Once Loukas Sarantos was bodyguard to the world's richest men. Now the ruthless Greek is a CEO with bodyguards of his own. And his most recent procurement means he can finally take revenge on Jessica Cartwrightthe only woman to ever walk away from him.
As the face of Loukas's new luxury jewelry company, formerly out-of-his-league Jessica now has to answer to himand he will relish every second of having her under his control! But as the embers of their former fire reignite, Loukas begins to realize Jessica may be the most precious jewel in his possession
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Something was different. Jessica felt it the moment she walked into the building. An unmistakable air of excitement and expectation. A rippling sense of change. She felt her throat constrict with something which felt like fear. Because people didn't like change. Even though it was about the only thing in life you could guarantee, nobody really welcomed itand she was right up there with all those change-haters, wasn't she?
Outwardly the headquarters of the upmarket chain ofjewellery stores was the same. Same plush sofas and scented candles and twinkling chandeliers. Same posters of glittering jewels spilled casually onto folds of dark velvet. There were glossy shots of women gazing dreamily at engagement rings, while their impossibly handsome fiancés looked on. There was even a poster of her, leaning reflectively against a sea wall and gazing into the distance, with a chunky platinum watch gleaming against her wrist. Briefly, Jessica's gaze flicked over it. Anyone looking at that poster would think the woman in the crisp shirt and sleek po-nytail inhabited a life which was all neat and sorted. She gave a wry smile. Whoever said the camera never lied had been very misguided.
Glancing down at her pale leather boots, which had somehow survived the journey from Cornwall without being splashed, she walked over to the desk where the receptionist was wearing a new blouse which displayed her ample cleavage. Jessica blinked. She was sure she could smell furniture polish mingling with the scent of gardenia from the flickering candles. Even the extra-large display of roses sitting on the fancy glass desk looked as if they'd been given a makeover.
'Hi, Suzy,' said Jessica, bending her head to sniff at one of the roses and finding it completely without fragrance. 'I have a three o'clock appointment.'
Suzy glanced down at her computer screen and smiled. 'So you do. Nice to see you, Jessica.'
'Nice to be here,' said Jessica, although that bit wasn't quite true. Her life in the country had claimed her wholesale and she only came to London when she had to. And today it seemed she had tosummoned by an enigmatic email, which had provoked more questions than it had answered and left her feeling slightly confused. Which was why she had abandoned her jeans and sweater and was standing in reception in her city clothes, with the cool smile expected of her. And if inside her heart was aching because Hannah had gone well, she would soon learn to deal with that. She had dealt with plenty worse.
Brushing fine droplets of water from her raincoat, she lowered her voice. 'You don't happen to know what's going on?' she said. 'Why I received a mystery summons out of the blue, when I'm not due to start shooting the new catalogue until early summer?'
Suzy started looking from side to side, like someone who had been watching too many spy films. 'Actually, I do.' She paused. 'We have a new boss.'
Jessica's smile didn't slip. 'Really? First I've heard about it.'
'Oh, you wouldn't have heard anything. Big takeover dealvery hush-hush. The new owner's Greek. Very Greek. A playboy by all accounts,' said Suzy succinctly, her eyes suddenly darkening. 'And very dangerous.'
Jessica felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle, as if someone had just stroked an icy finger over her skin. Hearing someone say Greek shouldn't produce a reaction, but the stupid thing was that it did, every time. It wasn't as bad as it used to be, but she could never hear the mention of anything Hellenic without the sudden rush of blood to her heart. She was like one of Pavlov's dogs, who used to salivate whenever a bell was rung. One of those dumb dogs who expected to be fed and instead were presented with nothing but an empty bowl. And how sad was that? She stared at Suzy and injected a light-hearted note into her voice.
'Really?' she questioned. 'You mean dangerous as in swashbuckling?'
Suzy shook her mop of red curls. 'I mean dangerous as in oozing sex appeal, and knows it.' A light flashed on her desk and she clicked the button with a perfectly manicured fingernail. 'Something which you're just about to find out for yourself.'
Jessica thought about Suzy's words as she rode in the elevator towards the penthouse offices, wishing they could have swopped places. Because the new boss would be completely wasted on herno matter how hunky he was. She'd met men who'd oozed testosterone and she'd had her fingers burnt. She stared at her reflection in the smoky elevator mirrors. Actually, it had only been one man and she'd had her whole body burnther heart and soul completely friedand as a consequence she steered clear of dangerous men and all the stuff which came with them.
