The Dimitrakos Proposition

By: Lynne Graham


CHAPTER ONE

 

‘BEARING IN MIND the history of the company’s expansion and success, it is a most unjust will,’ Stevos Vannou, Ash’s lawyer, declared heavily in the simmering silence, a wary eye locked to the very tall, dark and powerfully built male across the office.

Acheron Dimitrakos, known as Ash to his inner circle, and Greek billionaire founder of the global giant DT Industries, said nothing. He did not trust himself to speak. Usually his control was absolute. But not today. He had trusted his father, Angelos, as far as he trusted anyone, which was to say not very much, but it had never once crossed his mind that the older man would even consider threatening the company that Ash had single-handedly built with the bombshell that his last will and testament had become. If Ash didn’t marry within the year, he would lose half of the company to his stepmother and her children, who were already most amply provided for by the terms of his father’s will. It was unthinkable; it was a brutally unfair demand, which ran contrary to every honourable scruple and the high standards that Ash had once believed the older man held dear to his heart. It just went to show—as if Ash had ever had any doubt—you couldn’t trust anybody, and your nearest and dearest were the most likely to plunge a knife into your back when you were least expecting it.

‘DT is my company,’ Ash asserted between compressed lips.

‘But regretfully not on paper,’ Stevos countered gravely. ‘On paper you never had your father transfer his interest to you. Even though it is indisputably the company that you built.’

Still, Ash said nothing. Cold dark eyes fringed with ridiculously long black lashes locked on the sweeping view of the City of London skyline that his penthouse office enjoyed, his lean, darkly handsome features set in hard, forbidding lines of restraint. ‘A long court case disputing the will would seriously undermine the company’s ability to trade,’ he said eventually.

‘Picking a wife would definitely be the lesser evil,’ the lawyer suggested with a cynical chuckle. ‘That’s all you have to do to put everything back to normal.’

‘My father knew I had no intention of ever marrying. That is exactly why he did this to me,’ Ash ground out between clenched teeth, his temper momentarily escaping its leash as he thought of the utterly unhinged woman his misguided father had expected him to put in the role. ‘I don’t want a wife. I don’t want children. I don’t want any of that messing up my life!’

Stevos Vannou cleared his throat and treated his employer to a troubled appraisal. He had never seen Acheron Dimitrakos betray anger before or, indeed, any kind of emotion. The billionaire head of DT Industries was usually as cold as ice, possibly even colder, if his discarded lovers in the many tabloid stories were to be believed. His cool, logical approach, his reserve and lack of human sentiment were the stuff of legend. According to popular repute when one of his PAs had gone into labour at a board summit, he had told her to stay and finish the meeting.

‘Forgive me if I’m being obtuse but I would suggest that any number of women would line up to marry you,’ Ash’s companion remarked cautiously, thinking of his own wife, who threatened to swoon if she even saw Acheron’s face in print. ‘Choosing would be more of a challenge than actually finding a wife.’

Ash clamped his mouth shut on an acid rejoinder, well aware the portly little Greek was out of his depth and only trying to be helpful even if stating the obvious was more than a little simplistic. He knew he could snap his fingers and get a wife as quickly and easily as he could get a woman into his bed. And he understood exactly why it was so easy: the money was the draw. He had a fleet of private jets and homes all over the world, not to mention servants who waited on him and his guests hand and foot. He paid well for good service. He was a generous lover too but every time he saw dollar signs in a woman’s eyes it turned him off hard and fast. And more and more he noticed the dollar signs before he noticed the beautiful body and that was taking sex off the menu more often than he liked. He needed sex as he needed air to breathe, and couldn’t really comprehend why he found the greed and manipulation that went with it so profoundly repellent. Evidently somewhere down inside him, buried so deep he couldn’t root it out, there lurked an oversensitive streak he despised.

