Read Chapter One Part One here
Read Chapter One Part Two here
Read Chapter One Part Three here
Read Chapter Two Part One here
Read Chapter Two Part Two here
Read Chapter Two Part Three here
Read Chapter Three Part One here
The Jeep stopped abruptly in front of the marble steps, and the front door swung open. A tall, striking man stepped outside. He wore white pants and a dark blue polo shirt. His chestnut hair shined in the bright sunlight.
Eleanna couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Is that him? Is that Stephanos Ioannou? Something about him and the arrogant, panther-like way he moved his muscular body persuaded her that this was her host. Even though he appeared to be in his late twenties to early thirties—a lot younger than what Eleanna had anticipated—he seemed in control of everything around him.
She climbed out of the Jeep and followed Andreas up the front steps. Coming close to Stephanos, she finally saw his eyes—dark blue, the color of the Aegean. His spellbinding gaze made Eleanna’s knees feel shaky. In a flash, his strong arms wrapped around her waist and supported her, right before she hit the floor.
Feeling dizzy, her eyes flew shut, as he effortlessly swept her off her feet and carried her inside.
“Is she all right?” Eleanna heard Andreas’s voice coming from somewhere in the back.
“She’s probably exhausted from the flight,” a masculine voice responded. It had a slight Greek accent. “Call Maria to bring her some water.”
Eleanna felt the man carefully placing her down, and she sank blissfully into a soft leather couch. Leaning her head against the back of it, she opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was a flawless face, with amazing blue eyes staring at her, a strong jaw depicting determination, and sumptuous lips begging to be kissed.
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, infuriated with herself. Some first impression she’d made, collapsing the moment she’d stepped foot on the island.
“It’s okay,” he reassured her, grabbing her hand and rubbing it with both of his. “You’re probably exhausted from the flight and the heat.”
Eleanna stared at him, unable to break the spell of his gaze while his hands sent heat waves throughout her body.
Grab a hold of yourself. Drawing a deep breath, she pulled her hand away from his scorching touch, straightened her back and sat upright.
At that moment, an older lady with a crisp white apron walked into the room and handed Eleanna a glass of water. Eleanna drowned it, licking the last drops of water from the corners of her lips. Stephanos’s eyes roamed all over her face and down to the rest of her body. Eleanna bit her lower lip and breathed, feeling a dire need for another glass of water.
“Are you feeling any better?” Andreas’s voice startled her.
“Yes, thank you,” she lied, without taking her eyes off her host. No, I’m not feeling any better. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling a lot worse seeing whom I have to deal with. He seems strong and controlling and so darn good looking.
“I’m Stephanos Ioannou,” the man said. “Would you like something else, Miss Welsh?” His tone was polite, but the look in his eyes was savage.
Yes, I’d like a piece of you! she screamed inwardly, shocked to realize that she was visualizing him ravishing her body. What the hell is wrong with me? she wondered and shook her head to clear away those deliciously simmering fantasies. It must be an adrenaline rush from anxiety and fear, she reasoned. It can’t be anything else. I hardly know the man.
“Maria, please show Miss Welsh to her bedroom,” Stephanos said.
“Yes, sir,” Maria responded politely. “Would you like some help to get up, Miss Welsh?” She leaned forward to offer Eleanna her hand.
“No, thank you,” Eleanna responded, rising to her feet. Still a little dizzy, she closed her eyes. She opened them again and felt a lot better.
“I’ll come with you,” Andreas offered and followed right after them as Maria led Eleanna upstairs to the second floor.
Climbing the huge round staircase, Eleanna couldn’t help but admire the magnificent chandelier that dominated the foyer. As the bright August sun penetrated through huge Vitro windows and illuminated the area, an incredible spectrum of light reflected through countless crystal pieces.
Arriving on the second floor, they padded down a wide corridor with carpet the color of red wine. Beautiful nature paintings hung on both sides. Maria led them past several doors and stopped in front of one at the far end, next to a huge bay window overlooking a magnificently kept yard.
“Here we are,” she said. She pushed the door open, stepping aside for Eleanna to enter first.
The enormous bedroom had cherry wood furniture and breathtaking floor-to-ceiling windows. The bedcover and the curtains were a beautiful peach color—Eleanna’s favorite—with some strokes of forest green. Thick cream-colored carpet smothered every sound.
“What do you think?” Andreas asked.
