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The Greek Commands His Mistress(4)

By:Lynne Graham

Lilah dropped her head, appalled at that suggestion. The town needed this factory for employment. The closure of Moore Components had already damaged the small town’s economy. Shops and entertainment venues were suffering from a downturn. People were struggling to find work because there were few other local jobs, and many had already had to put their houses up for sale because they could no longer afford their mortgages.

Lilah was well-acquainted with the human cost of unemployment and had done what little she could in her HR capacity to offer her father’s former workers guidance and advise them on suitable retraining schemes.

‘Option two—you choose only to spend one night with me,’ Bastien framed, impervious to the slight sound Lilah made as her lips parted on a stricken gasp of disbelief. ‘I will then make the business function again for at least a year. It will cost me money and it will be a waste of time, because the factory requires sustained and serious investment to win and retain new contracts. But if that’s the best I can get from you I’m prepared to do it...’

Lilah lifted her head and focused on Bastien’s lean darkly handsome face in sheer wonderment. ‘Let me get this straight. You are using Moore Components as a means of bargaining with me for my body?’ she spelled out incredulously. ‘Are you out of your mind?’

‘Be grateful. If I didn’t want you there would be nothing at all to put on the table. But for you I wouldn’t even have bothered coming up here. I simply would have sold the land,’ Bastien informed her with lethal cool.

Lilah had great difficulty hinging her jaw closed again, because she was stupefied by the options he was laying out before her. ‘You can’t possibly want me that much,’ she told him involuntarily. ‘That would be crazy.’

‘Obviously I’m crazy.’ Bastien dealt Lilah a slow, lingering appraisal that began at her lush pink lips, segued down to the small pert breasts outlined by her sweater and glossed over her delicately curved hipline to her shapely knees and ankles. ‘You have terrific legs,’ he mused, fighting the sting of awakening interest at his groin with fierce determination.

Two years back Delilah Moore had kept him in a state of virtually constant arousal that had given him sleepless nights and forced him into cold showers. He was damned if he was going to let her have that much of an effect on him again! He wanted her and that was that—but their affair would be on his terms only.

Option two was probably the wisest choice for him, because once he had bedded her, her fascination would surely wane fast and he would tire of her as he had tired of all her predecessors. But although he was convinced that one night should completely exorcise her from his fantasies, he still didn’t want to be forced to agree to that restriction.

Lilah yanked her skirt down over her knees, suddenly boiling up below her clothing, her whole skin surface prickling and reacting to his visual assessment with a rush of heat. He was such a very sexual male, she conceded in bewilderment. The atmosphere pulsed with astonishing tension and she hurriedly snatched her attention from him, recognising the swelling tautness of her nipples and the surge of ungovernable heat between her thighs as totally unacceptable reactions.

But she couldn’t prevent those reactions—couldn’t stop them happening around Bastien. On that level two years earlier Bastien had drawn her like a moth to a flame, because the wild, seething excitement he’d evoked in her had been incredibly seductive.

In a desperate attempt to regain control of her disordered thoughts, Lilah said with careful precision, ‘I refuse to believe you’re serious about this, Bastien. A man of your stature and wealth cannot possibly want a woman like me so much that he would make such a bargain.’

‘What would you know about it?’ Bastien cut in, whiplash-abrupt in that dismissal. ‘I haven’t reached option three yet.’

Outraged by his persistence, Lilah rose to her feet again. ‘I refuse to listen to any more of this nonsense!’

‘Then I sell this place today,’ Bastien fired at her with cold finality as she walked towards the door. ‘Your choice, your decision, Delilah. You’re lucky I’m giving you options.’

Lilah was still and then spun round again, black hair sliding in a glossy fall across her shoulders. ‘Lucky?’ she exclaimed in angry disbelief, her temper stirring as she thought about the contemptible offer he had made to her. Bottom line: Bastien Zikos was willing to do just about anything to get her into bed. Was she supposed to be pleased about that? Was it normal to feel as insulted as she did...as hurt? Why did she feel hurt?

