Seduced into the Greek's World

By: Dani Collins

CHAPTER ONE

  HER LAUGH WAS so pure and spontaneous it caused Demitri Makricosta to look away from the Italian beauty flirting with him and seek out the source of the sound. As a connoisseur of fake laughter, often given to offering imitations himself, he found the naturalness of the woman’s chuckle utterly engaging. It was feminine without being girlish or giggly, warm and sexy without being a put-on.

  For a moment he didn’t take in anything else but her. Short blond hair swung and fell as she tipped the precision cut backward. Her skin held a pale, translucent quality that made him think her cheek would feel cool but downy soft against his lips. He wondered how her skin smelled. Like summer fruit, maybe. Her profile was feminine and cute, right up to the tilt of her nose, while the rest of her was a study in mouthwatering curves.

  Encased in a Makricosta uniform.

  Damn, damn and damn.

  The disappointment that flooded through him was surprisingly acute.

  He took a more thorough tour of her uniform, wishing he didn’t recognize it. It wasn’t the pencil skirt and wispy red jacket over a bowed white top that the French staff wore here in Paris, which gave him a beat of hope. But if she’d been corporate, she’d have only a scarf or tie in company colors as part of her business ensemble.

  Unfortunately, those long pants and the warm blazer belonged to one of the Canadian outfits. The Makricosta Elite in Montreal, if he wasn’t mistaken—and he shouldn’t have any doubt because he had final say on every marketing decision in the family hotel chain right down to the front-line image of the staff.

  He didn’t want to recognize it. That was the problem. His male interest was seriously piqued by the woman wearing it.

  Which wasn’t like him. Women were fairly interchangeable for him. He never wondered, “Who is she? What’s her story?” Especially when he already had a female hand resting on his cuff and a voice murmuring, “Bello? What is it?”

  “I thought I recognized someone,” he prevaricated, sending his companion a placating smile before glancing once more at the laughing woman—his employee—across the lobby.

  She was nodding at someone, tucking her hair coquettishly behind her ear, saying something about email that he read on her lips as noise from different sources echoed across the foyer’s marble floor and pillars.

  Curious what kind of man was keeping that bright look on her face, Demitri leaned back on the velvet settee, losing the touch of his prospective afternoon delight as he did.

  Gideon.

  Shock went through him as he recognized his brother-in-law. Not that Gideon looked as though he was encouraging the woman, but Demitri still rose to his feet in brotherly indignation. His sister had been through a lot, especially a few years ago when Gideon’s PA had intimated to Adara that she and Gideon were having an affair. Demitri wasn’t going to sit here while some fresh tart made a play for Adara’s husband.

  “I do recognize him,” he stated grimly. “Excuse me.”

  But Gideon and the blonde were already parting ways by the time he rounded the colonnade and approached. The woman swung away with a brisk walk toward the front desk while Gideon glanced up in time to catch sight of Demitri. His expression hardened with determination.

  That was when Demitri remembered he was avoiding the man.

  “Good,” Gideon stated as he approached. “I was going to find you before I left. Adara’s birthday. You’ll be there.”

  The eye to eye, man-to-man directive was annoying, but vaguely reassuring. Demitri liked seeing that Gideon was determined to make his wife happy. When that PA had set her sights on Gideon, Demitri had been on the verge of taking her for a tour himself to keep his sister’s marriage intact. In the end, Gideon had salvaged his own marriage. He’d fired the woman before anything more than a few false and snarky claims had been made. Despite Adara’s worries that Gideon was straying, in reality his devotion to her had never wavered and still appeared rock solid.

  Which was good, Demitri supposed. He didn’t wish any more strife on his sister than she’d already weathered, but she was so annoyingly happy. So determined to bring him into the fold of happily-ever-after she’d created for herself. The whole situation with his brothers and all their kids, the number of secrets kept from him... It grated in a way Demitri didn’t like to dig into, so he slid his attention back to the blonde threatening his sister’s happiness and latched on to ensuring she didn’t try anything further with Gideon.

