The Andreou Marriage Arrangement(8)

By: Helen Bianchin

She caught up her bag and slung the strap over one shoulder. ‘I should leave.’

His eyes seared hers. ‘We’re not done.’

She took the few steps to move past him, only to come to a halt mere inches from where he stood. ‘Yes, we are.’

‘We’ll share a meal, discuss wedding arrangements and relevant details, then I’ll return you to your apartment.’

Alesha tilted her head a little. ‘So…sit down, be quiet, and bow my head in polite servitude?’

She could almost swear she caught a faint gleam of humour on his handsome face, but then it was gone. ‘I doubt the latter two form part of your repertoire.’

‘How perceptive of you.’ Sweet, she could do sweet, although it was impossible he missed the faint edge apparent in her voice.

Loukas offered her the menu. ‘Choose, Alesha. Or I’ll order for you.’

A starter would be all she could manage, and she selected one, then attempted to tune out as he picked up the phone.

A difficult feat, when the fine edge of awareness curled around her nerve-ends and heightened the tension she experienced in his presence.

A sophisticated strategist, he bore the persona of a man well versed in the ways of humankind, with the ability to see through any deliberate orchestration.

Had anyone tested his control…and escaped unscathed?

Stupid question. Why even go there? Loukas Andreou was an entity unto himself…indomitable, inviolate, and utterly ruthless.

But what of the essence of the man…as a friend, lover, husband? Would he be capable of gifting a degree of affection? Caring?

Or would she merely become a trophy wife…soothed by an enviable lifestyle and expensive gifts? Her life a mere facsimile?

The question had to be, was retaining Karsouli worth a marriage she didn’t want to a man who placed financial assets above all else?

Get over yourself, she denounced in silent chastisement. You thought you had love first time round, only to discover to your cost that it was nothing more than a nebulous dream.

At least marriage to Loukas would be unclouded by sentiment. A business arrangement she entered into with her eyes wide open…nothing more, nothing less.

Their meal, when it arrived, was beautifully presented, although Alesha barely tasted a thing as she forked morsels of food with mechanical precision.

‘I have the application for a special licence,’ Loukas informed her as they shared coffee. ‘It requires your signature. I foresee the marriage ceremony going ahead on Friday.’

‘This Friday?’

His eyes seared her own. ‘Is that a problem?’

You’re joking, right?

‘Why the hurry?’ she managed, and quelled the sudden onset of nerves playing havoc with her stomach as he queried reasonably,

‘Why delay?’

Sure, and she was ready for this?

Take a reality check. A week, a month—even a year down the track, and she’d still never be ready to embark on another marriage.

Yet ever present was the instinctive knowledge there would be no second chance with Loukas if she reneged.

‘Give me the application and a pen.’

She attached her signature with a sense of fatalism, then she reached for her shoulder bag, slid the strap over one shoulder and purposely made for the door. ‘I’ll call a taxi.’

Loukas stood, filched his jacket from the back of the chair, then he hooked it over one shoulder and reached the door ahead of her.

Okay, he could accompany her to the lift, except when it had been summoned he accompanied her into the electronic cubicle.

Courtesy was a fine thing, she acknowledged as they reached the ground floor, and she turned towards him prior to moving across the foyer. ‘Goodnight.’

Without a further word she crossed to the concierge desk and made a polite but firm request, which was negated by Loukas’ presence.

‘The lady is with me,’ he informed the concierge, and followed it with a request for his car to be brought up from valet parking.

Alesha opened her mouth to deny it, only for Loukas to direct her a piercing look. ‘Don’t argue.’

‘There’s no need—’

‘Yes, there is.’

It was ridiculous, and her eyes flashed dark fire before she lowered her lashes to hide her anger at his high-handedness.

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