Home>>read The Unfaithful Wife free online

The Unfaithful Wife(3)

By:Lynne Graham

A limousine collected them at Charles de Gaulle Airport, carrying them through the heavy late afternoon traffic. The car drew up on a busy, crowded street. Leah climbed out, too proud to ask yet again where they were going but looking around. Nik strode ahead of her into the nearest building. He was carrying an executive case. And the building was a bank, she registered.

Three men were waiting in the foyer. One of them, whom she recognised as her father’s solicitor, attempted to speak to her. But Nik cut him off very rudely. From below her lashes she stole a glance at her husband. Dear God, but he was ignorant. In the wrong mood— too frequently the only mood in which Leah saw him— his manners were atrocious towards those unfortunates he considered to be lesser beings. As one of them, Leah felt a creature sympathy for the middle-aged man with his flushed, strained face.

A lift took them down to the vaults. The magical mystery tour, she reflected grimly. Were there more shares in that precious shipping line on offer? How could any man with Nik’s fabulous wealth and assets be so disgustingly greedy? He had married her out of greed, hadn’t he? Something for nothing. The shares had come free as her dowry.

The solicitor stuffed a key in her hand abruptly and then turned away.

“Give it to me,’ Nik grated in a driven undertone, his simmering tension leaping out at her in an electrifying wave.

The key for a safety-deposit box, presumably belonging to her father, for why else would it have been put in her hand? She ignored him. For the very first time in their marriage she ignored her husband, moving forward to watch the bank executive produce the box and leave it on the table before quietly leaving the small, bare room.

‘Leah...’ Nik growled.

She refused to look at him. ‘If it’s my father’s, it’s mine...’

‘Be very careful of what you claim.’

His savage warning pierced cold to the very centre of her body. She looked at him and was paralysed. Naked violence and aggression were etched in his ferociously taut features. She blenched, and cast the key on the table by the box in sudden surrender.

‘If it’s in here you can relax,’ Nik murmured between clenched white teeth. ‘If it isn’t, you’ll be lucky to see the dawn break tomorrow.’

If what was in there? Perspiration broke on her short upper lip. Her legs suddenly felt weak and wobbly. Her sapphire-blue eyes clung to him in sick disbelief. But he wasn’t looking at her. He was inserting the key in the box with a hand that wasn’t quite steady.

She licked her dry lips. There was something more than shares at stake, something terrible enough to make even Nik Andreakis threaten to come apart at the seams... She had never seen him close to the edge, never dreamt that he could lose control, but she was seeing it now.

The box was full of papers. With a burst of guttural Greek, Nik began to rifle through them, discarding letters and photos which spilled in careless disarray across the table. He was pale and taut, his evident search becoming visibly more agitated.

Leah focused on an envelope addressed to someone she had never heard of. She didn’t even recognise the writing. And then she glimpsed a large, glossy photograph. In stark colour, it depicted a number of men and women engaged in... In shock and disgust, Leah averted her eyes again. She started to tremble. Why had her father kept such an obscene thing in his possession?

‘What is this stuff?’ she whispered, since it was blatantly obvious that Nik knew far more about the contents of that box than she did. He had flicked past that photo without an ounce of reaction or surprise.

‘What is it?’ An edged laugh fell from his compressed mouth but there was no humour in the sound. ‘It’s a box of broken lives! Other people’s secrets. Your father lived off his victims and their fear like some filthy cockroach!’

White as a sheet, Leah gaped at him. ‘How dare you talk about my father like that?’

Nik wasn’t listening to her. He was still feverishly sorting through the papers. ‘That he should leave me to clear up this filth is the final insult. I, Nik Andreakis, reduced to soiling my hands because I cannot trust any other person alive with this obscene collection of human errors! His trophies! He kept them to the last instead of destroying them! Cristo...the evil old bastard...’

Only the cold wall was supporting Leah. She could not credit the crime that her late father was being accused of. Her mind was a complete blank over a seething sea of sick turmoil. ‘What are you saying?’ Her voice was so weak it was a thread of sound.

