#SampleSunday - Xenakis's Convenient Bride

#SampleSundayexcerptJennifer HaywardThe Secret BillionairesXenakis's Convenient BrideRachael Thomas

I've been in my writing cave all week and just realized I owe a post! Fortunately, Xenakis's Convenient Bride arrived on Mills & Boon and Harlequin this month.

Amazon: US | CA | UK | Aus | Nook | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay

Xenakis's Convenient Bride is Book Two in the Secret Billionaire's trilogy. This sexy, exciting series features jaded tycoons making a wager they can go two weeks without their fortunes and names. They go undercover and lose their hearts.

Book One is Rachael Thomas's Di Marcello's Secret Son and Book Three is Jennifer Hayward's Salazar's One-Night Heir.

Here's the blurb for Xenakis's Convenient Bride:

The challenge: two weeks without your billionaire fortune!

Greek magnate Stavros Xenakis must go undercover to win a bet—and escape his grandfather's demands that he take a bride. Until encountering deliciously tempting housekeeper Calli proves that a wife is exactly what he needs!

Calli's baby being taken away robbed her of the ability to trust anyone. Now Stavros's offer to marry her gives her the chance to finally find her son. But Calli doesn't expect their honeymoon to be so sinfully sensual—and for life as the temporary Mrs. Xenakis to be so exquisitely satisfying…

SampleSunday

Here's the prologue. I'll be back next week with Chapter One.

PROLOGUE

Stavros Xenakis threw his twenty-thousand-euro chips into the pot, less satisfied than he usually was postchallenge, but it had nothing to do with his fellow players or his lackluster hand.

His longtime friend Sebastien Atkinson had arranged his usual après-adrenaline festivities. It had wound down to the four of them, as it often did. Many turned out for these extreme sports events, but only Antonio Di Marcello and Alejandro Salazar had the same deep pockets Stavros and Sebastien did. Or the stones to bet at this level simply to stretch out a mellow evening.

Stavros wasn’t the snob his grandfather was, but he didn’t consider many his equal. These men were it and he enjoyed their company for that reason. Tonight was no exception. They were still high on today’s exercise of cheating death, sipping 1946 Macallan while trading good-natured insults.

So why was he twitching with edginess?

He mentally reviewed today’s paraski that had had him carving a steep line down a ski slope to a cliff’s edge before rocketing into thin air, lifted by his chute for a thousand feet, guiding his path above a ridge, then hitting the lower slope for another run of hard turns before taking to the air again.

It had been as physically demanding as any challenge that had come before and was probably their most daredevil yet. Throughout most of it, he’d been completely in the moment—his version of meditating.

He had expected today to erase the frustration that had been dogging him, but it hadn’t. He might have set it aside for a few hours, but this niggling irritation was back to grate at him.

Sebastien eyed him across the table, no doubt trying to determine if he was bluffing.

“How’s your wife?” Stavros asked, more as a deflection, but also trying to divine how Sebastien could be happily married.

“Better company than you. Why are you so surly tonight?”

Was it obvious? He grimaced. “I haven’t won yet.” He was among friends so he admitted the rest. “And my grandfather is threatening to disinherit me if I don’t marry soon. I’d tell him to go to hell, but…”

“Your mother,” Alejandro said.

“Exactly.” They all knew his situation. He played ball with his grandfather for the sake of his mother and sisters. He couldn’t walk away from his own inheritance when it would cost them theirs.

But “settle down?” His grandfather had been trying to fit Stavros into a box from the time he was twelve. Lately it had become a push toward picket fences. Demands he produce an heir and a spare.

Stavros couldn’t buy into any of that so, yet again, he was in a power struggle with the old man. He usually got around being whipped down a particular path, but he hadn’t yet found his alternate route. It chewed and chewed at him, especially when his grandfather was holding control of the family’s pharmaceutical conglomerate hostage.

