Authors: Penny Jordan
Abruptly he stopped, frowning as he mulled over the unwanted suspicions that were striking him as he looked at Saskia's pale face.
He could have sworn just now, when he had held her in his arms and kissed herâ¦touched herâ¦that he was the first man to make her feel soâ¦For a moment he examined what he was thinking and then firmly dismissed his suspicions.
There was no way she could be so inexperienced, no way at all.
They're the men who have everythingâexcept a brideâ¦.
Wealth, power, charmâwhat else could a heart-stoppingly handsome tycoon need? In the GREEK TYCOONS miniseries you have already been introduced to some gorgeous Greek multimillionaires who are in need of wives.
Now it's the turn of favorite Harlequin Presents
author PENNY JORDAN
with her attention-grabbing romance THE DEMETRIOS VIRGIN
This tycoon has met his match and he's decided he
to have herâ¦
forty-five.' Saskia grimaced as she hurried across the foyer of the office block where she worked, heading for the exit. She was already running late and didn't have time to pause when the receptionist called out. âSneaking off earlyâ¦Lucky you!'
Andreas frowned as he heard the receptionist's comment. He was standing waiting for the executive lift and the woman who was leaving hadn't seen him, but he had seen her: a stunningly leggy brunette with just that gleam of red-gold in her dark locks that hinted at fieriness. He immediately checked the direction of his thoughts. The complication of a man to woman entanglement was the last thing he needed right now, and besidesâ¦
His frown deepened. Since he had managed to persuade his grandfather to semi-retire from the hotel chain which Andreas now ran, the older man had begun a relentless campaign to persuade and even coerce Andreas into marrying a second cousin. Such a marriage, in his grandfather's eyes, would unite not just the two branches of the family but the wealth of the family shipping lineâinherited by his cousinâwith that of the hotel chain.
Fortunately Andreas knew that at heart his grandfather was far more swayed by emotion than he liked
to admit. After all, he had allowed his daughter, Andreas's mother, to marry an Englishman.
The somewhat clumsy attempts to promote a match between Andreas and his cousin Athena would merely afford Andreas some moments of wry amusement if it were not for one all-important factâwhich was that Athena herself was even keener on the match than his grandfather. She had made her intentions, her
, quite plain. Athena was a widow seven years his senior, with two children from her first marriage to another wealthy Greek, and Andreas suspected that it might have been Athena herself who had put the ridiculous idea of a marriage between them in his grandfather's head in the first place.
The lift had reached the penthouse floor and Andreas got out. This wasn't the time for him to be thinking about his personal affairs.
could wait. He was due to fly out to the Aegean island his grandfather owned, and where the family holidayed together, in less than a fortnight's time, but first his grandfather wanted a detailed report from him on his proposals to turn the flagging British hotel chain they had recently bought into as successful an enterprise as the rest of the hotels they owned.
Even though Andreas had become the company's chief executive, his grandfather still felt the need to challenge his business decisions. Still, the acquisition would ultimately be a good oneâthe chain-owned hotels were very run down and old fashioned, but had excellent locations.
Although officially he was not due to arrive at the chain's head office until tomorrow, Andreas had opted to do so this afternoon instead, and it looked
as though he had just discovered one way at least in which profitability could be improved, he decided grimly, if all the staff were in the habit of âsneaking off early', like the young woman he had just seenâ¦
Sneaking off early! Saskia grimaced as she managed to hail a cruising taxi. If only! She had been at her desk for seven-thirty this morning, as she had been every morning for the last month, and neither had she had a lunch hour, but they had all been warned that Demetrios Hotels, who had taken over their own small chain, were relentless when it came to pruning costs. Tomorrow morning they were all due to meet their new boss for the first time, and Saskia wasn't exactly looking forward to the occasion. There had been a lot of talk about cutbacks and there had also been grapevine rumours about how very formidable Andreas Latimer was.
âThe old man, his grandfather, had a reputation for running a tight ship, and if anything the grandson is even worse.'
