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Gideon Vozaras used all his discipline to keep his foot light on the accelerator as he followed the rented car, forcing himself to maintain an unhurried pace along the narrow island road while he gripped the wheel in white-knuckled fists. When the other car parked outside the palatial gate of an estate, he pulled his own rental onto the shoulder a discreet distance back then stayed in his vehicle to see if the other driver noticed. As he cut the engine, the AC stopped. Heat enveloped him. Welcome to hell.
He hated Greece at the best of times and today was predicted to be one of the hottest on record. The air shimmered under the relentless sun and it wasn't even ten o'clock yet. But the weather was barely worth noticing.
The gates of the estate were open. The other car could have driven straight through and up to the house, but stayed parked outside. He watched the female driver emerge and take a moment to consider the unguarded entrance. Her shoulders gave a lift and drop as though she screwed up her courage before she took action and walked in.
As she disappeared between imposing brick posts, Gideon left his own car and followed at a measured pace, gut knotting with every step. Outrage stung his veins.
He wanted to believe that wasn't his wife, but there was no mistaking Adara Vozaras. Not for him. Maybe her tourist clothes of flip-flops, jeans chopped above the knees, a sleeveless top and a pair of pigtails didn't fit her usual professional elan, but he knew that backside. The tug it caused in his blood was indisputable. No other woman made an immediate sexual fire crackle awake in him like this. His relentless hunger for Adara had always been his cross to bear and today it was particularly unwelcome.
Spending the week with her mother. This ain't Chatham, sweetheart.
He paused as he came alongside her car, glancing inside to see a map of the island on the passenger seat. A logo in its corner matched the hotel he'd been told she was booked into. And now she was advising her lover where to meet her? Walking bold as you please up his million-dollar driveway to his billion-dollar house? The only clue to the estate's ownership, the shields welded to the gate, were turned back against the brick wall that fenced the estate from the road.
Gideon's entire body twitched with an urge to slip his reins of control. He was not a poor man. He'd got past envying other men their wealth once he'd acquired a certain level of his own. Nevertheless, a niggle of his dock-rat inferiority complex wormed to life as he took in what he could see of the shoreline property that rolled into a vineyard and orange grove. The towering stone house, three stories with turrets on each corner, belonged on an English estate, not a Greek island. It was twenty bedrooms minimum. If this was the owner's weekend retreat, he was an obscenely rich man.
Not that Adara needed a rich man. She had grown up wanting for nothing. She had a fortune in her own right plus half of Gideon's, so what was the attraction here?
The insidious whisper formed a knot of betrayal behind his breastbone. Was this why she hadn't shared that stacked body of hers with him for weeks? His hands curled into fists as he tried to swallow back his gall.
Dreading what he might see as he looked to the front door, he shifted for a full view. Adara had paused halfway to the house to speak with a gardener. A truck overflowing with landscaping tools was parked midway up the driveway and workers were crawling like bees over the blooming gardens.
The sun seared the back of Gideon's neck, strong enough to burn through his shirt to his shoulders, making sweat pool between his shoulder blades and trickle annoyingly down his spine.
They had arrived early this morning, Adara off the ferry, Gideon following in a powerboat he was "test-piloting." She'd been driving a car she'd rented in Athens. His rental had been negotiated at the marina, but the island was small. It hadn't surprised him when she'd driven right past the nose of his car as he had turned onto the main road.
No, the surprise had been the call thirty-six hours previously when their travel agent had dialed his mobile by mistake. Ever the survivor, Gideon had thought quickly. He'd mentioned that he'd like to surprise his wife by joining her and within seconds, Gideon had had all the details of Adara's clandestine trip.
Well, not all. He didn't know whom she was here to see or how she'd met her mystery man. Why was she doing this when he gave her everything she asked for?
He watched Adara's slender neck bow in disappointment. Ha. The bastard wasn't home. Grimly satisfied, Gideon folded his arms and waited for his wife.
