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Mills & Boon
ISBN: 0263878201
July 2, 2010
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Harlequin Presents
ISBN: 0373527861
October 12, 2010
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Excerpt from The Good Greek Wife

CHAPTER ONE

The setting sun only barely lit the winding path that Penny was following, making it impossible for her to walk fast, however much she wanted to.

No, the truth was that deep down inside she wanted to run. She wanted to get away from the villa as quickly as possible, to run as far and as fast as she could possibly manage. She wanted to run and run and never come back, to get away from the poisonous atmosphere in the house she had left behind. But the truth was that up until now any such action had been impossible.

And now?

Well now she knew that she could leave — perhaps she ought to leave. But doing so would be to admit to herself that there really was no longer anything more to hope for. That her dream of love and a future was over, gone for good. Dead like her fantasies.

Dead like . . .

No, even now she still couldn't put Zarek's name, her husband's name at the end of that sentence. If she did that then she was admitting that everyone else was right and she was the foolish one, the only one who had taken so long to let go.

To admit that she no longer had a husband. That the man she had adored and married was never coming home again.

Reaching the spot where the path petered out on to the shore, she kicked off her sandals and paced onto the pebbled beach. Out at sea, she could just make out the dark shape of a small rowing boat and the man who sat in it, broad shoulders hunched away from her, his head just a black silhouette against the sunset. He was wearing some sort of hat — a baseball cap pulled down low so there was no ways she could decipher any of his features.

Even now the thought of someone on the water made her shudder inwardly. Out there, somewhere thousands of miles away, Zarek had lost his life. The depths of the ocean were his only grave. That was what she had had so much trouble coming to accept.

And she was going to have to accept one other further even more hateful truth. The fact that even when he had been alive Zarek had never truly loved her. Their marriage had been a lie, on Zarek's part at least. To him it had been purely a cold-blooded plan for an heir, never the love match she had believed it. So why was she still holding on to his memory when it was so obvious that he wasn't coming back?

Finding a smooth outcrop of rock just above the tiny horseshoe shaped harbour, she plonked herself down on the makeshift seat and rested her elbows on her knees, supporting her chin in them as she stared out at the small craft bobbing on the restless waves. Sitting there, just staring out into the darkness, she let her unwilling memory go back over the scene she had just left behind.

'Penelope . . .'

The voice had come from behind her, just as she reached the front door of the villa and had her fingers on the handle, ready to turn it. It made her freeze into stillness, keeping her eyes directed away and fixed on the heavy wood in front of her.

'Are you going somewhere?'

There was no mistaking just whose voice it was. Only one woman had that cold, distant tone that made her sound as if she was speaking through a cloud of ice, freezing the words in the air as they came out.

And only one woman called her Penelope in quite that way. Using the full version of her name to make it sound like a criticism or a reproach when everyone else — her own family or everyone who liked her — only ever used the shortened form of Penny or even Pen.

Not her mother-in-law. Or, to be more correctly precise, her stepmother-in-law.

'I thought I'd go out for a walk.'

'At this time of the day?'

'It's cooler in the evenings. And I prefer it that way.'

Still she didn't turn round. She didn't need to, of course, but more than that she didn't want to. She could already see Hermione Michaelides' elegant figure in her mind's eye. Slender to the point of emaciation, her hair kept unnaturally jet black with the constant use of hair dye, so that the few streaks of grey that were starting to appear were carefully disguised in an attempt to look so much younger than her fifty nine years.

'I still haven't really adjusted to the heat in the day time.'

'After so long?' her mother in law queried making Penny bring her sharp teeth down on the softness of her bottom lip in an effort to bite back the instinctive retort that had almost formed on her tongue.

'So long' was only a relative term, depending on who used it. To Hermione maybe the past two years or so had seemed like an age. An age in which she had to live with her unwanted daughter-in-law who now stood between Darius Michaelides' second wife and the full control of Odysseus Shipping which was what she had been aiming for from the very first moment she had met Zarek's father.

And 'so long' barely described the past two years that Penny had lived through ever since the news about Zarek's fate had come through to the island. The news that had turned her life upside down, destroying the hope of future happiness, and taking away with it any chance of being able to tell her husband how she truly felt about him.

The brief time of her marriage seemed to have flashed by in the blink of an eye, but the two years since then had taken an eternity to live through. An eternity that had dragged out to seem longer and longer with every day of hope that perhaps this was the day he might return. And then the dreadful, appalling moments that had killed all hope of that for ever. Since then her life had been something to be endured, a desert to live through. Empty and arid, without the love she had once hoped for.

No, who was she kidding? Even before he had vanished — been killed, they said — Zarek had never offered her the love she dreamed off, Penny told herself with bitter realism. He had married her in a cold-blooded business arrangement, entering into a marriage of convenience because it suited him to do so, because he wanted an heir. And she was the one who had been fool enough to think it was something else.

Excerpt from The Good Greek Wife © Kate Walker

 

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