The Marakaios Marriage

By: Kate Hewitt

CHAPTER ONE

‘HELLO, LINDSAY.’

How could two such innocuous-sounding words cause her whole body to jolt, first with an impossible joy, and then with a far more consuming dread? A dread that seeped into her stomach like acid, corroding those few seconds of frail, false happiness as she registered the cold tone of the man she’d once promised to love, honour and obey.

Her husband, Antonios Marakaios.

Lindsay Douglas looked up from her computer, her hands clenching into fists in her lap even as her gaze roved helplessly, hungrily over him, took in his familiar features now made strange by the coldness in his eyes, the harsh downturn of his mouth. With her mind still spinning from the sight of him, she said the first thing that came into it.

‘How did you get in here?’

‘You mean the security guard?’ Antonios sounded merely disdainful, but his whisky-brown eyes glowed like banked coals. ‘I told him I was your husband. He let me through.’

She licked her dry lips, her mind spinning even as she forced herself to focus. Think rationally. ‘He shouldn’t have,’ she said. ‘You have no business being here, Antonios.’

‘No?’ He arched an eyebrow, his mouth curving coldly, even cruelly. ‘No business seeing my wife?’

She forced herself to meet that burning gaze, even though it took everything she had. ‘Our marriage is over.’

‘I am well aware of that, Lindsay. It’s been six months, after all, since you walked out on me without any warning.’

She heard the accusation in his voice but refused to rise to it. There was no point now; their marriage was over, just as she’d told him.

‘I only meant that all the academic buildings are locked, with security guards by the door,’ she answered. Her voice sounded calm—far calmer than she felt. Seeing Antonios again was causing memories to rise up in her mind like a flock of seagulls, crying out to her, making her remember things she’d spent the last six months determined to forget. The way he’d held her after they’d made love, how he’d always so tenderly tucked her hair behind her ears, cupped her cheek with his hand, kissed her eyelids. How happy and safe and cherished he’d once made her feel.

No, she couldn’t remember that. Better to remember the three months of isolation and confusion she’d spent at his home in Greece as Antonios had become more and more obsessed with work, expecting her simply to slot into a life she’d found alien and even frightening.

Better to remember how depressed and despairing she’d felt, until staying in Greece for one more day, one more minute, had seemed impossible.

Yes, better to remember that.

‘I still don’t know why you’re here,’ she told him. She placed her hands flat on the desk and stood, determined to meet him at eye level, or as close as she could, considering he topped her by eight inches.

Yet just looking at him now caused her to feel a tug of longing deep in her belly. The close-cut midnight-dark hair. The strong square jaw. The sensual, mobile lips. And as for his body...taut, chiselled perfection underneath the dark grey silk suit he wore. She knew his body as well as her own. Memories rushed in again, sweet and poignant reminders of their one sweet week together, and she forced them away, held his sardonic gaze.

Antonios arched one dark eyebrow. ‘You have no idea why I might be here, Lindsay? No reason to wonder why I might come looking for my errant wife?’

Errant wife. So he blamed her. Of course he did. And she knew he had a right to blame her, because she’d left him without an explanation or even, as he’d said, a warning. But he’d forced her to leave, even if he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, ever understand that. ‘It’s been six months, Antonios,’ she told him coolly, ‘and you haven’t been in touch once. I think it’s reasonable to be surprised to see you.’

‘Didn’t you think I’d ever come, demanding answers?’

‘I gave you an answer—’

‘A two-sentence email is not an explanation, Lindsay. Saying our marriage was a mistake without saying why is just cowardice.’ He held up a hand to forestall her reply, although she couldn’t think of anything to say. ‘But don’t worry yourself on that account. I have no interest in your explanations. Nothing would satisfy me now, and our marriage ended when you walked away without a word.’

Frustration bubbled through her and emotion burned in her chest. Maybe she hadn’t had so many words when she’d finally left, but that was because she’d used them all up. Antonios hadn’t heard any of it. ‘The reason I’m here,’ he continued, his voice hard and unyielding, ‘is because I need you to return to Greece.’

