FREE ONLINE READ: A Peek into The Billionaire’s Pregnant Mistress and The Greek Tycoon’s Inherited Bride
A Peek into the Lives of Dimitri & Alexandra Petronides from The Billionaire’s Pregnant Mistress and Spiros & Phoebe Petronides from The Greek Tycoon’s Inherited Bride
By Lucy Monroe
For my compassionate and patient readers, and particularly those who have asked over the years: What ever happened to so-and-so, was their baby a boy or a girl, will their children grow up and get their own stories?” These vignettes peeking into the lives of past characters are for you!
These vignettes are not intended to be books, or even novellas. They do not follow typical story structure with a beginning, a middle, a story climax and an ending. The beginning for each vignette was the book it’s based on. Simply put, these are codas, the asked-for glimpses into the lives of favorite characters.
Each of those glimpses is different. Some are very short, others are near novella length and the rest fall somewhere in between. A few are sexy and sensual, all are a bit emotional, but a couple will take you on a new heart-wrenching journey with the characters.
All answer the question “What happened after the HEA?”
I’ll be releasing a new vignette every couple of weeks so be sure to keep an eye on the Harlequin blog as there will be seven in total. It is my sincere hope that you will find as much joy reading these peeks into the lives of the characters as I had writing them.
Love and hugs,
Five years after Spiros & Phoebe’s wedding.
“Phoebe is only twenty-seven. We are in no rush to have children, pappous.” Spiros rubbed his eyes with one hand, leaning against his desk rather than sitting behind it.
Phoebe had come to ask if he wanted to join her for lunch, having confirmed they had a rare free hour on both their calendars.
Her husband and best friend grimaced at whatever his grandfather said in response to his words.
She’d been waiting for this phone call, and dreading it. According to the contract she and Spiros had signed before their wedding, Phoebe would not be expected to provide a Petronides heir for a minimum of five years. She knew the older Petronides patriarch had expected a grandchild by that five-year mark. But Phoebe had not been ready to become a parent, and despite teasing her in the beginning that he would be jealous of his brother’s good fortune in becoming a parent, Spiros had never pressured her to have a child.
“No, Grandfather, we are not coming for Christmas. Both Phoebe and I have responsibilities here in Paris—getting away for a prolonged holiday just isn’t a possibility right now.”
His grandfather said something.
Spiros’s body went rigid, his free hand fisting at his side. “Perhaps you and her parents should have considered that very thing five years ago when you did your best to blackmail my wife into marrying a man who had no desire to marry her.”
Voluble Greek sounded from the phone, though Phoebe could not tell what the words were.
Her husband’s reaction wasn’t promising, though. He’d gone from stoic to full-on anger as his grandfather spoke.
“Don’t think to ever use that threat with me. If you have a heart attack, it won’t be because of anything I or my wife have done. You made your choice to put your own desires ahead of Phoebe’s well-being five years ago. I will never allow you, or her parents, the opportunity to hurt her that way again.”
Phoebe’s heart warmed. She needn’t have worried about how her husband would respond to pressure, like she’d been getting from her parents, from his grandfather.
In the years since they’d wed, Spiros had shown unwavering loyalty to her. He had supported her need to pull back from a closeness with her parents that felt insincere now that she knew that to them, she was not the child they stood behind and she was little more than a commodity to be sold to finance their hopes, dreams and lifestyle.
After waiting in silence while his grandfather spoke some more, Spiros said, “No. I don’t think five years is too long to hang on to my anger over that truth. Because it is not anger I am holding on to. I am justifiably protective of the wife that I love.”
His grandfather’s voice sounded sharp through the phone.
“Ne. Of course, I love you as well, pappous. I always will, but I will never forget what your actions could have cost Phoebe, what they very nearly cost me.”
Spiros shook his head as his grandfather spoke again, his expression closed, his eyes narrowed. “No, I categorically do not see it as the harmless efforts of an old man to see to his family’s happiness. You didn’t care about anyone’s happiness but your own. The fact Dimitri forgave you is a gift you should never take for granted. You nearly cost him the woman he loved and the son he adores.”
