Sophia Andreou has always been the “good daughter” who tried to keep her domineering father happy. She followed the rules and did everything that was asked of her. But this time, her father is asking too much. The family company is crumbling, and her father has arranged a marriage to a Greek billionaire who can save their property business. What?! Umm no thank you. If Cinderella can dress up to win a prince, surely Sophia can do the opposite and ditch hers...
Dion Kourakis has come a long way from being an orphan with only a single friend to his name. Now he runs a billion-dollar investment company and has the respect of everyone in Europe. His charming personality covers a lot of emotional scars, including his desire to make his mentor proud. Dion doesn’t exactly want a bride to go along with his next business deal, and he plans on letting the lass down gently when they meet...
Only, his future bride has turned out to be nothing like what he thought she’d be. She’s quirky and has a habit of turning up to social events in strange outfits. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what she’s up to, but the harder she tries to convince him she’d be an awful wife, the more he wants to convince her they’d be perfect together.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Stefanie London is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romances and romantic comedies.
Stefanie’s books have been called “genuinely entertaining and memorable” by Booklist, and her writing praised as “Elegant, descriptive and delectable” by RT magazine. Her stories have earned accolades such as the RT Top Pick and have achieved bestseller status with USA Today and iBooks.
Growing up, Stefanie came from a family of women who loved to read. After sneaking several literature subjects into her ‘very practical’ Business degree, she worked in HR and Communications. But writing emails for executives didn’t fulfil her creative urges, so she turned to fiction and was finally able to write the stories that kept her mind busy at night.
Originally from Australia, she now lives in Toronto with her very own hero and is currently in the process of doing her best to travel the world. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, lipstick, romance novels and anything zombie-related.
Read an Excerpt
o. No, no, no, no, no.
It was something Sophia Andreou said in her head a lot more than she said aloud. Chalk it up to having a control-freak father who was an expert in getting his way, with an arsenal of techniques up his sleeve to make sure he had the last word. Voicing her opposition was unheard of.
Because this ... this was taking it too far.
"Dad, you can't be serious." Sophia tried to laugh, but the sound had a razor edge to it. "Marriage? To a guy I've never met?"
She looked over to where her mother sat on the windowsill of their Brooklyn brownstone, studiously avoiding Sophia's gaze and picking at an invisible piece of lint on her skirt. As usual, she said nothing.
"To a man who will save this family," her father corrected. "Dion Kourakis is willing to buy our company and put the necessary funds into reviving it. Without that money, we'll be — "
"Nothing." The quiet word slipped from her mother's lips, but then her eyes immediately darted over to her husband. Sophia knew her mother would never question the head of the family, because for as long as she could remember, he'd always known — and done — what was best for them all.
But she was really struggling to see how marrying her off to a stranger as part of a business deal was the best solution.
Besides, why did everybody want to be somebody? She suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Sophia would have been perfectly happy to leave New York and live a quiet life somewhere green and peaceful with a small army of furry friends. Somewhere far, far away from her father's influence.
Did she love her father? That was a complicated question about a complicated man. But Sophia valued being part of her family, valued the lifestyle her father had worked hard to provide, and valued the fact his decisions were born of the best intentions, though she could have done without his steamrolling. So she'd been a good daughter. Everything he'd ever asked for, she'd done. Like a good little princess. Well-mannered and well-behaved, that was her in a nutshell. But now it appeared they'd reached the point where she would have to put her foot down.
Delicately, of course.
Before she could say another word, her father tapped his finger on his desk. "Dorothy, leave us for a minute. I want to talk to Sophia alone."
The command was enough to have Sophia's mother on her feet and exiting the room without so much as a backward glance. So much for reinforcements.
Her father turned to her. "This isn't the time for you to be doubting your loyalty to this family."
Sophia's lips tightened. She was nothing if not loyal. She always put her father's requests ahead of her social life. She always dropped her own needs to care for her mother when she had one of her bad spells. Doubting her loyalty? Seriously?
Clearly, she was the worst person in the world because she didn't want to be sold off like livestock.
She reined in her emotions as best she could, but her blood had started to boil. "My loyalty is not the issue. Aren't you concerned about a guy who wants a wife thrown in with a business deal? I'm not a gift with purchase!"
Whoops. That had not come out as calmly as she'd hoped it would.
Her father's eyes narrowed.
That was a mistake. She knew better than to raise her voice when negotiating with Cyrus "the Greek" Andreou. Anything that could be classed as insubordination was like flashing a cape at a bull. Sophia sucked in a slow breath, composing herself.
"I didn't mean to yell," she said before he had the chance to blow up. "It's just ... marriage? What's so wrong with this guy that he's using a business deal to leverage a wife?"
Cyrus folded his arms across his chest. "He didn't."
She frowned. "What?"
"It was my part of the deal. My request."
Sophia reeled as if she'd been slapped. Wait, what? Her father could be a bully, sure, but she never thought he'd pimp her out like she was a piece of property. "You asked him to marry me?"
"I didn't ask." Her father's black, bushy mustache bobbed up and down. "I told him if he wants this company, then you are part of the deal."
