From mistress to mother!
Greek billionaire Andreas Nicolaidis is a connoisseur of variety – he’s never kept a mistress for longer than three months. Then Hope Evans enters his life. However, even after two years, Andreas doesn’t intend to make Hope his wife – he’s perfectly happy with their convenient affair. But Hope wants more, and plans to leave the man she loves and start again. Only then does she discover that she’s pregnant with his child.
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ALMOST two years later, Hope sat in a fashionable London café waiting for her friend Vanessa’s arrival.
Her thoughts were miles away and centred entirely on Andreas. She was dreamily wondering how she could best celebrate the second anniversary of that first eventful meeting. By seeking out a snow-bound barn? That would not be a good idea, she conceded with a grin. Andreas disliked inconvenience, cold and, indeed, had a very low tolerance threshold for any form of discomfort.
‘Sorry I’m late.’ A slim redhead with sharp but attractive features and bright brown eyes sank down into the seat opposite and settled a heavy camera case down. ‘If that hair of yours grows any longer,’ she remarked, surveying the pale blonde hair Hope wore secured at her nape but which reached halfway to her waist, ‘people are going to start wondering if you’ve got Rapunzel fantasies.’
Hope blinked. ‘I beg your pardon?’
‘You know…the lady in the fairy tale who got locked up in the tower and let her long hair down to be used as a ladder to rescue her,’ Vanessa clarified. ‘Only unfortunately for her, it wasn’t the handsome prince who climbed up, it was the witch. Be warned.’
Hope laughed and they ordered coffee. She was accustomed to her more sophisticated friend’s cynical outlook on life. The daughter of a famous artist, Vanessa had survived a Bohemian and unstable childhood to become a gifted photographer. But the redhead still bore the scars inflicted by parents who had enjoyed tempestuous love lives.
‘So, how is your handsome prince?’ Vanessa enquired a tinge dryly.
Hope was impervious to that tone and her eyes sparkled. ‘Andreas is great. Very busy, of course, but he phones me a lot when he’s out of the country—’
‘A mobile phone being Andreas’s equivalent of a ball and chain,’ her friend mocked. ‘I seem to recall that if you switch it off he wants an explanation in triplicate.’
‘He just likes to know where I am. He worries about me,’ Hope countered equably. ‘Do you realise that in ten days’ time, Andreas and I will have been together for two whole years?’
‘Wow. The guy who doesn’t commit is going for gold. You could be making gossip column headlines. Of course,’ Vanessa murmured wryly, ‘the world would first have to know you existed and you remain a very well-kept secret.’
‘Andreas hates media attention and he knows I wouldn’t like it either. I’m a very contented secret,’ Hope admitted, telling herself with the ease of long habit that what little time she had with Andreas would be very much diluted if she had to share him with a social whirl and lots of people as well. ‘Right now, I’m trying to think of some special way to celebrate our anniversary.’
‘Andreas didn’t make the effort to mark the occasion last year, did he?’
‘I doubt if it even occurred to him that we had been together an entire year. I shouldn’t have sat around waiting for him to say or do something, I should just have reminded him,’ Hope said ruefully
‘Did he ever mention it afterwards?’
Hope shook her head.
‘Then, let me offer you a piece of advice,’ the younger woman remarked. ‘If you want to hang onto Andreas Nicolaidis, resist the urge to celebrate your second anniversary in his presence.’
‘The reminder that you’ve been around for two years might set the cold wind of change blowing.’
‘What are you trying to say to me?’ Hope prompted anxiously.
Vanessa compressed her lips and sighed. ‘I just feel you’re wasting your time with Andreas. He didn’t even bother to show up the night you collected the top award for your design course.’
‘His flight was delayed.’
‘Was it?’ The younger woman looked unimpressed. ‘He has no interest in anything in your life unless it directly affects him.’
‘Andreas isn’t artistic…or into fashion. I don’t expect him to take an interest in the handbags I design—’
‘He hasn’t introduced you to a single member of his family or to any of his friends. If he takes you out it’s to some place where he won’t be bothered by the paparazzi and where he won’t be seen with you. He’s kept his life separate from yours and he keeps you in a little restricted box. Why don’t you face facts? You’re his mistress in everything but name—’
‘That’s not true! Andreas doesn’t keep me. I take nothing from him…OK, I live in that flat, but I pay all my own expenses and I don’t accept expensive gifts or anything from him,’ Hope reasoned in a low-pitched tone of urgency.
‘But it’s not a question of what you think, it’s all about what Andreas thinks and how he treats you—’
‘He cares about me…he treats me really well,’ Hope argued tightly.
Vanessa gave her a concerned look but Hope felt far too raw to take comfort from a sympathy that could only further dent her pride. ‘Why shouldn’t he? You’re devoted to him and he knows it and he uses it. He set the boundaries of your relationship way back at the beginning—’