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The Ruthless Greek's Return

By: Sharon Kendrick

CHAPTER ONE

SOMETHING WAS DIFFERENT. Jessica felt it the moment she walked into the building. An unmistakable air of excitement and expectation. A rippling sense of change. She felt her throat constrict with something which felt like fear. Because people didn’t like change. Even though it was about the only thing in life you could guarantee, nobody really welcomed it—and she was right up there with all those change-haters, wasn’t she?

Outwardly the headquarters of the upmarket chain of jewellery stores was the same. Same plush sofas and scented candles and twinkling chandeliers. Same posters of glittering jewels spilled casually onto folds of dark velvet. There were glossy shots of women gazing dreamily at engagement rings, while their impossibly handsome fiancés looked on. There was even a poster of her, leaning reflectively against a sea wall and gazing into the distance, with a chunky platinum watch gleaming against her wrist. Briefly, Jessica’s gaze flicked over it. Anyone looking at that poster would think the woman in the crisp shirt and sleek ponytail inhabited a life which was all neat and sorted. She gave a wry smile. Whoever said the camera never lied had been very misguided.

Glancing down at her pale leather boots, which had somehow survived the journey from Cornwall without being splashed, she walked over to the desk where the receptionist was wearing a new blouse which displayed her ample cleavage. Jessica blinked. She was sure she could smell furniture polish mingling with the scent of gardenia from the flickering candles. Even the extra-large display of roses sitting on the fancy glass desk looked as if they’d been given a makeover.

‘Hi, Suzy,’ said Jessica, bending her head to sniff at one of the roses and finding it completely without fragrance. ‘I have a three o’clock appointment.’

Suzy glanced down at her computer screen and smiled. ‘So you do. Nice to see you, Jessica.’

‘Nice to be here,’ said Jessica, although that bit wasn’t quite true. Her life in the country had claimed her wholesale and she only came to London when she had to. And today it seemed she had to—summoned by an enigmatic email, which had provoked more questions than it had answered and left her feeling slightly confused. Which was why she had abandoned her jeans and sweater and was standing in reception in her city clothes, with the cool smile expected of her. And if inside her heart was aching because Hannah had gone...well, she would soon learn to deal with that. She had dealt with plenty worse.

Brushing fine droplets of water from her raincoat, she lowered her voice. ‘You don’t happen to know what’s going on?’ she said. ‘Why I received a mystery summons out of the blue, when I’m not due to start shooting the new catalogue until early summer?’

Suzy started looking from side to side, like someone who had been watching too many spy films. ‘Actually, I do.’ She paused. ‘We have a new boss.’

Jessica’s smile didn’t slip. ‘Really? First I’ve heard about it.’

‘Oh, you wouldn’t have heard anything. Big takeover deal—very hush-hush. The new owner’s Greek. Very Greek. A playboy by all accounts,’ said Suzy succinctly, her eyes suddenly darkening. ‘And very dangerous.’

Jessica felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle, as if someone had just stroked an icy finger over her skin. Hearing someone say Greek shouldn’t produce a reaction, but the stupid thing was that it did, every time. It wasn’t as bad as it used to be, but she could never hear the mention of anything Hellenic without the sudden rush of blood to her heart. She was like one of Pavlov’s dogs, who used to salivate whenever a bell was rung. One of those dumb dogs who expected to be fed and instead were presented with nothing but an empty bowl. And how sad was that? She stared at Suzy and injected a light-hearted note into her voice.

‘Really?’ she questioned. ‘You mean dangerous as in swashbuckling?’

Suzy shook her mop of red curls. ‘I mean dangerous as in oozing sex appeal, and knows it.’ A light flashed on her desk and she clicked the button with a perfectly manicured fingernail. ‘Something which you’re just about to find out for yourself.’

Jessica thought about Suzy’s words as she rode in the elevator towards the penthouse offices, wishing they could have swopped places. Because the new boss would be completely wasted on her—no matter how hunky he was. She’d met men who’d oozed testosterone and she’d had her fingers burnt. She stared at her reflection in the smoky elevator mirrors. Actually, it had only been one man and she’d had her whole body burnt—her heart and soul completely fried—and as a consequence she steered clear of dangerous men and all the stuff which came with them.

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