Her jaw dropped and she shook her head in an instantaneous gut reaction.

‘I can’t—’

‘You’ll find you can, Lindsay. You pack a bag and get on a plane. It’s that easy.’

Mutely she shook her head. Just the thought of returning to Greece made her heart start to thud hard, blood pounding in her ears. She focused on her breathing, trying to keep it even and slow. One of the books she’d read had advised focusing on the little things she could control, rather than the overwhelming ones she couldn’t. Like her husband and his sudden return into her life.

Antonios stared at her, his whisky-brown eyes narrowed, his lips pursed, his gaze ruthlessly assessing. In. Out. In. Out. With effort she slowed her breathing, and her heart stopped thudding quite so hard.

She glanced up at him, conscious of how he was staring at her. And she was staring at him; she couldn’t help herself. Even angry as he so obviously was, and had every right to be, he looked beautiful. She remembered when she’d first seen him in New York, with snowflakes dusting his hair and a whimsical smile on his face as he’d caught sight of her standing on Fifth Avenue, gazing up at the white spirals of the Guggenheim.

I’m lost, he’d said. Or at least I thought I was.

But she’d been the one who had been lost, in so many ways. Devastated by the death of her father. Spinning in a void of grief and fear and loneliness she’d been trying so hard to escape.

And then she’d lost herself in Antonios, in the charming smile he’d given her, in the warmth she’d seen in his eyes, in the way he’d looked at her as if she were the most interesting and important woman in the world. For a week, a mere seven days, they’d revelled in each other. And then reality had hit, and hit hard.

‘Let me clarify,’ he said, his voice both soft and so very cold. ‘You will come to Greece. As your husband, I command you.’

She stiffened. ‘You can’t command me, Antonios. I’m not your property.’

‘Greek marriage law is a little different from American law, Lindsay.’

She shook her head, angry now, although not, she suspected, as angry as he was. ‘Not that different.’

‘Perhaps not,’ he conceded with a shrug. ‘But I am assuming you want a divorce?’

The sudden change in subject jolted her. ‘A divorce...’

‘That is why you left me, is it not? Because you no longer wished to continue in our marriage.’ He bared his teeth in a smile and Lindsay suppressed the sudden urge to shiver. She’d never seen Antonios look this way. So cold and hard and predatory.

‘I...’ A divorce sounded so final, so terrible, and yet of course that had to be what she wanted. She’d left him, after all.

In the six months since she’d left Greece, she’d immersed herself in the comforting cocoon of number theory, trying to finish her doctorate in Pure Mathematics. Trying to blunt that awful ache of missing Antonios, or at least the Antonios she’d known for one week, before everything had changed. She’d tried to take steps to put her life back together, to control her anxiety and reach out to the people around her. She’d made progress, and there had been moments, whole days, when she’d felt normal and even happy.

Yet she’d always missed Antonios. She’d missed the person she’d been with him, when they’d been in New York.

And neither of those people had been real. Their marriage, their love, hadn’t been real. She knew that absolutely, and yet...

She still longed for what they’d shared, so very briefly.

‘Yes,’ she said quietly. She lifted her chin and met his gaze. ‘I want to end our marriage.’

‘A divorce,’ Antonios clarified flatly. Lindsay flinched slightly but kept his gaze, hard and unyielding as it was.

‘Yes.’

‘Then, Lindsay,’ he told her in that awful silky voice, ‘you need to do as I ask. Command. Because under Greek marriage law, you can’t get a divorce unless both parties agree.’

She stared at him, her eyes widening as she considered the implications of what he was saying. ‘There must be other circumstances in which a divorce is permissible.’

‘Ah, yes, there are. Two, as a matter of fact.’ His mouth twisted unpleasantly. ‘Adultery and abandonment. But as I have committed neither of those, they do not apply, at least in my case.’

She flinched again, and Antonios registered her reaction with a curl of his lip. ‘Why do you want me to return to Greece, Antonios?’

‘Not, as you seem to fear, to resume our marriage.’ His voice hardened as he raked her with a contemptuous gaze. ‘I have no desire to do that.’

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