Greek's Pride

By: Helen Bianchin

‘I presume you have informed Miss Anderson of the relevant details?’

‘Perhaps Mr Stefanos,’ Alyse stressed carefully as he folded his lengthy frame into an adjacent chair, ‘would care to reveal precisely his connection with the father of my sister’s child?’

There could be no doubt she intended war, and it irked her incredibly that he was amused beneath the thin veneer of politeness evident.

‘Forgive me, Miss Anderson.’ He inclined his head cynically. ‘I am Georgiou’s elder brother—stepbrother, to be exact.’

‘One presumes Georg,’ she paused, deliberately refusing to give the name its correct pronunciation, ‘dispatched you as his emissary?’

The pale eyes hardened until they resembled obsidian grey shards. ‘Georgiou is dead. A horrific car accident last year left him a paraplegic, and complications took their final toll little more than a month ago.’

Alyse’s mind reeled at the implication of a bizarre coincidence as Aleksi Stefanos went on to reveal in a voice devoid of any emotion,

‘My family had no knowledge of your sister’s existence, let alone her predicament, until several carefully concealed letters were discovered a week after Georgiou’s death. Time was needed to verify certain facts before suitable arrangements could be made.’

‘What arrangements?’

‘The child will, of course, be brought up a Stefanos.’

Alyse’s eyes blazed with brilliant fire. ‘He most certainly will not!’

‘You contest my right to do so?’

‘Your right?’ she retorted deliberately.

‘Indeed. As he is the first male Stefanos grandchild, there can be no question of his rightful heritage.’

‘Georg’s birth is registered as Georgiou Anderson, Mr Stefanos. And as Antonia’s closest relative I have accepted sole responsibility for her son.’

He appeared to be visibly unmoved, and her chin lifted fractionally as she held his glittering gaze.

‘Verification of blood groupings has established beyond doubt that my brother is the father of your sister’s child,’ he revealed with chilling cynicism.

Alyse felt the rush of anger as it consumed her slim frame. How dared he even suggest otherwise! ‘What did you imagine Antonia had in mind when she dispatched those letters begging for help, Mr Stefanos?’ she managed in icy rage. ‘Blackmail?’

‘The thought did occur.’

‘Why,’ she breathed with barely controlled fury, ‘you insulting, arrogant—’

‘Please continue,’ he invited as she faltered to a speechless halt.

‘Bastard!’ she threw with disdain, and glimpsed an inflexible hardness in the depths of his eyes. ‘Antonia had no need of money—your brother’s, or that of his family. As Mr Mannering will confirm, both my sister and I benefited financially when our parents died some years ago—sufficient to ensure we could afford a comfortable lifestyle without the need to supplement it in any way other than with a weekly wage. On leaving school, Antonia joined me in business.’ She had never felt so positively enraged in her life. ‘Your brother, Mr Stefanos,’ she stressed, ‘proposed marriage during their shared holiday, and promised to send for Antonia within a week of his return to Athens for the express purpose of meeting his family and announcing their engagement.’ Her eyes clouded with pain as she vividly recalled the effect Georgiou’s subsequent rejection had had on her sister.

‘Georgiou’s accident occurred the day after his return,’ Aleksi Stefanos told her. ‘He lay in hospital unconscious for weeks, and afterwards it was some time before he became fully aware of the extent of his injuries. By then it was doubtful if he could foresee a future for himself in the role of husband.’

‘He could have written!’ Alyse exclaimed in impassioned condemnation. ‘His silence caused Antonia months of untold anguish. And you underestimate my sister, Mr Stefanos,’ she continued bleakly, ‘if you think she would have rejected Georgiou simply because of his injuries. She loved him.’

‘And love, in your opinion, conquers all?’

Her eyes gleamed with hidden anger, sheer prisms of deep blue sapphire. ‘Antonia deserved the chance to prove it,’ she said with quiet vehemence. Her chin lifted, tilting at a proud angle.

His raking scrutiny was daunting, but she refused to break his gaze. ‘And you, Miss Anderson?’ he queried with deceptive softness. ‘Would you have given a man such unswerving loyalty?’

Alyse didn’t deign to answer, and the silence inside the room was such that it was almost possible to hear the sound of human breathing.

‘Perhaps an attempt could be made to resolve the situation?’ Alyse heard the mild intervention and turned slowly towards the bespectacled man seated behind his desk. For a while she had forgotten his existence, and she watched as his glance shifted from her to the hateful Aleksi Stefanos. ‘I know I can speak for Alyse in saying that she intends lodging an adoption application immediately.’

‘Legally, as a single woman, Miss Anderson lacks sufficient standing to supersede my right to my brother’s child,’ Aleksi Stefanos declared with dangerous silkiness.