‘Are you deaf?’ Nik slung her a savage look of unconcealed loathing. ‘Why do you think I married you? For your chocolate-box looks and your convent education?’ he sneered. ‘For your ability to act like a lady and fix stupid flower arrangements all over my house?’

‘The shares,’ she mumbled, shaking all over.

‘There were no shares!’ he raked back at her, the volume of his voice echoing off the walls with a rage that made her quail helplessly. ‘There were never any shares. That shipping line didn’t even exist!’

‘You’re lying,’ Leah framed through bloodless lips, barely able to stay upright.

Nik’s attention was on the document he held in his hand. Suddenly, without any warning, he smashed his clenched fist down brutally hard on the tabletop. ‘Theos mou...’ he intoned with vicious bite. ‘It’s only a copy!’

‘A c-copy of what?’ As the table jumped, Leah flinched, plastering herself back against the wall, sick and dizzy.

‘And this is the end of the trail...’

Nik prowled towards her like a tiger about to spring for her throat and drag her down. ‘He gave the original to you, didn’t he?’ he murmured with lethal quietness, glittering black eyes settling on her with violent force. ‘He gave it to you to keep safe...’

‘G-gave what to me?’ Leah was so distraught she could barely articulate. She couldn’t think either.

‘You know what I’m talking about. Not so innocent after all, it seems,’ he breathed, backing her into a corner. ‘If it isn’t here, you have it. Max was no fool. He knew I’d dump you like a hot potato if I got my hands on it. So he gave it to you...so where is it?’

‘Stop it!’ Leah gasped strickenly, fearfully. ‘Leave me alone!’

‘If you don’t tell me where that certificate is... you’re in more danger now than you have ever been in your life,’ Nik spelt out, waves of raw aggression splintering from his lowering stance a mere foot from her. ‘I have lived with blackmail for five years to protect my family. I will not live with it one day longer!’

He had said the word, that terrifying word, and it danced about on the edges of the living nightmare she was being forced to endure. ‘Blackmail’... It wasn’t true, couldn’t be true. Her father could not have been a blackmailer. On the edge of collapse, Leah fought to stand her ground.

‘I always wondered whether he intended it this way...that you should be my life sentence,’ Nik vented in a seething undertone. ‘But I tell you now, pethi mou, I would sooner go to prison for putting my hands round that scrawny little throat and strangling the life force from your body. That would be the only life sentence I could live with!’

Terrified beyond endurance, Leah watched his dark, threatening face above hers black out and finally, mercifully vanish as she slid down the wall in a dead faint.


LEAH RECOVERED consciousness in the limousine. Nik was bending over her just as he had been doing before she’d passed out. In one frantic movement she jackknifed back from him and plastered herself up against the far door while she fumbled madly for the release mechanism, uncaring that they were in the midst of fast-moving traffic. ‘Get away from me!’ she screeched in panic.

‘Fragile little creature, aren’t you? A bundle of rampant nerves all of a sudden.’ Lounging back in a disturbing attitude of fluid relaxation, Nik surveyed her with unashamed satisfaction and a sardonic smile, his aggression cloaked, his temper back under control. ‘So where is that certificate?’

Her fingernails clenched painfully into her palms, etching purple crescents on the tender flesh. She needed that pain to be assured that Nik was still talking in the same nightmare fashion that he had been employing inside that suffocating little room. ‘I’ve already told you that I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Well, if you didn’t know you know now and I want an answer.’

‘I can’t believe my father was a blackmailer—’

‘Dirty, isn’t it?’ Nik treated her to a scrutiny empty of even the tiniest vein of compassion. ‘But then he was a professional of the very highest quality. His field was the rich and famous and the skeletons he dug out of closets had to be really juicy ones. He was very good at what he did,’ Nik drawled impassively. ‘He never milked his victims totally dry. He never drove anyone to the brink of trying to kill him. He made them pay for so long and then he let them off the hook but he kept the evidence of their misdeeds to protect himself. He made a fortune...’

‘I won’t believe it!’ Leah slung back shakily. ‘I won’t believe any of this!’