Sale or Return Bride(4)

By: Sarah Morgan

‘Apparently that’s the reason for his approach,’ Leandros Fiorukis said cautiously. ‘He thinks it’s time to mend fences. Publicly.’

‘Mend fences?’ Sebastien raised an eyebrow, incredulity lighting his expressive dark eyes. ‘Since when did Dimitrios Philipos ever want to mend fences? The man is evil and totally without conscience.’

The fact that his father was even considering meeting with the man astonished him. But his father was growing old, Sebastien acknowledged with a tinge of regret, and the loss of the family company so many years earlier had been a thorn in his side for too long.

His father sighed. ‘I want this feud to end, Sebastien. I want to retire in peace with your mother, knowing that what is rightfully ours has been returned. I no longer have the stomach for a fight.’

At the prospect of finally going head to head with his lifelong enemy, Sebastien gave a dangerous smile. Fortunately he had no such reservations. In fact he positively thrived on confrontation and animosity. If Dimitrios Philipos thought that he could play his usual game of bullying and intimidation then he was going to discover that he’d finally met his match.

His father picked up some papers. ‘The deal he is offering is astonishing.’

‘All the more reason to be suspicious of his motives,’ Sebastien drawled in cool tones and Leandros Fiorukis eyed his son cautiously.

‘You would be a fool not to listen and I know you’re not a fool,’ his father said carefully. ‘Whatever else he may be, Dimitrios Philipos is still a Greek. He pays you a compliment by offering to meet.’

‘The day Dimitrios Philipos pays me a compliment is the day I reach for a weapon,’ Sebastien drawled lazily, his gaze lingering on his father’s face, registering the lines of worry and the dark shadows.

Suddenly he realized that his father had aged. That the strain of the ongoing feud had been too much for him.

‘I have agreed to the meeting on your behalf—’ His father looked at him wearily and Sebastien gritted his teeth and vowed that, whatever it took, he would end this feud once and for all, even if he had to take Philipos down with his bare hands.

‘Good.’ His tone was curt. ‘It’s time to end this. Tell me what he’s offering.’

‘He’s returning your birthright. He’s handing over his company.’ His father gave a harsh laugh and dropped the papers on to the table. ‘Or should I say “our company” since that is how it started out before Philipos defrauded your grandfather?’

Philipos was offering back the company? Sebastien hid his shock, his dark eyes veiled as he watched his father. It couldn’t be that easy. ‘And in return?’

His father’s gaze slid from his. ‘You marry his granddaughter.’

‘You’re joking!’ Stunning dark eyes alight with incredulity and more than a trace of amusement, Sebastien stared at his father in disbelief. ‘What century are we in?’

Without meeting his gaze, his father shuffled the papers in front of him. ‘Unfortunately those are his terms.’

Sebastien stilled. ‘You’re not joking.’ The humour faded from his tone and suddenly his voice was lethally soft. ‘In which case you ought to know that I can’t think of anyonewho would be less appealing as a potential consort than a blood relative of Philipos.’

His father lifted a hand and rubbed the back of his neck to relieve the tension. ‘You are thirty-four, Sebastien. At some point you have to marry someone. Unless you wish to spend your life alone and childless.’

‘I want children,’ Sebastien said flatly, ‘very much. It’s the wife that gives me a problem. Unfortunately I require certain qualities in a woman that don’t appear to exist.’

He thought about the extremely beautiful gymnast he’d spent the last few evenings with. And before that the dancer. None of them held his attention for more than a few weeks at a time.

‘Well, if you can’t marry for love, then why not for sound business reasons?’ his father said gruffly. ‘If you marry the girl, the company is ours.’

Sebastien’s mind was racing at speed. ‘That’s it?’ His eyes narrowed. ‘It can’t be that simple.’

His father relaxed slightly, his expression suddenly hopeful. ‘He’s an old man. The company is in trouble. There are few men skilled enough to sort out the problems and Philipos knows that you are one of them. Even he acknowledges that you are a brilliant businessman. By insisting on the marriage he ensures that his granddaughter will be financially secure in the event that the company folds. And it won’t with you at the helm. It’s a generous offer.’