“It’s amazing,” she admitted.
“This entire house is amazing,” he agreed. “I’ve been here for three years now and still can’t get used to it.”
Feeling a cool breeze on her face, Eleanna marched toward the open French doors. She stepped outside on a beautiful round balcony overlooking a magnificent kidney-shaped pool. Manicured gardens rolled all the way from the pool down the hillside and onto the private cove she’d seen as they approached. The emerald waters took her breath away. Oh, how she wished she could be down there right now, swimming in those amazingly inviting waters. But she wasn’t here on vacation, she reprimanded herself. She had a specific purpose, and she had to stick to it if she wanted to make it out of here alive.
“I’ll let you get settled,” Andreas said, appearing at the French doors.
“Yes, thank you,” she whispered and turned her gaze to him, half-closing her lashes to protect her eyes from the bright sunshine.
She watched him draw a deep breath, and she smothered a laugh, well aware of what that seductive look of hers could do to men. He was obviously affected by her presence. Otherwise, why follow her around like that? Maybe his boss ordered him to keep an eye on me, she reasoned. But then again, she could feel that there was a lot more than that.
She watched as Andreas left the room and closed the bedroom door behind him. Eleanna stood outside, breathing deeply and enjoying the warm caress of the sun on her face and bare arms. No matter what danger this place had in store for her, she had to admit it was paradise.
“Your clothes are all hanging in the closet,” Maria said, appearing at the French doors. “I’ll prepare you a bath if you want me to.”
“No, I’m fine,” Eleanna responded, eager to be left alone. “I appreciate your offer, but I can take care of myself.”
“So you think,” Maria’s whispering comment in Greek shook her to the core.
“What did you say?” Eleanna asked in English. She had no intention of letting anyone know she was fluent in Greek.
“Nothing,” Maria lied. “If you need anything, just press that.” She pointed to a button on the wall next to the bed.
Eleanna watched as Maria left the room and closed the door behind her. Only then she let out the deep breath she was holding. What the hell was that all about? What did the maid mean by that? And what does she know about me and the reason I’m here?
Puzzled, she sat at the edge of her bed, feeling her body sinking into the comfortable mattress. I have to be very careful, she cautioned herself for yet another time. Eleanna was no fool—she knew that staying at the mansion probably wasn’t safe for her, but she had no choice. By staying here, she’d get the chance to snoop around and find some clues about her father’s life and why he was murdered—a chance she wouldn’t get at a hotel. Because Eleanna was almost sure that his death was no accident.
Pulling her carry-on onto the bed, she opened it and took out her little diary. Carefully, she went over her notes, recorded in her own encrypted writing. Maybe I’m being paranoid, she reprimanded herself, thinking of the extent she’d gone to, to conceal some aspects of her life. Then again, better to be safe than sorry. The possibility of someone stealing her diary and reading her notes couldn’t be eliminated. And she certainly didn’t want her host to know that she wasn’t here to inspect her inheritance and decide whether to sell or not. Even after having seen how spectacular this place was, her main priority was to find out more about her father’s life on the island and the circumstances of his death. And at this point, she didn’t know whom to trust. She had to take every precaution to remain alive while pursuing her goal.
Having done her homework, she knew where she had to go to get what she wanted. She wished she could have brought her gun, a 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shield—a lightweight, sleek, and slim pistol, ideal for concealed carry. Then again, there was no way she could have made it through airport security. No, she had to get another one here—and thanks to Bobbie Downs she knew precisely where to go. Bobbie was a man she’d met through her martial arts instructor, who had connections in Greece. He’d put Eleanna in touch with his friend Alex Matias, who lived in Athens. Alex gave her the name of Joseph Markou—a man on Skopelos who could provide her with a gun and anything else she might need—no questions asked.
I’ll take care of the gun later, she decided. For now, I need a bath and some relaxation to clear my mind. The almost–fainting incident before wasn’t something common for her. Then again, it might prove to her advantage to appear weak and fragile.
Her thoughts flew to her seductive host. Damn! Why in the hell did he have to be so hot? Couldn’t he be a middle-aged man with a round face and a big beer belly? She would be able to handle that a lot better than having to control her accelerated heartbeat every time she stared at Stephanos’s sinfully handsome body and breathtaking blue eyes. It doesn’t matter what he looks like. If he has anything to do with what happened to my family, I’ll take him down.