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Authors: Lynne Graham

Expectant Bride

BOOK: Expectant Bride
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“When you're my wife, I'll expect you to do exactly as you're told at all times.”

A stark little silence fell. Ellie couldn't believe what Dio had just said.

“Most especially when I am considering your welfare,” he added gently.

Ellie trembled and compressed her bloodless lips. “You're not seriously asking me to…to marry you?”

“Very seriously,” Dio asserted.

“But we hardly know each other—”

“We know enough. I like you. I respect you. I desire you. What more is there?”

“What about…love?” she prompted, striving for a detached tone.

“What about our child?”

Men who have everything—
except a bride….

Wealth, power, charm—what else could a heartstoppingly handsome tycoon need? Meet Dio, Constantine, Andreas and Nikolas, four gorgeous Greek billionaires who are in need of wives. Look out for their stories, written by your favorite authors, in which each tycoon meets his match and decides that he
has
to have her…
whatever
it takes!

This month, Lynne Graham brings you
Expectant Bride.
One moment, Ellie is trying to earn a little extra as an office cleaner, the next she's being whisked away by international businessman Dio Alexiakis! For Ellie, it's the beginning of an intensely exciting and emotional journey that takes her to marriage and motherhood. But does Dio really love her?
Read on!

On sale May

The Tycoon's Bride
by Michelle Reid

Lynne Graham
EXPECTANT BRIDE

CHAPTER ONE

‘W
HAT
on earth are you wearing on your head?' Meg Bucknall demanded as she pressed the button for the service lift.

Ellie raised a self-conscious hand to the floral scarf which covered her hair. ‘It'll keep the dust off.'

‘Since when have you been so fussy?'

Ellie heaved a sigh and decided to be honest with the older woman. ‘There's this guy who often works late on my floor…and,
well
, he's—'

‘Making a nuisance of himself, is he?' Meg's round face tightened with disapproval but she wasn't surprised by the news. Even in an overall Ellie would attract keen male attention. Fashioned on petite but shapely lines, the young woman had hair so naturally fair it gleamed like silver, and clear green eyes enhanced by unexpectedly dark brows and lashes. ‘I bet he thinks he's onto a sure thing with a humble cleaner. Old or young?'

‘Young.' Ellie stood back to let Meg enter the lift first. ‘He's really getting on my nerves. I've been thinking about mentioning him to the supervisor.'

Meg grimaced. ‘No, whatever you do, don't make it official, Ellie. If this lech works late, he must be quite important. Let's face it, you're more expendable than some business whizzkid!'

‘Don't I know it.' Ellie sighed. ‘It's still a man's world.'

‘He must be pretty persistent if he's getting
you
down…' Meg frowned, thinking of how feisty Ellie could be, although nobody would ever think it to look at her. ‘Look, you do my floor tonight and I'll do yours. That'll give you a break. Then
maybe one of the other cleaners will consider doing a permanent switch with you.'

‘But I haven't got security clearance to clean the top floor,' Ellie reminded the older woman reluctantly.

‘Oh, never mind that!' Meg dismissed impatiently. ‘Why should anyone need special permission just to polish floors and empty bins? But if the security guard does a round while you're up there, take yourself off out of sight if you can. Some of those blokes
would
report us. And don't go through those big double doors at the front. That's Mr Alexiakis's office suite and I'm not allowed in there…OK?'

As the older woman pushed her trolley out onto the floor that was usually Ellie's responsibility, Ellie gave her a grateful smile. ‘I really appreciate this, Meg.'

Ellie had never been on the top floor of the Alexiakis International building before. When she emerged from the service lift, she realised that the layout was different from the floors below. Rounding a corner, she saw a large, luxurious reception area to her right. Beyond it, all the lights had been turned off, but she could dimly see an impressive set of double doors in the gloom.

But when she looked to her left, another set of plainer double doors also greeted her at the far end of the corridor. She raised her eyebrows, but assumed the unlit passage closer to Reception housed the office suite that was off-limits. Deciding to start at the opposite end and work her way back along the corridor, Ellie relaxed. She was delighted by the prospect of any evening shift uninterrupted by Ricky Bolton and his suggestive remarks.

Her canvas-shod feet making little sound, Ellie opened one of the heavy double doors and had crossed the room to reach for the overflowing wastepaper basket before she registered that the interconnecting office beyond was still occupied. The door stood slightly ajar, spilling out the unmistakable sound of male voices.

Usually she would have announced her presence, but, having taken Meg's advice on board, she decided it would be wiser just to beat a quick, quiet retreat. The very last thing she wanted to do was get the older woman into trouble. Just as she was about to step back out again she heard male footsteps coming down the corridor, and practically had a heart attack on the spot.

