Harlequin Presents #2464
Originally published: 05/01/05
Current publication: 05/01/10
Greek tycoon Sebastian Kouros thinks he knows all about Rachel Long: as far as he’s concerned, she’s a scheming money-grabber who deserves nothing from him or his family.
But the searing sexual chemistry between them can’t be denied. Sebastian sees an opportunity to seduce this girl who plays it so sweet and innocent. He’ll discard her when he sees fit….
Only Rachel isn’t a gold digger at all–she is innocent and she’s a virgin….
Originally published May 2005 in Harlequin Presents #2464 in mass market paperback.
Also available in Manga.
“The Greek’s Innocent Virgin delves deep in emotional waters. It is a study in human chemistry and complex needs in a male/female relationship. This reviewer found the writing powerful, drawing her in from the very first page and hanging on until the very last word. Not only does the story revolve around wealth and glamour and international locations, but it’s main focus stays with the emotional elements going on between the hero and heroine. Sebastian is used to getting his way and having any woman he wants. Yet, Rachel’s simple inner beauty drives him mad with desire… a desire he can’t control. And that’s the thing that grabs the reader and holds the reader until the story’s end. If you are looking for a fast read with powerful emotions and packs a punch, this a book you need. Highly recommended.”~Kelly, thebestreviews.com (click link for full review)
“The Greek’s Innocent Virgin is one of those modern romances that has enough old-fashioned touches that make it enjoyable for those of us readers who don’t really go for the Sex and the City-type romance novel. Yes, ordinary heroines with old-fashioned values can still have their happy ending without abandoning too many of their values in the process. If a reader is of the ordinary/wholesome type, you can get a little bit of identification with your romance read in this story. It’s not heavy-handed, but I get the feeling that this story would appeal, if you’re looking for this kind of book. If you’re not, I think you can still enjoy this story if you want a quick, enjoyable, and romantic read.” ~Danielle, goodreads.com reader reviewer
“THE GREEK’S INNOCENT VIRGIN by Lucy Monroe is another reason why I love her books. Sebastian is arrogant and assumes the worst about Rachel, despite evidence to the contrary.” ~Barb Hicks, thebestreviews.com (click link for full review)
“This is one of my all time favorite Lucy Monroe books that I often go back to read on those rainy days. Sebastian makes an absolutely horrible mistake and loses the love of his life, Rachel. Rachel, on the other hand, is a very strong heroine…Recognizing that she has been tramped on by Sebastian, she leaves without a backwards glance. Unfortunately health reasons cause her months later to contact Sebastian and from there, the rest of the book is focused on how Sebastian (recognizing his mistake) works hard to win her back. It’s got the “big misunderstanding”, heaps of grovel and a well earned Happy Ending. You see Rachel take a big step forward to put her hurt aside because Sebastian truly earned her love and trust. The best lesson being to take the risk to live your life with love versus hate and regrets. A great read.”~Leona, goodreads.com reader reviewer
“Lucy knows how to pull you into the story, you love the good guys and hate the bad guys. You feel the emotions that the characters are having. Her alpha males are dreamy and fun to love, while her heroiness are strong and soft at the same time. But that’s not just this book all of her books pull you in and give you a wonderful ride. No matter whhich book you deside to read first you will have a hit in your hands.”~Michelle, amazon.com reader reviewer
“A good solid read that had a fair amount of angst which I like…Would happily read again in the future.” ~Dee, goodreads.com reader reviewer
Rachel Long felt curiously numb as she walked away from her mother’s graveside, the scent of damp earth filling the hot Greek air.
Andrea Demakis had died at the age of forty-five and Rachel felt nothing. No outrage a life should be cut so short, no pain in the loss of a parent, no fear for the future.
She simply felt nothing at all.
Not even relief. The emotional turmoil her mother had visited on those around her was no longer Rachel’s personal sword of Damocles, hovering above her and ready to shred her life again. And yet, she experienced no sense of liberation at the knowledge, merely emotional numbness in the face of the finality of death.
Her feet moved without her directing them, carrying her away from the final statement of a life that had been lived with only one goal, self-gratification.
The service was long over and the other mourners had gone. All but one. Sebastian Kouros stood in the absolute stillness of extreme grief beside his great-uncle’s grave. He had thrown the first handful of dirt onto the coffin, his steel gray gaze stoic, his big body rigid beneath the unrelenting Greek sun.
She stopped beside him, unsure what to say.
Or indeed if she should say anything at all.
His family had despised her mother and that contempt had glimmered in more than one pair of eyes when they had settled upon her today. No matter how many times she got the look that said no doubt she’d been cut from the same cloth as her hedonistic mother, it hurt. Only Sebastian had never allowed his obvious dislike of
Andrea Demakis to impact the way he treated her daughter. He had always been kind to Rachel, gentle toward her shyness and even protective.
