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Authors: Katherine Garbera

The greek tycoon's secret heir

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This book is dedicated to Patty Ann Souder and her men Bill, Neil and Ian. Thank you, Patty, for being the big sister I never had.ContentsAcknowledgments

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

AcknowledgmentsSpecial thanks to Aleka Nakis who helped me with my Greek words. Any mistakes are my own.One“There’s a man waiting for you in the principal’s office,” Laurette Jones said as she came into Ava Monroe’s classroom. “I’ll take care of your class until you come back.”

“Is everything okay with Theo?” Ava asked. Her son was enrolled in pre-kindergarten at the exclusive Florida boarding school where she taught second grade. It was rare for her to be called away from her class in the middle of the day. The relative quiet of the warm February afternoon suddenly seemed ominous.

“I don’t know. Karin asked me to come and get you.” Laurette worked for principal Karin Andrews in the administration offices.

“Thanks, Laurette,” Ava said, hurrying down the hallway, fighting the urge to run. She knew she was borrowing trouble, but Theo had asthma and they’d yet to find any medicine to get it under control. Just the thought that he might be having a breathing episode made her palms sweat.

She stopped by the nurse’s office on her way and learned that Theo wasn’t there. Relief swamped her. She hoped that Theo hadn’t gotten into trouble in class. He wasn’t a hellion but he was lively, and his teacher was pretty understanding most days.

She rounded the corner leading to the administration offices and heard a deep voice speaking in a heavy accent. She froze in her tracks. She’d never forgotten that voice, because she still heard it in her dreams. Christos Theakis. Her heart beat faster as she tried to tell herself she was imagining things. But she knew she wasn’t. She rapped on the frame of the open door that led to Karin Andrews’s office.

“Come in, Ava, we’ve been waiting for you.”

She stepped into the office. And there he was. Christos leaned against Karin’s desk, but straightened to his full height when she entered. He was about six feet tall and dressed in that cool European style that was both casual and sophisticated.

She brushed her hands down the sides of her floral-print skirt and told herself she wasn’t still the small-town girl he’d once seduced. But she felt as though she was.

“Hello, Christos. I am so sorry about your recent loss.”

He nodded his head solemnly at her offer of condolences. She saw grief and sorrow in his eyes, but he quickly controlled the emotions.

She’d had Christos and the entire Theakis family on the brain since they’d been in the news over the past month. His older brother, Stavros, sister-in-law, Nikki, and two nieces had been killed when their private jet had crashed minutes after take-off from Athens, Greece.

Ava, who had once been nanny to the girls, had burst into tears when the reporter had revealed the names. Things hadn’t ended well with her employment with the Theakis family, but she’d adored those children.

Her son had been confused about why she was crying and had consoled her as only a four-year-old could, with his favorite stuffed animal, Monkeyman, and lots of hugs.

But the sting of knowing that the little girls she’d played with and cared for were deceased was still with her.

“We need to talk.”

Christos’s terse words snapped her back to the present. Such arrogance. She used to find it attractive. Ah, who was she kidding, she still did. There was something appealing about a man who knew what he wanted and made no bones about it. So different from the wishy-washy men in her circle, who struggled even to decide where they should eat dinner on a Friday night.

“Yes, we do,” she said, trying to project a little arrogance of her own.

Christos arched an eyebrow at her and turned away. “May we use your office, Ms. Andrews?”

Karin flushed under Christos’s gaze, something Ava had rarely seen the ultraprofessional woman do. She gave Christos a warm smile as she stood and walked toward the door. “Of course. And please, call me Karin.”

The walnut-paneled door closed behind the principal with a distinctive thud. Christos said nothing and the silence built around them. Ava tried to figure out what to say but all the words running around in her head sounded banal.

Finally she glanced up at him and found he hadn’t moved from his position against the desk. “So…why are you here?”

“To claim the Theakis heir.”

Ava was exactly as he remembered her. The strawberry-blond hair, the delicate features and those wide blue eyes that were more mysterious than the deepest fathoms of the ocean. She had been unique to him. An anomaly in a world filled with people who wanted to be near him because of his money, his connections or his pedigree, she’d wanted to be with him in spite of all that. Or so he’d thought. She’d seemed fresh and innocent, and he knew that was a large part of the reason he’d been so attracted to her.

He would have bet his vast fortune that Ava was incapable of lying. And he knew now that he would have lost. He let the silence grow between them, watching her, knowing it made her uncomfortable. He still wanted her. Damn her for that. Even knowing she’d given birth to his brother’s child…

Ava deserved the discomfort, he thought. She’d slept with himandhis brother, and now he needed the child. His brother’s son. God, what a mess.

