From USA Today Bestselling author Lucy Monroe another passionate Greek billionaire hero.
Rowan has come up with the perfect plan to get her family and her ex off her back. One night of steamy passion with his enemy, Greek billionaire, Lysander. When she shows up at his mansion in Athens, things do not go as planned…but a few minor pitfalls like overactive security and tripping on her come-and-get-me-baby heels do not stop these two from burning up the sheets.
The next morning, Lysander offers his own revenge scenario. If one night together will get under her ex’s skin, how about a full blown affair? He doesn’t do commitment. She’s not looking to get trapped in another stifling relationship. It’s a delicious arrangement for both of them. Until they catch feelings. Neither wants to admit their steamy intimacy could lead to something more.
When a woman from both their pasts tries to convince Rowan that Lysander broke the one rule they set – exclusivity as long as they’re together – both the billionaire and the free spirit have to decide what they really want.
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BY Lucy Monroe
(c) 2023 All Rights Reserved
Rowan Johnson pulled her five-year-old, ecofriendly electric compact to a stop in front of a mansion in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Athens.
The soaring stone wall that encompassed the huge property in its entirety was broken only by an imposing steel gate. Painted a sandy brown to match the stone in the wall, it was wide enough to let a delivery vehicle through. Right now, it was shut tight.
Taking a deep breath for courage, she got out of her little car. She wasn’t going to back out now. This was what she wanted, and if she rightly read the way Lysander Baros, Greek billionaire and most eligible Athens bachelor, not to mention the sexiest one, looked at her, he did too.
Even if he didn’t want it as much as she did, the chance to knock his half-brother down a peg might be worth it all on its own.
Rowen walked to the callbox beside the gate, stepping carefully in her three-inch heels. She wasn’t dressed to go walking, or even to go out. She would never go to a club in a skirt as tight as the one on the dress she wore. Nor with a neckline as plunging.
She was dressed to seduce and hoped she’d gotten it right.
At thirty, she wasn’t a virgin, but neither was she particularly experienced in the art of seduction. Married at the age of twenty and filing for divorce nine years later, there hadn’t been a lot of time for her to learn. But she was ready to change that.
She was ready to show her ex, who thought the divorce had been her way of demanding fidelity, not ending their marriage, that she was moving on. And what better way than with the illegitimate half-brother who Cyrus regarded with equal parts jealousy and antipathy?
The fact that Rowan wanted Lysander in a way she’d never craved physical connection with Cyrus only made this little plan both possible and potentially pleasurable.
“Do you have an appointment?”
The voice startled Rowan out of her musings, and nearly toppled her off of her three-inch heels.
She spun around to see that while yes, there was a call box on one side of the gate like on the estate she’d once shared with her husband, there was also a security gate on the other. It was manned by a guard who looked like he knew what he was doing. She supposed that was the difference between security for a billionaire like Lysander Baros and a millionaire like his half-brother and her ex, Cyrus Andino.
“Um, no, but I think Lysander will see me.” As she said the words, Rowan realized how foolish they sounded. This guard didn’t know her, or that she knew Lysander.
It hadn’t been very smart to come over here without calling Lysander first either. What if he was entertaining?
She knew he preferred quiet after returning from extended business trips, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t have a discreet companion to welcome him home from his trip to Asia. He’d been gone seven weeks and visited five countries, with stops in multiple cities in each. A grueling schedule, even for a man like her Greek billionaire.
No, not hers. He would never be that, but he might be her lover if she handled this right.
The guard was looking at her impassively, and kudos to him for that because he had to have lots of experience turning away women who wanted a little of Lysander’s time and were sure that he’d want to see them. Even if he weren’t a billionaire, he would be in high demand with his square jawed good looks, wavy dark hair and utterly mesmerizing blue eyes. Not to mention a muscular body most athletes would envy.
Rowan grabbed her bag and dug out her phone. Much easier in the small, elegant bag she’d paired with her slinky designer dress than her usual hold all.
“Let me just call him and let him know I’m here,” she said, looking up to give the guard a winning smile, only to find a gun trained on her.
Rowan screamed and dropped her phone.
