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The Unfaithful Wife(2)

By:Lynne Graham

And yet there had been times at the beginning when she could have sworn that Nik looked at her with veiled loathing, when his voice could say the lightest things and sound like a whiplash of naked threat, when his very presence in the same room had made her feel menaced...and that was when she had learnt to hug the background, never draw attention to herself, avoid him whenever possible. She had assumed that he resented having had to marry her to get the shares. Yet divorce had always been within his reach. It was a mystery Leah had yet to fathom out.

And now Nik, who had not varied his schedule in five long, endless years, had come home unexpectedly. That fact returned to haunt her, anxious though she had been to evade it. Her fingers clenched white-knuckled around her bag as she climbed the steps of the vast Georgian terraced house. The unfaithful wife, she thought painfully.

But she wasn’t his wife, not his real wife, she reminded herself, just as she had often done in the weeks since she had met Paul. She should have demanded her freedom a long time ago. But her father would have been outraged and bitterly disappointed.

Leah had spent the first seventeen years of her life pleasing her father, Max, in every way she could. She had done as he advised five years ago. She had married Nik and it had been the biggest mistake of her life. Nik had taken her freedom and given nothing in return. But that time was past, she reminded herself. It was almost two months since her father had died, the heart condition which had endangered his health for years having finally taken its toll.

‘Mr Andreakis is waiting for you in the drawing-room,’ Petros the butler informed her.

Leah hovered, nervous tension biting. As a rule, she didn’t see Nik until he sat down at the dinner-table. The belief that something was wrong attacked her again.

He was standing by the marble fireplace, six feet two inches of overwhelmingly masculine male. Once she had looked at him and her heart had sung, her knees had weakened and her voice had caught in her throat. Now Leah saw him always as if through a glass wall. Learning to detach herself had been lesson one.

Nik Andreakis, the legendary Greek tycoon, possessor of fabled wealth and immense power. From his hand-stitched leather shoes to his fabulously tailored mohair-and silk-blend pearl-grey suit, he was effortlessly elegant, supremely sophisticated. A man to die for, she had thought at seventeen, her impressionable little teeny-bopper heart ready to burst with sheer excitement.

And Nik was a devastatingly handsome male animal, quite stunningly gorgeous by any standards. Thick ebony hair, golden skin, riveting black eyes as dark as night. Wherever he went he was the focus of female attention. And he knew it, was amused by it...used it when it suited him. Once, though she rarely allowed herself to recall it, Nik had focused that elemental aura of sexual energy on her.

Something had changed...something was different. Tension thrummed in the air. Deep-set dark eyes scanned her. ‘Your lipstick’s smudged.’

Her fingers flew up to her mouth in a gesture of dismay. ‘Is it?’

Winged ebony brows drew together in slight frown. Nik studied her intently. ‘We haven’t got much time, so I’ll just move to the baseline. We’re flying to Paris.’

Frozen with astonishment, Leah echoed, ‘Paris?’

Nik had already opened the door. ‘Come on,’ he said with unhidden impatience.

‘You want me to go to Paris with you?’ Leah stressed helplessly. ‘Now...like right now?’


‘But why?’

‘A little business tied up with your father’s estate.’ Hooded dark eyes probed the amazement that flashed across her face.

And Leah was amazed— amazed that there could be anything left to sort out concerning her father’s estate. Although Nik had not even bothered to attend Max’s funeral, he had arrogantly assumed responsibility for instructing his lawyers to deal with her father’s property and possessions. While Leah had been grieving, too bound up in her loss to consider the practicalities of death, everything her father owned had been sold— everything!

His beautiful house, his business investments, his very furniture and personal effects had all been liquidated into cash at Nik’s instruction. Leah had not been left with a single memento. Her father, Max Harrington, might never have existed for nothing remained to testify to his sixty-odd years on this earth. Leah had been appalled by Nik’s insensitivity but by the time she found out it had been too late for her to intervene. The deed had been done. As usual, Nik’s orders had been carried out with speedy efficiency by his obedient staff.

A quiver of helpless antagonism ran through her. She lifted her silver head high. ‘Something you actually overlooked?’

