Authors: Aleka Nakis
“Don’t blame me for stacking the odds,” he said. “You’re the most desirable woman on this island. You will drive the men to distraction. They’ll compete for your attention, making it impossible for you to enjoy yourself. I think it would be much easier if we eliminate that, and just enjoy each other’s company.”
“Stop talking like that. It’s too much for me to hear and I’m not comfortable with it. Besides, what makes you think I wouldn’t welcome their attention? Perhaps I’d enjoy it.”
The thought of her ‘enjoying’ someone else made his blood boil. No, he couldn’t see her with anyone but him. She would be his, and he didn’t want to wait to be sure of the fact. He controlled his irritation and spoke softly. “I will stop talking to you like that if you let me show you why I brought you here.”
He stretched his arm to her, but she didn’t take his hand. Sighing, he placed the goggles on her head and asked her to follow him. He needed to trust she would.
They arrived at the sunken boat, and she let out a small gasp of pleasure as the sun reflected off the stern. They swam around with the little fish beside them, he pointed out the octopus in a dark corner.
Floating in the quiet over the water, the serenity of the view calmed the stressed air between them. She tried to put her foot down, and he grabbed her again. “Careful, you were about to step on sea urchin. They hurt.”
They swam back to the beach and sat on the mat. He dropped a towel on her shoulders and sat beside her.
“So now that Giardetti has bought the property in Crete, will we be seeing more of you?”
“As you know, I’m heading the renovation and management team.”
He nodded. Crete was less than an hour flight from either Athens or Santorini, just in case more time was necessary to bring her around.
Athena gazed up at him. “Why did you not continue bidding on the property?”
Her question surprised him. It was the first time she truly recognized the conflict in their professional goals.
“Something else presented itself. I have a greater interest in it, and didn’t want to spread the company’s resources too thin. Now, if we had you on our team, we could have done both.”
She smiled before answering. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, but when I finally leave Giardetti, it will be to run my own resort. Working for Luca has been a fantastic experience, but my ultimate goal is to work for myself.”
“Luca has that affect on people.”
“He’s been a great mentor, and Giardetti is a wealth of knowledge for a mind seeking to learn. We’ve had a very profitable relationship to date, and I believe it will continue to grow until the time comes for us to go our separate ways.”
A streak of possessiveness ran through him. Why was she speaking so highly of the other man? He didn’t know what, but there was more to this intriguing woman’s relationship with his friend than what met the eye. Luca had assured him their relationship was not personal, but a feeling of unease sat in Alexandros’ gut.
“What will you call your resort?” he asked, trying to sort his feelings.
. Not because it’s my name, but because it’s a name which inspires—”
“An air of beauty, mystery, wisdom and the freedom associated with those traits. I like your choice in the name.”
“Thank you.” She buried her feet in the sand and wiggled her toes free.
“You have a time frame you’re working within?”
“Yes, the first Athena’s will surface in three and a half years. That resort will allow the expansion to the second a year later, and in the first decade of operations, we will have grown to a dozen resorts internationally.”
“It’s a very ambitious, but probable, plan. Do you intend to work with your family?” He was aware of her brothers’ consulting firm. They were a team of talented and motivated Greek-Americans who were leaving their mark in international business transactions.
“My brothers always have input in my decisions. However, this risk is all my own. It’s my personal dream, I can’t ask them to put their plans on hold to follow mine. I don’t doubt we will work together, but they have enough to do with their own business now.”
“Consider Strintzaris Enterprises a friend and a resource. We welcome good competition; it only makes us better.”
Alexandros was sincere. However, he found it amusing that his future competition might come in a sexy, tempting package.
“I’ll remember that,” she said. “What did you have for Dimitri?”
“Dimitri is getting too old to work so hard. His wife likes to spend the majority of the year in Athens and they only spend the summer months here. He married late in life, and they never had any children. Last month, he decided to sell this land. From the parking lot, down to the second jetty, and a kilometer inland, he also owns the beach rights.” Alexandros outlined the property visually for her.
