The Giannakis Bride

By: Catherine Spencer

Chapter 1





Only 6:46 on Tuesday, with a fine May sunrise tinting the sky over Athens a pale, translucent peach. Yet for Dimitrios Giannakis, the day was already old and too grimly familiar. He hadn’t needed to hear the medical team’s latest bulletin when they met for their regular early-morning consultation. One look at their faces had told him all he needed to know.

Seated in his office now, Dimitrios regarded the telephone on his desk with the kind of loathing a man might show if he thought a pit viper was about to uncoil itself from the instrument and settle in his lap. This was not a call he wanted to make. Would, in fact, have done almost anything to avoid it if he’d had any choice in the matter. But the tragic fact was, he’d run out of options. Brianna Connelly was his last hope—or, more accurately, Poppy’s last hope. And when it came to his daughter, Dimitrios allowed nothing, especially not his injured male pride, to come between her and what she so desperately needed.

Of course, the odds of Brianna agreeing to his request were slim to none. She’d made it clear enough, more than four years ago, where her priorities lay: in the glossy, artificial world of high fashion, which paid homage only to youth and beauty. But he had to ask. Was willing to beg, if necessary, to give his little girl a fighting chance.

The sweep second hand on his watch inched toward seven, making it almost nine the previous evening on Canada’s west coast. As good a time as any to do what had to be done.

Jaw clenched, he lifted the handset from its cradle and punched in the number for Brianna’s penthouse apartment, which, fortunately, was where his sources told him she was currently to be found. Time was of the essence, and by tomorrow she could be on location in some inaccessible corner of the Sahara, Iceland or the Australian Outback. Hers, after all, was a face and a body greatly in demand worldwide, and she too inexhaustibly ambitious to reject any assignment which might further her career.

The phone rang three times before her answering service picked up and asked him to leave a message. Glowering, he swiveled his chair to face the window. “It’s Dimitrios Giannakis, Brianna. It’s urgent that I speak to you as soon—”

“Dimitrios?” Her voice, slightly husky and disturbingly erotic, intercepted, caressing his ear like a kiss.

Steeling himself against the sensory impact, he said curtly, “Good. You are there.”

If he hadn’t known better, he might have thought her small intake of breath signaled dismay or regret, but whatever the cause she recovered quickly and replied with matching brevity, “Obviously. What can I do for you?”

For years now he’d prided himself on being his own man, able to conquer the world and bring it to heel on his terms. The idea of groveling to anyone, least of all a woman he despised, almost made him retch. But fate had zeroed in on his one weak spot, his daughter, and although he’d have gone to his grave before he asked anything for himself, as his child’s advocate, he had no choice but to swallow the bitter taste in his mouth and turn to the one person in the world who might possibly be able to help her. Alienating Brianna Connelly within seconds of contacting her was hardly the route to take.

Bearing this in mind, he attempted to soften his approach. “How are you, Brianna?”

How are you, my lovely? Happier than I ever thought it possible to be…. Slamming shut the door on memories that were particularly inappropriate at this moment and pointless at any time, he waited for her reply.

She laughed, a brittle, uncertain sound. “Considering we haven’t exchanged more than ten words in years, Dimitrios, I hardly think you care one way or the other about my state of health. Nor would I have thought we shared anything in common since my sister’s death. So why don’t you cut to the chase and tell me what you’re really after? I have an early flight tomorrow and need to get a good night’s sleep.”

He should have known it was still all about her. Some things never changed.

But some things did, and swinging back to his desk again, he picked up Poppy’s framed photograph, taken just six months earlier, before illness had left her little face looking so pinched and wan. Grimacing with distaste, he did what he had to do. “Very well. I have a favor to ask of you, and I warn you now, it’s huge.”

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