‘With my backing you can wave a magic wand here and be a heroine if you want to be,’ Bastien imparted very drily. ‘Option three—I do almost anything you want, up to and including employing your father as consultant and manager.’

That startling suggestion not only stopped Lilah’s thoughts mid-track and froze her feet to the carpet, it also made everything else inside her head blur. For a split second she pictured her deeply troubled father restored to some semblance of his former confident, energetic self, able to earn again and provide for his family. What a huge difference that would make to Robert Moore!

‘So that’s what it takes to stop you walking out...you’re a real Daddy’s girl!’ Bastien remarked with galling amusement. ‘Are you ready to listen now, and stop flouncing around dramatically and asking me if I’m crazy? The answer to that is that I’m only crazy to have you in my bed...’

Colour blossomed below Lilah’s skin and ran up to her hairline in a scalding surge. She could barely credit that he had said that without even a shade of discomfiture. But then she reckoned it would take something considerably more shocking than sex to embarrass a male as resolute and dominant as Bastien. ‘All right...for my father’s sake I’ll agree to hear you out,’ she conceded with flat reluctance.

‘Then sit!’ Bastien indicated the chair.

It occurred to Lilah that Bastien had spoken to her just then as she spoke to Skippy when the dog was playing up.

Raising a wry brow at his disrespectful mode of addressing her, she sat down again. ‘Option three?’ she reminded him succinctly.

‘You become my mistress and stay with me for as long as I want you.’

‘Keeping a mistress is an astonishingly old-fashioned concept,’ Lilah remarked, to mask the reality that inwardly she was knocked sideways by that proposition.

Bastien shifted a broad shoulder in a careless shrug. ‘In my world it’s the norm.’

‘I assumed sex slavery of that sort ended about a hundred years ago.’

‘But then you don’t have a clue what the role entails,’ Bastien said drily, watching her while picturing her slender body sheathed in decadent silk and lace and diamonds purely for his private enjoyment.

The image gave him both a high and a hard-on.

‘In return for your agreement to become my mistress I will set this business up and invest in it. As the owner of a network of companies I can easily provide contracts to keep the factory busy. I will instruct your father to rehire his former workforce. After all, skilled employees are difficult to replace. With my full financial support, virtually everything could go back to the way it was before Moore Components lost that crucial contract.’

Lilah was floored by those comprehensive assurances. Now she understood Bastien’s jibe about her having the opportunity to play the heroine and wave a magic wand. Everything back the way it was! How many times in recent months had she longed for that to happen and for everyone to be content again instead of stressed, broken and unhappy? Countless times.

Bastien was a very powerful, enormously wealthy male, and perhaps for the first time she fully appreciated that reality—because she knew it would take thousands and thousands of pounds to get the factory up and running again, never mind build the business up to survive in the long term. It would be a hugely expensive challenge, but it would turn around the lives of so many people, Lilah reflected with a sinking heart.

‘Like Tinker Bell, you’re quite taken with the offer of a magic wand?’ Bastien quipped with brooding amusement as he watched her expressive face intently. ‘I suppose your response will depend on how much of a do-gooder you are. So far you’re ranging fairly high in that list of good works now that you have your whole family living with you. You’re keeping them too, aren’t you?’

Lilah was furious that he should have access to such facts about her personal life, and the label of ‘do-gooder’ offended her. ‘I’m not a do-gooder.’

‘By my estimation you are,’ Bastien countered drily. ‘You’ve saved your wicked stepmother from living in emergency accommodation and you also raise funds for abandoned dogs and starving children.’

Lilah stood up again in a sudden motion. ‘How on earth do you know so much about me?’

‘Obviously I’ve kept an eye on developments here.’

‘My stepmother is not wicked,’ Lilah added uncomfortably. ‘How do you know my family are staying with me? How do you know about the volunteer work I’ve done for the dog sanctuary?’

‘I had to check you out before I came up here,’ Bastien pointed out impatiently. ‘If you’d got married or picked up a boyfriend since we last met there would have been little point in my approaching you. I don’t like to have my time wasted.’