Not a very practical reaction, she admitted, but she’d never seen a gun in person, much less had one pointed at her. Of course, she knew her security had been armed when she was married to Cyrus, but the guns had always been covered by suitcoats. Or maybe they’d worn ankle holsters?
She didn’t know, and neither mattered now as she stared down the barrel of the gun still pointed at her.
Her initial shock wearing off, indignation set in, and she frowned severely at the security guard. “Why are you threatening me with a gun? How could that possibly be necessary?”
“I thought you might be going for a weapon,” he said.
She didn’t even try to hold back the snort of derision. “Clearly not.” She pointed to the phone on the ground a few feet away. “I was trying to get my phone out so I could call Lysander and tell him I’m here.”
“What is your name?” the guard asked.
“Rowan Johnson.” She’d taken back her maiden name at the divorce.
The guard’s expression didn’t change. “Your name is not on the list.”
“You haven’t bothered to look at any list,” she said, unimpressed.
“I have it memorized, and your name is not on it.”
“Oh, do you have an eidetic memory? Only isn’t being a gate guard an odd choice of careers for someone with that kind of skill?” she asked herself more than him.
Rowan always wanted to understand the why of people. It was hardwired into her. At least that’s how it felt to her.
“I’m a security specialist, and no I don’t have a photographic memory. Mr. Baros’s list of approved guests is short.”
“Oh. That’s not surprising, I guess. I can’t help noticing your gun is still pointed at me.” And it was making her nervous. Well, strictly speaking, she’d gotten a full dose of scared and worried the second the gun came out.
There was no making about it.
“I haven’t yet ascertained if you are a threat.”
“Look, how about you call Lysander and tell him Rowan Johnson nee Andino is at the gate?”
“I cannot do that.”
“Why not? Did you drop your cell phone too?” she asked sarcastically, but inside she was shaking a little. Her phone was only a few feet away, but she wasn’t about to move toward it while he had his gun out.
What kind of security was trained to threaten violence without the least provocation? Rowan wasn’t feeling sexy anymore. She was angry and scared, and that only made her angrier.
“Policy is not to bother Mr. Baros with anyone showing up who does not have an appointment.”
“Okay, fine. Put your gun away and I will get my cell phone and call him.”
“Show me the inside of your purse first,” the man instructed.
It was a rude request, and surely unnecessary, but Rowan wanted that gun put away more than she wanted to argue about the invasion of her privacy.
So, she opened her small clutch and turned it so he could see the inside. “There. No weapons of any kind. I don’t even carry a nail file with me. Satisfied?”
He nodded and holstered his gun.
Rowan surged forward to grab her phone, forgetting she was wearing heels rather than her usual more sensible foot attire and promptly twisted her ankle, falling forward to land heavily on her knees. She cried out and then gasped as sharp pricks of pain from her skinned knees and a resounding throb in her ankle assailed her.
Shoot. This was the worst plan ever. What had she been thinking?
Seduce Mr. Sexy himself and make sure Cyrus heard about it so he would stop hounding her about reconciling? She wanted to get her dad and brothers off her back as well. They were business partners with her ex and apparently the divorce had made things uncomfortable for them.
Like that was all that mattered. But considering the fact they’d all known Cyrus slept around during her marriage and had never told her, there could be no question where their loyalty lay.
Anyway, this plan was definitely a bust. Climbing to her feet without flashing her panties was the kind of struggle she’d never thought to face and told her why she never dressed in this kind of clothing. She was far too clutzy for femme fatale gear.
Taking a step, she nearly fell again from the pain. No way could she walk another step in these heels, much less back to her car. Leaning against the wall, she removed first one sandal and then the other. Then she limped to her phone, her ire getting worse with every painful step.
When she reached the phone, she was faced with another dilemma. How did she bend down to get it without her skirt riding up indecently? If she tried to squat, she’d be equally exposed but in a different area of her anatomy.
Finally, she managed a combination squat-bend and got the phone.
She unlocked it and called Lysander.
“Hello, Rowan, what an unexpected pleasure,” he said in his smooth, deep voice answering after the second ring.