"Because, my dear child, when I sell the company to him, it's gone."
Realization seeped like ice through her veins. "The marriage will mean our family retains a claim on the company."
The return smile was calculating. "Smart girl."
She gripped the edge of her seat, nails biting into the soft leather until she felt it dent under the pressure. Was the company so important that he was willing to sell off his only daughter in order to keep a handle on it? Of course he would do it. In his mind, it was the best move for their family.
Everything he did was in the best interest of their family.
Sophia glanced around her father's office. The room wasn't big, but it was packed with as many status symbols as he could possibly fit in: a Montblanc pen in a fancy crystal holder, a shiny new laptop — which was a glorified paperweight, since he barely ever used it — a precious antique painting, and classic novels lining the bookshelf behind his desk.
The wealthy, sophisticated veneer was a lie, however. The Montblanc pen was a fake — high quality, but a fake. The laptop was of dubious origins, meaning it had come from one of her father's shady business acquaintances. The painting was a replica, and the vintage collection of classic novels, which made her father appear educated and well-read, was a sham. He'd never even cracked one open.
Needless to say, the Andreous weren't some upper-crust blue-blooded family. Her mother grew up in a house with more mouths to feed than there was food to go around. And her father was a glorified blunt instrument, the muscle who'd gone on to inherit his boss's property development company after the man's untimely death.
So her father had switched steel-toe boots for pinstripe suits and wanted a reputation to match. But that didn't change who they were underneath it all. Or her father's "do whatever it takes" personality.
"Can't you start a new company with the money from the sale?" she asked. "Wouldn't that be better? You don't need to hang on to this one. You could have something of your own with your name."
For the first time in as long as she could remember, her father's hard mask slipped, and she glimpsed the weary face of a burdened man beneath it. "When I took over the company, I had no idea Aristos had racked up so much debt. The sale will barely cover everything he owes. If I sell it now and don't have money coming back in, then your mother and I will have nothing. You'll have nothing."
Sophia wanted to point out that their house was worth a small fortune, especially since her father had owned it for years. But he wouldn't see it like that. They needed to keep up appearances, maintain their picture of success and wealth. Selling the house to get by would make them look bad. Like failures.
And she was their only cash cow.
Her breathing came quicker. What had started off as a laughable suggestion suddenly felt like a nauseating reality.
If it wasn't for her mother, she would have taken off years ago to chase her dream of a quiet, happy life of independence and solitude. She'd been busting her ass working as a virtual assistant for over two years now to save for a place of her own. She loved her work, loved helping people get their lives in order, and she had a good chunk of her deposit for a place of her own set aside. Better yet, her father knew nothing about it.
The only thing stopping Sophia from acting on her dream was her mother. The older woman was gentle. Vulnerable. She wasn't emotionally strong enough to stand up for herself. Not only did she suffer spells where she couldn't get out of bed, but even in her "good times," the older woman didn't have much confidence. She didn't see her worth.
Sophia would always shield her mother from the brunt of her father's temper and his need to control everything. But that responsibility was like a pair of hands around her throat, squeezing. Drawing up a fluttery panic her stomach.
"Do you really want to leave your mother with nothing?" he asked.
The man had always known her weak spot.
Sophia slumped in her seat. "Of course I don't want to leave her with nothing," she said, massaging her temples. There had to be another solution. Something that would keep her family safe and secure while not landing her in a loveless marriage with a stranger. But what?
"It's not like I'm marrying you off to some disgusting old pig," he added. "Look him up on Tweet Face or whatever you kids use these days. He's young, and he's Greek, which gets my mark of approval, and he's as rich as a king. You'll be living on an island in the Mediterranean. It's not going to be a difficult life. Frankly, he's a better option than what you could have found yourself."
She gritted her teeth. Okay, that was uncalled for. At twenty- six, she'd hardly been concerned with finding a husband. Especially since anyone she dated had to meet her father's high standards — a feat she thought impossible until Dion — or be willing to sneak around behind her father's back. That left only the guys who had a death wish or had no idea what they were getting themselves into. Needless to say, pigheaded and stupid were not qualities she looked for in a potential love interest.
"This isn't open for negotiation. Your mother is counting on you." He twisted the knife further, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms across his chest with a self-satisfied air. "Your flight is already booked. You'll leave for Corfu early next week."
Heart thundering in her chest, she pushed up from her chair. It felt as though the world was tilting beneath her feet. How could she possibly get out of this? One glance at her father's stony expression told her that arguing now would only end up in the worst possible scenario: him railing about it to her mother until the woman dissolved into tears and resigned herself to bed for the week. The last time it happened, it'd taken Sophia days to convince her mother to eat a full meal. Even longer to leave the house and face the world.
And this time, she'd be stuck in Corfu, unable to fix it.
She bit down on her lip. She'd tried so many times to get her mom to leave — begging and pleading and offering a simple, uncomplicated life. They'd find a way to make it work, Sophia was sure of it. But her mother steadfastly refused, not even willing to consider it. Was it out of fear? Pride? Something else?
All Sophia knew was that she wouldn't leave her mother, and her mother wouldn't leave her father.
