Claimed For His Duty
Greek Tycoons Tamed Book 1 – Stavros’s Story, Dmitri’s next!
The Wedding Night They Never Had…
Leah Huntington’s safety was entrusted to Greek tycoon Stavros Sporades, but the rebellious heiress was a beacon for fortune hunters. The only way for Stavros to protect her was to marry her himself!
But their marriage was just a facade. Five years later, the sassy woman who sashays back into Stavros’s life demanding a divorce is completely different from the wayward girl he married.
Stavros demands Leah prove her troubled past is behind her before he grants her freedom. But one night in their marital bed reveals that his alluring wife might have been innocent all along…
Excerpt: © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Leah Huntington collapsed onto the plastic chair behind her small desk, her knees buckling out from under her. The red stamp spelling out “REJECTED” on the application form blurred in front of her eyes. Her heart squeezed painfully as she fingered the flat sketches on her drawing board, the possibility of seeing her creation take form now evaporating like a puff of smoke.
Sweat ran down her back, the slow whir of the ceiling fan scraping against her nerves. She ran cramped up fingers over her neck, feeling the muscles tighten with tension.
Mrs. DuPont, the buying manager for a retail store, had given Leah only two months to create her first collection and all Leah had now were flat sketches. And as she had to do everything herself instead of contacting a factory like she did for the fashion house, every minute was important.
The most important of it being the funds she required to source raw materials… There were a hundred things she needed and it was all sitting in that bank.
She dialed the number for the bank manager she had spoken to just two days ago.
Her heart hammered painfully, thudding faster and faster, an ominous pounding she couldn’t breathe past. There could be only one man behind this. Her stomach twisted as the bank manager coughed on the other end of the phone. His answer was curt, immediate as though he had been rehearsing the explanation, waiting for Leah to call.
They couldn’t use the trust fund as security to approve her loan because—Leah could hear the hushed reverence in the manager’s voice as he uttered the name—the trustee overseeing her fund had denied the use of the trust fund, her trust fund, as security.
Leah threw the handset across the room, every inch of her shaking. She kicked the chair aside, the impact of it jarring up her leg, every nerve cell in her humming with outrage.
How much more was he going to punish her? How long was she going to let him?
She picked up the phone again, her vision blurry now with unchecked tears. Her throat burned as she took a deep breath, her thumb hovering over the numbers on the handset.
She wanted to demand an explanation, she wanted to…
But what was the point? His secretary would politely tell her that he was not available. It was the same answer she had received over the last year every time she had tried to contact him. Even though they both lived in Athens, they might as well have been living on the opposite ends of the planet.
She bit her lower lip, her nails digging into her skin. A sob built inside her chest, fury rising through her like a storm that could swallow her in its clutches.
She had to put an end to this. She had to break free of the leash he bound her with, controlling her every step, every choice, while he enjoyed his life. She had let him do it for five years.
Five years of a sterile life, five years of being his prisoner—that she had accepted out of guilt and fear.
Scrubbing the tears from her cheeks, she pulled up the society feature she had purposely clicked away from this morning on her laptop.
Stavros’s business partner and her grandfather’s second godson, Dmitri Karegas, was throwing a party aboard his yacht.
Stavros and Dmitri were cut from the same cloth—breathtakingly gorgeous, built their empires from nothing under her grandfather Giannis’s guidance, and considered themselves gods, their will law for the normal mortals they walked amongst.
Stavros hated parties with an intensity Leah had never been able to understand, but Dmitri would be there.
She just had to make sure the decadent playboy, who apparently was always surrounded by a group of willing women, noticed her presence aboard his latest toy.
Had to, somehow, gain his attention.
Her stomach clenched as she shoved the bedroom door open and walked toward the closet.
Every step toward it, every thought in this direction—was like walking to her own doom.
But Stavros had left her no choice…left her with no way out.
She dialed another number on her phone and booked a taxi. A shiver traveled over her spine as she viciously pushed the cotton tops and skirts in her closet away until she reached the end.
She pulled the gold silk dress, the one designer label she had kept, her fingers shaking violently as she realized how little fabric there was of the dress. Her back would be totally bare, which meant she had to go without a bra.
And it would leave most of her legs, her thighs bare too. So no underwear either.
Five years ago, she hadn’t even blinked when she had worn it. Had thought it nothing to parade around with Alex and Calista, showing every bit of skin she could expose, barely looking decent…
And she had been almost twenty pounds heavier…
Just thinking of how she must have looked then made her cringe.