“So, you have my number in your phone, but my name isn’t on your list. I can’t believe I thought having sex with you was a good idea. You have your guards trained to pull guns on people just for trying to use their phones? What kind of man is that paranoid?”
“What are you saying? You aren’t making sense.”
“You’re right. My idea was completely nonsensical but I don’t think I needed to pay for that with skinned knees, a twisted ankle and having a gun drawn on me.”
“Slow down, Rowan, who drew a gun on you?”
“Your gate guard, excuse me, security specialist,” she emphasized. “He scared the bejeebees out of me. I don’t like wearing heels.”
“I know. You mentioned it once when we were dancing.”
He’d asked her to dance at one of the dos for a charity both her ex and Lysander had supported. That the two men agreed on even that was almost a miracle. She’d learned that after the dance though. When Cyrus had berated her for dancing with the other man.
“But he’s your brother.”
“My half-brother. Why my father chose to acknowledge him, I’ll never understand, but we aren’t legal family.”
Which meant what? She’d always wondered. They weren’t legal brothers, but they shared half their DNA and they’d been raised by the same father, though saying Baptiste Andino had had a hand in raising his mistress’s child was a bit of a stretch. But he had acknowledged Lysander as his son publicly and paid for his support and schooling, something that Cyrus resented. The connection had never been a secret. Her ex had resented that too.
Rowan had quickly learned that Cyrus took it as a personal affront if Rowan so much as smiled at Lysander, much less talked to him. Cyrus had frozen her out for a week after that innocent dance.
“We have only danced once,” she pointed out now. “And trust me the exercise isn’t likely to be repeated. I’m totally off men who have their security trained to treat visitors to their estate like the international most wanted.”
“Gregor will bring you to the house.” Then the call dropped. How rude. He hadn’t even said goodbye.
Suddenly the gate started to slide open, and the security specialist headed toward her with rapid steps. His gun was still holstered, but the look on his face showed intent. Rowan just knew that intent had something to do with her.
Just how ridiculous her plan was washed over Rowan and filled her with embarrassment. Why had she thought Mr. Eligible Bachelor himself would want to sleep with her when he could have pretty much any woman, or man if he swung that way, in Athens? Like heck she was sticking around so he could laugh in her face at the very idea.
She took a step toward her car and nearly fell again. Crud, that had hurt.
Her knees were still stinging and any movement made the pain more acute, but it was her ankle that was making walking difficult. She limped as fast as she could, but hadn’t yet reached her car when a hand came around her wrist like a manacle.
She gasped and yanked against the hold instinctively. Her wrist remained firmly in the security specialist’s grip.
“Mr. Baros would like you to come to the house so he can speak to you.” The guard’s tone was polite, but that didn’t make her any less his prisoner.
“Mr. Baros can call me at his convenience. I want to leave,” Rowan said tartly. “Let go of my hand.”
Even if she still thought her idea was a good one, and she didn’t, she had no desire to meet up with Lysander with skinned knees, a sore ankle and a sweaty brow from stress.
“Please be reasonable, Miz Johnson. You came here to see Mr. Baros. If you come with me, you can do that.”
“I would rather go home.”
“Klaus is bringing your car up to the house already.”
Sure enough, her little electric car was being driven through the gate by a man as large as the one in possession of her wrist, but with blond hair. He grinned at her and tipped an imaginary hat in her direction through the window of her car.
“Hey, you can’t steal my car,” she shouted at him. To no effect.
“He’s not stealing it. He is merely parking it for you. It is a courtesy,” Gregor said, his own expression as impassive as it had been since the beginning of their discussion.
However, there was something around his eyes. Something that told her he was amused by this situation. Rowan was not.
“How am I supposed to get up to the house? I don’t know if it escaped your notice, but I twisted my ankle.”
“I saw.” No apology for his part in her debacle, just an admission he’d seen it happen.
She glared at him. “So?”
“I have a vehicle here.” He helped her over to a vehicle that might have been a golf cart in another life. In this one, it was painted a discreet grey with the logo of a security firm emblazoned on the side.
The ride up to the house was a short one. When they arrived at the front door, there was no sign of her compact.
