished she could warn the younger man to back off. ‘Perhaps you should let Mrs Manning decide for herself,’ he persisted smoothly, and Joanna heaved a heavy sigh. ‘I fear your father is right,’ she told him coolly, aware that he probably thought she was taking the easy way out. ‘I am tired. It has been a—demanding day.’ Demetrios’s lips twisted. ‘I am sure it must have been,’ he remarked, and although his words were polite enough his meaning was plain. He got abruptly to his feet. ‘Then, if you will excuse me…’ And without waiting for his father’s permission he stalked out of the room. CHAPTER THREE (#udf2f2cae-81c9-5612-afdf-c444edecfb6e) DESPITE the heat in the early-morning air, the pool was cold. Later in the day, when the sun had done its work, the temperature of the water would rise. But right now it was decidedly chilly, and Demetri welcomed its cooling surge against his hot skin. He had not slept well. Indeed, he had slept exceedingly badly, tormented by dreams the nature of which he preferred not to dwell on now that he was awake. In fact, he was frustrated by his own inability to control his subconscious mind, and only several vigorous lengths of the pool offered some escape from his tortured senses. He swam swiftly from one end of the pool to the other, somersaulting beneath the surface to swim back underwater. He broke through the waves his body had created, desperate for air, and then saw that he was no longer alone. A woman had emerged from the villa. She hadn’t seen him. It was obvious from the unhurried way she crossed the sun-splashed patio to rest her hands on the terrace wall. Obvious, too, from the uninhibited way she tilted back her head and allowed the sun to kiss those pale exquisite features. She thought she was alone, and Demetri felt a momentary pang of shame in observing her this way. But dammit, he thought, he had more right to be here than she had, and it wasn’t his fault if she didn’t have the sense to ensure she was on her own before behaving like a pagan goddess, worshipping the dawn. She was beautiful, though. Given this opportunity to study her without her knowledge, Demetri had to admit he understood his father’s fascination. She was wearing a sleeveless vest this morning, something soft and silky that clung to her rounded breasts with a loving attention to detail. He caught his breath as she cupped her ribcage and arched her back, driving her taut nipples against the thin fabric. A loosely tied sarong circled her waist, a transparent thing of purples and greens that exposed the bikini briefs she wore beneath. It parted to reveal the slender length of her legs, and, despite the coolness of the water, Demetri felt himself harden. Theos! He was like a callow youth, he thought exasperatedly. She was beautiful, yes, but he’d seen beautiful women before. He hadn’t reached the mature age of thirty-four without making love to a number of them, too, and it irritated the hell out of him that he desired this woman, his father’s mistress. She was sliding her fingers into her hair now, scooping its loosened weight back from her face and winding it into a coil on top of her head. Soft tendrils tumbled from the impromptu knot, spiralling down against cheeks that were as smooth and velvety soft as a peach. Realising he couldn’t stand much more of this without disgracing himself completely, Demetri sprang out of the water and grabbed a towel to wrap protectively about his hips. She heard him, of course. Although the ocean surged constantly onto the beach only a couple of hundred yards from the villa it was a muted sound, heavy and rhythmic. His vaulting out of the pool was a much more abrasive sound, and she swung round almost guiltily to confront him. ‘Oh…’ She was clearly taken aback by his sudden appearance. ‘Um—Mr Kastro. I didn’t see you there.’ ‘No.’ Demetri acknowledged the fact, and, accepting that they couldn’t go on addressing each other across the width of the terrace, he pushed his damp feet into his deck shoes and walked towards her. ‘Did you sleep well?’ She managed a faint smile. ‘Like you care,’ she said drily, and he admired her courage. ‘Did you?’ Demetri shrugged his bare shoulders. ‘Not very,’ he conceded, just as candidly. Then, dragging his eyes back to her face, ‘Where is my father?’ ‘Where do you think he is at this hour of the morning?’ she asked, a delicate flush invading her cheeks. ‘He’s still in bed.’ She paused a moment and then added significantly, ‘Asleep.’ Demetri’s mouth compressed. ‘So, what are you doing up so early? Or is this your only chance to escape?’ ‘To escape?’ Her blue eyes flashed with anger. ‘To escape from what, Mr Kastro? Your father and I have a perfect understanding.’ ‘Do you?’ Demetri was annoyed to find he half believed her. But he couldn’t let her know it. ‘That must be very convenient for both of you.’ ‘It is.’ She turned away from him then, bracing her hands on the terrace wall again and gazing purposefully out to sea. ‘Oughtn’t you to go and get some clothes on, Mr Kastro? I shouldn’t like you to catch a chill.’ ‘Oh, I am sure you would,’ he corrected her, making no move to go back into the villa. ‘But I would hate to waste this opportunity for us to get to know one another better.’ ‘We don’t need to get to know one another better, Mr Kastro,’ she retorted, and although she wasn’t looking at him he could see the tension in the slender cords of her neck. ‘Well, there, you see, you are wrong,’ he argued softly, resisting the temptation to run his finger along the sensitive curve of her nape. He drew a steadying breath. ‘And I think we can dispense with formality, no?’ She licked her lips then, and his stomach twisted with sudden emotion. Theos, he thought, the intensity of his reaction reminding him that he was playing with fire here. Why was he persisting with this? It was his father he should be harassing, not her. ‘What formality are you talking about?’ she asked now, and he had to concentrate hard to remember what he’d said. ‘I—think you should call me Demetri,’ he essayed at last, congratulating himself on his memory. ‘May I call you Joanna?’ Her lips were pressed together when she turned to give him a doubtful look, and Demetri guessed she had expected some kind of accusation. Long lashes, several shades darker than her hair, shaded her expression, however, and instead of feeling any sense of triumph Demetri found himself imagining how they would feel against his lips. He wanted to kiss her, he realised suddenly. He wanted to press that slim luscious body against his own and ease his aching need between her legs… ‘I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Mr Kastro,’ she said, and his arousal abruptly deflated. ‘You don’t like me, so why pretend you want to get to know me?’ Why indeed? ‘Because I do,’ he insisted, deciding that he had nothing more to lose. ‘Why are you so afraid to talk to me?’ His dark brows elevated. ‘I am not so terrifying, am I?’ She turned then, resting her hips on the low wall behind her and folding her arms across her midriff. ‘I am not afraid to talk to you, Mr Kastro,’ she said, and once again he had to admire her spirit. ‘What do you want to talk about?’ Demetri’s hair was dripping onto his neck and he lifted one hand to wipe the moisture from his nape. He refused to accept that it was done to buy himself a little time, but there was no doubt that she had caught him off guard. ‘Entaxi.’ It was an indication of his state of mind that had him lapsing into his own language for the exclamation. ‘All right. Tell me how you met my father?’ There was a perceptible hesitation when that tempting tongue appeared again, and then she seemed to straighten her spine before saying slowly, ‘We met in London.’ Demetri gave her a dry look. ‘Yes. I had gathered that.’ He paused. ‘I asked how you met my father, Mrs Manning. Not where.’ She looked down at her feet then, and Demetri found himself doing the same, watching as she crossed one slim bare foot over the other. Until then he hadn’t realised she wasn’t wearing any shoes, and there was something infinitely sensuous about the way she rubbed the sole of one foot across the arch of the other. To distract himself, he spoke again, his words a little harsh as he struggled to sustain his composure. ‘Were you his nurse?’ ‘His nurse?’ She smiled then, and he was treated to the sight of a row of almost perfect white teeth. ‘Heavens, no!’ ‘What, then?’ Demetri was impatient at the way she could apparently best him at every turn. ‘His doctor?’ She shook her head, and her hair dipped confidingly over one shoulder. ‘I am not a member of the medical profession, Mr Kastro.’ Demetri’s nostrils flared. ‘Do not play with me, Mrs Manning. You might just get more than you—what is the expression you use?—bargained for, no?’ Her smile disappeared. ‘I wouldn’t dream of playing with you, Mr Kastro,’ she declared coolly. ‘I just wonder why you are so interested in what I do for a living.’ ‘I am not.’ But he was and she knew it, damn her. ‘I am merely curious to know how a man who has spent the last two weeks in hospital could have acquired such a—close relationship with a woman his family knew nothing about.’ She took a deep breath. ‘As you say, your father has been in hospital.’ ‘Where I visited him,’ put in Demetri shortly. ‘On more than one occasion. Yet he apparently chose not to mention your existence to me.’ Her slim shoulders lifted. ‘I suppose he preferred to wait until we could be introduced.’ ‘You are prevaricating again, Mrs Manning.’ Demetri’s temper was slipping. ‘I suggest that, far from knowing my father for some considerable time, as you told Livvy, yours has been what a kinder person might call a whirlwind romance, no?’ ‘No.’ She was angry now. ‘What I told your sister was—is true. I work—I have worked—for Bartholomew’s for several years. They’re—’ ‘One of the foremost auction houses in London,’ Demetri inserted tersely. ‘I have heard of Bartholomew’s, Mrs Manning.’ ‘Good.’ Her eyes challenged his. ‘As you’re aware, your father is a keen collector of antique snuffboxes. He has been a regular customer there for many years.’ Demetri was stunned. He was ashamed to admit that, because of her beauty, he’d been inclined to dismiss her as an airhead. Now, learning that she had a career far removed from any cosmetic pursuit disturbed him more than he cared to admit. It also made her relationship with his father that much more serious somehow. ‘And now, if you’ll excuse me…’ She was leaving him, and Demetri could no longer think of an excuse to keep her there. But what troubled him most was that he should want to do so, and he abruptly stepped aside, opening her path to the villa. ‘Until later,’ he said, but she didn’t answer him. If he hadn’t known better he’d have said she was trembling with apprehension. Only it wasn’t apprehension, it was rage. Joanna made it to her apartments before she gave in to the fit of shaking that had threatened her downstairs. Dear Lord, she thought, she would never have ventured outdoors if she’d even suspected she might run into Demetrios Kastro on the patio. A naked Demetrios Kastro, moreover. Her mouth dried again at the thought. But she’d looked over her balcony and there’d appeared to be no one about. Oh, she’d seen a couple of men working in the gardens, and a youth of perhaps fifteen sweeping the steps. Yet even he had disappeared by the time she’d stepped out of the villa, and she’d walked to the boundary wall with the first feeling of freedom she’d had since coming here. And the view was so beautiful. Acres of flower-filled gardens falling away into dunes of sun-bleached sand. A wooden jetty pointed into the blue-green waters of the Aegean, a two-masted schooner bobbing at anchor, all gleaming steel and polished teak. A millionaire’s plaything in a million-dollar setting. Then Demetrios had emerged from the pool and everything had changed. Her sense of wellbeing had vanished, replaced by the tension that man always evoked. She’d known him for less than twenty-four hours, yet he’d already succeeded in setting her nerves on edge whenever he was near. She had the feeling he looked at her and saw right through her. He didn’t like her: that much was obvious. But, more than that, he despised her for what he thought she was doing with his father. Now Joanna wrapped her arms about herself and crossed the room to the windows. Despite her revulsion for the man, she felt compelled to see if he was still enjoying his swim. She had only interrupted his pleasure. He had destroyed hers. But the pool was empty. Although she waited half apprehensively to see if he was briefly out of sight, hidden by the lip of the deck, he didn’t appear. The water was as smooth and unbroken as a mirror, reflecting only the sunlight and the