Christos was the playboy of the family, the jetsetter who, for the most part, had always been more interested in his own pleasures than anything else. But for a few brief months during that summer when Ava had been in Greece…forget it, he wasn’t going to rehash that.

He’d cast her out of his life, but everything had changed with Stavros’s death. God, he missed his older brother and his nieces. He didn’t miss his sister-in-law as much, but then Nikki had never been the kind of woman who’d wanted to be friends with him. He’d always been the second son to her. Not the heir.

His own temper was legendary, as was Stavros’s, and the fight they’d had over Ava…well, it had taken on mythic proportions. And the part that stabbed him in the gut was that he’d thought they had years to work it out. Instead he’d never share a quiet moment with his brother again.

He knew what his father wanted from him. Take over the business, marry and produce more Greek babies. Ensure that the Theakis line continued. His father had sent him to Ava to claim the boy whom Stavros had paid her to keep quiet about.

He even knew what Stavros would say to him if he had been able to see into the future…he would advise Christos to marry Ava and claim the boy as his own. Move them back to Greece where the boy could be raised to inherit the shipping empire that had been in their family for generations. His father’s advice had been the same, but then Stavros and Ari were cut from the same cloth.

“I’m surprised you’re here. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” Ava said at last.

He couldn’t deal with the circumstances that had brought him here and he wouldn’t talk about them with her. Not now. Tristan, one of his best friends, assured him that grief lessened over time, but Christos couldn’t imagine this pain fading. “What does the boy know about his father?”

“The boy? His name is Theo. And I…I told him that you were an important Greek businessman whose interests kept him busy.”

Thathewas an important Greek businessman. God, he couldn’t believe she was still clinging to the lie that he was the father. He’d been careful every time they’d come together. Only slipping up once, he thought. But even then he’d pulled out as soon as he realized what he’d done. And Stavros…well, his brother had always been blunt when it came to sex and condoms—he didn’t use them.

“A lie.”

“You are a businessman. And you’re always busy, at least, according toHello!magazine. I don’t see how Stavros’s death changes anything. You made your choice a long time ago.”

He shrugged that aside. He wasn’t going to get into the paternity issue again. That boy was a Theakis and he was returning to his family. They had the legal document she’d signed when she’d taken the money Stavros had offered.

He tried not to think about those long-ago days in Greece. As soon as he’d seen her with his brother he’d left, returning to a life of endless traveling and parties that he used to blur memories of their time together. He’d gone back to his old lifestyle with a vengeance. Being the second son meant his life was full of frivolity and socializing. No one expected anything of the second son. He had focused on his business interests during the day, but he’d partied all night.

“Where’s the boy?” he asked.

Ava tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, eyeing him warily. Crossing her arms over her chest, she glanced out the window. “What do you mean, the heir? You told me…” Her voice quivered.

“I know what I told you but times have changed. I need you to be the woman I once thought you were.”

That was nothing less than the truth. He needed something from Ava that even she couldn’t have predicted. He needed her to be the kind of mother his had been. The kind of mother who could raise a boy to handle a world of privilege and expectation—because he wouldn’t have enough time to do that.

“What woman was that?”

“One I could trust. My father’s health is failing and he misses his grandchildren.”

“Theo is nothing like the girls. He can’t replace them,” she warned.

“What do you mean?”

“He’s American, Christos. He knows a little of your background and heritage, but he’s not Greek.”

“I’ll teach him what he needs to know.”

Still she shook her head. “Ari hates me.”

“My father will love your son.”

“I don’t know. I’m not the naive young girl I was,” she said.

“You’re still young,” he said. She was twelve years younger than he was, which he’d once thought excused some of the lies she’d told him. But he wouldn’t be as forgiving this time.

“Being a mother has matured me in a way nothing else could have.”

“Then you know that keeping your son from the Theakis family is not something that I can allow to continue.”

She nodded. “When I saw the news about Stavros and his family, I thought about contacting you.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I was afraid to deal with you.”

“I can understand that,” he said. He’d treated her almost cruelly when she’d come to him with the news of her pregnancy. But then, he hadn’t been interested in cleaning up his brother’s mess. So he’d turned her away.

After his father’s heart attack, he’d hired a private investigator to find her. When the old man had seemed so fragile and Christos had made promises he wasn’t exactly sure he could keep. Find the Theakis heir and bring him home.