Which meant she was trapped.
"We're very proud of how you always put your family first," he said, assessing her calmly. Could he read the riot of emotions swamping her? "It's an admirable quality. I'm sure your future husband will appreciate it."
Sophia nodded numbly and excused herself from the room. As she walked through the house, the chunky heels of her pumps echoing against the wooden floorboards, her stomach rocked in time with each step.
More like a prison sentence.
By the time she got up to her room, her hands were shaking. She pulled her laptop off her desk and settled onto her bed. Slowly, she typed Dion Kourakis's name into Google. The image that popped up made her blink. Her father hadn't been joking. He wasn't a disgusting old pig by any stretch.
"Well, he might still be a pig," she muttered to herself. "But he's not an old one."
In fact, the man who stared back at her could have been cut right out of a GQ fashion shoot. Hair like polished onyx, deep olive skin, and a sexy five o'clock shadow. Dark, mysterious eyes and full lips that had the most subtle quirk, like he was laughing at a private joke.
He was hot. Superhot, even. But that didn't change things.
According to Wikipedia, Dion Kourakis was thirty-one and a self- made billionaire. Born and raised in Corfu, Greece. He gave to charity on the regular and was well-known in the community for his company's program to provide underprivileged residents with employment opportunities.
Okay, so he was superhot and a good guy.
Grumbling, Sophia folded her arms across her chest. That still didn't change things. The last thing she wanted was to go from being under the control of one domineering man to another. And a man who was willing to marry someone for the sake of a business deal was bound to be domineering, right? Never mind that he seemed like a good guy. Was it worth the risk?
Sophia groaned. Didn't anyone marry for love anymore? Was that such a ridiculous notion? She wanted the kind of marriage that was founded on things like trust and mutual respect, on genuine feelings and equality. And, of course, on love.
Because, as much as she adored her mother, she'd be damned if she followed in her footsteps. No way would Sophia end up tied to a man who didn't view her as an equal, least of all one who seemed willing to use her as a pawn for the sake of money. Not. Going. To. Happen.
Resolved to find some flaw in the man, Sophia scrolled through page after page on Google Images of Dion in an array of well-tailored suits, attending charity balls, cocktail parties, ribbon cuttings, and premieres. Even a shot of him shaking the hand of someone in royal dress.
In the images were a rotating bevy of stylish dark-haired women on his arm. Okay. Clearly, he had a type. Sophia frowned at the reflection staring back at her from her vanity mirror. Her very brunette reflection. Darn it.
She lifted her chin. Whether she was his type or not, a man like Dion would need a wife befitting of hanging off his arm. A wife who would be okay with the spotlight, with having her photo taken, and who could dress well and shine beside him. A woman who could look pretty but stay quiet.
In other words, the woman she was raised to be, with her ability to assume an outwardly demure personality and her closet full of stylish clothes. Problem was, she didn't want to be that woman any longer.
And she certainly didn't want a man who felt entitled to those things.
But it wasn't like he knew her. She could be anyone ...
Sophia gasped as the solution hit her like a bolt of lightning. She wouldn't have to refuse her father's wishes if Dion decided he didn't want to marry her. After all, she couldn't be blamed if her husband-to-be wasn't happy with the merchandise. If he rejected her, then she could return home, absolved of her "duties" to her family, without worrying her mother would take the brunt of her defiance.
Then she could get back her plans for building her perfect life. All she wanted was to find a house somewhere quiet, somewhere green, where she could work her own hours, be her own boss, and wake up each morning with a view of nature. Then she could convince her mother to come live with her, and the two of them would be happy and free forever.
Guilt immediately curled in her stomach at the thought of lying to this stranger, of deceiving him. But what other option did she have? Her father would never bend, never waver. His word was final ... always. If she showed any ounce of resistance, he'd march her onto the damn plane and buckle her into the seat himself. Or worse, fly to Greece with her.
And really, wasn't this for Dion's benefit, too? He seemed like a decent guy. Upstanding. A good member of his community.
He shouldn't be steamrolled into a loveless marriage, either.
That meant none of her beautiful clothing or fancy shoes or her perfect-wife personality would be coming to Corfu with her. If Cinderella had ditched her rags to go catch a prince, then Sophia would simply do the opposite.CHAPTER 2
Dion Kourakis leaned against the back seat of his Audi and closed his eyes. The soothing flow of air-conditioning skated across his skin, easing the tension in his muscles and luring him into a state of relaxation. He checked his phone for what must have been the hundredth time that day, refreshing the screen with Sophia's flight details. He'd found himself counting the minutes like an insomniac counted sheep.
It was a good thing Dion was a master at appearing at ease and in control, even if his mind was a mess. He had a feeling that would serve him well in the next twenty-four hours.
His phone buzzed, and he wearily brought it to his ear. "Hello?"
"Has the mail-order bride arrived yet?" Dion's business partner and best friend, Nico, asked with a chuckle. The question wasn't meant with any malice, but it didn't stop Dion from rolling his eyes.
"That's not what this is," Dion replied. "And you know it."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "How to Lose a Fiancé"
Copyright © 2019 Stefanie London.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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