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The Greek Tycoon's Ultimatum
By Lucy Monroe
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"The coldhearted bitch."
Flinching as the words flew venomously from her sister-in-law's lips, Savannah Marie Kiriakis forced her gaze to remain fixed on the emerald-green grass in front of her.
The traditional Greek Orthodox graveside service was over and everyone had paid their final respects, everyone but her. Poised on the edge of the grave, a single white rose in her hand, she tried coming to terms with this - the final end to her marriage.
Relief warred with guilt inside her, forcing out the pain of Iona's verbal attack.
Relief that her own torment was over. No one would ever again threaten to take her children. And guilt that this should be her reaction to the death of another human being, particularly Dion - a man she had married in good faith and youthful stupidity six years ago.
"What right has she to be here?" Iona continued when her first insult was not only ignored by Savannah, but also by the other mourners.
Dion's younger sister had a flair for the dramatic.
Unbidden, Savannah's gaze sought the reaction of Leiandros Kiriakis to his cousin's outburst. His dark eyes were not set on Iona, but focused on Savannah with a look of such contempt if she'd been a weaker person, she would have been tempted to jump into the grave with her dead husband.
She could not turn away, though her heart and emotions were screaming inside for her to do just that. Leiandros's contempt might be justified, but it hurt in a way that Dion's frequent infidelities and bouts of violent temper had not.
The smell of fresh earth mixed with the floral offerings covering the now closed casket assailed her nostrils and she managed to shift her gaze to her husband's grave.
"I'm sorry," she whispered soundlessly before dropping the rose she carried onto the casket and stepping back.
"A touching gesture, if an empty one." More words meant to wound, but these delivered directly to her with the sharp precision of a stiletto aimed at her heart.
It took every bit of Savannah's inner fortitude to turn and face Leiandros after the way he had looked at her a moment ago. "Is it an empty gesture for a wife to say her final goodbye?" she asked as she lifted her head to make eye contact.
And wished she hadn't. Eyes so dark, they were almost black, blazed with a scorn she knew she had earned, but nevertheless grieved. Of all the Kiriakis clan, this man was the only one with legitimate reason to despise her. Because he had firsthand knowledge of the fact she had not loved Dion, not passionately and with her whole heart as a man like her husband had needed to be loved.
"Yes empty. You said goodbye to Dion three years ago."
She shook her head in instinctive denial. Leiandros was mistaken. She would never have risked saying goodbye to Dion before fleeing Greece with her two small daughters in tow. Her only hope of escape had been to board the international flight for America before Dion realized she was gone.
By the time he had tracked her down, she had filed for a legal separation, thus preventing him from spiriting their children from the country. She had also filed a restraining order, citing her healing bruises and cracked ribs as evidence that she was not safe in Dion's company.
The Kiriakis clan knew nothing of this. Even Leiandros, head of the Kiriakis Empire and thus the family, was ignorant of the reasons for the final break in Dion and Savannah's marriage.
Leiandros's sculpted face hardened. "That's right. You never did say a final goodbye. You wouldn't give Dion his freedom and you wouldn't live with him. You were the kind of wife nightmares are made of."
Each word pierced her heart and her sense of self as a woman, but she refused to bow in shame under the weight of his ugly judgments. "I would have given Dion a divorce at any time over the last three years." He had been the one to threaten to take their daughters if she made good on her intention to file for permanent dissolution of their marriage.
Leiandros's face tightened with derision and she felt the familiar pain his scorn caused. His opinion of her had been cast in stone the night they met.
She'd been nervous attending a party given by a man she didn't know, a man Dion had raved about and stressed she had to impress in order to be accepted into the Kiriakis family. If that pressure had not been enough to make her tremble with anxiety, the fact that Dion had abandoned her in a crowd of strangers speaking a language she did not understand was.
Attempting to be unobtrusive, she hovered near a wall by the door to the terrace, away from the other guests.
"Kalispera. Pos se lene? Me lene Leiandros," A deep, male voice speaking in Greek penetrated her isolation.
She looked up to see the most devastatingly attractive man she'd ever encountered. His lazy smile all but stole her breath right out of her chest. She stared at him, mesmerized by a rush of inexplicable feelings toward him, unhindered by societal conventions or even unfamiliarity.
Feeling horribly guilty for such a reaction to a man who was not her husband, she blushed and dropped her gaze. Using the only Greek phrase she knew, she told him she could not understand his language. "Then katalaveno."
He placed a finger under her chin and forced her head up so she had no choice but to look in his eyes. His smile had turned vaguely predatory. "Dance with me," he said in perfect English.
She was shaking her head, trying to force her frozen vocal chords to utter the word no even as he put a possessive arm around her waist and pulled her out onto the terrace. He then drew her into his arms, his hold anything but conventional. She struggled while their bodies swayed to the seductive chords of the Greek music.
He pressed her closer. "Relax. I'm not going to eat you."
"But I shouldn't be dancing with you," she told him.
His hold grew even more possessive. "Why? Are you here with a boyfriend?"
"No, but -"
Demanding lips drowned her explanation that she was with her husband, not a boyfriend. Her struggles to get free increased, but the heat of his body and the feel of his hands caressing her back and her nape were already seducing her good intentions.
And to her everlasting shame she felt her body melt in helpless response. The kiss drew emotions from her Dion had never tapped into. She wanted it to go on forever, but even under the influence of a wholly alien passion, she knew she had to break away from the seduction of his lips.
The hand on her back moved to her front and cupped her breast as if he had every right to do so. The fact that he was touching her so intimately was not nearly so appalling as her body's reaction to it. Her breasts seemed to swell within the confines of her lacy bra while their tips grew hard and aching. She'd never felt this way with Dion.
Excerpted from The Greek Tycoon's Ultimatum by Lucy Monroe Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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