âThey both favour a “the guest is always right even when wrong” policy, and woe betide any employee who forgets it. Which is, of course, why their hotels are so popularâ¦and so profitable,'
That had been the general gist of the gossip Saskia had heard.
Her taxi was drawing up outside the restaurant she had asked to be taken to. Hastily she delved into her handbag for her purse, paying the driver and then hurrying quickly inside.
you are. We thought you weren't going to make it.'
âI'm sorry,' Saskia apologised to her best friend as she slipped into the spare seat at the table for three in the Italian restaurant where they had arranged to meet.
âThere's been a panic on at work,' she explained. âThe new boss arrives tomorrow.' She pulled a face, wrinkling the elegant length of her dainty nose and screwing up her thick-lashed aquamarine eyes. She paused as she saw that her friend wasn't really listening, and that her normally happy, gentle face looked strained and unhappy.
âWhat's wrong?' she asked immediately.
âI was just telling Lorraine how upset I am,' Megan answered, indicating the third member of their trio, Megan's cousin Lorraine, an older woman with a brisk, businesslike expression and a slightly jaded air.
âUpset?' Saskia queried, a small frown marring the elegant oval of her face as she pushed her long hair back and reached hungrily for a bread roll. She was starving!
âIt's Mark,' Megan said, her voice shaking a little and her brown eyes full of quiet despair.
âMark?' Saskia repeated, putting down her roll so that she could concentrate on her friend. âBut I thought the two of you were about to announce your engagement.'
âYes, we wereâ¦we areâ¦At least, Mark wants toâ¦' Megan began, and then stopped when Lorraine took over.
âMegan thinks he's involved with someone elseâ¦' she told Saskia grimly. âTwo-timing her.'
Older than Megan and Saskia by almost a decade,
and with a broken marriage behind her, Lorraine was inclined to be angrily contemptuous of the male sex.
âOh, surely not, Megan,' Saskia protested. âYou told me yourself how much Mark loves you.'
âWell, yes, that's what I thought,' Megan agreed, âEspecially when he said that he wanted us to become engaged. Butâ¦he keeps getting these phone calls. And if I answer the phone whoever's ringing just hangs up. There've been three this week and when I ask him who it is he says it's just a wrong number.'
âWell, perhaps it is,' Saskia tried to reassure her, but Megan shook her head.
âNo, it isn't. Mark keeps on hanging around by the phone, and last night he was talking on his mobile when I walked in and the moment he saw me he ended the call.'
him what's going on?' Saskia questioned her in concern.
âYes. He says I'm just imagining it,' Megan told her unhappily.
âA classic male ploy,' Lorraine announced vigorously with grim satisfaction. âMy ex did everything to convince me that I was becoming paranoid and then what does he do? He moves in with his secretary, if you please!'
âI just wish that Mark would be honest with me,' Megan told Saskia, her eyes starting to fill with tears. âIf there
someone elseâ¦Iâ¦I just can't believe he's doing thisâ¦I thought he loved meâ¦'
âI'm sure he does,' Saskia tried to comfort her. She had not as yet met her friend's new partner, but from
what Megan had told her about him Saskia felt he sounded perfect for her.
âWell, there's one sure way to find out,' Lorraine announced. âI read an article about it. There's this agency, and if you've got suspicions about your partner's fidelity you go to them and they send a girl to try to seduce him. That's what you should do,' she told Megan crisply.
âOh, no, I couldn't,' Megan protested.
âYou must,' Lorraine insisted forcefully. âIt's the only way you'll ever know whether or not you can trust him. I wish I'd been able to do something like that before I got married. You
do it,' she repeated. âIt's the only way you'll ever be sure. Mark is struggling to make ends meet since he started up his own business, Megan, and you've got that money you inherited from your great-aunt.'