What the hell had the designer been thinking? What the hell had she been thinking?
She had been trying to please Calista, who had decreed she wear it that night… That’s what she had been thinking.
Yet nothing else in her closet would do for tonight.
Of all the things to think about when her life was eternally stuck in this rut, when the very walls of this apartment were closing in on her.
Her palms were sweating as she pulled the dress to herself. The dress would fall scandalously above her knees, just about covering her buttocks.
It was the most outrageous dress she owned, the sartorial equivalent of a tramp and she had worn it the night Stavros had decided her fate. Fitting then that it was the one that would at least get her an audience with the man who was her jailor.
Every muscle in her trembled, and her mouth was coated with bitter fear as she walked into the bathroom and splashed water on her face.
He was going to explode, he was going to despise her even more, if that was possible. But she couldn’t bear this…this isolation anymore.
She couldn’t bear to continue like this. Something had to give.
Leah clutched the leather seat of the taxi, holding onto it a like a lifeline, the curious glances the cabbie threw her way doing nothing to propel her out.
She took a deep breath and looked out the dirty window. The marina was busy, a few of the yachts moored there highlighted by the setting sun. But even amidst the loud luxury, one yacht stood out, its gleaming white exterior splendid in the setting sun’s light.
She took the bills out of her gold-lined clutch and handed it over. This was it.
She didn’t let herself think, she didn’t let herself even look around over the next few minutes. Keeping her shoulders straight, head held high, she reached the security personnel guarding the planked entrance. Except for the glimpse of recognition in his gaze, the six-footer didn’t budge a muscle.
Leah raised a brow haughtily, the gesture taking everything she had.
Yes, she had spent the past five years working as an apprentice in a mid-level fashion house, away from the spotlight, locked up in a bubble where no one knew who she was, where no one cared except that she didn’t put a toe out of line.
She slept, she woke up, went to work, went back to her apartment, ate dinner and fell into bed again, while Stav-ros’s minion, Mrs. Kovlakis, her housekeeper, watched her, made sure she didn’t comit any further scandalous acts. But that didn’t mean anyone had forgotten what she had done, or what Stavros had done to her as punishment.
Especially in this crowd that hung on to every word from Stavros’s lips as if it was the Holy Bible. It felt like an eternity but only a few seconds passed before the man stepped aside. Taking his proffered hand, Leah stepped onto the deck, her guts twisting into a gooey mess.
For a few dazzling minutes, she forgot why she was there as she ventured further. Uniformed waiters passed around champagne. The party was in full swing on the deck, inebriated, sweaty bodies pressing against each other.
Excitement and an electric energy touched the air, and she swayed automatically to the music.
So everything she had heard of Dmitri’s parties was true…and strangely the antithesis of everything Stavros was. So he wouldn’t be here. But she needed to be recognized, which meant she had to grab Dmitri’s attention, especially if he was busy ravishing his latest arm candy.
Smiling for the first time since this afternoon, she walked toward the glittering glass bar that she had read about, planted herself on one barstool, ordered a cosmo and proceeded to get drunk.
Stavros Sporades frowned as his cell phone beeped for the tenth time in the last five minutes. He picked up the phone and smiled at Helene, loath to ruin their private dinner. It was the first time he was relaxing in a month and he guarded his downtime as fiercely as he did his work time.
He picked up his champagne flute and took a sip before clicking Yes.
Dmitri’s drawling tone reverberated in his ears. “She’s here. Aboard my yacht.”
Stavros fell back against the seat in silent shock. Only one woman being aboard Dmitri’s yacht would cause him to call.
His blood pumped furiously through his veins. “Are you sure it’s her?”
A mocking laugh met his ears. “It took me a few minutes to recognize her, but yes, it’s her. She’s drunk and dancing.”
Drunk and dancing…
Instead of seeing Leah’s face, he saw his sister Calista, unmoving and pale in death. He had tried so hard to find some kind of closure from Calista’s untimely death, and yet, the anger and the powerlessness were just as raw, just as fresh.
Gritting his jaw, Stavros calmly pocketed his phone. Fury reverberated within, leaving his chest perversely cold. He made his apologies to Helene and exited the rooftop restaurant.
She’s doing very well, Mr. Sporades, Mrs. Kovlakis had said about Leah, in her nasal voice on his weekly phone call. Almost a changed personality, if you can believe.
