The Greek’s Bridal Bargain

Harlequin

Series: Greek Tycoons

Available: 05/01/2006

ISBN-10: 0373125380

ISBN-13: 978-0373125388

ASIN: B000MAH9JS

She was the little rich girl and he was the poor housekeeper’s son, and their innocent affair was cruelly destroyed. But now Kane Kaproulias has Bryony Mercer in the palm of his hand..

Totally focused in his pursuit of Bryony, Kane will take her and his revenge on her family! For Bryony’s family is now penniless- the tables have turned. This time she’s at Kane’s mercy. He’s waited a long time to get Bryony right where he wants her…

An Excerpt from The Greek’s Bridal Bargain

“PLEASE don’t go in there, Bryony,” Glenys Mercer told her

daughter tremulously. “Your father has an important…er… visitor with him.”

Bryony’s hand fell away from the doorknob of the main study as she turned to look at her mother, standing in the great hulking shadow of the grandfather clock that had kept time at the Mercer country estate for six generations.

“Who is it?” she asked. Her mother’s drawn features seemed to visibly age before Bryony’s clear blue gaze.

“I’m not sure your father would like me to tell you.” Glenys Mercer twisted her thin hands together. “You know how he is about those sorts of things.”

Bryony did know.

She moved closer to her mother, her light footsteps on the polished floorboards echoing throughout the huge foyer, reminding her yet again of the emptiness of the grand old house since her brother’s death.

Ever since Austin had died almost ten years ago the house had seemed to grieve along with the rest of the family. Every window, room, corner and shadowed doorway held a memory of a young man’s life cut short, even the creaking of the staircase every time she went up or down seemed to her to be crying out for the tread of his steps, not hers.

“What’s going on, Mum?” she asked, her voice dropping to an undertone.

Glenys couldn’t hold her daughter’s questioning gaze and turned away to inspect the intricately carved woodwork on the banister.

“Mum?” ‘Please, Bryony, don’t make a fuss. My nerves will never stand it.”

Bryony suppressed a heartfelt sigh. Her mother’s nerves were something else she knew all about.

There was a sound behind her and she turned to see her father come out of the study, his usually florid face pale.

“Bryony…I thought I heard you come in.” He wiped his receding hairline with a scrunched-up handkerchief, the action of his hand jerky and uncoordinated.

“Is something wrong?” She took a step towards him but came up short when a tall figure appeared in the study doorway just behind him.

Cold dread leaked into every cell of her body as she met the dark unreadable gaze of Kane Kaproulias, her dead brother’s sworn enemy.

She opened and closed her mouth but couldn’t locate her voice. Her fingertips went numb, her legs trembled and her heart hammered behind the wall of her chest as her eyes took in his forbidding presence.

He was much taller than she remembered, but then, she thought, ten years was a long time.

His brown-black eyes even seemed darker than they had been before, the straight brows above them giving his arresting features a touch of haughtiness.

Her eyes automatically dipped to his mouth as they had done every time since the day she’d put that jagged scar on his top lip.

It was still there… “Hello, Bryony.” His deep velvet voice shocked her out of her private reverie bringing her startled gaze up to meet his compelling one.

She cleared her throat and tested her voice, annoyed that it came out husky and tentative instead of clear and forthright. “Hello… Kane.”

Owen Mercer stuffed his handkerchief into his pocket and faced his daughter. “Kane has something he wishes to discuss with you. Your mother and I will be in the green sitting room if you should need us.”

Bryony frowned as her parents shuffled away down the great hall like insects trying to escape the final spurt of poison from someone holding a spray can above their heads. Her father’s words seemed to contain some sort of veiled warning, as if he didn’t trust the man standing silently just behind her not to do her some sort of injury while he had her all to himself.

She turned back to face Kane once more, her expression guarded, her tone clearly unwelcoming. “What brings you to Mercyfields, Kane?”

Kane held the study door open and indicated with a slight movement of his dark head for her to go in before him.

His silence unsettled her but she was determined not to show how much. Schooling her features into cool impassivity, she stepped through, trying not to notice the musky spiciness of his aftershave or the expensive cut of his business suit as she made her way past his imposing frame.

The Mercyfields housekeeper’s bastard son had certainly turned some sort of professional corner, she reflected. There was no trace of the gangling youth of her childhood now. He looked like a man well used to getting his own way, certainly not one who took orders from others.

She crossed what seemed an entire hectare of Persian carpet to take a seat on the wing chair near the window overlooking the lake. In an effort to maintain her composure she slung one long slim leg over the other and inspected the pointed toe of her shoe as she gave her ankle a twirl.

She knew he was watching her. She could feel the pressure of his dark gaze on her body as if he had reached out and touched her. She was well used to male appraisals, but somehow whenever Kane Kaproulias looked at her she felt as if every layer of her clothing was slipping away from her, leaving her vulnerable and exposed to his all-encompassing dark eyes.

She sat back in the chair and regarded him with a cool impersonal stare.

He held her look without speaking. She knew it was some sort of test to see who would be the first to look away, but as much as she wanted to escape that brooding mysterious gaze she held on, not even allowing herself to blink.