Phoebe hadn’t realized that Spiros was still so unhappy with his grandfather. Okay, so he’d said he wasn’t angry, but for the first time since their marriage she realized how much damage the older generation’s machinations had done to relationships on both sides of the families.
She’d always simply appreciated the fact he never pushed to visit their family in Greece, seemingly content to see them as infrequently as Phoebe was.
They never talked about how their marriage came about, that at one time Spiros himself had been one of the people pressing her to marry his older brother despite knowing how little she or Dimitri had wanted it.
Spiros let out an impatient breath. “Perhaps that is because she does not see you as her uncle any longer.”
Guilt was an acrid taste in Phoebe’s mouth. She’d stopped referring to Theopolis Petronides as uncle when she’d learned he had used his health as the battering ram to force his grandson Dimitrius into agreeing to marry Phoebe, despite the fact he had been having a relationship with another woman. Phoebe had known about the other woman and there was no way Theopolis hadn’t. He’d used the threat of not having necessary life-saving surgery to blackmail Dimitri into setting a wedding date neither of them had wanted.
She couldn’t change the fact that she had parents who had been happy to sell her in order to save the family company and their lifestyle, but she didn’t have to acknowledge a special relationship with a man who was not her uncle, not her grandfather.
She wasn’t unkind to the old man, but she would not trust him. She didn’t trust any of them anymore.
Not her father. Not her mother. Not Theopolis Petronides.
Phoebe loved her husband very much, but being forced into marriage rather than being allowed to find that path on their own was a wound that had never completely healed.
“I love you, too. We’ll do a video call on Christmas.”
Phoebe smiled at her husband as he turned toward the door, his expression brightening when he noticed her standing in his office.
“Thank you,” she offered.
“For what, agape mou?”
“For not giving in to his guilt trip about returning to Greece for Christmas. For not promising a baby in nine months’ time.”
“He will have to be content with the two grandchildren he has until, if and when, we decide to add to the number.”
“He’s getting on in years.” She bit her lip, admitting what she knew to be true. “If we want our children to know him, we have to have them soon, I suppose.”
Spiros cupped her cheek, his expression serious. “When you can come to me with something akin to enthusiasm over the idea, rather than expediency, we will talk.”
“You want children.”
“I want this life I have with you, Phoebe.”
“But you want a baby.”
“When the time is right we will have one. You enjoy your position with Petronides Industries too much to give it up, or even go part-time right now. I feel the same. While I have no issue with both parents working full-time, that is not how I ever envisioned my life as a parent.”
“You’ve thought about going part-time once the children come?” she asked, not sure why she was shocked. Family had always been paramount to her incredible tycoon husband.
So important that Spiros had almost ejected Phoebe from his life for the sake of loyalty to his brother and grandfather.
“Yes. Haven’t you?” He put one hand on her hip and the other at her waist, pulling her closer to his virile body and making Phoebe wonder if eating lunch was really what she wanted to do with their free time.
“Well, yes.” She laid her hands against his chest, loving how she could always feel the beat of his strong heart if she placed her palm just right. “And you’re right, I’m not ready to make that change yet.”
“No. You find your position both fulfilling and challenging, as do I. We’re still young. We have plenty of time to have children.”
She sighed leaning her forehead against him. “Not according to my parents or your grandfather.”
“Your father called you?” he asked, sounding ready to take up battle on her behalf.
She winced, tilting her head back to meet his gaze again. “This time, it was my mother. She’s pulled out every guilt card. We don’t spend enough time with them. I’m selfish to wait so long to have children. I have lost my sense of family. Blah, blah, blah…”
Spiro shook his head, then leaned down and kissed her, first on each cheek then her lips, allowing passion to build between them and her breathing to become erratic before pulling back. “You, precious woman, you have nothing to feel badly about. You make time for your family, but less for your parents than they would like. They precipitated that change in relationship and can now accept it with grace or deal with me.”
