High Fantasy + Emotional Intensity = Harlequin Presents
Tara loved Harlequin Presents since she was a teenager. She used to smuggle them into the house hidden in mathematics tomes, sometimes hiding them in her unsuspecting younger cousin's bag.
Warning: Arrogant Alpha Heroes, Feisty Heroines and Sizzling Passion ahead!
Blackmailed by the Greek's Vows
Blackmailed by the Greek's Vows
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“Three months as my wife!”
Will she pay his price?
Valentina always believed in the longing that consumed her and husband, Kairos—until her devastating discovery that her marriage was a coldhearted business deal. Despite their undeniable chemistry, she refuses to remain bound to the ruthless Greek. But before granting a divorce, Kairos demands she play his adoring wife again. And when their intense fire reignites, Valentina is at the mercy of her own desire…
She was dressed like a…a hooker.
No…not exactly a hooker.
No hooker he knew possessed the class, the style and the innate grace that imbued every one of his wife’s movements.
More of a high-class escort.
It took Kairos Constantinou a few seconds to clear the red haze that descended in front of his eyes.
Dios…of all the stunts he had expected his impulsive, fiery wife to pull, it hadn’t been this.
When his PI had informed him that he’d located Valentina and that she’d be aboard Kairos’s own yacht for the party tonight, he hadn’t been surprised.
Valentina had always been the life of the party scene in Milan.
Lively. Sensual. Like a beautiful butterfly that flits from flower to flower. The minute her brother Leandro had pointed her out to Kairos, standing amidst a gaggle of men, Kairos had decided he wanted her.
Three minutes into Leandro introducing them, he’d known she was going to be his wife.
She had been the best possible incentive Leandro could have offered to reel Kairos into the alliance. Kairos would gain entry into the rarefied old-world alliances that her family the Conti dynasty, swam in, and she would get a rich husband.
Not once had he questioned why Leandro had thought he needed to set up his beautiful sister like that.
All Kairos had wanted was the prize that was Valentina Conti.
Except, a week into his marriage, he had realized his wife was anything but a trophy.
She was emotionally fiery, intensely vulnerable and impulsive as hell.
The best example of which was her deserting him nine months ago without so much as a word.
And to find her here among this crowd now.
With instincts he’d honed among the street gangs of Athens, he noted three Russian investors who operated businesses barely this side of legal—the men his friend Max intended to wine and dine—another man who was a model and a friend of Valentina’s, and five women to entertain them, not counting Valentina.
Women of the oldest profession known to man. Not streetwalkers, like some of his earliest friends, but undoubtedly from an escort service.
And the most provocatively dressed among them was Valentina in a flimsy gold dress.
The slinky material pooled at her chest to create a low neckline that left her shoulders and her toned arms bare. It pushed up those small breasts that he had touched and kissed and sucked while she writhed under him, like a lover’s hands.
So much golden, soft, silky skin… His jaw tightened like a vise as three other men salivated over her.
But it was the smiles she bestowed on the men as she charmed them, those arms flying about in that way of hers while she narrated some escapade in her accented English, full of fire, the way she put a hand on Max’s arm and thanked him when he refilled her drink…that was what caused the ice to stiffen his spine.
The wall of detachment that had always been his armor against anything was his only defense.
No, this was only want. Physical want…nothing more.
He still wanted her, desperately, because she was Valentina and even with her explosive tempers and childish tantrums, she had still snuck under his skin.
He needed her as his wife for a few months. And in those few months, he’d work her out of his blood. Out of his life.
If Valentina Conti Constantinou had indulged in some fantasy delusion that her husband Kairos had arrived on the yacht to achieve some sort of romantic reunion between them, he burned the notion to ashes within the first few minutes.
It had been disturbing enough to find that not only had her photographer friend Nikolai, at whose persuasion she had come to the party, manipulated her into wearing the tackiest outfit, but that she was surrounded by women from an escort service and men expected to be entertained by them.
She’d squared her shoulders, made Nikolai claim her for the evening, and had begun to charm the Russians. The one thing she knew how to do. She might have been living on nothing for months but she had class. Years of practice at playing the perfect socialite—well-versed in fashion and politics.
Until Kairos had walked in.
Barely sipping her G&T, she nodded at something Nikolai whispered in her ear, keeping her effusive smile firmly in place. Her throat was raw with the falsely pitched laughs, and her chest hurt at having to play the unruffled socialite the way she had all her life.
Every inch of her rebelled against the calm she had assumed from the moment Kairos had stepped onto the deck. Every cell in her roared to swat away the woman who was even now cozying up to him, far too pleased with herself.
She wanted to announce to the rest of them that he was hers.
But he had never belonged to her.
Her grip shook, clinking the ice in her tumbler.
Tina put her glass down, fighting for control.
Men scrambled around Max for an introduction to Kairos, and the women—hair fluffed, breasts pushed up to spill out of already plunging necklines—it was as if the rough, rugged masculinity of him was an inviting caress to every woman.
Dios mio, the strength of his sheer masculine appeal hit her like a punch now, shaking her up, turning her inside out.
