When Christakos Meets His Match

By: Abby Green

CHAPTER ONE

Five months later...

‘CARA...DO YOU have to leave so soon?’

The voice oozed sultry sex appeal. Alexio stalled for a second in the act of buttoning up his shirt—not because he was tempted to stay but because, if anything, he felt even more eager to leave.

He schooled his features and turned to face the woman in the bed. She was all honeyed limbs and artfully tumbled glossy brown hair. Huge dark eyes, a pouting mouth and the absence of a sheet were doing little to help Alexio forget why he’d chosen to take her to his hotel suite in Milan after his brother Rafaele’s wedding reception last night.

She was stunning. Perfect.

Even so, he felt no resurgence of desire. And Alexio didn’t like to acknowledge the fact that the sex had been wholly underwhelming. On the surface it had been fine; but on some deeper level it had left him cold. He switched on the charm he was famed for, though, and smiled.

‘Sorry, bellissima, I have to fly to Paris this morning for work.’

The woman, whose name he all of a sudden wasn’t entirely sure of—Carmela?—leant back and stretched seductively, displaying her perfectly cosmetically enhanced naked breasts to their best advantage, and pouted even more. ‘You have to leave right now?’

Alexio kept his smile in place and when he’d finished dressing bent down and pressed a light kiss to her mouth, escaping before she could twine her arms around his neck. Claustrophobia was rising within him.

‘We had fun, cara...I’ll call you.’

Now the seductive pout was gone, and the woman’s real nature shone through as her eyes turned hard. She knew when she was being blown off and clearly did not like it when the man in question was as sought-after as Alexio Christakos.

She stood up from the bed naked and flounced off to the bathroom, issuing a stream of Italian petulance. Alexio winced slightly but let out a sigh of relief as soon as she’d disappeared behind a slamming door.

He shook his head as he made his way out of the suite and towards the lobby of the plush hotel in the private lift reserved for VIP guests. Women. He loved them, but he loved them at a distance. In his bed when it suited him and then out of it for as long as he cared to indulge them—which invariably wasn’t for long.

After years of witnessing his mother’s cold behaviour towards his father, who had remained in slavish thrall to her beauty and eternal elusiveness, Alexio had developed a very keen sense of self-protection around women. He could handle cold and aloof because he was used to that, and he preferred it.

His father, thwarted by his emotionally unavailable wife, had turned to his son, making him the centre of his world. It had been too much. From an early age Alexio had chafed against the claustrophobia of his father’s over-attention. And now when anyone—especially a woman—became even remotely over-emotional, or expected too much, he shut down inside.

Brief encounters were his forté. Witnessing his half-brother’s wedding the day before had inevitably brought up questions of his own destiny, but Alexio, at the age of thirty, felt no compelling need to settle down yet.

He did envisage a wife and family at some stage...far in the future. When the time came his wife would be perfect. Beautiful, accommodating. Undemanding of Alexio’s emotions. Above all, Alexio would not fall into the same trap as his father: tortured for life because he’d coveted a woman who didn’t covet him. He’d been disabused at an early age of the notion that love might be involved.

He thought of his older brother turning up at his mother’s funeral and all the accompanying unwelcome emotions he’d felt that day: shock, anger, hurt, betrayal.

Used to blocking out emotions, Alexio had relegated the incident to the back of his mind. He hadn’t sought Cesar da Silva out, hadn’t mentioned it again to Rafaele—even though he knew Rafaele had invited their half-brother to his wedding. Predictably enough, after that first and last terse meeting, he hadn’t turned up.

Emotions were messy, unpredictable. They tripped you up. Look at Rafaele! His life had just been turned upside down by a woman who had kept his son from him for four years. And yet two months after meeting her again he was getting married, looking foolishly in love and blithely forgetting the lessons his own father had taught him about the fickle nature of women.

As far as Alexio was concerned—even if Rafaele appeared to be happily embarking on wedded bliss, and no matter how cute his three-and-a-half-year-old nephew was—his brother had been played for a fool by his new wife. Why wouldn’t she now want to marry Rafaele Falcone, wunderkind of the worldwide automobile industry, with an estimated wealth running into the billions? Especially if she had a son to support?

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