He had been the one to convince his great-uncle to pay for Rachel’s university education, but would Sebastian’s tolerance continue in the face of his beloved uncle’s death?
After all, everyone knew why the old man was dead.
He’d married the wrong woman and not only had he lived to regret it, he’d died because of it.
The truth was, he could have died on any of numerous occasions over the past six years when Andrea had teased him into attempting physical feats better left to men half his age. Only he hadn’t. He had died in a car accident, driving under the influence of alcohol and too much tension after yet another horrific argument with Andrea.
He’d caught his young wife in bed with another man…again.
They had fought in front of witnesses and then left the party. Rachel had learned her mother had only been in the car because when she’d refused at first to leave with him, Matthias had threatened to cut her off without a penny and divorce her. Motivated by self-interest when shame would have never swayed her, Andrea had gone with him.
And they had both died.
So, what could Rachel say to the grieving man beside her?
There were no words to undue the pain of the last six years, pain that had culminated in him losing the man who had stood in his father’s stead since he was a young boy. Nevertheless, the compulsion to try could not be ignored.
She reached for his hand, hers trembling. “Sebastian?”
Sebastian Kouros felt the small fingers touch his, heard the tentative word quietly spoken and fought the urge to turn on Andrea Demakis’s daughter with all the rage he wanted to vent against a dead woman.
“What is it pethi mou?” The endearment slipped out much too naturally when he was feeling in no way tender toward her, but she was little – barely five feet, five inches to his six-foot-four and he had followed his great-uncle’s example, calling her by the endearment since first meeting Rachel.
“You’re going to miss him.” Her soft voice touched a place inside he could not afford to be stirred and maintain the precarious hold he had on his composure. “I’m sorry.”
He looked down at her, but all he saw was chestnut brown hair pulled into a conservative French twist. Her face was averted.
Moss green eyes came around to meet his own. “He should never have married Andrea.”
“But the marriage changed your life, did it not?”
Her pale features flushed, but she nodded. “For the better. I can’t deny it.”
“And yet you chose to accept employment in the States, only returning to Greece for a few short weeks out of the year.”
“I did not fit into their lifestyle.”
“Did you try?”
Her eyes widened at his cold tone, their green depths darkening in confusion. “I didn’t want to. I never liked living amidst the chaos of Andrea’s hectic social life.”
“Had you no thought of trying to mitigate the effects of your mother’s selfish nature on the life of a man who had done so much for you?”
She stepped away from him, removing her hand from his as if burnt. “You cannot live another person’s life for them.”
“Indeed?” Part of him knew what she said was right.
He had been unable to stop his great-uncle from making the disastrous marriage, but the deep well of pain inside him denied a totally logical view of the old man’s death.
“You profited by the marriage. The least you could have done was to at least try to curb Andrea’s destructive behavior.”
“I couldn’t have done anything.” Her words were firm, but her face was set in guilty lines and he knew she too wondered if she could have changed the steady downward spiral of Andrea had made of Matthias’s life. “I couldn’t,” she repeated.
“Perhaps in this, you also had no desire to try…” His voice trailed off on the subtle accusation and she flinched.
“I gave up trying to impact Andrea’s lifestyle a long time ago.” Rachel’s voice reverberated with emotional hurt he could not ignore.
He had a totally inappropriate urge to kiss the bow-shaped lips set in such an unhappy line until they were soft and glistening. Until her eyes reflected sweet passion instead of a past filled with secret sorrows.
Damn it. There should be no room with the pain gripping his insides for this inexplicable desire.
It was the same appalling need that assailed him every time he came within ten feet of the beautiful, but reserved woman. His Greek mind could not reconcile wanting Rachel with the disdain he had felt for her mother.
By rights, he should despise Rachel as much as he had the selfish, ruthless woman who had given her birth.
Rachel entered the masculine study with trepidation.
It had been Matthias Demakis’s one domain, the only room in the large Mediterranean villa on the privately owned Greek island that her mother had not redecorated. In the past, this room with its rich red upholstered chairs and dark wood paneling had been the setting for two of her happiest moments: the evening Matthias had told her she no longer had to attend her mother’s parties despite Andrea’s demands and the day the old man had told her he was sending her to University in America.
However, today promised no joy.
She had been called down to attend the reading of the wills. Since her conversation at the graveside with Sebastian the day before, she’d spent most of her time in her room. The Kouros and Demakis families were in residence and she had no desire to make herself a whipping boy for their grief and entirely righteous anger. Justified it might be, but she was not the one who had destroyed Matthias Demakis’s life.
Sebastian’s accusation that she should have tried to stem Andrea’s devastating behavior had been ludicrous, but she’d had no desire to laugh. He held her responsible for her mother’s sins and that hurt more than she wanted to contemplate.
