One Night...Nine-Month Scandal
|By Sarah Morgan|
|Publisher||Harlequin Presents #2943|
|Mills & Boon Modern Romance #1001|
|Release Month||Sept 2010 (US)|
|Aug 2010 (UK)|
|Harlequin Presents Series #|
|Preceded by||The Billionaire's Housekeeper Mistress|
|Followed by||The Virgin's Proposition|
|Mills & Boon Modern Romance Series #|
|Preceded by||Falco: The Dark Guardian|
|Followed by||The Last Kolovsky Playboy|
- Author: Sarah Morgan
- Publisher: Mills & Boon Modern Romance #1001
- Year: 2010, July 16 (Part of Mills and Boon August Releases)
- Series: None
- Amazon Listing: One Night...Nine-Month Scandal (US) or (UK)
She sold the Zagorakis diamond…but he’ll buy her back!
A sleek Ferrari in the sleepy English village of Little Molting was always going to create a stir—but for schoolteacher Kelly it only means one thing. Her ex, Alekos Zagorakis, has stormed back into her life the way he left it: completely on his own terms.
Four years ago Kelly stood, bridal bouquet in hand, realizing that her gorgeous groom wasn't walking down the aisle to meet her. Now he's come back to claim what's rightfully his—and that includes one night with Kelly….
But it's a night that has lasting consequences!
She sold the Zagorakis diamond…but he’ll buy her back!
A sleek Ferrari in the sleepy English village of Little Molting was always going to create a stir – but for schoolteacher Kelly it only means one thing. Her ex, Alekos Zagorakis, has stormed back into her life the way he left it: completely on his own terms.
Four years ago Kelly stood, bouquet in hand, realising that her gorgeous Greek groom wasn’t walking down the aisle to meet her. Now he’s come back to claim what’s rightfully his – and that includes one night with Kelly…
…with a nine-month consequence!
'No other woman has ever made me feel the way you make me feel.'
The words sent a thrill of satisfaction through her.
Alekos buried his face in her neck. 'You were never this wild four years ago.'
She was never this desperate. Kelly's eyes closed.
He welded his mouth to hers again, until she couldn't breathe or stand upright. Her hands closed over his shoulders, but what began as a need for support ended in a caress as her fingers slid over hard male muscle.
She didn't want to talk about what they were going. She wasn't sure she even wanted to think about it. Her teeth gritted as she ripped his shirt so that she could get to his chest, too absorbed by his body to bother undressing him.
To have sex with Alekos was to understand why her body had been invented.
His eyelids were lowered, eyes half shut as he watched her. It was a look of such raw sexual challenge that she shivered.
Later, she thought, I'm going to really regret this.
But right now she didn't care...
'I don't care if he's on a conference call, this is urgent!'
The voice outside his office belonged to his lawyer and Alekos paused in mid-sentence as the door burst open.
Dmitri stood there, papers in his hand, his face a strange shade of scarlet.
'I'll call you back,' Alekos drawled and hit the button to disconnect himself from his team in New York and London. 'Given that I've never seen you run anywhere in the ten years you've worked for me, I assume you're the bearer of bad tidings. A tanker has sunk?'
'Quickly.' The normally calm, steady Dmitri sprinted across the spacious office, banged into the desk and spilled the papers over the floor. 'Switch on your computer.'
'I'm already online.' Intrigued, Alekos shifted his gaze to his computer screen. 'What am I supposed to be looking at?'
'Go to eBay,' Dmitri said in a strangled voice. 'Right now. We have three minutes left to bid.'
Alekos didn't waste time pointing out that placing bids with an online auction-house didn't usually form part of his working day. Instead he accessed the site with a few taps of his fingers.
'Diamond,' Dmitri croaked. 'Type in "large, white diamond".'
A premonition forming in his mind, Alekos stabbed the keys. No; she couldn't have. She wouldn't have.
As the page sprang onto his screen, he swore softly in Greek while Dmitri sank uninvited onto the nearest chair. 'A m I right? Is it the Zagorakis diamond? Being sold on eBay?'
