June 1, 2016

The Greek’s Nine-Month Redemption

"I own your company. I own you."

Fury is all Elle St James feels when she looks at the man she once thought of as family. Apollo Savas has mercilessly destroyed her father's company, but she holds the last little piece!

Elle is determined to stop the stepbrother who is both sensual fantasy and darkest enemy. But their forbidden desire gives way to one illicit night that leaves untouched Elle with a life-changing consequence.

Now that she is irrevocably bound to Apollo, will nine months be long enough for Elle to redeem this brooding Greek?

When one night…leads to pregnancy!


Sometimes Elle St. James imagined taking a pen and stabbing it straight through Apollo Savas’s chest. Not to kill him of course. He didn’t have a heart so the wound would hardly be fatal. Just to hurt him.

Still, other times she fantasized about crossing the boardroom, wrenching free the knot on his tie and tearing the front of his shirt open, scraping her fingernails down his heated skin and feeling all those hard muscles beneath her hands. Finally. After nine long years of resisting him, resisting the heat that roared through her body every time their eyes met.

That one was way more disturbing than the stabbing thing.

It was also far too frequent.

They were sitting in a crowded meeting and she should be paying attention. But all she could think about was what she would do to him if she had five minutes with him, alone, behind a locked door.

It would either be violent or naked.

He was talking about budgets and cuts. And she hated those words. It would mean scaling down her team again. As had been the story of the past twelve months, ever since he’d bought her out from her father’s holding company. A company that had since sunk into bankruptcy.

Just another moment in a long line of Apollo undermining her. Finally, her father had been forced to give her responsibility. Since his stepson had finally proven to be a viper in the nest, so to speak.

She’d been installed as CEO. Then Apollo had come down like a hammer.

It was his fault. At least in part. And nothing would convince her otherwise.

She had a plan. A plan he seemed intent on thwarting at every turn. She knew she could rescue Matte without all of these sweeping staff changes, but he wouldn’t give her a chance.

Because—just as he’d always done—he was making it his mission to undermine her. To prove he was better even now.

But that didn’t stop her eyes from following his hands as he gestured broadly, from wondering what those hands might feel like on her skin.

She could write what she knew about sex on a napkin. The sad thing was, it would be two words.

Apollo Savas.

He’d been sex to her from the moment she’d understood what the word sex meant. From the moment she’d understood why men and women were different, and why it was such a wonderful thing.

The dark-haired, dark-eyed son of the woman her father had married when Elle was fourteen. He had been fascinating. So different from her. Rough around the edges, a product of his upbringing in a class of society Elle herself had had no contact with. His mother had been a maid prior to her marriage to Elle’s father. The culture shock had been intense. And very, very interesting.

Of course, since then he’d grown into a dark-hearted man who’d betrayed her family and put her under his boot heel.

Still, she wanted him.

The Big Bad Wolf of the business world, huffing and puffing and blowing your dreams down.

“Don’t you agree, Ms. St. James?”

She looked up, her eyes locking with Apollo’s, her heart thudding a dull rhythm. The last thing she needed was to admit she’d missed what he was saying. She would rather admit to having fantasies of killing him than the alternative.

“You’ll have to repeat the question, Mr. Savas. My attention span for repetition isn’t infinite. This is the same song you’ve been singing for months, and it isn’t any more effective or logical than it was last time.”

He stood, his movements liquid silk. She could see from the black glitter in his eyes that she was going to pay for her words. The thought sent a shiver down her spine. Fear mingled with unaccountable lust.

“I am sorry you find me boring. I shall endeavor to make myself more interesting. You see, I was speaking of the fact that for a company to be successful it must be sleek. Well oiled. Each cog functioning at top capacity. Extraneous cogs are unnecessary. Sluggish cogs are unnecessary. I was attempting to be delicate with my metaphor.” He began to walk down the length of the boardroom table, the postures of each person he moved behind straightening as he did. “Perhaps I would have held your attention a bit better if I would have simply said that if I identify a portion of your company functioning at less than optimum capacity I will start slashing and burning your employees like they were dry brush.”

Her entire face felt like it was on fire, her heart pounding harder now. She clenched her shaking hands into fists. “Everyone in this company—”

“I’m sure your speech is about to be inspiring and truly emotional, but since this is not a feel-good underdog sports movie, you should perhaps save your breath, Ms. St. James. You can say what you will, but I have seen the numbers. Conviction doesn’t equal profits. I will be reviewing everything closely and making cuts at my discretion. With that, I think the meeting is adjourned. Ms. St. James has a very low tolerance for my droning, I hear. If it is the same for the rest of you, you should be pleased to be sent on your way.”