Adara averted her gaze from the end of the driveway where the sun was glancing off her rented car and piercing straight into her eyes.
The grounds of this estate were an infinitely more beautiful place to look anyway. Groomed lawn gently rolled into vineyards, and a white sand beach gleamed below. The dew was off the grass, the air moving hotly up from the water with a tang of salt on it. Everything was brilliant and elevating.
Perhaps that was just her frame of mind, but it was a refreshing change from depression and anxiety and rejection. She paused to savor the first optimistic moment she'd had in weeks. Looking out on the horizon where Mediterranean blue met cloudless sky, she sighed in contentment. She hadn't felt so relaxed since Since ever. Early childhood maybe. Very early childhood.
And it wouldn't last. A sick ache opened in her belly as she remembered Gideon. And his PA.
Not yet, she reminded herself. This week was hers. She was stealing it for herself and her brother. If he returned. The gardener had said a few days, but Adara's research had put Nico on this island all week, so he obviously changed his schedule rapidly. Hopefully he'd return as suddenly as he'd left.
Just call him, she cajoled herself, but after this many years she wasn't sure he'd know who she was or want to hear from her. He'd never picked up the telephone himself. If he refused to speak to her, well, a throb of hurt pulsed in her throat as she contemplated that. She swallowed it back. She just wanted to see him, look into his eyes and learn why he'd never come home or spoken to her or her younger brothers again.
Another cleansing breath, but this one a little more troubled as she turned toward her car again. She was crestfallen Nico wasn't here, not that she'd meant to come like this to his house, first thing on arrival, but her room at the hotel hadn't been ready. On impulse she'd decided to at least find the estate, and then the gates had been open and she'd been drawn in. Now she had to wait"Lover boy not home?"
The familiar male voice stopped her heart and jerked her gaze up from the chevron pattern in the cobblestones to the magnificence that was her husband. Swift, fierce attraction sliced through her, sharp and disarming as always.
Not a day passed that she didn't wonder how she'd landed such a smoking-hot man. He was shamelessly handsome, his features even and just hard enough to be undeniably masculine. He rarely smiled, but he didn't have to charm when his sophistication and intelligence commanded such respect. The sheer physical presence of him quieted a room. She always thought of him as a purebred stallion, outwardly still and disciplined, but with an invisible energy and power that warned he could explode any second.
Don't overlook resourceful, she thought acridly. How else had he turned up half a world from where she'd thought he would be, when she'd taken pains to keep her whereabouts strictly confidential?
Fortunately, Adara had a lot of experience hiding visceral reactions like instant animal attraction and guilty alarm. She kept her sunglasses on and willed her pulse to slow, keeping her limbs loose and her body language unreadable.
"What are you doing here?" she asked with a composed lift of her chin. "Lexi said you would be in Chile." Lexi's tone still grated, so proprietary over Gideon's schedule, so pitying as she had looked upon the ignorant wife who not only failed as a woman biologically, but no longer interested her husband sexually. Adara had wanted to erase the woman's superior smile with a swipe of her manicured nails.
"Let's turn that question around, shall we?" Gideon strolled with deadly negligence around the front of her car.
Adara had never been afraid of him, not physically, not the way she had been of her father, but somewhere along the line Gideon had developed the power to hurt her with a look or a word, without even trying, and that scared her. She steeled herself against him, but her nerves fried with the urge to flee.
She made herself stand her ground and find the reliable armor of civility she'd grown as self-defense long ago. It had always served her well in her dealings with this man, even allowing her to engage with him intimately without losing herself. Still, she wanted higher, thicker invisible walls. Her reasons for coming to Greece were too private to share, carrying as they did such a heavy risk of rejection. That's why she hadn't told him or anyone else where she was going. Having him turn up like this put her on edge, internally windmilling her arms as she tried to hang on to unaffected nonchalance.
"I'm here on personal business," she said in a dismissive tone that didn't invite discussion.