Alekos stared at the stone and felt emotion punch deep in his gut. Just seeing that ring made him think of her, and thinking of her set off a chain reaction in his body that shocked him with its intensity. He struggled to shake off the instantaneous assault on his senses triggered by those rebel thoughts. Even after four years of absence she could still do this to him, he thought grimly. 'It's the diamond. You're sure she is the seller?'
'It would appear so. If the stone had come on the market before now we would have been notified. I have a team checking it out right now, but the bids have already reached a million dollars. Why eBay?' Bending down, Dmitri gathered together the papers he'd dropped. 'Why not Christie's or Sotheby's, or one of the big, reputable auction-houses? It's a very strange decision.'
'Not strange.' His eyes fixed on the screen, Alekos laughed. 'It's entirely in character. She'd never go to Christie's or Sotheby's.' Her down to earth approach had been one of the things he'd found so refreshing about her. She'd been unpretentious—an attribute that was a rare commodity in the false, glittering world he inhabited.
'Well, whichever.' Dmitri tugged at his tie as if he were being strangled. 'If bids have reached a million dollars then there's a high probability that someone else knows this is the Zagorakis diamond. We have to stop her! Why is she doing this now? Why not four years ago? She had plenty of reason to hate you then.'
Alekos leaned back in his chair, considering that question. When he spoke, his voice was soft. 'She saw the pictures.'
'Of you and Marianna at the charity ball? You think she heard the rumours that the relationship is serious?'
Alekos stared at the ring taunting him from the screen. 'Yes.'
The ring said it all. Its presence on the screen said this is what I think of what we shared. It was the equivalent of flinging the diamond into the river, only far, far more effective. She was selling it to the highest bidder in the most public way possible and her message was clear: this ring means nothing to me.
Our relationship meant nothing.
She was in a wild fury.
His own anger slashed like the blade of a knife and he stood up suddenly, taking this latest gesture as confirmation that he'd made the right choice with Marianna. Marianna Konstantin would never do anything as vulgar as sell a ring on eBay. Marianna was far too discreet and well-bred to give away a gift. Her behaviour was always impeccable; she was quiet and restrained, miserly with her emotions and, most importantly, she didn't want to get married.
Alekos stared at the ring on the screen, guessing at the depth of emotion hidden behind the sale. Nothing restrained there. The woman selling his ring gave her emotions freely.
Remembering just how freely, his mouth tightened. It would be good, he thought, to cut that final link. This was the time.
Watching the clock count down on his computer screen, Alekos made an instantaneous decision. 'Bid for it, Dmitri.'
His lawyer floundered. 'Bid? How? You need an account, and there is no time to set one up.'
'We need someone just out of college.' Swift and decisive, Alekos pressed a button on his phone. 'Send Eleni in. Now.'
Seconds later, the youngest PA on his team appeared nervously in the doorway. 'You wanted to speak to me, Mr Zagorakis?'
'Do you have an eBay account?'
Clearly stunned by the unexpected question, the girl gulped. 'Yes, sir.'
'I need you to bid for something. And don't call me sir.' His eyes on the screen, Alekos watched as the clock ticked down: two minutes. He had two minutes in which to retrieve something that should never have left his possession. 'Log in, or whatever it is you do to put in a bid.'
'Yes, sir. Of course.' Crumbling with nerves, the girl hurried to his desk and entered her username and password. She was shaking so badly that she entered her password incorrectly and Alekos clamped his mouth shut, sensing that if he showed impatience he'd just make her more nervous.
'Take your time,' he said smoothly, sending a warning glance towards Dmitri who looked as if he were about to have a stroke.
Finally entering her password correctly, the girl gave him a terrified smile. 'What bid do you want me to place?'
Alekos looked at the screen and made a judgement. 'Two-million US dollars.'
The girl gave an audible gasp. 'How much?'
'Two million.' Alekos watched the clock counting down: sixty seconds. He had sixty seconds to retrieve an heirloom that he never should have given away. Sixty seconds to close the door on a relationship that never should have happened. 'Do it now.'
'But the limit on my credit card is only f-five hundred pounds,' the girl stammered, 'I can't afford it.'
