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The Greek Commands His Mistress(2)

By:Lynne Graham

Only Lilah, who had once received a disturbing glimpse of the cold diamond-cutting strength of Bastien’s ruthlessness, was full of pessimism and thought the prospect of Bastien arriving to break good news to the local community unlikely.

In fact, if ever a man could have been said to have scared Lilah, it was Bastien Zikos. Everything about the tall, amazingly handsome Greek had unnerved her. The way he looked, the way he talked, the domineering way he behaved. His whole attitude had been anathema to her and she had backed off fast—only to discover, to her dismay, that that kind of treatment only put Bastien into pursuit mode.

Although Lilah was only twenty-three she had distrusted self-assured, slick and handsome men all her life, fully convinced that most of them were lying, cheating players. After all, even her own father had once been like that—a serial adulterer whose affairs had caused her late mother great unhappiness.

Lilah didn’t like to dwell on those traumatic years, when she had begun to hate her father, because it had seemed then that he could not be trusted with any woman—not her mother’s friends, not even his office staff. Mercifully all that behaviour had stopped once her father met Vickie, and since then Lilah had contrived to forge a new and much closer relationship with her surviving parent. Only now Robert Moore had settled down was his daughter able to respect him again and forgive him for the past.

Bastien, on the other hand, was not the family-man type, and he had always enjoyed his bad reputation as a womaniser. He was an unashamed sexual predator, accustomed to reaching out and just taking any woman who took his fancy. He was rich, astute and incredibly good-looking. Women fell like ninepins around him, running to him the instant he crooked an inviting finger. But Lilah had run in the opposite direction, determined not to have her heart broken and her pride trampled by a man who only wanted her for her body.

She was worth more than that, she reminded herself staunchly, as she had done two years earlier—much more. She wanted a man who loved and cared about her and who would stick by her no matter what came their way.

Being powerfully attracted to a man like Bastien Zikos had been a living nightmare for Lilah, and she had refused to acknowledge her reaction to him or surrender to the temptation he provided. Yet even now, two years on, Lilah could still remember her first sight of him across a crowded auction room. Bastien...tall, dark and devastating, with his glorious black-lashed tawny eyes.

She had been there to view a pendant that had once belonged to her mother and which Vickie, unaware of Lilah’s attachment to the piece, had put up for sale. Lilah had planned to buy it back quietly at auction, preferring that option to the challenge of telling Vickie that she had actually been pretty upset when her father had so thoughtlessly given all her late mother’s jewellery to his then live-in girlfriend.

And the first person Lilah had seen that day had been Bastien, black hair falling over his brow, his bold bronzed profile taut as he examined something in his hand while an auction assistant in overalls stood by an open display cabinet. When she had been directed to that same cabinet she had been hugely taken aback to see that Bastien had had her mother’s very ordinary silver sea horse pendant clasped in his lean brown hand.

‘What are you doing with that?’ she’d asked possessively.

‘What’s it to you?’ Bastien had asked bluntly, glancing up and transfixing her with breathtaking dark brown eyes enhanced by lush, curling black lashes.

In that split second he had travelled in her estimation from merely handsome to utterly gorgeous, and her breath had tripped in her throat and her heart had started hammering—as if she stood on the edge of a dangerous precipice.

‘It belonged to my mother.’

‘Where did she get it from?’ Bastien had shot at her, thoroughly disconcerting her.

‘I was with her when she bought it at a car boot sale almost twenty years ago,’ Lilah had confided. although she’d been startled by his question, not to mention the intensity of his appraisal.

‘My mother lost it in London some time around then,’ Bastien had mused in a dark, deep accented drawl that had sent odd little quivers travelling down her spine. He had turned over the pendant to display the engraving on the back, composed of two letter As enclosed in a heart shape. ‘My father Anatole gave it to my mother Athene. What an extraordinary coincidence that it should have belonged to both our mothers.’

‘Extraordinary...’ Lilah had agreed jerkily. as disturbed by his proximity as by his explanation. He’d been close enough that she’d been able to see the dark stubble shadowing his strong jawline and smell the citrus-sharp tenor of his cologne. Her nostrils had flared as she’d taken a hasty step backwards and cannoned into someone behind her.

