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Authors: Rebecca Winters

The Renegade Billionaire

BOOK: The Renegade Billionaire
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One night to change their lives…

A runaway child is missing, and as it's on
his
Greek island, rebel billionaire Stavros Konstantinos finds himself caught up in the search, alongside pretty tour guide Andrea Linford...

Their heroic rescue mission over, they begin to explore the spark between them. Andrea always thought love happened to other people—but after two bliss-filled days with Stavros she knows her feelings run deep. Is Andrea brave enough to throw off her past and step into the future—with Stavros by her side?

“What if I want you to stay?” His husky tone played havoc with her senses.

She took a fortifying breath. “Forgive me for being blunt, but I can't afford to stay.”
I'm far too attracted to you.

How could she feel this strongly about him when it hadn't been that long ago Ferrante had died? She didn't want to know the pain of loving someone again and was shocked at the strength of her feelings for Stavros already. A prominent man like Stavros Konstantinos could have his pick of any woman, but he could never be serious about
her
. It wasn't worth risking her heart to stay around any longer—especially when she'd be leaving the country with her father in the not too distant future.

Dear Reader,

I once worked for a tour agency and loved writing the itineraries for various groups.

One in particular was arranged for a well-known opera singer who would come on a tour and take his group to the cities where he'd performed. Paris, Milan and Zurich were among the high points of his tour. I wanted to add Athens, Greece, but the singer had time constraints so it didn't happen.

Greece is one of the most fascinating, amazing countries on earth. If I could have planned a Greek itinerary for him I would have included the island of Thassos. When you read this novel you'll see why.

Enjoy!

THE RENEGADE BILLIONAIRE

Rebecca Winters

Rebecca Winters
lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. With canyons and high alpine meadows full of wildflowers, she never runs out of places to explore. They, plus her favorite vacation spots in Europe, often end up as backgrounds for her romance novels, because writing is her passion, along with her family and church.

Rebecca loves to hear from readers. If you wish to email her, please visit her website at
cleanromances.com
.

Books by Rebecca Winters

HARLEQUIN ROMANCE

The Count's Christmas Baby
A Marriage Made in Italy
The Greek's Tiny Miracle
At the Chateau for Christmas
Taming the French Tycoon

Princes of Europe

Expecting the Prince's Baby
Becoming the Prince's Wife

Gingerbread Girls

Marry Me under the Mistletoe

Tiny Miracles

Baby Out of the Blue
Along Came Twins…

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles

To my wonderful children, who put up with me while I write books of the heart. They know I love them, but they also know my mind is often somewhere deep into a love story of my own concoction.

CHAPTER ONE

A
FTER
WASHING
THE
sweat from his body, Stavros Konstantinos wrapped a towel around his hips and walked out on his terrace. The view of the blue Aegean from his private villa atop pine-covered Mount Ypsarion always renewed him.

Because of another of many such impasses, today's board meeting in Thessaloniki on the Greek mainland had ended early for him. His proposal for a new product to be manufactured and marketed by the Konstantinos Marble Corporation had met with total defeat.

At that point a blackness had swept through him. The sickness that had been coming on for the past year had finally caught up to him. Depression was a feeling he'd never known before, but he couldn't label it as anything else.

Knowing that his family members who made up the majority of the board still lived and operated as if it were 1950, he hadn't expected any other result. With the exception of his elder brother, Leon, everyone else down to the last cousin was against any new innovations and refused to hear him out. They were afraid of change.

That was fine with him. In his free time he'd had a new plant built on his own land. Now that the family had refused to listen to him and wanted no part of it, he and his two partners, Theo and Zander, would be starting production on Monday.

Since he'd gotten nowhere with the members of the board, he'd told them he was resigning from his position as managing director of the corporation immediately. As of now, all ties were severed, including his position on the board. He suggested they should start looking for a replacement ASAP.

Just saying those words helped to drive some of the blackness away. He'd been in a cage, but no longer.

While every member sat there in utter shock at his announcement, he excused himself from the meeting in Thessaloniki and took the helicopter back to his villa on Thassos Island. En route, he checked his phone messages and discovered another text message waiting for him from Tina Nasso, the woman he'd stopped seeing three months ago.

Since he'd never responded to any of her messages, why would she text him again? Was she so desperate?

This separation from u can't go on, Stavros. You've been so cruel. I haven't seen u or even heard your voice in three months! You haven't texted me back once. I have to talk to you! This is important. Tina.

This text meant she was still pressing for him to change his mind. His black brows came together. Christina Nasso, the woman his parents had expected him to marry, didn't know how to let something go that could never have worked out. With no intention of answering this text either, he deleted it.