He’d never forgotten Ava, despite the way things had ended between them. He’d come here to claim Theo as the Theakis heir, but watching the way the light played over her hair made him realize he wanted to claim the woman, too.

“I want to know the boy.”

“Oh, okay. When?” she asked.

She was nervous; he read that easily in her stance and the way she was stammering to answer his questions. He told himself to lighten up—except, he couldn’t. What he felt about her and the boy was too intense. She’d lied to him and he wanted to see her squirm a little now.

“Today, Ava. I think we can work this out on our own without involving my attorneys.”

“Of course,” she said. “I wasn’t saying you couldn’t see him. Just asking when you wanted to.”

“Does he have our family name?”


“Was that in the agreement with Stavros?”

She crossed her arms under her breasts and arched one eyebrow at him. The show of temper made him hotter than he’d have thought it could.

“Why do you care? You said you wanted nothing to do with my child.”

“But that has changed,” he said. “Theoisa Theakis and I need him.”

“As I just said, he sharesmylast name.”

“That will be the first thing I change. I’ll have my attorneys start the paperwork.”

“Uh, isn’t that moving fast? Why—”

“It isn’t fast. Not after we’ve missed so much of his young life.”

She flushed—with anger, he imagined—and nodded toward him. “I’m sure that Theo will be pleased to meet you. He knows your name.”

“Very good.”

She didn’t respond to the last but he caught another glimpse of her temper in her eyes before she turned away.

“I’ll have Karin call him out of class. He’s a little afraid of the principal’s office. Maybe you should wait in the gardens. I’ll bring him to you.”

Theo chattered as she walked him down the hall toward the gardens, asking her specific questions about Christos. But she really didn’t know what to say. Finally they stepped out into the Florida sun and he slipped his little hand in hers, quieting as he looked at the tall man standing with his back toward them.

She knelt down next to her son and hugged him close. “He’s very excited to meet you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, she is,” Christos said, coming over to them. “Theo, I’m Christos Theakis.”

Theo took Christos’s hand and shook it. “Hello, Father.”

Christos drew back and looked up at her sharply. She couldn’t read his look.

“The Greek word for father isbaba, Theo,” Ava said.

Christos drew Theo into his arms and Ava turned away. It had been easy to believe that she was doing the right thing for her son by keeping him from Christos. Christos had been very angry during their last encounter, when he’d accused her of sleeping with both Theakis brothers. And she’d been unable to defend herself against that anger.

He’d wanted her to take a DNA test to prove paternity, but she’d refused, wanting him to trust her. She knew that she’d lied to him about other things, and had acknowledged those lies, but on this matter, she had needed him to believe her. Because, before the situation with his brother had blown up, he’d told her they’d moved past her falsehoods. And she’d needed that to be true for the relationship to survive.

She’d seen the proof that he’d moved on with his life in the pages of the tabloids and society magazines. But here in this quiet garden as he hugged Theo, she wondered if she’d made a mistake.

She edged away from them. Tried to remind herself of all the reasons she was no longer in love with Christos. Why she’d never really been in love with him in the first place. But, watching him, those reasons seemed flimsy. And her heart, which had been dormant during the five years they’d been apart, started beating again.

She wassonot going there. Christos was the man who’d changed the entire course of her life, and she finally had it back on track. She wasn’t getting involved with him again. Except—she’d have to, if he was going to act as Theo’s father. She couldn’t keep Theo from him now that he was reaching out to his son. The Theakis family was a close one, something her own wasn’t, and she wanted that for Theo.

Karin stopped by to return Theo to class, leaving Ava alone with Christos. He stared after his son. Her throat tightened as she watched the cocktail of emotions rushing across his face. She’d always suspected there was more to Christos than the playboy image he presented to the world. She’d caught glimpses of the real man during the intense time they’d spent together. Enough to make her fall hard.

But this was only the second time she’d seen any overt evidence. The other time…well, that didn’t bear thinking about right now.

“You’ve done a good job with him.”

“Thanks. I…I’m not always sure what I’m doing. But he’s a good kid.”

“Yes, he is.” Pushing his hands into his pockets, he walked closer to her.

“Why did you tell him I was his father?” Christos asked.

“You still don’t believe me about that?”

He shook his head. “I gave you a chance to prove yourself to me, Ava. To prove that Theo is really my son, and you denied me.”

“Because I wanted your trust.”

“Once a liar.”

