Anna slowly exhaled and stared up at him, her eyes pleading for mercy. Even now, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her aristocratic heritage showed in the perfect bone structure of her heart-shaped face, and in every move she made.
Once he’d been grateful for her skills. He’d admired her dignity, her grace. He’d known Anna’s value. As his executive secretary, she’d run interference with government officials, employees, vendors and investors, making decisions in his name. She’d reflected well both upon him and the brand of luxury hotels he’d created around the world. Even now he still missed her presence in his office—the cool, precise secretary who’d made his business run so smoothly. She’d made it look easy.
It made him regret that he’d ever slept with her.
It made him furious that he was still so attracted to her.
Misha, indeed. A Russian nickname for Michael? Anna had promised to name their son after Nikos’s maternal grandfather, but it didn’t surprise him that she’d gone back on her word. She was a liar, just like her father.
“I had Cooper pack your things,” he bit out. “We’re leaving.”
“But the storm—”
“We have snow chains and local drivers. The storm won’t slow us down.”
Anna glanced from Nikos to the empty crib, and the fight went out of her. Her shoulders sagged.
“You win. I’ll go back with you,” she said quietly.
Of course he’d won. He always won. Although this victory had come harder than he’d ever imagined, at a price he hadn’t wanted. Already sick of the sight of her, he growled, “Let’s go.”
But as he turned away Anna’s throaty voice said, “What about Natalie? I can’t leave her here. She has to come with us.”
“What?” her sister gasped.
Nikos whirled back with a snarl on his lips, incredulous that Anna was actually trying to dictate the terms of her surrender. Another Rostoff woman in his house? “No.”
“No way, Anna!” Her sister echoed, pushing up her glasses. “I’m not going anywhere with him. Not after what he did to our father. Forget it!”
Anna ignored her. “Look around, Nikos. There’s no money. I was planning to get a job as a translator to support us. I can’t just leave her.”
“I’m twenty-two! I can take care of myself!”
Anna whirled around to face her young sister. “You barely speak Russian, and all you know about is art. Mother doesn’t have any more money to send you, and neither do I. What do you expect to eat? Paintbrushes?”
The girl’s eyes filled with tears. “Maybe if we went to Vitya he would…”
“No!” Anna shouted.
Who was Vitya? Nikos wondered. Another impoverished aristocrat like Anna’s father had been? For most of Anna’s young life he’d forced his family to live off the charity of wealthy friends. She’d once dryly commented that that was how she’d learned to speak fluent French, Russian, Spanish and Italian—begging the Marquis de Savoie and Contessa di Ferazza for book money.
Although of course that had been before Alexander Rostoff had realized it would be simpler to just embezzle the money.
Aristocrats, he thought scornfully. Rather than live in the comforts of Nikos’s house near Las Vegas, his brownstone in New York, or his villa in Santorini, Anna had kidnapped his baby son and moved from one cheap apartment to another.
His lip curled as he looked around the room. The back of the palace had been turned into a cheerless Soviet-era apartment. It was a little disorienting to be smack in the real thing, especially since Anna seemed to be using nineteenth-century standards to light and heat the room.