It was worse that Acheron knew exactly what lay behind the will and he could only marvel at his father’s inability to appreciate that the woman he had tried to push Acheron towards was anathema to him. Six months before the older man’s death there had been a big scene at his father’s home, and Acheron had steered clear of visiting since then, which was simply one more nail in the coffin of the proposed bride-to-be. He had tried to talk to his stepmother about the problem but nobody had been willing to listen to common sense, least of all his father, who had been sufficiently impressed by the lady’s acting ability to decide that the young woman he had raised from childhood would make his only son the perfect wife.

‘Of course, perhaps it is possible that you could simply ignore the will and buy out your stepmother’s interest in the company,’ the lawyer suggested glibly.

Unimpressed, Ash shot the older man a sardonic glance. ‘I will not pay for what is mine by right. Thank you for your time.’

Recognising the unmistakable note of dismissal, Stevos hastily stood up to leave while resolving to inform his colleagues of the situation immediately to sort out a plan of action. ‘I’ll put the best business minds in the firm on this challenge.’

Jaw line clenched as hard as a rock, Ash nodded even though he had little hope of a rescue plan. Experience told him that his father would have taken legal advice as well and would never have placed such a binding clause in his will without the assurance that it was virtually foolproof.

A wife, Ash reflected grimly. He had known since childhood that he would never take a wife and never father a child. That caring, loving gene had passed him by. He had no desire for anyone to grow up in his image or follow in his footsteps, nor did he wish to pass on the darkness he kept locked up inside himself. In fact, he didn’t even like children, what little contact he had had with them simply bearing out his belief that children were noisy, difficult and annoying. Why would any sane adult want something that had to be looked after twenty-four hours a day and gave you sleepless nights into the bargain? In the same way why would any man want only one woman in his bed? The same woman, night after night, week after week. Ash shuddered at the very suggestion of such severe sexual confinement.

He recognised that he had a decision to make and he resolved to act fast before the news of that ridiculous will hit the marketplace and damaged the company he had built his life around.

* * *

‘Nobody sees Mr Dimitrakos without an appointment and his prior agreement,’ the svelte receptionist repeated frigidly. ‘If you don’t leave, Miss Glover, I will be forced to call Security to have you removed from the building.’

In answer, Tabby plonked her slight body back down on the plush seating in the reception area. Across from her sat an older man studying documents from a briefcase and talking urgently in a foreign language on his cell phone. Knowing she looked like hell did nothing for her confidence in such luxurious surroundings but she hadn’t had a full night’s sleep for some time, she no longer owned any decent clothes and she was desperate. Nothing less than desperation would have brought her to DT Industries seeking an interview with the absolute seven-letter-word of a man who had summarily refused to take any responsibility for the child whom Tabby loved with all her heart. Acheron Dimitrakos was a selfish, arrogant pig and what she had read about his womanising exploits in one of her clients’ glossy scandal-sheet magazines had not improved her opinion. The man who had more money than Midas had turned his back on Amber without even expressing a desire to meet with Tabby as his co-guardian, or checking out the little girl’s welfare.

The call to Security by Reception was duly made in clear crystalline tones undoubtedly intended to scare Tabby off before the guards arrived. Her small face stiff, she stayed where she was, her slight body rigid with tension while she frantically tried to think up another plan of approach because gatecrashing Acheron’s office wasn’t going very well. But it wasn’t as if she had had a choice, although she acknowledged that the situation was very serious indeed when such a callous personality became her last hope.

And then fate took a hand she wasn’t expecting and she wasted a split second simply staring when she saw the tall dark man from the magazine pictures striding across Reception with a couple of suited men following in his wake. Tabby flew to her feet and raced after him. ‘Mr Didmitrakos...Mr Dimitrakos!’ she launched, stumbling over the syllables of his wretchedly complicated surname.

And at the exact same moment as her very tall and commanding quarry paused by the lift wearing an expression of sheer disbelief at her approach, the security guards came at a literal run, muttering fervent apologies to the man in front of her!

‘I’m Amber’s other guardian, Tabby Glover!’ Tabby explained in feverish haste as both her arms were suddenly grabbed by the two men with him and she was yanked back a step from her proximity to him. ‘I need to see you...I tried to get an appointment but I couldn’t even though it’s desperately important that we talk before the weekend!’

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