“That’s not fair, I apologized for those lies. I was young and thought you wouldn’t want a girl from my background.”

“Your very poor background,” he said. “What better way to make sure you never had to go back to that trailer park than to bear the son of a Theakis.”

She shook her head, trembling all the way to her soul from his words. “It wasn’t like that.”

“You can explain it to me another time. Right now you have two choices, Ava.”

She still liked the way her name sounded on his tongue. Which really ticked her off, because she wanted to slug him for being a jerk about the past. She’d made mistakes, yes, but what was it about this stubborn Greek that wouldn’t let him look beyond them? “What are they?”

“You can relinquish your rights to Theo and give him over to me to be raised as a Theakis.”

“Why would I do that?” He had to be crazy if he thought she was going to give up her son.

“It is his right to be raised in our family. And you have had him to yourself for the last four years.”

“You gave those years away,” she said, and the past flashed through her mind. She knew the exact moment when she’d become pregnant. Remembered with clarity the way Christos’s face had tightened with a mixture of lust and anger when she’d declined to stay in Greece and become his mistress.

He’d kissed her hard and soon anger had melted to lust and they’d made love in his study. The encounter hadn’t been a sweet seduction; they’d both been so hungry for each other, knowing it was the last time they’d be in each other’s arms.

She’d clung to his shoulders and he’d held her so tightly. He’d cradled her on his lap, and she’d realized that they’d forgotten to use protection. That he’d pulled out at the last moment.

He hadn’t said anything and neither had she. Then a few days later everything had fallen apart with Nikki’s accusations about her and Stavros. And Christos had sided with his sister-in-law.

“Maybe. But not anymore. I want Theo. I’ve taken over Theakis Shipping,” he said, turning away from her and looking out over the lushly landscaped gardens of the school. “I’m becoming the heir I never had to be and I must look to future generations.”

“Now you need an heir,” she said. She was saddened to think that that was the only reason he was here. Not because he’d finally wanted to acknowledge he had a son and had been desperate to see him.

Oh, God, she couldn’t let Christos hurt Theo. Wouldn’t let Theo come to love a man who had ice in his veins. A man who could make love to a woman and hold her so close, as if he’d never let her go, then calmly accuse her of infidelity.

“The Theakis family needs Theo,” he said.

This isn’t about you, she reminded herself. But it was.

“You mentioned two choices.”

“Yes, I did. If you are interested in remaining in your son’s life, then I’m willing to marry you.”

TwoThe house he’d rented overlooking the Atlantic Ocean was large and lush but empty. Even with the staff of five he’d hired, it still felt so empty. Christos leaned deeper into the leather office chair, snagging the phone as it rang.

“How’d it go today?” Tristan Sabina asked.

Tristan was one of Christos’s two best friends. The other was Guillermo de la Cruz. They’d formed an odd little triad of mischief makers and playboys for more than half their lives. They’d met at an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland and had bonded through their troublemaking antics.

The three of them had been tabloid fodder for longer than he could remember, moving through life as if the world was their oyster. They’d started a business together in their twenties, a string of nightclubs located in posh hotspots all over the globe. The exclusive clubs, called Seconds, were the place to see and be seen the world over, and every night the bouncers turned away more celebrities, wannabes and hangers-on than they let in.

And Tristan, Gui and Christos were the kings of the kingdom they’d built.

Christos settled the phone between his ear and his shoulder and knocked back a shot of tequila. “Who knows? I thought she was going to hit me when I told her I was willing to marry her.”

“You Greeks have no way with women,” Tristan said. “You should have pulled her into your arms and kissed her senseless, then told her you were marrying her.”

“It’s not about her,” Christos said, struggling not to get angry at his friend.

“It sounds as if it is,” Gui said calmly, always the voice of reason, as he joined the three-way conference call. “You’ve never talked about what happened.”

“Nor do I intend to.”

“How was the boy?” Tristan asked.

“The boy was…he seemed…”

“What, Christos?” Gui asked. The three-way call was a little cumbersome, but it was the best way to keep in touch now that they all had other legitimate business concerns.

“He has Stavros’s nose.”

“You have the same one. It’s the Theakis features. They bred true,” Tristan said.

“Did you ask her again if Stavros was the father?” Guillermo asked.

“No. She lied before. Why wouldn’t she again?”

Tristan cursed under his breath. “Do you want company in Florida?”

“No. I’m going to wrap up the legal arrangements for the boy and then fly back to Greece next week.”

“What about the woman?” Guillermo asked.

“She’s thinking it over.”

