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MADDISON stared at her younger brother in abject horror.
"What do you mean you sank his yacht?"
A petulant scowl took up residence on Kyle Jones's nineteen-year-old face.
"He deserved it." 'Oh, my God." She put her head in her hands as she struggled to gain control of her sky-rocketing emotions.
"I thought you'd be happy," Kyle said with a hint of pique. "After all, he's the one who ruined Dad. I thought you'd be pleased I made a stand at long last."
"Kyle." She lifted her tortured gaze to his. "Do you have any idea of what you've done?"
He set his shoulders defiantly. "I don't care. He had it coming to him."
Maddison shut her eyes. "I can't believe I'm hearing this." 'It's all right," he reassured her. "He has no idea who did it." She opened her eyes to face him. "How can you possibly know that for sure? People like Demetrius Papasakis always know who their enemies are." She got to her feet in agitation and paced the room. "You do realize what this means, don't you?" She turned to face him once more, her expression pale with worry.
Her brother gave a dismissive shrug. "What are you so worried about? He's never going to know it was me."
"Of course he'll know it was you! You've already got a police record! It's not going to take him long to put two and two together and come up with your name, and once he does you can be certain of one thing--he'll make sure you end up in prison."
"I'm not going to prison," he said emphatically. "No, you're not. At least not if I can help it." She gnawed her bottom lip as she hunted her brain for a solution.
"I'm glad I did it, no matter what you think." An element of proud defiance had enteredKyle's voice. "Anyway, it's not as if he can't afford another yacht; he's positively loaded."
"That's the whole trouble, don't you see?" Desperation was creeping into her tone but there was nothing she could do to stop it. "Unlike us, he can afford the very best legal advice. You won't have a leg to stand on, especially after that last car you stole."
"I didn't steal it," he protested. "I borrowed it." 'Don't split hairs, Kyle. You know you stole it and you were incredibly lucky to get out on bail, which I might remind you at this point I have yet to pay back to the bank."
"I'll pay you back when I get a job," he promised. Maddison sighed with frustration. "And when is that going to be? You've already had three jobs, none of them lasting more than a week. I can't keep covering up for you; at some point you're going to have to take responsibility for your own life. You're nineteen years old, more than old enough to drive and vote. It's about time you stopped blaming everyone else for what's gone wrong in your life and make something good happen instead."
"Demetrius Papasakis wrecked our lives," Kyle said bitterly. "How can you simply sit back and let him get away with it?"
"There are better ways than sinking million dollar boats," she pointed out wryly. "We could have gone to him and stated our case, perhaps fought for compensation."
"Oh yeah, right." His voice was scathing. "He'd laugh in our face; he couldn't give a fig for what happened to Dad when he lost his job. And besides, look at the way he treats the latest women in his life; that man doesn't have a conscience."
Maddison couldn't agree more, but didn't want to encourage her brother's fiery temper. Hardly a day went past without one of the Sydney papers revealing the latest antics of the billion-aire playboy, a six-foot-three Greek god of a man with too much money and not enough scruples.
Their father had worked for Demetrius Papasakis as an assistant accountant in the Papasakis hotel chain for years, only to be dismissed without a fair hearing when a question had been raised about the supposed misappropriation of funds. The mud thrown had stuck, and within weeks their father had collapsed with a fatal heart attack, which Maddison knew had been due to the intolerable strain he had faced at the time.
"People like Demetrius Papasakis usually get their comeuppance in the end," she said instead. "The trick is to hang around long enough to witness it."
"Maybe you're right." The edge of her brother's mouth lifted in a small smile. "According to yesterday's paper, Papasakis is currently in the middle of yet another relationship scandal, a rich divorcee this time, the ex-wife of one of his business rivals."
"At the moment I'm not too concerned about the trouble Demetrius Papasakis may or may not be in," she said. "The thing I'm concerned with right here and now is how we're going to get you out of the firing line until the dust settles over this boat episode."
"I'm not afraid of Papasakis," he said with a lift of his chin. "I know, more's the pity," she answered wryly. "But I am. He'll stop at nothing to pay back a misdemeanour such as this and I don't want to make it too easy for him to do so."
"What do you think I should do?"
Maddison took a deep breath of resignation before answering. "You'll have to go into hiding."
"Run away, you mean?" The look he sent her was brim-full of male affront.
"Not in so many words," she reassured him. "I have a friend who is working as a nanny on a cattle property in the Northern Territory. In her last letter she told me of the trouble Gillaroo is having recruiting reliable station hands. I can just about afford to pay for your airfare to get you there. After that the rest is up to you."
"A station hand?" Kyle wrinkled his nose. "Listen, Kyle." She eyeballed him determinedly. "I'm running out of both money and patience. This is your last chance. If you don't take it I'm going to have to wash my hands and leave you to face the music, but let me warn you the sort of music Papasakis will want to play won't be to your taste."
"All right," he said. "I'll do it, but only because you want me to, not because I'm scared."
"Believe me, you don't have to be scared," she said with feeling. "I'm scared enough for both of us."
Maddison had not long returned from the airport after her younger brother's departure when the doorbell of her small apartment rang. A flicker of fear brushed the floor of her stomach as she went to answer it, her instincts warning her off opening the door.
The tall, intimidating figure of Demetrius Papasakis stood framed in the doorway, his brown, almost black, eyes glittering as they insolently raked her from head to foot.
Shock rendered her momentarily speechless. How had he known where she lived? And, more to the point, what did he know about her brother's activities the night before?
"Miss Jones, I presume?" 'Th...that's correct." It annoyed her immensely that her voice had sounded distinctly husky. "How can I help you?"