‘No. Something I was looking for has finally been located.’ Harsh emphasis accompanied the assurance. An almost savage tension was briefly stamped in his hard, strong features as he read her mystified expression. ‘At least I think it has been. For your own sake, pray that I am right,’ he completed tautly.

Paling, Leah stepped back from him, the chill, the sense of threat running along her every nerve-ending. ‘For my sake? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘I hope not.’ He swung on his heel.

Leah made for the stairs. A hard hand stayed her. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’

‘To get changed.’ Sudden fear licked at her. She stared in shock at the lean, powerful hand clamped to her slender forearm. Nik never touched her...never, not even in the most passing, casual gesture.

‘There’s no time for that. The jet’s ready for take-off.’

‘Will we be coming back tonight?’ Her voice rose an octave as he literally thrust her out of the house. ‘I have nothing packed!’

‘You’ll manage.’

‘What’s going on?’ Leah demanded frantically as the limousine drew away from the kerb.

Ignoring her with supreme disdain, Nik picked up the phone and proceeded to talk at length in Greek.

She didn’t understand a word. A fleeting recollection stirred. On their wedding-day she had told him she intended to learn his language. ‘Don’t waste your time,’ he had derided, and that had been the very first crack that appeared in her fantasy world. Before the day was at an end, the crack had widened into a yawning gulf but it had taken a lot longer for reality to banish that fantasy world she had wanted so badly.

Her temples throbbed with the tension in the air. But her inner turmoil did not show. She sat still, apparently composed, her manicured hands loosely resting on her lap. In Nik’s presence she had learnt to conceal her emotions. Only that did not still the stormy flood of her hidden consternation and incomprehension.

‘What is this all about?’ Leah asked a second time.


Doggedly she persisted. ‘I understood that Dad’s estate was all settled.’

‘Did you really? I wonder,’ Nik responded murderously quietly.

Something in his intonation disturbed her. Her delicate profile turned. She encountered eyes as treacherous as black ice. Her stomach muscles clenched, her skin chilling. She had a sense of impending disaster so powerful that she felt briefly sick.

‘If you would just explain what— ?’ she began.

‘Why should I explain myself to you?’ It was so clearly a growl of lancing derision that she was silenced.

‘Young as you are, you are every man’s secret fantasy...’ Who would ever believe that those seductive words had been uttered by the husband who had ignored her very existence for five solid years? Yet Nik had said those words the first day they met. Why had he lied? Why had he pretended? Had he wanted those shares in that shipping line that badly? He must have done. It was patently obvious that she had never been Nik Andreakis’s secret fantasy. Bitterness tremored through her. Nik had used her without conscience...as had her father, who had gloried in Nik’s wealth and status.

Pained by the acknowledgement, Leah looked blankly out of the window. She longed for Paul— Paul, who hadn’t even known who she was when he’d first approached her, Paul, the very first man in her life to respond to her as an individual with feelings and needs and opinions of her own. He wanted only her. He wanted her for herself. He wasn’t trying to use her.

In Paris, she would tell Nik that she wanted a divorce. There would be no more procrastination. She would not risk losing Paul. And she was hungry to live a life of her own, hungry for the freedom which beckoned so tantalisingly on the horizon. Nik had stolen her youth, the teenage years when she should have been dating and having fun and loving. Why shouldn’t she be greedy for what she had never had?

On the private jet she flicked through magazines but her mouth curled several times as she watched the stewardess hover round Nik like some harem concubine, desperate to attract the sultan’s favour. The beautiful brunette had a bad dose of infatuation. Who better than Leah to recognise the symptoms? After all, she had once been a victim herself. But now she was utterly detached from Nik and prided herself on the fact.

Nik Andreakis, with his smouldering Greek temperament and movie-star looks, didn’t touch her on any physical or emotional level. He was volatile, ruthless and unpredictable. The cloak of civilisation was thin. He was also manipulative, arrogant and vicious towards those who opposed or antagonised him. If she had been his real wife, she wouldn’t have dared to sneak around with another man behind his back...