Xenakis's Convenient Bride

By: Dani Collins



She’d been at rock bottom once and Takis had saved her. She looked for chances to pay it forward. “I have to pick up a few groceries anyway.”

That was another white lie and she wasn’t sure why she tacked it on. Maybe to spare his pride because she knew what it was like to face losing self-esteem along with everything else.

Or because she wanted to spend time with this man, now her view of him was out of focus. She studied his stern visage only to have his attention narrow on her, like a predatory bird spotting an unsuspecting hare.

Why on earth had she thought he needed anything from her, least of all benevolence? That innate fierceness in his expression took him from handsome to all powerful. He was magnificent. She was spellbound, exactly as a bird’s prey might be. Frozen in fascinated horror as she stared into her own demise.

“Your boss?” Sexual tension swooped in on the wings of a speculative look to perch between them, impossible to ignore.

Her scalp prickled and her breasts felt constrained by her bra. Who was she kidding? The sexual awareness had only dissipated because she’d been hiding in the house for three days. Had she realized he had made the same assumption about her as everyone else did she might have let the fallacy continue, since it offered a type of protection.

She wanted to be annoyed. Furious. Hurt.

She was scared. Her heart battered the inside of her rib cage like a fist against a wall. She needed protection because that youthful indiscretion that had put all the wrong thoughts into all the smallest minds was still alive in her. She had buried it deep behind the rarely used dishes, but he’d found it. He was reaching into her, bringing it to the light, blowing away the dust and asking, What’s this?

With her stomach in knots and her blood moving like warm honey, she pretended ignorance. Indignation.

“Takis Karalis.” She clumsily shoved the gauze and scissors back into the first-aid kit. “The owner of this villa. I’m his housekeeper. Why? What did you think?”

His gaze flicked over her, reassessing. It should have insulted her, but it caused a bright heat to glow inside her. She wanted him to discover that hidden part of her. Play with it. Polish it and make it shine.

In that moment, she wanted to be his type, able to be casual about intimacy and physical delights. There was such promise in his eyes. Such pleasures untold.

But that way lay heartache of the most shattering kind. She knew it far too well. She had to remember that.

“You’re not the first to think I’m his mistress.” She hadn’t bothered fighting the perception because her reputation had been in ruins the day Takis offered her this job. What was one more snide remark behind her back?

She needed to hold this man off, though, or she might self-destruct all over again.

“That’s really sexist, you know, to assume that sleeping with the owner is the only reason I would be living here. Or to think I couldn’t own this house. Not when it sounds as though I’m a lot closer to affording it than you are.”

He didn’t move, but his silence blasted her, warning her to mind herself.

A power struggle with this man was deeply foolish. In fact, trying to keep him at a distance might be a lost cause.

That thought was so disturbing, she could only blurt, “I’ll meet you at the car.”

She charged—retreated—into the house where she quickly scraped the moussaka filling she’d just finished browning into a bowl. She set it in the fridge before collecting her keys and purse, hands shaking.

Outside, her car was blocked by the pallet of new tiles he had unloaded a few days ago, along with the bin of broken ones.

Damn. No way could she risk staining the convertible. She glanced at his makeshift bandage. That must be painful, but he was stoic about it.

“We’ll have to take the scooter.” She moved to the stall and reached for her helmet, offering him Ophelia’s. They were both pink, matching the Vespa.

“It’s too small,” he dismissed with a dry glance.

“I’m sure you’re right. Your big head would never fit.” Shut up, Calli. She set aside the helmet and paused before buckling on her own. “Do you want to go by yourself?”

“I don’t know where the clinic is, do I? I might bleed out before I find it. No, by all means, take me.”

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