From One Night to Wife

By: Rachael Thomas

CHAPTER ONE

 NIKOS LAZARO PETRAKIS stood and glared out at the sparkling sea beyond the offices of Xanthippe Shipping, his self-built empire, but he didn’t see any of it. The words he’d just read in a text burned into his mind. And memories of the only woman who had stirred longings for things he could never allow himself to want set his body alight.

 We need to talk. Meet me on the beach tonight. Serena.

 Serena James had almost got through his defensive wall, affecting him far more than he cared to admit. He’d been glad when the excuse to banish her from his life had presented itself. He hadn’t heard from her since that night three months ago. She’d walked away from him without looking back, rousing memories he’d rather have forgotten, but her silence since had been a welcome relief.

 He pressed his eyes shut against the image of Serena. She had been hard to forget and, judging by the way his mind raced now, he still hadn’t achieved that aim. For weeks his body had longed for hers. He’d been able to see her, smell her and feel her warmth if he closed his eyes, letting his thoughts slip back. But he’d held firm to his resolution of no commitments. He’d pushed her away emotionally and physically, but hadn’t been able to sever the thread of attraction completely. It remained like a web spun in the early dawn, keeping them inextricably linked.

 On his return to Athens he’d thrown himself fiercely into his work and had gone after the cruise company Adonia with a ruthlessness that had made even his PA look at him in question.

 He clenched his jaw against the heated memories of his time with Serena, knowing there could only be one reason for her return to Santorini, the island he’d grown up on. His eyes snapped open and he inhaled deeply. There could be no other explanation.

 During the summer she had arrived on the island to research her next article, and the passionate romance they’d shared had culminated in reckless and unprotected sex on the beach. Were there now life-changing repercussions? Consequences he hadn’t planned on and most definitely didn’t want?

 Alarm bells began to ring. Why had she had waited so long? Had she done as he’d feared and used her journalistic background and connections to find out more about him? Anger fizzed through him as he stared broodily at the view. Did Serena know he wasn’t the fisherman he’d led her to believe he was simply because it had been easier that way?

 Her job as a travel writer wasn’t in the league of working for the national tabloids, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t use a story if it presented itself. He’d been extra-careful that she didn’t find out who he really was, having had enough of press speculation over his business dealings, as well as over his constant succession of female companions.

 If he’d known Serena’s profession before their first amazing night together he might have been able to walk away, instead of being snared by her innocence and drawn in too deep towards something he’d always resisted.

 To his sceptical mind there was only one reason she was here on the island, demanding to see him instead of simply calling. After believing she was different from all the other women he’d dated, she’d proved him wrong. She was here to use his wealth in order to secure her future and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. His deal for Adonia Cruise Liners could be lost if her story got out.

 He swore aggressively, but the words did not ease the suspicion that filled him. Irritated, he marched from the windows to his desk, stabbing at the buttons on the phone. The calm enquiry of his PA cut through the rage of his emotions and he forced them back under control. How could Serena ruffle his equanimity so spectacularly even when she wasn’t in his company?

 ‘Organise my plane. I need to go to Santorini this afternoon.’

 The Greek words were fluid and assertive as control flooded through him once more, but his anger towards Serena and the situation didn’t abate. Suspicion surfaced again. Why had she chosen now to come back? What did she want?

 Did she know he was in the final and delicate negotiation stages of acquiring a cruise company? Expanding his shipping beyond freight and into the world of luxury cruises? It would make him CEO of the biggest shipping company in Greece. He didn’t need the added complications she might bring with her. Not now—not ever.

 Despite the looming deal, his mind was drawn to back to Serena: vivacious, happy and utterly gorgeous. She’d made him want things he couldn’t have. The fact that no other man had ever made love to her—that she’d given him her virginity—had complicated the issue, and he’d forced himself to say goodbye, turning his back on what they’d briefly shared. Because of his past it was impossible to make an emotional commitment—even if he wanted to. Never again would he be that vulnerable.

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