Read The greek tycoon's secret heir Online

Authors: Katherine Garbera

The greek tycoon's secret heir (page 2)

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Theo had a sweet tooth like nobody’s business. Well, to be honest, that was one of the things they shared, so she limited any kind of junk food in their house. “Why?”

“We need to talk.”

Christos sat down on the bench next to her. His body heat reached her in waves and she fought the urge to scoot closer to him.

“What have you decided?”

She shrugged, not ready to tell him yet. Not really sure if she was going to say yes to him and change her life for this man. At one time she’d been ready, but she wasn’t sure she could risk her heart again.

Theo was smart and funny and concerned about what moving would do to his mother. In a candid moment he’d revealed that Ava’s family had cut her off completely when she’d returned from Greece pregnant. Of course, the little boy hadn’t put it in those exact terms, but Christos could read between the lines of Theo’s simple words…it’s just Mommy and me.

He hadn’t wanted to personalize his relationship with Ava or her son too much yet, but it was too late for that. The little boy was slowly, shyly winding his way into Christos’s cold heart, and Ava…hell she’d always been his Achilles’ heel, hadn’t she? He wanted her. Why the hell hadn’t that changed?

Here in the moonlight she looked too fragile, too vulnerable to have done all the things he knew she had. And despite the fact that she’d played him for a fool, he had never wanted her to lose her family and their support.

What a damned mess this was.

“I have questions,” she said, turning to face him.

Her eyes were big and wide, forthright and honest. He knew the honesty was mostly a mirage. But in this moment, with the soft trickle of the water in the fountain, surrounded by the lush scents of hibiscus and the fragrance of her perfume, it didn’t feel like a mirage.

It felt too damn real. He hated that this woman made him vulnerable. With anyone else he would have swooped in, taken the boy and left. But not with Ava.

“About?” he asked her.

“When are you planning to leave?” she asked.

“Next week. I’m waiting for the paperwork—and your decision, of course. The lawyers think they can have the papers to officially make Theo the Theakis heir done on my timetable.”

“I don’t think I can leave next week. I can’t leave the school in a bind.”

“Does that mean you’re coming with me?” he asked. The breeze stirred her hair and a strand blew across her face. She tucked it back behind her ear only to have it blow forward again.

He reached out and captured it, wrapping the strand around his finger. It was fine and soft like the sea mist when he was on his speed boat racing across the Aegean.

“Yes. I…I don’t want Theo raised the way you were, Christos.”

He liked the sound of his name on her lips. Always had. He dropped his hand from her hair and leaned forward, facing the fountain. The pounding of his heart and the racing of his blood through his veins made a mockery of his lauded self-control. How the hell could he still be so affected by her?

He stood up to give himself the position of power. She was just a girl, he thought, looking down at her. And he’d slept with many more sophisticated than she was. Why then was she the one he longed to hold again?

“How do you mean?” he asked. He’d had a great childhood, once he’d adjusted to living away from home. And ithadbeen an adjustment, coming on the heels of his mother’s death. But Tristan and Gui had been there from the beginning and he’d found a home away from home in their friendships.

“In boarding schools, away from home all the time. I know that’s what the Theakis family does with their children.”

Yes, she was intimately acquainted with how Stavros had raised his daughters, having been the Theakis nanny that summer long ago. He felt the quick burn of anger in his gut. “I won’t discuss my brother with you.”

“I wasn’t talking about Stavros, but his daughters.”

Remembered little-girl giggles made him turn away from her as tears burned his eyes. Little Vennie had always hugged him so tightly whenever she’d seen him. And Althea, ah, her kisses had been so sweet. God, he missed those two. Despite the feud with Stavros, he’d still seen his nieces once a month and they’d been close.

“I will of course consider your opinion in the matters of Theo’s schooling, but the ultimate decision will be mine.”

“Don’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“Be that arrogant Greek male.”

“That’s who I am. Get used to it.”

She shook her head. “I can make it more difficult for you to leave.”

“You are welcome to try. I’m sure that yourpro bonolawyers will have some ideas as to how to help you, but they’ll be playing out of their league. I’ve hired the best family law attorneys available here in the States. And I do have that agreement you signed for Stavros.”

“What makes you think I can’t afford a lawyer?” she asked.

“You’re a teacher, living off your weekly paycheck,” he said, stating the simple facts he’d read in the report his detectives had made.

“Stavros sent me some money when Theo was born,” she said. “That was part of the agreement I signed.”

“Are you going to use my brother’s money to fight me on this issue?”

