By Lucy Monroe   © 2003


    To Alice Anderson.  Thank you from the very depths
    of my heart for your support and encouragement.  You give
    the romance industry an incredible gift and Iím so
    very blessed to call you friend.

    Chapter One


    The word loomed in Annaís mind like the Hollywood sign on the hills above L.A., each letter as tall as a building, the stark white a perfect contrast to the darkness of her thoughts.

    Soon, the doctor would call and confirm her total failure in the wife stakes. Because no Greek man wanted a woman who could not bear him children as his wife, especially not a man as powerful and proud as Loukas Stefanos. Her husband.

    But for how long?

    The scent of honeysuckle teased her senses and the sea blue of the Mediterranean glistened in the distance. A view that usually gave her pleasure now taunted her with how soon she would be leaving it behind. She had no choice. She would not burden Loukas with an infertile wife.

    It wouldnít be fair.

    Heíd married her because he enjoyed her company and it was a prudent business move considering who her father was.

    It wasnít his fault she had fallen in love with her Greek tycoon husband or that she had been unable to conceive in the two years of their marriage.

    His fatherís comments at the celebration dinner for their second anniversary had prompted her to approach her doctor for fertility tests.


    Yorgos slapped Loukas on the back. "Well, my son. Two years is long enough for any marriage to get settled. It is time you gave me some grand children."

    Annaís stomach knotted with tension as it did every time the subject of children was raised because contrary to what Yorgos clearly believed, neither she nor Loukas had ever done anything to prevent conception. Sheíd wanted children right away, craving a family different than the divided household she had grown up in.

    A television actress, her mother had insisted on maintaining her independent life in Hollywood. Annaís father, a traditional Greek man, married more closely to his wealth and power than his wife, had chosen to live his life in Greece, visiting Hollywood when time permitted.

    Loukas smiled at his father, but his hand settled reassuringly on her knee under the table. "I am in no hurry."

    Yorgos turned his attention to Anna, his expression not quite so jovial. "What is the matter? Do you not wish to make my son a bampas?"

    She hated these questions. How was she supposed to answer? "Yes, of course I want to make Loukas a father."

    "But there is plenty of time," her husband smoothly inserted, preventing his father from asking the question she could see lurking in his gray eyes.

    Why then was she not pregnant?

    The comforting hand became a caressing hand and familiar shivers of sensation almost drowned out the feelings her father-in-lawís words provoked. Almost, but even the passion that ran red hot between them could not completely stamp out her sense of failure as a woman.

    She wanted to be a mother.

    "Perhaps I will have to leave my company to Tanek, heh? He and Cassia have two strapping boys already and if I am not mistaken, good news again?"

    The older man winked at a now blushing Cassia.

    Tanek laughed and kissed his wifeís cheek. "I do not understand how you know practically before I do, Uncle Yorgos, but Cassia is indeed pregnant."

    Something shifted across Loukasís face, an emotion Anna did not want to name. He removed his hand from her knee to hug his cousin and congratulate the other man.

    Later in the car, she used the cover of darkness to ask the questions that had been tormenting her for months.

    "Loukas, is it really that important for us to have children?"

    She didnít ask if he had any guesses on why they had never conceived. She had asked that once and he had dismissed her worries with the assurance that she would become pregnant when God willed it.

    "What do you mean?"

    "Your father threatened to leave his company to your cousin. Would he really do that?"

    Loukas shrugged. "I do not know. It is possible. It is very important for a Greek man to know he is leaving a legacy. If he thought I would not father children to leave the company to, he might do it."

    The knots of tension that had started at dinner tightened until she felt cramps in her lower abdomen. Her empty womb. "What if you donít father any children?"

    "That is not going to happen. You will become pregnant when the time is right."

    "How can you be so sure?"

    "I am right." Heavens, he was arrogant and she thought he probably didnít even realize how much. "Do not worry about it, Anna. We have only been married for two years. Many couples wait five or six years before starting a family."

    "Couples that do something to prevent it. Weíve done nothing."

    "Ah, this is not true." For a moment his dark gaze shifted from the road to her. "We have done a great deal and will continue this very pleasurable activity which will bear its natural fruit in due course."

    The passion arced between them and she felt her thigh muscles contract in anticipation of reaching home.


    Remembering what they had done upon reaching the villa gave Anna no comfort now. Soon, she would have to give up the pleasure she found in her husbandís arms, but worse, she would have to give him up all together.

    The infertility had to lie with her. He was too virile, too much a man, to be the problem.

