The Billionaire's TrophyBy: Lynne Graham
SEBASTIANO CHRISTOU, KNOWN as Bastian to his many friends and acquaintances, studied the huge emerald ring in his hand with seething frustration blazing in his dark golden eyes, his lean darkly handsome features settling into forbidding lines of hauteur. He was holding the Christou betrothal ring, which had, until very recently, adorned the hand of his intended wife, Lilah Siannas.
Ironically, Lilah had not voiced a single word of reproach concerning the terms of the pre-nup agreement presented to her lawyer. Instead, while leaving the pre-nup unsigned, Lilah had become irritatingly unavailable and distant but her burning resentment had ultimately triumphed, culminating in her public statement that the engagement was over and the wedding cancelled. And ever since then Lilah had been noisily painting the town red in the company of a good-looking toyboy millionaire.
Bastian was well aware that Lilah was throwing down a gauntlet she expected him to pick up. He was supposed to be jealous: yet he was not. He was supposed to feel foolish: but he did not. He was supposed to want her so much that he would forget about the pre-nup: only he did not. No, Lilah was playing a losing game for Bastian would never marry a woman without first securing his wealth with a pre-nup agreement. That was a lesson learned well at his grandfather’s knee.
His father had married four times and his three incredibly expensive divorces had decimated the Christou family fortune. Bastian’s grandfather had taught his grandson that love was unnecessary in a successful marriage and that shared goals and principles were more important. Bastian had never been in love but he had often been in lust. Lilah, a tiny exquisite brunette, had excited his need to chase and possess but he had never kidded himself that he loved her. Indeed before he proposed, he had evaluated Lilah’s worth much as though she were an investment. He had recognised the advantage of their similar backgrounds; he had admired her unemotional outlook, excellent education and her skills as a society hostess. But, as he now grimly reminded himself, he had seriously underestimated the strength and pulling power of his fiancée’s avarice.
Bastian thrust the ring back in its case and put it in the safe, angry at the months he had wasted on Lilah, a woman demonstrably unfit to be his wife. He was thirty years old, more than ready to marry and have a family, bored with casual affairs. He had not realised that finding a wife would be such a challenge and he was already wondering how the hell he was supposed to avoid a scene at his sister, Nessa’s wedding in two weeks’ time because Lilah was one of Nessa’s bridesmaids. Lilah would be outraged when Bastian didn’t, at least, try to win her back. She would relish being the focus of all eyes at the wedding and would delight even more in a confrontation, but Bastian did not want his baby sister to be embarrassed or upset on her special day. The only way of avoiding that danger would be for him to arrive with another woman on his arm, for Lilah was too proud to overlook such a statement.
But at this late stage where on earth would he find another woman to act as his partner throughout a weekend of family festivities? A woman who wouldn’t try to trap him into a relationship and who wouldn’t read more than he meant into his invitation? A woman nonetheless capable of pretending to be intimately involved with him, for nothing less would keep Lilah at a distance. Did such a perfect woman exist?
‘Bastian...?’ He spun round as one of his directors strode in with a laptop beneath his arm. ‘I’ve got something amusing to show you—are you in the mood?’
Bastian was not in the mood but Guy Babington was a good friend and he forced a smile to his hard mouth. ‘Always,’ he encouraged.
Guy opened the laptop on the desk and spun it round to display the screen to Bastian. ‘There...recognise her?’
Bastian studied the photo of a stunning blonde with bright blue eyes in a party dress. She was laughing into the camera. ‘No...should I?’
‘Take another look,’ Guy urged. ‘Believe it or not, she works for you.’
‘No way...I would’ve noticed her,’ Bastian instantly declared because she was such a beauty. ‘What’s her picture doing on the Internet? Are you on Facebook?’