“They don’t consider the time I spend with your brother and sister-in-law family time, or even the visits we have always done with Chrysanthos at his university in America.”
“Their skewed perception of reality is not your responsibility. Do we change our policies because those who wish to do business with us do not like the way Spironides International conducts its affairs?”
“No, of course not.”
“And just because your parents or my grandfather don’t like the way we choose to conduct our marriage does not mean we are going to make concessions. When, or if, we become parents is up to us. Not anyone else.”
“You’ve said if twice now. Are you thinking you may never want children?” She’d never even considered the possibility he might feel that way. Mostly because he was amazing with his nephews, four-year-old Theo, named for their grandfather and fifteen-month-old Philip, named for Alexandra Dupree’s grandfather.
“If you ever decide you want to be a mother, I’m with you a hundred percent, but listen and believe when I tell you that our life together is all that I need. I love you, Phoebe, with my whole heart.”
“And I love you.” It was a miracle considering how their marriage had come about, but no less true for that. For either of them.
Dimitri found his wife playing with their children in the pool, a vise of emotion squeezing his heart at the tableau the three people he loved most in the world made. “What are a water nymph and her two cherubs doing in my pool?” he wondered out loud.
“We aren’t cherubs. We’re boys,” his son Theo asserted while their fifteen-month-old just squealed, “Papapapapa.” Philip hadn’t quite got the hang of simply saying papa and repeated the pa over and over again, though Alexandra was definitely mama.
His wife smiled up at him, her beautiful body glistening with the water in the hot Mediterranean sun.
They lived in Greece, but spent two weeks every quarter in New York with her sister and brother-in-law, as well as traveling frequently to visit Spiros and Phoebe in Paris. It worked for them and their children, though once the boys were in school, the travel schedule would have to change.
Alexandra glided through the water and lifted their wet son up to Dimitri. “You might as well take him—he’s not going to stop saying pa over and over until you do.”
He didn’t hesitate to grab the dripping-wet baby and cuddle Philip in close, regardless of his own dry clothes. “Did you have a good day today, pethi mou?”
The baby babbled back, patting Dimitri’s cheeks with his chubby little hands. The strain of his recent conversation with pappous melted away as he focused on his own little family.
“Papa?” Theo called from the pool.
Dimitri looked over. “Ne?”
“I am watching.”
Theo bobbed down under the water and stayed there for about ten seconds, then exploded upward, water cascading around him. “Did you see? Did you?”
“I did, my son. You are getting better and better at staying under the water.”
“I can swim to mama, too.” Then Theo demonstrated that skill, by kicking off from the wall and swimming the few feet to his mother.
Alexandra pulled the four-year-old in for a sweet hug before releasing him back into the water. She was such a good mother, so loving, so committed to the children and their family, but still a woman with her own interests. And opinions. His wife definitely had strong opinions on the sustainability and social responsibility of Petronides International.
Theo looked up, to make sure Dimitri had been watching.
Dimitri gave his son a thumbs-up. “Well done, son.”
“Are you going to join us, or should we get out?” Alexandra asked, her hazel gaze traveling over him with warm interest.
Five years, two children and the fire between them still burned hot.
“How long have you been in?” Dimitri asked, not wanting to get changed into a suit only to be exiting the pool a few minutes later because Alexandra had determined the children had spent enough time in the saltwater infinity pool.
“We just got in,” Theo asserted.
But Alexandra shook her head. “I know it may feel that way, love-bug, but we’ve been out here for almost an hour.”
“So, time to get out of the sun for a little while, hmm?” Dimitri asked.
“Do we have to?” Theo asked, not quite whining, but clearly not enamored of the idea.
“I had hoped to play a game of Don’t Break the Ice before dinner, but if you would rather swim…” Dimitri let his voice trail off, knowing his son loved the game that required knocking out blocks until the figure in the middle collapsed through.
