Escape With Her Greek Tycoon
MJ peered at the imposing façade of the Constantinos residence and blew out a breath. The house was on Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, no less. As if the Constantinos family was important landed gentry.
‘This is the address, miss.’
The cab driver’s voice made her start, but with a quick smile she paid him before forcing herself to step down to the footpath. The Constantinos family might not be landed gentry but, whenever anything happened to remind her father of where his sworn enemy lived, it was still a fact that never failed to rile him. The current generation were ‘only’ second-generation British. She shook her head. As if that made an ounce of difference to anything.
The Mabels, however, could trace their ancestry back to the Restoration. Such things mattered to her father—he was forever telling Siena and her that they should be proud of such a heritage. He wouldn’t trade the family’s Knightsbridge mansion for any other property on the planet, but the fact the Constantinos family lived in prestigious Grosvenor Square still rankled.
While MJ couldn’t give a flying fig about how far back a family could trace their ancestors or who lived where, she suspected it mattered just as much to Nikos Constantinos as it did to her father. And that meant she was the last person he’d be interested in helping.
‘Which means the next half an hour is going to be fun,’ she murmured as she marched up the stairs, seized the polished brass knocker—her father had one very like it in Knightsbridge—and rapped smartly on the dark door.
‘Ms Mabel to see Mr Nikos Constantinos,’ she said, sweeping past the butler into the grand foyer as if she were entitled to—as if she were the Queen herself. She had no intention of allowing the man to slam the door in her face or keep her ignominiously waiting on the doorstep.
‘Is Mr Constantinos expecting you, Ms Mabel?’
‘No, but assure him he will want to hear what I have to tell him.’
She planted herself on a hard-back chair and stared at him blandly, the picture of patience while still managing to emanate impatience. It had taken her a long time to perfect this particular attitude of entitlement. It made people edgy; made them clench their jaws and start to simmer. She rarely pulled it out of her arsenal, as it was mean-spirited, but she’d use every trick at her disposal today if she had to.
For a moment she thought he might lose his composure, but he was too well-trained. He inclined his head with a, ‘Very good, miss.’ But his sniff told her he considered her presence in these hallowed halls a bad omen. She watched him stalk off down a hallway to the right. The direction of Nikos’s study, no doubt.
She counted to twenty and then followed. Normally she’d never do anything so rude, but necessity was the mother of invention. And she wasn’t leaving until she’d spoken to Nikos. Her stomach clenched. She couldn’t fail. There was too much at stake.
You have time. There’s still time.
Yeah, well, time had a habit of running out.
‘If she wants to see me, tell her to make an appointment.’
There was no denying the hard, dark tones of Nikos Constantinos coming from the open doorway just up ahead. He had a voice threaded through with velvet and steel. She’d always found it rather attractive.
Not that she’d ever admit as much to a living soul.
She walked into his study with a confidence she was far from feeling, but in this instance it was better to show no weakness. ‘How ungallant of you, Nikos. Rest assured, I won’t take up much of your time. I believe you’ll find what I have to say in your best interests to hear.’
His lips thinned. ‘MJ, I presume?’
He was one of the few people who could tell her and Siena apart.
He waved away his man, who left on silent feet, closing the door behind him.
‘Though, as you’re actually dressed more like your sister, I can’t help wondering if you were trying to fool me.’
‘When you find out why I’m here, you’ll realise what a stupid assumption that is.’
Her pale pink capri pants and flamingo print blouse had been a present from Siena. That was why she’d worn them today. She’d wanted—needed—to feel close to her twin.
His lips thinned even further. He hadn’t stood when she’d entered the room—not that she could blame him, as he’d made it clear he didn’t want her there—so she folded herself into the chair opposite his desk without an invitation. She had no intention of standing before him like a naughty child.
His lips twisted. ‘Please, take a seat.’
‘How kind of you.’ But just for a moment she had to fight the urge to laugh at the absurdity of their barbed fake politeness.
He blinked, as if he’d read that impulse in her face, and then leaned towards her. She became aware of the tightly leashed masculinity contained in that impeccably cut business suit. Not that she was afraid he’d ever hurt her—not physically, anyway. ‘What are you doing here, Marjorie? What do you want?’
She and Nikos had barely exchanged words one-on-one before. Oh, they moved in the same circles, attended many of the same parties and exchanged the briefest of courtesies when they happened upon each other in the interests of greasing the wheels of social intercourse. But that had always been in the presence of other people. She and Nikos had never actually been alone together before.
Well, except for that one time when she’d been sixteen, but that didn’t count because he hadn’t said anything. Oh, and there was that other time when she’d been nineteen, but it’d been in a noisy nightclub and they certainly hadn’t been alone. She swallowed and pushed that particular memory as far from her mind as she could.