His eyes went to her mouth and lingered there. Bryony felt an almost irresistible urge to run her tongue over the parchment of her lips but fought against the impulse with every fibre of her being. So great was the effort to appear unaffected by his disturbing presence she began to feel the hammer-blows of a tension headache gathering at her temples, and her resentment towards him went up another notch.

Finally she could stand it no longer. She got agitatedly to her feet and, crossing her arms over her chest, faced him determinedly.

“OK. Let’s skip the weather and the current cricket score and get right down to why you are here.”

He held her defiant glare for another pulsing pause. “I thought it was time I paid the Mercer family a visit.”

“I can’t imagine why. You’re not exactly on the Christmas card list any more.”

His mouth thinned in what she recalled was his version of a smile. “No, I imagine not.”

She forced her eyes away from the jagged edge of his scar, surprised at how it still affected her to see it after all this time.

He looked fit and strong, as if he was no stranger to hard physical exercise, and his skin was tanned, but then, she reminded herself, his maternal Greek heritage had always given him somewhat of an advantage in the summer sun. Standing before him now, her creamy skin seemed so pale in spite of the intolerably hot weather they’d been having since Christmas four weeks ago.

“How is your mother?” she felt compelled to ask out of common politeness.

“She’s dead.”

Bryony blinked at his bluntness. “I…I’m sorry…I hadn’t heard…”

His eyes glittered with hard cynicism. “No, I expect the passing of a long-term servant wouldn’t quite make it to the Mercer breakfast table, let alone as a topic for discussion over lunch or dinner.”

The bitterness of his words stung her as he clearly intended it to. As much as she hated admitting it, he was very probably right. Her parents would never discuss servants as if they were real people. She’d grown up with their attitudes, had even demonstrated similar ones herself, but as she had grown older had shied away from maintaining such outdated snobbery.

Not that she was going to let him know that.

No, let him think her the spoilt brat heiress of the Mercer millions.

She sent him an imperious look over one shoulder as she wandered back to her chair, taking her time to arrange her skirt over her knees.

“So —” she inspected her neatly French-manicured nails before lifting her blue gaze back to his ‘ — what do you do these days, Kane? I don’t suppose you’ve followed in your mother’s footsteps and clean up other people’s messes for a living?”

She knew she sounded exactly like the shallow socialite he’d always considered her to be; she could even see the slight curl of his damaged lip as if he was satisfied his opinion had been justified by her crass words.

“You suppose right.” He leant back against her father’s antique desk with the sort of indolence she’d come to always associate with him. “You could say I’m in shipping.”

“How very Greek of you,” she observed with undisguised sarcasm.

His dark eyes challenged hers, a flicker of anger lighting them from behind. “I am just as much an Australian citizen as you are, Bryony. I’ve never even been to Greece, nor do I speak any more than a few words of the language.”

“How can you be sure of your true heritage?” she asked. “I thought you didn’t know who your father was?”

It was a nasty taunt, and one she wasn’t proud of, but his manner had increasingly unnerved her to the point of reckless rudeness.

She watched as he reined in his anger, the white edge of his scar standing out as his mouth tightened.

“I can see you still like to play dirty,” he said. She shifted her gaze back to the unfathomable depths of his. “When pressed to do so, yes.”

“Let’s hope you can cope with the consequences if such a need arises in the very near future.”

Bryony couldn’t hold back a small frown at his coolly delivered statement. There was something about his demeanour that alerted her to the strange undercurrents she’d felt swirling about her ever since she’d driven down from Sydney that morning.

“Why are you here?” she asked. “What possible reason could you have to be here?”

“I have several reasons.” ‘Let’s start with number one.” She set her chin at an imperious angle even though inside she was trembling with an unnamed fear.

He crossed one ankle over the other, his action drawing her eyes to his long muscled thighs.

She tore her gaze away and forced herself to hold his Sphinx-like stare.

“Number one is —” He paused for a mere fraction of a second, but it was long enough for another flutter of unease to feather along the lining of her stomach. “I now own Mercyfields.”

Her eyes widened in alarm. “W-what did you say?” Kane ignored her question and continued with implacable calm, “Number two is I also own Mercer Freight Enterprises.”

She swallowed her rising panic with difficulty. “I-I don’t believe you.”

Again he ignored her strangled comment. “I also own the harbourside apartment and the yacht.” He paused as he gave her an inscrutable look before adding, “However, I have decided to allow your father to keep his Mercedes and Jaguar; I have enough cars of my own.”

“How very magnanimous of you,” she managed to quip caustically. “Is there anything else in the Mercer household you think you now own?”

He smiled a hateful smile that chilled her already tingling flesh.

“I don’t just think I own the Mercer package, Bryony — I do own it.”

He reached for a sheaf of papers that was lying on her father’s desk behind him and handed them to her. She took them with fingers that felt like wet cotton wool, her tortured gaze slipping to where her father’s signature should have been but very clearly wasn’t.

Each document was the same. The new owner of everything to do with the Mercer millions was now Mr Kane Leonidas Kaproulias. The houses, the business, the investments, the yacht…

She let the papers flutter to the floor as she stood up on watery legs. “I don’t understand…how did this happen? My father would never let things get to this state! He’d rather die than see you take everything.”

The loathsome smile was back. “Actually, he was quite agreeable to it all in the end.”

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The Greek’s Bridal Bargain is part of the Greek Tycoons series.
Also available in: Spanish