The collective surge of bodies making their way out of the room reminded Elle of a herd of wildebeests fleeing a lion.

A big, bored lion who wanted nothing more than to scare them by flashing his teeth. He wasn’t going to give chase. Not now.

No, now his focus had turned to her.

“You are in rare form today, Elle.”

“I am in exactly the appropriate form, Apollo,” she said, reverting to the use of his first name.

They were family, after all.

Not that she’d ever seen him as a brother. A sexual fantasy she didn’t want. Her biggest competitor. Her darkest enemy. He was all of those things, but not a brother.

“I own your company,” he said. “I own you.” Oh, dammit all, why did those words make her…ache? “You never seem to show me the proper amount of fear.”

“Real leaders don’t rule with an iron fist,” she hissed. “They understand that intimidation isn’t the way to gain respect.”

She shouldn’t be talking back to him, but she could never control her tongue around him. They’d known each other for too long. Had spent too many years in the same household.

And she had spent too many years tearing strips off him when she’d felt like she had the upper hand. When she was the blood daughter of her father, the one who held a rightful place in their upstate mansion.

Things changed. Oh, how things changed.

“Says the woman who is no longer in a true position of leadership.” He smiled. Showing his teeth.

She wouldn’t scatter. She would not. She was not a wildebeest.

“Oh, but I am. As long as Matte is an independently operating entity beneath your large corporate umbrella, I am here to run it as best as I can. I am here to stand in the gap for my employees and give you the information black-and-white printouts can’t.”

“You’re being ridiculous. Everything is electronic now. I’m not wasting resources on printouts.”

He turned and started to walk out of the office. “You know what I mean. A flat, two-dimensional report reducing everything to statistics and cold numbers is hardly the be-all and end-all.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” he said, taking long strides down the hall.

Elle had to take two steps to his one, her high heels clicking loudly on the marble floor as she hurried after him. “I am not wrong. It doesn’t offer the whole picture. You can’t possibly know how the company is really functioning. How each worker impacts the creative process. Matte isn’t just a magazine. It’s a line of cosmetics, a fashion brand. We have books and—”

“Yes,” he said, stepping into an elevator, “thank you, I am very familiar with how my assets function.”

“Then you should be aware of the fact that I have strategies in place that require all of the manpower I possess. Initiatives that take time to launch but will catapult this brand into worldwide recognition.”

“Yes. So you said last time we met. And, unlike you, I don’t drift off in meetings.”

She growled and charged into the elevator after him. “I did not drift off.”

He pushed the button to the lobby and the doors slid closed. Then he turned that dark, unsettling focus onto her. The air around them seemed to shrink, rendering the already crowded space impossibly tight. “No. I don’t believe you did, Elle,” he said, his voice as silken as his movements. “You were looking at me with a great deal of intensity. Too much to be on another planet entirely. What was it you were thinking about exactly?”

“Driving a pen through your chest,” she said, smiling.

Because she would be damned if she’d say, Tearing your clothes off and seeing if you’re as good in reality as you are in my dreams.

Even though she felt like that reality was written all over her face, across her skin in the red stain of a blush.

He offered her a wry smile. “You know I can’t be killed like that. You have to cut my head off and bury it in a separate location to my body.”

“I’ll let the hit men know.” She turned and smiled at him again, and he offered one in return.

The doors slid open, revealing the rather vacant bottom floor. Matte shared its offices with many other businesses, and with penthouses on the top floor. At this hour of the day not many people were coming and going.

“Where is it you’re staying, Apollo?” she asked. “A crypt somewhere in Midtown?”

“The one just next to yours, Elle,” he said, his tone light. “After you.”

He extended his hand, waiting for her to step out of the elevator. She swept past him, moving through the lobby and going through the revolving doors. She stepped on to the busy Manhattan sidewalk, put her sunglasses on and stood there, tapping her foot.

Apollo emerged a moment later, straightening his suit jacket and standing across from her for a moment.

“Care to continue shouting at me while I walk?” he asked.

“I’m not shouting at you. I’m calmly explaining to you why you’re wrong in your methods of handling my company.”

He turned away from her, walking down the crowded street, his broad back filling her vision.

“Apollo!” Okay, she was shouting now. “We are not through with our meeting.”

“I think we adjourned it.”

