However, Demetri's attempts to dig beneath Joanna's coolly beautiful exterior reveal few clues as to the nature of her relationship with his father. She's giving nothing away except an unwitting sexual attractiveness that Demetri finds hard to resist .
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His Virgin Mistress
By Anne Mather
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Anne Mather
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Is that her?"
"Yes, sir." Spiro Stavros gave his employer a faintly sardonic look. "Not exactly what you'd anticipated, is she?"
Demetrios Kastro arched a dismissive brow. As yet his arrival had not been noticed, and he was able to look across the crowded salon to where his father and his companion were standing without being observed. They were surrounded by the guests who had been invited to welcome the old man back to Theapolis, and Demetri watched with a tightening of his jawline as his father put a possessive arm about the woman's shoulders.
"Perhaps not," he conceded at last, aware that Spiro knew exactly what he was thinking. He had expected her to be younger. A "blonde bimbo" was how she had been described to him by his sister, and because it was what he had wanted to hear he had believed her. But the woman his father had adopted as his mistress didn't look like a bimbo. There was intelligence as well as beauty in the high-cheekboned face, with its wide-set eyes and mobile mouth, and, although she was undoubtedly a blonde, she wore her hair drawn up into a severe knot that, whatever its purpose, tended to draw attention to the slender column of her neck. "She is certainly older than I had imagined."
"And more sophisticated?" suggested Spiro drily. "I have the feeling she is not going to be as easy to get rid of as you thought."
Demetri cast his assistant a dark look. "You think not?" He was cynical. "In my experience, my friend, everyone has their price. Man or woman. It makes no difference. If the rewards are great enough, they all succumb."
Spiro's snort was disbelieving. "Do you include me in that assessment?"
Demetri sighed. "We were not talking about you, Spiro."
"That does not answer my question."
"All right." Demetri scowled. "I would hope not. I consider you my friend as well as my assistant. But few people are as scrupulous, Spiro. You know that."
"Not all women are like Athenee, Demetri," the other man reminded him gently. Then, aware that he was in danger of overstepping the mark, he added, "I suppose I must consider myself honoured." He grimaced. "So? What are you going to do now?"
"Now?" Demetri's dark, tanned features smoothed themselves into an urbane mask. "Why, now I am going to announce my arrival to my father, and ask to be introduced to the delightful Kiria Manning."
Spiro's mouth compressed and, taking a chance, he put a detaining hand on Demetri's sleeve. "Be careful," he said, risking a rebuff. But although his hand was shaken off, Demetri merely gave him a mocking smile.
"Am I not always?" he enquired, loosening the button on the jacket of his dark blue silk suit. "Calm yourself, Spiro. I am not likely to show my hand so early in the game."
Nevertheless, as Demetri made his way across the room he was aware of an intense feeling of irritation. Dammit, his father had only been out of hospital for a few weeks; weeks that he had spent in London, ostensibly to avoid the blistering heat of Theapolis in mid-summer. The old man had been ill; seriously ill. In God's name, when had he found the time to meet this woman, let alone become intimate with her?
He would find out. Offering a word of greeting here, an acknowledgement of welcome there, he gradually covered the space dividing him from Constantine Kastro and his mistress. What was her name? Manning, yes. But what was her first name? Demetri frowned, thinking. Joanna! That was it. Joanna Manning. Was it her real name? If so, it was elegant, just like the woman herself.
"Do not tell me that frown is because you are sad to see me back, Demetri."
His father's chiding words - spoken in English for the woman's benefit, Demetri assumed - were delivered in a mocking tone. Demetri realised he was allowing too much of his feelings to show in his face and he hastily schooled his features. Then, finding a polite smile, he shook the old man's hand and submitted to the customary embrace with genuine warmth.
"Forgive me, Papa," he said disarmingly, and no one could tell from his expression that he was anything but delighted with the present situation. "Naturally, I am relieved your physicians consider you well enough to return to us at last."