“Where is my car?” she asked.
“Klaus has parked it in an empty garage bay.” The answer did not come from Gregor.
Butterflies waged war in Rowan’s tummy like peaceful, innocent butterflies were not supposed to do and Rowan turned her head to see the object of her visit. And quite a few of her recent fantasies.
Lysander Baros. He stood there in a pair of slacks and white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up to reveal the tanned skin and defined muscles of his forearms. The top two buttons of his shirt were undone, and she could see a hint of his dark chest hair.
Despite the situation she’d found herself in, her body had a predictable response to this man. The same response she’d had to every image she saw of him, or the rare times she saw him at an event in person since her divorce. She wanted him. She’d never wanted Cyrus this way and the fact was that she didn’t want any other man like this either.
It was like her body had tuned to Lysander’s station and everything else was static.
Nevertheless, the utmost emotion in Rowan at the moment was anger.
Uncertain if she could stand at the minute, she didn’t try to get out of her seat in the security vehicle. Instead, she turned her body so he could receive the full weight of her displeasure. “Well, he can just unpark it and bring it back round. I want to go home.”
“But you came to see me, yes? And here I am.”
“What? Do you want a gold star for participation, or something? First, you have your goon pull a gun on me. Then you hang up on me without saying goodbye. That is rude and I know your mom taught you better. She’s a nice lady.”
Lysander’s eyes widened at Rowan’s tone, but he didn’t say anything.
So, she continued. “Then you send another goon to steal my car.” She ticked each offense with one finger. She had three fingers up so far. “But that wasn’t enough? No, you had to have your—”
“Goon,” Gregor supplied helpfully, cutting into her words.
She let him have some of her ire filled gaze before turning her attention back to the man who had infuriated her to the point of raising her voice. “Right, your goon—”
“His name is Gregor,” Klaus said, coming up, his expression showing all the humor he found in the current situation.
Rowan crossed her arms over her chest and frowned at him this time. “You’ll notice I’m not laughing. Your boss had me kidnapped and that is not only illegal, it’s—”
“Let me guess, rude?” Gregor asked, his own tone now showing his amusement as well.
“So is interrupting people.”
“You’ll have to forgive me, I grew up in an orphanage and the streets of Athens. No mother to teach me polite behavior.”
“Goodness help you then, because clearly you aren’t going to learn it from your boss.”
Both the security specialists laughed out loud at that.
Which made Rowan feel just a tiny bit vindicated. They didn’t mind seeing the arrogant self-made billionaire taken down a peg. Funny, but before today she’d had no desire to see that herself. Apparently wealthy men forgot what they learned in manners in their pursuit of money.
Maybe she should write an op-ed about that. She wondered if any of the fringe press would publish it.
“You were saying,” Lysander prompted when Rowan had been lost in silent thought for several seconds.
“Oh, uh, right. I want to go home.”
“You said you had skinned knees and a twisted ankle?” he asked, sounding solicitous, if she could believe that.
She didn’t. “Yes, because you have your goons—”
“I prefer security specialist,” Klaus said.
Rowan felt like a tea kettle about to go off. She never screamed shrilly, but these men. They thought they were so cute. “Seriously? Act like a security specialist and that’s what I’ll call you. Act like a goon and that’s your title.”
“I didn’t do anything goonish,” Klaus said, all innocence.
“You stole my car.”
“I parked it for you. I often park guest’s cars for Mr. Baros.”
“So, you’re a valet, not a security specialist?” she asked with raised brows.
“Apparently, he’s both,” Lysander said, finally speaking. “I apologize that my security specialists’ methods were distressing for you, but I would appreciate you allowing me to have your wounds seen to.”
“They’re not wounds.” That sounded so serious.
But Lysander wasn’t listening. He was in fact, sliding one strong arm under her hips and the other behind her back. Rowan let out a squeak she would deny later having made as she was lifted right against the rock-solid chest that had played a pivotal role in several fantasies of late.
“Now you’re kidnapping me?” she asked with more breathlessness than she would ever admit to, and very little of the ire she’d intended.