The one man in all the world she’d ever wanted physically, the only man she’d trusted enough to swim with or talk to alone on a balcony of the old villa late at night, hated her. Her mother’s death had not resulted in personal anguish, but the knowledge Sebastian was forever out of her reach did.
She’d paid the price for being Andrea’s daughter for twenty-three years. Must she keep paying it, even now that the other woman was dead?
“Miss Long, won’t you take a seat?” The white haired lawyer had been on Matthias’s retainer for decades, but still maintained an aura of vitality she couldn’t help but admire.
As Matthias had…before he’d married a woman more than twenty-five years his junior.
Rachel tried not to make eye contact with anyone else as she made for a small ottoman in the back of the room set against a bookcase.
She sat down, smoothing her hands nervously over the oyster white loose trousers covering her legs. The current trend of tight clothes that showed strips of skin had not made its way into her closet despite the fact she lived in Skin Central – Southern California.
Phillippa Kouros, Sebastian’s mother and Matthias’s niece, came into the room to take a seat beside her son. Although the powerful man’s back was to her, Rachel had no problem reading his body language as he solicitously cared for his mother and then turned to the lawyer and gave him permission to begin.
Andrea’s will held few unexpected details. She’d left all her worldly goods to her husband, except in the event he preceded her in death, then her possessions were to pass on to Rachel. The sequence of bequeathals did not surprise her. Andrea would never have expected Matthias to out live her and had no doubt made the stipulation as some manipulative attempt at making him believe she valued him even above her daughter.
However, Matthias Demakis’s last will and testament was somewhat surprising. Although he had left a few things of sentimental value to his family members and Rachel, the bulk of his estate had been passed down to Sebastian Kouros, including the villa.
He had made no provision at all for his younger wife, nor had he left instructions for Sebastian to care for the widow. Knowing how his family had felt about Andrea, that omission was telling to Rachel’s way of thinking. Evidently, Matthias had grown completely disenchanted with his wife’s peccadilloes and scandalous behavior.
The white-haired lawyer set the document down after he had finished reading it and fixed his blue gaze on Rachel, which effectively brought the attention of the other occupants of the room as well.
Rachel squirmed inside at the stares directed her way.
“The coroner was unable to determine which of the occupants of the car died first.” The lawyer’s gaze shifted to Sebastian. “However, I’m sure the family will not dispute you taking possession of your mother’s personal belongings.”
Sebastian’s head shook in a slight negative.
Rachel felt nothing, certainly no joy in possessing anything resulting from her mother’s misbegotten lifestyle. The one thing she would have gladly received from Andrea, the other woman had taken to the grave with her.
The identity of Rachel’s father – a piece of information her mother had refused to part with throughout Rachel’s life.
Sebastian looked up at the sound of a knock on the study door. It was open, but Rachel did not come in. She stood framed in the opening, her face cast in shadow by the light coming in from the hallway so he could not see her expression.
He didn’t like that and he waved her inside impatiently, having expected this visit, but not pleased his cynicism had been proven right. As much as he knew she was Andrea’s daughter, he’d always wanted to believe she didn’t share her mother’s avarice.
“Come in. You don’t have to stand in the hall.”
She stepped forward, entering the room like a wary doe in the hunter’s sites. “I didn’t want to intrude.”
“If I needed privacy, the door would be shut.”
“Of course.” She took a deep breath, avoiding direct eye contact, her hands fisted at her sides. “Do you have a moment? I have some things I need to discuss with you.”
He nodded toward one of the red leather chairs he and his mother had occupied when the wills were read earlier. “Have a seat. I know what you want to talk about and I’m sure we can come to an amicable arrangement.”
Rachel had taken the news she’d inherited virtually nothing with too much calm acceptance earlier that day. Any offspring of the scheming Andrea would have expected a large settlement on the death of her wealthy step-father. Rachel had to have been seriously disappointed.
The small set of books on Hellenic culture Matthias had bequeathed to her had been nothing more than a sentimental nod to the evenings he had spent discussing Greek history with his step-daughter. Even if she sold them, they would net her only a few thousand dollars.
Sebastian saw no reason to refuse Rachel a settlement…in exchange for a vow of silence on her mother’s years as Matthias Demakis’s wife. He had no desire to read sleazy stories in the gutter press given credence by paid for interviews with Andrea Demakis’s daughter.
Rachel slid into the red chair, its oversized wing back giving her the appearance of a child. Or perhaps a fairy queen. Children did not have curves that haunted men’s dreams and sparked their libidos. He knew Rachel did, even if the white pants and top she currently wore did nothing to reveal the hourglass figure he’d seen on the few occasions she’d swam with him in his great-uncle’s pool.
She was as unassuming and conventional as her mother had been flamboyant and morally corrupt. At least on the surface.
How much of that innocence was real?