“What exactly is she thinking over?”

“If she’s going to marry me.” Christos didn’t want to think too much about Ava or his marriage offer. He could still remember the last time they’d discussed the subject, and hadn’t that been a kick in the pants.

“Marriage? Is that the only solution?” Tristan asked.

“It is for me. I…”

“You still want her and you think that will keep it under control?” Gui asked.

“I’m not exactly thinking.”

“True,” Tristan said. “I’m scheduled back in Paris in three weeks, on the thirtieth. I can be at your place on Mykonos on the twenty-third.”

An electronic beeping noise came through the line. “Me, too.”

“You don’t have to—”

“We know,” Gui said. “I want to meet her for myself.”

“Gui, she’s not like—”

“I’m not saying she is. I just want a chance to see what kind of woman is the mother of the Theakis heir.”

“So do I,” Tristan said. “You and Stavros are so different.”

“Wereso different…hell, I guess we still are,” Christos said.

Emptiness buzzed on the line. “Are you sure you don’t need us?”

“Yes,” he said, and tossed back another shot of tequila.

There was a rap on the library door. “I must go.” He hung up the phone. “Enter.”

“Sir, there is a Ms. Ava Monroe to see you.” Antonio Montoyo was his butler and traveled with Christos wherever he went. Though Antonio was only fifteen years older than Christos, their relationship was closer to father and son than the one he shared with Ari Theakis.

“Is she alone, Antonio?”

“Ah, no. She brought along the boy, Theo.”

And there was the rub. No matter what the truth was, the world was going to believe that Theo was his son. Nikki, his sister-in-law, had done too good a job of hiding all of Stavros’s affairs.

“Send them back.”

“Ah, sir?”

“Yes, Antonio?”

“You aren’t dressed for receiving.”

He arched one eyebrow. He’d just come in from swimming in the sea and was dressed in trunks and no shirt. Granted, it was winter in Florida, but the daytime temperature still wasn’t cold. And he’d be damned if he’d change for Ava. He couldn’t explain his feelings for her, hell, wouldn’t even try, but she held a lot of cards with that small boy of hers and he wasn’t going to give an inch otherwise.

“I’m fine. Better that she see me as I really am now.”

“And that is, sir?”

“A playboy masquerading as the head of a Greek shipping line, a man of the sea like my father and brother.”

“I’ve known you a long time, Christos, and you are nothing like either of those men.”

“Enough,” he said.

Antonio left the room with a small nod of his head. The butler’s disapproval was something he’d deal with later. He respected Antonio. Despite Antonio’s insistence on keeping up appearances, Christos knew he wouldn’t fail to drop him some advice.

The doors opened a few seconds later and Ava stepped into the room. She’d changed. Dammit. She now wore a pair of faded old jeans that clung to the slim length of her legs and a cashmere sweater that matched the blue of her eyes. Her hair hung loose around her shoulders.

Theo stood next to her dressed in a pair of baggy navy sweat pants and a matching fleece top. They both thanked Antonio as the older man left.

“Have a seat,” Christos said.

“Thank you for seeing us,” Ava said.

“I was expecting you,” he said. True, not this soon, but he’d figured she’d come to him with her answer.

“I know,” she said, quietly.

She glanced at her son and then back up at him and he saw a hint of protectiveness in her gaze along with that other emotion he could never identify.

She cleared her throat. “I was discussing your proposal with Theo and he has a few questions.”

He was surprised. But in a good way. Theo would one day run a multibillion dollar corporation. Learning to weigh options and make decisions was an important step to learn.

“What are your questions, Theo?”

“I want to know about Greece,Baba.”

Baba. He hated hearing that from the little boy. He was Theo’s uncle, not his father. He needed to talk to Ava and deal with this. But not in front of Theo. “Perfectly understandable. Come over here and I’ll show you some pictures of our home.”

The boy hesitated and Ava bent over to pick him up. “Ava, put him down.”

She set him on his feet.

“Are you afraid of me?” he asked Theo.

The boy shrugged, his eyes the dark obsidian that Christos saw every morning in the mirror. He didn’t want the boy to fear him. But, to be honest, he had no idea what to do.

He glanced at Ava and she straightened. “Come on, Theo. I’m curious about how the Theakis household has changed since I was last there.”

They crossed the room together. And though he knew he held all the cards in this situation, he felt like an outsider.

“Does this mean that you’ve decided to accept my offer?” Christos asked.

