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The Unfaithful Wife(7)

By:Lynne Graham

‘And did you tell him that?’ she had gasped in horror.

‘You may not value yourself but I do,’ her father had retorted crushingly. ‘I sent you to the finest schools to ensure that you could take your place in any company. I want you to marry well, Leah. A sordid little fling with Andreakis is not on your agenda. And you can be assured that he won’t offer anything more unless it’s profitable.’

Nik had shown up unexpectedly the second week, moody and almost aggressive in his attitude towards her. He had stayed to dinner again. Max had been in an unusually good mood but quiet, very quiet, watching them both, adding little to the conversation.

Two days after that her father had called her into his library and calmly informed her that he owned a considerable number of shares in a shipping line called Petrakis International, shares which Nik was extremely keen to acquire.

‘So I offered them to him gratis as a wedding present,’ Max had smoothly concluded.

Leah had been appalled and deeply upset. Yes, she had been crazy about Nik but that her father should have coolly approached him and offered him a bribe to marry her had made her feel sick with humiliation.

‘Nik’s Greek. He understands these kinds of arrangements,’ Max had assured her witheringly. ‘And I suggest that you understand that a man as tough as Nik Andreakis wouldn’t even consider marriage unless it was financially advantageous. Those shares could be your dowry. The choice is yours. Do you want him or don’t you?’

She had run out of the room, choked with the sobs of her distress. The next morning Max had informed her quite unemotionally of his heart condition. He had said that he didn’t know how long he had left and he was very worried about what would happen to her if he died in the near future. Leah had been shattered by the news.

He had praised Nik to the skies. Nik might be something of a rough diamond by virtue of his hard upbringing but he would treat her with respect and honour as his wife. Such marriage arrangements were common in Greece. If she married Nik she would be safe, secure for the...for the rest of her life. As that phrase returned to haunt her, Leah searched her ashen reflection in the bedroom mirror.

‘But he doesn’t love me!’ she had protested.

Max had looked at her with icy contempt. ‘He wants you...’

‘Not as much as he wants those blasted shares,’ she had whispered strickenly.

‘It’s up to you what you make of the marriage. I’m giving you the chance to marry the man you love...’

Leah came fully back to the present and clasped her cold hands together. I’m giving you Nik Andreakis on a silver platter, Max might as well have said. She shuddered with distaste, despising her own naïveté. Nik had been delivered to her handcuffed and chained by blackmail and even Max hadn’t pretended that love had anything to do with it. Where had her intelligence been?

A knock sounded on the door. It was a servant announcing dinner. Leah was shaken. Could it really be that time already? Paul phoned her at eight every evening. He knew she never went out at night. Would Petros have told him that she was in Paris? She lifted the phone by the bed and dialled the number of his apartment. The call was answered almost immediately.

‘Where the hell are you?’ Paul demanded sharply. ‘Petros told me that Mr and Mrs Andreakis were “unavailable”. What the heck is that supposed to mean?’

‘We had to fly to Paris—’

‘We?’ he interrupted, an octave higher.

‘Look, there was a problem with Max’s estate and I had to be with him,’ Leah framed tautly. ‘I’ll be home tomorrow, darling. I love you.’

‘What sort of a problem?’ Paul sounded very edgy.

‘Nothing important,’ she said breathlessly. No way did she intend to unload the sordid revelations Nik had forced her to endure on Paul. At least not on the phone...and not yet, she adjusted, reminding herself that a strong relationship needed to be based on honesty and trust.

‘Good...so is he taking you out to see the joys of Paris?’ Paul mocked.

‘Nik...take me out? You’ve got to be kidding.’ She forced a laugh, relieved that he wasn’t angry any more. ‘I miss you so much. I haven’t stopped thinking about you for a second.’

‘Tomorrow can’t come soon enough,’ he swore.

‘I can’t wait...but I can’t use Charlie’s again,’ she abruptly recalled, her nervous tension rocketing as she wondered frantically how she was going to ditch Boyce, short of swinging out of her bedroom window on a rope like Tarzan’s Jane.

Charlie had had a point, she acknowledged unhappily. She wasn’t cut out for this game of sneaking around. She so badly wanted everything to be above board. No matter how much her intelligence told her that she was not a married woman except on paper—which she told herself on a very regular basis—her conscience reminded her that she had taken her vows in a church and had meant them at the time she made them.

