The Petrakos Bride | Chapter 8 of 15

Author: Lynne Graham | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1257 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER FOUR

AS THE helicopter rose in the air at Marrakech-Menara airport, Maddie closed her eyes tight. Unfortunately that exercise made her feel dizzier than ever, and she lifted her lashes and stared woodenly ahead while she prayed that the last leg of her journey would be brief. Maybe she had a problem with her balance? Or perhaps she wasn’t eating sensibly enough? It would be paranoid for her to assume that she was in the early stages of pregnancy. She reminded herself that in just a couple of days she would be able to stop worrying, because she had very regular menstrual cycle.

Maddie had flown out from London first thing that morning. It was now after midday, and hot. The long-sleeved shirt and cotton trousers she had worn to travel were sticking to her damp skin. The cloudless sky was a glorious deep lilac-blue. In a covert movement she pinched her thigh, in the hope that the tiny pain would help her to believe that she had indeed come to Morocco as the personal guest of a Greek billionaire. So far nothing about the trip had felt real, since it bore no resemblance to her only previous venture abroad—a package tour to Spain with her grandmother.

On this occasion, however, Maddie was travelling in amazing style and comfort. Collected from her bedsit by Nemos, she had been the sole passenger on a private jet with a crew who had been almost embarrassingly eager to ensure that she enjoyed the flight. Having watched a terrific film, she had browsed through the morning papers and enjoyed an appetising breakfast while being waited on hand and foot. On landing she had been whisked through official channels at wondrous speed and escorted to a helipad.

Now the helicopter landed, and the merciless ear-battering whine of the propellers finally stilled. Nemos helped Maddie out with care. Initially engaged in adjusting to walking a straight line on solid ground again, she was unprepared for her first sight of the imposing building in front of her. Its sheer size made her stop dead. Soaring ochre walls decorated with geometric patterns were further embellished with slender tapering towers at each corner. Her eyes were wide with astonishment.

‘It looks like a Moorish palace.’

‘It did once belong to the Caid of the Jerid Valley,’ the older man replied. ‘But it was a ruin when Mr Petrakos bought it.’

‘It’s amazing. He must come here a lot.’

‘The boss owns a lot of property. It’s been a while since he was here.’

In the entrance hall, a jade-coloured fountain was playing down into a pool patterned with mosaics. The water was scattered with rose petals. Nemos introduced her to a Berber manservant, Hamid, who appeared to command a very large staff. He addressed her in French. It was a huge building, designed round a central courtyard ornamented with date palms and flowering vines in a lush tangle of greenery. The interior of the house was cool and opulent and impossibly chic. Ancient carved doors, delicate fretwork wooden screens and painted ceilings provided a backdrop for stylish furniture and extravagant comfort. Shown upstairs by two maids, Maddie walked through double doors set in an arch in the shape of a keyhole, and was immediately convinced that she had been transported into the land of an Arabian Nights fantasy.

Across the vast room a sumptuous bed festooned with gold drapes and tassels sat on a dais. ‘My word…’ Maddie whispered in wonderment.

With a youthful air of showmanship, one of the pretty dark-eyed maids tugged back the Indian silk drapes and cast open the tall French windows. A roof terrace stretched beyond, but it was the utterly breathtaking view of a fertile green valley ringed by snow-capped mountains that captivated Maddie. A silver basin was placed for her to wash her hands, and mint tea was served in a dainty glass cup before a light meal was brought.

Maddie wondered nervously when Giannis would arrive. Catching a glimpse of her creased and travel-weary appearance in the mirror above the beautiful mother-of-pearl inlaid chest of drawers, she winced. In the equally large adjoining bathroom, the maid was already running water into a luxurious sunken bath. While she scattered fragrant crystals on the surface, her companion laid out a mountain of snowy white towels. When everything was ready for her, Maddie thanked the girls in her rusty schoolgirl French and closed the door to undress. First she went into the steam shower, where she took a while to get acquainted with the elaborate technology before she could comfortably wash her hair. Then, her wet hair piled on top of her head, she sank into the bath and tried to relax.