Constantine looked less than pleased now, his narrow features mirroring his discontent. "I am not an invalid, Demetri," he declared irritably, even though his wasted body belied the fact. "The doctors have given me a clean bill of health, and I do not appreciate you behaving as if I had only just got out of hospital."
Demetri made no response to this. Instead, his eyes moved to the woman standing at his father's side, and, because they were surrounded by interested spectators, Constantine was obliged to introduce his companion to his son.
"My dear," he said and Demetri stiffened at the implied intimacy in the term. "Allow me to present my son to you. Demetrios: this is Joanna. Joanna Manning. My - my friend."
"How do you do?"
The woman didn't make the mistake of calling him by his first name and Demetri's thin lips stretched into a tight smile. "It is my pleasure to meet you, Kiria Manning," he responded politely. "I trust you are not finding our weather too trying for your English tastes?"
"On the contrary." Despite the faint film of perspiration on her upper lip, she denied it. "I love the heat. It's so - sensual."
Demetri had to work hard to prevent himself from showing his incredulity. He had heard his father was besotted by the woman, but he hadn't expected her to disconcert him. And why was she watching him with that air of amused speculation? She was taller than most of the women of his acquaintance - easily five feet eight or nine - and, although he was still almost a head taller than she was, she didn't have to tilt her head too far to look up at him. If he hadn't known better he'd have wondered if she wasn't deliberately trying to irritate him. But that was ridiculous. Nevertheless, there was a definite look of challenge in her face.
"Katalava." I see. Conscious that his father was enjoying his confusion, Demetri inadvertently spoke in his own language. But he quickly corrected himself. "You are familiar with our Greek weather, Miss Manning?"
"It's Mrs Manning, actually," she corrected him. "But please call me Joanna, or Jo, if you prefer it." Then, with an affectionate look at Constantine. "Not yet. The weather, I mean. But I hope to be."
Now, why am I not surprised?
It was all Demetri could do to prevent himself from saying the words out loud. But at least he knew a little more about her now. No one had seen fit to tell him that she'd been married. But it figured. And if he'd had any doubts about her relationship with his father they'd been dispelled by the familiarity of that look.
"Do you live on the island - um - Demetrios?" she asked suddenly, surprising him again. "Or do you have your own home?"
"This is my home," replied Demetri, unable to quite disguise his indignation. "This house is our family home." He paused. "But do not worry, Mrs Manning. It is quite big enough to accommodate us all without any - what is it you say? - stepping on toes?"
He was pleased to see that her soft mouth tightened a little at this rebuff. The upper lip was drawn between her teeth and the lower, which was so much fuller and more vulnerable, curved protectively. Then he scowled. When had he started thinking that her mouth was soft, or vulnerable, for that matter? She was a kept woman, for heaven's sake. Hardly better than the sluts who plied their trade on the streets of Athens. He had no need to feel sorry for her. It was his father who was the vulnerable one. Vulnerable, and foolish. What on earth did he think she saw in a man at least thirty years her senior?
"Demetri has his own apartments in the house," Constantine put in now, the look he cast at his son promising retribution later. "As do Alex and Olivia. As my son says, this is our family home. Our island fortress, if you will. I regret you will discover that security is paramount in our situation."
Joanna nodded. "I understand."
"I doubt you do," put in Demetri pleasantly, though his feelings were anything but. "My father is a constant target for terrorists and paparazzi alike. Only on Theapolis can we - usually - ensure that he is not at the mercy of unscrupulous men - and women."
Her eyes flashed then, and he noticed how deep a blue they were. "I trust you are not suggesting that I am any threat to your father?" she demanded coolly, her earlier amusement all gone now. He could hardly suppress a smile.
"Of course not," he said, but when his dark eyes strayed to his father's taut face he saw he was by no means convinced by his son's denial. "I am sure you and my father must have a lot in common. Tell me, Mrs Manning, do you have children, too?"
Excerpted from His Virgin Mistress by Anne Mather Copyright © 2003 by Anne Mather
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a good book.
This was a good story
Good fast read. Very sexy...