Without even thinking about what she was doing, she shot behind the door to conceal herself, her heart hammering like a piston. The steps got closer and closer, and then stopped
right
on the other side of the open door. At that point Ellie just stopped breathing altogether.

In the rushing silence she could now hear every word of the dialogue carrying through from the office next door.

‘…so as long as I continue to
appear
to be interested in acquiring Danson Components, Palco Technic will remain a sitting duck,' a dark-accented male drawl was murmuring with satisfaction. ‘I'll make my move the minute the market opens on Wednesday.'

Ellie heard whoever else was on the other side of the door catch their breath audibly. She felt like a total idiot. What the heck had she been thinking of? The maintenance trolley parked outside supplied visible proof of her presence somewhere nearby.

However, the man in the doorway advanced no deeper into the room. To her surprise and relief, she heard him start back down the corridor much more quietly than he had walked up it. Ellie slowly sucked in much-needed air. She was creeping out from concealment on literal tiptoe when the door of the interconnecting office suddenly shot wide to frame an intimidating male, who seemed at that moment to be as tall as a skyscraper. She froze, green eyes huge in her flushed and discomfited face.

Eyes as black as pitch raked over her in a challenging appraisal as aggressive as a loaded gun.

‘What the hell are you doing in here?' he shot at her in angry disbelief.

‘I was just leaving—'

‘You were hiding behind the door
listening
!' he contradicted in pure outrage.

‘No, I wasn't listening.' Ellie was genuinely shocked by the level of his annoyance, and then, as she recognised him, her own tension rocketed right off the scale.

No, they hadn't met before, but there was a dirty great enormous portrait of the guy in the ground-floor foyer. That portrait was the target of much teasing and admiring female comment. Why? Dionysios Alexiakis was drop-dead gorgeous. Dionysios Alexiakis, popularly known as Dio, the ruthless, asset-stripping Greek billionaire who ran Alexiakis International. Oh, dear heaven, she registered sickly, she'd picked the wrong set of double doors to intrude behind. Now both her job
and
Meg's had to be on the line!

A grey-haired older man appeared from behind Dio Alexiakis. Frowning at her in dismay, he dug out a mobile phone. ‘She's not the regular cleaner, Dio. I'll get onto security straight away.'

‘There's no need for that,' Ellie protested through teeth that were starting to chatter. ‘I'm just covering for the usual cleaner tonight…that's all. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you…I was just about to step back outside—'

‘But you had no business being here in the first place,' the older man condemned.

Dio Alexiakis studied her broodingly, eyes so dark they glittered like reflective mirrors and unnerved her. ‘She was hiding behind the door, Millar.'

‘Look, it may have
looked
like I was hiding behind the door,' Ellie argued in growing desperation. ‘But why would I be hiding? Does that make sense? I'm just a cleaner. I can see I made a mistake coming in here, and I'm really sorry. I'll get out right now—'

Without warning, a large brown hand stretched out to close round her narrow wrist and halt her backward drift towards the door. ‘You're not going anywhere. What's your name?'

‘Ellie…I mean, Eleanor Morgan…what are you
doing
?' she gasped.

But it was too late. Dio Alexiakis had already tugged loose the scarf she had tied round her head. Her silvery pale hair fell round her shoulders in tumbled disarray. He towered over her, easily six foot three. Feeling menaced by his sheer size, Ellie gazed up at him, green eyes locking into fathomless black.

Her tummy clenched as if she had dropped from a height, the oddest sensation of dizziness making her head swim and her knees tremble. His frowning appraisal had become an outright smouldering stare of sexual assessment.

‘You don't look like any cleaner I've ever met,' he finally breathed in a roughened, accented undertone.

‘You meet a lot?' Ellie heard herself ask foolishly, but then she had been thrown way off balance by what she had seen in his eyes. That age-old oversexed male to female reaction she despised.

‘Ellie…there
is
an Eleanor Morgan on the maintenance roster,' the older man he had referred to as Millar cut in flatly. ‘But she's supposed to be working on level eight, and Security haven't cleared her for this floor. I'll have her supervisor sent up to identify her.'

As the other man relayed that information, the Greek tycoon's hard, dark features tautened. ‘
No.
Get off that phone now. The fewer people who know about this intrusion the better.' Releasing her wrist, he stepped back to swing out a swivel chair. ‘Take a seat, Ellie.'

‘But I—'

‘Sit!'
he emphasised, as if he was dealing with a puppy in dire need of basic training.