    So, she sat at the table on the terrace overlooking the sea, the hot Greek sun beating down on her and waited for her sentence of doom. The call from her doctorís office.

    From inside the house, she could hear a phone ring.

    Seconds later, the housekeeper joined her on the terrace, carrying a cordless telephone.

    "It is for you, Kyria."






    Chapter Two


    "Anna? Is that you, dear? Iíve decided to come to Greece after all. The showís on hiatus and Iíve turned down the other part. Iím too old to work fifty-two weeks a year."

    Expecting her doctorís voice on the other end of the line, it took a moment for Anna to assimilate her motherís words. "Youíre coming to Greece?"

    "Yes, dear. Isnít that what I just said?"

    Anna could not remember the last time her mother had traveled to Greece. Sheíd spoken of it often, but when it came down to it, there was always another part, another job keeping her away.

    "Th-thatís lovely." Would she even be here? "When?"

    "I thought Iíd come over for your fatherís birthday. Give him something to celebrate besides getting older."

    Anna replied, not really paying attention to what she was saying. They spoke for a few more minutes and then her mother rang off.

    Anna went back to her quiet vigil, waiting for the doctorís office to call.

    "You look deep in thought. What has your interest so entrenched?" Her husbandís voice brought her out of her blind reverie with a snap.


    "Yes, it is I, yineka mou."

    His wife, but for how long?

    "Youíre home very early."

    "I wanted to spend time with my lovely wife. Is this a problem?" His eyes spoke a message that turned her insides into melting honey.

    "No, of course not. Iím just..." Waiting for a phone call that would irrevocably change both their lives, but she wasnít about to say that, so she let her voice trail into nothingness.

    "Waiting for me." His teeth flashed a grin in his gorgeous face and she couldnít help smiling back.

    "Always," she admitted.

    Sheíd never told him she loved him, mostly because she knew that his feelings for her were limited to desire and fondness. If it had been otherwise, he would have said something in two years. He never had.

    While he frequently called her yineka mou, his wife, he never used the term for beloved, even in the midst of their deepest passion.

    But she thought her deeper feelings for him must be obvious by now.

    He reached down to pull her up into his arms, wrapping her in the spicy, masculine scent that was uniquely him.

    "I missed you today."

    The words shocked her, but no more than the volatile passion in his kiss.


    Loukas devoured his wifeís lips with the intention of wiping that haunted look from her beautiful blue eyes. Sheíd been distant from him since the dinner party celebrating their second anniversary and he refused to accept it. She was his.

    Her body went stiff, as if his ardor surprised her. It should not. He pulled her into his body so she could feel just how strong that ardor was.

    She moaned, a sexy, feminine sound that had him straining against the zip of his trousers.

    He wanted her.


    Swinging her slight body up in his arms, he did not break the kiss, but carried her inside and up the stairs to their bedroom. He would have been content to make love to her on the terrace, but such an action would afford them no privacy. And what he wanted to do with his wife was very private.

    He laid her on the bed, but when he went to pull away so he could undress, she grabbed him.

    Her response to his kiss unexpectedly desperate, she opened her lips and drew his tongue in to taste the warm sweet nectar of her mouth. She yanked at his shirt, pulling buttons open with violent urgency. He was more than happy to help her and undid his pants with one hand while working her dress up with the other.

    She shucked out of her panties, her body bowing beneath him.

    He touched her in that place that was for him alone and shuddered at her readiness for him.

    He didnít even have his pants off when she tugged on his hips, silently demanding he join their bodies. No more willing to wait than she was, he accomplished it with one long thrust. The ride was wild, tumultuous and fast.

    They reached the pinnacle together with their mouths still locked in an intimate tasting, every bit as fierce as their kiss of their bodies.

    Afterward, he rolled off of her and finished removing both their clothes before picking her up and carrying her into the en suite. Sitting her on the side of their oversized jetted tub, he caressed her creamy, pink tipped breast before he turned the water on.

    Silence that had not been broken by words since he had told her he had missed her today, continued to reign as the tub filled with steaming water. She leaned over the tub and dumped in some of the fragrant bath salts she kept in a crystal bowl at one corner.

    He did not complain about the sweet smell because it was more refreshing than feminine and because the salts turned the water into slippery warmth that enhanced anything they might want to do in the bath.

    He closed his hands around her small waist, struck anew by how fragile she was compared to his over six-foot frame. "You are beautiful, yineka mou and all mine."

    Her eyes filled with a sorrow he did not understand, but then she reached up and brushed light fingers down the side of his cheek. "And you are devastating."

