Greek's PrideBy: Helen Bianchin
‘On that presumption you imagine I’ll concede defeat?’ Alyse queried angrily.
‘I would be prepared to settle an extremely large sum in your bank account for the privilege.’
She shook her head, unable to comprehend what she was hearing. ‘Bribery, Mr Stefanos? No amount of money would persuade me to part with Antonia’s son.’ She cast him a look of such disdainful dislike, a lesser man would have withered beneath it. ‘Now, will you please leave?’
‘I haven’t finished what I came to say.’
He must have a skin thicker than a rhinoceros! Alyse could feel the anger emanate through the pores of her skin until her whole body was consumed with it. ‘If you don’t leave immediately, I’ll call the police!’
‘Go ahead,’ he directed with pitiless disregard.
‘This is my home, dammit!’ Alyse reiterated heatedly.
His eyes were dark and infinitely dangerous. ‘You walked out on a legal consultation this morning, and now you refuse to discuss Georg’s welfare.’ It was his turn to subject her to a raking scrutiny, his smile wholly cynical as he glimpsed the tide of colour wash over her cheeks. ‘I imagine the police will be sympathetic.’
‘They’ll also throw you out!’
‘They’ll suggest I leave,’ he corrected. ‘And conduct any further discussion with you via a legal representative.’ He paused, and his eyes were hard and obdurate, reflecting inflexible masculine strength of will. ‘My stepbrother’s child has a legal right to his stake in the Stefanos heritage. It is what Georgiou would have wanted; what my father wants. If Antonia were still alive,’ he paused deliberately, ‘I believe she would have wanted her son to be acknowledged by her lover’s family, and to receive the financial benefits and recognition that are his due.’
Alyse’s eyes sharpened as their depths became clearly defined. ‘I intend having you and your family fully investigated.’
As a possible threat, it failed dismally, for he merely acknowledged her words with a cynical smile.
‘Allow me to give you the relevant information ahead of official confirmation.’
Beneath the edge of mockery was a degree of inimical anger that feathered fear down the length of her spine and raised all her fine body hairs in protective self-defence.
‘My father and stepmother reside in Athens. I, however, left my native Greece at the relatively young age of twenty to settle in Australia. Initially Sydney—working as a builder’s labourer seven days a week, contractual obligations and weather permitting. After three years I moved to the Gold Coast, where I bought land and built houses before venturing into building construction. The ensuing thirteen years have escalated my company to a prestigious position within the building industry. Without doubt,’ he continued drily, ‘I possess sufficient independent wealth to garner instant approval with the Family Services Department, and there are no mythical skeletons in any one of my closets.’
‘Hardly a complete résumé, Mr Stefanos,’ Alyse discounted scathingly.
‘How far back into the past do you wish to delve? Does the fact that my mother was Polish, hence my unusual Christian name, condemn me? That she died when I was very young? Is that sufficient, Miss Anderson?’ One eyebrow slanted above dark eyes heavily opaque with the rigors of memory. ‘Perhaps you’d like to hear that a sweet, gentle Englishwoman eased my father’s pain, married him and bore a male child without displacing my position as the eldest Stefanos son or alienating my father’s affection for me in any way. She became the mother I’d never known, and we keep in constant touch, exchanging visits at least once each year.’
‘And now that Georgiou is dead, they want to play an integral part in Georg’s life.’ Alyse uttered the words in a curiously flat voice, and was unprepared for the whip-hard anger in his.
‘Are you so impossibly selfish that you fail to understand what Georg’s existence means to them?’ he demanded.
‘I know what it means to me,’ she cried out, sorely tried. ‘If Antonia hadn’t written to Georgiou, if—’
‘Don’t colour facts with unfounded prejudice,’ Aleksi Stefanos cut in harshly. ‘The letters exist as irrefutable proof. I intend assuming the role of Georg’s father,’ he pursued, his voice assuming a deadly softness. ‘Don’t doubt it for a minute.’
‘Whereas I insist on the role of mother!’ she blazed.
‘You’re not prepared to compromise in any way?’
‘Compromise? Are you prepared to compromise? Why should it be me who has to forgo the opportunity of happiness in a marriage of my choice?’
His eyes narrowed fractionally. ‘Is there a contender waiting in the wings, Miss Anderson? Someone sufficiently foolish to think he can conquer your fiery spirit and win?’
‘What makes you think you could?’
His eyes gleamed with latent humour, then dropped lazily to trace the full curve of her lips before slipping down to the swell of her breasts, assessing each feature with such diabolical ease that she found it impossible to still the faint flush of pink that coloured her cheeks.