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The blistering heat of the July day had faded to a bearable level as the luxury yacht glided into the harbour of the Greek island of Letos just before midnight.
Orion Moralistall, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and with a dark frown on his handsome facethe powerful, and some would say ruthless, owner of the vast Moralis Corporationwalked down the stairs from the bridge and onto the main deck. Casually dressed in combat pants and an open-necked black shirt, he paused for a moment to look at the assortment of buildings surrounding the harbour. The church tower held centre stage in the only village on the island, where Mark Stakis lived. Had lived, he amended with a shrug of his broad shoulders. Though as far as Rion was concerned the man had been dead to him for years.
His yacht, with a crew of seven, was fitted with state-of-the-art technology and had been heading for the coast of Egypt for a rare three-week break. Rion had planned to combine essential work with a cruise and a diving holiday. He had heard the news that Stakis was dead and had had no intention of going to the man's funeralbut yesterday morning he had received an informative e-mail from Stakis's lawyer, Mr Kadiekis, requesting his presence. He had diverted the yacht midway across the Mediterranean to get herehis trip cut short before it had started.
Rion strolled across the deck and stopped at the rail to glance down at the harbour to where a sailor was securing the yacht to its berth. He was impatient to get ashore; he needed to stretch his legs and shake of the restlessness that had plagued him for monthsa major factor in his decision to take a break from his hectic work schedule. The restlessness had increased considerably after the news Mr Kadiekis had given him
Amazingly Mark Stakis hadn't changed his will in years, and the knowledge had brought memories Rion had thought dead and buried to the surface with a vengeance.
Six years ago he had married Stakis's granddaughter Selina Taylorand what a mistake that had been. Rion rarely if ever made mistakesin business or in his private lifeand it had been a huge blow to his ego when his young wife had betrayed him. For a second black fury blazed through him at the memory. Then abruptly he turned from the rail, and with the gangway in place walked down onto dry land.
Breathing deeply of the night air, Rion walked the length of the harbour away from the lights and onto the beach, enjoying the stillness of the night. The further he walked the more the anger the thought of his ex-wife had aroused in him ebbed away, and he began to relax. He listened to the soft sound of the waves against the shore as he strolled around the headland and through the trees, and realised he had reached the Stakises' private beach.
He stopped for a moment and looked at the sprawling white villa set on the hillside. A single light shone from the building, dimly illuminating the elegant terraces trailing down to the shore. A retaining wall with a gate gave access to the beach and he glanced, around wondering if there was any security. Suddenly the gate opened.
Rion's dark eyes narrowed on the white ghost-like figure that appeared thirty feet away, then widened on the very obvious feminine form certainly neither ghost nor Security.
He stepped swiftly back into the shadow of the trees as the light of the moon illuminated the woman, jogging over the sand, the white robe she wore flying out behind her.
Selina. It had to be
Rion stiffened, every muscle in his body tense. Although he'd had prior knowledge that she would be here it was still a shock to see her. The woman had some nerve. It was common knowledge that from the day she had returned to England after their divorce her grandfather had cut off all contact with her. But Rion wasn't surprised. The scent of money was a big lure, he thought cynically.
He stood motionless, his dark eyes narrowed intently on his ex-wife. She obviously thought she was alone as she shrugged off the robe and let it drop to the sand, pausing for a long moment and looking out to sea, a minuscule white bikini her only covering. It was definitely Selinabut not quite as he remembered her. The short, strawberry-blonde hair was now long, swept back in a ponytail that fell midway between her shoulder blades, and as for the rest.
Rion's breath caught in his throat, his eyes darkening in primitive male appreciation and his body hardening as she pulled the tie from her hair to let it fall in shimmering waves down her back. Then, tilting her face to the night sky, she stretched and raised her arms above her head as though in some kind of pagan worship to the moon. Incredibly, she was even more attractive than he remembered, her body toned and shapely. She was a modern-day Evetemptation personified.
The pale silver light gleamed on high, firm breasts, the shadowed indentation of her tiny waist and the sensual curve of her hips, and he could not take his eyes off her.
Then, as he stared, enthralled by her beauty, she ran forward and leapt, her back arching in a graceful curve as she dived into the sea.
Fascinated he watched her slender arms scything through the water with barely a ripple as she swam out to sea. Too far out. The worrying thought hit him, and suddenly she slid beneath the waves. With a knee-jerk reaction Rion stepped forward. But she reappeared an instant later and he faded back into the shadows, his heart pounding, and watched as she changed to a butterfly stroke and drew near the shore. She stilled to float gently on her back, her arms and legs outstretched, like some star nymph of the sea.
Rion had never seen anything more erotic in his life. She spun a few times, like a whirling dervish playing in the water, and finally walked out of the sea and strolled back up the beach. Reaching for her robe, she slipped it on and looped the belt around her waist. She lifted her hands and, tilting back her head, swept the long mass of her hair back from her face. She paused for a moment.
Fiercely aroused, Rion wanted her with a hunger that disturbed him. Obviously he had been too long without a woman, he reasoned. For a moment he had trouble remembering how longmonths, he realised in surprise. Well, that was about to changeand he knew exactly who with.
His eyes raked over Selina, a predatory light in their darkening depths.