Philip was too young to play, but he still loved watching his big brother pound away at the white blocks.
“Oh, I want to play!” Theo swam to the side of the pool and pulled himself out, rushing forward for a hug.
“Theo, dry off first,” Alexandra called. “You’re going to soak your father’s trousers.”
Theo frowned, but stopped before throwing himself at his papa’s legs. “Philip didn’t dry off.”
Dimitri dropped to one knee and put his hand out. “Come here, son.”
Theo threw himself forward and Dimitri gave him a tight hug.
Alexandra shook her head at him, smiling as she pulled herself from the pool.
Despite holding both his children, Dimitri could not remain unmoved by the sight of his wife’s lovely body in a modest bikini. She’d been a very successful model when they met, but was even more alluring now. Her body had changed with each baby delivery, her curves fuller, her hips womanly and sexy, each stretch mark a testament to her role as mother to their children.
Knowing what his smoldering gaze meant, she blew him a kiss before picking up her own towel to pat water away from damp skin. When she was done she took their oldest son from Dimitri and dried Theo off. “I don’t know what to do with you boys.”
Dimitri grabbed the diaper bag from beside one of the loungers, sat down with his son and proceeded to change Philip out of his swim diaper into a regular one, as well as some shorts and a T-shirt.
“What did me and Philip do, Mama?
“I’m not talking about Philip, I’m talking about you and your papa. Neither of you are showing sense getting his clothes all wet.”
“They will dry, yineka mou.”
She just shook her head again before giving him a searching look. “You were upset when you came out here.”
He was not surprised she had noticed. His Alexandra knew him better than anyone else.
“Grandfather wanted to talk about Spiros and Phoebe,” he told her.
She finger-combed her wet hair. “Are they coming for Christmas?”
“No, but you, the children and I will see them for the New Year in New York with your sister.” Spiros and Phoebe had become fast friends with Alexandra’s sister, Madeleine, and brother-in-law, Hunter.
Phoebe and Alexandra were now as close as, or even closer than, Spiros and Dimitri. While his brother had finally forgiven him for almost marrying the woman Spiros loved and made an amazing uncle to Dimitri’s children, the women had developed a deep bond that was both special and inexplicably strong.
“Your grandfather is upset they aren’t coming to Greece for the holidays?” Phoebe guessed as she helped their older son change into dry clothes.
“He’s not happy about it, but he’s really upset that Phoebe isn’t pregnant yet.”
“That’s Phoebe and Spiros’s decision, surely.”
“You don’t have to tell me, but he’s a stubborn old man.”
“Did he and Spiros argue?”
“Yes, and apparently my brother made it clear that he’s still harboring resentment over pappous’s attempt to force a marriage between me and Phoebe five years ago.”
“But everything worked out.”
Dimitri frowned. “Not without a lot of people getting hurt, you most of all.”
“I don’t know if that’s true, but you’re right. It wasn’t one of your grandfather’s smarter moves.” Alexandra had never held his grandfather’s efforts to force Dimitri into marriage against him.
And he loved that about her, but he understood Spiros’s attitude. Phoebe had been hurt, too. Badly. And Dimitri understood the need to protect the woman he loved. Phoebe was still being hurt because pappous and her parents continued to treat her like her happiness and desires weren’t what was important.
It was no wonder that his brother and sister-in-law kept their visits back to Greece to a minimum.
Alexandra tsked. “You’d think he would have learned his lesson about trying to emotionally blackmail his grandsons.”
“He didn’t.” Dimitri put his arm around his wife as they walked, as was his habit. “He told Spiros that all the stress of waiting for him to do his duty could bring on another heart attack.”
Alexandra gasped. “No.”
“Oh, yes. Then pappous said if they didn’t have children right away, he might not live long enough to see those children.”
The children had run ahead into the big villa that had housed his family for more than three generations, Phoebe and Dimitri following at a slower pace, so the young ears missed the French curse word his lovely wife uttered.
