“Don’t be silly, Leo. Strangers don’t get married.”
Leo Zikos should be celebrating securing a perfectly convenient fiancée, but it’s left him cold. Instead it’s stranger Grace Donovan’s impeccable beauty that fires his blood. So he decides to pursue one last night of freedom… But that night and the two little blue lines on the pregnancy test that follow blow Leo’s plans apart. Now he must break with his fiancée and marry Grace. She might resist marrying a man she barely knows, but Leo will claim his legacy and has all the riches and influence he needs to ensure his demands are met!
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‘OH, YES, I should mention that last week I ran into your future father-in-law, Rodas,’ Anatole Zikos said towards the end of the congratulatory phone call he had made to his son. ‘He seemed a little twitchy about when you might…finally…be setting a date for the wedding. It has been three years, Leo. When are you planning to marry Marina?’
‘She’s meeting me for lunch today,’ Leo divulged with some amusement, unperturbed by the hint of censure in his father’s deep voice. ‘Neither of us has any desire to sprint to the altar.’
‘After three years, believe me, nobody will accuse you of sprinting,’ Anatole said drily. ‘Are you sure you want to marry the girl?’
Leo Zikos frowned, level black brows lifting in surprise. ‘Of course I do—’
‘I mean, it’s not as if you need Kouros Electronics these days.’
Leo stiffened. ‘It’s not a matter of need. It’s a matter of common sense. Marina will make me the perfect wife.’
‘There is no such thing as a perfect wife, Leo.’
Thinking of his late and much-lamented mother, Leo clamped his wide sensual mouth firmly closed lest he say something he would regret, something that would shatter the closer relationship he had since attained with the older man. A wise man did not continually look back to a better forgotten past, he reminded himself grimly, and Leo’s childhood in a deeply troubled and unhappy family home definitely fell into that category.
At the other end of the silent line, Anatole made a soft sound of frustration. ‘I want you to be happy in your marriage,’ he admitted heavily.
‘I will be,’ Leo told his father with supreme assurance and he came off the phone smiling.
Life was good, in fact life was very good, Leo acknowledged with the slow-burning smile on his lean, darkly handsome face that many women found irresistible. He had just that morning closed a deal that had enriched him by millions, hence his father’s phone call. His father was quite correct in assuming that Leo did not need to marry Marina simply to inherit her father’s electronics company as a dowry. But then Leo had never wanted to marry Marina for her money.
At eighteen, a veteran of the wretched warfare between his ill-matched parents, Leo had drawn up a checklist of the attributes his future wife should have. Marina Kouros ticked literally every box. She was wealthy, beautiful and intelligent as well as being a product of the same exclusive upbringing he had enjoyed himself. They had a great deal in common but they were neither in love nor possessive of each other. Objectives like harmony and practicality would illuminate their shared future rather than dangerous passion and horrendous emotional storms. There would be no nasty surprises along the way with Marina, a young woman Leo had first met in nursery school.
It was forgivable for him to feel just a little self-satisfied, Leo reasoned as his limo dropped him off at the marina in the French Riviera where his yacht awaited him. Exuding quiet contentment, he boarded Hellenic Lady, one of the largest yachts in the world. He had made his first billion by the age of twenty-five and five years on he was enjoying life as never before while at the same time ensuring that, although the cutthroat ambiance of the business world was where he thrived, he still took time off to recuperate after working eighteen-hour days for weeks on end.
‘Good to have you on board again, sir,’ his English captain assured him. ‘Miss Kouros is waiting for you in the saloon.’
Marina was scrutinising a painting he had recently bought. A tall slender brunette with an innate elegance he had always admired, his fiancée spun round to greet him with a smile.
‘I was surprised to get your text,’ Leo confided, giving her a light kiss on the cheek in greeting. ‘What are you doing in this neck of the woods?’
‘I’m on the way to a country house weekend with friends,’ Marina clarified. ‘I thought it was time we touched base. I believe my father has been throwing out wedding hints—’
‘News travels fast,’ Leo commented wryly. ‘Apparently your father is becoming a little impatient.’
Marina wrinkled her nose and strolled restively across the spacious room. ‘He has his reasons. I suppose I should admit that I’ve been a little indiscreet of late,’ she remarked with a careless shrug of a silk-clad shoulder.
‘In what way?’ Leo prompted.
‘I thought we agreed that until we got married we wouldn’t owe each other any explanations,’ Marina reminded him reprovingly.
‘We may have agreed to go our separate ways until marriage forces us to settle down,’ Leo agreed, ‘but, as your fiancé, I think I have the right to know what you mean by “indiscreet”.’
Marina shot him a bright angry glance. ‘Oh, Leo, don’t be tiresome! It’s not as if you care. It’s not as if you love me or anything like that!’
Leo remained silent, having long since learnt that listening was by far the best tool to use to calm Marina’s quick temper and draw her out.
‘Oh, all right!’ Marina snapped with poor grace, tossing her silk scarf down on a luxurious sofa in a petulant gesture. ‘I’ve been having a hot affair…and there’s been some talk, for which I’m very sorry, but, really, how am I supposed to stop people from gossiping about me?’
His broad shoulders squared below his exquisitely tailored jacket. ‘How hot is hot?’ he asked mildly.
Marina rolled her eyes and burst out laughing. ‘You don’t have an atom of jealousy in your entire body, do you?’