Considering the discussion they were about to have, he would have to assume a very small part.
“I shouldn’t be surprised you expected me.” A smile briefly lifted the corners of Rachel’s mouth. “You’ve always seen things others tend to ignore.”
“Certainly more than my uncle did when he looked at your mother.”
An emotionless mask descended over Rachel’s porcelain features, all vestiges of her smile dissipating like mist under a warm sun. “No doubt.”
“And I suppose this is what you wish to discuss with me?” The fact Matthias Demakis had finally wised up to his grasping, faithless wife leaving neither her, nor her daughter anything of real value in his will.
“In a way, yes.” She sat up straight in the chair and then shifted her legs so that one crossed over the other. “I need to return to my job fairly soon.”
“And there are my mother’s things to be gone through.”
“Did you want to delegate that task to the servants?”
“No.” Her mouth pursed as if in distaste at the thought. “That wouldn’t be right, but I need to know what you want me to do with them.”
“Surely that is a decision you must make.”
“I’d considered donating her clothes and jewelry to charity, but then I realized there was the possibility Matthias had given her family heirloom pieces. I’m sure you wouldn’t want them to go to strangers.”
Ah…the first salvo. “And you would like me to buy them from you?”
Her eyes widened, the distaste in her expression blatant this time.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I simply need you to take a moment to identify which of the jewelry are heirlooms. If you don’t have the time, perhaps your mother would be willing to do it. Anyway, I can’t and I want to make sure your family takes possession of them before I dispose of the others.”
“You propose to give me the family pieces?”
“Yes.” She looked at him as if she was doubting his intelligence.
It was a new experience for him and he almost found himself smiling.
“It would actually help quite a bit if someone could go through the all of things in her bedroom with me to make sure anything of sentimental value to the family is kept before I have the removalists come.”
“I’ve been in contact with an international association dedicated to the welfare of children. They’ve agreed to take possession of Andrea’s things and sell them at auction to raise funds for their cause.”
Reeling with the unexpected direction the conversation had taken, Sebastian’s superior brain took several seconds to compute the import of Rachel’s words. “You don’t plan to keep anything of your mothers?”
“No.” Rachel’s now completely dispassionate expression told him nothing of her thoughts.
“But her clothes alone are easily worth over one-hundred-thousand American dollars.”
“That’s wonderful news for the charity.”
“But means nothing to you?” He refused to believe it. No one was this uninterested in financial gain. “And the apartment in New York. You plan to give that to charity as well?”
“She owned an apartment in New York?” Rachel sounded more annoyed than overjoyed by that piece of news.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me you want to donate that to charity as well?” he asked derisively.
“No, of course not.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“If you’ll have the deed drawn up, I’ll sign it back over to the estate.”
Sebastian reared to his feet, sending his chair crashing backwards. “What kind of game are you playing?”
Rachel paled, but drew herself up, uncrossing her legs and moving forward on her chair.
“I’m not playing any sort of game,” she said with quiet vehemence. “Maybe you were right about me trying to put a brake on Andrea’s behavior. I didn’t try and I’ll have to live with that knowledge for the rest of my life, but I refuse to personally profit by it. I simply won’t.” The fervor in Rachel’s manner was either the best drama he’d seen in a long time, or she was entirely sincere.
“There is no need for you to make a grand gesture,” he dismissed with irritation, realizing his words the day before had instigated this conversation. “While there is no doubt your mother manipulated my uncle for her own gain, her material extravagance cost him negligibly in a financial sense.”
He listed off the few properties and cars Andrea had been gifted by Matthias in their six year long marriage.
None of which did Sebastian have any desire to take possession of. It had been the personal cost of marriage to the grasping woman that had hurt Matthias and subsequently his family so much.
“Then it should be a simple matter for your lawyers to see that all significant properties are returned to the estate and smaller possessions donated to charity.”
“My uncle would not have wanted you to give up claim to your inheritance in some misguided attempt to make up for the past and I refuse to condone you doing so.”
She shook her head and smiled, a genuinely amused expression that made her green eyes glow and his breathing go from normal to erratic.
“You are so used to getting your own way, you amaze me.”
“Is that so?” He wasn’t sure if her words were a condemnation, or not.
“Yes. You’re absolutely confident that you can dictate my decisions for me.” Her lips still twitched with humor.
“And you find this amusing?”
Her lips tucked into a prim bow. “Not really, it’s merely that it apparently has not occurred to you, but it’s up to me how I dispose of Andrea’s property. If you refuse to accept reversion to the estate, then I will donate it all to worthy causes.” Without warning, the amusement drained from her expression. “I want nothing of my mother’s. Nothing at all.”
“It is too late. You carry her genes.”
The Greek’s Innocent Virgin
Harlequin Presents – May 2005
US ISBN 0-373-12464-3
© 2005 Lucy Monroe