It made him feel like the worst sort of bully when she shrank back. Dammit, what was it about Ava that made him act like…an arrogant Greek male. He’d spent a good portion of his life trying to distance himself from that part, but she brought out his primal instincts.

“Maybe I will. I think there are a lot of benefits to Theo and I moving to Greece with you, but if you act like a jerk, I’m going to make it difficult for you.”

“Ajerk?”

“Yes, a jerk. You do know what that word means, don’t you?”

“Yes, Ava, I’m familiar with it. I’m not sure why you are calling me one.”

“You just asked if I’d use your brother’s money to fight you. It’s my money now, Christos. Mine and Theo’s. I accepted it for his sake.”

“Touché. I’ll stop saying it’s Stavros’s. What else makes me a jerk?”

“Acting as if Theo is a commodity…calling him ‘the Theakis heir.’ He’s a boy. I love my son. I don’t want him to be banished to a sleep-away school,” she said. There was a wealth of love in the way she spoke of Theo.

“Going to school will enable him to form bonds with future leaders. It’s far more than just getting kids out of their parents’ hair.”

“He can do that in other ways. I want—”

“This isn’t about your wants, Ava.” She glared at him and he held back a smile. She tried to hide all of the fiery passion and temper underneath such a serene surface. But it was always there, waiting to break through.

“I’m afraid it is, Christos. This isn’t going to be one of your dictates. I don’t work for you or any of the Theakis family anymore. And when it comes to Theo, I’m the final authority.”

His gut instinct was to take the boy to the private airport where his jet was waiting and just leave. Once he was back on Mykonos with Theo, she’d have a difficult time seeing the boy again. He’d be charged with kidnapping the boy, but he paid his lawyers a lot of money and they’d figure a way to resolve that.

“You are not thefinal authoritywhen it comes to Theo,” he said.

“Yes, I am. There’s no father listed on the birth certificate.”

“Yes, but I have proof that Theo is a Theakis.” He hated that piece of paper that he’d found in Stavros’s private office four days after his brother’s death. The legal document promised Ava an annuity in return for not making a claim of paternity against Stavros. The very money she’d just mentioned. But the paper did acknowledge that the baby was a Theakis.

“You may have that paper I signed, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to just lie down for this,” she said.

“I don’t need threats. Just understand that Theo and I are leaving for Mykonos in less than ten days.”

“I have one more question,” she said.

He looked at her in the moonlight and tried to be objective. She wasn’tthatattractive. She was pretty, yes, but he couldn’t explain the bone-deep desire he had for her. It went beyond looks. “Yes?”

“Why are you offering marriage?”

ThreeIt was tempting to just let Christos make all of the decisions and say he was forcing her into marriage, but she had to be strong for Theo. She wanted to be the kind of parent that hers never had been and that meant standing up for herself now.

“Marriage will legitimize Theo’s birth,” he said, his voice low and husky in the darkening light.

Whenever he spoke of Theo she felt as though she was missing something. “I didn’t think there was still a stigma to that.”

“Maybe here in America there isn’t, but in my father’s eyes there is. And with his legitimate heirs gone…”

Her heart broke at the thought of the deaths of Vennie and Althea. And the fact that Theo would never know his cousins. But she also felt angry that Theo was an afterthought. “If that’s all Theo is to you then I’m afraid we’re done here.”

“He’s not only an heir.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “He’s not?”

“What do you want from me?”

“I want to know what you really feel toward Theo.”

“I like him. I see Stavros in him and I miss my brother.”

She dropped her arms and felt her heart melt a little. She heard the truth in his words. “Okay, so all of that’s why you want Theo. But why are you willing to marry me? I thought you could only marry a Greek woman.”

A hard laugh escaped him. “Times have changed.”

She walked toward him on the cobblestones stopping when only a breath separated them. She wanted…wanted to hear him say that he was offering marriage because he’d finally realized she was the one woman he couldn’t live without. Looking into his obsidian eyes and seeing how guarded he was, she knew that was a fantasy.

“I’m not going to let you keep these barriers between us,” she said, knowing she couldn’t be the kind of wife that Nikki had been. Nikki had let Stavros push her to the background of his life, a place where Nikki was forced to watch her husband carouse with other women. Ava refused to blend quietly into the background as she might have five years ago when she hadn’t been as sure of herself. Before she’d had Theo she might have compromised herself, but not now.

He took a deep breath, the warm exhalation brushing along her cheek. His hands fell on her hips and he drew her to him. “Then by all means come closer, my dear.”