It was just…she’d always wondered how they’d address each another if—when—they finally did speak one-on-one. Her use of ‘Nikos’ had felt instinctive, while him calling her ‘Marjorie’…
She swallowed. It sounded completely natural, but something about it made her mouth dry. Most people called her MJ, short for Marjorie Joan, including her father. Her twin called her Jojo. Nobody called her Marjorie. Did he hope to annoy her by using it? He’d be sadly disappointed, because she found she liked it. She liked the lilt in his voice when he said it.
For a moment she wished the two of them weren’t sworn enemies. Suddenly the fake politeness, the pretence—the hate—wasn’t funny. None of it was funny. Not in the slightest. She and Nikos didn’t even know each other. You shouldn’t hate someone you didn’t know.
She lifted her chin. Well, she had every intention of ridding her family of that hate. But that wasn’t the reason she was here today. She wished she could find a smile, wished she could be casual and confident. But face to face with him she couldn’t feign any of those things. ‘Why am I here and what do I want? Why, Nikos, I want your help.’
She half expected him to give one of those harsh, ugly, triumphant laughs her father was so adept at. He didn’t. His eyebrows lifted and he eased back in his seat. ‘And how, I wonder, do you think I can help you?’
At least it wasn’t a straight-out no. But only because he was probably playing a deeper game—just as her father and his father before them had done. And his grandfather and her great-aunt before that. She bit back a sigh. Just because she didn’t want to play this game any more, it didn’t mean Nikos was of like mind. She’d be a fool to forget it. His questions would merely be an attempt to find a deeper and more damaging weakness, one he’d ruthlessly be able to exploit if he could.
So that he could ruin her family through her.
She refused to let her chin drop. ‘My sister has gone missing. I want you to help me find her.’
He blinked, the surprise in his eyes quickly masked, but she’d been looking for it. She nodded gently. So he didn’t know.
‘Why do you think I should know where Siena is? And, even if I did, why do you think I would help you?’
Because she had something he desperately wanted.
‘I don’t think you do know, but Christian does. And I’m hoping you know how to find your little brother.’
Although it didn’t look as if he’d moved a single muscle, everything about him grew harder, tighter and more forbidding. With his dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin, he looked like the Prince of Darkness himself.
She frowned. Except, his nose was a little bigger than the devil’s would be if he were ever made flesh. It was certainly too large for perfection, but it added a certain stateliness to his face. It was a nose that had character. Perfection bored her. She had a feeling Nikos would never bore her.
She stamped the feminine appreciation flat. She might want to end two generations’ worth of anger and resentment, but that wasn’t going to happen.
Nikos and her an item? She couldn’t imagine having an affair with someone she didn’t trust. Oh, who was she trying to kid? Of course she could. She had a good imagination. It’d probably be terribly exciting—thrilling, even—but far from comfortable. She’d never be able to let her guard down.
She tried to shake off the weight that wanted to settle over her. If she succumbed to his charms, Nikos would chew her up and spit her out. She was pretty certain that wasn’t the way to find the peace she so desperately sought for their families. Besides, the only thing she ought to be focusing on at the moment was finding Siena before her twin did irreparable damage to herself.
‘What makes you think my brother knows where your sister is?’
It was her turn to raise an eyebrow. She hoped it would raise his hackles. ‘Clearly you’ve been working too hard. I’ve been told you’re a man with his finger on the pulse.’ She made a little moue. ‘But maybe I’ve been misinformed.’
Those dark eyes narrowed. ‘What game are you playing now, I wonder, MJ?’
He didn’t look the least enraged, not even a little put out. It occurred to her then that she didn’t actually want to see him angry, but she did want to fire him to action. ‘It appears our siblings have been secretly dating for…well…at least two months, though I suspect it’s been longer.’
His nostrils flared. ‘What proof do you have?’
Sucking her bottom lip into her mouth, she gnawed on it for a moment before releasing it. He stared at her mouth, and in the depths of his eyes something flared—something warm, inviting and terribly intriguing. But then he raised a mocking eyebrow and it startled a laugh from her. Did he think she was trying to disconcert him with her wiles and seduce him?
If she’d had the time, she’d have thrown her head back and laughed until fat tears rolled down her face. Bad, bad move. Nobody liked being laughed at.
Focus. How much should she tell him? If she wanted to find Siena, she was going to have to take a risk or two. And she’d risk everything for her twin.
Uncrossing her legs, she planted her feet firmly on the floor and folded her hands in her lap. ‘Two weeks ago Siena and my father had a huge row. And when I say huge, I mean a row of truly monumental proportions. Ugly things were said on both sides.’
Things that could never be unsaid. The kind of things that not even MJ, in her role as family mediator, was sure she’d ever be able to help smooth over. She understood them both so very well—understood why they didn’t get each other—and loved them with all her heart. If only they’d stop being so stubborn!
‘And in the heat of the moment she told your father that she’s dating Christian to get a rise out of him, because she knows it’s the one thing he’d most hate to hear.’
