Demetriou Demands His Child(5)

By: Kate Hewitt

She was beautiful, yes, and charming, if a little youthful and shy. There was an innate loveliness to her face, and he liked the openness he saw in her eyes as she glanced around the room, a small, wistful smile curving her lush pink mouth. But to feel this imagine plucking the pins from her hair and letting the dark locks tumble down her shoulders, to envision plundering that pink mouth with his own, fitting her hips snugly against his...

Silently Alekos swore. The last thing he needed to do was fan that dangerous flame by picturing such things. He tried for a polite smile instead.

‘So, Iolanthe, are you from Athens?’

‘My father has a house here, but I’ve lived most of my life in the country.’ She tilted her head up to smile at him, her nose wrinkling and a new, wry expression lighting her eyes. She still held the mask to her face like the security blanket it so obviously was; her other hand rested lightly on his shoulder, a butterfly’s touch. Alekos had already fitted his palm to the delicate dip of her waist, his fingers fanning out along her hip. He could feel the warmth of her through the thin satin of her dress, felt her tremble slightly in his loose embrace.

‘The country?’ he prompted, determined to keep the polite chit-chat going and in doing so cool down his libido.

‘My father’s estate,’ she clarified with another appealing wrinkle of her nose.

‘Ah.’ A rich young heiress, no doubt, kept behind high walls until she was brought out to be admired and duly married off.

Iolanthe laughed, the sound surprisingly low and throaty, and filled with genuine humour. ‘Yes, it is as boring as it sounds. I’ve been packed off to the country, practically wrapped in cotton wool. And now I suppose you will think me a dull conversationalist indeed.’

‘Not at all,’ Alekos returned smoothly. ‘I find you refreshing.’

‘Which makes me sound like a drink of water.’

‘Or the finest champagne.’ His gaze met hers and he saw awareness and heat flicker through her eyes. Why was he flirting with her? He didn’t seem to be able to resist. ‘Will you return to the country after this ball?’

‘Almost certainly, but I’d like to stay in Athens.’ Her face softened, her gaze distant. ‘I’d like to do something.’ A tiny sigh escaped her. ‘I feel like I’ve spent my whole life waiting. Have you ever felt like that?’ She lifted her gaze to his, and Alekos started at the wistful openness he saw there, the vulnerability and honesty he saw that he always fought so hard to hide in himself.

‘Sometimes,’ he allowed. The last four years had been a slow burn of waiting. Revenge was a long game. But he had no intention of telling Iolanthe any of that. ‘What are you waiting for?’ he asked. Marriage, no doubt, to someone dully appropriate.

‘For excitement,’ Iolanthe answered immediately, and Alekos heard both longing and eagerness in her voice. ‘Adventure—it doesn’t have to be something big. I’m not looking to scale mountains, or—I don’t know—pan for gold.’ She laughed, and again that throaty sound had desire sweeping through him, heat pooling in his groin. ‘Now I really sound like a fool.’

‘You don’t,’ Alekos assured her. She sounded young and hopeful and completely sincere. It was a surprisingly heady combination. ‘But what kind of adventure do you mean?’

‘Something...something that makes life worthwhile. Important, even.’ Iolanthe’s voice turned determined as her hand clenched instinctively on his shoulder. Alekos felt a corresponding surge of protectiveness that he barely understood. Yes, she was young and impressionable and naïve, but she was also a stranger. Why did he care? Why did it alarm him to think of her fragile dreams being shattered by the harsh realities of life? Just as his had once been, a cruel blow had left him reeling for years.

‘Important?’ he prompted, an edge entering his voice. Dancing with this wisp of a girl, hearing her whisper her dreams, was presenting him with far more of both an emotional and physical challenge than he’d ever anticipated. He wanted her in ways he couldn’t even begin to contemplate. He wanted to make her laugh again, and he wanted to kiss that soft pink mouth.

‘I suppose everyone wants to feel important,’ Iolanthe answered with a dismissive shrug of her slim shoulders. ‘And it’s not that I want to be important myself... I couldn’t care less about that. But I want to do something that makes a difference to somebody, even if it’s just something small. I want to live, not just watch other people do it, my nose pressed up against the glass.’ She laughed, and this time the sound was tinged with bitter resignation. ‘But what does it matter? I’m only likely to end up married.’

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