Sale or Return Bride(9)

By: Sarah Morgan


It came as a considerable surprise to realize that she didn’t seem remotely interested in his opinion of her attributes. Instead she stared at the ground, her chest rising and falling, her slim fingers digging hard into her palms, her knuckles white.

Scared?

Angry?

Sebastien attempted to read the body language and his speculative gaze slid to her grandfather, searching for answers. His body stilled as he caught the ugly expression on the older man’s face. The man was a bully and a thug. And in this case the object of his aggression was undoubtedly the girl. Struggling with a base instinct that erupted from nowhere and surprised him with its intensity, Sebastien ruthlessly subdued the impulse to violently floor the man.

Was he forcing her into this marriage?

Experienced enough to know that women were complex creatures at the best of times, Sebastien decided to reserve judgement. He already knew that she’d inherited her grandfather’s obscene thirst for wealth—why else would she be demanding such ridiculous sums from him on a monthly basis when she was already in possession of an indecent fortune?

And he couldn’t even blame that aspect of the deal on her grandfather because she was to be the only recipient. Apparently her grandfather stood to gain nothing financially from a merger between their two families except a longed-for grandchild.

Torn between irritation with his father for creating this situation and fascination with the mind of his enemy, Sebastien tried to open a dialogue between them.

‘Your journey was good, Miss Philipos?’

She displayed not a flicker of a response. It was as if she hadn’t recognized her own name, he thought grimly, contemplating her complete lack of reaction with a deepening frown. Perhaps she preferred informality. ‘Alesia?’

Immediately her eyes flew to his, astonishment lighting the blue depths, as if she were surprised that he was addressing her. ‘Yes?’

Finally he had her attention. ‘I asked whether your journey was good.’ He dealt her a smile that never failed to gain female attention but she missed it because her gaze had returned to a point somewhere near his feet.

Sebastien hid his frustration. It was as if she couldn’t bear to look at him. She was a complete contradiction. Her dress shrieked attention-seeking and yet her body language said something entirely different.

‘It was fine, thank you.’ She kept her eyes fixed firmly on the Tarmac and he noticed that her breathing was rapid, as if she was under immense strain.

Deciding that his first priority was to remove her from the presence of her grandfather, Sebastien took control. ‘Walk with me while the lawyers argue the details. There are things we need to talk about.’

Immediately on the defensive, Dimitrios Philipos hunched his shoulders aggressively and stepped forward. ‘She stays with me.’

Not budging an inch, Sebastien arched a dark eyebrow expressively. ‘Is this proposed marriage to take place between three people or two?’ His tone was dangerously soft. ‘Are you intending to be present on our wedding night?’

He heard a soft gasp of shock from the girl standing by his side but ignored her, all his attention focused on the grandfather whose stance was now blatantly confrontational.

‘If you knew my reputation you wouldn’t choose to pick a fight with me, Fiorukis.’

Undeterred by his threatening tone, Sebastien gave a cool smile, ignoring his father’s warning glance. ‘I’ve never been afraid of a fight. And if you knew my reputation, you’d know that I choose to conduct my personal relationships in private. I’ve never been into groups.’

At that less than subtle reference to his own sordid reputation, Dimitrios Philipos glared at his rival for a long moment and then gave a grunt. ‘Very well.’ He gave a brief nod of assent, his expression grim. ‘She might as well see her new home.’

Given that the deal was yet to be signed by either party, the statement was decidedly premature but Sebastien’s natural instinct to deny such an assumption was stifled by a gasp of horror from the girl in question.

‘My new home?’ She glanced around her with naked alarm, suddenly roused from silence by her grandfather’s statement. ‘This would be our home? You’d want me to live here?’

Dragging his eyes from her slim legs, Sebastien gritted his teeth, barely able to hide his impatience.

Familiar with women who lived to shop, he rarely if ever brought his female companions to his island, accustomed to that very reaction from other members of her sex. It would seem that his prospective bride was no different. But, given the size of the financial deal her grandfather had negotiated on her behalf, that shouldn’t have come as a surprise. What would a woman do with such an exorbitant sum if she didn’t have access to a significant number of designer boutiques?