'But I can. And I'm the one paying for it.' Glancing at the girl's ashen features, Alekos frowned. 'Do not pass out. If you faint now, I won't be able to bid for this ring. Dmitri is head of my legal team—he will witness my verbal agreement. We now have thirty seconds, and this is very important to me. Please.'
'Of course, I—sorry.' Her hands shaking, Eleni tapped the amount into the box, hesitated briefly and then pressed enter. 'I—I'm—I mean you're—currently the highest bidder,' she said faintly and Alekos lifted an eyebrow.
'Is it done?'
'Providing no one puts in a last-minute bid.'
Alekos, who wasn't taking any chances, promptly put his hands over hers and entered four-million dollars.
Five seconds later, the ring was his and he was pouring the shaking girl a glass of water.
'I'm impressed. Under pressure you responded well and you did what needed to be done. I won't forget it.
And now,' he kept his voice casual, 'I need to know exactly where to send the money. Does the seller give you a name and address?'
Ignoring Dmitri's startled glance, Alekos reached for a pen and paper.
He needed to decide whether to do this in person or hand it over to lawyers.
Lawyers, his common sense told him. For all the reasons you haven't tracked her whereabouts over the past four years.
'You can email any questions you have,' Eleni said weakly, her eyes on the diamond on the screen. 'It's a beautiful ring. Lucky woman, ending up with that on her finger. Wow. That's so romantic.' She looked at him wide-eyed and Alekos didn't have the heart to disillusion her.
Had he ever been romantic? If being romantic was to indulge in an impulsive, whirlwind romance then, yes, he'd been romantic. Once. Or maybe 'blinded by lust' would be a more accurate assessment. Fortunately he'd come to his senses in time. With a cynical smile at his own expense, Alekos reflected on the fact that a business approach to relationships, such as the one he had with Marianna, was vastly preferable. He'd had no particular wish to understand her, and she'd showed no interest in trying to understand him.
That was so much better than a girl who tried to climb into your thoughts and then seduced with raw, out-of-control sex that wiped a man's brain.
Feeling the tension ripple across his shoulders, Alekos stared out of the window as Dmitri hastily ushered the girl out of the room, promising to deal with all the financial aspects of the transaction.
Closing the door firmly, the lawyer turned to face Alekos. 'I'll arrange for the funds to be transferred and the ring collected.'
'No.' Driven by an impulse he decided was better not examined, Alekos reached for his jacket. 'I don't want that ring in the hands of a third party. I'll collect it myself.'
'In person? Alekos, you haven't seen the girl for four years. You decided it was best not to get in touch. Are you sure this is a good idea?'
'I only ever have good ideas.' Closure, Alekos thought grimly, striding towards the door. Hand over the money, take the ring and move on.
'Breathe, breathe, breathe. Put your head between your legs—that's it. You're not going to faint. OK—that's good. Now, try telling me again—slowly.'
Lifting her head, Kelly mouthed the words. No sound came out. She wondered whether it was possible to go mute with shock. It felt as though her entire body had shut down.
Her friend glared at her in exasperation. 'Kel, I'm giving you thirty seconds to produce sound from your mouth and then I'm throwing a bucket of water over you.'
Kelly dragged in air and tried again. 'Sold—'
Vivien nodded encouragingly. 'You've sold something—right. What have you sold?'
'Sold.' Kelly swallowed. 'Ring.'
'OK, finally we're making progress here—I'm getting that you've sold a ring. Which ring?' Viv's eyes suddenly widened. 'Holy crap, not the ring?'
Kelly nodded, feeling as though all the air had been sucked out of the room. 'Sold ring—eBay.' She felt dizzy and light-headed, and she knew she would have been lying on the floor in a dead faint by now if she hadn't already been sitting down.
'All right, well, that's good.' Her expression cautious, Vivien's smile faltered. 'I can understand why that seems like such a big thing. You've been wearing that ring around your neck for four years—which is probably four years too long given that the rat who gave it to you didn't turn up for the wedding—but you've finally seen the light and sold it, and I think that's great. Nothing to worry about. No reason to hyperventilate. Do you need to breathe into a paper bag or something?' She looked at Kelly dubiously. 'You're the same colour as a whiteboard, and I'm rubbish at first aid. I closed my eyes in all the classes because I couldn't stand the revolting pictures. Am I supposed to slap you? Or do I stick your legs in the air to help blood flow? Give me some clues here. I know the whole thing traumatised you, but it's been four years, for crying out loud!'
