He shoved his plate away from him in an uncharacteristic show of temper. “My marriage proposal is a joke and endearments an insult. Is there nothing I can do right with you?”
“You could leave me alone.”
His blue eyes darkened to the color of the sky just before midnight. “This I will not do.”
She forced another bite of melon down, its succulent juiciness lost on her. “I figured as much.”
“Then why suggest it?”
“Do not be facetious. This is a serious discussion we are having here.”
“What exactly are we discussing? Your attempt at bigamy?”
His fist slammed down on the table, causing the dishes and plates to clatter alarmingly. “I am not married.”
She eyed him warily, almost believing him. Maybe, deep down, she did believe him, but some imp in her wanted him to prove it, to see how it felt to have his word questioned on a claim that should be accepted without hesitation.
“So you said. Proof is to arrive within the hour, or something like that…” She waved her hand in an airy gesture.
“Right,” he gritted out between clenched teeth.
She really had to stop baiting him. “Let’s say I believe you. Why would your brother marry your fiancée?”
“As I told you last night, your and my relationship came as a great shock to my family.” Pain crossed his features. “The photographer did his homework and had chapter and verse on our year-long association. My brother was appalled on Phoebe’s behalf. She’d been made to look a fool, something his perception of our family honor could not tolerate.”
“So he married her? Wouldn’t your intended marriage have been just as efficacious?”
“No. I was the philanderer, the one caught with my pants down in public so to speak.”
She swallowed a smile at the imagery. Dimitri Petronides in such a vulnerable position was something she’d give a great deal to see. “I can’t believe you agreed to let your fiancée marry your brother.”
“He convinced her to elope with him. Her pride was saved. Our family honor was saved and now I am free to marry you.”
He looked for all the world like he expected her to leap for joy and congratulate him on his good planning. She would have rather dumped his coffee in his lap. “Charming. You can marry your pregnant mistress now that the virginal bride-to-be has flown the coop. Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Do you think our son will thank you for denying him his heritage, his Greek family, his role as my heir?”
“We don’t have to be married for you to make our son your heir or for you to be part of his life. You can have access.”
“Of what good is this? You live an ocean away. How can I be his father with two continents and an ocean between us?”
“I don’t know.” She stood up wearily. She had to get ready to go to work. She had an assignment in two hour’s time across town. “You’ll have to forgive me for not having all the answers just yet. You ditched me three months ago, certain the baby I carried was not yours. I haven’t been thinking in terms of parental sharing and visitation rights.”
He stood as well. “Where are you going?”
“I have an assignment in a couple of hours. I’m going to get ready.”
“I told you I am not allowing you out of my sight.”
“Then come along,” she offered sarcastically, “but I’m going to work.”
She came to rue those flippantly uttered words. Dimitri insisted on doing just that. In addition, he refused to take a cab, but had his car called, along with his two bodyguards. It had been a while since she went out with security men in tow, a little over three months to be exact.
Dimitri refused to wait in the car while she did the short translation job for the group of French tourists. She walked beside the tour guide, translating the woman’s rapid dialogue concerning the Empire State Building into French while Dimitri and his bodyguards brought up the rear of the line.
It would have been a comical sight if she wasn’t so tired and stressed. By the time she slid into his car for the ride back to his hotel, she was disgustingly grateful she hadn’t had to wait in line for a taxi. She didn’t even have enough energy to enjoy looking at the city’s Christmas decorations out the limousine’s window. Commenting on her drooping appearance, he insisted on stopping for lunch at one of Manhattan’s upscale Italian restaurants.
Alexandra walked back into the main room of the suite from her bedroom just as Dimitri was turning from the fax machine, several sheets of paper in his hand. She’d avoided him since their return by the simple expedient of taking a nap. For some reason, she’d slept better than she had in ages.
Dimitri waved the papers before her. “Proof.”
“Proof?” She was still a little rummy from the nap and didn’t know what he was talking about until she looked down and read the top sheet. “Oh.”
She put out her hand for the sheaf of papers and he gave them to her. The first one was a marriage license. It was in Greek, but she was now almost as conversant in that language as she was in both English and French. She easily translated the names and the male listed was Spiros Petronides, not Dimitri.
The second one was a photo of Spiros and Phoebe in wedding regalia. Phoebe looked a little shell-shocked. Spiros looked arrogantly satisfied. Typical Petronides male.
The third was a letter from Spiros affirming Dimitri’s account of the situation. This one was in English.
Alexandra took a deep breath, feeling an emotion she should not be feeling. Unadulterated relief. She told herself it was because she didn’t have to worry about the complications of a stepmother being around the baby so early in life, but her heart mocked her. And that scared her to death.
“Why was she at our apartment?” She didn’t notice her slip of the tongue until a look of approval settled over Dimitri’s face. “I mean your apartment. I was evicted,” she added for good measure, wiping the not fully formed smile off his face.
“I have had to take over the Athens office completely since Grandfather’s first heart attack. Spiros and Phoebe moved to Paris so he could run the office there. I gave them the apartment as a wedding present.”
“Is that something like conscience money? You felt guilty for embarrassing her with a public tiff with your discarded mistress, so you gave her the apartment you’d evicted me from?”
She should have kept her mouth shut. She really should have, but she couldn’t seem to remember that when she was around him. His eyes snapped fury at her as he took one menacing step forward after another. She backed up, but eventually hit the wall between the main room and her bedroom.
“It was a joke,” she said weakly.
“This is not.”
Then his mouth closed over hers and she forgot he was only doing it to punish her. She forgot everything but how incredible it felt to be held so close to him, to taste him on her tongue, to be surrounded with his smell, his heat, his desire.
She worked her hands into the space between his jacket and his shirt, reveling in the feel of his muscles under her exploring fingers. He shuddered and she exulted in her power over this dominant Greek male. He pulled her to him, pressing their bodies as close as they could go without taking off their clothes. It wasn’t close enough.
She started unbuttoning his shirt as he slid her sweater up to expose the tight skin over her womb. His hand settled on it and he caressed her there, touching every square centimeter of the football-size lump. The baby moved and Dimitri stopped kissing her to stare down at his hand on her stomach in awe. The baby kicked right in the center of his palm and Dimitri’s eyes slid shut, his breath stilling in his chest.
He let it out very slowly and met her eyes. “My son.”
“Yes,” she whispered, unable to deny such a poignant claim.
Triumph glowed in his indigo gaze before his mouth settled over hers again, this time with such gentleness she felt tears seep out of the corner of her eyes. He kissed her lips as if meeting them for the first time, while his hand continued to explore the new contours of her body.
His possessive touch coupled with the tenderness of his kiss completely undermined any resistance and she fell back into the kiss without a murmur.
She had his buttons undone and her fingers were circling his hardened male nipples when a shrill sound filtered through the passionate haze in her mind. She crashed back to reality with a bruising emotional bump. What was she doing?
She tore her mouth from his. “The phone.”
His eyes were glazed with desire and his skin had that flushed look he got when they made love. He tried to catch her mouth again and she turned her head.
“The phone,” she repeated as it rang again, its piercing jangle skating across her nerves.
He gently pulled the elasticized band of Alexandra’s doeskin pants back to waist level before smoothing her caramel colored crocheted sweater back into place. “This is not over,” he said and then turned to answer the phone.