The Greek Billionaire's Innocent Princess

By: Chantelle Shaw

CHAPTER ONE



NIKOS ANGELAKI stood at the edge of the ballroom and surveyed the five hundred or so guests who were dancing or sipping champagne beneath the ornate chandeliers. The men were uniform in black tuxedos, while the women—dressed in couture gowns and flaunting a spectacular array of diamonds and precious gems—flitted about the dance floor like gaudy butterflies. He flicked back the cuff of his dinner jacket, glanced at his Rolex, and then began to make his way across the room—aware of the interested glances he received as he passed. At thirty-two he was used to the attention his looks and the rumours of his wealth attracted. An attractive blonde in a daringly low-cut dress caught his attention, and his gaze lingered on her fleetingly before he stepped into the lobby.

It was the first time he had attended the royal ball or visited the Aristan palace, and he was impressed by the elegant splendour of the rooms where the silk-covered walls were lined with priceless works of art. The ruling family of the House of Karedes was one of the wealthiest families in Europe, and the guest-list included members of the aristocracy and heads of state— grand people who had no idea that the Prince Regent’s honoured guest tonight had grown up in the slums of Athens.

Nikos wondered cynically if the butler who had escorted him to the state drawing room to greet Prince Sebastian would have been quite so obsequious if he’d known that Nikos’s mother had once worked as a lowly kitchen maid at the palace. However, that was something he hadn’t even revealed to Sebastian, despite the close friendship that had developed between them.

He strode across the hall, pushed open a door, and found himself in the banqueting suite, which was empty, apart from a waitress at the far end of the room who—unlike the other palace staff who seemed to be rushed off their feet tonight—was idly folding napkins.

The guests had eaten earlier, but Nikos’s delayed flight had meant that he had missed the buffet supper, and as he glanced at the mouth-watering selection of canapés he was aware of a hollow feeling in his stomach. Business first, he told himself firmly. It was evening in Aristo, but early afternoon on America’s east coast and he had arranged to call a client in New York. He strolled towards the waitress who had her back to him and was still oblivious to his presence.

‘Can you tell me if there is somewhere I can be uninterrupted? I need to make an urgent business call.’

The deep, gravelly voice was so innately sensual that the tiny hairs on Kitty’s body stood on end, and she turned her head, her heart crashing in her chest when she stared up at the man who had come silently into the room. She had recognised him instantly when he had walked into the ballroom earlier in the evening—Nikos Angelaki, billionaire shipping magnate, notorious playboy, and in recent months one of her brother’s closest confidants. Sebastian had explained that he had met Nikos at a business function in Greece, and since then the two men had discovered a mutual liking for poker and the roulette wheel in the nightclubs of Aristo and Athens.

The photographs Kitty had seen of him in the tabloids had triggered her interest, but nothing had prepared her for the impact of Nikos in the flesh. He was suave, sophisticated and spine-tinglingly sexy. Taller than average; his tapered black trousers emphasised his long legs and taut thighs, while his impeccably tailored dinner jacket cloaked formidably broad shoulders. But it was his face that captured her attention. Handsome was a barely adequate description of the chiselled perfection of his features: the slanting, razor-sharp cheekbones and square chin, the heavy brows arched above midnight-dark eyes, and a wide, sensual mouth.

In the silence that stretched between them Kitty sensed his arrogance and devil-may-care confidence, and she felt an unbidden and shockingly intense tug of sexual awareness that sent a quiver down her spine. He was gorgeous, but she suddenly realised that she was staring at him, and she blushed.

‘There is a small sitting room through there,’ she mumbled, indicating the door at the far end of the room.

‘Thank you.’

His eyes skimmed over her, making a brief inspection of her unexciting black cocktail dress, and Kitty wished fervently that she had bought a new outfit for the ball—something slinky and low-cut that would have made him look at her with male appreciation, rather than dismiss her without a second glance.

But she had never been very interested in clothes, preferring her research work for Aristo’s museum to shopping, and it had only been when she had flicked through her list of preparations for the ball and seen the words ‘buy dress’ that she’d realised she had nothing suitable to wear to the palace’s most prestigious social event.

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