There had been a time not so many years ago that her fondest hopes included being in that exasperated mother’s place. Those dreams had died along with her marriage and she had accepted that. She had. Yet as much as she wished they didn’t, those old hopes still caused a small pang in the region of her heart in moments like this.
But dreams of children definitely had no chance of resurrection in her current situation.
Trying to let the low-level background hum created by the plane’s engines soothe nerves already stretched taut, Piper leaned back in her seat and looked away from the domestic tableau.
It didn’t work. Despite her best efforts, her heart rate increased as anticipation of her arrival in Athens thrummed through her. She couldn’t stop herself looking out the window, her eyes eagerly seeking evidence of the airport.
For hours it had been nothing but a blanket of cloud with the occasional break where the peaks of the Alps crept through. It had been a while since she spotted the last peak and she knew they were almost to their Athens destination. Less than an hour from seeing him. Zephyr Nikos. Her current boss and part-time bed partner.
She was more than a little keen to see the man and the place of his birth. Besides, who didn’t want to visit paradise?
For that’s where they were ultimately headed, a small Greek island that at one time had been the vacation home of a fabulously wealthy Greek family. Not so flush now, the patriarch had sold the island to Stamos & Nikos Enterprises. Zephyr and his partner, Neo Stamos, planned to develop it as an all-inclusive spa resort. And she’d been given the interior design contract for the entire facility, with a budget large enough to bring in whatever kind of help she needed to see it to completion.
She was beyond excited about being brought in at the ground level on such an expansive project. It would be an amazing coup for her business, but satisfying personally on a creative level as well. Even so, her current heightened sense of anticipation was predominantly for the man who waited for her there.
She had spent the last six weeks missing Zephyr with an ache that scared her when she let herself think about it. She should not be so emotionally dependent on a man who was only sort of her lover.
She bit her lip on a sigh.
They were involved sexually, but not romantically. They weren’t anything as simple as casual sex partners. That would be too easy. She’d know exactly how to handle her one-sided emotional entanglement then. But they were friends, too. Good friends. The kind of friends that hung out at least once a week before the sex benefits started and that increased to multiple times a week when they were in the same city.
To complicate things even more, he was also her boss.
Again…sort of. His company had hired her personal design firm for several projects over the past two-plus years, though this new development was by far the biggest and most far-reaching for her. He would be her boss in actual fact if she’d let him, too.
He’d offered her a staff job with salary and benefits she’d had a hard time turning down, but Piper had no desire to work for someone else. Not again. Not after losing both her husband and her job in one fell swoop only six months before she took on her first project with Zephyr’s company.
She’d vowed then that she would not allow herself to ever be that vulnerable to upheaval again.
She’d thought marrying Arthur Bellingham would give her the stability she craved, among other things—like that family she’d dreamed about. It had turned out just the opposite, though. Art had shredded her emotions before tearing her life apart piece by piece until all she had left was her talent and her determination. She would never be in that place again.
Not even for Zephyr. Not that the sexy Greek real estate tycoon was offering her marriage, or even commitment. He’d offered her a salaried job. That was all.
If she wanted more, she certainly wasn’t saying so. Up until the past weeks’ long separation, she hadn’t even admitted it to herself. Telling him wasn’t in the cards she planned to play. Not when doing so would spell the immediate end to this whole friends-who-are-sexually-intimate situation.
And maybe their friendship as well.
Zephyr waited for Piper near the luggage carousel. He hadn’t seen her in six weeks. She had been on a job in the Midwest and he’d known if he didn’t offer her the Greek job, he probably wouldn’t see her again for another two months, or more.
Not that she wasn’t the best interior designer for the job, but this project was bigger than anything she’d taken on before. He knew she could do it, though. And it wasn’t as if he needed to explain his choice to anyone. That was one of the benefits to being the boss. The only person who might have something to say about it, and only because they were both working together on this development for the first time in years, was his best friend and business partner, Neo Stamos.