“The general meeting,” she said, upping her pace. “But we are not done.”

“I’m just here,” he said, gesturing to an old boutique hotel only two buildings down from the Matte offices. “Since I’m in town primarily to deal with Matte I thought I should stay close.”

“Congratulations. How sensible.”

“I have my moments. Judging by the fact that I’m a billionaire who successfully staged a takeover of your father’s company, I’ve had several moments, actually.”

“If you were as clever as you think you are you would listen to my plans for Matte. The answer isn’t to reduce us down to nothing. You have to let me try and expand it, otherwise we really will die.”

“You’re assuming I’m trying to save you, dear Elle. Perhaps I just want to pull the plug.”

“You…You…” She was sputtering now. She never sputtered. She blamed him.

“Villain. Scoundrel. I answer to any of those really.”

“You have always been a competitive son of a bitch, but this is above and beyond.”

“You’re assuming this is a competition.”

“What else could it be? You’re ungrateful. For everything my father gave you. And for the fact that he didn’t give you everything.”

He chuckled, a dark, humorless sound. “Oh, you mean that he didn’t give me his corporation, or Matte, in the first place? Why do you think he installed you, Elle? Your competence? No. He gave you the position to keep a foothold once I bought him out.”

The words landed hard, hollowing out her midsection. Leaving nothing but a crater behind.

Like you didn’t suspect that already.

She had. Of course she had. But the fact he knew it meant it was obvious. Possibly to everyone.

The doorman opened the golden door for them and Apollo paused to tip him before continuing on. Elle opened her purse and produced her own dollar, handing it to the man before going in after Apollo.

She was not allowing him to do her tipping for her.

“I am in the penthouse suite. It’s very nice.”

“Why am I not surprised that I just got out of a meeting where you were discussing tightening belts for my company, and yet you’re staying in the penthouse suite.”

He pushed the button for the elevator and the doors slid open. She followed in after, starting to feel slightly out of breath.

“I am not in need of money, agape, if that’s why you thought I was mentioning cuts.”

Agape. She hated that. He’d started using that on her sometime when she was in high school. Just to make her angry. And some small part of her grabbed hold of it every time, holding it near. Love.

Oh, what a ridiculous, stupid…

She really hated her hormones.

“Why else would you mention cuts?” she asked, keeping her tone sweet.

The doors slid shut and she had the uncomfortable feeling of being trapped in a closed-in space again.

“Because you need the money. Matte needs the money. In a digital world your print publication is lagging and while you have certainly come up with innovative ways to compete, you haven’t leveled out yet.”

“But if you have enough—”

He chuckled. “I don’t run a charity. I run a business. My corporation turns profits. That’s what it does. I make money hand over fist, and I’m comfortable admitting that. I’m proud of it. But that won’t continue if I don’t refine my assets. Refining is a hot and painful process. It takes fire. And people being fired.”

“Ha-ha. You’re far too funny for your own good.”

He frowned. “Was that funny? It wasn’t meant to be.”

The elevator stopped and the doors opened on a narrow hallway. Apollo stepped out and walked down a few doors, pausing to open it. “Come in,” he said.

She very much had the feeling of being a small, vulnerable creature invited into the lair of a predator.

You are not a wildebeest. You are just as scary as he is. You are a lioness.

She stepped over the threshold and into the room. It was lovely, he was right. Ornate moldings and trim framing the space, the windows looking out over Central Park.

There was a large seating area with a bar, and off to the left an open door that she could see led to a bedroom with a very large, dramatic bed.

She imagined, as tall as he was, he took up most of the mattress. That thought made her picture him—long, tanned limbs sprawled out on the bed. Would he look more relaxed in sleep? Would he seem less…lethal out of that custom-fit black suit that conformed to every line, every muscle in his body?

He closed the door behind her with a finality that made her jump.

“My team is the best there is,” she said. “They have some of the most creative minds in this—or any—industry. You have to admit the fact that the Matte Guidebooks have been hugely successful. And the makeup guide actually helped to increase sales of the cosmetics. It was specific to the brand and that—”

“Again you are telling me things I already know. I didn’t get to this position in life without paying attention. I understand that your team is important to you. But if I don’t do what must be done, if I don’t make the hard cuts, none of you will have a job.”

“But I—”

“You seem to be under the impression that this is a democracy, Elle. Be assured, absolutely, that this is a dictatorship. I am not negotiating with you. And it is only by my good graces that your pretty ass remains in the CEO’s office.”