In truth, she was as tense as a drawn knife. She did not quite know what had brought her to Morocco. The fact that Giannis had offered her the chance to get to know him just as she had asked? That it would have been downright contrary to refuse such an offer? Or had her decision been influenced by the fear that she might be pregnant? Was that what was making her feel so connected to him? Or was she just lying to herself and making silly excuses in a forlorn effort to avoid facing the embarrassing truth?

From the moment she had seen Giannis Petrakos in his office she had been virtually obsessed by him. The fact that he had once been the unwitting target of her adolescent crush had made her even more susceptible to his vibrant, dark good looks. She had fallen into bed with him because she could not resist him, and she was in Morocco for the same reason. There, she reflected heavily, she was finally being honest with herself. Only being honest made her feel infinitely more vulnerable.

What did she have in common with a guy who owned a palace in Morocco that he rarely visited? Evidently he had as many options in property as he must surely have with women. Where did she fit in? For the first time she was curious about her predecessors. What sort of women did Giannis get involved with? Was she typical? Suddenly she wished she could afford to buy the kind of magazines which featured photos and features on the lifestyles of the very rich. But, curious though she was, she knew that she would not be buying any such publications in the near future. She had taken three days out from working and earning—a decision that would ensure she was living right on the breadline for the next month.

When Maddie emerged from the bathroom in a towel, she was ushered into yet another connecting room, where a smiling English-speaking beautician and her assistant were waiting to offer a bewildering range of treatments. Disconcerted by the situation, Maddie agreed to have a massage because she really didn’t know how to keep on saying no without causing offence. Fragrant rose-scented oils were rubbed into her skin in what ultimately proved to be a wonderfully relaxing experience. She then allowed the talented duo to style her hair and do her nails. Afterwards, she felt amazingly sleepy. Although she could not find her case, a gossamer-light turquoise silk kaftan was draped on the bed. Too weary to go looking for her clothes, she put it on and lay down for a nap.

 

When Krista Spyridou called Giannis that same day, his jet had stopped off to refuel in Paris.

‘I’ve come up with a new theme for the wedding,’ his fiancée announced happily.

Giannis grimaced.

‘Antony and Cleopatra!’ Krista gushed.

‘What a killer precedent that would be,’ Giannis told her. ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’s marriage was bigamous.’

‘I don’t believe you!’ she wailed. ‘They didn’t show that in the movie I saw.’

‘Anthony already had a Roman wife.’ Impatience gripped Giannis as Krista lamented that news as seriously as if he had just informed her of a death. Had he ever seen her read a book? Discuss anything remotely intelligent? Giannis frowned. She had yawned when he’d taken her to visit an archaeological dig at one of his properties in Athens. The sheer depth of her ignorance was starting to irritate him.

By the time Giannis arrived at his remote fortress hideaway in Morocco the sun was casting arrow-shaped shadows through the intricate window screens. He spoke to Hamid in Arabic. Ascending the winding staircase, he strolled into the master bedroom suite as smoothly as a leopard on the prowl, and came to a halt only when he saw Maddie lying on top of the vast bed. Her flame-coloured hair was streaming like a banner of silk off the pillows, her pale, delicate profile marked by the prominence of her voluptuous pink mouth. Her low neckline exposed the deep cleavage between the snowy white slopes of her full, round breasts. The rich, ripe curve of her bottom strained against the fine silk fabric. The instant rush of blood to his groin almost hurt. He was enthralled by her sex appeal and the intensity of his desire.

‘Maddie…?’ he murmured, using the diminutive for the first time.

Shifting position, Maddie opened her eyes and saw him standing several feet away. Her breath snarled up in her throat. He needed a shave. The shadow of dark stubble over his strong jaw, however, only enhanced the hard masculinity of his lean bronzed features. She raised herself on one elbow. ‘I must’ve fallen asleep.’

Giannis took off his gold silk-lined jacket and tossed it on a chair with easy grace. ‘I was held up in Paris…my apologies. But it’s wonderful to find you here waiting for me, glikia mou.

