The Wealthy Greek's Contract Wife(2)

By: Penny Jordan

In fact things were so dire that Lizzie had already made a private decision to go to the local supermarket and see if she could get work there. But then the letter had arrived, and now they—or rather she was in an even more desperate situation.

Two of her more recent clients, for whom she had done a good deal of work, had further commissioned her to do the interior design for a small block of apartments they had bought in northern Greece. On a beautiful promontory, the apartments were to have been the first stage in a luxurious and exclusive holiday development which, when finished, would include villas, three five-star hotels, a marina, restaurants and everything that went with it.

The client had given her carte blanche to furnish them in an ‘upmarket Notting Hill style’.

Notting Hill might be a long way from their corner of industrialised Manchester, on the Cheshire border, but Lizzie had known exactly what her clients had meant: white walls, swish bathrooms and kitchens, shiny marble floors, glass furniture, exotic plants and flowers, squishy sofas…

Lizzie had flown out to see the apartments with her clients, a middle-aged couple whom she had never really been able to take to. She had been disappointed by the architectural design of the apartments. She had been expecting something creative and innovative that still fitted perfectly into the timeless landscape, but what she had seen had been jarringly out of place. A six-storey-high rectangular box of so-called ‘duplex apartments’, reached by a narrow track that forked into two, with one branch sealed off by bales of dangerous-looking barbed wire. Hardly the luxury holiday homes location she had been expecting.

But when she had voiced her doubts to her clients, suggesting that the apartments might be difficult to sell, they had assured her that she was worrying unnecessarily.

‘Look, the fact is that we bargained the builder down to such a good price that we couldn’t lose out even if we let the whole lot out for a tenner a week,’ Basil Rainhill had joked cheerfully. At least Lizzie had assumed it as a joke. It was hard to tell with Basil at times.

He came from money, as his wife was fond of telling her. ‘Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and of course Basil has such an eye for a good investment. It’s a gift, you know. It runs in his family.’

Only now the gift had run out. And just before the Rainhills themselves had done the same thing disappearing, leaving a mountain of debt behind them, Basil Rainhill had told Lizzie that, since he couldn’t now afford to pay her bill, he was instead making over to her a twenty per cent interest in the Greek apartment block.

Lizzie would much rather have had the money she was owed, but her solicitor had advised her to accept, and so she had become a partner in the ownership of the apartments along with the Rainhills and Tino Manos, the Greek who owned the land.

Design-wise, she had done her best with the limited possibilities presented by the apartment block, sticking to her rule of sourcing furnishings as close to where she was working as possible, and she had been pleased with the final result. She’d even been cautiously keeping her fingers crossed that, though she suspected they wouldn’t sell, when the whole complex was finished she might look forward to the apartments being let to holidaymakers and bringing her in some much-needed income.

But now she had received this worrying, threatening letter, from a man she had never heard of before, insisting that she fly out to Thessalonica to meet him. It stated that there were ‘certain legal and financial matters with regard to your partnership with Basil Rainhill and my cousin Tino Manos which need to be resolved in person’, and included the frighteningly ominous words, ‘Failure to respond to this letter will result in an instruction to my solicitors to deal with matters on my behalf’. The letter had been signed Ilios Manos.

His summons couldn’t have come at worse time, but the whole tone of Ilios Manos’s letter was too threatening for Lizzie to feel she could refuse to obey it. As apprehensive and unwilling to meet him as she was, the needs of her family must come first. She had a responsibility to them, a duty of love from which she would never abdicate, no matter what the cost to herself. She had sworn that—promised it on the day of her parents’ funeral.

‘If this Greek wants to see you that badly he might at least have offered to pay your airfare,’ Ruby grumbled.

Lizzie felt so guilty.

‘It’s all my own fault. I should have realised that the property market was over-inflated, and creating a bubble that would burst.’

‘Lizzie, you mustn’t blame yourself.’ Charley tried to comfort her. ‘And as for realising what was happening—how could you when governments didn’t even know?’

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