Had the woman been just telling him what he had wanted to hear?
Within minutes, his pilot landed them on Dmitri’s luxury yacht.
He stepped onto the helipad, a corrosive anger roped with heart-pounding fear running through him. “Where is she?”
His gaze deceptively calm, Dmitri pointed to the dance floor on the lower deck. “I could have had the security personnel grab her, but I think that would have made the situation worse.”
Stavros nodded, unwilling to meet his oldest friend’s eyes.
His control was barely teetering on the edge as it was. He didn’t want to be thankful for the fact that it could have been worse, much worse than Dmitri’s yacht.
He didn’t want to feel grateful that it was just alcohol, not drugs.
Cristos, he didn’t want to set eyes on the woman he had married as punishment and penance. He didn’t want to set eyes on Leah.
Even in the drunken haze caused by the three cosmos she had consumed, Leah knew the exact moment Stavros had reached the dimly lighted dance floor.
The hairs on her neck shot up, her stomach plummeted. An unbearable cold claimed her skin even though the breeze from the sea was warm. She shook her head slowly to clear the fog and looked up.
The famous, specially commissioned, glittering glass bar that was the prize of Dmitri’s yacht showed a hundred reflections of Stavros. Narrowly sculpted face as if a sculptor had been asked to keep austerity at the front of his mind, the sharp, long bridge of his nose that was arrogance embodied, the cruel slash of his wide mouth that instantly reminded her of that one punishing kiss, and the tawny, long-lashed eyes.
And the hatred blazing in them when he met her gaze in the glass—a hundred flickers of fire that could scorch her in so many ways.
Nausea bubbled through her and Leah stumbled.
Shaking uncontrollably, she wrapped her fingers around the nape of the twenty-something guy she had been dancing with for the last quarter of an hour. Although it was more him holding her boneless body up.
Thankfully, the stranger’s face was blurry to her. She didn’t want to remember anything from this night tomorrow. She moved her feet slowly in rhythm with the beat of hip-hop blaring around them. His hands moved over her hips, hesitated, then moved back up over her back, before embracing her.
Her stomach quivered, the faint whisper of something as mundane as comfort warming her insides.
How pathetic had her life become if the man’s thin body comforted her?
Willing herself to ignore the cloud of black thunder she could sense around her, she dragged in a raspy breath. Softly ominous whispers emerged through the din and music, the sweaty, swaying bodies parting without his uttering a word. It was as if even the air in that lower deck was suspended in the face of the thundering storm.
She pulled herself up and kissed her companion’s smooth, almost boyish jaw and whispered sorry.
It wasn’t the poor guy’s fault that he had no knowledge of who she was or he wouldn’t have dared to touch her. Would have sidled away from her, treating her like a pariah as the rest of the crowd had done once Dmitri had walked by, his gray gaze devouring her with unhurried interest. Once they had all realized she was Leah Huntington Sporades, prisoner and possession of Stavros Sporades, not to be looked at or even spoken to, especially by another man.
Because, Alex, her one friend who hadn’t turned away from her, who had tried to contact her even after Calista’s death and her marriage, had ended up in jail on some trumped-up charges Stavros and that equally arrogant Dmitri had fabricated out of thin air.
The depth of her hatred for Stavros left her shaking uncontrollably.
A steel band wound around her waist and jerked her away from the stranger. Maybe he was even a teenager, she thought, feeling old and tired at just twenty-four.
She fell against a solid, hard frame with a soft thud that knocked the breath out of her.
Unlike the man she had been dancing with, Stavros was all hard, unforgiving muscle that sent her body into shock at the contact.
Long fingers held her arms in a grip this short of hurting and turned her, the heat emanating from his body hitting her like a wave of the sea.
Blinking, Leah raised her gaze and then shied away immediately.
Coward, a voice mocked her inside but she didn’t care.
The soporific effect of the alcohol she had consumed stunting the hatred that buzzed her blood, she went like a doll incapable of independent motion as he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder.
The jutting bones of his shoulders dug into her rib cage, her breasts crushed by his muscular back but Leah refused to let even a whimper emerge.
The world tilted upside down and a tear seeped through despite her efforts. The quiet hush that preceded them was like the calm before the storm.
She had done what she had wanted to do.
She had made a spectacle of herself, she had Stavros’s attention.
Except nothing could numb her to the blistering contempt that had flashed in his gaze in the split second she had looked into it.
She squeezed her eyes shut and gave herself over to the haze in her head.