Bastien had shot out a hand to steady her before she could stumble, long brown fingers closing round her narrow shoulder like a metal vice to keep her upright.

Lilah had jerked back again, breathless and flushed, heat flickering in places she had never felt warm before as her gaze had collided with the tall Greek’s stunning eyes.

‘May I see the pendant before it goes back in the cabinet?’ she had asked curtly, putting out her hand.

‘There’s not much point in you looking at it. I’m planning to buy it,’ Bastien had imparted drily.

Lilah’s teeth had snapped together as though he had slapped her. ‘So am I,’ she had admitted grudgingly.

With reluctance Bastien had settled the pendant into her hand. Her eyes had prickled as she looked at it, because her mother had loved the fanciful piece and had often worn it in summer. The pendant reawakened a few of the happier memories of Lilah’s childhood.

‘Join me for coffee,’ Bastien had urged, flipping the pendant back out of her hand to return it to the hovering assistant.

Lilah had dealt him a bemused look of surprise. ‘It would hardly be a-appropriate,’ she’d stammered. ‘Not when we’re both going to bid on the same lot.’

‘Maybe I’m sentimental. Maybe I would like to hear about where the necklace has been all these years.’

Bastien had dangled that unlikely assurance in front of her like a prize carrot and she had caved in to coffee, feeling that to do otherwise would be rude and unreasonable.

And so her brief acquaintance with Bastien Zikos had begun, Lilah recalled unhappily. Hurriedly she blanked out the memories of that short week she never, ever allowed herself to think about, far too well aware of how mortifyingly long it was taking for her to forget meeting Bastien Zikos. Yet she had never had any regrets about turning him down—not then and not since, even when the most cursory internet search of Bastien’s name always revealed the never-ending parade of different beauties that it took to keep Bastien happy. Quantity rather than quality was what Bastien went for in women, she had often thought, while telling herself that she had made the only decision she could...even if he still hated her for it.

As Lilah walked through the factory gates, saddened by the lack of vehicles and bustle that had used to characterise the once busy site, her mobile phone rang. Digging it out, she answered it. It was Josh, whom she had gone to university with, and he was suggesting she join him and a few friends for a night out. Every six weeks or so they met up as a group, went for a meal and out to see a film. One or two of the group were couples, the others simply friends. Josh, for example, was recovering from a broken engagement, and Lilah’s last boyfriend had dumped her as soon as her father’s business had hit the skids.

‘Tomorrow night?’ Lilah queried, thinking about it and liking the idea, because evenings in her crowded little house were currently far from relaxing and the idea of getting out was attractive. ‘What time?’

Her friends would take her mind off things, she reflected gratefully, and stop her constantly fretting about a situation she had no control over. Unfortunately for Lilah an instinctive need to fix broken things and rescue people and animals ran deep and strong in her veins.

From the main office on the top floor, Bastien watched Delilah Moore cross the Moore Components car park with laser-sharp attention. She was still the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, he acknowledged, angry that that should still strike him as being the case. There had been a lot of women in his bed since he had met Robert Moore’s daughter, but none of them had held his interest for very long.

Bastien still saw Delilah in the same light as he had first seen her, with her silky black curling cloud of hair falling almost to her waist and her sapphire-blue eyes electrifyingly noticeable against her creamy, perfect skin. Even wearing worn jeans and scuffed biker boots she’d had that casual effortlessly elegant look which some women had no matter what they wore.

Then, as now, he had told himself impatiently that she wasn’t his type. With a single exception he had always gone for tall curvy blondes. Delilah was tiny, and very slender—the complete opposite of voluptuous. He just couldn’t explain what made her so appealing to him, and that annoyed Bastien because anything he couldn’t control or understand annoyed him.

This time around, he would get close enough to see all her flaws, he promised himself grimly.

‘The new boss is in the building!’ carolled Lilah’s colleague Julie as soon as she walked into the small office the two women shared.