When chambermaid Kyra Pappas enters the hotel suite, she's not expecting a marriage proposal! But tycoon Cristo Kiriakas believes she will make the perfect convenient bride to help secure a vital dealand in return, he'll help her find her long-lost family.
Kyra is sure she can handle planning a wedding with no emotional entanglementsbut is soon fighting the temptation to kiss her gorgeous fake fiancé! Relationships have only ever meant heartache for these two lost heartsbut together, can they make their fairy-tale ending finally come true ?
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Kyra Pappas's breath caught in her throat. She hovered in the doorway of the Governor's suite of the Blue Tide Resort, the housekeeping pass card still clutched in one hand and a pink feather duster in the other. Had she heard correctly? Did someone just utter a marriage proposal?
Talk about bad timing on her part. Still, being a romantic at heart, she couldn't resist trying to catch a quick glimpse of the happy couple before making a hasty exit. Her gaze scanned the room until she stumbled across the most gorgeous man wearing a gray tailored suit, sans the tie.
Wait. She recognized him. Yesterday, he'd returned to this suite just as she'd finished freshening everything. They'd chatted briefly about her being American. He'd inquired whether she enjoyed working at the resort. As their conversation had progressed, he'd mentioned some local sites she should visit while in Greece. He'd certainly seemed nice enough.
But right now, he was staring directly at her. Why would he be looking at her when he was in the middle of a marriage proposal? Kyra glanced around. They were alone. And the television was turned off. How could that be?
And then a thought struck her. Surely he wasn't posing the question to her. The breath caught in her throat. No. Impossible.
Her puzzled gaze studied the man with the tanned face. She could stare at him for hours. His dark wavy hair made her long to run her fingers through it, while his startling azure-blue eyes seemed to see all. He kept staring at her as though he expected her to respond. Perhaps she hadn't heard him correctly.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?"
His dark brows drew together as his forehead wrinkled. "I asked if you'd marry me."
He really had proposed. This stranger wanted to marry her? To say she was caught off guard was akin to saying the Hope diamond was just another trinket.
For just the briefest moment, she imagined what it'd be like if he was serious. Until now, no one had spoken those words to her. On those occasional Saturday nights when she was home alone, she wondered if she'd ever fall in love. But she wasn't desperate enough to fall for the charming words of a strangerhowever sexy he may be.
Besides, the last thing she wanted was to be tied downnot now when she'd just embarked on an adventure to find her extended family. She had other priorities and love wasn't one of them. It wasn't even on her lengthy to-do list.
She studied the serious expression on the man's face. He certainly didn't seem to be making light of his proposal. So then why had he proposed marriage to a total stranger? Was he delusional? Or had he made some sort of ridiculous wager with his buddies?
"Are you feeling all right, sir?" Her gaze panned the room again, this time a bit more slowly, looking for an open liquor bottle or a hidden camera. Anything to explain his odd behavior.
"I I'm not exactly handling this well." He rubbed a hand over his clean-shaven jaw. "I must admit that I've never proposed to anyone before."
"Is this some sort of bet? A joke?"
His face turned gravely serious. "Certainly not. This is a serious business proposition. One that could benefit you handsomely."
Which was it? A marriage proposal? Or a business proposition? Kyra's mouth opened but nothing came out. Perhaps it was for the best. The man must have started drinking early that day even though she couldn't find any signs of it. The best thing she could do was beat a hasty retreat. She took a step back.
"Don't look so scared. I'm really not that bad." He sent her a lazy smile that made her stomach quiver. "I'm usually so much better at these things. Give me a moment to explain."
"I have work to do." She'd heard about rich people having weird tendencies. She kept a firm eye on him as she took another step back. "I I'll stop back later and um, freshen up your room."
"Please, don't go." He took a few quick steps toward her.
She held up a hand to stop him. "Don't come any closer or I'll scream."
"Relax. I won't hurt you. I promise." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm sorry. I'm really making a mess of things. I guess I should be relieved this isn't a real proposal."
