THE KYRIAKOS VIRGIN BRIDE EXCERPT
He must marry a virgin. She's the perfect choice. But his new bride's secret unleashes a scandal that rocks more than their marriage bed!
Pandora Armstrong spoke the vow in a clear, steady voice and a warm tide of radiance swept her. She sneaked a look up at her groom. Zac Kyriakos stood like a rock beside her, feet apart, facing the archbishop. Serious. Intent. Utterly gorgeous.
He was staring straight ahead. His profile could've been culled from any of the statues or friezes in the Acropolis Museum he'd taken Pandora to explore three days ago. The arrogant nose that ran in a straight sweep from his forehead to the nose tip, the strong jaw, the broad and high-boned cheekbones all resembled the marble statues she'd seen. But it was on his full mouth that her gaze lingered. Jeez, his mouth...
Full and sensuous, it was a mouth made for pure sin.
Zac glanced down and caught her staring. His colder-than-glass green eyes blazed, possessive. And that sexy to-die-for mouth curved into a smile.
Desire shocked through her. Pandora tore her gaze away and stared blindly at the bouquet of creamy white roses clasped in her free hand.
Dear God. How could she feel like this about a man? And not just any man. This was Zac Kyriakos who made her feel feverish and shaky. What had he done to her?
She blinked, fighting the urge to wipe her eyes, in case she woke up and discovered she'd dreamt the whole thing. How could she, Pandora, Miss Goody Two Shoes, except for that terrible summer three years ago, have fallen in love so quickly?
Dimly she heard the archbishop say, "You may kiss the bride."
The vows and the kiss were not part of the Greek Orthodox ceremony which had gone before where she and Zac had both worn crowns joined by a pure white ribbon. Zac had requested the traditional vowsfor her sake.
She was married!
Married to the tall, dark man and exceedingly handsome man whose right hand she clutched so tightly that her fingernails must be leaving crescent-shaped marks on his palm. Inside, her stomach cramped with nervous excitement. It wasn't every day that a woman married a man who until three months ago had been a stranger.
She lifted her head. Their eyes connected. Heat arced between them. Zac's eyes smouldered. Possessive. Hungry. But there was a question in those compelling eyes, too.
Pandora nodded, a small almost imperceptible nod, granting him the permission he sought.
Zac's hand tightened on hers. The warm weight of his other palm rested on the curve of her hip covered by the embroidered wedding gown made of ancient silk and passed from Kyriakos bride to Kyriakos bride through centuries. A gentle tug turned her to face him. His head swept down. Her heart skipped a beat. That devastating mouth brushed hers, warm and intimate.
And just like that Pandora forgot about the archbishop, forgot about the people packed into the pews. Forgot that this was Zac Kyriakos. Shipping tycoon. Billionaire.
The only reality was the sensual touch of his lips on hers. And the heat that shivered through her.
Too soon he set her away. Only then did she become aware of the flashing cameras and remember they stood in a church where nearly a thousand people watched. Instantly the trembling heat evaporated. Despite the blazing white August sunlight outside, despite the temperature in excess of thirty degrees, she felt suddenly chilled.
* * *
"Goodness!" Pandora's eyes stretched wide as she stared at the noisy wall of paparazzi surrounding the bridal car as they turned into Zac's estate in Kifissia, the exclusive area north of Athens where the reception was being held.
"Overwhelming?" A flash of white teeth and a wicked grin lit up Zac's darkly tanned face. "A three ring circus?"
"Yes." Pandora leaned back, trying to hide from the intrusive camera lenses. From the minute she'd stepped off the plane the paparazzi had been waiting to mob her. But Zac and his phalanx of bodyguards had kept the hungry hoard at a distance. Pandora supposed she should have anticipated the furious speculation the wedding of Zac Kyriakos to a reclusive heiress had roused. Great-grandson of a Russian princess and the legendary Orestes Kyriakos, Zac had inherited most of his fortune from his grandfather, Socrates, after Orestes had used his kidnapped bride's wealth to restore the state of the Kyriakos fortune to its pre-Great War glory. Both Orestes and Socrates had been legends in their own times and Zac himself featured prominently on the cover of the world's finance magazines as well as making the annual list of most eligible bachelors in the known universe for the last decade.
But naively Pandora hadn't given his fame a thought, hadn't expected to have her wedding treated like that of royalty.
"Smile. They think our wedding is romantic. A modern fairytale," Zac whispered into her ear. "And you're the beautiful princess."
Feeling like she was performing to the gallery, Pandora turned to the window and bared her teeth in a travesty of a smile. The cameramen went crazy. And then they were sweeping through the tall wrought iron gates, along the private tree-lined avenue through park-like gardens.
"Pandora." Without warning, Zac's expression turned serious and he reached for her hand. "Remember what I told you when you arrived? Don't read the papers. Don't search for those photos in the newspapers tomorrow. The lies and half-truths that accompany them will upset you. Concentrate on us, on our future together," he said, his voice unexpectedly fierce as his thumb caressed the soft skin on the inside of her wrist. "The speculationthe gossip and garbage the tabloids dredge up will destroy you."
"I know. I already promised you I won't read the papers." She sighed. "I only wish Dad had been here." Her father's absence was the only shadow that hung over an otherwise perfect day. But since a bad bout of pneumonia four winters ago had left his lungs permanently damaged, necessitating regular doses of oxygen, her father no longer risked airline travel. "I always thought he'd be there on my wedding day to give me away."
The realization was dawning that she'd left her father and her childhood home far behind. After today she would spend the rest of her life with Zac. Loved. Adored. The pomp and people didn't matter. Nothing mattered. Nothing except Zac.
Zac's housemore like a mansion with its tower and stone wallsappeared before them. This would be her home from now on, together with the townhouse he owned in London. Zac had also spoken about buying a retreat in New Zealand, near her father's station.
"Your father may not be here. But I am. I'll always be here for you." At the intensity in his voice she turned her head. His hard, hewn features was softened by the sun filtering through the bullet-proof glass windows, his eyes curiously gentle. Her throat tightened, she cast around for words but couldn't find any that matched the moment.
"Are you ready to face the world, yineka mou?" he asked as the car slowed.
Pandora shot him a dazzling smile, happiness overflowing within her. She smoothed down the swathes of silk of the antique full-skirted gown.
"I'm ready for anything."
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Look out for:
THE KYRIAKOS VIRGIN BRIDE
THE APOLLONIDES MISTRESS SCANDAL
THE DESERT BRIDE OF AL ZAYED