Her indecent proposal!
Having pulled himself up from the streets of Athens, Sergios Demonides thought he had seen it all. Then Beatriz Blake walked into his office and asked him for a marriage of convenience! Independent, proud and unadorned, Beatriz is a far cry from the usual glamorous women who grace his bed. But Sergios doesn’t need another trophy – he needs a mother for his late cousin’s children. The overlooked Blake heiress and the ruthless billionaire strike a deal. But she doesn’t read the small print – that sees them sharing a bed!
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‘WHAT do I want to do about the Royale hotel group?’ The speaker, a very tall and well-built Greek male with blue-black hair, raised an ebony brow and gave a sardonic laugh. ‘Let’s allow Blake to sweat for the moment…’
‘Yes, sir.’ Thomas Morrow, the British executive who had asked the question at the behest of his colleagues, was conscious of the nervous perspiration on his brow. One-on-one encounters with his powerhouse employer, one of the richest men in the world, were rare and he was keen not to say anything that might be deemed stupid or naive.
Everybody knew that Sergios Demonides did not suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately, priding himself on being a maverick, the Greek billionaire did not feel the need to explain the objectives behind his business decisions either, which could make life challenging for his executive team. Not so long ago the acquisition of the Royale hotel group at any price had seemed to be the goal and there was even a strong rumour that Sergios might be planning to marry the exquisite Zara Blake, the daughter of the man who owned the hotel chain. But after Zara had been pictured in the media in the arms of an Italian banker that rumour had died and Sergios’s curious staff had not noticed their boss exhibiting the smallest sign of annoyance over the development.
‘I took the original offer to Blake off the table. The price will come down now,’ Sergios pointed out lazily, brilliant black eyes glittering at that prospect for more than anything else in life he liked to drive a hard bargain.
Purchasing the Royale group at an inflated price would have gone very much against the grain with him, but a couple of months ago Sergios had been prepared to do it and jump through virtually any hoop just to make that deal. Why? His beloved grandfather, Nectarios, who had started his legendary business empire at the helm of the very first Royale hotel in London, had been seriously ill at the time. But, mercifully, Nectarios was a tough old buzzard, Sergios thought fondly, and pioneering heart surgery in the USA had powered his recovery. Sergios now thought that the hotel chain would make a timely little surprise for his grandfather’s eightieth birthday, but he no longer had any intention of paying over the odds for the gift.
As for the wife he had almost acquired as part of the deal, Sergios was relieved that fate had prevented him from making that mistake. Zara Blake, after all, had shown herself up as a beautiful little tart with neither honour nor decency. On the other hand her maternal instincts would have come in very useful where his children were concerned, he conceded grudgingly. Had it not been for the fact that his cousin’s premature death had left Sergios responsible for his three young children, Sergios would not even have considered taking a second wife.
His handsome face hardened. One catastrophe in that department had been quite sufficient for Sergios. For the sake of those children, however, he had been prepared to bite the bullet and remarry. It would have been a marriage of convenience though, a public sham to gain a mother for the children and assuage his conscience. He knew nothing about kids and had never wanted any of his own but he knew his cousin’s children were unhappy and that piqued his pride and his sense of honour.
‘So, we’re waiting for Blake to make the next move,’ Thomas guessed, breaking the silence.
‘And it won’t be long. He’s over-extended and under-funded with very few options left,’ Sergios commented with growling satisfaction.
‘You’re a primary school teacher and good with young kids,’ Monty Blake pointed out, seemingly impervious to his eldest daughter’s expression of frank astonishment as she stood in his wood-panelled office. ‘You’d make the perfect wife for Demonides—’
‘No, stop right there!’ Bee lifted a hand to physically emphasise that demand, her green eyes bright with disbelief as she used her other hand to push the heavy fall of chestnut-brown hair off her damp brow. Now she knew that her surprise and disquiet that her father should have asked her to come and see him were not unfounded. ‘This is me, not Zara, you’re talking to and I have no desire to marry an oversexed billionaire who needs some little woman at home to look after his kids—’
‘Those kids are not his,’ the older man broke in to remind her, as though that should make a difference to her. ‘His cousin’s death made him their guardian. By all accounts he didn’t either want or welcome the responsibility—’
At that information, Bee’s delicately rounded face only tightened with increased annoyance. She had plenty of experience with men who could not be bothered with children, not least with the man standing in front of her making sexist pronouncements. He might have persuaded her naive younger sister, Zara, to consider a marriage of convenience with the Greek shipping magnate, but Bee was far less impressionable and considerably more suspicious.
She had never sought her father’s approval, which was just as well because as she was a mere daughter it had never been on offer to her. She was not afraid to admit that she didn’t like or respect the older man, who had taken no interest in her as she grew up. He had also badly damaged her self-esteem at sixteen when he advised her that she needed to go on a diet and dye her hair a lighter colour. Monty Blake’s image of female perfection was unashamedly blonde and skinny, while Bee was brunette and resolutely curvy. She focused on the desk photograph of her stepmother, Ingrid, a glamorous former Swedish model, blonde and thin as a rail.
‘I’m sorry, I’m not interested, Dad,’ Bee told him squarely, belatedly noticing that he wore an undeniable look of tiredness and strain. Perhaps he had come up with that outrageous suggestion that she marry Sergios Demonides because he was stressed out with business worries, she reasoned uncertainly.
‘Well, you’d better get interested,’ Monty Blake retorted sharply. ‘Your mother and you lead a nice life. If the Royale hotel group crashes so that Demonides can pick it up for a song, the fallout won’t only affect me and your stepmother but all my dependants…’
Bee tensed at that doom-laden forecast. ‘What are you saying?’