She eyed him up to see if at last he was being on the level. The guilty puppy look on his face was so cute and tugged at her sympathies. He must be in a real bind to suggest something so preposterous. "Apology accepted. Now I really should get back to work."
"Aren't you at least curious about my proposal?"
Of course she was. Who wouldn't be? She studied the man a little more, noticing how the top couple of buttons on his slate blue button-down shirt were undone. It gave her the slightest hint of his muscular chest. She swallowed hard. To keep from staring, she diverted her gaze. On his arm, she spotted a fancy wristwatch. She wouldn't be surprised to find it was a Rolex.
He looked every inch a successful businessman right down to his freshly polished shoes. A man who was used to getting what he wanted. A man who made calculated decisions. And somehow he'd decided she would do for his plan. Interesting.
"Yes, I'm curious." She crossed her arms to keep from fidgeting. What would it hurt to hear him out? "Go ahead. I'm listening."
"Wouldn't you rather come inside and have a seat where you'll be more comfortable?"
"I'm good here." Until she had a clue what was going on, she was staying close to the open door. After all, she grew up in New York City. Her mother taught her at an early age not to trust strangers. Although, she didn't know if her mother would extend that warning to dashing billionaires or not, but Kyra didn't find wealth and class as important as her mother did.
He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "I realize we don't know each other very well. But I enjoyed our conversation yesterday. You seem like a very interesting young woman, and you have a way of putting people at ease."
She did? She'd never been told that before. "Thank you. But I don't understand why you're, uh, proposing to me."
"I'm trying to secure a very important business deal. The problem is the seller is an older gentleman and a traditionalist. He has certain expectations that I currently fail to meet. Such as being a family man."
He wants to play house with me?
No way. She wasn't doing this. She didn't even know his name. "I'm not the right person."
"You're exactly who I need." His eyes gleamed with excitement.
She made an obvious point of glancing at the time on her phone. "I really need to get going. I have a lot of rooms to clean today."
"You don't have to worry. I'll vouch for you."
What an odd thing to say, but then again, this whole episode could easily be classified as bizarre. Just so she knew who to avoid in the future, she asked, "Who are you?"
His dark brows rose. "You don't know?"
She shook her head. The only thing she knew about him was that no one had a right to look that sexy. "Would I have asked if I knew?"
"True. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cristo Kiriakas."
His name did ring a bella very loud bell. It took a moment until she was able to place it. Kyra gasped. He was her bossthe owner of the Glamour Hotel and Casino chain that included the newly built Blue Tide Resort. She would have known it was him if only she'd done her homework. This was, after all, the Governor's suitethe best in the resort.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Kiriakas. I I'm Kyra Pappas. I didn't recognize you."
"Don't look so worried." He spoke in a calm, soothing tone. "I didn't expect you to recognize me. And please, call me Cristo. My father insists on going by Mr. Kiriakas. So every time you say that name, I'll be looking over my shoulder for my father."
"Sorry, sir. Um. Cristo. You can call me Kyra." At this particularly awkward juncture, she supposed the wisest thing to do regarding her employment while in a foreign country was to reason with the man. "Does my job hinge on me playing along with your wedding plans?"
"No, it doesn't. You don't have to worry. Your job is safe."
She wasn't sure about that. "Surely you have a girlfriendsomeone close to youto marry."
His jaw tensed and a muscle in his cheek twitched. "Yes, I could find someone to marry for real, but the truth is I don't want to be married. Not for keeps."
"Then why jump through all of these hoops? You seem rich enough to do as you please."
"I wish it were as easy as that. But having money doesn't mean things come to you any easier. Some things are still unobtainable without help."
Kyra had lived with money and without money. She found that both lifestyles had their positives and negatives. But she didn't know that other people had similar opinions. Her mother seemed to think that having money was the only important thing in life. And if you no longer had money, like her and her mother, then you pretended as if you did. Kyra didn't subscribe to that way of thinking, but after going round and round with her mother, she knew trying to change her mother's mind was a waste of time.
Kyra eyed up Cristo. "And you want my help to create a paper marriage so you can conclude a business deal?" She struggled to get this all straight in her mind. "And when the deal's complete, we'll go our separate ways?"
