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The Wealthy Greek's Contract Wife(2)

By:Penny Jordan



His summons couldn't have come at worse time, but the whole tone of   Ilios Manos's letter was too threatening for Lizzie to feel she could   refuse to obey it. As apprehensive and unwilling to meet him as she was,   the needs of her family must come first. She had a responsibility to   them, a duty of love from which she would never abdicate, no matter what   the cost to herself. She had sworn that-promised it on the day of her   parents' funeral.

‘If this Greek wants to see you that badly he might at least have offered to pay your airfare,' Ruby grumbled.

Lizzie felt so guilty.

‘It's all my own fault. I should have realised that the property market   was over-inflated, and creating a bubble that would burst.'

‘Lizzie, you mustn't blame yourself.' Charley tried to comfort her. ‘And   as for realising what was happening-how could you when governments   didn't even know?'                       
       
           



       

Lizzie forced a small smile.

‘Surely if you tell the bank why you need to go to Greece they'll give you a loan?' Ruby suggested hopefully.

Charley shook her head. ‘The banks aren't giving any businesses loans at the moment. Not even successful ones.'

Lizzie bit her lip. Charley wasn't reproaching her for the failure of   her business, she knew, but she still felt terrible. Her sisters relied   on her. She was the eldest, the sensible one, the one the other two   looked to. She prided herself on being able to take care of them-but it   was a false pride, built on unstable foundations, as so much else in   this current terrible financial climate.

‘So what is poor Lizzie going to do? She's got this Greek threatening to   take things further if she doesn't go and see him, but how can she if   we haven't got any money?' Ruby asked their middle sister.

‘We have,' Lizzie suddenly remembered, with grateful relief. ‘We've got   my bucket money, and I can stay in one of the apartments.'

Lizzie's ‘bucket money' was the spare small change she had always put in   the decorative tin bucket in her office, in the days when she had   possessed ‘spare' change.

Two minutes later they were all looking at the small tin bucket, which was now on the kitchen table.

‘Do you think there'll be enough?' Ruby asked dubiously

There was only one way to find out.

‘Eighty-nine pounds,' Lizzie announced half an hour later, when the change had been counted.

‘Eighty-nine pounds and four pence,' Charley corrected her.

‘Will it be enough?' Ruby asked.

‘I shall make it enough,' Lizzie told them determinedly.

It would certainly buy an off-season low-cost airline ticket, and she   still had the keys for the apartments-apartments in which she held a   twenty per cent interest. She was surely perfectly entitled to stay in   one whilst she tried to sort out the mess the Rainhills had left behind.

How the mighty were fallen-or rather the not so mighty in her case,   Lizzie reflected tiredly. All she had wanted to do was provide for her   sisters and her nephews, to protect them and keep them safe financially,   so that never ever again would they have to endure the truly awful   spectre of repossession and destitution which had faced them after their   parents' death.





Chapter Two



NO! It was impossible, surely! The apartment block couldn't simply have disappeared.

But it had.

Lizzie blinked and looked again, desperately hoping she was seeing   things-or rather not seeing them-but it was no use. It still wasn't   there.

The apartment block had gone.

Where she had expected to see the familiar rectangular building there   was only roughly flattened earth, scarred by the tracks of heavy   building plant.

It had been a long and uncomfortable ride, in a taxi driven at full pelt   by a Greek driver who'd seemed bent on proving his machismo behind the   wheel, after an equally lacking in comfort flight on the low-cost   airline.

They had finally turned off the main highway to travel along the dusty,   narrow and rutted unfinished road that ran down to the tip of the   peninsula and the apartments. Whilst the taxi had bounded and rocked   from side to side, Lizzie had braced herself against the uncomfortable   movement, noticing as they passed it that where the road forked, and   where last year there had been rolls of spiked barbed wire blocking the   entrance to it, there were now imposing-looking padlocked wrought-iron   gates.

The taxi driver had dropped her off when the ruts in the road had become   so bad that he had refused to go any further. She had insisted on him   giving her a price before they had left the airport, knowing how little   money she had to spare, and before she handed it over to him she took   from him a card with a telephone number on it, so that she could call   for a taxi to take her into the city to meet Ilios Manos after she had   settled herself into an apartment and made contact with him.

Lizzie stared at the scarred ground where the apartment block should   have been, and then lifted her head, turning to look out over the   headland, where the rough sparse grass met the still winter-grey of the   Aegean. The brisk wind blowing in from the sea tasted of salt-or was  the  salt from her own wretched tears of shock and disbelief?

What on earth was going on? Basil had boasted to her that twenty per   cent entitled her to two apartments, each worth two hundred thousand   euros. Lizzie would have put the value closer to one hundred thousand,   but it still meant that whatever value they'd potentially held had   vanished-along with the building. It was money she simply could not   afford to lose.                       
       
           



       

What on earth was she going to do? She had just under fifty euros in her   purse, nowhere to stay, no immediate means of transport to take her   back to the city, no apartments-nothing. Except, of course, for the   threat implied in the letter she had received. She still had that to   deal with-and the man who had made that threat.


To say that Ilios Manos was not in a good mood was to put it mildly,   and, like Zeus, king of the gods himself, Ilios could make the   atmosphere around him rumble with the threat of dire consequences to   come when his anger was aroused. As it was now.

The present cause of his anger was his cousin Tino. Thwarted in his   attempt to get money out of Ilios via his illegal use of their   grandfather's land, he had now turned his attention to threatening to   challenge Ilios's right of inheritance. He was claiming that it was   implicit in the tone of their grandfather's will that Ilios should be   married, since the estate must be passed down through the family, male   to male. Of course Ilios knew this-just as he knew that ultimately he   must provide an heir.

Ilios had been tempted to dismiss Tino's threat, but to his fury his   lawyers had warned him that it might be better to avoid a potentially   long drawn-out and costly legal battle and simply give Tino the money he   wanted.

Give in to Tino's blackmail? Never. Ilios's mouth hardened with bitterness and pride.

Inside his head he could hear his lawyer's voice, saying apologetically,   ‘Well, in that case, then maybe you should think about finding  yourself  a wife.'

‘Why, when Tino doesn't have anything resembling a proper case?' Ilios had demanded savagely.

‘Because your cousin has nothing to lose and you have a very great deal.   Your time and your money could end up being tied up for years in a   complex legal battle.'

A battle which once engaged upon he would not be able to withdraw from unless and until he had won, Ilios acknowledged.

His lawyer had suggested he take some time to review the matter, perhaps   hoping Ilios knew that he would give in and give Tino the one million   euros he wanted-a small enough sum of money to a man who was, after  all,  a billionaire. But that wasn't the point. The point was that Tino   thought that he could get the better of him by simply putting his hand   out for money he hadn't earned. There was no way that Ilios was going  to  allow that.

He had been attempting to vent some of the fury he was feeling by   felling branches from an old and diseased olive tree when he had seen a   taxi come down the road to the headland, stopping to let its passenger   get out before turning round and going back the way it had come.

Now, still wearing the old hard hat bearing the Manos Construction logo   he had put on for protection, his arms bare in a white tee shirt, his   jeans tucked into work boots, he walked out from the tree line and   watched as Lizzie looked out to sea, his arms folded across his chest.

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