‘Why not ask him for the divorce? Use the opportunity,’ Paul suggested meaningfully. ‘Stop being such a coward. The guy is totally indifferent to you. Why should he care?’

A tiny sound sent Leah’s head flying up. A surge of bone-chilling horror paralysed her to the spot—but not before she dropped the phone with a clatter.

She had forgotten to close the door again. Nik stood there, as incredibly still and silent as a centuries-old statue. Literally traumatised by the sight, Leah stared back at him with very wide sapphire-blue eyes as if he had just dropped down through the ceiling without warning.

Nik...she tried to say lightly, but when she opened her dry mouth no sound emerged at all.

‘Dinner...’ he murmured smoothly, and smiled. ‘But finish your call first.’

Reaching down, she fumbled for the phone. ‘Bye,’ she said, and cut the connection.


HER HEART hammering wildly behind her breastbone, Leah watched Nik swing on his heel and depart and then all her muscles gave and she was ready to flop with almost sick relief. He couldn’t have heard anything. He would have said something if he had... wouldn’t he? Or reacted in some way, which he hadn’t. He had actually smiled.

As she left the bedroom, fighting to regain her smashed composure, she heard the manservant tell Nik that the car was waiting. As she neared the hall, she heard Nik cancel it. Had he been planing to dine out and then changed his mind? Well, she certainly hoped he wasn’t staying in for her benefit. A little voice told her how exceedingly unlikely it was that Nik would do anything for her benefit.

‘I have some calls of my own to make,’ Nik delivered in a flat aside as she drew almost level. ‘Don’t wait for me.’

Leah ate without even being aware of what she was eating. She felt guilty, enervated, dismayingly confused. Her temples throbbed with strain. All her life she had been open and honest...well, that was until three short months ago when Paul had accidentally sent her flying in Harrods. Deception was abhorrent to her but it hadn’t occurred to her at the outset that she would become involved with him. He had insisted on taking her into the restaurant. They had laughed and chatted over coffee. Nothing could have been more innocent. The second meeting had been entirely accidental as well...

Pushing her plate away, Leah gulped down a glass of wine but it didn’t take the nasty taste from her mouth. Why on earth did she feel like this? All she had to do was ask Nik for a divorce soon and it would all be over. Maybe she should stop seeing Paul until then. Was that what she should be doing? Or maybe she should just walk out and leave Nik a note to find the next time he was in London. Cowardly, but probably all he deserved.

She was quite sure that Nik hadn’t agonised over any of his women. He certainly hadn’t cared about Leah’s feelings. Leah had had to live with humiliation in newsprint as well as in private. Nik was extremely photogenic and a gossip columnist’s dream, the married man who led the adulterer’s dream existence without any apparent interference from his wife. For Nik to say that he had been on a leash for five years was errant nonsense. But then two wrongs did not make a right. Why should she stoop to Nik’s level?

Deciding against coffee, the exhaustion of extreme stress creeping over her like a suffocating blanket, Leah decided to go to bed. Her strained mouth compressed when she remembered that she had no nightwear. The towelling robe hung in the bathroom for the use of guests was too bulky for comfort. In the end she slid naked between the smooth percale sheets and in the comforting darkness she reached a decision. Tomorrow morning she would tell Nik that she wanted a divorce. Then there would be no further need for her over-active conscience to torment her with this ridiculous sense of being in the wrong.

She awakened from a deep sleep with a start. The overhead lights were on full and she blinked in complete disorientation as she sat up, momentarily not even recalling where she was. And then her sleepy eyes focused on Nik where he was poised several feet from the bed and flew wide. He looked like hell; that was her first thought as she clutched the sheet protectively round herself, belatedly recalling her nudity.

His luxuriant black hair was tousled, his tie was missing and the white silk dress-shirt he wore beneath his dinner-jacket was half-open, displaying a disturbing wedge of bronzed chest, liberally sprinkled with curling dark whorls of hair. His strong, dark features were fiercely clenched and for someone of his usually vibrant skintone he was staggeringly pale. Almost as though he was in shock, she thought uncertainly... severe shock.