The elevator stopped and the first thing Jessica noticed was that things were different up here, too. More flowers, but the place was deserted and oddly quiet. She'd expected a small delegation of executives or some sort of fanfare, but even the usual rather scary-looking assistant who guarded the inner sanctum was missing. She looked around. The doors to the executive suite were open. She glanced down at her watch. Dead on three. So did she just walk in and announce herself? Or hang around here and wait until someone came out to find her? For a moment she stood there feeling slightly uncertain, when a richly accented voice brushed over her skin like gravel which had been steeped in honey.
'Don't just stand there, Jess. Come right in. I've been waiting for you.'
Her heart clenched and at first she thought her mind was playing tricks. She told herself that all Mediterranean voices sounded similar and that it couldn't possibly be him. Because how could she instantly recognise a voice she hadn't heard for years?
But she was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
She walked into the office in the direction of the voice and stopped dead in the centre of the vast room. And even though her brain was sending out frantic and confused messages to her suddenly tightening body, there was no denying the identity of the man behind the desk. It was him.
Loukas Sarantos, framed by the backdrop of a London skylinelooking like the king of all he surveyed. Big, and brooding and in total command. A mocking half-smile curved his lips. His long legs were spread out beneath the desk while his hands were spread-eagled on the expansive surface, as if emphasising that it all belonged to him. With a shock she noted the expensive charcoal suit which hugged his powerful frame and more confusion washed over her. Because Loukas was a bodyguard. A top-notch bodyguard with clothes which made him blend in, not stand out. What was he doing here, dressed like that?
He had been forbidden to her from the start and it was easy to see why. He could intimidate people with a single glance from those searing black eyes. He was like no one else she'd ever met, nor was ever likely to. He made her want things she hadn't even realised she wantedand when he'd given them to her, he'd made her want even more. He was trouble. He was the night to her day. She knew that.
The room seemed to shift in and out of focus, blurring at the edges before reappearing with a clarity so sharp that it almost hurt her eyes. She wanted the sight of him to leave her cold. For him to be nothing but a distant reminder of another time and another life.
He was leaning back in a black leather chair, which gleamed like the thick hair that curled against his neck. But his half-smile held no trace of humourit was nothing but an icy assessment which seemed to hit her like a chill wind. His eyes bored through her and for a moment Jessica felt as if she was going to faint, and part of her wondered if that might not be a good thing. Because if she crumpled to the floor, wouldn't that give her a let-out clause? Wouldn't it force him to ring for medical assistance, so that his potency would be diluted by the presence of other people?
But the feeling quickly passed and a lifetime of hiding her emotions meant she was able to look around the room with nothing but curiosity on her face and say almost casually, 'Where's the assistant who's usually here?'
A flicker of irritation passed across his face as he leaned forward. 'Eight years,' he said softly. 'Eight long years since we've seen each otherand all you can do is ask me some banal question about a member of staff?'
His confidence unnerved her almost as much as his appearance, because the brashness of yesteryear seemed to have disappearedalong with the beaten-up leather jacket and faded jeans. Yet even in his made-to-measure suit, he still exuded a carnal sexuality which nothing could disguise. Was that why the almost forgotten aching had started deep inside her? Why she suddenly found herself remembering the burn of his lips pressing down on hers and the impatience of his fingers as he pushed up her little tennis skirt and and
'What are you doing here?' she questioned, only suddenly she didn't sound quite so calm and she wondered if he'd picked up on that.
'Why don't you take off your coat and sit down, Jess?' he suggested silkily. 'Your face has gone very white.'
She wanted to tell him that she'd stay standing, but the shock of seeing him again really had affected her equilibrium. And maybe fainting wasn't such a good idea after all. She would only find herself horizon-taland imagine just how disconcerting it would be to find Loukas bending over her. Bending over her as if he wanted to kiss her when the reality was that he was looking at her as if she'd recently crawled out from beneath a stone.
She walked over to the chair he'd indicated and sank down, letting her leather bag slide noiselessly to the ground as she lifted her gaze towards the empty blackness of his. 'This is a surprise,' she said lightly.
'I imagine it must be. Tell me.' his eyes gleamed '.how it felt to walk into the room and realise it was me?'
She lifted her shoulders as if there were no words to answer that particular question, and even if there were she wasn't sure she'd want him to hear them. 'I suppose there must be some sort of explanation?'
He looked at her unhelpfully. 'To what, Jess? Perhaps you could be a little more specific.'