waving palms that grew close by. Stepping back into the room again, she looked bleakly about her. And then, annoyed that she had let Demetrios sour her mood, she walked through the bedroom and into the adjoining bathroom. She felt a little better after a shower. The cool water had washed away the perspiration that had dried on her skin, and she felt more ready to face the day. Constantine had said he would take her to the small town of Agios Antonis this morning, and she was looking forward to seeing a little more of the island. Since their arrival two days ago they had spent all their time at the villa. Constantine had been weary after the flight from London, and yesterday he had had the reception Olivia had organised to contend with. Joanna knew he would have much preferred to stagger the celebrations for his homecoming, but Constantine hadn’t wanted to disappoint his elder daughter. Besides, until his younger daughter’s wedding was over he didn’t intend to discuss his illness with any of his family. Joanna finished drying her hair and paused on the threshold of the dressing room that was next to the bathroom. Floor-to-ceiling closets lined two of the walls, but the clothes she had brought with her looked lost in their cavernous depths. Nevertheless, Constantine had insisted on equipping her with several new outfits for the trip to Theapolis. And, although Joanna still felt slightly uncomfortable about that arrangement, she had to admit that the clothes she usually favoured would not have borne comparison with the designer fashions she had seen since their arrival. The fact that she normally shunned anything that emphasised her femininity had not been lost on Constantine. And, despite the fact that he respected her preference for severe skirt-and trouser-suits, he had persuaded her that they would definitely look out of place in the hot dry climate of the island in late summer. Besides, they would have detracted from the image he wanted her to present. It was because she could do what he asked that he’d chosen her, and in the circumstances Joanna had been unable to refuse. Perhaps she’d wanted to do it for her own sake, she reflected, riffling through the rail of expensive garments, all of which were designed to inspire and provoke masculine attention. Flimsy shirts and tight-fitting basques; low-cut bodices and clinging skirts; hems slashed to expose her legs from thigh to hip—items that until two weeks ago she’d have avoided like the plague. But it hadn’t always been so. Once she would have revelled in their style and beauty. Oh, she had never owned anything too revealing, but she had appreciated her own body and dressed in a way to make the most of her assets. She’d spent so many years believing she was worthless that when the opportunity had come to make the most of her appearance, she’d taken it. She’d wanted to be admired. She’d wanted to know the thrill of feeling beautiful. And then she’d met Richard Manning… But she didn’t want to think about Richard now. He was history. He’d hurt and humiliated her for the last time. But perhaps by downplaying her looks she’d been subconsciously denying their relationship. Maybe it was time to come out of her shell. She viewed her appearance cautiously when she was ready. It would take some time before she was able to look at herself with uncritical eyes, and although the lime-green cr?pe shell and cream silk shorts were very flattering, she couldn’t get used to exposing such a length of thigh. Still, she was sure Constantine would approve and, for the present, that was all that mattered. Which reminded her—where was Constantine? He had said he would order breakfast to be served on the balcony again, as he had done the previous morning, but when she stepped outside again there was still no one about. The wrought-iron table wasn’t even laid, and she knew a moment’s apprehension. What was going on? Surely Demetrios hadn’t delayed him. His son had been eager to speak to him, it was true, but all the same… Turning back into the room, she crossed to the connecting doors and tapped lightly on the panels. It was the first time she had had to initiate their meeting, and she felt a little awkward when Philip, Constantine’s valet, opened the door. ‘Kalimera, Kiria Manning.’ The man greeted her politely enough, though she sensed a certain reserve in his manner. ‘Boro na sas voithisso?’ Joanna contained her impatience. Constantine had told his valet that she didn’t understand his language, and therefore the man’s behaviour was a deliberate attempt to disconcert her. However, she had taken the precaution of learning one phrase, and with smiling courtesy she said, ‘Then katalaveno,’ which she knew meant, I don’t understand. ‘Signomi.’ Sorry. Philip’s thin lips tightened. He was a man in his late fifties, who Constantine had said had been with him for more than thirty years. Gaunt and unsmiling, he was the exact opposite of Joanna’s idea of a genial manservant, his only concession to vanity the luxuriant black moustache that coated his upper lip. ‘Kirie Kastro is not—up, kiria,’ he said at last, in a thick barely comprehensible accent. ‘Then sikothikeh akomi.’ Joanna frowned, looking beyond him into the living area of Constantine’s suite. The door to the bedroom was ajar, but she couldn’t see into the room, and she could only take Philip’s word that Constantine was still in bed. ‘Is he all right?’ she asked, not much caring if the valet cared to stand here trading information with her. ‘Can I see him?’ ‘I do not think—’ ‘Pios ineh, Philip?’ Who is it? Constantine’s voice was frail, but he had obviously deduced that the manservant was talking to someone, and, ignoring Philip’s attempt to bar her way, Joanna sidestepped him into the apartment. ‘It’s me, Constantine,’ she called, crossing the floor to the bedroom door. ‘Can I come in?’ ‘Please…’ Constantine showed no reservations about inviting her into his room. And why should he? she asked herself drily. When they were deemed to be lovers. All the same, she halted in the doorway of the huge, distinctly masculine chamber, briefly shocked by his appearance. Constantine was lying propped against the pillows of the massive bed, his face as white as the linen sheets that covered him from chest to foot. Brown hands, slightly gnarled with veins, were a stark contrast to the bedlinen, his nails scraping against the fabric in a mute display of frustration. ‘Come—come in,’ he said weakly, lifting his hand to point at the tapestry-covered chair beside the bed. ‘Do not look like that, aghapitos. I am not dying yet.’ Joanna came swiftly to the bed, but she didn’t sit in the chair he’d indicated. Instead, she edged her hip onto the bed beside him, taking one of his hands between both of hers and gazing down at him with troubled eyes. ‘Don’t even suggest such a thing,’ she reproved him sharply. Then, hesitatingly, ‘Have you sent for a doctor?’ ‘What can a doctor do for me?’ Constantine was dismissive. ‘I am already sick of the cocktail of drugs I am forced to swallow every day, without inviting a handful more. No, Joanna, I have not sent for a doctor. A few hours’ rest is all I need. Will you tell Demetri and Olivia that I am being lazy this morning?’ Joanna sighed. ‘Shouldn’t you tell them yourself?’ ‘And have them see me like this?’ Constantine moved his head from side to side on the pillows. ‘I know what they are like, Joanna. I would have no choice in the matter. Demetri would have Tsikas here immediately, and it is totally unnecessary.’ ‘Tsikas?’ Joanna frowned. ‘I assume he is your doctor.’ ‘He is the island doctor, yes,’ agreed Constantine wearily. ‘Look, Joanna, I do not wish to worry anyone. Livvy has enough to worry about, making the final preparations for Alex’s wedding, and Demetri is already working flat out, trying to cope with my work as well as his own. Let him go on thinking that I am waiting for his explanation as to why two of my ships are not making me any money. Do not, I beg of you, put any doubts in their minds.’ Joanna shook her head. ‘I don’t think they’ll like me making your excuses,’ she said unhappily. ‘But I take your point about worrying them unnecessarily. If it is unnecessarily,’ she added doubtfully. ‘It is.’ Constantine was determined. ‘You can tell Demetri I will speak with him this afternoon. I have taken my medication and in a few hours I should be as good as new.’ You wish, thought Joanna uneasily, but she knew better than to argue with him. Despite his physical weakness, Constantine’s will was as strong as ever. ‘All right?’ he prompted when she didn’t say anything, and Joanna gave a resigned shrug of her shoulders. ‘I’ll do what I can,’ she promised, not looking forward to telling either of the Kastro offspring what their father had said. ‘Now, get some rest, hmm?’ She bent to bestow a warm kiss on his dry cheek. ‘I’ll come back at lunchtime to see how you are.’ Constantine nodded. ‘We will have lunch together,’ he said, patting her cheek. ‘Oh, Joanna, how I wish I were twenty years younger. I would not be lying here like a beached whale while the woman I admire above all others was spending her time with my son instead of me.’ Joanna smiled, but as she got up from the bed she couldn’t help thinking she’d bitten off more than she could chew by coming here. Yes, she cared about Constantine. Yes, it was easy to spend time with him. But dealing with his immediate family was another thing altogether. She supposed she had been na?ve in imagining that they might welcome her into their midst, but she certainly hadn’t expected them to be so openly hostile. Though hostility was not what she had initially felt when Demetrios had surprised her on the terrace that morning. When he’d wrapped a towel about his nakedness—and she was pretty sure he had been swimming in the nude—and walked towards her, she’d felt a most unhostile surge of emotion. Indeed, for the first time in years she’d been physically aroused by a man’s body. And although she’d later dismissed it as an aberration, now, faced with the prospect of confronting him again, Joanna knew she was apprehensive of the effect he had on her. Philip was waiting for her outside the bedroom door. She wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d discovered him with his ear pressed to the panels, but her exit had been sufficiently telegraphed to allow him time to move away. ‘Mr Kastro is going to rest this morning,’ she said coolly, deciding she was going to take no guff from him. ‘I’ll come back at one o’clock. Perhaps you’d ask the housekeeper to serve a light lunch on the balcony.’ Philip gave her a mutinous look. ‘For one, kiria?’ ‘No, for two.’ She managed to keep her cool, but Philip wasn’t finished yet. ‘What would you like?’ he asked, probably knowing full well that Joanna wasn’t familiar with Greek food. But she refused to let him confuse her. ‘I suggest an omelette and some salad,’ she answered sweetly. ‘Mr Kastro is very fond of omelettes, you know?’ ‘Veveha, kiria. I know,’ he muttered, as she headed towards her own rooms, and Joanna breathed a sigh of triumph as she closed the connecting doors behind her. CHAPTER FOUR (#udf2f2cae-81c9-5612-afdf-c444edecfb6e) DEMETRI was having breakfast on the terrace when Joanna appeared. At this hour of the morning the air outdoors was extremely pleasant, and the view from this elevated position never failed to lift his spirits. And they’d needed lifting, he conceded grimly, picking at a currant-filled roll between generous gulps of the strong black coffee he favoured. His earlier encounter with his father’s mistress had left him feeling piqued and morose. And provoked; definitely provoked. Though not in any way he wanted to acknowledge. Now here she was again, slim and alluring in a sleeveless top and clinging silk shorts which had surely not come off the peg in some downtown department store. Her legs were bare and her glorious mane of hair had been secured in one of those loose knots atop her head. Strands of white-gold escaped to caress her cheeks, and although when she saw him she made a half-hearted effort to tuck them back behind her ears, they refused to be tamed. Oh, she was beautiful, he thought bitterly, forced to push back his chair and get to his feet as she came towards him. But what the hell was she doing with his father? He simply didn’t buy into May and December love affairs. She wanted something from this relationship, and he’d swear on a stack of Bibles that it wasn’t sex. The morning mail had been spread out on the table in front of him, but he shuffled it together at her approach. He guessed his father wouldn’t be far behind her, and the last thing he wanted to do was talk about private business matters with her present. He was pleased to see that she wasn’t wholly relaxed about meeting him again. He wondered if she’d told Constantine about seeing him earlier that morning. If she had, he could probably look forward to his father’s displeasure as well. Particularly if she’d mentioned that he’d been swimming in the nude. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed. After all, she hadn’t noticed he was there at all until he’d vaulted out of the pool. Thank heaven for towels, he reflected drily. They could hide a multitude of sins. ‘Mrs Manning,’ he greeted her politely, inclining his head, and she managed a faint smile in return. But she was definitely antsy, and he decided to take pity on her. ‘Are you and my father joining me for breakfast?’ ‘No,’ Her denial was swift. But then, as if realising she had been a little hasty, she added, ‘That is, your father won’t be joining us.’ ‘Why not?’ Demetri’s eyes moved past her almost accusingly. ‘Is something wrong?’ ‘He’s—tired, that’s all,’ she told him quietly, apparently not knowing what to do with her hands. She finally folded them together over her midriff, inadvertently drawing his attention to the narrow strip of pale flesh exposed between her top and her shorts. ‘He asked me to tell you he’ll see you later today.’ Demetri’s jaw clenched. He wasn’t used to being given news about his father from a third party. He’d had to comply while his father was in the hospital, but being given information by a doctor was vastly different from hearing it from her. ‘Are you sure you are telling me everything?’ he asked, regarding her from beneath lowered lids, and he felt rather than saw the quiver of emotion that rippled over her at his question. But, ‘Of course,’ she said quickly. Then, to his surprise, ‘May I join you?’ Demetri frowned. ‘Please,’ he said without expression, but his thoughts were busy as she hurriedly seated herself in the chair across the table from his own. Was it only his imagination, or was this a deliberate attempt to divert him? He subsided again into his own chair. ‘Have you eaten?’ ‘I—no.’ She moistened her lips. ‘But I’m not hungry. Perhaps I could have some coffee—’ She broke off as a white-aproned maid appeared at Demetri’s elbow. The girl—for she was little more—gave her employer’s son a proprietary smile before saying in their own language, ‘Can I get you anything else, kirie?’ Demetri hesitated. And then, deciding that Mrs Manning couldn’t be allowed to starve, he replied, ‘Yes. Some toast and coffee for my guest, if you will? Thank you.’ The maid withdrew and Demetri, feeling a little more in command, lay back in his chair. ‘Tora,’ he said pleasantly, ‘perhaps you will now explain to me why my father is really not joining us for breakfast.’ A hint of colour entered her face. ‘I’ve told you—’ ‘No.’ His denial was soft but implacable. ‘You have told me nothing. Are you saying he is not well enough to get out of bed?’ Her cheeks were definitely pink now. ‘He said to tell you he was going to be lazy this morning,’ she insisted. ‘I’ve explained that he’s feeling tired. The journey from England, yesterday’s reception, and then dinner last night. He’s not used to so much activity. Not—not all at once.’ ‘And entertaining a much younger woman?’ suggested Demetri dangerously. ‘Let us not forget your role in his recovery—or lack thereof. Whatever. Perhaps you are tiring him out, Mrs Manning.’ His words were unforgivable, and he knew a moment’s remorse at his own cruelty. He had no excuse for blaming her for his father’s weakness. Cancer didn’t discriminate between its victims, and he should be grateful that she had brought the old man some comfort during his convalescence. Grateful, too, that to all intents and purposes his father had beaten the disease. And who knew that she hadn’t had some part in that, as well? Nevertheless, he despised himself for the sudden sympathy he felt when she turned her face away, blinking rapidly. She could be acting, of course, but he suspected he had upset her, and common sense told him that that was not the wisest thing to do. He had told Spiro he would handle this with kid gloves, but instead he was trampling finer feelings underfoot. The return of the maid put an end to his self-admonishment. And if Joanna had been thinking of walking out on him, her actions were baulked by the serving woman setting a steaming pot of coffee and a linen-wrapped basket of toast at her elbow. ‘Afto ineh entaxi, kirie?’ Is that all right? the maid asked, looking at Demetri, and he drew a deep breath. ‘Ineh mia khara, efkharisto.’ It’s fine, thanks, he responded, but Joanna was looking at him now, and she looked anything but pleased. ‘Did you order this?’ she demanded, uncaring that the maid was still standing beside the table, clearly understanding the tone of her voice, if not the words. Demetri wasn’t used to being embarrassed in front of his staff, and a muscle in his jaw jerked spasmodically as he strove to hide his anger. ‘You have to eat something, Mrs Manning,’ he said, aware that he no longer thought of her that way. Her first name was becoming far more familiar to him, and that was dangerous. ‘Efkharisto, Pilar. You may leave us.’ A gesture of his hand sent the young maid scurrying back into the villa, but he was going to have no such swift compliance from Joanna. ‘I said I only wanted coffee,’ she said, her blue eyes glittering now, her earlier emotion banished by a surge of indignation. ‘I am not hungry, Mr Kastro. In fact, I can’t think of anything I’d like less than sharing a meal with you!’ Demetri was outraged. ‘You asked if you could join me, Mrs Manning,’ he reminded her harshly, and her lips twisted in sudden distaste. ‘That was a mistake,’ she informed him, reaching for the pot of coffee and pouring herself a cup. Her hand was unsteady, he noticed, but he got little satisfaction from it. ‘It was before I realised what a small-minded, selfish boor you are!’ Her voice was shaking by the time she’d finished, but with an admirable dignity she got to her feet. Then, picking up her coffee cup, she turned away, evidently intending to drink it in more congenial surroundings. ‘Wait!’ Despite the resentment he was feeling, Demetri was loath to let her go like this. ‘Signomi,’ he said through clenched teeth. ‘I am sorry. I did not mean to offend you.’ ‘No?’ She’d paused, regarding him with scornful eyes. ‘You virtually accuse me of exhausting your father with my demands and then try to tell me you didn’t mean to offend me? Come on, Mr Kastro. Surely you can do better than that?’ Demetri breathed deeply. ‘I spoke—without thinking,’ he declared, but he could see from her expression that she didn’t believe him. ‘On the contrary,’ she said, ‘I think you knew exactly what you were saying. You might wish you hadn’t exposed your feelings quite so openly, but that’s all. Don’t worry, Mr Kastro. I shan’t tell your father what you said. I, at least, have more respect for him than that.’ She would have turned away then, but he moved swiftly round the table to detain her. ‘All right,’ he said tersely, aware that she was looking up at him now with a certain amount of apprehension. ‘All right. You are right and I am wrong. It was a deliberate attempt to provoke you.’ He paused. ‘But, Theos, Joanna, you cannot have expected to come here without arousing some resentment.’ ‘Why not?’ She blinked, and then said faintly, ‘You called me Joanna. Was that another mistake?’ Demetri stifled an oath. ‘No,’ he said impatiently. Then, wearily, ‘You must surely see that it is ludicrous for us to call one another Mrs Manning and Mr Kastro? My name is Demetri. Only my enemies call me Demetrios. And if we are to come to any kind of an understanding we should perhaps try and be civil with one another.’ Joanna hesitated. ‘I notice you didn’t suggest that we might be friends,’ she remarked drily, but she was definitely thawing. ‘Let us take each day at a time,’ Demetri ventured, gesturing towards the breakfast table. ‘Please. Will you sit with me?’ He paused, and then added ruefully, ‘My coffee is getting cold.’ Êîíåö îçíàêîìèòåëüíîãî ôðàãìåíòà. Òåêñò ïðåäîñòàâëåí ÎÎÎ «ËèòÐåñ». Ïðî÷èòàéòå ýòó êíèãó öåëèêîì, êóïèâ ïîëíóþ ëåãàëüíóþ âåðñèþ (https://www.litres.ru/pages/biblio_book/?art=39926354&lfrom=390579938) íà ËèòÐåñ. Áåçîïàñíî îïëàòèòü êíèãó ìîæíî áàíêîâñêîé êàðòîé Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, ñî ñ÷åòà ìîáèëüíîãî òåëåôîíà, ñ ïëàòåæíîãî òåðìèíàëà, â ñàëîíå ÌÒÑ èëè Ñâÿçíîé, ÷åðåç PayPal, WebMoney, ßíäåêñ.Äåíüãè, QIWI Êîøåëåê, áîíóñíûìè êàðòàìè èëè äðóãèì óäîáíûì Âàì ñïîñîáîì.