The Scandalous Warehams. Penny Jordan
person ignore the normal rules of law to grab at something even when they know it must be fraudulent?’ His voice was deeply cynical, his whole manner towards her menacing and iced with bitter contempt.
‘I … I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Lizzie protested truthfully.
‘Of course you do. You were in partnership with my cousin. You have said so yourself. You must have known about the building regulations that were broken, about the suppliers and workmen left unpaid in order to build the apartments at a minimum cost to your partnership, and for the maximum ultimate profit.’
‘No, I didn’t,’ Lizzie insisted. But she could see that he didn’t believe her.
‘Have you any idea of the damage your greed has caused? The hardship it has inflicted on those you cheated? Or do you simply not care? Well, I intend to make sure that you do care, Miss Wareham. I will make sure that you pay back everything you owe.’
Ilios was angrier than he could ever remember being. His cousin had systematically tried to cheat him and manipulate him at every turn, and now Tino was even daring to challenge his legitimacy to what was rightfully his. Ilios could feel his fury boiling up inside him. His cousin might not be here to pay for what he had done, but his partner in crime, this Englishwoman who actually dared to lie to him, was here, and she would bear the brunt of his fury and his retribution, Ilios decided savagely.
‘Everything I owe?’ Lizzie objected, her heart sinking. ‘What do you mean? I don’t owe anybody anything.’
Her determination to continue lying to him hardened Ilios’s resolve to inflict retribution on her. She was everything he most disliked and despised in her sex. Dishonest, and attempting to cloak her dishonesty with an air of pseudo-innocence that manifested itself in the way she was dressed—simply, in jeans worn with a tee shirt and a plain jacket—and in her face with its admittedly beautiful bone structure, free of make-up.
Just as that damn elusive scent she was wearing had made him want to draw her closer, to pursue it and capture it, so the pink lipstick that deliberately drew his attention to the fullness of her mouth made him want to capture her lips to see if they were as soft as they looked. Where another less skilled woman might have tried to use artifice to mask her deceit, Elizabeth Wareham used art—the art of appearing modest, honest, vulnerable. Well, it wouldn’t work on him. Anyone who did business with his cousin had to be as dishonest and scheming as manipulative as Tino was himself. Like attracted like, after all. She could try using her sexuality to disarm him as much as she liked. He wasn’t going to be taken in.
When Ilios Manos didn’t respond, Lizzie stiffened her spine and her resolve and repeated, as firmly as she could, ‘I don’t owe anyone in Greece any money, and I don’t understand why you think I do.’
‘I don’t think you do, Miss Wareham. I know you do—because the person you owe money to is me.’
Lizzie gulped in air and tried not to panic. ‘But that’s not possible.’
Ilios was in no mood to let her continue lying to him. ‘You owe me money, Miss Wareham, because of your involvement with the apartments built by my cousin on my land. Plus there is also the matter of the outstanding payments for goods and services provided by local suppliers to you.’
‘That isn’t my fault. The Rainhills were supposed to pay them,’ Lizzie defended herself.
‘The contract supplied to me by my cousin states unequivocally that you are to pay them.’
‘No—that can’t be possible,’ Lizzie repeated
‘I assure you that it is.’
‘I have my copy of the contract here with me, and it states quite plainly that the owners of the apartments are to pay the suppliers direct,’ Lizzie insisted.
‘Contracts can be altered.’
‘And in this case they obviously have been—but not by me.’ Lizzie’s face was burning with disbelief and despair.
‘And you can prove this?’ Ilios Manos was demanding, the expression on his face making it plain that he did not believe her.
‘I have a contract that states that my clients are responsible for paying the suppliers.’
‘That is not what I asked you. The contract I have states unequivocally that you are responsible for paying them. And then there is the not so small matter of your share of the cost of taking down the apartments and returning the land to its original state.’
‘Taking down the apartments?’ Lizzie echoed. ‘But that was nothing to do with me. You were the one who ordered their destruction—you told me that yourself …’
Lizzie badly wanted to sit down. She was tired and shocked and frightened, but she knew she couldn’t show those weaknesses in front of this stone-faced man who looked like a Greek god but spoke to her as cruelly as Hades himself, intent on her destruction. She was sure he would never show any sign of human weaknesses himself, or make any allowances for those who possessed them. But there was nowhere to sit, nowhere to hide, to escape from the man now watching her with such determined intention on breaking her on the wheel of his anger.
‘I had no choice. Even if I had wanted to keep them it would have been impossible, given their lack of sound construction. The truth is that they were a death trap. A death trap on my land, masquerading as a building constructed by my company.’
As he spoke Ilios remembered how he had felt on learning how his cousin had tried to use the good name of the business Ilios had built up quite literally with his own bare hands for his nefarious purposes, and his anger intensified.
His company. Lizzie automatically looked at his hard hat and its logo. She remembered Basil Rainhill smirking when he’d told her that Manos construction was ‘fronting’ the building of the apartments, and that they had a first-class reputation. Then she had assumed his smirk was because of the good deal he has boasted about to her, but now …
‘I don’t know anything about how the apartments were built. In fact, I don’t understand what this is about. I was contracted to design the interiors of the apartments, that’s all.’
‘Oh, come, Miss Wareham—do you really expect me to believe that when I have a contract that stages unequivocally that payment for your work was to be a twenty per cent interest in the apartment block?’
‘That was only because the Rainhills couldn’t pay me. They offered me that in lieu of my fee.’
‘I am not remotely interested in how you came by your share in the illegal construction my cousin built on my land, only that you pay your share of the cost of making good the damage as well as what you owe your suppliers.’
‘You’re making this up,’ Lizzie protested.
‘ You are daring to call me a liar?’ Ilios grabbed hold of her, gripping her arms as he had done before. How had she dared to accuse him of lying? His desire to punish her, to force her to take back her accusation, to kiss her until the only sound to come from her lips was a soft moan of surrender, pounded through him, crashing through the barriers of civilized behaviour and forcing him to fight for his self-control.
She had said the wrong thing, Lizzie knew. Ilios Manos was not the man to accuse of lying. His pride lay across his features like a brand, informing every expression that crossed his face—and, Lizzie suspected, every thought that entered his head.
He was still holding her, and his touch burned her flesh like a small electrical shock. Her chest lifted with her protesting intake of air. Immediately his gaze dropped to her body with predatory swiftness—as though somehow he knew that when he had touched her, her flesh had responded to his touch in a way that had flung her headlong into a place she didn’t know, brought her face to face with a Lizzie she didn’t know. Her heart was thumping jerkily, her senses intensely aware of him, and her gaze was drawn to him as though he was a magnet, clinging to his torso, his throat, his mouth.