Demetriou Demands His Child(9)

By: Kate Hewitt

She did neither, enduring not one but three dances with Lukas while he shuffled about stoically, barely engaging her in conversation as her gaze moved around the crowded ballroom, searching for that familiar, dominant figure. She didn’t see him, and the hope and excitement that had made her insides fizz began to trickle away.

Several hours later Iolanthe’s feet were aching along with her heart. She’d danced and then stood with Lukas while he talked business with various guests, always keeping an eye on her, clearly having no intention of allowing her to slip away from him again. She hadn’t caught so much as a glimpse of Alekos. Clearly he’d had enough of her. Innocence was probably interesting only for so long.

Now the ball was ending, guests streaming out of the hotel towards the queue of waiting limos and luxury sedans.

‘Where is my father?’ Iolanthe asked Lukas.

‘He’s coming shortly. He wants us to wait.’

Iolanthe sighed, wanting only to go home to bed. The excitement of attending her first ball had gone completely flat now that she knew she wouldn’t see Alekos again. She was Cinderella minus a glass slipper, and soon she’d be left in rags with a pumpkin for a carriage. And Lukas for a husband. She suppressed a shudder at the thought.

Lukas checked his phone, frowning. ‘Your father needs me in a meeting.’

‘A meeting at two in the morning?’ Iolanthe knew she shouldn’t be surprised. Her father had always worked long hours. He often stayed in Athens for months at a time, returning to his country estate only for the most cursory of visits.

‘I’ll be back shortly,’ Lukas told her. ‘You should wait inside.’

Disheartened beyond all measure, Iolanthe watched Lukas stride away before she turned back to the hotel’s opulent lobby. With her feet aching in her new shoes and her body throbbing disconsolately from the memory of Alekos’s touch, she felt more alone than she had in a long while. More lonely, and with nothing to look forward to.

She was about to sink into one of the elegant armchairs gracing the marble-floored space when her whole body stiffened with awareness, every sense coming exquisitely alive as Alekos walked out of the hotel’s bar.

She started towards him instinctively, one hand outstretched, her sense of loneliness evaporating in the sudden, demanding need to see him, speak to him, touch him—

Iolanthe didn’t care how reckless or desperate she seemed to him or anyone else. She had waited her whole life, and in that moment she was sure it had been for this. For a future that didn’t look like a prison cell, a possibility of excitement and adventure. For Alekos.

* * *

Alekos had spent the last two hours drinking steadily in the hotel’s bar. So much so that while he wasn’t precisely drunk, he questioned the vision of loveliness in front of him, thinking he must have imagined Iolanthe into being. He’d certainly been thinking about her enough, though he’d tried not to.

He’d watched from the edge of the ballroom as she’d danced with that wet blanket of a keeper, a man who seemed ill at ease in his own body, shuffling his feet and holding Iolanthe awkwardly.

Then when Alekos could bear no more he’d headed for the bar. He couldn’t stand seeing Iolanthe with anyone, even someone as unthreatening as her buffoonish dance partner. He couldn’t shake the deep-seated feeling that she was his, that no one else could touch her. He’d been her first kiss, and he wanted to be even more. Somehow Iolanthe, this innocent sprite, had branded herself on his soul, reminded him of what he’d once been like, what life was like when you held on to happiness and hope. When you believed good things could happen.

And now she was here, real and alive, her face suffused with happiness at the mere sight of him.

‘Alekos...’ Iolanthe whispered, her mouth curving into a smile of pure joy as she reached out one hand to touch him.

Alekos responded instinctively to her unhidden response, even as he acknowledged that she made no sense. He was a stranger who wanted her body. Didn’t she realise that? Didn’t she understand how dangerous he was to her well-being?

Alekos wrapped his hand around hers to keep her from touching him, and realised instantly that he’d made a mistake. Instead of pushing her away, he merely pulled her closer, finding it impossible to resist her enchanting allure.

‘I thought you’d left.’ His voice came out low and gravelly, harsh with wanting.

‘No, not yet.’ She spoke in a breathless whisper, her eyes shining. ‘I’m so happy to see you again.’

Briefly Alekos closed his eyes. Iolanthe had no idea what such heartfelt honesty did to him. ‘Iolanthe...’

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