With this ring…
After a whirlwind affair, Greek billionaire Jax Antanakos left Lucy Dixon heartbroken and – although he didn’t know it – pregnant! Lucy is determined to make a new life with her tiny daughter, yet when Jax sweeps back into her world, she cannot mask her instant response to his seductive charisma!…I thee buy! For Jax, a ready-made heir is well worth bidding for – especially when it guarantees making Lucy’s luscious curves his. He’s determined to stake his claim on her body – and their baby – by reminding her of their insatiable chemistry in the wedding bed!
IN THE PIT, Jax Antonakos climbed out of the low-slung car, adrenalin still pumping fiercely from the excitement of the race. Only a show race for charity, though, he reminded himself wryly, bracing himself as he was engulfed by a large, noisy crowd of people.
He yanked off his helmet, revealing tousled black hair and eyes as strikingly green as emeralds, and the usual collective female gasp of appreciation sounded. While he stripped off his track regalia, photographers flashed cameras, journalists demanded quotes and shot questions at him and beautiful women tried to sidle closer to him, but then all of that was the norm in Jax’s goldfish bowl of a world.
Jax, however, ignored all of them to stride over and congratulate the winner of the race and the reigning world champion.
‘You gave me a good run for a man who hasn’t been behind a wheel in years!’ Dirk conceded cheerfully. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be pushing numbers behind a desk, maybe you should still be racing.’
‘No, Jax is a business genius,’ a female voice crowed from Jax’s other side, and before he could react the bubbly brunette wrapped her arms round him with enthusiasm. ‘Thank you so much for stepping in last minute to do this when Stefan had to let me down. You know how grateful I am.’
‘Kat,’ Jax acknowledged, frowning as the photographers predictably went for a shot of them as a couple. But he and Kat Valtinos weren’t a couple, no matter how much the media and their families wanted them to be, both of them being conveniently young, single and very rich.
Jax stepped back from Kat with a guarded smile. He liked Kat, he had always liked her but his father was in for a disappointment if he was still hoping for a dynastic marriage that would unite their parents’ massive business empires. Unfortunately the photos would only encourage him in that delusion.
‘Let’s get you a drink,’ Kat urged, closing a possessive arm round his spine. ‘I really appreciate you flying out here and doing this for me today at such short notice—’
‘It was for a good cause,’ Jax pointed out. ‘And you’re a friend—’
‘A friend who could be so much more,’ Kat whispered with laden intent in his ear.
‘I enjoyed the race,’ Jax admitted, choosing to be tactful and sidestep her leading comment. After all, there was no kind way of telling her why she was wasting her time chasing him and, with his reputation for womanising, it would be sheer hypocrisy for him to do so. Even now he retained fond memories of Kat’s raunchy wildness when they were teenagers and he had been on the outskirts of the same social set but he still wasn’t willing to marry a woman who had slept with every one of his friends. If that was a double standard, so be it, he acknowledged grimly.
In any case, he didn’t want a wife, any kind of wife. Nor was he prepared to deliver the grandchildren his father, Heracles Antonakos, was so eager to have. Parenting was a minefield: Jax knew that better than anyone because he had stumbled through his own very unhappy childhood, filled as it had been with constant change and even more constant emotional drama.
His parents had gone through a bitter divorce when he was only a toddler and for the following twenty-five years his father had pretty much ignored his younger son’s existence. Heracles’s elder son, Argo, had been born from his first marriage. Widowed, Heracles had plunged into his second marriage far too quickly and he had never forgiven his second wife, Jax’s mother, for her subsequent infidelity. Jax had paid the price for his mother’s extra-marital affair in more ways than one. He had had no safe harbour from which to escape the fallout of his mother’s broken relationships, nor any paternal support. He had struggled alone through Mariana’s divorces, suicide attempts and regular stays in rehabilitation facilities.
And one of his earliest memories was of hiding in terror in a cupboard from one of his mother’s druggie meltdowns. He must have been about three years old, he mused, old enough and wise enough to know that he would be kicked and punched if she found him before the rage wore off. His mother, a gorgeous, much-adored film star on the public stage and a drug-addled monster behind closed doors. That was the woman whose tender mercies his father had left him to rely on as a defenceless child.
And then, when he was twenty-six years old, everything had suddenly and quite miraculously changed. His half-brother, Argo, had died in a bungled mugging in a city street and without the smallest warning Heracles Antonakos had moved on surprisingly fast from his grief and had begun to take a passionate interest in the younger son he had snubbed for years. Of course, Jax’s mother had been gone by then, Jax reminded himself ruefully, but he still could not adequately explain or understand the very abruptness of his father’s change in attitude. Even so, the paternal recognition and support he had craved from his earliest years had unexpectedly and finally become his. Naturally he still wondered if his father’s change of heart would last and life being what it was, of course, he had discovered a whole new set of challenges because life as the Antonakos heir was not all peaches and cream.
As the only son of one of the richest men in the world Jax had more money than he knew what to do with. Everywhere he went in Europe he was photographed and treated like a celebrity. Bands of adoring, manipulative and rapacious women tracked and hunted him much as if he were big game. But in the business field, he reminded himself with determined positivity, he had countless stimulating projects to command his interest and engage his brilliant mind.
One of Jax’s bodyguards brought a phone to him, his expression dour and apologetic. Jax compressed his lips and accepted the predictable call from his father. Heracles ranted and raved in a rage about the risk Jax had taken by going on the race track and driving at breakneck speeds. Jax said nothing because over the past two years he had learned that arguing or trying to soothe only extended such frenzied sermons. Since Argo’s shocking death, Heracles had developed a morbid and excessive fear of Jax participating in any activity that could possibly harm him and if he could have got away with wrapping his only surviving son in cotton wool and packing him away safely in a box he would have done so. While Jax valued his father’s new apparent attachment to him even if he didn’t quite trust it, he loathed the restrictive and interfering trappings of expectation that came with it.
Only for the sake of peace had Jax accepted the five heavily armed bodyguards he didn’t need and who accompanied him everywhere he went. But he remained every bit as stubborn and fiercely independent as he had always been and when he felt the need to relieve stress he still went deep-sea diving, mountain climbing and flying. He still slept with unsuitable women as well…the sort of women even his father couldn’t expect him to marry.
And why not? He loved being single and free as the air because he hated anyone trying to tell him what to do. On the only occasions he had strayed from that practical stance he had ended up in disastrous relationships, so now he didn’t ever do relationships, he only did sex and uncomplicated sex at that. Once he had run off with another man’s fiancée and barely lived to tell the tale, he recalled darkly.