For a split second Maddie didn’t quite follow his meaning, and then his confident path round the very grand and elegant room pitched her brain back into gear. ‘This is your room…er…your bed?’

A wolfish smile slashed his wide stubborn mouth. ‘You sound like Goldilocks.’

Her colour heightened because she felt very foolish. ‘I didn’t realise. I should’ve guessed.’

The gilded bronze brilliance of his gaze glinted below his dense black lashes. ‘Don’t tell me I’ve flown halfway round the world to be exiled to a guest suite?’

Picking up on that measured tone of male disbelief, Maddie scrambled up on her knees, anxious to take the heat out of the situation. ‘No, I’ll use a guestroom—’

‘Over my dead body,’ Giannis incised without hesitation, when she dared to float that proposition. ‘You stay. We share. At the very least I will hold you in my arms through the night.’

‘But I thought—’

His stubborn jawline clenched. ‘And I thought otherwise,’ he cut in with ruthless purpose. ‘So we must compromise. I’m a very physical guy, and it is possible that you are asking me to be something I can’t.’

Although her face was hot, Maddie breathed in very deep and looked levelly back at him. ‘You have such a forceful personality,’ she told him gently. ‘But I’m sure you don’t mean to put pressure on me.’

The silence simmered like a cauldron on the boil. An almost imperceptible rise of dark blood warmed the imperious slant of Giannis Petrakos’s classic cheekbones. ‘Naturally not.’

‘Of course, if you feel I’ve come out here on false pretences, ‘Maddie added uncomfortably, ‘I’ll understand if you think I should leave.’

It was a very rare experience for Giannis, but that unexpected suggestion totally silenced him. She was not voicing her offer as a threat that he could condemn as sexual blackmail. She appeared genuinely awkward and unhappy, and that contrived to touch both his strong pride and his sense of honour. He was too macho a man to like the suggestion that he might use his potent strength of character to ride rough-shod over her reservations about sleeping with him again. Irritated though he was, he was still not prepared to let her go and replace her with a more sycophantic female. Madeleine Conway had haunted his thoughts for the best part of an incredibly frustrating week, and the past few days had only been rendered bearable by the knowledge that she would be waiting for him in Morocco.

Ohi…no, that will not be necessary,’ Giannis conceded in a driven undertone, his lapse into his native Greek an indicator of his more volatile mood.

‘I don’t want to leave…this is the most fabulous place,’ Maddie confided, glancing up at him from beneath her silky lashes.

The shy provocation of that single glance sent hunger pounding through his lithe, powerful frame. He sank down on the edge of the bed and crushed her lush pink lips under his, his tongue ravishing the tender reaches of her mouth with a carnal skill that made her shake in the strong circle of his arms. ‘Why are you making me wait?’ he ground out thickly. ‘I ache for you.’

Her shapely body was rigid with tension. Her nipples were stiff straining buds that she was afraid were visible beneath the thin silk bodice of the kaftan. She decided that she really did need to get into a less provocative outfit. In an abrupt move that took him by surprise, she slid off the bed. ‘I should get dressed now.’

Quick to surmise that she intended to cover as much of her wondrous hourglass shape as possible, away from his appreciative gaze, Giannis entrapped her hand in his larger one to prevent her from moving away. Instinct warned him that she was skittish, and it was not the moment to tell her that the dressing room would be packed tight with the generous array of designer apparel he had ordered for her enjoyment. ‘No. Don’t change. You look relaxed, and that’s one of the things I like about you. You don’t fuss about your hair, or your face, or your clothes. We’ll have dinner on the terrace.’

Maddie had neither expected nor received anything much in the way of praise in her life. What she hadn’t known she hadn’t missed. When she was a child, circumstances had made her more of a bystander than a main player, and even after she had grown up other people’s needs had continued to take precedence. That single compliment from Giannis had a quite disproportionate effect on her, and gave her a warm squishy feeling inside. One of the things I like about you. At that moment, even if she had been wearing a bin-bag, she would have stayed dressed in it for his benefit. And, had she had sufficient nerve, she would have made him list every single other tiny thing he liked about her.

