Not Just the Greek's Wife(6)

By: Lucy Monroe

Chloe sincerely doubted it. If Jean didn’t have one of those fancy single-cup coffeemakers in the small kitchen behind her own office, Chloe would be shocked.

Which meant that Jean had served Ariston Chloe’s favorite on purpose. Why?

“You told her ahead of time to make my favorite,” Chloe guessed, gobsmacked at the idea and wholly unable to understand what he hoped to gain by doing so.

She was the first to admit she didn’t begin to operate on the Machiavellian level he did when it came to business, but this was beyond her. It was as if he was trying to be accommodating and when it came to business, she knew her ex-husband was anything but.

Maybe he was trying to lull her into a false sense of complacency? To what purpose? He held all the cards in the deck, not just the good ones, and they both knew it.

“Naturally. It was only polite.”

“If you say so.” Realizing how rude that sounded, which had not been her intention, she added, “Thank you.”

“That aside,” he said as if the coffee discussion had derailed them from talking about what really mattered. “Entering such an arrangement with unexpressed resentments for its terms wasn’t very ethical of you, was it?” he chided.

Ethical? Was the man serious?

Needing to move, she jumped up and walked over to the nearest wall of windows. She stared down at the city, people and cars made tiny by distance. “Do you honestly believe I didn’t express my unhappiness at the idea of quitting art school and being forced into what amounted to a medieval marriage bargain to my father?”

Before she’d met Ariston and realized that dreams could change.

“Eber implied to my grandfather that you were entirely on board with the plan.” Ariston spoke from behind her.

She wasn’t surprised that in her agitation, she hadn’t realized he’d moved.

She didn’t bother to turn and face him, however. “Right. And you both believed him. It never occurred to you that he might have simply cut funding to my schooling and living expenses, effectively getting me evicted from my dorm?”

Instead of the city below, she saw the face of the dean of her college when the older man had been forced to give Chloe the news. They’d been midway through the term and she’d been sure her father couldn’t demand his money back.

But apparently powerful men could do things other mere mortals couldn’t.

“I suppose you never guessed he might freeze my accounts because they were all in his name, too? No, I doubt you even thought about why I agreed to that barbaric bargain.”

“Bargains such as ours are common enough among the world’s powerful in both business and politics. You needn’t act as if you were sold into marriage in some medieval contract in which you had no say or personal rights.”

She spun to face him, old anger brought about by a feeling of utter helplessness rising to the fore. “Wasn’t I? I was a twenty-year-old college student, Ariston! I’d only ever worked part-time in an art supply store for hobby money. I had no clue how to even begin going about getting my life back when he took it away.”

Ariston’s handsome face set in unreadable lines, but emotion she couldn’t name flickered briefly in his blue eyes. “You never told me any of this.”

“By the time I met you, both my father and my sister had put the emotional screws in.” And Chloe had forgiven Rhea, though she doubted she ever would her father. Rhea’s motives hadn’t all been about the company; she’d believed the marriage would be good for Chloe, too.

Chloe laughed harshly. “Rhea made it clear that if she weren’t already married, she would have willingly sacrificed herself for the good of our family and our heritage. That’s how she and my father see the company, as if it is a living entity deserving of every manner of sacrifice and effort.”

She didn’t blame her sister. Not even a little. They’d both been raised in the same emotional wasteland and each of them had found different ways to cope.

Rhea had sought their father’s love and approval the only way she’d known how—through the business. The one and only thing he ever had truly loved.

“I am aware.”

“Then I met you.” And against all odds and what her mind told her was possible, Chloe had fallen for her Greek tycoon on first sight. Fully, irrevocably and completely.

His hands fisted at his side as if he wanted to reach out, but he forced himself not to. “And expressed none of your concerns.”

“No. You and my father had made your plans, but I had hopes that complying with them might lead to something else.” Foolish, youthful hopes that she now knew for the ridiculous fantasies they were.