'To you sitting here and behaving as if'
That half-smile again. 'As if I own the place?'
She swallowed, thinking how arrogant he sounded.
'Because I do own it,' he said, suddenly impatient. 'I've bought the company, JessI should have thought that much was obvious. I now own every one of the Lulu outlets, in cities and airports and cruise ships all over the world.'
Shock rippled over her skin. Stay focused, she told herself. You can do it. You were trained in the art of staying focused.
She kept her voice casual. 'I didn't realise'
'That I was rich enough?'
'Well, there's that, of course.' Her smile felt as if it were slicing her face in two. 'Or that you had an interest in jewellery and watches.'
Loukas touched the tips of his fingers together and stared into eyes which were the exact colour of aquamarines. As always, not a single strand of her blonde hair was out of place and he remembered that even after the most strenuous sex, it always seemed to fall back into a neat and shiny curtain. He looked at the pink gleam of her lips and something dark and nebulous whispered over his skin. Jessica Cartwright. The one woman he'd never been able to forget. The woman who had unravelled him and then tied him up in knots. His pale and unexpected nemesis. He expelled a slow breath and let his gaze travel over her at a leisurely pacebecause surely he had earned the right to study her as he would any other thing of beauty which he'd just purchased.
As usual, her style was understated. Classy and cool. A streamlined body, which left the observer in no doubt about her athletic background. She'd never been into revealing clothes or heavy make-upher look had always been scrubbed and fairly natural and that hadn't changed. He had been attracted to her in a way which had taken him by surprise and he'd never been able to work out why. He noticed how her white shirt hugged those neat little breasts and the subtle gleam of pearls at her ears. With her pale hair pulled back in a ponytail, which emphasised her high cheekbones, he thought how remote she seemed. How untouchable. And it was all a lie. Because behind the false ice-maiden image, wasn't there a woman as shallow and as grasping as all the others? Someone who would take what they wanted from you and then just leave yougasping like a fish which had been tossed from the water.
'There's plenty you don't know about me.' His mouth hardened and he felt the delicious rush of blood to his groin. And plenty she was about to find out.
'I don't understand ' She shrugged her shoulders and now her aquamarine eyes were wide with question. 'The last time I saw you, you were a bodyguard. You worked for that Russian oligarch.' She frowned as if she was trying to remember. 'Dimitri Makarov. That was his name, wasn't it?'
'Neh. That was his name.' Loukas nodded. 'I was the guy with the gun inside his jacket. The guy who knew no fear. The wall of muscle who could smash through a plank with a single blow.' He paused and flicked her a look because he remembered the way she used to run those long fingers over the hard bulge of his muscles, cooing her satisfaction as she touched his iron-hard flesh. 'But one day I decided to start using my brains instead of just my brawn. I realised that a life spent protecting others has a very limited time-scale and that I needed to look towards the future. And, of course, some women consider such men to be little more than savagesdon't they, Jess?'
She flinched. He could see the whitening of her knuckles in her lap and her reaction gave him a rush of pleasure. Because he wanted to see her react. He wanted to see her coolness melt and to watch her squirm.
'You know I never said that.' Her voice was trembling.
'No,' he agreed grimly. 'But your father said it and you just stood there and agreed with every damned word, didn't you, Jess? You were complicit in your silence. The little princess, agreeing with Daddy. Shall I remind you of some of the other things he said?'
'No!' Her hand had flown to her neck, as if her fingers could disguise the little pulse which was working frantically there.
'He called me a thug. He said I would drag you down to the gutter where I came from, if you stayed with me. Do you remember that, Jess?'
She shook her head. 'Whwhy are we sitting here talking about the past?' she questioned and suddenly her voice didn't sound so cool. 'I dated you when I was a teenager and, yes, my father reacted badly when he found out we were.'
'Lovers,' he put in silkily.
She swallowed. 'Lovers,' she repeated, as if it hurt her to say it. 'But it all happened such a long time ago and none of it matters any more. I've well, I've moved on and I expect you have, too.'
Loukas might have laughed if he hadn't felt the cold twist of rage. She had humiliated him as no woman had ever dared try. She had trampled on his foolish dreamsand she thought that none of it mattered? Well, he was about to show her that it did. That if you betrayed someone then sooner or later it would come back to haunt you.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the story of the the twin brother from Carrying the Greeks Heir. Enjoyed the first one and was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was related. Read and enjoy.
Wonderful read, a great romance? I will be reading it again.