But, though Anna seemed glad that he was learning to be a father, she didn’t seem at all inclined to fall at his feet for that alone.
At least the time had made a difference at his home office. The piled-up papers were gone, sorted and filed. His appointments had already been reorganized to better suit his schedule, with no more double-bookings. In nine short days Anna had mended Lindsey’s ineptitude with efficiency and poise.
He looked around his office. A man could get used to this, he thought with satisfaction. Then he stopped himself cold. No, he couldn’t get used to this. He couldn’t let himself. After the ten days was over Anna would return to full-time motherhood. Her place was at home, in luxury and comfort, raising their son.
It had been nice working from home for the last week, though, instead of going to his office at the casino as usual. He’d seen a lot of Michael, too, since Anna was still feeding him every three hours. She usually had him in the office with them for much of the afternoon. Right now the baby was in the nursery, taking his afternoon nap, but just a few moments ago he’d been lying on a mat on the floor, batting at the dangling toys of his playgym while he gurgled and laughed. Remembering, a smile formed on Nikos’s lips.
He shook himself. What kind of work environment was this? In spite of Anna’s organization, his work habits were slipping. His usual sixteen or eighteen-hour days just weren’t possible when he was constantly being distracted by the laughter of his son and the gorgeous vision of Anna in a slim-fitting white shirt and black pencil skirt, crossing her killer legs while she took dictation.
No, he had to stick to his plan. Anna would be free of the burden of work, and he’d find some other secretary. He’d make do for the sake of his son having a happy childhood, and return to his eighteen-hour work days. He’d shown his son the empire that would soon be his; he couldn’t slack off on the job now.
But he was leaving tomorrow. He only had tonight to make Anna fall for him before he left for Singapore, and, while he still believed he’d achieve his goal, it might be time to get creative. He’d soon have no choice but to…ugh…talk more about feelings. He had no idea how to do that, but he’d improvise. How hard could it be? He’d talk about his childhood. Didn’t women swoon over stories of poverty and misery?
“What are you doing?” he asked, suddenly distracted by the vision of Anna’s sweet backside in the form-fitting black skirt as she knelt near the trash can and leaned forward on her hands. Wild images went through him.
“This must have bounced off the rim.” She picked up the crumpled résumé from the floor, then spotted something behind the can. Nikos groaned inwardly as she saw the pale blue envelope that he’d tossed there early this morning.
Leaning back on her haunches, she picked it up and read the envelope. “It’s postmarked from Greece.”
Nikos grabbed a new résumé. “Have you looked at this one?”
She refused to be distracted, and held the blue envelope a little higher. “When did you get this letter?”
“Yesterday,” he said, grinding his teeth.
She pushed back a long tendril that had escaped from her sleek chignon. “It hasn’t been opened, but it was in the trash.”
“And your point is?”
“Aren’t you going to read it?”
“I think my actions are self-explanatory.”
“But if your father’s widow wrote all the way from Greece to try to mend the breach in your family…”
“There is no breach, because there is no family,” he said shortly. “My father meant nothing to me, and now he’s dead, so why should I care about his widow? She can write me or not. That is her choice. I’m perfectly capable of throwing her letters in the trash without your advice.”
He still remembered all too well the first letter he’d received from the Greek woman. She’d broken the news of his father’s death, and informed him that he’d had left Nikos a share in his shipping business—the same shipping business that Nikos had tried to crush as an adult. Worse, she’d told him that his father had been the secret investor who had helped Nikos create Stavrakis Resorts. His father had been the one to help Nikos build his very first hotel.
Shaken, Nikos had still refused to go to the funeral, or meet his half-siblings. He’d also refused the shares in the company. He hadn’t wanted any part of the family who’d been more important to his father than he and his mother had been.
But it was the kindness in her letter that had shocked him the most. She’d been so gentle, when he’d expected only hate. The confusion and pain had driven him to Anna’s house. He’d instinctively sought her comfort, her arms, her bed, and they’d conceived Michael…
Anna gave him a piercing turquoise glance, as if she guessed his thoughts. “But how can you still hate your father now that you know that he helped you?”
“If I’d known he was the investor behind the venture capital firm that financed my first hotel, I would have tossed the money back in his face.”
“He was a married man when he seduced my mother. He got her pregnant, then sent her packing to New York. The man is nothing to me.”
“But your stepmother—”
“Don’t ever call her that again.”
“Your—your father’s widow said he tried to send you money every month of your childhood. Your mother was the one who always sent it back.”
Yes, he remembered what the Greek woman had said—that his father had always loved Nikos, that he’d tried to visit and send child support but his proud mother had refused. She’d even said that his father hadn’t wanted his mother to go to New York, that he’d been heartbroken when she’d left. She’d said his mother was the one who had refused to let him see his son.
Nikos didn’t know who to believe.
His mother, of course, he told himself furiously. She had died taking care of him. She deserved his loyalty.
The last thing Nikos wanted to do was read another of the Greek woman’s letters. The past was dead and gone. Better to let it remain buried.
Unfortunately, Anna didn’t see it that way. Her lips pressed in a determined line. “I’m going to read the letter.”
He grabbed her hand as she reached for the letter opener on his desk. “You’re quick to arrange my family affairs. Is it to avoid dealing with your own?”
She hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“Why did your sister come here? You’ve evaded the question for over a week. I’d like an answer.”
She tugged on her hand, but he held her fast. “It’s nothing,” she mumbled. “A family quarrel.”
“Does it have anything to do with Victor Sinistyn?”
She pulled away with a savage force that he hadn’t expected. “Just stay out of it! I don’t need your pity and I don’t need your help. I can handle it on my own—”
She grabbed at the letter opener with a trembling hand, plunging the sharp edge of the blade into the side of the blue envelope with far too much vigor. It sliced her palm, and she squelched a scream, holding out her bleeding hand.
“Let me see your hand,” Nikos demanded.
She turned her face away in a fruitless attempt to hide her tears. He was relieved that she didn’t resist as he gently took her hand. Blood from the cut smudged against the cuff of his shirt as he narrowly examined the wound.
“I don’t think you’ll need stitches.” He’d been hurt enough times while sparring in his boxing club to be a pretty good judge. “Let’s just clean it in case of infection.”
He led her into the adjoining bathroom, and she followed him, seemingly in a daze. She winced as he placed her hand under the running water. He dried it off softly with a thick white cotton handtowel.
“This might sting a little,” he said, before he applied the antiseptic he kept in the cabinet for any injuries he got working out at the club.
She closed her eyes. His hand tightened over her fingers and he felt a strangely agonizing beat of his heart that he was hurting her, even though it was for her own good.
He placed the small bandage over the cut. “All done.”
She opened her eyes. “Thank you.” She started to pull away, but he stopped her.
“Anna, tell me what hold Sinistyn has got over you.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“I don’t need your charity, and I don’t want your help,” she said. “It’s my family’s private business.” But even as she spoke the words he could see the tremor of her swanlike throat, the nervous flutter of her dark lashes.
“Not if it affects my son.”
Her eyes went wide. “You think I would endanger Misha?”