His white shirt stretched tight across his broad shoulders, enhancing his raw, rugged appeal. His expansive chest tapered down to a narrow waist, over leaner hips and then he was all legs. Hard, muscular thighs followed by those runner’s calves that had once driven her crazy.
His hair was cut into that short style he preferred. Her fingers twitched, remembering the rough sensation of it, and she fisted them at her side. His gaze flicked down to her hands and then back up her body, slowly, possessively.
Those silvery eyes lingered on the long stretch of her legs, her thighs, noted the short hem of the dress, up to her waist, lingered again over her breasts, moved up her neck and then settled again on her face.
If he had run those hands over her body with that rough urgency that he’d always mastered before he lost control, she couldn’t have felt more owned. With one look, he plunged her into that state of mindless longing, that state of anticipation he had become used to expecting from her.
Shivering inside her skin, forgetting all the misery he had inflicted on her, Tina lifted her chin in defiance.
He had never liked her to dress provocatively. Had never liked her easy attitude with other men, that almost flirty style of talking that was her nature. They had had more than one row on the subject of her dresses, her hair, her shoes, her style, her attitude and even her body.
One of the blondes she had genuinely liked earlier—Stella of the big boobs and even bigger hips—tapped his arm. A smile curving his thin lips, he sliced his gaze away in clear, decisive dismissal.
Tears scratched up Tina’s throat and she hurriedly looked away before someone could see her mortification.
Nine months ago, she’d have slapped the woman’s face—she cringed at the memory of doing that to her sister-in-law Sophia, having been induced into a jealous, insecure rage. She’d have screamed and made a spectacle of herself, she’d have let her temper get the better of her and proved to everyone and Kairos how crazy she was about him.
Nine months ago, she’d have let the hot emotions spiraling through her dictate her every word, every move.
Nine months ago, she’d been under the stupid delusion that Kairos had married her because he wanted her, because he felt something for her, even if he didn’t put it in words.
But no, he had married her as part of an alliance with her brother Leandro. Even after learning that bitter truth, she could have given her marriage a try.
But Kairos didn’t possess a heart. Didn’t know what to do with one given into his keeping.
She had humiliated herself, she had prostrated her every thought, every feeling at his feet. And it hadn’t been enough.
She hadn’t been enough.
“So you’re truly over with him…that glowering husband of yours.”
“Si,” Tina said automatically. And then wished she hadn’t.
When the party began winding down, she had slipped below deck with the excuse of visiting the ladies’ room and hidden herself away in the lovely gray-and-blue bedroom, her nerves frayed to the hilt at the constant awareness of Kairos.
It was tiring to play the stoic, unaffected party girl. To stuff away all the longing and hurt and anger into a corner of her heart.
But Nikolai had followed her downstairs.
Although over the last couple of months she’d realized that Nikolai was harmless, he was drunk now. Her brother Luca had taught her long ago never to trust a drunken man.
“A taxi for you,” she said to Nikolai, pulling her cell phone out of her clutch.
From the foot of the bed where he made an adorably pretty picture, Nikolai stretched his leg and rubbed his leather boot against her bare calf. “Or we could spend the night here, Tina, mi amore. Now that things are truly over between you and the Greek thug—”
Using the tip of her stiletto, Tina poked his calf until he retreated with a very unmasculine squeal.
Her head was pounding. She’d barely drunk any water. Her body and mind were engaged in a boxing match over Kairos. The last thing she needed was Nikolai hitting on her.
“Kairos and I are not divorced. Also, I’m not interested in a relationship,” she added for good measure.
“I noticed him tonight, cara mia. He spared you not a single glance.” A claw against her heart. “As if you were total strangers.” A bruise over her chest. “He seemed pretty interested in that whore Stella.” Bile in her throat.
Just like a man to use the woman and then call her crude names. Oh, why had she come tonight? “Per favore, Nik, don’t call her that.”
“You called Claudia Vanderbilt much worse for marrying a sixty-year-old man.”
Tina cringed, shame and regret washing over her like a cold wave.
She’d been privileged and pampered and had behaved so badly. She should keep Nikolai in her life. If nothing, he’d keep reminding her what a bitch she’d once been.
While Valentina held up her phone and walked around the bedroom looking for a signal—she’d spend the night here if it meant avoiding seeing Kairos leave with one of the women, not that he’d need to pay for the pleasure—Nikolai had moved closer.
Valentina froze when his hands landed on her hips. She arrested his questing hands. “Please, Nikolai. I would like to keep the single friend I have.”
“You have really changed, Tina. Transformed from a poisonous viper to a—” his alcoholic fumes invaded her nostrils while he tilted his head, seemingly in deep thought “—an innocent lamb? A lovely gazelle?”
Christo, the man was deeply drunk if he was calling her innocent.
Before Tina could shove Nikolai’s hands away—she really didn’t want to plant her knee in his groin like Luca had taught her—his hands were gone. Whether he skidded due to his drunken state or was pushed, Tina would never know. He landed with a soft thump against the bed, slid down it and let out a pathetic moan.
Tina whirled around, her breath hitching.