And yet he hadn’t stopped to get one, hadn’t protected her, and worse, it had been a conscious decision. There was no one to blame in this whole mess but himself, and he damn well knew it.

Carefully, he extricated himself from her warm body. He tensed when she gave a soft little sigh, but then she snuggled back into the covers and settled down once more.

He strode to the bathroom to shower, aware that there would be consequences for his choices. Already he was mentally preparing and making plans. Through it all, there was an odd sense of peace instead of pained resignation.

Still, he dreaded all he had to do. And say.

Wrapping a towel around his waist, he walked out of the bathroom and recovered the clothing he’d worn yesterday. Thankfully he always kept several changes of clothing at his office. That would be his first stop.

As he was pulling on his pants, Isabella stirred, her long hair sliding over her body as she turned and reached out her hand as though seeking him. His body tightened, and arousal hummed through his veins, a soft whisper that grew louder as he stared down at her.

She opened her eyes sleepily, blinking when she saw him. He reached down and touched her cheek, smoothing a stray strand of her hair from her skin.

“There are things I have to take care of, Bella. Important things.”

He bent and kissed her softly on the hair, and then without another word, turned and walked out of the bedroom.

Isabella stood beside the bed, wrapped in just the sheet, the ends clutched tightly in her hands. She glanced down at the discarded washcloth, at the evidence of her lost virginity, and felt an odd stirring deep in her chest.

Where had Theron gone? And would he be back? Or was she just the temptation that finally became too much, and he was rushing back to Alannis to make amends?

She closed her eyes and let her chin fall to her chest. She didn’t want to be the other woman. She didn’t like how it felt, didn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s sorrow. But why should she place another’s over her own?

Feeling quiet sadness settle into her heart, she went into the bathroom to draw a hot bath. Part of her ached—a delicious ache—and she couldn’t help but close her eyes and remember every touch, every kiss and caress, the feel of his body sliding over hers.

She soaked until the water grew tepid, and finally, shivering, she rose from the tub and wrapped herself in a towel.

There was a listlessness to her she was unused to. There was too much unknown, unresolved, and she worried that it would remain so.

Growing disgusted with her lethargy, she forced herself to dress. She refused to sit in her hotel room holding her breath like a lovesick fool, waiting for a man who might never return.

First she’d eat and then she’d head to her apartment. Her new furniture had been delivered, and Theron had arranged someone to stock all the necessities. She would go over and make a list of anything else she needed, and then maybe it was time to start thinking about what she was going to do with the rest of her life.

When she opened the door, she immediately came face-to-face with an unsmiling Reynolds. She tried to smile, but failed miserably. Then she sighed. “You might as well come in so I can apologize properly. Then you can accompany me to the hotel restaurant, and then we can go to my new apartment.”

Reynolds actually smiled in return as he stepped inside. “Now, Ms. Caplan, you’re getting the hang of how things are supposed to be done. You make my job a lot easier when I know where you’re going and you aren’t running off at every turn.”

She made a face. “I truly am sorry I’ve been so much trouble. I think you’ll find me a lot more accommodating from now on.”

His amusement vanished, and he sobered as he studied her with questioning eyes. “I hope nothing has happened to upset you.”

For a moment she said nothing. And then with a halfhearted smile, she gestured toward the door. “Let’s go eat. I’m starving.”

Theron settled wearily into the chair behind his desk and picked up the phone. Yet again, it would be the middle of the night in Greece, but he needed to have this conversation with Chrysander now so that he could go forward with his plans.

“Nai,” Chrysander barked in a sleepy tone.

“I’ve done a terrible thing,” Theron said.

“Theron?” Chrysander asked in a more alert tone. “What the devil are you doing calling at this hour. Again. And what terrible thing are you talking about? Are you in j


Theron had to laugh at that. “No, I’m not in jail.”

“Then what is wrong?”

Theron rubbed his hand across his face. “I seduced Isabella.”

There was a long pause. “I’m not sure I heard that correctly,” Chrysander finally said. Then Theron heard him speak to Marley. “No, agape mou, nothing is wrong. Go back to sleep. It’s just Theron.” Then he came back to Theron. “Give me a moment to take this call in my office. Marley has been up all night with the baby.”

Theron waited patiently as he heard shuffling in the background and even a sound like Chrysander kissing Marley. A few moments later, Chrysander’s voice bled back over the line.

“Now tell me you didn’t do what I think you said you did,” Chrysander said dryly.

“I can’t do that. It’s worse, though.”

“Worse than you seducing a young woman under your care? I fail to see how it can get any worse.”

“She was a virgin, and I didn’t use protection.”

Theron cringed even as he said it. It was a conversation that made him sound sixteen years old confessing his sins to his father.

Chrysander cursed and blew out his breath. “Damn it, Theron, what in the world were you thinking? Okay, scratch that. You obviously weren’t thinking. That much is established. But what about Alannis? Were you not just telling me and Piers that you were marrying her? What were you doing in bed with Isabella? And Theos, without protection. Are you stupid?”

“And you were so careful with Marley?” Theron said defensively.

“I was in a relationship with Marley,” Chrysander growled. “I was not engaged to another woman, nor was she someone under my direct care. Theron, this goes beyond stupid.”

“I’m not engaged to another woman,” Theron said quietly. “I didn’t ask her to marry me.”

Another stunned silence ensued.

“You better back up and tell me the entire story,” Chrysander said wearily. “It’s obvious that you’ve got a huge mess on your hands. Start with the part where you didn’t ask Alannis to marry you.”

“I couldn’t do it,” Theron said with a sigh. “I arranged the night, had a party, the ring, the confetti—”

“Confetti? Who the hell has confetti for a marriage proposal?” Chrysander demanded, a thread of amusement in his voice.

“It added to the festive mood,” Theron defended. “Everything was there. The moment was there…and I couldn’t do it. I had my hand on the ring, the woman staring up at me, and then I let go of the box, and asked her to dance instead. We spent the evening celebrating her visit to New York instead of our impending nuptials.”

“So how did this lead to you taking Isabella’s virginity? Without protection,” he added dryly.

“I’ve admitted my stupidity. There’s no reason to keep beating me over the head with it,” Theron said irritably. “It happened after I hauled her out of the strip club.”

“You what?” Chrysander broke into laughter. “Theron, this is sounding more absurd all the time. Do I even want to know why someone you were supposed to be watching over was in a strip club?”

“It’s not important. What’s important is that afterward, I seduced Isabella. We slept together. Without protection. She was a virgin. That covers it.”

“Yes, I’d say it does,” Chrysander said.

There was another long silence and then Chrysander spoke again. “She was under our care. Our father agreed that the Anetakis family would always care for her should something happen to her father. You’re going to have to marry her, Theron.”

Adrenaline surged in Theron’s veins. “I don’t have to marry her, Chrysander. I’m going to marry her.”