Parental pressure had driven him to spend some time with her, but there was no attraction on his part. He had the gut feeling her parents were still pressuring her because they'd wanted an alliance between both families. Just as his parents had planned on him marrying her, it was no secret the prominent Nasso shipping family from Kavala wanted Stavros for their son-in-law. Both family businesses were closely connected.

But when she'd wanted a deeper intimacy with him, he couldn't pretend feelings he didn't have. Though he hadn't wanted to hurt her, he'd had to tell her the truth. He wasn't in love with her and they both needed to be free.

Stavros had told his parents the same thing after they'd demanded an explanation. His great mistake was humoring them from the beginning. Never again. They could wait, but a marriage with Tina wouldn't happen.

Today he'd felt the consequences of his actions. His refusal to go on seeing her had caused a serious rift, one he'd felt at the board meeting when his father had influenced his uncles and cousins to close ranks against his new business venture instead of embracing it.

As for Tina, his hope was that one day she'd meet someone her family would approve of. She was an attractive woman with much to offer a man who wanted to marry her. But Stavros wasn't that man. One day, Tina would realize it and move on. Like salt that had lost its savor, every relationship he'd had with a woman had been missing the essential ingredient for happiness.

The only thing that brought him any pleasure right now was spending every bit of time on his new business. Stavros's company wouldn't be in competition with his family's, but there would be fireworks when they found out he'd gone ahead with production. One of theirs was doing something on his own and they couldn't tolerate it. But it shouldn't be a surprise to them. He rarely bowed to the dictates of his autocratic father or his great-uncles.

For his mother's sake, he'd tried where Tina was concerned. But once she'd learned that her younger son wasn't enamored of the Nasso girl, he'd found disfavor in her eyes too. He took a deep breath. Today had turned out to be a day like no other. From here on out, his life was going to go in directions no one would be happy about except him.

So be it!

On his way to the kitchen to quench his thirst, his cell phone rang. If it was Tina calling because he hadn't answered her text, she would find out exactly how he felt when she realized he intended to go on ignoring any and all phone calls or texts from her.

But when he looked at the caller ID, he saw it was the manager of quarry three on Thassos Island phoning on his private line. He clicked on. “What's up, Gus?”

“Kyrie Konstantinos?”
Kyrie
being the Greek version of Mr. “A situation with one of the student-teacher groups from PanHellenic Tours has arisen. A teenager is missing. Now the police are involved.”

This was all Stavros needed to hear, especially since he'd been the only one on the board in favor of allowing tour groups to visit the quarry. The program had been working well since March with no incidents, until today...

Stavros gripped the phone tighter. “Have the police started a search?”

When he heard the particulars, he grimaced. A helicopter would have an almost impossible struggle to see any movement beneath the dense green canopy of the forest.

“What do you advise, Kyrie?”

“I'll be there ASAP.”

He returned to the bedroom and dressed quickly before he dashed out the door to his car.

It had been his hope the quarry experience would broaden the students' education and spread the word about job opportunities.

Forty percent of the marble in Greece came from an almost inexhaustible supply in the Thassos region, much of it being shipped to China, Asia and Europe. Because of this abundant natural resource, more jobs were available, which would improve the Grecian economy, a major aim of his.

With that argument, his grandfather, who'd recently passed away, had been persuaded that the free publicity generated by various tour groups from foreign climes might be a good idea. At that point the rest of the board offered their reluctant acceptance on the condition that it would be for a trial basis only. One problem with the tours and they'd be given no more access.

This particular quarry—one of many owned by the family throughout northern Greece—was on the other side of the summit, just ten minutes away. He knew the police lieutenant well and would ask his cooperation in keeping the press at bay for as long as possible.

The crisis needed to be averted before the media got hold of it. Once they turned it into an international circus, the island would be crawling with unwanted spectators. Though the staff at the quarry wasn't responsible for what had happened, the public wouldn't see it that way. Publicity of this kind was never good.

To his mind, the teacher was ultimately responsible for this type of situation and could be facing charges. Six high school groups of six on the bus with their individual teachers? How hard was it to keep track of half a dozen students?

Gus had said the teen's teacher was a younger, nice-looking American woman. Maybe too young to handle a bunch of teens? Stavros pressed on the gas as he rounded a curve in the road. He was in a mood.

Once the family found out about this crisis, they'd put a stop to the tour groups. Since he'd announced his resignation from the corporation and the board, he would no longer have a say. But for the time being he felt the responsibility heavily. Someone's teenage son was missing in a foreign land and needed to be found.

* * *

Panagia was Andrea Linford's favorite village on the Greek island of Thassos. After flying from Thessaloniki to the nearby airport of Keramoti on the mainland, she'd come the rest of the way on the ferry to Thassos, the capital city many referred to as Limenas. From the water, the island looked like a floating forest because of the pines and olive groves covering it.