“We’ve been talking it over. I want to make sure that Theo will be happy.” Ava tried to keep her voice cordial. She’d spent the entire afternoon on the treadmill in her bedroom, running off the anger that had sprouted deep inside when he’d said he waswillingto marry her.

She’d wanted to tell him to take a flying leap into the ocean and swim back to Greece, but Theo was enthralled by Christos. He’d spent all afternoon asking her questions about him. And then finally asked if he was going to have a father. And Ava’s heart had broken. She did the best she could for her son, but she couldn’t be a father.

Christos nodded at her in a way that revealed nothing of what he felt. Ava didn’t know what she wanted from this meeting with Christos, but him sitting, aloof, behind that large walnut desk wasn’t it.

He thought he held all the cards, she knew that. She could tell from the way he was staying seated in his position of power. She’d come to him. The problem was she was drawn to that arrogance. To the utter confidence that he exuded.

His chest was bare and she struggled to keep her gaze from it. From that gold medallion nestled in his chest hair. He’d always been in good shape and he certainly hadn’t let himself go in the five years since she’d seen him.

Too bad, because it would be so much easier to resist him if he’d developed a beer gut like many of her other male friends. Some sign of emotion from Christos would also make things easier on her but he was still the iceman when it came to feelings. The only time he’d ever revealed any fire had been when they’d made love. And, of course, when she’d seen the hard side of his temper.

Theo’s hand trembled a little in hers. He wasn’t afraid of Christos exactly, but his exposure to men had been limited. At the school most of the staff were women. Her best friend Laurette was engaged, but her fiancé, Paul, traveled a lot, so even he wasn’t around much. Though he did make a fuss over Theo when he came to her house.

“The Theakis family compound is on an island in the Aegean,” Ava said. They didn’t just live on the island, they practically owned it. They had properties all over Europe and the world, but Mykonos was their base of operations.

Christos reached out and lifted Theo onto his lap. Her son looked so small against the thick muscles of Christos’s chest and arms. He reached around Theo to hit a button on his computer and images started flashing up on the screen.

He leaned in low and for a moment brushed his nose over her son’s head, inhaling deeply. Then Christos looked up at her and she saw a yearning in his eyes. But what did it mean? Did he want Theo, or wish that Theo was his son?

She regretted not taking the paternity test years ago, but a part of her still stood by her conviction. The man she’d made love to should have known she’d never lie about something as important as intimacy. The other lies she’d told…they were little ones.

She blinked back a few tears. She was looking for some sign that he wanted Theo for more than continuing his line.

Images from a past that she’d locked away flashed on the computer screen. Mykonos had changed little in five years. Why should it? The island dated back to the very beginning of recorded time and the few short years since she’d been there…

She realized she wasn’t ready to take a trip down memory lane, not even to ease her son about his upcoming move to the Greek island. And she knew that Christos hadn’t been kidding about taking Theo.

“Will you excuse me for a minute?” she said.

Both males looked up. “Where are you going?”

“I need to use the bathroom.”

Christos nodded. “It’s down the hall to the left.”

She left the room as quickly as possible and stopped in the hallway. She heard the deep rumble of Christos’s voice as he spoke to Theo, telling him about his heritage.

She realized that this situation was out of her control and she had absolutely no idea how to get it back. She’d dreamed of a time when Christos would return and claim Theo. Claimher.Yeah, that was the rub, wasn’t it?

That she’d been waiting five years for him to realize he’d been wrong when he’d accused her of infidelity. And now he was here, offering her something she’d always wanted. The one thing she’d dreamed of when they’d first begun their affair. Yet she knew that saying yes to Christos’s proposal wasn’t going to make everything into that mythical happy ever after.

“Are you okay?”

She glanced up at Antonio. She wondered if he remembered her, or if the stream of women through Christos’s life had made him forget.

“I’m fine, Antonio. I just needed a minute to myself.”

“Of course. Why don’t you go out to the gardens? I’ll let Mr. Theakis know where you are.”

“Thank you,” she said, and followed Antonio’s directions. She stepped out into the cool February evening. The smell of the ocean and the lush shrubbery surrounded her.

She followed a path to the center of the garden and found a bench that overlooked a small fountain of a triton—half man, half fish with a large, dragon-like tail. It was lit from the base and she watched the water spill out.


“Over here,” she called.

Christos came around the corner. He’d put on a fleece pullover and a pair of deck shoes. His hair was thick and black, rumpled as if he’d run his fingers through it.

“Where’s Theo?”

“I sent him to the kitchen for something sweet.”

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