He must have made some movement, because her head had turned in his direction as though she sensed his presence. It crossed his mind to walk out and confront her. But the time was not right. It was her grandfather's funeral in a few hours. He could wait
Selina owed him. Not so much moneythough that was obviously the reason for her appearance at her grandfather's funeral, as she was the old man's only relative.
Narrow-eyed and aching with frustration, he watched as she slowly scanned along the treeline where he stood. He held his breath, then let it out slowly when, after what seemed like an age, she finally shook her head and turned to walk away.
His eyes glittered with a ferocious light as he fought to crush the sexual hunger that had hit him like a thunderbolt. Once he had believed Selina was a poor little innocent, with no parents and no one to care for her and a grandfather who had his own agenda. He had felt sorry for her. But not for long. Less than four months after they had met he'd married Selina and she had betrayed him.
Rion had cut her out of his life and his mind. Selina had been dead to him from that moment on. But when he'd heard she was to be here, and he had been gifted a way to make her suffer in a monetary sensestrip her bare for her betrayalhe had decided to do so. But now a much more satisfactory scenario came to mind. His lips curled and there was an anticipatory gleam in his dark eyes. A female companion was a sexual necessity for a relaxing holidayand who better than Selina? He would strip her bare, all right, and sate himself in her lush body once and for all.
The moment of reckoning had been a long time coming, but now it had. He was going to have Selina againnot tonight, but soon, very soon. They would have the honeymoon he had once planned and never taken. She owed him that much at least. She had fooled him once with the shy, blushing virgin act, and he had treated her with kid gloves for the short time they were married. But she had soon shown how devious she really wasespecially when it came to their divorce. This time it would be on his terms. The gloves were off
Selina had walked out of the sea and swept back her hair with a smile on her lips, feeling refreshed and at ease, her eyes on the night sky. She'd stiffened as she recognised the constellation of Orion, directly above her. In Greek mythology he was a great huntsman of charm and beauty who on his death had been placed by the gods in the constellations of the sky.
Nothing like the Orion she had known, who had all the charm of a rattlesnake, Selina thought scathingly.
She glanced down and along the beach to the distant lights of the harbour, then back towards the trees, and suddenly the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She had the strongest feeling someone was watching her. Not the starsshe wasn't a fanciful teenager any more.
Maybe swimming in the middle of the night had not been such a great idea, but the pressure of the past few days had finally got to her, and she hadn't been able to sleep for the heat Well, that was what she blamed her agitation on, rather than face her grandfather's death and the painful memories returning to Greece had evoked. Selina could remember with blinding clarity the first time she'd met her grandfather, and the start of a fairytale life that had quickly turned into a nightmare.
She'd had a happy childhood with the mother she had loveda beautiful, dramatic and vibrant woman, a trained opera singerand her Aunt Peggy, whom she adored. She wasn't really her aunt, but a babysitter-cum-housekeeperas she had realised when she was about five.
Her mother had told her that her father was dead, and for years Selina had accepted that. So it had come as an enormous shock when, in the September after she turned eighteen, she'd met Mark Stakisan elderly Greek who had said he was her grandfather and told her the true story of her birth.
His son, Benedict Stakis, was Selina's biological father, and he had died with his family in a tragic accident. Mark Stakis had only learnt of the existence of Selina after his son's death.
It had hurt Selina deeply to realise her mum had always known that Benedict Stakis was alive. But in return for a house, and a guarantee to pay for Selina's upkeep until she was twenty-one, her mum had signed a contract to keep his identity secret from everyoneincluding her daughter.
Sighing, Selina began walking back to the villa. In the seven years since she had met her grandfather life had taught Selina a lot. She had seen some of the terrible things people were forced to do just to live in this world, and she no longer judged her mother quite so harshly for doing what she had done to ensure a good life for her daughter.
God, she had been so naive when she had met her grandfather, Selina thought, entering the villa and closing the door behind her. She had spent Christmas with him, here in this house. She glanced around the huge if somewhat tired-looking reception hall. But it had been what had happened the next time she'd visited Greece that had haunted her for years. Not any more. She was her own woman now and intended to remain that way.
In her experience good men were in a minority, and ruthlessly ambitious immoral men were in the ascendancy in today's world. She only had to remember her younger self and the night she'd met Orion Moralis to confirm her view, she thought, letting her mind slip back to the past.
She had been so excited to be back in Greece for a second time, and she'd been staying in her grandfather's house in Athens. He had held a dinner party, inviting the Moralis family.
Selina had been introduced to Helen Moralis and her daughter, Iris, a few days earlier, and they had been kind enough to take her around the sights and shops. They were there, with Paul Moralis, the husband and father.
Orion, the son, had arrived late, and Selina had taken one look at him and thought 'tall, dark and handsome' could have been coined for him. He had smiled and talked to her, his twinkling dark eyes mesmerising her, and with every passing minute she had fallen deeper under his spell.
Finally, when dinner was over, he'd said he had to leave early to take a conference call. Her grandfather had told her to lead Rion out through the garden because it was quicker.
She had stumbled on the garden path in the high heels Iris had convinced her to buy, along with the daring green dress she'd been wearing, and Rion had caught her. He had kept hold of her hand and talked to her, charmed her, and finally kissed and caressed her.
She had fallen headlong in love with him.