She'd rented a car and driven to Panagia, ten kilometers away. Named after the Virgin Mary, it was built on the side of the mountain. From the wooden terraces of the villas with their painted ceilings and schist roofs, one had a fantastic view of the bay and the sea beyond, where other emerald-green mountains rose to fill the eye. The sight of clear, ice-cold water bubbling up from the natural springs to run down alongside the narrow streets delighted her.

Andrea had spent time in its church of the Virgin Mary, which had been built in l831. She loved its impressive baronial style, constructed by stones from the ruins of ancient temples. The exterior and cupola were a pale blue and white, absolutely exquisite.

She'd been in a lot of churches around the world, but the interior of this particular church was like a fabulous treasure. It contained a banneret dating from the time of the Crusades. She felt there was a spiritual essence she hadn't found in other churches. If she were ever to get married, this would be the spot she would choose, but of course that was a fantasy, just like the village spread out before her.

Today she didn't have time to linger.

For the past year and a half, Andrea had worked for PanHellenic Tours, in their main office located in Thessaloniki. They were one of the biggest tour operators in Greece. Having obtained her humanities degree from the university there, she had been hired to do translations and help develop tour itineraries by researching everything thoroughly.

Andrea was the person who'd first suggested the company include a tour of the quarry she found fascinating. Her boss, Sakis, was so taken with her idea, he'd made it part of their latest itineraries for this year. But word had gotten back to him that there'd been an incident involving an American student visiting the marble quarry on Thassos. The boy had gone missing and the police had been called in.

Because Andrea was fluent in English and Greek, and because she'd been the one to make the initial arrangements with the quarry manager, Sakis had sent her to do the troubleshooting, then report back her findings.

Before leaving the office in the cotton skirt and blouse she'd worn to work, she downloaded the student's file, including a picture, and itinerary on her phone.

Knowing the way to the quarry, which was famous for its pure white marble, she left the charming island village shaded by huge oak and walnut trees—a village that maintained some of the old traditions and ways of life. She followed the road up the mountain.

Thassos was truly an emerald island, almost round in shape. Some of the locals called it a giant lump of marble. She smiled as she wound around until she came to the quarry.

Many of the stone mines scattered all over the island were open pits. A tourist who didn't know better would think they'd come across an enormous, surreal graveyard of huge, pure white marble slabs and blocks surrounded by dark green pines. They glistened in the hot late-afternoon August sun.

She made her way to the quarry office of the Konstantinos Corporation, a world leader in the production of marble from their many quarries in northern Greece. Thanks to large investments in technology, the company processed marble and granite for internal and international markets.

At the east end of the quarry, she saw the tour bus and half a dozen police cars parked by the employees' cars. The officers were obviously vetting the group of students and teachers standing outside it.

She parked her car on the end of the row and got out. Georgios, the seasoned Greek tour guide, was a harmless flirt who always made her smile when he came to the head office, but today he looked grim, with good reason.

No sooner had she gotten out of the rental car to talk to him than the police lieutenant approached her. “Sorry, but no visitors are allowed here today.”

“I've come from PanHellenic Tours,” Andrea said in Greek. She introduced herself as a representative of the tour company and showed him her credentials. Normally she wore the blue jacket with the PanHellenic insignia, but it was too hot out.

“My mistake.”

“No problem. Our office received word that one of the American students, a seventeen-year-old named Darren Lewis, disappeared during the tour of the quarry and hasn't been found. I'm here to help if I can. Any news yet?”

The mustached lieutenant frowned. “A helicopter has been making a sweep of the mountains. Some of the officers are out searching the area for him, but so far there's been no word.”

“How long has he been missing?”

“Almost three hours. All the quarry employees have been accounted for. None could shed any light and were told to keep this quiet. We're about finished getting statements from the students and teachers. Then they're free to go on to their next stop in Thassos.”

Three hours... It had taken her too long to get here. By now the dark blond boy could be hiding anywhere in these mountains. Thankfully, with the eighty-degree temperature, it wouldn't get too cold tonight, if he wasn't found by dark.

“Before they leave, I need to talk to the tour guide.”

“Of course.”

“Excuse me.”

She hurried over to Georgios, the short, wiry Greek who knew this business backward and forward. “This is a ghastly thing to happen. How are you holding up?”

He shook his head. “I've been with the company for fifteen years and never lost anyone before. After the tour had finished, the quarry manager said the group could look around. You know the routine. I told them to be back at the bus in a half hour. Darren told his teacher, Mrs. Shapiro, that he needed to visit the restroom before heading for the bus.”

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