When Greek shipping magnate Alexandros Kouros wed Kallie Demarchis, media photos showed them madly in love. But behind the happy scenes lay a different story…. Love had nothing to do with it; Kallie had married Alex to save her family's business. He'd have great pleasure taking revenge—for the mistake that had destroyed their youth— when he took her as his arranged bride!
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In some dim part of herself she did wonder at that moment why Eleni cared so much about this. And stifled the thought, feeling mean.
She was only helping her. Nerves made her voice shaky. And a little remote. Eleni shook her head emphatically. Kallie nodded jerkily, her heart thumping like crazy. Alexandros Kouros. Twenty-five years old and so handsome it hurt.
Midnight-black hair that shone almost blue-black in the light, curling softly on his collar, a touch too long. His skin a deep olive. An arresting, utterly captivating quality that drew the eye and kept it there with little effort. He stood at least six feet four, broad across the shoulders and chest. His body was finely muscled, potently masculine.
Sometimes it frightened Kallie, the response she felt around him. Every year, the end-of-summer party in the Kouros villa was the highlight of the social scene. Kouros Shipping was one of the biggest companies in the world. Suddenly she saw Alexandros across the room take a bottle of something off a table and disappear. Eleni had followed her gaze. She turned Kallie to face her. The thought made Kallie feel physically ill…or maybe that was the wine Eleni had been plying her with to get her courage up.
Eleni held up the glass again. Kallie shook her head, as it was it was already swimming slightly. The sight of it made her feel nauseous. Fuelled by something bigger than her—the wine, the sense of finality about everything—Kallie moved forward as if in a dream, through the crowd in the room, out the door that Alexandros had disappeared through and onto the patio. The warm air washed over her, bringing her to her senses somewhat.
She almost turned around and went back inside, but saw Eleni at the door. No going back. Then she saw him, his tall lean body, jacket off, leaning against the wall, and it made something inside her flutter to life. She moved forward. Thoughts swirled around her head, like a drumbeat…a mantra…as she approached him. She held her breath and stepped into the space where the tree formed a kind of hidden clearing.
The faint sounds of the party drifted out on the breeze but Kallie was oblivious to that. Her heart nearly jumped out of her chest it was beating so hard. Alexandros had his back to her but she could see that he had a bottle in his hand and was lifting it up, drinking from it. She must have made a noise because he whirled around, the bottle clenched in one hand. Is that you? She was stung at his obvious desire to be alone.
His dismissal. And it seemed even more apparent now. Having come this far, she ignored him and kept walking till she was almost beside him, the twinkling vista of Athens laid out below them at the end of the garden.
Her heart was beating so rapidly she felt light-headed. He shrugged and took another swig from the bottle. Kallie grabbed it from him, taking him off guard, and took a drink herself before he could stop her. She coughed and spluttered as the liquid burnt her throat. He stood up straight and clapped her back, sitting her back on the low wall beside him. A wry grin on his face.
She shivered suddenly when she realised that they were close together, his muscular thigh burningly close to hers. He reached for his coat and draped it over her shoulders. She had to fight not to give in to the sensation, not to close her eyes and breathe his scent deeply. They sat in silence for long minutes, neither one moving. That brooding energy emanated from Alexandros. The air seemed to grow thick around them, tension mounting, and Kallie wondered feverishly what to say, how to break it.
But Alexandros turned to her suddenly. He groaned softly and ran hands through his hair. He seemed to be fighting some inner battle, struggling with something. Then it passed. She held her breath as he reached out a hand and caught a lock of her hair, letting it slide through his fingers. Kallie grimaced, felt like squirming under his gaze. I burn too easily. I blush too easily.
Something dark crossed his face and he let her hair go. The moment was gone. She should leave Alexandros alone. To fight whatever demons were chasing him. She got up to leave and promptly stumbled when the ground swayed as she stood up. Her wish to leave dissolved in a flash of heat.
His chest was against her hands, strong and broad and warm, his heart beating steadily. His scent surrounded her. She looked up into those dark, fathomless depths and was lost, no more capable of moving than hiding the blatant desire in her expressive eyes. She could feel his breath against her palm. Her eyes jumped up to his and for the first time in her life she felt bold, filled with some unknown, unexplored feminine power.
Kallie felt something move through her, an aching wanting. It stunned her with its intensity. And then hope sprang in her breast. Would he kiss her back? She wanted him to, so much. Her lips moved tentatively against his…and then abruptly her world erupted and tilted. Alexandros stood and pushed her away from him with two harsh hands so quickly that Kallie was dizzy and would have staggered back except for his unwitting support.
His jacket fell to the ground behind her. He let go and somehow Kallie managed to keep standing. She could feel a tide of red heat climb her chest, her body throbbing painfully with all the newly discovered sensations clamouring for release.
The way Alexandros was looking at her, with such disdain, disbelief and horror , made her turn to jelly. Mortification twisted her insides.
He caught her back with his hands on her shoulders. Why would you try and kiss me? So handsome. And it made something burn in her belly, dissolving her embarrassment. She had to tell him. Nothing moved. Kallie saw Alexandros looking at her and the blatant shock on his face changed to confusion and then something else…disgust. Just go, Kallie. Kallie felt a mad desire to burst into hysterical laughter and then just as suddenly felt very silly.
And very small and very young. Like a child caught playing dress-up, her face smeared with make-up. Forget it happened, forget me. The tears came as she ran and when she finally stopped she hunched down and cried and cried until she could hardly see.
She must have been emboldened by some lunar magic or madness, the wine…As if someone like Alexandros Kouros would ever notice someone like her, would ever even want to kiss someone like her.
She wiped her cheeks.
The Kouros Marriage Revenge
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