He, in turn, should have given her his polite nod of acknowledgment that always drove home how supremely indifferent he was to what happened in her world. It might hurt a little, but far better to have her trials and triumphs disregarded than dissected and diminished.
While she, as was her habit, wouldn't bother repeating a question he had ignored, even though she really did want to know how and why he'd followed her.
No use changing tactics now, she thought. With a little adherence to form they could end this relationship as dispassionately as they'd started it.
That gave her quite a pang and oddly, even though his body language was as neutral as always, and his expression remained impassive as he squinted against the brightness of the day, she again had the sense of that coiled force drawing more tightly inside him. When he spoke, his words were even, yet she sensed an underlying ferocity.
"I can see how personal it is. Who is he?"
Her heart gave a kick. Gideon rarely got angry and even more rarely showed it. He certainly never directed dark energy at her, but his accusation made her unaccountably defensive.
She told herself not to let his jab pierce her shell, but his charge was a shock and she couldn't believe his gall. The man was banging his secretary in the most cliched of affairs, yet he had the nerve to dog her all the way to Greece to accuse her of cheating?
Fortunately, she knew from experience you didn't provoke a man in a temper. Hiding her indignation behind cool disdain, she calmly corrected his assumption. "He has a wife and new baby"
Gideon's drawled sarcasm cut her off. "Cheating on one spouse wasn't enough, you have to go for two and ruin the life of a child into the mix?"
Since when do you care about children?
She bit back the question, but a fierce burn flared behind her eyes, completely unwanted right now when she needed to keep her head. The back of her throat stung, making her voice thick. She hoped he'd put it down to ire, not heartbreak.
"As I said, Lexi assured me you had appointments in Chile. 'We will be flying into Valparaiso,' she told me. 'We will be staying in the family suite at the Makricosta Grand.'" Adara impassively pronounced what Lexi hadn't said, but what had been in the woman's eyes and supercilious smile. "'We will be wrecking your bed and calling your staff for breakfast in the morning.' Who is cheating on whom?"
She was proud of her aloof delivery, but her underlying resentment was still more emotion than she'd ever dared reveal around him. She couldn't help it. His adultery was a blow she hadn't seen coming and she was always on guard for unearned strikes. Always. Somehow she'd convinced herself she could trust him and if she was angry with anyone, it was with herself for being so blindly oblivious. She was so furious she was having a hard time hiding that she was trembling, but she ground her teeth and willed her muscles to let go of the tension and her blood to stop boiling.
He didn't react. If she fought a daily battle to keep her emotions in reserve, his inner thoughts and feelings were downright nonexistent. His voice was crisp and glacial when he said, "Lexi did not say that because it's not true. And why would you care if she did? We aren't wrecking any beds, are we?"
Ask me why, she wanted to charge, but the words and the reason stayed bottled so deep and hard inside her she couldn't speak.
Grief threatened to overtake her then. Hopelessness crept in and defeat struck like a gong. It sent an arctic chill into her, blessed ice that let her freeze out the pain and ignore the humiliation. She wanted it all to go away.
"I want a divorce," she stated, heart throbbing in her throat.
For a second, the world stood still. She wasn't sure if she'd actually said it aloud and he didn't move, as though he either hadn't heard, or couldn't comprehend.
Then he drew in a long, sharp inhale. His shoulders pulled back and he stood taller.
Oh, God. Everything in her screamed, Retreat. She ducked her head and circled him, aiming for her car door.
He put out a hand and her blood gave a betraying leap. She quickly tamped down the hunger and yearning, embracing hatred instead.
"Don't think for a minute I'll let you touch me," she warned in a voice that grated.
"Right. Touching is off limits. I keep forgetting."
A stab of compunction, of incredible sadness and longing to be understood, went through her. Gideon was becoming so good at pressing on the bruises closest to her soul and all he had to do was speak the truth.
"Goodbye, Gideon." Without looking at him again, she threw herself into her car and pulled away.