Saskia's heart sank a little as she listened. Much as she loved her friend, she knew that Megan was inclined to allow herself to be dominated by her older and more worldly cousin. Saskia had nothing against Lorraine, indeed she liked her, but she knew from past experience that once Lorraine got the bit between her teeth there was no stopping her. She was fiercely determined to do things her own way, which Saskia suspected was at least part of the reason for the breakdown of her marriage. But right now, sympathetic though Saskia was to Megan's unhappiness, she was hungryâ¦very hungryâ¦She eyed the menu longingly.
âWell, it does
a sensible idea,' Megan was agreeing. âBut I doubt there's an agency like that in Hilford.'
âWho needs an agency?' Lorraine responded. âWhat
need is a stunningly gorgeous friend who Mark hasn't met and who can attempt to seduce him. If he respondsâ¦'
âA stunningly gorgeous friend?' Megan was musing. âYou mean like Saskia?'
Two pairs of female eyes studied Saskia whilst she gave in to her hunger and bit into her roll.
âExactly,' Lorraine breathed fervently. âSaskia would be perfect.'
âWhat?' Saskia almost choked on her bread. âYou
be serious,' she protested. âOh, no, no wayâ¦' She objected when she saw the determination in Lorraine's eyes and the pleading in Megan's. âNo way at all.'
âMeg, this is crazy, you must see that,' she coaxed, trying to appeal to her friend's common sense and her conscience as she added winningly, âHow
you do something like that to Mark? You love him.'
âHow can she risk committing herself to him unless she knows she can trust him?' Lorraine interjected sharply, adding emphatically, âGood, that's settled. What we need to do now is to decide just where Saskia can accidentally run into Mark and put our plan into action.'
âWell, tonight is his boys' night out,' Megan ventured. âAnd last night he said that they were planning to go to that new wine bar that's just opened. A friend of his knows the owner.'
âI can't do it,' Saskia protested. âItâ¦it'sâ¦it's immoral,' she added. She looked apologetically at Megan as she shook her head and told her, âMeg, I'm sorry, butâ¦'
âI should have thought you would
to help Megan, Saskia, to protect her happiness. Especially after all
Lorraine pointed out sharply.
Saskia worried guiltily at her bottom lip with her pretty white teeth. Lorraine was right. She
owe Megan a massive favour.
Six months ago, when they had been trying to fight off the Demetrios takeover bid, she had been working late every evening and at weekends as well. Her grandmother, who had brought her up following the breakdown of her young parents' marriage, had become seriously ill with a viral infection and Megan, who was a nurse, had given up her spare time and some of her holiday entitlement to care for the old lady.
Saskia shuddered to think even now of the potentially dangerous outcome of her grandmother's illness if Megan hadn't been there to nurse her. It had been on Saskia's conscience ever since that she owed her friend a debt she could never repay. Saskia adored her grandmother, who had provided her with a loving and stable home background when she had needed it the most. Her mother, who had given birth to Saskia at seventeen was a distant figure in her life, and her father, her grandmother's son, had become a remote stranger to both of them, living as he now did in China, with his second wife and young family.
âI know you don't approve, Saskia,' Megan was saying quietly to her, âbut I
to know that I can trust Mark.' Her soft eyes filled with tears. âHe means
much to me. He's everything I've
wanted in a man. Butâ¦he dated so many girls before
he met me, before he moved here, when he lived in London.' She paused. âHe swears that none of them ever meant anything serious to him and that he loves me.'
Privately Saskia wasn't sure that she could even begin to think about committing herself to a relationship with a man without being able to trust himâand trust him to such an extent that there would be no need for her to use any underhand methods to test his fidelity. But then she acknowledged that she was perhaps a trifle more wary of love than her friend. After all, her parents had believed themselves to be in love when they had run away to get married and conceived her, but within two years of doing so they had parted, leaving her grandmother with the responsibility of bringing her up.
Her grandmother! Now, as she looked at Meg's tearstained face, she knew she had no option but to go along with Lorraine's scheme.
âAll right,' she agreed fatalistically. âI'll do it.'