Giannis swept up the house phone and spoke in a foreign language. Tossing it aside again, he began peeling off his shirt. ‘I need a shower.’

Her attention locked on his bare bronzed shoulders and his powerful hair-roughened chest. When he stretched muscles rippled below his tawny skin, and her gaze was drawn down to the hard taut slab of his flat stomach. She had never looked at a man like that before, had never even been tempted, but she found it exceedingly difficult to drag her regard from him. Her palms tingled in recollection of the satin smooth feel of his damp back beneath her fingers.

Giannis caught her looking at him and recognised her rapt appreciation for what it was. ‘Theos…little fraud, you are as hungry for me as I am for you!’

Wildly embarrassed, Maddie flushed to the roots of her hair and parted her lips to protest the point. How had he guessed? How could he possibly have known what she was thinking about?

‘Deny it at your peril,’ Giannis warned in a husky tone of intimacy that sent tiny quivers coursing down her sensitive spine. ‘And don’t forget that you can’t get closer to me by denying us both the natural expression of our desire.’

Having made that lethal point, he left her alone. The instant he vanished she wanted him back within view again. Her natural caution tried to kick in, but it fought a losing battle against the truth that she was simply happy. Happy to be in Morocco, downright ecstatic to be with Giannis. For a moment the strength of those new feelings scared her, and then she gave herself a firm little mental shake. So what if she was no longer the very sensible and calm young woman she had always believed herself to be? If she got hurt, she got hurt. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, she told herself with determined cheer.

Her feet shod in the light embroidered slippers she’d discovered by the bed, Maddie went out to the sun-baked terrace. The heat of the day was now ebbing. A great stained glass dome of rich jewelled colours formalised a shaded seating area that was furnished with sumptuous sofas and a marble table already set with fine porcelain and crystal. Offered a drink by Hamid, she opted for fruit juice and curled up on an opulent cushioned couch to catch up with a newspaper article she had begun reading on her flight.

‘What are you reading about?’

Black hair still spiky from the shower, Giannis was strolling towards her in tailored cream chinos and an open-necked striped shirt.

Maddie named a British politician who had been caught cheating on his long-suffering wife for the second time in as many months. ‘I hope his wife chucks him out.’ Shaking her bright head, she sighed, ‘Infidelity is so sleazy.’

Lean, darkly handsome face uninformative, Giannis came to a slow halt. ‘Not always.’

‘You can’t mean that.’ Maddie was taken aback by his response, for it was a subject she felt strongly about. ‘Look at all the lies and deception that go hand in hand with infidelity. It causes so much misery. Just imagine what that man’s poor wife and teenage children must be going through right now—’

‘It is regrettable,’ Giannis pronounced flatly.

‘It’s more than regrettable,’ Maddie stressed, jumping to her feet. ‘It’s wrong! My mother cheated on my father with his best friend. It totally destroyed Dad. I would never betray anyone’s trust. Honesty is always the best policy, and loyalty means a great deal to me.’

Lush black lashes screened his brilliant dark eyes to a cool glimmer. ‘I can see that.’

‘If you weren’t single, believe me, I wouldn’t be here,’ Maddie added, keen to draw a stronger response from him.

Hamid was hovering with the first course. Mastering his stark disconcertion at what he had just discovered, Giannis waved the manservant forward and urged Maddie to sit down again. A procession of dishes was brought to the table while Giannis reappraised the situation. Maddie didn’t know he was engaged.

He had simply assumed that the whole world knew he was engaged to Krista Spyridou. His fiancée had certainly gone to extraordinary lengths to publicise their engagement. A Greek television channel had even made a reality documentary about the couple, full of truly cringe-worthy stuff that had been shown round half the world. But Maddie had no idea whatsoever.

Of course he would have to tell her, Giannis acknowledged grimly. Right at that very moment, however, it struck him as a likely case of suicidally bad timing. Just after she got down from her fidelity soapbox was not the perfect opportunity to announce that he was engaged to be married to another woman. Particularly when Maddie had already slept with him. Particularly when he was fully committed to the goal of persuading her that she could have a terrific future as his mistress.

