Bought: one house, one wife!
It amazed Ophelia that Lysander Metaxis — a Greek billionaire notorious for his harem of adoring women wanted to marry her, a humble gardener with a grumbling old manor house and debts up to her ears. But soon she realized Lysander didn’t want her- he wanted her property and her body. But marry him she would, because she had no choice if she wanted to keep what she cherished most. And disobedient she would be, because her new husband had no intention of loving her.
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‘THE Metaxis family are waiting for me to die.’ Feverish hatred burned in Gladys Stewart’s embittered gaze. ‘Vultures—that’s what they are!’
‘Well, whoever they are they’ll have to wait a little longer,’ the nurse informed the older woman cheerfully while she checked her blood pressure. ‘You have great vitality.’
‘You’ve got no business interrupting a private conversation!’ her patient hissed in a tone of pure vitriol, her thin hands clenching on the bedclothes. ‘I was addressing my granddaughter. Ophelia…where are you? Ophelia?’
A young woman with unusual pale blue eyes was engaged in piling up discarded bed linen. Directing an apologetic glance at the district nurse, she moved forward. Small in stature, she wore a loose sweater and trousers that only hinted at her hourglass figure. Hair the colour of ripe wheat was tied up with a piece of gardening twine. But nothing could hide her beauty.
‘I’m here,’ she told her grandmother.
As she studied her Gladys Stewart’s narrow mouth compressed with furious resentment. ‘If you made more effort, you’d have had a husband years ago!’ she condemned bitterly. ‘Your mother was a complete fool but at least she knew how to make the most of her looks!’
Ophelia, who was single by choice and inclination, thought wryly of her late parent’s love affair with the mirror and almost shuddered. She liked comfy clothes and fresh air. ‘Unfortunately it didn’t do her much good.’
‘I always swore I’d make the Metaxis family pay and I have and—listen to me—I’m not finished yet!’ The claw-like hand that closed in a painful grip round Ophelia’s slender wrist forced the younger woman to lean down. ‘You just might have Lysander Metaxis himself knocking on this door!’
Ophelia was noticeably unimpressed by the highly unlikely forecast that a womanising billionaire, notorious for carrying the equivalent of a harem on board his giant pleasure-yacht, would ever seek her out. ‘I really don’t think so.’
‘All you need is this house,’ Gladys hissed with wheezing satisfaction in her granddaughter’s ear, ‘and I promise you—it’ll make your every hope and dream come true.
’The fierce conviction of that final startling statement pinned Ophelia’s attention squarely on her grandmother. The confusion in the younger woman’s eyes was replaced by a burgeoning look of hope. ‘Are you talking about…Molly?’ she whispered unevenly.
Well aware that Ophelia was now hanging on her every word, Gladys turned her head away, triumph etched in every line of her bony face. ‘That’s for me to know and you to wonder. But if you do your duty by me and play your cards right, you won’t be disappointed.’
‘Finding out where my sister is would be everything I’ve ever dreamt of,’ Ophelia admitted steadily. ‘It would mean the world to me.’
A harsh laugh escaped the woman in the bed. ‘You always were a sentimental idiot!’
A quiet knock on the door heralded the arrival of the vicar. ‘Try and get some rest while you’ve got the chance,’ the nurse urged Ophelia in an undertone.
Ophelia nodded, bundled up the bedding and gave the vicar a welcoming smile. He was a kind man, who made regular visits and met her grandmother’s barrage of caustic complaints with forbearance.
‘You’re wasting your time,’ Gladys told the reverend sourly. ‘I’m not leaving a penny to that church of yours!’
Ophelia marvelled that her grandmother could still talk as though she were rich when, in fact, she was up to her ears in debt. Of course Gladys Stewart would never admit that embarrassing truth; she was obsessed with money, social position and the keeping up of appearances. Yet Madrigal Court, the moated Elizabethan manor that Gladys Stewart had persuaded her late husband to buy, was crumbling into a pitiful state of disrepair. After decades of neglect the roof was leaking, damp was spreading and most of the remaining grounds had returned to nature. Letting the beautiful old house go to rack and ruin while refusing to sell it back to the Metaxis family was part of her revenge.
From the landing window, Ophelia could see beyond the rambling gardens of the Court. Almost all the surrounding area now belonged to Lysander Metaxis, the Greek shipping magnate. His father had been wealthy, but his son and heir had the Midas touch and he had billions to burn. When it came to splashing around cash nobody could do it better than Lysander Metaxis. Every time a local property came on the market it was snapped up at a price no one else could match. Thirty-odd years ago, the only stake the Metaxis family had had in the neighbourhood was the gatehouse at the foot of the drive. Now the Metaxis estate owned most of the local farms and half the cottages in the village.