Authors: Marie Kelly
The Billionaire’s Runaway Bride
Grace had looked around the pool area, the crystal waters shimmering in the heat of the Grecian summer. Sighing, she had once more wondered what she was doing there, why she was amongst the ‘chosen five’. Flicking her look to the man seated amongst the other ‘four’ she had grimaced. Tall, with stunning good looks and a body that any woman could dream of forever, Alexos Manetas enjoyed the giggling flirtatious attention of the women, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, an almost bored smile sitting his handsome face.
“Grace” the word hissed out as she had turned her head to look at the older woman beside her.
“Would it have killed you to put on a bikini……just for this once?”
Scowling, she had looked into the distance, her voice a mask of indifference hiding the irritation of her mother’s words.
“Please mother…do you really think that he is going to take one inch of interest in me? Look at him - he is enjoying his harem over there”
With a cluck of her tongue the woman had glared down at her daughter “You are every bit as lovely as they are”
Grace made a ‘humph’ sound as she had once more regarded them. When they had arrived the previous day, she had tried to make conversation with a few of the other women, quickly realising that there was not much by way of thoughts in their heads, they solely interested in shopping and how their hair looked, the kind of women Grace had been made to endure at finishing school as they had worked so hard to turn her into one of them. With a small smile playing on her lips she had remembered telling her eloqution teacher that she had little desire to be another Stepford wife, the comment seeing her in detention for a week.
Once more looking up at Alexos, she had found herself eye to eye with the Greek playboy billionaire, his glasses which he had pulled off swinging from his hand as he had chewed on one leg. The electric shock that had passed through her as their eyes had met had been unexpected, a long shiver running through her body, as she had held his look, her large hazel eyes holding his dark almost black ones, Grace feeling the heat filling her as a slow smile had touched his wide lips. Inexplicably she had felt like a bug under the magnifying glass, burning heat filling her and rising to her cheeks as she had dropped her eyes from his, the need to not feel those enquiring eyes burning deeply into her swamping her.
Surprised by her own reaction she had held down the curse, knowing that his look was amused as he too was wondering why such a plain Jane would have been selected to his magnificent gathering. Grace stood out so vividly from the other women, all stunning, tall and perfectly turned out and all she noted, with a disdainful look, so eager to please him. She on the other hand was small, 5.4 in stocking feet with what had often been described as an angel’s face, her long wavy blonde hair pulled back primly in a pony tail which fell halfway down her back.
“Could you not at least let your hair down…it really suits you that way” again the woman beside her had hissed out the words, the frustration at her daughter so clear on her voice.
With annoyance now she had once more turned her attention back to the other woman, relieved to have something else to focus on as she had desperately tried not to stare back at the man responsible for her presence there, still feeling the sizzling burning of his stare on her skin.
“It is too hot” she had murmured absently before rising to her feet, the need to move filling her.
“I am going for a swim” causing the other woman to groan softly.
“Grace…please” her mother had pled “You will look a sight wet. How can you compete with the others if you don’t try?”
Giving her mother an amused smile she had shuffled off the bright wrap she had earlier pulled on as protection from the sun.
“Oh mother, you really don’t think that I am competition for those women?” her look scathing as her mother had sighed wearily.
“You have a better fortune than they do” she had offered lamely as Grace had looked pityingly back.
“The man is wealthier than everybody here put together…like he cares”
With a softer voice, the hint of fear so evident her mother had seemed nervous “Grace…if your father thinks that you haven’t tried…you know how angry he will be”
The smile had left the young woman’s lips, her small head nodding, and her eyes hard. “Yes…I know…and it is the ONLY reason I am here at all mother” as turning she had moved to the pool, deftly diving perfectly into the water.
The sudden cold had made her give a small gasp, before she had felt the relief from the midday-heat envelop her. When the invite had arrived for her to attend the weekend retreat at the island of Alexos Manetas, her father normally so cold and stern had smiled, his eyes falling on his daughter.
“Finally, you are good for something” his cruel words reminding her of how worthless she was in his eyes. “Alexos would be a good husband for you. He is looking for a wife. You will be it”
Her head had whipped up at his words, shock on her lovely features “But…I don’t want to be his wife” She had retorted, her father’s expression becoming black with rage.
“You will do as you are told. If this man deems you fit to marry then you will thank your lucky stars that such a man would look twice at the likes of you”
Normally his disdainful look would have reduced her to silence, her bullying father’s violent outbursts terrifying to see, however, she had other plans, important plans.
“But papa…I want to go to university”
His derisory laugh had made her flinch “You are heiress to my Company” the words spat out in disgust.
Grace was used to this, knowing that her father had never forgiven her for not being the son he had longed for.
“As such you are only good for one thing. That is marriage…and a good marriage, and hopefully producing sons” his cold eyes had looked over briefly at her mother “Hopefully you will do better than your mother did” Grace having had to watch as her mother had flinched. “You will marry one who will strengthen this company…it is your sole job in life…so forget university. I will hear no more of this”.
Moving smoothly through the water, her strokes perfect hardly making a splash she had given a small humourless smile. Initially the idea of being called to some remote island with her mother as chaperone had terrified Grace, but her best friend Daryle had laughed as she had explained the situation.
“Oh my God Grace, he has those parties every month, and every time there are at least five women, all summoned to see if they meet the great Alexos’ standards”
Daryle was Grace’s best friend. He was four years older than she, and a workaholic accountant who had excelled in his chosen profession. The two had become firm friends in the year she had volunteered at the animal shelter, Grace only allowed to work there as it looked good for the company that she was involved with the local community.
