The Andreou Marriage Arrangement(6)

By: Helen Bianchin



‘Can we pass on the social niceties and go straight to the matter at hand?’

He regarded her carefully for several long seconds, and she glimpsed a muscle tighten at the edge of his jaw.

‘By all means,’ he concurred with deliberate indolence. ‘Then we’ll eat.’

Alesha was so tempted to vent. Anger had built to a point where throwing a hissy fit would at least relieve some of her angst. Yet, conversely, it was probably exactly what he expected of her.

‘The terms of my father’s will are unconscionable.’

He didn’t pretend to misunderstand. ‘Apropos the marriage clause?’

‘You agree with it?’ Her eyes widened measurably. ‘What manner of man are you?’

‘One who prefers to embark on marriage with an honest foundation at its base.’

The look she gave him should have shrivelled him on the spot. Except it had no effect whatsoever.

‘Oh…please. Let’s not forget the primary focus.’

‘Karsouli?’

Alesha allowed herself a faintly bitter smile. ‘Dimitri’s trump card.’

Loukas offered a thoughtful look. ‘Perhaps.’

She stilled, suddenly alert. ‘What are you saying?’

‘Dimitri made a few errors in financial judgement in recent months.’

Her shock was real and barely masked. ‘I don’t believe you.’

‘The global economic climate worked against him, so too did his failing health.’

Failing health? ‘He was killed in a car accident.’

Loukas’ gaze didn’t waver. ‘Your father risked heart failure unless he agreed to undergo heart transplant surgery. He refused, and bartered a deal with me to safeguard Karsouli.’ He waited a beat. ‘And you.’

No. The word echoed as a silent scream, and the blood chilled in her veins.

Oh, dear God.

‘Karsouli needed a large injection of cash in order to remain solvent.’

‘How much?’ The demand almost choked her.

‘Half a billion dollars.’

That much?

Selling off a twenty-five-per-cent share represented the injection of cash. The gift via Dimitri’s will, conditional on marriage, would have been a sufficiently attractive enticement.

Karsouli would survive and flourish beneath Loukas Andreou’s skilled leadership.

Of which she would become a joint partner and director. There was just one major snag… In order to achieve both, she had to agree to marry Loukas Andreou.

Two pluses versus one minus.

Alesha took a deep calming breath…not that it had any effect. ‘I’ll need to verify those facts.’

‘Of course. I have certified copies of relevant documentation for you to peruse.’

Somehow she didn’t expect any less of him. Even given the advantage of his father’s success, Loukas appeared very much an achiever determined to forge his own destiny, both professionally and personally.

She accepted the paperwork, took time to read and absorb the data, aware of a sinking heart with every page.

The slim hope there might be a mistake disappeared as she was forced to face the inevitable.

With care she placed the papers onto the table, then met his hooded gaze. ‘Why did you sanction Dimitri’s terms?’

One eyebrow lifted. ‘The truth? His request coincided with a promise I had made to my own father to marry and provide an heir.’

‘How noble,’ Alesha accorded sweetly. ‘To sacrifice yourself out of duty and family loyalty.’ She sharpened a figurative barb. ‘Were none of the many women who attach themselves to you suitable wife material?’

His features assumed musing cynicism. ‘No.’

‘What if I choose to contest the marriage clause?’

His eyes speared her own, dark with dangerous intent, and belying the quiet purpose in his voice.

‘Should you refuse, the purchase will fall through. I’ll sell the twenty-five-per-cent shares comprising Dimitri’s bequest, and you will be placed in an invidious financial position.’

Forced to take on a partner and possibly face a takeover bid. Thereby losing everything her father had achieved. All she’d lived and breathed for as long as she could remember.

Anger, resentment, dammit—grief, welled up inside. So many emotions…consuming, invasive, and in that moment uncontrolled.

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