But now they were back. As Anna entered a wide gallery lined with old portraits, she could smell the flowers of the high desert. Spring was swift in southern Nevada, sometimes lasting only weeks. Wind and light cascaded through high open windows, oscillating the curtains. Her footsteps echoed in the wide hall as she followed Nikos and his men.
But a woman was with them, too: the perfect blonde who’d replaced Anna in Nikos’s office, and in his bed. Anna watched Lindsey lean forward eagerly, touching his arm. She blinked, surprised at how much it hurt to see them together.
Nikos was impeccably gorgeous, as always. He’d showered and changed on the plane, and now wore dark designer slacks and a crisp white shirt that showed off his tanned olive skin. It wasn’t just his height that made him stand out from the rest of his men, but his aura of power, worn as casually as his shirt.
Nikos had always stood out for her. Even now, looking at him, Anna felt her heart ache. It was too easy to remember the years they’d spent working together. In spite of his arrogance, she’d admired him. He’d seemed so straightforward and honest, so different from her former employer, Victor. Plus, Nikos had never tried to make a pass at her. For five years he’d taken time not just to teach her about the business, but also to rely upon her advice. At least until that night thirteen months ago when he’d shown up wild-eyed on her doorstep, and everything had changed between them forever.
But her job had meant everything to her. For the first time in her life she’d felt strong. Capable. Valued. Was it any wonder that, even knowing her boss was a playboy, she’d fallen so totally under his spell?
As if he felt her gaze, Nikos glanced back to where she trailed behind with the baby. His eyes were dark, and a shiver went through her.
“He hates you, you know.”
Anna glanced up at Lindsey, who was standing next to her. She had a scowl on her pouting pink lips, though she looked chic in a dark pinstriped suit with a tucked-in waist and miniskirt. Her tanned legs stretched forever into impossibly high heels.
Anna felt dowdy in comparison, wearing the same T-shirt and jeans from last night, with a sweater tied around her waist. Her hair, which hadn’t been washed or combed since yesterday, was pulled back in a ponytail. She’d been afraid to leave her baby alone on the plane, even for the few minutes it would have taken to shower.
Next to Lindsey, Anna felt a million years old, worn out from running away, working odd jobs, trying to get by, raising her child. Lindsey was fresh and young, glossy and free. No wonder Nikos preferred her. The thought stung, even though she told herself that it didn’t hurt.
“I don’t care if he hates me.” Anna nervously twisted her great-grandmother’s wedding ring around her finger, fiddling with its bent-back tines and empty setting. She couldn’t let Lindsey know how vulnerable she felt on the inside, how scared she was that the younger woman would soon take everything Anna cared about. She already had Nikos and her job. Would Misha be next?
Lindsey lifted a perfectly groomed eyebrow in disbelief. “You really think you’ve gotten away with it, don’t you? You actually think Nikos will take you back.”
Anna smoothed back a tuft of Misha’s dark hair. “I don’t want to be taken back. I’m here for my son. Nikos can rot in hell for all I care.”
The girl gave Misha a crocodile smile that made Anna’s skin crawl. “Yeah, right. As if anyone would believe that.” Her perfectly made-up eyes narrowed. “But Nikos doesn’t want you. He’s got me now, and I keep him very satisfied, trust me. We’ll be getting married soon.”
Anna couldn’t keep herself from glancing at Lindsey’s left hand. It was bare. Remembering Nikos’s wandering eye when she’d been just his secretary, Anna almost felt sorry for the girl. “Has he proposed?”