Stavros might be a hell-raiser, but his rogue personality had produced some of the biggest gains for Dýnami. He was more than ready to steer the ship. A wife and children were cargo he didn’t need, but his grandfather seemed to think it would prove he was “mature” and “responsible.”

Where his grandfather got the idea he wasn’t either of those things, Stavros couldn’t say. He upped his ante to a full hundred thousand, despite the fact his hand had not improved. He promptly lost it.

They played a little longer, then Sebastien asked, “Do you ever get the feeling we spend too much of our lives counting our money and chasing superficial thrills at the expense of something more meaningful?”

“You called it,” Antonio said to Alejandro, tossing over a handful of chips. “Four drinks and he’s philosophizing.”

Sebastien gave Stavros a look of disgust as he also pushed some chips toward Alejandro’s pile.

“I said three.” Stavros shrugged without apology. “My losing streak continues.”

“I’m serious.” Sebastien was the only self-made billionaire among them, raised by a single mother on the dole in a country where bloodlines and titles were still more valuable than a bank balance. His few extra years of age and experience gave him the right to act as mentor. He wasn’t afraid to offer his opinion and he was seldom wrong. They all listened when he spoke, but he did get flowery when he was in his cups. “At our level, it’s numbers on a page. Points on a scoreboard. What does it contribute to our lives? Money doesn’t buy happiness.”

“It buys some nice substitutes.” Antonio smirked.

Sebastien’s mouth twisted. “Like your cars?” he mused, then flicked his glance to Alejandro. “Your private island? You don’t even use that boat you’re so proud of,” he said, moving on to Stavros. “We buy expensive toys and play dangerous games, but does it enrich our lives? Feed our souls?”

“What are you suggesting?” Alejandro drawled, discarding a card and motioning for it to be replaced. “We go live with the Buddhists in the mountains? Learn the meaning of life? Renounce our worldly possessions to find inner clarity?”

Sebastien made a scoffing noise. “You three couldn’t go two weeks without your wealth and family names to support you. Your gilded existence makes you blind to reality.”

“Could you?” Stavros challenged, throwing away three cards. “Try telling us you would go back to when you were broke, before you made your fortune. Hungry isn’t happy. That’s why you’re such a rich bastard now.”

“As it happens, I’ve been thinking of donating half my fortune to charity, to start a global search-and-rescue fund. Not everyone has friends who will dig him out of an avalanche with their bare hands.” Sebastien smiled, but the rest of them didn’t.

Last year, Sebastien had nearly died during one of their challenges. Stavros still woke from nightmares of reliving those dark minutes. He’d wound up with frostbite burns on his fingers, but he’d been frantic to save Sebastien, unable to watch a man die again. A man whose life he valued. He felt sick recollecting it and took a sip of his whiskey to sear away the nausea.

“Are you serious?” Alejandro charged. “That’s, what? Five billion?”

“You can’t take it with you.” Sebastien’s shrug was nonchalant. “Monika is on board with it, but I’m still debating. I’ll tell you what.” He leaned forward, mouth curling into the wicked grin he always wore when he proposed cliff diving or some other outrageous act. “You three go two weeks without your credit cards and I’ll do it.”

“Starting when? We all have responsibilities,” Alejandro reminded.

After a considering pause, Sebastien canted his head. “Fair enough. Clear the decks at home. But be prepared for word from me—and two weeks in the real world.”

“You’re really going to wager half your fortune on a cakewalk of a challenge?” Alejandro said.

“If you’ll put up your island. Your favorite toys?” He took in all three men. “I say where and when.”

They all snorted with confidence.

“Easy,” Stavros said, already anticipating the break from his grandfather’s badgering. “Count me in.”

~ * ~

Wait until he meets Calli! Can't wait? Here are your pre-order links:

Amazon: US | CA | UK | Aus | Nook | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay

Prequel

In case you missed it, there's a prequel to this series that shows why Sebastien is so keen to make his wager with his friends. It's called The Secret Billionaire's Mistress and you can read it here.

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Have a great weekend,