“At his last checkup, the doctor said he had years yet,” she said with outrage. “His heart is doing great after his surgery five years ago.”
“I know that. So does Spiros, but I don’t imagine that makes my brother any less angry that pappous tried to pull the health card again to get what he wanted.”
“Doesn’t Theopolis realize the cost of his earlier attempts? How much he hurt you? Me? Phoebe and Spiros?” Her words were laced with shock and a measure of hurt that Dimitri was determined to erase. “He’s always been so welcoming of me.”
“Pappous adores you, but five years ago, he ultimately got what he wanted, grandchildren, the Petronides and Leonides families connected through marriage, his lifelong dream.” Dimitri ticked the things important to his grandfather off on his fingers.
“But he wants more grandchildren now?”
Alexandra fluttered her eyelashes up at Dimitri. “Maybe we can help him out with that.”
“Are you ready for another child? Philip is just fifteen months old.” But Dimitri would not pretend that the idea did not excite him.
Dimitri found great joy in being a father, thought his wife made the most estimable of mothers, and thought both of his sons would no doubt adore having another sibling. Theo was a natural big brother, nurturing, teasing, kind and keen to help his little brother learn. Philip was social and fascinated by other babies. It was really very sweet.
“And even if I got pregnant tomorrow he’d be nearly two and a half when the baby was born. I love the idea of having another baby with you.”
“You aren’t saying that to get Phoebe off the hook with Grandfather, are you? Because it won’t work, you know.”
Alexandra laughed, the sound rich and warm, going straight to his libido, despite knowing they could do nothing about it for hours and hours yet. “I love my sister-in-law as much as my own sister, Madeleine. And honestly? I adore your brother. He’s very protective of me and the children, just like he is of his wife.”
“He’s a good man.”
“But…” She paused for effect. “I want more babies with you because I love you. Full stop. No other reasons.”
“Then by all means, let us see what we can do about that.”
And later that night, after the children were in bed, they skipped dinner with his grandfather to make love…and maybe make a baby.
Ten years after Spiros & Phoebe’s wedding.
Phoebe rushed to answer the door before the bell pealed again. The doorman had called to say her brother was on the way up, but he hadn’t mentioned that Chrysanthos was agitated enough to ring her bell incessantly until she opened the door.
She flung it open. “Stop leaning on my doorbell, Chrysanthos.“
“Did you even look in the peephole to see who was in the hall?“ he demanded, sounding a lot like her overprotective husband.
“My doorman let me know you were headed up,“ she responded, closing the door behind him.
“You couldn’t be sure it was me at the door.“
“What in the world is the matter with you, Chrysanthos?“
Before he could answer, the door opened behind her brother and Spiros stepped inside their Parisian penthouse.
His beautiful, muscular body encased in a designer suit, his golden-brown gaze was filled with curiosity and wide with surprise at the sight of Phoebe’s brother. “I didn’t know you were coming to visit, Chrysanthos.”
Her brother’s lips twisted in something between a frown and a grimace. “I didn’t either, until a few hours ago.”
Spiros gave Phoebe a questioning look. She shrugged. She didn’t know why her brother was there.
“What prompted you to make the trip?” Spiros asked.
Chrysanthos gave Phoebe a look, his dark brown eyes the same dark shade as hers, filled with an anguished anger she didn’t understand. “Our father sold you.”
Even ten years later, the words alluding to her father’s actions sliced shallow cuts into her heart. But she didn’t understand why this was coming up now. “The circumstances around our marriage were not a secret.”
Well, not exactly. She’d never told her brother the details of the deal. Why would she? He’d been a teenager at the time. He didn’t need the burden of that knowledge.
“I knew the company was in trouble, that your marriage to Dimitri would get Leonides Shipping out of the red, but then you married Spiros. I thought you loved each other, that somehow you’d managed to avoid our father’s plans for you.”
“I do love him,” Phoebe said, her voice ringing with all the passion of her soul.
