At the Greek Tycoon's Bidding

By: Cathy Williams

CHAPTER ONE




THEO was in the middle of reading a financial report when he heard the crash. The sound catapulted through the empty corridors of the office with ear-splitting intensity. Any other person would have reacted in shock, and probably fear. After all, it was late, and even with security guards there was no building in London that could be termed fully safe from someone determined to break and enter. Not Theo Miquel. Without bothering to arm himself with the prerequisite heavy object, dark brows knitted into an impatient frown at being interrupted, he strode out of his plush designer office, activating the switch that flooded the darkness outside with brilliant fluorescent light.

Theo Miquel was not a man to run scared of anything, least of all a would-be intruder who was clumsy enough to signal his arrival by crashing into something.

It didn’t take long for him to pinpoint the origin of the interruption, for sprawled in the corridor was a trolley, the contents of which were scattered across the marble-tiled floor. Cleaning fluids, broom, mop—and a bucket of water which was slowly spreading along the tiles towards the carpeted offices on either side.

As his eyes took in the chaotic sight he heard the clamour of feet pounding up the stairs, and then the security guard was there, out of breath and bristling with apologies. They converged at the scene of the crime at roughly the same time, although it was Theo who was the first to kneel next to the inert body of the girl who had collapsed on the floor.

‘So sorry, sir,’ Sid stammered, watching as Theo felt for a pulse. ‘I came as fast as I could—as soon as I heard the noise. I can take over from here, sir.’

‘Get this stuff cleared away.’

‘Of course, sir. I’m very sorry…She looked a little pale when she came in this evening, but I had no idea…’

‘Stop babbling and tidy this mess up,’ Theo commanded sharply.

He barely registered the flustered guard squeezing dry the mop and soaking up the spilt water before it could intrude into the expensive offices and wreak yet more havoc.

At least the girl hadn’t been inconsiderate enough to die on his premises. There was a pulse, and she might be as pale as hell but she was breathing. She had fainted—probably pregnant. A symptom of the times. Controlling his irritation, he scooped her up, oblivious to the frantic worry pasted on the security guard’s face. He was dimly aware that his employees, whatever their rank, treated him with a certain amount of subservience. He was unaware that this subservience teetered precariously on the brink of downright fear, so he was vastly exasperated when he glanced across to find Sid virtually wringing his hands.

‘I can take care of her, sir…No need for you to get involved…Not a problem…’

‘Just make sure this place is cleaned up and then you can return to duty. If I need you, I’ll call.’

This was an interruption he could well have done without. It was Friday. It was after nine in the night and there was still half a report to get through if he was to e-mail the corrected copy to his counterpart on the other side of the world before their high-level meeting the following Monday.

He kicked open the door to his office and deposited the now stirring body on the long burgundy sofa which occupied one entire wall of the large room. He had not had a hand in designing the décor of his office. If he had, he would probably have chosen the barest of furnishings—after all, an office was a place to work and not a cosy sitting room in which to luxuriate—but he had found over the years, and to his surprise, that the grand, heavy opulence of the room was strangely conducive to concentration. The oak-panelled walls would have been more at home in a gentleman’s club, but there was still something warm about them, filled as they were with books on finance, economics and naturally the accounts of the vast shipping empire that was the very basis of his huge inherited wealth. His desk, fashioned in a time before computers, lacked the convenient set-up to accommodate modems and fax machines and all the various appendages of twenty-first-century living, but it was pleasing to look at and did its job. The windows were floor to ceiling, and lacked the smoked glass effect of the taller, more modern offices all around, but they were charming. In the crazy rush of the city his offices, housed in a grand Victorian house, were a touch of old-world sanity.

It was more than he was currently feeling as he stared down at the girl, whose eyelids were beginning to flutter as consciousness crawled back.

