Stirring Up Trouble (Inspiring the Greek Billionaire)

BOOK: Stirring Up Trouble (Inspiring the Greek Billionaire)
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STIRRING UP TROUBLE

SHELLY BELL

SOUL MATE PUBLISHING

New York

STIRRING UP TROUBLE

Copyright©2014

SHELLY BELL

Cover Design by Leah Kaye Suttle

This book is a work of fiction.  The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the priority written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.  The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.  Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Published in the United States of America by

Soul Mate Publishing

P.O. Box 24

Macedon, New York, 14502

ISBN-13: 978-1-61935-
443-2

www.SoulMatePublishing.com

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

To Patti Shenberger

who encouraged me, supported me,

and introduced me to Nora.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the entire Soul Mate Publishing family. You’re all an amazingly talented bunch of professionals. It’s been a joy to work with you. And a special thanks to Shawnna who loves a smart, tattooed heroine as much as me.

CHAPTER 1

If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken and so die. That strain again, it had a dying fall.

William Shakespeare
, Twelfth Night,
act 1, scene 1

Braden Angelopoulos stepped out of his office into the bustling activity of his restaurant’s kitchen and rolled his shoulders, ready to tackle the next task. “Where are my nuts?”
he asked his head chef, Christopher.

Before the sixty-year-old Greek man had the chance to answer, Lola strutted out of the walk-in freezer licking an ice cream cone—an image he didn’t need right now. She stopped in front of Braden, peering up through her long brown lashes, then slowly lowered her gaze until it rested on what was now likely an obvious bulge between his legs. “I don’t know. You want me to check for you?” She winked as she swirled her tongue around the circumference of the vanilla ice-cream cone.

The pink-haired, multi-pierced woman had become the bane of his existence. Too bad he couldn’t fire her. Or sleep with her. He maintained a strict policy of not dating his employees, a rule he’d never considered breaking until the little spitfire practically skipped into his restaurant after her late Uncle Alexander had forced him to hire her as the headliner five nights a week. Good thing she could sing because Braden hadn’t dared to refuse the man who had held the lease to his restaurant.

“Don’t worry, boss,” Christopher said, shifting his attention from Lola. “Your nuts went out on the silver platter a few minutes ago while you were on the phone with the dairy supplier.”

Braden glanced back at Lola. She simply raised a pierced brow and laughed her way out of the kitchen.

In Braden’s Greek family, an engagement party wasn’t complete without
koufetta
, what Americans referred to as Jordan almonds. He’d tweaked the recipe and created his own take on them, replacing a portion of the orange blossom water with lavender. They had to be special today.

He pasted on a smile and strode through the swinging doors into the dining room of his restaurant,
Acropolis
. Squinting to look through the crowd of mingling guests, he spotted the man he needed to speak with standing across the room talking to Lola’s mother, Reina, a woman who wore her gray hair in a long braid down her back and appeared as though she'd never gotten past the nineteen-sixties.

With a microphone in his hand, his best friend, Ryan Sullivan, addressed the guests from the stage,". . . And last, Portia and I would like to thank my best man, Braden, and the maid of honor, her sister, Lola, for closing the restaurant for a couple of hours to throw us this engagement party. If it weren't for you guys, there may not have been an ‘us’ to celebrate. Braden, Lola, could you come up here and say a few words?"

Ah, hell. He forgot he'd agreed to give a speech.

He spun around looking for his pink-haired co-conspirator, but she'd conveniently disappeared. He made sure his smile remained on his face as he climbed up the steps to the stage, shook his best friend's hand, and hugged Portia.

Although he’d rather jump naked into a freezing lake than give a speech about marriage, he lifted the microphone to his mouth. “When Ryan and I were six, we took a blood oath to never fall in love. Instead, we were going to join the Navy, explore the world. And after our stint with the military ended, we were going to become pirates on our own ship. Sadly, that dream ended when Ryan went on his first cruise and spent the entire time throwing up in his room.”

Everyone laughed, including Ryan, now sitting with his fiancée at a romantic table for two at the foot of the stage.

“Before Ryan met Portia, he’d forgotten how to smile. I worried about him for a couple of years. Especially when he moved in with me and I couldn’t get him to move out.” He paused for the chuckles. “Portia helped rekindle the missing fire in him and inspired him in ways which his friends and family never could, and on behalf of all of us, I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to her for giving us back our Ryan. And last, I can say with all honesty and sincerity, from the bottom of my heart, and other more important parts, that I’m glad it’s you getting married and not me. Congratulations and
na zisete
!”

Assuming he’d been joking, most of the guests laughed and clapped. Only Ryan and Portia gazed up at him with knowing eyes.

He didn’t want their pity. Marriage wasn’t for him. Between his parents, they’d been married and divorced nine times. And then, in college, he’d proven the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. A mistake he would never make again.

He stepped back, intending to return the microphone to its stand, when he smelled her, the subtle hint of lavender in the air. Throwing her guitar strap over her shoulder, Lola strummed the strings and ran up the steps to the stage, her long skirt flowing around her ankles.

