The Andreou Marriage Arrangement(4)

By: Helen Bianchin

She entered the apartment, ditched her bag, laptop, toed off her stilettos, then padded into the kitchen and filched chilled water from the refrigerator.

A leisurely shower, then she’d fix dinner…and plan her strategy.

Conditions, she elaborated as she shed her tailored suit, stripped to the skin and walked naked into the en suite.

A paper marriage; separate bedrooms; separate private lives. They’d work together in harmony; confer and coordinate their social diaries in order to entertain and grace the requisite social functions.

Alesha adjusted the water dial and stepped beneath the generous spray, collected delicately scented gardenia soap and attempted to match her marriage strategy to the man Dimitri had deliberately selected as her second husband.

‘Hell’s teeth,’ she muttered with unaccustomed ire. She didn’t want a husband!

On the occasions she’d shared Loukas’ company, he’d been attentive, an interesting conversationalist, knowledgeable, intelligent, focused.

Sexy, a silent imp added, in a leashed, almost primitive manner that hinted at much and promised more.

Alesha closed her eyes, then slowly opened them again.

Where had that come from?

Oh, for heaven’s sake, admit it. There had been a time when she’d wondered what it would be like to have his mouth close over her own, and savour, taste…persuade. To lean in against his body and absorb his strength, and discover…what? Attraction, more?

She’d caught a sense of it, become fascinated by him, even curious…aware he met with her parents’ approval. A man of independent wealth and substance. Attentive, watchful, almost waiting, she reflected. For what? For her to make the first move?

Except she hadn’t. Instinctively aware if she did, there would be no going back.

Perhaps, she allowed in retrospect, Dimitri had begun to hope, to plan…even then.

Except Seth had already been on the scene, sweeping her off her feet with glib words and false promises. Words and promises she had believed to be genuine, in spite of her parents’ caution.

From beautiful to battered bride in the space of a heartbeat…okay, weeks, Alesha corrected grimly as she closed the water dial, caught up a towel and wrapped it round her slender curves.

Leading, she admitted, to the most painful months of her life as she had weathered the aftermath, regained her self-respect…dammit, her very identity.

Together with a resolve never to allow anyone to get close enough to earn her personal trust again. A fact she’d set down in stone, with a frozen heart and a cool, determined brain.

The evening stretched ahead, and one she’d choose to fill after a light meal with a few hours spent on her laptop, catch the late news on television…then bed.

It seemed like a plan, albeit a familiar one as she swept the length of her hair into a careless knot, donned underwear before adding comfortable jeans and a singlet top.

The message light was blinking on her answering machine as she entered the kitchen, and she crossed to the servery, took up a pen, pulled the message pad forward and pressed the play button.

“Alesha. Loukas Andreou.” His voice was deep, husky, with a slight accented inflection that curled round her nerve-ends and tugged a little. It wasn’t a feeling she coveted, and she drew in a calming breath as she noted down the number he recited. “Call me.”

A soft curse emerged from her lips, and she rolled her eyes in silent self-castigation. He wasn’t wasting any time.

So make the call. The sooner she dealt with him, the better.

He picked up on the third ring. ‘Andreou.’

‘Alesha,’ she informed him matter-of-factly.

‘Have you eaten?’

‘I’m about to.’ It would take only minutes to assemble a salad and enjoy her solitary meal. ‘Why?’

‘I’ll collect you in ten minutes.’

Who does he think he is? Don’t go there.

‘If you’re issuing an invitation,’ she managed silkily, ‘it’s polite to request, not demand.’

‘I’ll make a note of it.’

Was there a smidgen of mild amusement apparent in his response?

‘Ten minutes.’ He cut the connection, and left her silently fuming and on the verge of calling back to insist she meet him at a nominated venue.

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