Theo Pantelides wants revenge
Theo came to Brazil with one desireto destroy the man who once ruined his life. And when the proud Greek sets eyes on his enemy's stunning daughter, he knows victory will taste even sweeter with her in his bed!
Inez de Costa wants freedom
Inez longs to escape her father's shadow and follow her own dreamsnot be blackmailed into becoming someone's mistress! But it's a thin line between love and hate, and soon Theo unlocks a desire virginal Inez never could have anticipated.
Now Theo and Inez will have to reconsider what it is they both want most of all
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Theo Pantelides accelerated his black Aston Martin up the slight incline and screeched to a halt underneath the portico of the Grand Rio Hotel.
He was fifteen minutes late for the black tie fund-raiser, thanks to another probing phone call from his brother, Ari.
He stepped out into the sultry Rio de Janeiro evening and tossed the keys to an eager valet who jumped behind the wheel of the sports car with all the enthusiasm Theo had once felt for driving. For life.
The smile that had teased his lips was slowly extinguished as he entered the plush interior of the five-star hotel. Highly polished marble gleamed beneath his feet. Artistically positioned lighting illuminated the well-heeled and threw the award-winning hotel's design into stunning relief.
The hotel was by far the best of the best, and Theo knew the venue had been chosen simply because his hosts had wanted to show off, to project a false image to fool him. He'd decided to play along for now.
The right time to end this game would present itself. Soon.
A sleek designer-clad blonde dripping in diamonds clocked him and glided forward on sky-high stilettos, her strawberry-tinted mouth widening in a smile that spelled out a very feminine welcome. And more.
'Good evening, Mr Pantelides. We are so very honoured you could make it.'
The well-practised smile he'd learnt to flash on and off since he was eighteen slid into place. It had got him out of trouble more times than he could count and also helped him hide what he did not want the world to see.
'Of course. As the guest of honour, it would've been crass not to show up, no?'
She gave a little laugh. 'No, er, I mean yes. Most of the guests are already here and taking pre-dinner drinks in the ballroom. If there's anything you need, anything at all, my name is Carolina.' She sent him a look from beneath heavily mascaraed eyelashes that hinted that she would be willing to go above and beyond her hostess duties to accommodate him.
He flashed another smile. 'Obrigado,' he replied in perfect Portuguese. He'd spent a lot of time studying the nuances of the language.
Just as he'd spent a lot of time setting up the events set to culminate in the very near future. For what he planned, there could be no room for misunderstanding. Or failure.
About to head towards the double doors that led to the ballroom, he paused. 'You said most of the guests are here. Benedicto da Costa and his family. Are they here?' he asked sharply.
The blonde's smile slipped a little. Theo didn't need to guess why. The da Costa family had a certain reputation. Benedicto especially had one that struck fear into the hearts of common men.
It was a good thing Theo wasn't a common man.
The blonde nodded. 'Yes, the whole family arrived half an hour ago.'
He smiled at her, effectively hiding the emotions bubbling beneath his skin. 'You've been very helpful.'
Her seductive smile slid back into place. Before she could grow bolder and attempt to ingratiate herself further, he turned and walked away.
Anticipation thrummed through his veins, as it had ever since he'd received concrete evidence that Benedicto da Costa was the man he sought. The road to discovery had been long and hard, fraught with pitfalls and the danger of letting his emotions override his clear thinking.
But Theo was nothing if not meticulous in his planning. It was the reason he was chief troubleshooter and risk-assessor for his family's global conglomerate, Pantelides Inc.
He didn't believe in fate but even he couldn't dismiss the soul-deep certainty that his chosen profession had led him to Rio, and to the man who'd shattered what had remained of his tattered childhood twelve years ago.
Every instinct in his body yearned to take this to the ultimate level. To rip away the veneer of sophistication and urbanity he'd been forced to operate behind.
To claim his revenge. Here. Now.
He grimaced as he thought of his phone call with his brother.
Ari was beginning to suspect Theo's motives for remaining in Rio.
