Sale or Return Bride

By: Sarah Morgan
CHAPTER ONE




‘SEBASTIEN FIORUKIS?’ Alesia gaped at her grandfather, the grandfather who had been a stranger to her in all but reputation for her whole life. ‘In exchange for the money I need, you expect me to marry Sebastien Fiorukis?’

‘Precisely.’ Alesia’s grandfather smiled an unpleasant smile as she struggled to find her voice and fought to control the torrent of emotion that surged up inside her. Whatever she’d expected when she’d been working up the courage to tackle her grandfather, it hadn’t been that.

Fiorukis. The Greek tycoon who had taken his father’s moderately successful business and built it into a corporation that rivalled that of her grandfather; the billionaire reputed to be every bit as ruthless as her grandfather; the man who moved between women at a speed faster than the cars he drove and the jets he flew. The man who—

‘You can’t be serious!’ She looked up, her teeth gritted and her eyes stinging. The very thought made her feel sick. ‘The Fiorukis family was responsible for the death of my father—’

And she despised them as much as she despised her grandfather.

As much as she despised everything Greek.

‘And because of that, my blood-line died out,’ her grandfather said harshly. ‘Now I shall ensure the same fate for the Fiorukis family. If he marries you then it will end with the son, just as mine did.’

Alesia stopped breathing, rigid with shock. He knew.

Somehow he knew.

The file she was holding dropped from her nerveless fingers and papers scattered across the marble floor. She didn’t notice.

As the full implication of his words sank into her shocked brain, her face paled and her voice was little more than a whisper. ‘You know that I can’t have children—?’

How could he know? How could he be party to such an intimate, personal detail?

All her life she’d kept that information private. The only slight salve to her pain had been that her anguish was her own—that no one would pity her.

She stared at him, her breathing rapid. She’d arrived strong and full of purpose. Now suddenly she felt vulnerable and exposed. Stripped naked in front of a man who, despite their shared blood-line, had been a stranger from her childhood.

That man was watching her now, an expression of smug satisfaction in his hard eyes.

Her grandfather, Dimitrios Philipos.

‘I make it my business to know everything about everyone.’ His tone was brittle and unsympathetic as he observed her distress with evident satisfaction. ‘Information is the key to success in life.’

Alesia swallowed back the lump building in her throat. How could such personal agony ever be considered ‘success’?

Marriage.

It was the cruellest taunt. She’d long ago been forced to come to terms with the fact that, no matter what her future held, it wouldn’t be marriage. How could it? How could a woman in her position ever marry?

Her mind raced ahead, trying to keep up with the evil genius of her grandfather. ‘If you truly know everything about me then you must also know the reason I’m here. You must know that my mother is getting sicker, that she needs an operation—’

His smile was unpleasant. ‘Let’s just say I’ve been expecting you. You didn’t disappoint me.’

Fury shot through her, driving out the weakness induced by his reminder of her own limitations as a woman.

She hated him.

Alesia stared at the grandfather she’d never even met before this moment and gave a shiver of revulsion. Her head throbbed with a tension headache that had been plaguing her since she’d stepped off the plane at Athens Airport and she felt a dull ache in the pit of her stomach, a reminder that she’d been too nervous to eat for the past few days.

So much was at stake. Her mother’s future lay in her hands, in her ability to negotiate some sort of deal with a man who was nothing short of a monster.

He presided over the room like a king, seated in an enormous gilded chair with ornately curved handles, barking out orders to terrified staff who hovered within shouting distance.

Alesia glanced around the opulent room with distaste. Such a blatant display of wealth sickened her.

Did the man have no shame? Did he know that she held down three jobs in order to give her mother the care that she needed?

Care that he should have been providing for the past fifteen years.

Alesia took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. Temper would get her nowhere. It took enormous effort not to just turn and walk from the room, leaving the old man to his piles of money and lonely existence. But she couldn’t do that. She had to ignore the fact that he was the most selfish, shallow individual she’d ever laid eyes on and she had to ignore the fact that if it hadn’t been for her mother she wouldn’t be standing here now. She had to stay focused on the task in hand.

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