“I read the contract, Phoebe. You were protecting yourself, from both Spiros and Dad. I read the other one too, the one that outlined just how much money Spiros would give our company in exchange for you becoming his wife.”
“I would have loaned the money, regardless, if Phoebe asked for it.” Spiros put his arm around her waist, pulling her close. “I loved her then. I love her now.”
Chrysanthos inclined his head, like he believed Spiros’s words but wasn’t particularly moved by them.
Her younger brother, now the head of Leonides Shipping, focused on Phoebe. “But would you have married him? Right out of university? If Mom and Dad hadn’t guilted you into sacrificing your life for theirs?”
“It wasn’t like that.” Only hadn’t it been?
“It was just like that. Father had choices.”
“Not by the time I married Spiros, he didn’t. We’d left it too long to go public. There was no way of saving the company without a huge infusion of capital.”
“One our father had no intention of getting from a bank. You didn’t leave anything too late. I remember the long hours you worked back then. It was our dad who wasn’t willing to sacrifice his pride, or his control of the company to save it. Just his daughter. “
“The banks would have said no.”
“He didn’t even try.”
“That’s not the way he saw it.”
“But you knew. You knew he’d made some idiotic decisions based on the same kind of archaic thinking that allowed him to sell his daughter.” Chrysanthos spun away and stormed into the living room, plopping down on one of the armchairs. “That’s why you insisted on a seat on the board. To protect our company.”
“Our father didn’t see it that way.”
“Our father,” Chrysanthos said with disgust and a shake of his head. “Tell me the truth—would you have married Spiros when you did if you hadn’t been under pressure from our family and his?”
Phoebe opened her mouth to speak, but then let it close again, realizing she didn’t have an instant answer to that.
“That’s why you’ve waited so long to have children. You didn’t want to get married.” Chrysanthos shook his head, frustration rolling off of him, anger permeating the air around them.
Phoebe spoke the only truth that mattered to her. “I love Spiros. I have always loved him.”
“But that is not what I asked.”
“No, it’s not.” Phoebe sat down, letting out a sigh as she rested her hand against her slightly protruding belly.
Of all her family members, Chrysanthos was the only one she was still close to, the only one she cared what he thought of her and her life. He’d always supported her, believed in her. Been there for her—as a little brother, but been there all the same.
“No. I wouldn’t have agreed to the marriage under those circumstances, if I’d had a choice.”
Spiros sat down beside her, his expression more appropriate for a hostile boardroom than their living room. He didn’t say anything, simply looked between her and Chrysanthos.
“I’m sorry I dropped in on you unannounced like this.”
“I’m surprised you could get away. Being CEO is a big job.”
“Yeah, you pretty much did it for Dad while you were waiting to get married. I always thought it was strange you didn’t want to work at the company after.”
Phoebe shrugged, her arm rubbing against Spiros, finding comfort in even that small contact. “I made him give me a seat on the board, but after what happened, I didn’t want to work with him.”
“Why would you? You didn’t trust him any longer.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You still don’t.”
Phoebe grimaced, not answering.
“If you did, if you felt close to him and Mom, they’d know you’re pregnant.”
“Don’t you mean finally pregnant?”
“They’ve been putting pressure on you for years to get pregnant, haven’t they?”
“Is that why you waited so long?”
“It was part of it.”
“And the forced marriage?”
“That was part of it, too. I needed to feel like I had a say.”
“And Spiros, he never pressured you?”
“What do you think? I see my beloved wife as a brood mare? She was not having our child until she was ready, and if that time never came, then it never came.” Spiros slid one arm around her waist, pulling her close, putting the other hand over the small mound of her belly.
Phoebe put her hand over Spiros’s against her stomach.
Her brother sighed and then smiled at them both. “I know you love Phoebe, Spiros. It’s one of the reasons I was so shocked by those contracts.”
“Contracts that had no bearing on our life together from the day we said our vows,” Spiros said with conviction.
