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The Wealthy Greek's Contract Wife

By:Penny Jordan

The Wealthy Greek's Contract Wife
Penny Jordan

       Chapter One



‘SO, what are you going to do, then?' Charley asked anxiously.

Lizzie looked at her younger sisters, the familiar need to protect them,   no matter what the cost to herself, stiffening her resolve.

‘There is only one thing I can do,' she answered. ‘I shall have to go.'

‘What? Fly out to Thessalonica?'

‘It's the only way.'

‘But we haven't got any money.'

That was Ruby, the baby of the family at twenty-two, sitting at the   kitchen table while her five-year-old twin sons, who had been allowed a   rare extra half an hour of television, sat uncharacteristically quietly   in the other room, so that the sisters could discuss the problems   threatening them.

No, they hadn't got any money-and that was her fault, Lizzie acknowledged guiltily.

Six years earlier, when their parents had died together, drowned by a   freak wave whilst they were on holiday, Lizzie had promised herself that   she would do everything she could to keep the family together. She had   left university, and had been working for a prestigious London-based   interior design partnership, in pursuit of her dream of getting a job as   a set designer. Charley had just started university, and Ruby had been   waiting to sit her GCSE exams.

Theirs had been a close and loving family, and the shock of losing their   parents had been overwhelming-especially for Ruby, who, in her  despair,  had sought the love and reassurance she so desperately needed  in the  arms of the man who had abandoned her and left her pregnant with  the  adored twin boys.

There had been other shocks for them to face, though. Their handsome,   wonderful father and their pretty, loving mother, who had created for   them the almost fairytale world of happiness in which the family had   lived, had done just that-lived in a fairytale which had little or no   foundation in reality.

The beautiful Georgian rectory in the small Cheshire village in which   they had grown up had been heavily mortgaged, their parents had not had   any life insurance, and they had had large debts. In the end there had   been no alternative but for their lovely family home to be sold, so   those debts could be paid off.

With the property market booming, and her need to do everything she   could to support and protect her sisters, Lizzie had used her small   savings to set up in business on her own in an up-and-coming area south   of Manchester-Charley would be able to continue with her studies at   Manchester University, Ruby could have a fresh start, and she could   establish a business which would support them all.

At first things had gone well. Lizzie had won contracts to model the   interiors of several new building developments, and from that had come   commissions from home-buyers to design the interiors of the properties   they had bought. Off the back of that success Lizzie had taken the   opportunity to buy a much larger house from one of the developers for   whom she'd worked-with, of course, a much larger mortgage. It had seem   to make sense at the time-after all, with the twins and the three of   them they'd definitely needed the space, just as they had needed a large   four-wheel drive vehicle. She used it to visit the sites on which she   worked, and Ruby used it to take the boys to school. In addition to  that  her clients, a small local firm, had been pressuring her to buy,  so  that they could wind up the development and move on to a new site.

But then had come the credit crunch, and overnight almost everything had   changed. The bottom had dropped out of the property market, meaning   that they were unable to trade down and reduce the mortgage because of   the value of the house had decreased so much, and with that of course   Lizzie's commissions had dried up. The money she had been putting away   in a special savings account had not increased anything like as much as   she had expected, and financially things had suddenly become very dark   indeed.

Right now Charley was still working as a project manager for a local   firm, and Ruby had said that she would get a job. But neither Lizzie nor   Charley wanted her to do that. They both wanted the twins to have a   mother at home, just as they themselves had had. And, as Lizzie had said   six months ago, when they'd first started to feel the effects of the   credit crunch, she would get a job working for someone else, and she   still had money owing to her from various clients. They would manage.

But it turned out she had been overly optimistic. She hadn't been able   to get a job, because what industry there was in the area geared towards   personal spending was shedding workers, and with the cost of basics   going up they were now struggling to manage. They were only just about   keeping their heads above water. Many of her clients had cancelled their   contracts, and some of them still owed her large sums of money she   suspected she would never receive.                       
       
           



       

In fact things were so dire that Lizzie had already made a private   decision to go to the local supermarket and see if she could get work   there. But then the letter had arrived, and now they-or rather she was   in an even more desperate situation.

Two of her more recent clients, for whom she had done a good deal of   work, had further commissioned her to do the interior design for a small   block of apartments they had bought in northern Greece. On a beautiful   promontory, the apartments were to have been the first stage in a   luxurious and exclusive holiday development which, when finished, would   include villas, three five-star hotels, a marina, restaurants and   everything that went with it.

The client had given her carte blanche to furnish them in an ‘upmarket Notting Hill style'.

Notting Hill might be a long way from their corner of industrialised   Manchester, on the Cheshire border, but Lizzie had known exactly what   her clients had meant: white walls, swish bathrooms and kitchens, shiny   marble floors, glass furniture, exotic plants and flowers, squishy   sofas …

Lizzie had flown out to see the apartments with her clients, a   middle-aged couple whom she had never really been able to take to. She   had been disappointed by the architectural design of the apartments. She   had been expecting something creative and innovative that still fitted   perfectly into the timeless landscape, but what she had seen had been   jarringly out of place. A six-storey-high rectangular box of so-called   ‘duplex apartments', reached by a narrow track that forked into two,   with one branch sealed off by bales of dangerous-looking barbed wire.   Hardly the luxury holiday homes location she had been expecting.

But when she had voiced her doubts to her clients, suggesting that the   apartments might be difficult to sell, they had assured her that she was   worrying unnecessarily.

‘Look, the fact is that we bargained the builder down to such a good   price that we couldn't lose out even if we let the whole lot out for a   tenner a week,' Basil Rainhill had joked cheerfully. At least Lizzie had   assumed it as a joke. It was hard to tell with Basil at times.

He came from money, as his wife was fond of telling her. ‘Born with a   silver spoon in his mouth, and of course Basil has such an eye for a   good investment. It's a gift, you know. It runs in his family.'

Only now the gift had run out. And just before the Rainhills themselves   had done the same thing disappearing, leaving a mountain of debt behind   them, Basil Rainhill had told Lizzie that, since he couldn't now  afford  to pay her bill, he was instead making over to her a twenty per  cent  interest in the Greek apartment block.

Lizzie would much rather have had the money she was owed, but her   solicitor had advised her to accept, and so she had become a partner in   the ownership of the apartments along with the Rainhills and Tino  Manos,  the Greek who owned the land.

Design-wise, she had done her best with the limited possibilities   presented by the apartment block, sticking to her rule of sourcing   furnishings as close to where she was working as possible, and she had   been pleased with the final result. She'd even been cautiously keeping   her fingers crossed that, though she suspected they wouldn't sell, when   the whole complex was finished she might look forward to the apartments   being let to holidaymakers and bringing her in some much-needed  income.

But now she had received this worrying, threatening letter, from a man   she had never heard of before, insisting that she fly out to   Thessalonica to meet him. It stated that there were ‘certain legal and   financial matters with regard to your partnership with Basil Rainhill   and my cousin Tino Manos which need to be resolved in person', and   included the frighteningly ominous words, ‘Failure to respond to this   letter will result in an instruction to my solicitors to deal with   matters on my behalf'. The letter had been signed Ilios Manos.

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