She’d blown it.
Once they were upstairs he’d demand the name of his new secretary. She’d give it to him, and tomorrow he would fly off for Singapore. There would be nothing left for her to do but pack for a new life in New York.
A new life that, for all its freedoms, would be missing one thing she wanted desperately. The man she loved.
She loved him. There. She’d admitted it—if only to herself. But he didn’t want to hire her, and without his love she didn’t want to marry him. There was nothing left to say.
Except that if their relationship had to end she wanted one last night to remember. One night to laugh with him again. To be daring. To be bold. One night where she allowed herself to love him with her whole heart.
One night to prove how much she trusted him.
But, as much as she knew he wanted her, he’d already refused her too many times, holding out for marriage. She licked her lips, glancing at him from beneath her lashes. Before he left, could she make him change his mind—just for one night?
She’d never seduced a man in her life, but maybe it was time to try.
Marveling at her own boldness as she crossed the casino floor with his arm around her, she ran her fingers surreptitiously along his waistband, stroking his flat belly through his shirt. “You changed your shirt.”
She heard his intake of breath, but his voice was even as he replied, “You ripped up the last one.”
“Sorry.” She rubbed her breast against his side as they walked. She heard a slight growl from his throat.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” she asked innocently.
He picked up his pace toward the elevator, and the moment the doors were closed behind them he was on her. Pressing her against the cool metal wall, he kissed her savagely, running his hands up and down her body.
“God, you drive me crazy,” he whispered against her skin. “I want you, Anna. It’s killing me.”
“Good.” She reached for his shirt and saw his expression as she untucked the fabric and ran her hands underneath, exploring his flat belly and the muscular chest covered with dark hair. “This time you’re not going to refuse me,” she said, using a tone she’d heard him use many times—the tone no one could refuse. She unbuttoned his shirt, her fingers somehow moving deftly, as if she’d been seducing men all her life. “You’re not going to make me wait. You’re not going to demand that I marry you.”
“Anna.” His breathing was coming harder. “We both know—”
“Later.” She already knew what he was going to say, and she didn’t want to hear a word of it. She didn’t want to think about the résumés in her purse, or the fact that Nikos had finally decided to let her go. Tomorrow she’d face those cold, hard facts. But tonight she’d stop time. She’d have one perfect night with him that could be crystallized in her memory forever—something to remember during all the cold and lonely nights.
Tonight she would give herself to him completely.
I love you, Nikos. I love you.
“Did you say something?” he murmured.
Oh, my God, had she whispered those words aloud? She had to distract him.
“I said no talking.” She reached for his waist. Unbuckling his belt, she pulled it out of the loops and tossed it to the floor of the elevator. She slowly stroked his bare belly beneath his shirt, swaying her body against his.
With a taunting smile, she undid the top button of his pants.
He gave an audible gasp and grabbed her wrists, yanking them tight above her head. “Is this what you want?” he choked out. “Hard and fast? Here in the elevator?”
She struggled against the shackles of his hands, wanting to touch him, to feel his naked skin against her own. Her whole body ached for him.
The elevator dinged as it reached their floor, and the doors slid open. She felt drunk, drugged with desire, as with a throaty growl Nikos picked her up, carrying her roughly into the penthouse.
Against a backdrop of two-story-high windows, the only color was a minimalist red sofa against white walls and white carpet. He took her swiftly into his enormous bedroom. He pressed a button on the wall and the room suddenly glowed with firelight. She’d wondered what this room would be like. It was spartan, empty, and ghostly white. The floor was white tile, covered by a white fur rug in front of a white adobe fireplace. Surrounded by oceans of unused space, the king-sized bed sat, pristine and untouched, in the center of the room.
Nikos started to kiss her again, and she closed her eyes. She forgot where she was, forgot everything. He lowered her gently to the enormous mattress, caressing her long hair. He stroked her cheek, down her neck, then placed his hand softly between her breasts, over her heart.
“Last chance to leave,” he growled.
Deliberately, she leaned back against his bed.
Unblinking as a wolf, he stared at her. Her eyes devoured his bare chest. Dark hair covered his torso, tightening to a vertical line that disappeared beneath the waistband of his exquisitely tailored pants.
His clothes were elegant and fine. The uniform of a wealthy, civilized man. But his body was something else, something more. As he discarded his clothes, tossing them on the white tile floor, he revealed the savage warrior beneath.
He stood in front of her, naked and unselfconscious. His muscles were hard, wide. She saw the old scars, almost faded, brought into stark relief by new white lines across his ribs and collarbone. She saw how much he wanted her. Most of all she saw his dark eyes, hungry with need. She sat up, reaching for him, holding out her arms.
He was on her in an instant, pressing her back roughly against the luxuriant softness of the bed.
“Agape mou,” he whispered. “I have waited so long. Wanted you for so long…”
Reaching his broad hands beneath her back, he unzipped her skirt. He pulled his shirt over her head and tossed them both to the floor. The stroke of the fabric, the sheen of his breath, sent prickles of longing up and down her skin. As he kissed slowly down her body, between her breasts and down her belly, it was all she could do not to blurt out the three forbidden words.
Kissing her, he pushed her back against the soft goosedown comforter, spreading his hands wide as he caressed her body, making her shiver as he ran his fingers over her white panties and bra.
He covered her with his naked body, pressing her into the soft folds of the thick comforter. She felt as if she was drowning. She clutched at him like a life preserver, gasping as he unhooked her bra and freed her breasts. He slowly moved his body up against hers, rubbing his chest against her, pressing his naked hardness between her legs as he sucked on her neck, her shoulder, her earlobes. Holding her tightly, he ran his tongue around the tender edge of her ear, slowly moving inward until he made her gasp as he penetrated the center with his tongue. She turned her face to him, grabbing the back of his head as she kissed him hungrily.
Then she pulled away, looking into his eyes.
She had to say the words. She couldn’t keep them inside anymore.
“Nikos, I love you.”
NIKOS froze. “What?”
“I love you.” Anna’s face looked bare, vulnerable, as she repeated the words.
Nikos had tried for the last hour to speak those same three words—the simple lie that would close the deal and give him the upper hand. But he’d been unable to force the words out of his mouth. He hadn’t wanted to say them, hadn’t wanted to lie to her. He’d let himself hope that making love to her would be enough.
Tsou. No. It was now or never. He had to act now, or it was all over.
He pictured his son with a man like Sinistyn as his stepfather. He imagined Anna in another man’s arms, and his lips pressed into a line. To protect his family he’d do anything, say anything, sacrifice anything.
Even his honor.
Watching his face with a troubled expression, Anna rushed to say, “I know you don’t love me back, and it’s okay—”
“I love you, too.” He spoke the words quickly, spitting them out as if they were a live grenade in his mouth.
“You love me?” Anna stared at him in amazement, as if she couldn’t believe what she’d heard.
“Yes.” His voice was low, strained.
Her whole face started to light up from within, like a thousand Christmas candles glowing at once. “You love me?” she repeated in a whisper, her eyes filling with tears. If he’d truly loved her, the joy on her face would have been enough to keep him warm through a thousand cold, dark winters. “I never expected—I never dreamed—Oh, Nikos…”
She kissed him then with a passion so pure and sweet it was unlike anything he’d ever known. He returned her kiss with fervor, desperate to forget the lie he’d told, to wipe his sin clean through the fire of his longing for her. He wanted her. He wanted every part of her. Her beauty and innocence and goodness. He kissed her back with all the hard, brutal honesty in his soul.