“If that were true, I believe my sister, who is so good with children, who talked all the time about the family she was going to have until she went away to college, the type of mother she was going to be, would already have children.” Oh, Chrysanthos sounded sure of his hypothesis.
“No,” Phoebe said firmly. “No. I have enjoyed my career, but I didn’t want to be a mother when I was working full-time. Spiros understood that.”
Chrysanthos fisted his hands. “I would never have allowed our father to trade you for our company. If I’d been older, none of this would have happened.”
“You make it sound like our marriage was a tragedy when I assure you, it was not.” Every word vibrated with furious affront from her husband.
She turned so she could look up at him, holding his hand tightly against where their baby grew inside of her. “That’s not what he’s saying.”
“Do not speak for your brother. You are doing fine speaking for yourself.” Spiros’s golden-brown eyes were dark with anger as he stared at her.
Phoebe gasped. “What are you so angry about?”
“Am I angry?”
“Furious, more like.”
“Why would I be angry? You and your brother have agreed that you would not have married me if you’d had a choice.”
Well, darn it. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t marry you ever, just not right out of university. You know I loved you, but marrying because of the money, to save my family, being pressured into marrying Dimitri by everyone, not knowing how you felt…it hurt me.”
“Would you want the same for your child?” Chrysanthos demanded, indicating her belly with his hand.
Spiros gave her brother a sulfuric glare. “I would never put my child in that position, but that does not mean Phoebe should not have married me.”
“Neither of us said that.” Phoebe implored her husband’s understanding with her eyes. “But do I wish we’d dated like other people? That you’d asked me to marry you with words of love? Yes.”
“How long, what?”
“How long would you have wanted to wait? How long would you have wanted to date?”
“Months, a year, I don’t know. I loved you so much, it wouldn’t have been long.”
“But it would have been different. Better for you.”
“I don’t regret a single day of our marriage.”
“I am glad to hear that.” He didn’t sound glad. He sounded…off.
“What, yineka mou?”
“I am your wife. I am glad I’m your wife. I’m excited about this baby.”
“But you wish we had gotten to this point a different way.”
“It doesn’t matter, Spiros. We are here. Married, having our first child.”
He looked down at her and leaned forward, kissing her until she snuggled against him.
“You two.” Chrysanthos laughed. “I’m still furious with our dad, but there’s no question you two were meant for each other.”
Chrysanthos couldn’t stay overnight. He had too many things going on with Leonides Shipping to take any extra time away from the company. And apparently as upset as he’d been by the contracts he’d found and read, he was content now to believe that Phoebe was married to the man she was meant for.
Her husband wasn’t so sanguine and Phoebe didn’t know how to make it better.
She was still thinking about it when she got home from work. She’d planned to ride with Spiros today, but had ended up taking a car instead because he went in early and said he’d be leaving at a different time than her.
He had, leaving the office a couple of hours before he usually did, so she was surprised to find the apartment empty when she got there a few hours later. Only a gorgeous dress by one of her favorite designers was on the bed, along with a note.
The note told her to be dressed and ready to go out—she looked down at her watch—in thirty minutes. She’d left work a few minutes late, then her car had arrived even later. Phoebe was sure her husband had intended her to have more time to get ready. She didn’t, and if she didn’t get a move on, he’d show up and she’d still be in her slip.
Which wasn’t such a bad scenario, but Phoebe was curious what her husband was going to make happen.
What happened was that her perfect, romantic, loving husband dated her. At least once a week until their baby was born, Spiros courted her with dinners, live theater, trunk shows (they lived in the fashion capital of the world, after all), concerts, date-night movies, and gifts. Lots and lots of little and big gifts that showed just how well he knew her, how much he thought about her.
They also took birthing classes together, shopped for the nursery and made plans for the future in this amazing bubble of happiness she’d never realized could be as wonderful as it was.
And the night she delivered their baby, a beautiful little girl they named Clea (which meant gift of God, because she was their gift, timed to their life and their love), that happiness bubble was complete.