"I'd like to speak with your brother."
Her eyes flickered briefly away from the dark intensity of his.
"He's not here right now." 'Where is he?" The three words were as sharp as daggers, accusing almost.
"I don't actually know." She reassured herself that it was the truth; she had no idea what part of the continent Kyle was currently flying over.
"Don't play games with me, Miss Jones," he warned her silkily. "I have an issue to discuss with your brother and it would be in his best interests to hear me out."
"I'm sorry I can't help you."
She began to close the door in his face but before she could get any weight behind it, he reached out a lean hand and the door slammed back against the wall with a resounding thwack.
She shrank back, her hand going shakily to her throat. He stepped through the doorway and closed the door behind him with exaggerated care.
"I wouldn't like your neighbors to overhear what I have to say," he said.
"I'd like you to leave." She stepped back another step. "Right now."
"Before or after I call the police?" He unhooked his mobile phone from the waistband of his trousers.
She swallowed the constriction in her throat as his lean brown fingers began typing in some numbers.
"What's it to be, Miss Jones?" His forefinger paused over the last digit.
Maddison bit her lip. "I have your brother's probation officer's telephone number right here," he said. "Perhaps you'd like to speak to him about your brother's whereabouts last night?"
"He was here, with me," she said in a thin voice. He lifted a sceptical brow. "You expect me to believe that?" 'Believe what you like." 'You're playing a dangerous game, Miss Jones. Perhaps I'm not making myself clear." He stepped closer to where she was backed up against the wall. "I'm not leaving here without information about your brother's whereabouts."
"I hope you've brought a toothbrush then." Her sapphire-blue eyes flashed with fire. "I don't have a spare."
His eyes glinted with reluctant amusement at her show of spirit.
"Are you offering me your bed?" 'Not a chance," she returned primly. "You're not my type." He leant one hand on one side of her head and surveyed her up-tilted face in a leisurely manner.
Maddison sucked in a sharp little breath when his fingers captured a strand of her ash-blonde hair, coiling it repeatedly until she was forced to take a tiny step towards him. She could feel the heat of his body this close, his dark eyes so mesmer-ising she felt as if he was seeing through to her very soul, laying all her innermost secrets bare. She could pick up a faint trace of his citrus-scented aftershave in the air surrounding them, and her bare leg beneath her skirt felt the unmistakable brush of a hard muscled, very male thigh.
"Now, let's try it one more time." His voice was a silky caress across the sensitized skin of her lips. "Where is your brother, Miss Jones?"
She sent her tongue out to the tombstone-dryness of her lips. She saw his dark eyes follow the movement and the breath in her chest tightened another notch.
"He's...away," she croaked.
His brows snapped together in a frown. "Away?" She nodded. "Where?" 'Interstate." 'Which state?" 'I can't tell you." 'You will tell me, Miss Jones." His voice was velvet-covered steel. "Even if I have to force it out of you."
"I'm not afraid of you." 'Are you not?" Amusement gleamed in his eyes. "Then you should be."
"Do your worst, Mr Papasakis." She lifted her chin. "I'm not easily intimidated."
"Then I shall have to be very creative and think of an effective tool to bring about your capitulation." His smile was deliberately sensuous. "Now won't that be fun?"
She didn't trust herself to reply. Hatred seethed in her belly until she was sure she'd explode with the effort of keeping it under some semblance of control. She knew enough about him to know he wouldn't rest until he exacted some sort of revenge, but as long as she had breath she wasn't going to let him get within a gnat's eyelash of her brother.
"Nothing to say, Miss Jones?" he asked after a tight little silence.
She set her mouth in an intractable line. "Get out of my apartment."
"Say please." 'Go to hell." 'Now, now, Miss Jones, that's not very hospitable of you, is it?"
"If you don't leave I'll scream." 'I just love it when a woman screams," he drawled suggestively.
Maddison's face suffused with outraged color. "You're disgusting."
"And you are aiding and abetting a criminal." 'My brother is not a criminal," she ground out through clenched teeth.
"You're living in a fool's paradise, Miss Jones," he warned her. "He's already got a record. One more strike and he's out--or should I say inside?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," she hedged, her cheeks instantly heating.
"Perhaps you will when I tell you I have proof of your brother's lawbreaking tendencies."
She gave him a nervous glance, uncertain whether he was calling her bluff or not.
"What sort of proof?" 'The sort of proof which will convict him." 'I don't believe you." 'He was seen on my boat last night," he said. "So?"
He gave her a hard look. "My boat is now at the bottom of Parsley Bay."
"I hardly see that someone stepping on to a boat immediately makes them responsible for sinking it," she said. "Or at least not someone with the small body mass index of my brother."
"Very funny." His eyes challenged hers. "What about fingerprints?" she asked. "Got any of those?" He held her look for far longer than she would have liked. "I'm sure you know fingerprints are a little difficult to find when a boat has been submerged for several hours."
"What a shame," she said without sincerity. "But--" he deliberately paused for effect '--your brother did oblige me by leaving a calling card." He took something out of the breast pocket of his shirt and held it up for her to see.
Maddison swallowed. "Recognize this?" he asked.
For endless seconds she stared at the sterling silver surf chain she'd given Kyle for his eighteenth birthday.
"No," she lied. "You're predictable if nothing else." He pocketed the chain once more.
"That chain could belong to anybody," she pointed out. "Anybody, that is, with the initials KBJ," he put in neatly. "What does the B stand for, by the way?"
"None of your business." 'While we're on the subject of names, what is yours?" 'That's also none of your business." 'I'm making it my business."