Careless passion, pregnancy surprise…
Sander Volakis goes his own way. He’s forged his reputation in business, rather than relying on the family fortune, and indulges his darkly passionate, wild streak – he has no intention of marrying… he doesn’t do country weekends, either. Pitching up at Wetsgrave Manor is a favour to his father and a bore…until he sees Tally Spencer, so pretty and voluptuous that he can’t resist her. Sander’s looking forward to casually seducing her…little knowing that one night with the innocent Tally could end his playboy existence…
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‘I DON’T do English country weekends,’ Sander Volakis informed his father without hesitation.
With difficulty, Petros Volakis mustered a diplomatic smile, wishing for the hundredth time since the death of his eldest son that he had devoted a little more time and attention to his awkward relationship with his younger one. After all, on the face of it, Lysander, known as Sander to his friends, was a son that any man would be proud to possess.
Extremely good-looking and athletic, Sander had a shrewd brain for business and his outstanding entrepreneurial skills had already ensured that even without family backing he excelled at making money. Unhappily, however, Sander also had a darker side to his passionate temperament and a wild streak that ran deep. He was obstinate as a rock, arrogant and fiercely independent, indeed very much an extrovert individualist in a family of unashamedly conservative people. Over the years clashes between father and son had proved inevitable because Sander went his own way…always. Parental disapproval had not deterred him. But with the death of Titos, Sander’s older brother, the need to build bridges had increased a thousandfold, Petros reflected heavily.
‘Eleni’s family deserve to see you visit their English home again as a guest,’ Petros argued. ‘It’s not their fault that your brother died in the car crash and that his fiancée survived—’
Sander elevated a contradictory brow, his lean darkly handsome features grim while a glow of disagreement burned bright in his dark gaze. ‘Eleni only just escaped a charge of careless driving—’
‘They went out in Eleni’s car, so she was at the wheel!’ Petros snapped back at his son, frustrated by his unforgiving attitude. ‘It was a snowy night and the roads were treacherous. Have a little compassion and make allowances for human error. Eleni was devastated by Titos’ death.’
Not so devastated that she had resisted the urge to flirt with his younger brother within weeks of Titos’ funeral, Sander recalled with cynical cool. But he kept that salient fact to himself, well aware that his parent would gallantly protest that Sander must have misinterpreted her signals. Although only six months had passed since Titos’ demise, Sander had already become bleakly aware that that tragic event had transformed his prospects in the eyes of his peers. As his shipping tycoon father’s only surviving heir, he was now viewed as a much bigger catch than when he’d been seen as a mere maverick businessman cut loose from the family apron strings.
‘Relations between our respective families will relax again if you accept the invitation to stay at the Ziakis home,’ Petros declared.
Sander gritted his even white teeth, resenting the request, for he had no desire to fill his late brother’s shoes in any way. He liked his life just as it was and wondered if his parents were cherishing the ludicrous hope that he might miraculously warm to Eleni and marry her because she was an equally good catch in shipping terms. He almost winced at so depressing a prospect. Eleni might be beautiful and accomplished, but at twenty five years of age Sander had not the smallest desire to marry or settle down with one woman and his headline-grabbing private life remained as varied and adventurous as he could make it.
‘I would really appreciate this, Sander,’ the older man declared in a grudging undertone that hinted at how hard he found it to ask for a favour.
Sander studied the older man, reluctantly noticing the lines of age that grief had indented more heavily on his face. He was disturbed by that pull on his conscience and loyalty. But he could not fill the hole that Titos had left in their family. Having been the indisputable favourite from birth, his older brother would be an impossible act to follow. Sander had always refused to compete with his sibling because when he was quite young he had noticed that it had annoyed their parents when he’d out-shone their firstborn. But what the hell was one weekend if it made his parents content that the social mores they based their entire lives on had been respected? Sander asked himself in sudden exasperation.
‘All right, I’ll go…this once,’ he felt moved to add, afraid that he might be creating a precedent and setting himself up for other boring social occasions.
‘Thank you. Your mother will be relieved. You’re almost certain to meet friends at Westgrave Manor and no doubt useful business connections as well,’
Petros continued, conscious that his son’s primary need to forge his own power base and fortune were more likely to influence him than anything else.
In the wake of that uncomfortable meeting neither man was best pleased with the other. Driven now by a desire to do his duty, Sander proceeded to an upper floor in the Athens town house to visit his grieving mother, Eirene. On his way his mobile buzzed and he checked the number: Lina, his current lover; this was already her third call since he’d left London. He switched his phone to silent, resolving to ignore her and ditch her at the first chance he got. A sense of injustice dogged him, though. What was it that turned women from exciting lovers into all-too-predictable demanding stalker types in search of a commitment he had already made clear he wasn’t offering?