But, despite the pressure from his family, neither Ari nor Sakis, his older brothers, would dare to stop him. He was very much his own man, in complete control of his destiny.
But that didn't mean Ari wouldn't try to dissuade him from his objective if he'd known what was going on. His oldest brother took his role as the family patriarch extremely seriously. After all, he'd had to step up after the secure family unit he'd known for his formative years had suddenly and viciously detonated from the inside out. After his father had betrayed them in the worst possible way.
Theo only thanked God that Ari's radar had been momentarily dulled by his newfound happiness with his fiancé, Perla, and the anticipated arrival of their first child.
No, he wouldn't be able to stop him. But Ari was Ari.
Theo shrugged off thoughts of his family as he neared the ballroom doors. He deliberately relaxed his tense shoulders and breathed out.
She was the first thing he saw when he walked in. His lips started to curl at his cliched thought but then he realised she'd done it deliberately.
The dress code for this event had been strictly black and white.
She wore red. And not just any red. Her gown was blood-red, provocatively cut, and it lovingly melded to her figure in a way that made red-blooded males stop and stare.
Inez da Costa.
Youngest child of Benedicto. Twenty-four, socialite seductress.
Against his will, Theo's breath caught as his gaze followed the supple curve of a breast, a trim waist and the flare of her hips.
He knew each and every last detail of the da Costas. For his plan to succeed, he'd had to do what he did best. Dig deep and extract every last ounce of information until he could recite every line in the six-inch dossier in his sleep.
Inez da Costa was no better than her father and brother. But where they used brute force, blackmail and thuggery, she used her body.
He wasn't surprised lesser men fell for her Marilyn Monroe figure. A true hourglass shape was rare to find these days. But Inez da Costa owned her voluptuousness and confidently wielded it to her advantage. Theo's gaze lingered on her hips until she moved again, dropping into conversation with the consummate ease of a practised socialite. She had guests eating out of her hands, leaning in close to catch her words, following her avidly when she moved away.
As he advanced further into the room, she turned to speak to another male guest. The curve of her bottom swung into Theo's eye line, and he cursed under his breath as heat raced up through his groin.
His fists curled, willing his body's unwanted reaction away. It had been a while since he'd indulged in a mindless, no-holds-barred liaison. But this was most definitely not the time for a physical reminder, and the instigator of that reminder was most definitely not the woman he would choose to end his short dry spell with.
He exhaled in a slow, even stream, letting the roiling in his gut abate and his equilibrium return.
As he made his way down the stairs to join the guests, the deep-seated certainty that he was meant to be herein the right place at the right timeflared high.
If Pietro da Costa's love of excess hadn't led him down the path of biting off more than he could chew, this time in the form of commissioning a top-of-the-line Pantelides super-yacht he could ill afford, Theo wouldn't have flown down to Rio to look into the da Costas' finances three years ago.
He wouldn't have become privy to the carefully hidden financial paper trail that had led right back to Athens and to his own father's shady dealings almost a decade and a half ago.
He wouldn't have dug deeper and discovered the consequences of those dealings for his family. And for him personally.
Memory stirred the unwanted threads of anxiety until it threatened to push its way under his control like Japanese knotweed. Gritting his jaw, he smashed down on the poisonous emotion that had taken too much from him already. He was no longer that frightened boy unable to stem his fears or chase away the screaming nightmares that plagued him.
He'd learned to accept them as part of his life, had woven them into the fabric of his existence and in doing so had triumphed over them. Which wasn't to say he wasn't determined to make those who'd temporarily taken power from him pay dearly for that error. No, that mission he was very much looking forward to.
Focusing his gaze across the room to where Benedicto and his son held court among Rio's movers and shakers, he strategised how best to approach his quarry.
Despite the suave exterior he tried to portray with his tailor-made suit and carefully cropped hair, Benedicto could never mask his lizard-like character for very long. His sharp, angular face and reptilian eyes held a cruelty that was instinctively felt by those around him. And Theo knew that he honed that characteristic to superb effect when needed. He bullied when charm failed, resulting in the fact that half of the people in this room had attended the fund-raiser tonight just to stay on Benedicto's good side.
