Claimed for His Duty

By: Tara Pammi

CHAPTER ONE


LEAH HUNTINGTON COLLAPSED onto the plastic chair behind her small desk, her knees buckling out from under her. The red stamp spelling out “REJECTED” on the application form blurred in front of her eyes. Her heart squeezed painfully as she fingered the flat sketches on her drawing board, the possibility of seeing her creation take form now evaporating like a puff of smoke.

Sweat ran down her back, the slow whir of the ceiling fan scraping against her nerves. She ran cramped up fingers over her neck, feeling the muscles tighten with tension.

Mrs. DuPont, the buying manager for a retail store, had given Leah only two months to create her first collection and all Leah had now were flat sketches. And as she had to do everything herself instead of contacting a factory like she did for the fashion house, every minute was important.

The most important of it being the funds she required to source raw materials... There were a hundred things she needed and it was all sitting in that bank.

She dialed the number for the bank manager she had spoken to just two days ago.

Her heart hammered painfully, thudding faster and faster, an ominous pounding she couldn’t breathe past. There could be only one man behind this. Her stomach twisted as the bank manager coughed on the other end of the phone. His answer was curt, immediate as though he had been rehearsing the explanation, waiting for Leah to call.

They couldn’t use the trust fund as security to approve her loan because—Leah could hear the hushed reverence in the manager’s voice as he uttered the name—the trustee overseeing her fund had denied the use of the trust fund, her trust fund, as security.

Stavros.

Leah threw the handset across the room, every inch of her shaking. She kicked the chair aside, the impact of it jarring up her leg, every nerve cell in her humming with outrage.

How much more was he going to punish her? How long was she going to let him?

She picked up the phone again, her vision blurry now with unchecked tears. Her throat burned as she took a deep breath, her thumb hovering over the numbers on the handset.

She wanted to demand an explanation, she wanted to...

But what was the point? His secretary would politely tell her that he was not available. It was the same answer she had received over the last year every time she had tried to contact him. Even though they both lived in Athens, they might as well have been living on the opposite ends of the planet.

She bit her lower lip, her nails digging into her skin. A sob built inside her chest, fury rising through her like a storm that could swallow her in its clutches.

She had to put an end to this. She had to break free of the leash he bound her with, controlling her every step, every choice, while he enjoyed his life. She had let him do it for five years.

Five years of a sterile life, five years of being his prisoner—that she had accepted out of guilt and fear.

Scrubbing the tears from her cheeks, she pulled up the society feature she had purposely clicked away from this morning on her laptop.

Stavros’s business partner and her grandfather’s second godson, Dmitri Karegas, was throwing a party aboard his yacht.

Stavros and Dmitri were cut from the same cloth—breathtakingly gorgeous, built their empires from nothing under her grandfather Giannis’s guidance, and considered themselves gods, their will law for the normal mortals they walked amongst.

Stavros hated parties with an intensity Leah had never been able to understand, but Dmitri would be there.

She just had to make sure the decadent playboy, who apparently was always surrounded by a group of willing women, noticed her presence aboard his latest toy.

Had to, somehow, gain his attention.

Her stomach clenched as she shoved the bedroom door open and walked toward the closet.

Every step toward it, every thought in this direction—was like walking to her own doom.

But Stavros had left her no choice...left her with no way out.

She dialed another number on her phone and booked a taxi. A shiver traveled over her spine as she viciously pushed the cotton tops and skirts in her closet away until she reached the end.

She pulled the gold silk dress, the one designer label she had kept, her fingers shaking violently as she realized how little fabric there was of the dress. Her back would be totally bare, which meant she had to go without a bra.

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