‘Your take on morals is young and idealistic,’ Giannis remarked lazily. ‘My great-grandmother would be in firm agreement with you, but then she’s over ninety years old and her values are etched in solid stone.’

Maddie tilted her chin. ‘I suppose I am a little old-fashioned, but time and experience won’t alter my views,’ she replied. ‘What’s the rest of your family like?’

His lean, strong face shuttered. ‘I have an enormous tribe of relations.’

‘You are so lucky.’ Maddie tucked into her food with an appetite and enthusiasm that brought a reluctant smile to his sardonic mouth. He was accustomed to women who barely ate in his presence. ‘I’ve got nobody close left, and I really miss having a family.’

Giannis watched her thank the serving staff. She was a very beautiful but essentially ordinary girl, with an extraordinary amount of personal warmth and charm. Was it her very ordinariness that attracted him? Was that the novelty that, against all the odds, kept him coming back for more? In bed she was red-hot. That was what made her so essential to his comfort, he decided with a sense of relief. It was just sex—and why not? She might not fit into his world, but he wanted her there, and what he wanted he would have. Whatever it took, whatever it cost.

Coloured glass lanterns glowed as the sun went down in a sky shot with a wonderful rainbow of colours. He entertained her with the story of how he had stumbled on the ruined Casbah when he was a teenager on a mountain-climbing expedition with friends. ‘My every wrong move was making global headlines that year. I thought this would make a great secret location for wild weekend parties.’

Maddie blinked. ‘Are you serious?’

‘Partying was a serious part of my upbringing. My parents never did anything that didn’t amuse them.’ Giannis was amused by her consternation. ‘On my second visit with the architect, the local headman invited me to visit his village across the valley. The people were very poor. They needed the employment I could provide, but the wild parties would have made it impossible for most of them to work for me.’

‘So you decided not to have the parties?’

‘I got into extreme sports instead,’ he murmured, with a casual shrug of dismissal. ‘Much healthier.’

But Maddie gave him a huge smile, because she was finally catching a glimpse of the guy who had made it his mission to ensure that her dying sister’s teenage dream came true. She knew that some day she would tell him about that, and identify herself, but right then she didn’t want to open a sad subject. Nor did she want to figure in his mind as the grateful and admiring adolescent whom he hadn’t even noticed at the time.

A light breeze feathered through the silk kaftan she wore and she shivered, surprised by how much the temperature seemed to have dropped. ‘It’s getting chilly out here.’

‘Desert nights are cold in the spring.’ Giannis closed his hand over hers to urge her back indoors.

One step inside the softly lit bedroom, she decided that she wanted to share the bed with him in every sense of the word. It was too late to be taking fright and trying to turn the clock back, she reasoned frantically, engaged in a last-ditch battle with her misgivings. What was the point of raising such an artificial barrier between them? Was it even honest or fair, when she too longed to experience that intimacy again?

Her bright copper head downbent, she stilled and plucked abstractedly at one of the handmade buttons on his shirt. Sudden shyness almost overpowered her; it was a challenge to ask him to make love to her when he had been so circumspect throughout the evening.

‘I don’t need to wait any more,’ she said finally, wincing at herself even as she spoke.

On a high at that unexpected declaration, Giannis startled her by reaching down and sweeping her right off her feet and up into his strong arms. ‘I will spend the next twenty-four hours in bed with you, pedhi mou!’

‘Go easy,’ she urged in embarrassment. ‘Be careful—’

‘Careful?’ Brilliant golden eyes collided with hers, his luxuriant black lashes lifting in a request for her to expand on her meaning.

‘The accident with the contraception,’ she reminded him uneasily.

‘A once-in-a-lifetime event. Surely you’re not still worrying about that?’ Giannis censured, with the supreme confidence of a male who took it for granted that life always went his way. ‘Are you late?’

‘No…but—’

‘You’ll be okay. Don’t look for trouble.’ He lowered her down onto the bed with a slow-burning smile that convinced her that her worries were quite unnecessary.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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