    What followed was as tender as the time before had been passionate and when they finally made it back to their bed, he felt like a man reborn.

    A knock sounded on their bedroom door.

    "Yes?" Loukas called out, not wanting the interlude with his wife to end.

    "Kyrios, the kyria has a phone call."

    Anna went absolutely rigid beside him. "Iím not ready. I donít want to talk to him."

    "Who?" What person could have his sweet wife so upset? Was his father pestering her about pregnancy again?

    "The doctor."

    Cold fear settled in the pit of his stomach as he remembered how preoccupied she had been the past week. "Is something wrong with you, Anna?"

    She laughed hollowly. "Nothing terrible...just..."

    But she didnít finish, her throat convulsing as tears washed into her eyes.

    "Take a message," he barked at the housekeeper through the closed door and then pulled his wife close into his body. "Tell me what is bothering you, yineka mou."






    Chapter Three


    Anna looked at Loukas and realized she could not say what needed to be said, not wrapped up securely in his arms, their naked bodies touching.

    "I need to get up." She tried to get out of bed, but his hold did not loosen.

    "Tell me what is upsetting you."

    "I canít. Not like this. I need Ė I need to be dressed."

    His brown gaze trapped her own with the intense concentration he had turned on her. "You can put on your robe."

    Another time she would have laughed at the concession and the idea he thought he could dictate it to her, but right now she felt too lost for humor. Instead, she tugged out of his arms and gratefully donned her white toweling robe. Its thick terry fabric felt like a protective cloak.

    How did she say what needed saying?

    "The truth is best." His sardonic drawl let her know sheíd asked the question out loud.

    She chewed on her bottom lip until he reached out and gently tapped her mouth. "Stop that. You will draw blood."

    "Youíre always protecting me." It sounded more like an accusation than a compliment.

    His brows rose. "You are my wife. This is my responsibility."

    "You canít protect me now. Thinking that way will make this situation impossible."

    His eyes narrowed and his mouth firmed into a grim line. "Define impossible."

    "We have to divorce."

    She watched in awed fascination as her always cool, always controlled husband swelled with the worst fury she had ever seen.

    "You dare to say such a thing to me while your body is yet warm from my lovemaking?" He didnít shout, but the deadly precision of his tone was worse than any loud bellowing could have been. "You think you can convince me you want a divorce after what we have done here in this bed. You were wild under me."

    She felt heat steal into her cheeks. "I didnít say I wanted a divorce."

    He erupted out of the bed and stalked to where she hovered, indecision and pain making it impossible to be as clear and concise as she needed to be.

    "Then what are you saying?" He towered above her, his stance intimidating.

    Only she did not feel intimidated. This man would never hurt her. Which was why she had to stand firm.

    "Iím infertile. The only solution is for us to end our marriage."

    "What kind of solution is this?" He started haranguing her in Greek, speaking too fast for even her fluent ear to comprehend.

    He wound down with several curses sheíd never heard him utter.

    "Whose idea was it for you to take the tests?"

    She backed up a step, needing distance to keep what little she had left of her faculties. "Mine."

    "It was not my fatherís?" Loukasís eyes were narrow with suspicion, his tone arctic.

    "No!" She didnít want to cause trouble in the warm and affectionate relationship between the two men.

    "Your doctor did not suggest it?"

    "I told you. It was my idea."

    "Why did you have this idea?" He sounded like the fact sheíd had the tests was a personal affront to him.

    "Do you remember the dinner party for our anniversary?"

    "I am not in my dotage and am unlikely to forget an event less than a month previous."

    She frowned at him. "I donít need you being cute with me. This is hard enough as it is."

    "If you think to truly try to divorce me, you will discover just how difficult, pethi mou."

    She believed him. His entire body spoke one message toward her proclamation. Rejection. Wrong though it might be, the thought that he would absolutely refuse to let her go buoyed her spirits.

    "Can we sit down to finish this discussion?"


    Then he lifted her in his arms, surprising a yelp from her. She grabbed his shoulders to steady herself as he carried her out onto their private balcony. She expected him to place her in one of the outdoor armchairs and take the other, but he didnít.

    He lowered his tall body into one, keeping her securely in his lap as he settled.

    "I canít discuss divorce sitting in your lap," she protested.

    "You are not discussing divorce at all. Explain to me about the infertility test."

    "Your father said heíd leave the company to your cousin because Cassiaís already given him two children and another is on the way."

    "He did not mean it." Loukas sounded exasperated, like he was talking to a dull-witted child.