Frowning at him she had been surprised “Why?” Her voice questioning as he had grinned back
“Well…his dad is desperate for him to settle down and produce grandkids…so he makes him. Not one woman has met his requirements yet”
His eyes had twinkled mischievously “Although if the stories are to be believed many of them have tried REAL hard if you know what I mean”; Grace had chuckled at the way his eyebrows had wriggled with innuendo.
“So…I really shouldn’t be worried then?” she had mused, as Daryle had shaken his head
“Nope…not that you’re not hot as hell…but you’re not exactly the rich bitch type”
Turning onto her back she had felt the small laugh leave her lips reminded of his choice of phrase, knowing that the other four women all fawning and batting their overly made up eyes were exactly the ‘rich bitch’ types, sighing as she had wished them all well in their quest.
Feeling the water splash, she had looked around in surprise to see which of her ‘opposition’ had dared to upset their perfectly set hair or wet the smallest of bikinis she had ever seen. Feeling the flush once more rise she had watched as Alexos himself had moved with an almost animal grace towards her.
“I applaud your decision Miss Leotta” he had smiled over at her.
As he had stopped feet from her, Grace had seen him up close for the first time, having managed the previous evening to stay in the background as the other women had swamped him before they had been shown to their rooms. He was stunning. Thick jet-black hair now plastered to his head, as she imagined hers was too, with strong sculpted features smiling down at her. His wide mouth so sensual, with eyes darker than sin and every bit as tempting had held hers almost hypnotically. Grace would not have thought it possible to blush in the coolness of the water, but the heat spreading over her cheeks proved otherwise as she had given him a nervous half smile back.
“Y…your pool was very tempting”
She had felt the blush deepen as his eyes had unashamedly moved down her taking in her small yet perfect figure, slim hips, nipped waist and large breasts for her build, all hidden within the prim black one piece costume, his smile growing wider.
“Yes. It became more tempting to me also”
Giving a shaky attempt at a laugh she nodded, ignoring the obvious innuendo in his tone “Best not to get overheated…and I enjoy swimming”
With that she had began moving once more, finding the man easily keeping up with her. At an early age she had been a keen swimmer excelling in the sport, her skill rivalling that of any of the men she had met at swim meets. He however, seemed to be able to keep up with her with little effort, the two completing two lengths together before she had stopped, as he stopped with her, not even out of breath she noticed.
“You swim well Mr Manetas” she had said with approval as he had stood, his height raising him out of the water to his waist, Grace trying hard not to stare at the broad shoulders and slim muscular belly.
“As do you” he had chuckled softly “But please let us not stand on formalities. I hope that you will call me Alexos”
Nodding she had given a shy smile.
“Of course and please Grace” rewarded with an approving smile from him. The cry from the group of women had seen him grit his teeth, Grace surprised at the look of irritation which had crossed his features.
“Alexos!” one pouting beauty had cried “Come back…we miss you”
Giving her a rueful smile he had grinned, a sensual wicked curve of his lips “Perhaps you and I should head out to sea…see how far from all these guests we can go”
Giving a small smile, she had not been aware of the softening of her eyes, or the way the amber flecks had shone so much brighter. “Ah…the sea, I do love the sea” her voice wistful as he had given a chuckle
“Well I see my charms are not enough to beat mother-nature” he had drawled softly, Grace once more feeling the colour rise as she had stammered.
“No…no…thank you for …” her voice had trailed off weakly “the swim”
Alexos had paused, his eyes taking in the young woman before him. There was nothing unnatural about this one, no false sense of modesty, no hidden agenda, no vanity. Her blushes and nervousness pointed to an innocence that was unusual in that day and age, Grace Leotta fascinated him.
“Do you dive?”
His question seeing her eyes widen in surprise before she had nodded “Yes…I have since I was a child”
Nodding with approval he had flicked a look at the other four women all trying so hard to lure him back into their circle. “You should explore the reefs off the island. They are well known for their wildlife”
The mention of the reef had seen her face brighten, an excited glow filling her, Alexos held his breath at the change in her. “I would like to do that very much” she had grinned, wondering if such excursions would be possible.
With another wide grin he had nodded “Excellent. Then tomorrow at seven we will explore. I will ensure all the equipment is available”
Spluttering softly the smile had fallen from her small mouth “No…No…I couldn’t put you out”
With one fluid movement he had hauled himself effortlessly out of the pool, “No trouble. I enjoy diving. It will be fun to have someone to accompany me”, his smile knowing as he had once more turned his attention to the gaggle of beauties with open arms begging for his return.
To say her mother was delighted would have been an understatement, her face alive with relief and excitement.
“Your father will be happy” she had grinned, phoning him as soon as they had returned to their rooms to change for dinner, his voice approving for once as he had told her to carry on with the good work.
Sighing, Grace had finished her shower, allowing her hair to fall around her shoulders pulled up at the side with an ornate clasp. When the invitation had arrived, her father had insisted on his assistant shopping with her for the correct clothing to attend such a prestigious event, Grace grimaced once more as she had fidgeted with the sleeve which had fallen over her shoulder revealing the soft creamy curve of her skin. The dress was beautiful, delicate and far more revealing than she was used to. The bodice pulled her in at the front, offering an enticing glimpse of her perfect cleavage. Grace sighed with exasperation wondering how it could do that while still be able to fall so low at the back, showing off the perfect curve of her spine. The skirt had dropped to the floor in gentle folds of chiffon and the delicate designer shoes had peeked out from beneath. Moving into the room, her mother had stopped, her eyes watering as she had looked at her daughter