A Ring to Secure His Heir

By: Lynne Graham

CHAPTER ONE


‘I NEED a favour,’ Socrates Seferis had said and his godson, Alexius Stavroulakis, had dropped everything to fly thousands of miles to come to his aid. Socrates had been strangely mysterious about the nature of the favour, declaring that it was a highly confidential matter that he couldn’t discuss on the phone.

Alexius, six feet one in bare feet and built like a professional athlete, was a very newsworthy billionaire of only thirty-one years of age with a fleet of bodyguards, limousines, properties and private jets at his disposal. Famed for his tough tactics in business and a naturally aggressive nature, Alexius never danced to anyone else’s tune, but Socrates Seferis, although he was almost seventy-five years old, was a special case. For many years he had been the only visitor Alexius had had while at boarding school in the UK.

A self-made businessman, Socrates was a hardworking multimillionaire with a string of tourist hotels round the world. Alexius’s godfather, however, had not been so fortunate in his private life. The wife Socrates adored had died during the birth of their third child and the old man’s kids had grown into adult horrors, who were spoiled, lazy and extravagant and who had on many occasions shamed their kind-hearted, honourable father beyond bearing. Alexius considered Socrates an excellent example of why no sensible man should have children. Children were often disloyal, distressing and difficult and he had no idea why some of his friends were so keen to have the little blighters cluttering up lives that, childfree, could have remained blessedly smooth and civilised. It was not a mistake that Alexius planned to make.

Socrates greeted Alexius from his armchair on the terrace of his luxurious home on the outskirts of Athens. Refreshments arrived before the younger man even got seated.

‘So,’ Alexius prompted, his lean, darkly handsome features serious, the silvery-grey eyes that made women melt shrewd and cool as always. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘You never did learn patience, did you?’ the old man quipped, his bright dark eyes sparkling with humour in his weather-beaten face. ‘Have a drink, read the file first …’

Impatience bubbling through his big powerful frame, Alexius scooped up the slim file on the table and opened it, ignoring the drink. The head and shoulders photo of a pale, nondescript girl who looked barely out of her teens was uppermost. ‘Who is she?’

‘Read,’ Socrates reminded his godson doggedly.

His breath escaping in a slow hiss of exasperation, Alexius flipped through the thin file. The name Rosie Gray meant nothing to him and the more he read the less he understood the relevance of the information.

‘She calls herself Rosie,’ Socrates mused abstractedly. ‘My late wife was English too. She was christened Rose as well.’

Alexius was baffled by what he had gleaned from the file. Rosie Gray was an English girl who had grown up in care in London and worked as a humble cleaner, living, on the face of it, a very ordinary life. He could see no possible reason for his godfather’s interest in her.

‘She’s my granddaughter,’ Socrates supplied as though Alexius had spoken.

Alexius shot him an incredulous look. ‘Since when? Is this woman trying to con you or something?’

‘You’re definitely the right man for the job,’ Socrates informed his godson with satisfaction. ‘No, she’s not trying to con me, Alexius. As far as I’m aware, she doesn’t even know I exist. I’m curious about her … that’s why I asked you here to talk to me.’

Alexius’s eyes skimmed back to the photo: a plain Jane if ever he saw one, with pale hair, big empty eyes and no visible personality. ‘Why do you think she’s your granddaughter?’

‘I know it for a fact. I’ve known she existed for more than fifteen years and she was DNA tested then,’ Socrates admitted grudgingly. ‘She’s Troy’s child, conceived while he was working for me in London—not that he did much work while he was over there,’ he added with a humourless laugh. ‘He didn’t marry the girl’s mother either. In fact, he had already abandoned them before he died. The woman contacted me looking for financial support and I made a substantial settlement on her and the little girl, but for whatever reasons the girl herself saw none of that money and the mother left her to grow up in foster homes.’

‘Unfortunate,’ Alexius remarked.

‘Worse than unfortunate. The girl has grown up with every possible disadvantage and I feel very guilty about that,’ the older man admitted heavily. ‘She is family and she could be my heir—’

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