  Better that than dealing with Gideon’s demands.

  “The date is in my calendar. I’ll try to make it.” Demitri dismissed him lightly.

  Gideon folded his arms. His roots as a dock-rat sailor were visible in the piercing glint of his eyes. “Is there a reason you won’t make it a priority?”

  Given that Gideon had been part of the family for several years, Demitri didn’t think he had to explain why these reunion  s Adara kept trying to organize were about as appealing to him as an impacted wisdom tooth.

  “I’ll do my best,” he lied.

  “Would you?” Gideon said flatly. The words just for once were silently tacked onto the end, loud and clear.

  And here came Reason One why he had no desire to be around his family. What are you doing with your life? Hold the baby. Isn’t he adorable? When are you going to quit chasing skirts and settle down?

  Demitri mentally projected two words back at his brother-in-law, punctuated them with a tight smile before he walked away. Wasn’t it enough that he had stepped up when Adara was pregnant? Hell, the only reason he’d gone into the family business was for her and Theo. Maybe he’d kept his own hours in the early years, but these days he showed up all the time, and kicked ass, if none of them had noticed. They could all play white picket fences with their new babies if they wanted to. He had zero interest in becoming a family man—and would make a terrible one—so they could all back the hell off.

  Irritated, he glanced toward the Italian starlet watching him like a spaniel that had heard the car keys. As much as he would welcome the diversion of sex right now—lovemaking was his go-to coping strategy for any sort of tension—he was oddly disinterested in taking her upstairs. The blonde filled a bigger space in his mind, niggling at him.

  Maybe she hadn’t meant to cause this brief altercation with Gideon, but animosity toward her still bled into him like adrenaline. He wasn’t so immature he couldn’t figure out that he was blame shifting. Every time familial obligations tugged at him lately a wave of anger and rebellion came over him. Dark, miasmic thoughts sent him in search of self-destruction on one level or another.

  Usually he subscribed to being a lover, not a fighter. Forced himself to stay on the sane side of violence, too aware of the streak of it in his father. But nameless rage sat in him whenever he confronted the fact that his only real family, his brother and sister, the two people he trusted unequivocally, had kept him out of the loop on the existence of their eldest brother.

  Had they not trusted him? Why had they cut him out like that? The betrayal sliced down the center of connection he felt toward them and pushed him out in the cold. If he didn’t keep a lid on his emotions, his temper would mushroom out like a radiation cloud. It made for a lot of pressure. A cold, hard, dark feeling deep in his core that he refused to deconstruct, afraid of what he might find.

  Instead, he channeled it into a wave of icy energy that carried him past the curious looks from the registration desk through to the administration offices, where he found the blonde Canadian in a chair cozily nudged up against the hotel manager’s. The guy wasn’t looking at where she pointed on the computer monitor. He was gazing down to where her breasts strained against the fabric of her shirt.

  “I need to speak to you,” Demitri said.

  * * *

  Natalie glanced up and felt the full impact of Demitri Makricosta, the youngest brother of the family that employed her. The one with the scandalously disreputable reputation. She’d seen him in person before, but always from a distance. Never like this, with his dark brown eyes pushing her back into her chair and then making a proprietary inspection of her buttons.

  He was incredibly attractive. That fact was legendary across the hotel chain and impossible to ignore when he was barely ten feet away.

  She tried comparing him to his older brother, Theo, who bore a resemblance but was more polished, kept a low profile and remembered every name and number he came across.

  But there was no minimizing this man. All she could think was how Demitri was known for the wicked streak that was evident in his winged eyebrows and distant smile. Also for the women he picked up effortlessly, not to mention his utter disregard for little things like policies and procedures. Greek by birth but raised in America, he had a Mediterranean warmth to his skin tone under a shadow of stubble. He dressed like a citizen of the world in tailored pants and a suit vest buttoned over his shirt that accented his very fine shoulders and trim waist. He looked like the hottest of the 1920s gangsters.

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