That surprised a laugh from her. ‘If she really wanted to outrage him, she’d have said she was dating you. You are, after all, CEO of the Leto Group, not your brother.’
The Constantinoses and the Mabels owned rival five-star hotel chains. The Mabel Group of hotels was known for its old-world charm and understated elegance, while the Leto Group’s was pure glamour and over-the-top glitz.
Dark eyebrows rose and the bump on the bridge of his nose grew more pronounced. She wondered how he’d broken it. She’d love to ask and…
Focus. She needed to find Siena. ‘So…ugly fight,’ she repeated. ‘I tried to smooth things over, which of course backfired. What’s the saying—no good deed goes unpunished? Anyway, the upshot of all that is Siena is now no longer talking to me.’
‘And why should I care about your petty family dramas, Ms Mabel?’
‘Heavens! We’ve gone from Marjorie to MJ to Ms Mabel. What’s next? Madam?’
She could’ve sworn his lips twitched.
‘No, that’s all just background context for you.’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘I’m not especially proud of what I did next. Long story short, I pretended to be Siena and met with a couple of her girlfriends.’
She’d dropped into the bar they frequented most Thursday nights. ‘They wanted to know how come I hadn’t left with Christian yet, how romantic it all was, how handsome he is—though I won’t sport with your patience by giving a blow-by-blow account of your brother’s physical virtues. And they also wanted to know if she’d confided in me yet, her nearest and dearest twin.’
He leaned towards her. ‘Are you telling me they couldn’t tell the difference between you and Siena?’
She spread out her hands. ‘That’s what you want to take away from what I just told you?’ Rather than the fact that it sounded as if Siena and Christian had eloped. He raised an eyebrow and she shrugged. ‘People see what they expect to see…what they want to see.’
‘Which means you maybe saw what you wanted to see too. It’s possible Siena’s girlfriends played you.’
‘I’ve had twenty-seven years to study my sister, Nikos. My impersonation of her is pretty damn good.’ Better than Siena’s was of MJ. ‘You also need to understand that Siena’s friends are arty types, not…’
‘Not cut-throat businesswomen used to dealing with subterfuge and deceit.’
Was that what he thought she was—a cut-throat businesswoman? She shook the thought away. ‘Once I heard Siena’s and Christian’s names linked, I visited my godmother, Lady Charlotte Hamilton.’
His lip curled. ‘Tottie Hamilton is the biggest gossip in London.’
‘She certainly keeps her ear to the ground. And she doesn’t tell half of what she knows either, which makes the mind boggle. But she confirmed Siena and Christian have secretly been seeing each other for the last two months.’
‘And you now want my help to bring an end to their relationship.’
She should’ve realised that was what he’d think. And what he’d want to do. ‘No.’ She said the word as gently as she could. ‘Siena is twenty-seven years old, and Christian is what…twenty-eight? They’re adults. I’m not going to tell my sister who she can and can’t date.’
‘Let me be clear, Marjorie. I won’t allow a union to occur between our families. Do I make myself understood?’
‘Excellent!’ She beamed at him. ‘We’re back on a first-name basis. It’s so much friendlier, don’t you think?’
‘Do you hear me, Marjorie?’
He made it sound as unfriendly as he could and it was all she could do not to roll her eyes. His vehemence and the darkness that gathered on his brow had her stomach clenching, though. ‘The sentiment doesn’t surprise me.’ After all, it was a sentiment her father shared. ‘Though I confess I’d hoped for better from you.’
His eyes narrowed. He looked as soft as granite. ‘I wonder, then, what it is you do want from me.’
‘I’ve already told you. I want to find Siena. I’ve searched in all of her usual haunts, as well as the unusual ones. She’s nowhere to be found. Which means she’s with Christian.’
‘And you think I can find them?’
‘Yes.’ She put on her bravest front. ‘And I want you to take me along with you when you do it.’
His jaw slackened and so did his spine. Only fractionally. Finally, she’d surprised him. She only noticed because she’d become so adept at reading people since she’d started working at the Mabel Group. Not because she was a cut-throat businesswoman.
He folded his arms. ‘No.’
‘I’ve reason to be concerned about my sister’s health.’
Neither Siena nor their father would easily forgive her if she divulged the nature of Siena’s illness. It wasn’t her place to discuss Siena’s health with anyone. Her twin guarded her privacy jealously. Normally MJ wouldn’t have mentioned as much as she already had. But…
One shouldn’t take chances with polycystic kidney disease! If only Siena would return MJ’s calls.
She pulled in a breath; let it out again. There was still time. As soon as she spoke to Siena, she’d know where her sister’s head was at. She’d know what she needed to do and how to fix everything.
‘No,’ Nikos repeated.
She inched forward and rested her arms on his desk. ‘Even if I tell you I’m talking about a possible life-and-death issue?’ She locked eyes with him. ‘Do you really hate us that much?’