“She is beautiful,” Alexandra told Phoebe as she looked down into the face of her new niece, delighted Phoebe had allowed her to be one of the first people to hold Clea. “And her name is perfect.”
Dimitri put an arm around Alexandra’s waist and looked down at the hours-old infant like the besotted uncle he was. “She’s got your looks,” he said to Phoebe, who glowed with a giddy, infectious happiness. “Which she will no doubt be grateful for, but she’s got my brother’s eyes.”
“She’s perfect,” Phoebe replied, reclining in her private hospital bed, wearing a lovely nightgown that Spiros had helped change her into after she gave birth to Clea.
Spiros, who sat on the bed beside his wife, touched her lovingly. “Just like her mama.”
“You two are so sweet, I’m going to get a cavity looking at you.” Dimitri’s teasing tone belied any acerbity to his remark.
Spiros grinned at his older brother. “Like you and Alexandra are any different.”
Her husband shrugged, his muscular chest rising and falling against her.
“Do you think Theo will stand in as her big brother?” Spiros asked, emotion lacing his tone. “He’s been trained in the role by the best. Both Philip and Alexandar are lucky to have him.”
Dimitri went silent beside her, clearly moved by his younger brother’s words.
“He can’t wait to meet his youngest cousin,” Alexandra answered, giving her husband a minute to collect himself. Madeleine’s children were of an age with Alexandra and Dimitri’s three. “And he’s positively vibrating with the chance to watch over a little girl.”
Dimitri cleared his throat, wiping surreptitiously at his eyes. “He was hoping Alexandar would be a girl.”
“Well, he treats little Alex like a big brother should, being protective and teaching him. You’d never know he wanted a little sister.”
“He didn’t, not by the time Alex was born,” Alexandra said. “Theo really loves his role as oldest.”
“He certainly shares your protective streak, and willingness to teach his younger siblings.” Spiros smiled. “If he has half your ruthless attitude toward business, he’ll take Petronides International places neither of us have done.”
Alexandra knew how healing these words her brother-in-law was speaking were to her husband. Though Spiros had long ago forgiven Dimitri for almost marrying the woman he loved and being less than honest about his own relationship with Alexandra and what she meant to him, her husband had always harbored a sense of guilt where his brother was concerned.
“S’gapo, adelfós mou.” Dimitri’s affirmation of his love for his brother came out in tear-choked Greek.
Spiros got up from the bed and came to hug Dimitri, his own tears running unchecked down his cheeks. “You have always shown me what it means to be the best in family and I am very glad my daughter will know you as her uncle.”
Alexandra knew Spiros meant his words sincerely. After all, he and Phoebe had packed up their apartment in Paris and moved back to Greece near the end of the pregnancy, so their daughter could be raised near Dimitri, Alexandra and their children. Theopolis was over the moon to have both his grandsons living in the family home again and his excitement at Clea’s birth had actually exhausted him so much, he had to go home to rest.
At eighty, he was still going strong. He’d even stopped pressuring Phoebe and Spiros into having children after his fight with his youngest grandson five years prior. Most importantly, he’d taken Phoebe aside and apologized profusely to her for ignoring her personal happiness in his quest to see the Leonides and Petronides families united.
Phoebe still had a distant relationship with her parents, a lot like Alexandra’s with her own mother, but like Alexandra, Phoebe was close with her sibling and in-laws.
They were two incredibly blessed women to have married the men they did. The Petronides brothers were the best Greece had to offer, and she knew Phoebe agreed with that sentiment.
About the Author
With more than seven million copies of her books in print worldwide, award-winning and USA TODAY bestselling author Lucy Monroe has published over sixty books and had her stories translated for sale all over the world. While she writes multiple subgenres of romance, all her books are sexy, deeply emotional and adhere to the concept that love will conquer all. A passionate devotee of romance, she adores sharing her love for the genre with her readers.
Look for Lucy Monroe’s next title from Harlequin Presents:
Kostas’s Convenient Bride
Coming May 2018!