She was solidly built beneath the blue and white striped overalls which covered a choice of clothing Theo would have found offensive on any woman. A thick cardigan of some indiscriminate brown colour and jeans that were frayed at the hems, their only merit being that they partially concealed heavy-duty shoes that would have been more suitable for a man working on a building site than a woman.

He waited, standing over her, arms folded, his body language informing her in no uncertain terms that, while he might have rescued her, he wasn’t about to allow the act of charity to overstay its limited welcome.

And while he waited, impatience mounting, his eyes roved over her face, taking in the short, straight nose, the wide mouth, and eyebrows that were surprisingly defined and at odds with the pale curly hair that had escaped its restraints.

As her eyes fluttered open he could only assume that he had been taken by surprise, because for a few seconds a confusing surge of awareness rushed through him. She had amazing eyes. The purest and deepest of blues. Then she blinked, disoriented, and the moment was lost as reality took over. The reality of his work being interrupted when time was not on his side.

‘It would appear that you fainted,’ Theo informed her as she struggled into a sitting position.

Heather gazed up at the man staring down at her and felt her throat tighten. For the past six months she had worked in his offices, coming in at six-thirty when she could begin cleaning, after the bulk of the employees had left. From a distance, she had watched him out of the corner of her eye, watched as he worked behind his desk, his door flung open—although she knew, from snatches of conversation she had overheard over the months, that very few would risk popping in for a light chat. She had felt herself thrill to the tones of his dark, deep voice when he happened to talk to one of his employees. He intimidated everyone, but as far as she was concerned he was the most beautiful man she had ever laid eyes on.

The lines of his face were strong—harsh, even—but he possessed a classic beauty that was still aggressively and ruggedly masculine. Midnight-dark hair swept back from his powerful face, curling against the nape of his neck, and even though she had never had the courage to look him in the face she had glimpsed enough to know that his eyes were dark and fathomless, and fringed with lashes that most women would have given their eye teeth for. She supposed that if she had worked for him she might well have found him as forbidding as everyone else seemed to, but he had no influence over the course of her life and so she could appreciate him without fear.

Not that she was by nature the type of girl who cowered in the presence of anyone. By nature she was of a sunny disposition, and was a great believer that she was equal to everyone else, whatever her social standing might temporarily be and however broke she was. What counted lay inside and not in the outer packaging.

While her mind had been wandering down the extraordinary path that had found her lying on the sofa in his office, Theo had taken himself to his drinks cabinet and returned with a small glass of brown liquid.

‘Drink some of this.’

Heather blinked and tried not to stare too hard at him. ‘What is it?’ she asked.

‘Brandy.’

‘I can’t.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I can’t. It’s against company policy to drink while on the job. I could get the sack and I need the money.’

As far as Theo was concerned this was far too much information. All he wanted was for her to guzzle a bit of the brandy, which would have her up and running, leaving him with sufficient time to get through what he had to do if he were to avoid an argument with the latest of his dates, whose temper had already been tested to the limit by the frequency of his cancellations.

‘Drink,’ he ordered, holding the glass close to her lips, and Heather nervously obeyed, taking the tiniest of sips and flushing with guilt.

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake!’ Theo exclaimed. ‘You’ve just fainted! One sip of brandy isn’t selling your soul to the devil!’

‘I’ve never fainted before,’ Heather said. ‘Mum used to tell me that I wasn’t the fainting sort. Fainting was for undernourished girls, not for fatties like me. Claire fainted a lot when we were growing up. Well, not exactly a lot, but a few times. Which is a lot by anyone’s standards…’

Theo experienced the novel sensation of being bombarded on all fronts. For a few seconds he literally lost the power of speech.

‘Perhaps I’m coming down with something,’ Heather remarked, frowning. She sincerely hoped not. She couldn’t afford to start taking time off work because of ill health. Her night job with the cleaning company was on a temporary basis. No sick leave. And her day job as assistant teacher at a school near where she lived just wasn’t sufficient for her to really make ends meet. She felt the colour drain away from her face.

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