She grabbed the microphone out of his hand. “Nice speech, Braden, and I second that emotion.”

“Lola. What are you doing?”

She turned off the volume on the microphone, and with her chin pointed up to him in defiance, said, “What I always do. What I want.” She reached up and lightly slapped his cheek a couple of times before switching on the microphone and turning back to the crowd.

He kept his face a blank page as he stepped off the stage and leaned on the bar to watch. He thought they’d decided she wouldn’t sing tonight.

“My sister and I didn’t have the easiest childhood.” With a hand to her forehead to shield the glare of the spotlight, Lola scanned the room. “No offense, Mom.”

“No offense taken, Honey,” Reina responded.

Lola tipped her head to look directly at Portia. “There were times we didn’t know where our next meal would come from, but through it all, we had each other. And music. We always had our music. It didn’t matter if we had a radio. I would sing and Portia would dance to it. Life was never dull in the Dubrovsky house, or rather whatever shelter we happened to be living in at the time. My sister and I didn’t always agree on the songs we liked or even the genres. But through it all, one song always pulled us out of the gutter balls, even at our lowest point.”

Braden stifled a grin. Lola habitually got her clichés wrong. It used to get on his nerves, until one day . . .

It didn’t.

“So, Portia, this is for you.” She nodded at the greasy band members who’d followed her onto the stage. “One. Two. One, two, three, four . . . Why can’t I get just one kiss?” Jumping around with bare feet, she sang in her throaty voice.

For a moment, the song didn’t register. But, Lola never played music the way it was written, preferring to add her own spin to it. Instead of punk rock, the tune she played sounded almost like a Calypso song. But the words were clear. She was singing the Violent Femmes “Add It Up,” a song completely inappropriate for this upscale event and crowd. He glanced to Portia and Ryan, expecting them to be angry. What he didn’t expect was Portia to start dancing, or Ryan to gaze lovingly at her as he watched her spin. In fact, no one seemed to object to Lola’s choice of song. The guests bopped up and down and some of them sang along.

Luckily, the song was short. Everyone clapped wildly for Lola as she returned the microphone to its stand, curtsied, and jumped off the stage to hug her sister. Ryan gave her a kiss on the cheek before smiling and twisting to look directly at him.

The traitor.

Braden crossed the room to join the happy trio. Ryan and he gave each other a guy hug, loosely throwing an arm around the top of the other’s back and pounding it loudly.

Portia smiled warmly and embraced him. “I don’t believe you won’t ever fall in love or get married. Not for one moment. Your time is coming, Braden Angelopoulos. Just you wait.”

“Yes, Braden. You should listen to my sister. After all, she’s a Muse. She knows what she’s talking about.” Lola chuckled and nudged him in the ribs. According to Reina, she and her daughters were Muses, women who inspired creativity in the right men.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Braden spotted the short, gray-haired George Pappas walking toward him with a smile. He’d tried to get in touch with George several times this past week about extending his lease, but Alexander’s attorney hadn’t returned his calls.
Acropolis
operated on an expensive and highly coveted piece of real estate, and Braden had lucked out getting a lease through Ryan’s Uncle, Alexander Stavros, who owned the land and building. But now that he’d died, Braden was worried he’d lose the lease which had expired a few days ago.

George hugged the engaged couple, first Ryan and then Portia. “I’m so honored to be invited to your wedding.”

“Of course we’d invite you,” Portia said. “If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have fallen in love.”

The pair had met six months ago when George had informed them that Alexander Stavros, Ryan’s biological uncle and Portia’s uncle through marriage, had left them a mansion and a month’s worth of stipulations.

“Yes, well, it was my pleasure as the executor of Alexander’s estate, may he rest in peace,” said George. “I know he’s looking down at you now with a smile on his face.” He used the sleeve of his Armani suit to wipe a bead of sweat rolling down his pudgy reddened cheek.

“And a cigar in his mouth,” Ryan added.

George nodded then finally addressed Braden. “Speaking of which, I have some information I need to discuss with you. Is there somewhere we can speak quietly?”

Ryan and Portia gave each other a smile. The twinkle in the attorney’s eye gave Braden the feeling he was about to deliver bigger news than a mere extension of the lease. Maybe Alexander had left Braden the building?

He motioned for the man to follow him. “Absolutely. Why don’t we go to my office?”

“Wonderful.” George held out his hand to Lola and clasped her wrist. “Ms. Dubrovsky, this concerns you as well. Would you mind joining us?”

Her jaw fell for a split second before she recovered with a smug grin pointed in Braden’s direction. “I’d love to, Mr. Pappas.”

He took her by the arm. “Please, call me George. After all, someday I may be a guest at your engagement party,” he said to both of them.

Braden reared back as if someone had punched him in the gut. Where the hell would George get the idea that he and Lola might end up engaged?

Foreboding weighed heavy on his shoulders as he watched Lola work her magic on George. He knew the feeling. She did it every time he saw her. But regardless of how attracted he was to the temptress, there was
nothing
that would change the fact that Braden would never get married again.

BOOK: Stirring Up Trouble (Inspiring the Greek Billionaire)
8.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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