She brought her hands up, putting them on his chest to keep some space there. Why had she thought she could take control of the situation and Christos?

“This isn’t what I meant,” she said, but there was a rightness to his hands on her. She wanted to lean forward and put her head on his chest. To feel his arms around her once again. Oh, man, this hadbad ideawritten all over it, but she didn’t want to move away.

“This was always right between us,” he said, the words uttered under his breath.

Yes, she thought. Yes, it was. She tipped her head back to meet his gaze. His lips were firm and full and so close to hers. She remembered the way he’d kissed her, and she sucked her lower lip between her teeth, biting down on it before she did something really stupid like lean forward and touch her lips to his.

Someone cleared his throat and Christos held her firmly against him when she would have jerked away.

“Yes, Antonio?”

“Master Theo is wheezing,” Antonio said.

“He has asthma,” Ava said, pulling away from Christos and running back toward the house. She had left her purse in the study and she hurried to find it. She grabbed her bag and found Antonio and Christos in the hallway. “Where is he?”

“Kitchen.”

She ran down the hall in the direction that Antonio had pointed. She skidded to a halt, seeing her little boy sitting on the chair, his little chest going in and out as he struggled to breathe.

“Hey, baby,” she said, sinking to her knees next to his chair.

“I’m fine,” he said, the words breathy and not at all in his normal tone.

“No, you’re not.”

He shook his head. “Mama, I don’t want to use the inhaler.”

She didn’t argue with him. She struggled with Theo and his asthma all the time. He hated the weakness and refused to acknowledge when he needed the medicine. “I know, baby.”

She pulled out the inhaler and the long chamber that attached to it. She shook the inhaler. She was dimly aware of Christos standing quietly in the doorway, but she paid him no mind.

Theo glanced over his shoulder at Christos and then leaned into her shoulder. “I don’t wantBabato see.”

“It’s okay,” she said.

Theo shook his head.

She turned to ask Christos to leave but he’d come further into the room, leaning back against the table. “Mind your mother, Theo, we’ll talk about this after you’ve had your treatment.”

She lifted the inhaler toward Theo and he took it into his mouth. She dispensed the medicine, counting quietly and watching him the entire time.

Christos put a hand on Theo’s shoulder and when they were done, she looked up at him and saw a shadow of the same worry she felt for her son. It was a moment that brought them closer together after the nonsense on the patio.

Well, it hadn’t been nonsense, she thought, but when faced with something like their sick child, it seemed silly. She wanted to marry him. It was all she’d ever wanted, so even though she wanted to know what had changed his mind about being her husband, she wasn’t going to ask any more questions.

Theo needed the stability that having two parents would bring him. She saw the seeds of caring in Christos’s eyes when he looked at Theo and she wanted that directed at her again.

She wanted to find a path back to the passionate couple they’d been that long-ago summer, and, without the outside influences of Stavros and Nikki Theakis, they might just have a chance.

“Tell me what’s up,paidi mou?” Christos said.

Theo shrugged in that little-boy way of his. Ava put her arm around her son, struggling not to pull him tight against her chest because his breathing was easier now.

“I want you to like me,” Theo said.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because I’m not perfect,” Theo said.

“Yes, you are,” Ava said.

“Your mother is right. To us you are perfect as you are. Don’t try to hide something that’s a part of you, especially if it can hurt you.”

Theo nodded and Christos lifted the boy into his arms. Ava stood next to them, feeling the bond starting to form between father and son. She felt a rekindling of the love she’d always felt for Christos, only this time it was a little deeper than before.

Christos insisted on driving Ava and Theo back to their house, Antonio following with Ava’s car. Antonio waited with Christos’s vehicle, and Christos joined Ava as she settled the boy into bed. Their house was small, but very comfortable and welcoming. The living room was dominated by bookcases along one wall and a large chair that had a colorful blanket draped over the back of it and a large overstuffed pillow on it.

The walls were covered in pictures of Theo from birth until, if he wasn’t mistaken, a few weeks ago. There were Christmases chronicled with visits to Santa.

He walked slowly down the hall looking at the pictures of the boy’s life. He felt cheated by his own hand. Theo was his nephew; he should have stayed involved with him. He should have been there at the boy’s christening, which was documented by photos and a certificate on the wall.

Of course, she’d had the boy baptized in the Roman Catholic Church instead of Greek Orthodox. His father would have a fit.

“Thanks for seeing us home,” Ava said as she came into the hallway and partially closed the door to Theo’s room.

“You’re welcome. How bad is the asthma?”