    Irritated, she frowned at him. "You said yourself it was a possibility."

    "And this prompted you to have the tests done?"


    He turned and gazed out at the sea for almost a full minute before speaking again.

    "When did you learn the results of the tests?"

    "I havenít. Not yet. Thatís what the doctor was calling about earlier, but I lost my nerve in getting them."

    That had his head snapping back to look at her. "You said you were infertile."

    "Iím sure I am."

    His expression made his earlier tone of voice seem tame in comparison.

    "It makes sense," she appealed, "what else could explain two years and no pregnancy?"

    "The problem could lie with me, or there could be no problem at all. Many couples do not conceive immediately."

    "Two years?" It was her turn to sound like she doubted his intelligence, or his sanity, or both. "Youíve got to see. The only avenue that makes any sense is divorce."

    He rose from the chair, dumping her off his lap to stand on her own, and stepping away from her in one angry movement. "So, you married me only to have children with me and since you have not realized your dream of motherhood, you are ready to dismiss me from your life?"





    Chapter Four


    Loukas could not breathe past the pain in his chest. Sheíd never said the words, but he had believed Anna had come to love him. He had never considered he was no more than a stud in her bed.

    The look of horror overcoming her features did nothing to assuage his male pride.

    She wasnít even positive yet she was infertile, but she was ready to end their marriage.

    "I donít want to dump you because you canít give me a baby. Iím doing this for you. You must see that. I canít be responsible for you losing your inheritance."

    "You think I am such a weakling, I cannot make it on my own, that I must have my fatherís company to survive?"

    Was she totally ignorant of his personal wealth, the holdings left him by his motherís father?

    "No, thatís not it at all." Again her eyes were filming with tears. "This isnít about money. Itís about heritage."

    "Will I stop being my fatherís son if you never have our baby? Will I stop being Greek?"

    She shook her head, her throat working and wringing her hands in agitation.

    "This is my heritage. The company can go to Tanek and with my blessing if my father so chooses, but I will not let you leave me in a misguided attempt to save it."

    "But you canít want to stay married to me now."

    "You do not even know you are infertile," he reminded her, getting angry all over again when he realized how easily she was willing to be convinced their marriage had no future.

    "Thatís true, but..." She shook her head again, seemingly lost for words.

    One truth overshadowed all the rest. "I cannot let you go."

    He sounded like a needy adolescent, but he loved this woman with everything in him. He could never let her leave him.

    "I canít stay."

    He pulled her back into his arms, hugging her to his body and she let him. She could not want to leave him, not and cling so tightly to him, like he was her only lifeline.

    "You can and you will."

    "It would be different if you loved me, butó"

    "What did you say?" he demanded, interrupting her and pushing her away so he could see her face.

    The misery there almost stopped his heart.

    "You donít love me."

    Shock coursed through him. Could she truly not know? "I love you more than my own life. Of a certainty, I love you more than any company."

    She turned completely white and swayed. He grabbed her back to him and kissed lips that had gone cold from shock. "This cannot be such a surprise to you. I cannot keep my hands off of you. I want always to be in your company. I go into a decline when I must leave you for business."

    "You mostly make me come along," she whispered.

    "This is true."

    "You never said you love me, never called me beloved."

    "And on this paltry evidence, you were convinced I felt nothing for you?" He could not fathom the mind of a woman. "I call you my wife, my woman, the other half of my soul. That is more real than a word that alludes only to emotion."

    "I need the word." She said it ferociously, her eyes burning into his.

    He nodded, accepting it. "I see now that you do. Forgive me for my blindness to your need."

    Her hands gripped his biceps, small fingers digging fiercely into his muscles. "Just say it."

    "I love you." He punctuated each word with a kiss on lips that were slowly regaining their warmth and softness. "Forever. You are mine."

    Her blue eyes turned the color of midnight, her expression becoming so solemn, he felt humbled. "I love you." And he realized that to hear the words was indeed a very fine thing. "I always have and I always will."

    "No divorce."

    "No divorce," she repeated.


    A year later Anna held the most perfect baby in her arms that God had ever made. She smiled down at her new daughter and then up at her husband. "Isnít she beautiful."

    "As beautiful as her mother," replied the clearly besotted papa.

    "Iím amazed we got an infant so quickly. Our adoption agent said that some couples wait years for a child."

    "It was meant to be."


    "Did I not tell you we would have a baby when the good God willed it?"

    Laughter burbled up inside her and she nodded, more than happy to let her arrogant husband have the last word, especially when he followed it with, "I love you."

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