Her teeth locking together at that style of address, Ellie
dropped down, her slim back rigid but her heartbeat still racing. So she had walked in where she shouldn't have. She had apologised. In fact she had all but grovelled, she reflected resentfully. So why the continuing fuss?

‘Perhaps you'd care to explain what you're doing on this floor? Why you came into this particular office and why you chose to stay and eavesdrop behind a door?' Dio Alexiakis spelt out with harsh exactitude.

The silence simmered. Momentarily, Ellie wondered if bursting into tears would get her off the hook. She met those hard black eyes and her heart skipped a startled beat. With Dio Alexiakis already behaving as if she had committed a criminal offence, honesty now seemed the wisest and safest course.

‘I've been having a bit of a problem with this bloke who works late on level eight,' Ellie admitted with fierce reluctance.

‘What sort of problem?' Millar prompted.

Dio Alexiakis let his intense dark gaze roam with bold intimacy over Ellie's small tense figure, lingering at length on the tilted thrust of her breasts defined by the overall and the slender perfection of her legs. As mortified colour ran up beneath her fair skin his wide, sensual mouth quirked. ‘Look at her, Millar. Then tell me you still need an answer to that question,' he advised drily.

Still reeling resentfully from that shameless clothes-stripping appraisal, Ellie breathed jerkily. ‘I mentioned the situation to the woman who normally works up here and asked if I could switch floors with her for a night. After a
lot
of persuasion, she agreed, and she did warn me not to clean the office behind the double doors…but unfortunately there are two sets of double doors—'

‘So there are,' Dio Alexiakis conceded, his agreement smooth.

‘I made a simple mistake, and I was about to slip out again
when I heard somebody coming,' Ellie confided tautly. ‘I was scared it was a security guard. He might've asked what I was doing up here, and that could have got Meg into trouble. I dived behind the door so that I wouldn't be seen. It was a stupid thing to do—'

‘Security haven't been up here since six,' the older man interposed, unimpressed. ‘And when Mr Alexiakis arrived just ten minutes ago this entire floor was empty.'

‘Well, I don't know who it was. He stood in the doorway for about twenty seconds and then went away again…' Wondering why her reasonable explanation was being challenged, Ellie found her voice trailing away.

Expelling his breath in a slow, measured hiss, Dio Alexiakis lounged back against the edge of a nearby desk and glanced at the anxious older man. ‘Go on home, Millar. I can deal with this.'

‘I should stay and sort this out for you—'

‘You have a dinner date to keep,' Dio reminded him drily. ‘I've made you late enough as it is.'

Millar looked as if he was about to protest, and then, meeting his employer's expectant scrutiny, he nodded. Just before he took his leave, he paused to remark gruffly, ‘My thoughts will be with you tomorrow, Dio.'

Dio Alexiakis tensed, his eyes veiling. ‘Thank you.'

He closed the door in the older man's wake and swung back to survey Ellie.

‘I'm afraid I can't trust your word on this, Ellie,' he drawled in a tone of daunting finality. ‘You listened to a very confidential dialogue—'

‘I wasn't listening…I wasn't interested!' Ellie told him frantically, intimidated much against her own will.

‘I've got two questions for you,' Dio Alexiakis advanced softly. ‘Do you want to keep your job?'

Ellie stiffened even more, despising him for using such bullying tactics. ‘Of course I do—'

‘And do you want the other lady who allowed you to come up here and work in her place to keep her job?'

Ellie sagged as if he had punched her, and turned very pale. ‘Please don't involve Meg in this,' she argued strickenly. ‘This was
my
mistake, not hers!'

‘No, she chose to break the rules,' Dio Alexiakis contradicted with lethal cool. ‘She's as much involved in this as you are. And if you
are
some kind of spy, in the pay of one of my competitors, you must've made it well worth her while to agree to tonight's switch.'

‘A
spy
? What on earth…?' Ellie whispered unevenly, her whole attention focused on that strong, dark face.

‘Right at this moment, I find your reference to another unseen and unidentifiable individual's presence rather too convenient,' Dio Alexiakis admitted bluntly. ‘If there is an information leak, you have already supplied yourself with the excuse of a third party to take the heat.'

‘I d-don't know what you're talking about.' He had her so much on edge that for the first time in her life Ellie couldn't think straight.

‘For your sake, I hope you don't,' Dio Alexiakis conceded, with every appearance of grim sincerity. ‘But you must understand that to just let you walk back out of here is too big a risk for me to take. If you shared what you heard with the wrong person it could seriously damage my plans.'

BOOK: Expectant Bride
13.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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