“They don’t know. He might outgrow it.”

“I have it.”

“What?”

“I know, shocking, isn’t it? It runs in the family. My mother’s side.” His condition wasn’t something he advertised and thanks to medication he kept it under control, but when he’d been a child it hadn’t made his life easier. Hard to believe it now, but he’d been a pudgy, wheezing kid.

“Yes,” she said. “I had no idea. You seem so fit.”

“Fit?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Strangely enough, I do. Swimming is good for the lungs. I’ll show him some of the things I do to control it.”

She nibbled on her lower lip, which brought to focus another reason he’d come back to her place. He wanted her. The arousal that had burned through him earlier in his gardens was back.

“Theo’s afraid of water.”

“What? The Theakis are of the sea.”

She shrugged. Somehow she doubted that was going to make Theo realize that he should love water. “I don’t know. I’ve tried to get him into the pool here, and in the ocean, and he won’t do it.”

“I’ll take care of that,” Christos said.

As they walked down her hall of memories, he felt more the outsider than he had before. But that was nothing new. His entire life he’d been out of step with the rest of the world. Well, the world that his father had created.

“Do you have anything to drink?” he asked.

“Sure, come on in the kitchen,” she said, leading the way into the bright room. There was a booster seat on one ladderback chair. He glanced around and saw the life she’d created for herself and Theo.

This was what he’d always imagined her life to be. This cozy, homey little place. And he knew he didn’t fit in with it. He didn’t want to. He had long ago made his peace with the life he had.

Right. Even with Stavros gone and him stepping up at Theakis Shipping, he still felt like an outsider. Like the spare heir that he’d always been to his father.

He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the expectations of everyone weighing on him.

“I’ve got a bottle of pinot grigio that might be a little old, or soda, or light beer.”

He shook his head. “Beer. Thank you.”

She got him a drink and then sat down next to him with a can of diet soda in front of her. “We have a lot of details to iron out. I’ll let them know at work that I’m leaving. I really don’t think they’ll be able to find a replacement by next week. Could you delay your departure until the following week?”

He could, but he didn’t want to. He needed to get out of this place and back to his world. Back to the place where he was in control. But Ava had asked him for little else and he’d seen tonight how necessary she was to integrating Theo into his life. “Yes, I can do that. Tomorrow we’ll make arrangements for you and Theo to move into my house.”

“Can’t we stay here?”

“I think Theo will be more comfortable with you, but if you decide to stay here that’s fine.”

She stood up and paced around the kitchen. “You can’t be a dictator about this. Theo and I can move into your place over the weekend. The school week is just too hard.”

He pushed to his feet, coming over to cage her body between his and the counter. “I’m not a dictator, Ava.”

“You act like one. I’m not ready to sign over all decision-making rights to you.”

“I’m not asking that.”

She smelled so damned good, he thought. He couldn’t resist lowering his head and inhaling. Wrapping himself in the sweet scent that was Ava.

She shook her head. “You are too used to getting your way.”

“Not true,” he said. He did like to get his way, but his life had changed and now he was living up to others’ expectations. It was true that with Ava he liked to feel in control. It made the entire situation more palatable.

“Liar.”

“That’s not very nice, Ava.”

“You don’t think I’m nice,” she said softly.

He wasn’t getting into that. “You feel nice,moro mou.”

He lowered his head and pressed his mouth against hers. Her lips parted and he tasted the saccharine sweetness of the cola she’d drunk. He brushed his tongue over the seam between her lips, keeping the contact light to prove to himself that he was still in control. But he wasn’t.

In his mind, he lifted her up on the countertop and pushed her legs apart so he could stand between them. In his mind, he slipped his hand under her sweater and palmed the soft weight of her breasts. In his mind, he was a man who didn’t care about the past and was free to give in to the passion that she called from him as effortlessly as the sirens lured sailors.

Ava wasn’t sure this was the best idea, but being in Christos’s arms was the one thing she couldn’t resist. The last few years had been hard as she’d struggled to find her place in the world with Theo. But she was happy with who she was and didn’t know whether taking this leap—going to Greece with the one man who’d broken her heart—was the right thing to do.

His warm breath brushed her cheek, helping her believe this was right. Exactly what she needed. And then his mouth moved over hers and she stopped thinking. His lips parted and his tongue thrust past the barrier of her teeth, tasting her with long languid strokes.

She slid her hands up over his shoulders, clinging to him as his mouth moved over hers. She remembered this of Greece and Christos: the warmth of his skin, the possessiveness of his hands on her body.

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