Heat and fury washed over Elle in a fiery baptism. “And here I thought it was because I’m good at my job.”

“You are,” he said, taking a step toward her. “But there are a great many people who would be good at your job. People who didn’t get handed their position from their daddy.”

“Oh, that’s hilarious, Apollo. As if you didn’t get a leg up from my father, you Judas.” She took a step toward him, rage propelling her now. “My father treated you like one of his own children. He put you through school.”

“And I excelled on my own.”

“Then you stabbed him in the back.”

“I bought him out for much more than thirty pieces of silver, little girl. Perhaps what really hurts is the fact that you were betrayed by your father, not by me. He put you in this position knowing you would fail.”

She gritted her teeth, doing her best to shake off his words. To not allow them to take hold. All of this reached down deep. To old wounds. To the way she’d felt she couldn’t measure up to Apollo, the son her father had always wanted. To her own fears of being eternally inadequate. And he knew it.

She would not let him win so easily. “He trusted you. When you offered to help he didn’t imagine you dismantling everything.”

Apollo lifted one broad shoulder. “He made a mistake in trusting me.”

“Clearly. You would betray not only the man who set you on the path to success, but your own mother.”

“She’s fine. Your father is hardly financially ruined. She continues to enjoy her status as his wife. And again, Elle, need I remind you your father sold Matte, and some of his other holdings, to me of his own free will.”

“You had him in a position where he couldn’t say no.”

Apollo took another step toward her. He was so close now that she could see his eyes weren’t completely black. She could see a faint ring of gold that faded to copper, then to deep brown. Could see the dark stubble beginning to grow in at his jawline.

Could smell the scent of his aftershave and skin.

“Interesting you put it like that. If dire financial straits take away choice you could argue my mother had little choice in marrying your father in the first place.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Elle said. “She wanted to.”

“Did she?”

“Of course.”

“A cleaning lady offered the chance to live in luxury after years barely making it in the US? After years of homeless poverty in Greece?”

“That isn’t… It has nothing to do with this.”

“Maybe,” he said. “Or maybe the point is that you can always say no, Elle.” He leaned in. “Always.”

She could barely breathe, her head swimming, her entire body on high alert. She was almost certain she had no blood in her veins, not anymore. It was molten lava now, heating her from her core.

She remembered so clearly feeling this way every time he brushed past her in the halls of the family estate. Every time she caught sight of him at the pool—his lean, muscular body so fascinating to the girl she’d been.

Only once had they ever come so close to each other. Only one other time had she ever thought he might feel the same forbidden desire that she’d felt from the moment she’d set eyes on him.

Apollo is going to be your new stepbrother.

Everything in her had rebelled at that, immediately. Because she had seen him and wanted him in a way she knew would be wrong once their parents were married. So she had distanced him. She had been…well, sometimes she’d been terrible. But it had been for her own survival.

It was even worse now. He was still her stepbrother. But now, any affection she’d ever felt for him had been twisted by his betrayal. She should have stopped obsessing about him a long time ago.

But she hadn’t. She couldn’t. She was a slave to this, to him. Always.

She hated it. She hated him.

And she had spent nine years resisting him. Embracing the anger, the annoyance and everything else she could possibly use as a barrier between her desire for him and her actions.

Giving in would be a failure. In terms of her self-control. In terms of her relationship with her father. What would he think if he knew she wanted Apollo? What sort of scandal would erupt if the media knew she was helplessly attracted to her stepbrother?

So she had denied it. Pushed it down deep. But she had been aware of it every time she saw him. Every glance. Every accidental brush of his hand against hers. Every time she went to bed at night, hot and aching for something she knew only he could give her.

But he had bought out her father’s company. He was gunning for Matte. Her father had installed her as CEO to keep some connection to the company—just as Apollo had said. And she’d failed spectacularly.

She could feel everything slipping out of her grasp. The company. Her control. Everything.

And she’d never tasted him. Never had him. This man who was destroying her whole life. Who commanded her fantasies and called out the deepest, darkest desire from deep inside of her.

For what? For appearances. To triumph.

There would be no triumph here. She was losing. Utterly. Epically.

Why not have this? Why not have him.

It was all going to burn to the ground. She might as well go up in flames with it.

She could see his pulse throbbing at the base of his throat. If only she had a pen in her hand. It would be so easy from this position to stab him clean through with it. But she didn’t.

So instead, she reached up and grabbed hold of the knot in his tie, and wrenched it free.

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