Kelly gulped and clutched her friend's hand. 'Sold.'
'Yes, yes, I know! You sold the ring! Just get over it! Now you can get on with your life—go out and shag some stranger to celebrate. It's time you realised that Mr Greek God isn't the only man in the world.'
'For four-million dollars.'
'Or we could just open a bottle of—what? How much?' Vivien's voice turned to a squeak and she plopped onto the floor, her mouth open. 'For a moment there I thought you actually said four-million dollars.'
'I did. Four-million dollars.' Saying the words aloud doubled the shaking. 'Vivien, I don't feel very well.'
'I don't feel very well either.' Vivien gave a whimper and flapped her hand in front of her face. 'We can't both faint. We might bang our heads or something, and our decomposed bodies would be discovered weeks from now, and no one would even find us because your place is always such a mess. I bet you haven't even made a will. I mean, all I own is a load of unwashed laundry and a few bills, but you have four-million dollars. Four-million dollars. God, I've never had a rich friend before. Now I'm the one who needs to breathe.' She grabbed a paper bag, emptied out two apples and slammed it over her mouth and nose, breathing in and out noisily.
Kelly stared down at her hands, wondering if they'd stop shaking if she sat on them. They'd been shaking since she'd switched on her computer and seen the final bid. 'I—I need to pull myself together. I can't just sit here shaking. I have work to do. I have thirty English books to mark before tomorrow.'
Vivien pulled the bag away from her face and sucked in air. 'Don't be ridiculous. You never have to teach small children again. You can be a lady of leisure. You can walk in there tomorrow, resign and go for a spa day. Or a spa decade!'
'I wouldn't do that.' Shocked, Kelly stared at her friend, the full implications of the money sinking home. 'I love teaching. I'm the only one not looking forward to the summer holidays. I love the kids. I'll miss the kids. They're the nearest I'm ever going to get to a family of my own.'
'For crying out loud, Kel, you're twenty-three, not ninety. And, anyway, you're rich now. You'll be a toy girl, or a sugar mummy or something. Men will be queuing up to impregnate you.'
Kelly recoiled. 'You don't have a romantic bone in your body, do you?'
'I'm a realist. And I know you love kids. Weird, really; I just want to bash their heads together most of the time. Maybe you should just give me the money and I'll resign. Four-million dollars! How come you didn't know it was worth that much?'
'I didn't ask,' Kelly mumbled. 'The ring was special because he gave it to me, not because of its value. It didn't occur to me it was that valuable. I wasn't really interested.'
'You need to learn to be practical as well as romantic. He might have been a bastard, but at least he wasn't a cheapskate.' Vivien sank her teeth into one of the apples that she'd tipped out of the paper bag, talking as she ate. 'When you told me he was Greek, I assumed he was a waiter or something.'
Kelly flushed. She hated talking about it because it reminded her of how stupid she'd been. How naive. 'He wasn't a waiter.' She covered her face with her hands. 'I can't even bear to think about it. How could I ever have thought it could have worked? He is super-cool, super-intelligent and super-rich. I'm not super-anything.'
- 2010, July 16 - Ebook and Paperback Release (Part of Mills and Boon August Releases) (Mills & Boon Modern Romance #1001) (UK Original Release)
- 2010, August 06 - Hardcover Release (Library Edition) (Mills & Boon) - ISBN-10/13: 0263213919/978-0263213911
- 2010, September 01 - Ebook, Kindle, Paperback, and Paperback Large Print Release (Harlequin Presents #2943) (US Original Release)
- 2010, September ?? - Paperback Release (Harlequin Mills & Boon Romance - Sexy #73??) (AUS Original Release) - ISBN-13: 978-1742550459
- 2010, December 03 - Hardcover Large Print Release (Mills & Boon) - ISBN-10/13: 0263212629/978-0263212624