“You have not been kidnapped. You came to see me. You see me. Klaus did not steal your car. It is waiting for you safely in the estate garage.” He said nothing about Gregor drawing his gun on her, but Lysander had already said he was sorry she’d found it distressing.
Like that was the end of it, like a simple apology could make up for her terror at having a weapon pointed at her for no reason at all.
“If you aren’t kidnapping me, then put me down and have my car brought back around.”
“We have yet to see your wounds doctored,” he replied.
“They’re hardly wounds. Just…” She wasn’t sure what to classify her skinned knees as. Saying owie felt rather juvenile, especially with how her body was responding to his in such a very adult manner. “Do you ever listen?” she demanded, even as she tried to steady her breathing.
“I listen to you. I distinctly heard you say you want to have sex with me.” His deep tone held a wealth of satisfaction.
“Of course, you heard that and ignored everything else I said.” Typical man.
“I do not ignore you, but surely you did not come all this way simply to turn around without having the discussion you hoped to with me.”
“That was not my original plan, no, but it became my plan after Gregor pulled his gun on me.”
“So, you do remember his name.”
“Seriously, Lysander. Do you really have such a problem with women showing up at your gate that pulling guns on unexpected visitors is your people’s go to?”
Lysander shook his head. “We have had some threats.”
“What do you mean we?” She tried to read his handsome features. “Do you mean you? Someone is threatening you and in a serious enough way that you’ve got your security on high alert?”
The thought of someone doing him harm sent a wave of dread over her.
“I cut business ties with and funding for a group with ties to shady, but powerful businessmen who want to see clean energy regulations loosened or done away with altogether.”
Lysander’s support of the EU’s stance on clean energy was well known. It was one of the things she liked about him.
“And they think threatening you will get you to do business with them again?” she asked incredulously. She and Lysander were not close, but he was a force to be reckoned with in the business world, not someone to be intimidated.
“Intimidation might work for someone without my security resources,” he said with a shrug as they entered an inviting living area, and no mention of his powerful influence in the global world of business.
Rowan let her gaze scan the room. This was not an entertaining space for business contacts. Family photos made up a collage on one wall Rowan was sure was courtesy of Iona Baros, Lysander’s mom. She’d never taken him to be the sentimental type, but the photos were there, regardless of who had them framed and hung.
A large screen television was on and paused on a stock report. There was an oversized chocolate brown sectional sofa with lots of cushions and a square coffee table that held a coffee cup and a tablet.
This had been where Lysander was when she’d called him. He’d probably been reading the news on his tablet while listening to the stock report on the TV. He laid her on the chaise lounge part of the sectional and sat down beside her, their hips touching, and his body oriented to face hers.
“This is a cozy room,” Rowan observed.
“My private sanctum.”
Before he could add anything else, like why he’d brought Rowan in here rather than a more public room in the mansion, a woman dressed in the no nonsense uniform of a housekeeper with her salt and pepper hair pulled back into a severe bun briskly walked in. She carried a laden tray. She spoke in rapid Greek to Lysander, telling him she had the supplies to tend to his guest.
Clearly expecting her boss to move out of the way, the housekeeper stepped toward Rowan. However, Lysander put his hand out with an imperious gesture. “Give it to me.”
“You are going to put bandages on my skinned knees?” Rowan asked with shock. He was?
“Not until I have cleaned them,” he said, like that should be self-evident. “But first let us get some ice on your ankle. Which one is paining you?”
Rowan pointed to her left ankle, which did not look swollen, so she had hopes it wasn’t a full-on sprain.
He laid a cloth neatly over her ankle and then carefully placed an icepack on top of the cloth before instructing a smart speaker to set a twenty-minute timer. “Do you want something for the pain?”
“If you have a couple of ibuprofen, I’ll happily take them.” At some point she would have to walk out of here on her own steam. She’d like to be able to do that without making an absolute cake of herself.
Lysander sent the housekeeper for the ibuprofen and then took a damp cloth from a pile of neatly rolled ones just like it and dabbed oh so gently at her left knee. It still stung and Rowan winced.
He blew on it. “Better?”
Unable to form even the single word yes, Rowan gulped and nodded.