Five years ago, Benedicto had made his political aspirations very clear, and since then he'd been paving the way for his rise to power through mostly unsavoury means.
The same unsavoury means Theo's own father had used to bring shame and devastation to his family.
Grabbing a glass of champagne, Theo sipped it as he slowly worked his way deeper into the room, exchanging pleasantries with ministers and dignitaries who were eager to find favour with the Pantelides name.
He noticed the moment Benedicto and Pietro zeroed in on his presence. Bow ties were surreptitiously straightened. Smiles grew wider and spines straighter.
He suppressed a smile, deliberately turned his back on the father and son and made a beeline for where the daughter was smiling up at Alfonso Delgado, the Brazilian millionaire philanthropist, who was her latest prey.
'If you want me to host a gala for you, Alfonso, all you have to do is say the word. My mother used to be able to throw events like these together in her sleep and I've been told that I've inherited her talent. Or do you doubt my talents?' Her head tilted in a coquettish move that most definitely would've made Theo snort, had his eyes not been drawn to the sleek line of her smooth neck.
Alfonso smiled, his expression beginning to closely resemble adoration.
Forcing himself not to openly grimace, Theo took another sip of champagne and brushed off an acquaintance who tried to catch his eye.
'No one in their right mind would doubt your talent. Perhaps we can discuss it over dinner one night this week?'
The smile that started to curve her full, glossy lips forced another punch of heat through him. 'Of course, I would love to. We can also discuss that pledge you made to support my father's campaign ?'
Theo moved closer, deliberately encroaching on the space between the two people in the centre of the room.
Alfonso's attention jerked towards him and his smile changed from playboy-charming to friendly welcome.
'Amigo, I wasn't aware that you had returned to my beloved country. It seems we cannot keep you away.'
'For what I need to achieve in Rio, wild horses couldn't keep me away,' he replied, deliberately keeping himself from glancing at the woman who stood next to Alfonso. He breathed in and caught her scentexpensive but subtle, a seductive whisper of flowers and warm sunshine.
His friend's eyes gleamed. 'Speaking of horses'
Theo shook his head. 'No, Alfonso, your racehorses don't interest me. Speedboat racing, on the other hand Just say the word and I'll kick your ass from one end of the Copa-cabana to the other.'
Alfonso laughed. 'No can do, my friend. Everyone knows underneath that tuxedo you're part shark. I prefer to take my chances on land.'
A delicate clearing of a throat made Alfonso turn, a smile of apology appearing on his face as he slipped back into playboy mode. For the ten years that Theo had known him, Alfonso had had a weakness for curvy brunettes.
Inez da Costa had curves that required their own danger signs. His friend risked being easy prey for whatever the da Costas had in mind for him.
'Apologies, querida. Please allow me to introduce you to'
Theo stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder. 'I'm perfectly capable of making my own introductions. Right now, I think you're needed elsewhere.'
Alfonso's eyes widened in confusion. 'Elsewhere?'
Theo leaned and whispered in his friend's ear. Shock and anger registered on Alfonso's face before his jaw clenched and he reined his emotions back in. His gaze slid to the woman next to him and returned to Theo's.
Taking in a deep breath, he held out his hand. 'I guess I owe you one, my friend.'
Theo took the proffered hand. 'You owe me several, but who's counting?'
'And I shall repay you. Até a pr xima''
'Until next time,' Theo repeated. He heard the disbelieving gasp from Inez da Costa as Alfonso walked away without another glance in her direction.
A thread of satisfaction oozed through him as he tracked his friend to the ballroom doors. Scanning the room, he saw Pietro da Costa's thunderous look in his sister's direction.
Theo lifted his glass to his lips and took a lazy sip then turned his attention to Inez da Costa.
Her large brown eyes were filled with anger as she glared at him.
'Who the devil are you and what did you say to Alfonso?'
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyable read - I liked book 2 best - but this one was still good.