The Greek Tycoon's Defiant Bride(3)

By: Lynne Graham

Hanna was impervious to the hint that silence might be welcome, adding, ‘I just thought that if you introduced me, it would look more casual and less staged.’

Casual? Hanna was wearing a candy-pink suit so tight and so short she could barely sit in it. The feathery hat-confection in her long, streaming blonde hair was overkill and would have been more appropriate at a wedding.

‘Please…please…please. He is so absolutely delicious in the flesh,’ the other woman crooned pleadingly in Maribel’s ear.

And a total, absolute bastard, Maribel reflected helplessly, only to be very much shocked by such a thought occurring to her in church and on such a serious occasion. Face colouring with shame, she cleansed her mind of that angry, bitter thought.

Leonidas had decided to be amused by that stony little nod from Maribel. The only woman he had ever met who refused to be impressed by him. A challenge he had been unable to resist, he acknowledged. His heavily lidded dark gaze roamed at an indolent pace over her, noting the changes with earthy masculine appreciation. Maribel had slimmed down, the better to show off the abundant swell of her full breasts and the voluptuous curve of her hips. The spring sunlight arrowing though a stained glass window far above glinted over hair the colour of maple syrup, skin like clotted cream and a generous mouth. Not beautiful, not even pretty, yet for some reason she had always contrived to grab his attention. Only this time he believed that he could finally understand why he was looking: she had the vibrant, sensual glow of a sun-ripened peach. He wondered if he was responsible for awakening that feminine awareness. Just as quickly, he wondered if he could seduce her into a repeat performance. And, on that one lingering look and that one manipulative thought, his slumbering libido roused to volcanic strength and sharpened his interest.

As the service drew to a close Maribel was keen to melt back out of the church in a departure as quiet as her arrival. That urge intensified when she noted the immediate surge up the aisle by her aunt and cousins, who were clearly determined to intercept Leonidas before he could leave. Unfortunately, Maribel’s passage was blocked by Hanna.

‘Why are you in such a hurry?’ Hanna hissed, when Maribel attempted to ease past her stationary figure. ‘Leonidas was looking in this direction. He’s already noticed me. I asked you for such a tiny favour.’

‘Someone as beautiful as you doesn’t need an introduction,’ Maribel whispered in sheer desperation.

Hanna laughed and preened. With a toss of her rippling golden tresses, she sashayed out into the aisle like a guided missile ready to lock onto a target. Several inches shorter, Maribel used the blonde as cover and ducked out in her wake to speed for the exit like a lemming rushing at a cliff. It wasn’t cool to be so keen to avoid Leonidas, but so what? Mindful of the reality that her aunt no longer wished to acknowledge her as a member of the family, Maribel knew that it was her duty to embrace a low profile. In her haste, however, she cannoned into the photographer lying in wait beyond the doors. Wondering why she was spluttering an apology when the man was assailing her with furious abuse, Maribel rubbed the shoulder that had been bruised by the collision and hurried on out and back to the car park.

Unreceptive to the many opposing attempts to gain his attention, Leonidas strode out to the church porch. He was thoroughly intrigued by the mode and speed of his quarry’s flight, because Maribel was, as a rule, wonderfully well mannered and conservative. He had expected her to hover unwillingly out of politeness and speak to him. But she had not even paused to converse with the Strattons. While his protection team prevented the lurking paparazzo from snatching a photo of him, he watched Maribel approaching a little red car. For a small woman, she moved fast. Lazily, he wondered if she was the only female who had ever run away from him. Exasperated, he inclined his handsome dark head to summon Vasos, his head of security, to his side and gave him a concise command.

As Hermione Stratton, closely followed by her two daughters, surged to a breathless halt by his side, Leonidas spoke conventional words of regret before murmuring in his dark, deep voice, ‘Why did Maribel rush off?’

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