"Yes." He smiled as though relieved that she finally grasped what he was saying. "But it's not just any business deal. It'll be the biggest of my career. It'll change everything."
The conviction in his voice surprised her. Even though she didn't quite understand the importance of this deal, she felt bad for him. Why would anyone have to propose to a stranger in order to do business? No one should marry someone they didn't love heart, body and soul. For any reason.
Perhaps he needed a bit of coaxing in order to see things clearly. "There has to be another way."
He shook his head. "If there was, trust me, I would have done it by now."
She paused for a moment and gave his predicament a bit of thought. "Well, if marriage is so important, why can't you just have a fake fiancée? Wouldn't that save you a lot of trouble?"
Not that she was applying for the positioneven though his blue eyes were mesmerizing and his mouth looked as though it could do the most delicious things. The fact was she'd come to Greece with her own agenda. And getting caught up in someone else's drama would only delay making life better for her and her mother.
* * *
This lady was sharp.
That was a definite bonus.
Cristo smiled. He knew from the moment he'd met Kyra that there was something special about her. And it went much deeper than her silky dark hair with long bangs that framed her big brown eyes. The rest of her hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He imagined how seductive she'd look with her hair loose and flowing over her shoulders.
However, his interest in her went beyond her good looks. From the moment they'd met, he'd noticed the warmth in her smile and the ease in her manner. Who knew she'd end up being the answer to his problems? He hadn'tnot until this morning when he submitted his final proposal to the Stravos Trust to purchase its hotel chain. It had been summarily rejected without review.
He knew then and there that he was going to have to play by the off-the-wall rules laid out by the reclusive billionaire Nikolaos Stravos, whether he liked it or not. And he most certainly did not like having his business deals hinge on his personal life.
Although, Kyra's suggestion of an engagement might make the arrangement a bit more tolerable. An engagement wouldn't necessitate the use of attorneys and an ironclad prenuptial agreement. It'd be all very neat and tidy.
His gaze met and held hers. He needed more information in order to make this work. "How long have you been working at the Blue Tide? I don't remember seeing you around here before yesterday."
"That's because yesterday was my first day. I used to work in the New York hotel."
"Did you work there long?"
"A few years."
"And it was in housekeeping?"
She nodded, but the way she worried her bottom lip was a dead giveaway that she was leaving something out. If he was going to trust her with this important deal, he had to know what she was leaving out. "What aren't you saying?"
Her gaze met his as though deciding if she should trust him or not. After a few seconds, she said, "I'm currently taking online courses in international hotel management."
"I don't understand. Why would you be hesitant to tell me that?"
She laced her fingers together. "I didn't want you to think I was ungrateful for my current position."
He smiled at her, hoping to ease her obvious discomfort. "The thought never would have crossed my mind. I encourage all of my employees to further themselves. In fact, we have in-house training sessions periodically."
"I know. I checked into them."
Again, she was leaving something out, but he was pretty sure of what she was hesitant to say. "But we don't offer the classes you are interested in. And if you don't mind me asking, what might that be?"
She straightened her thin shoulders and tilted up her chin. "Property manager."
Of course. He should have known. There was a get-it-done spirit to her. "I have no doubt that you will succeed."
Her lips lifted into a warm smile. "Thank you."
So she had drive. He respected that. But there was still so much that he didn't know about her. The cautious side of him said to pull her personnel file, but there wasn't time. However, his manager made a practice of thoroughly investigating prospective employees. She must have a clean history or she wouldn't be here.
"I enjoyed our conversation yesterday. You're a very insightful young woman. And I would consider it a huge favor if you were to help me out with my business issue."
The panic vacated her eyes as her rigid stance eased. "I really do like my job with housekeeping. It allows me time to, uh sightsee and stuff."
"Will you at least consider my proposition?"
"I have. And the answer is no. I'm sorry, but you'll have to find yourself someone else to play the part." She started out the door.
"Please think it over." He threw out an outrageous dollar figure that put a pause in her step. "I really need your assistance."
He was running out of time.