Page 2 of The Greek Tycoon's Revenge

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‘You could say that.’ Eloise picked up her champagne glass, with a hand that shook, and drained it before replacing it on the table. She tried to smile but her composure had taken a heck of a jolt. ‘I met him in Greece on holiday years ago, but I haven’t seen him since.’

‘A holiday romance?’ Ted prompted.

‘Yes.’ She sighed. ‘I suppose it was.’ She hadn’t thought so at the time. She’d thought he was the love of her life. He was the first man Eloise had ever had a crush on—the only man, she silently admitted. They had met thrice, and then he had to leave suddenly to visit his ailing father, and she’d returned to England, and had never heard from him again. Perhaps it was just as well, as when her mother had explained Marcus Kouvaris was a financial wizard who had made a fortune from the technology boom and, unlike some, had hung on to it, and made more, Eloise knew he was well out of her reach.

‘Eloise. It is Eloise Baker?’ The deep, slightly accented voice was instantly recognisable, and slowly she lifted her head.

Eloise could feel the colour rise in her cheeks as involuntarily her green eyes flickered over his tall, broad-shouldered frame. Older, but he was still as incredibly attractive as ever. Thick black hair, olive-toned skin, with perfectly symmetrical features, a firm jaw and a smile guaranteed to make any woman melt…

‘Eloise, yes,’ she confirmed with a tentative smile. ‘But Smith, not Baker,’ she corrected him without thinking. At least he had remembered her first name, if not her second; that was some consolation given he was notorious for the number of women he dated.

‘Smith, of course, but it has been a long time,’ Marcus said smoothly. Without realising it Eloise had admitted she’d lied. His gaze swept over her, her eyes were the green of the finest emeralds. Her cheeks were streaked with a becoming shade of pink, innocence personified.

Marcus’s belly knotted. He couldn’t recall ever being this angry with anyone in his life, and it took all his formidable willpower to stop himself dragging her by the glorious red hair from her seat and throttling her with it. But instead, using all his considerable charm, he added, ‘Though you don’t look a day older, and if it is possible even more beautiful than you were at nineteen.’

Eloise could feel her face burning even brighter at his open flattery. ‘Thank-you,’ she mumbled and, tearing her gaze away from his dark compelling eyes, she finally noticed the blonde hanging on his arm.

‘Allow me to introduce my friend,’ Marcus said coolly, catching the direction of her gaze. ‘Nadine, this is Eloise, an old friend of mine, and her companion…’ Marcus turned his attention to the older man watching the exchange with astute blue eyes. ‘Ted Charlton, I believe. We haven’t been introduced but—’ and he mentioned some financial article, and the two men shook hands.

Eloise took the slender limp hand Nadine offered her, and wasn’t surprised at the other woman’s cold smile. If Eloise had been on a date with Marcus, she would not have wanted company either. She could still remember how he had affected her five years ago and how heart-broken she had been when her mother insisted they had to leave the villa on Rykos before Marcus had returned to the island.

Eloise had left a note with her address in England for Marcus with the maid. She had lived in hope for over a year that he would contact her again, but then circumstances changed her attitude and she stopped wondering and waiting for him; she had bigger things to worry about.

‘Join us for a drink.’ Ted made the conventional offer.

‘Some other time, perhaps,’ Nadine cut in before Marcus could speak and, linking her arm firmly through the tall Greek’s, she smiled. ‘Your friends have already eaten, Marcus, and I am starving. You did promise me dinner.’ She pouted, her long red fingernails stroking down the sleeve of his jacket. ‘For starters,’ she purred.

Eloise suppressed a grimace of distaste at Nadine’s obvious seduction technique.

‘Nadine, darling, I’m sure you can wait a while.’ He smiled at his girlfriend, but the tone of his voice warned her not to argue.

Seats were pulled out and another bottle of champagne ordered.

‘To old friends.’ Marcus raised his glass and looked directly at Eloise. Her eyes met and fused with his and for a moment she was transported back in time to a Greek island, and her heart raced again as it had then, the first time they’d met.

‘And hopefully new ones,’ Marcus continued, addressing Ted.

They all touched glasses, and Eloise took a hasty swallow of the sparkling liquid. She was shocked at the rush of awareness simply being in Marcus’s company had aroused in her. She had thought herself over him long ago, and she was grateful for Nadine’s timely contribution to the sudden silence.

‘Marcus and I have known each other for almost two years and he has never mentioned you. So when did you meet him?’ Nadine demanded, her gimlet eyes fixed on Eloise.

‘I was on holiday with my m…sister, Chloe,’ she stammered, feeling the colour rise in her face. ‘We had rented a villa on the island of Rykos in Greece. Chloe was a friend of Marcus’s Uncle Theo, who was the developer and had built the villa along with five others. When we held a pool party Theo brought Marcus along to the party and we…’

Marcus almost snorted in disgust. ‘How is your sister?’ he cut in abruptly. The detective he had hired had taken almost a year to unravel Chloe Baker’s various names, before discovering the woman had never had a sister but a daughter with the name of Smith. Probably the most common surname in the English language…

Eloise glanced across the table at Marcus. Hooded dark eyes hard as steel stared back at her. Did he know she’d lied all those years ago? But her mother had insisted she called her Chloe, and pretend to be sisters. At thirty-six, Chloe was not going to admit to having a grown-up daughter, and Eloise had agreed. Or was he frightened she would tell his girlfriend all the details of their brief romance? He must really care for Nadine.

‘My sister died over three years ago,’ Eloise mumbled. She hated lying, and suddenly realised there was no need to any more—her mother was dead. But now was not the time or the place.

‘I am sorry.’ Marcus mouthed the polite response but there was a singularly lack of sympathy in his expression. ‘Chloe was a quite remarkable woman.’

She was, Eloise thought sadly, and if it had not been for her mother, she would never have been able to set up in business herself, but she had never really got to know her mother well. Pregnant at seventeen by a sailor, Tom Smith, Chloe had married him, and divorced him three months after Eloise was born. Then she had left Eloise with her grandparents to be brought up in the small Northumberland coastal town of Alnmouth and disappeared. Four years later she returned with a different name after another failed marriage, loaded down with presents for her little girl, and apparently had become a very successful businesswoman. From then on she popped in every year or so…

For Eloise her mother had been a fairytale figure, beautiful and elegant in designer clothes, bringing gifts. It was only after the death of her grandparents, when she had completed her first year in art college, that her mother had actually spent some time with her. Chloe had taken a real interest in what Eloise was doing and declared herself fascinated by her daughter’s skilful designs, and even suggested they go on holiday to Greece and so they had taken their first and last holiday together on Rykos.

‘Sorry, I have brought back sad memories.’ Marcus rose from the table and held out his hand to Eloise. ‘Come dance with me and blow away the cobwebs of the past.’

‘But—’ Nadine said sharply.

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