“He knew we’re looking for land on Santorini to build a five star resort, so he approached my father. We were interested, but when he told us his asking price, we told him he was making a mistake. I know it sounds foolish, but I can’t abuse a friend’s trust. His price was far too low, and we could not in good conscience buy it at less than a fourth of its value.”
“Good business makes good friends,” she repeated.
“You were listening.” He smiled. “To make a long story short, those were the appraisal papers. We should be breaking ground in October.”
“That’s nice, very nice. This is a perfect spot for a resort. I wish you much success here.”
Alexandros had warned he would lure her away from Giardetti. Wondering if this project would tempt her, he envisioned her standing on a terrace, hands on her hips, overseeing the progress. He’d tossed about the idea of offering her the position of supervising the project. She’d report only to him, and she would be close to him where he could protect her. However, was that enough for him? He didn’t think so.
Not prepared to start something with her in a deceitful way, he concentrated on establishing a trust between them. It was more important that she be with him personally, not professionally. Knowing that he couldn’t prolong it any longer, Alexandros was determined to have her as his.
She spoke first. “Is this land the reason you didn’t proceed with the property in Crete?”
“Yes. As you can imagine, Santorini holds a special place in my heart. Luca’s interest in Crete surprised me though. Giardetti doesn’t have any other property in Greece, and I’m curious about his sudden desire to invest in the country.”
Suddenly, she seemed uneasy and that was the last thing he wanted. He wanted her comfortable with him.
“Are you hungry yet?”
“Famished” she answered. “Should we head back to
“No, we’re not done yet. One more important stop.”
Alexandros pulled the motorcycle up to a comfortable little house overlooking a vineyard.
“Where is the love of my life?” he chimed, walking through the front door.
“Slaving in the kitchen for you,” a voice from the back of the house replied. Moments later, a small woman bounded toward them, and he picked her up in his arms, spinning her around.
Inside, Athena slowly took in her surroundings. The house was small and neat. There were pictures of the Strintzaris family in every corner and a large painting of a couple on their wedding day. Athena could feel the pride the older woman took in the home, and she could definitely smell the scrumptious lunch she’d prepared.
“This is Yiayia Maria.”
Athena smiled at the sight of the big man playing with his grandmother. She was short, petite, and looked very delicate in his arms. He put her down, and bringing his face to hers, he waited for her kiss. Yiayia kissed him loud and hard with the enthusiasm of a young girl.
“This must be Athena.” The grandmother came to embrace and kiss her. “I’m so happy you two are visiting.”
She motioned for them to follow and spoke to each of them in turn. “Food is ready.
as you requested, just the way you like them. Give this boy some ground beef stuffed with feta, and you could rob him blind.”
“Yiayia, you’re giving away the family secrets.”
The old woman chuckled as she walked to the back door. “Let’s go sit out here, and I’ll bring the salad.”
She led them to the back patio for lunch. They ate, talked, and laughed. Yiayia seemed to thoroughly enjoy sharing her rich life experience with Alexandros, and they reminisced about his grandfather, Alex, who had passed away three years earlier.
They spent the afternoon with the older woman, barely realizing how fast the time passed. Together, they helped with the dishes before leaving.
“Yiayia, it has been a delicious pleasure—as always.” Alexandros kissed her fingers in a flamboyant gesture, which pleased the old woman. “You need to rest before the making of the Bride’s Bed, and I need to return Athena to
“Thanks for bringing your girl by. It was nicer to meet her alone rather than with all the family and fuss of tonight. Now, you know where I am, and you can always come on your own.” Her last statement was a standing invitation to Athena.
“Thank you. It’s been a delightful afternoon,” she responded.
“The car will be by at six. Yiayia, be ready. I love you.”
The older woman’s eyes shined with pride as Alexandros opened the door and led Athena out.
“Your grandmother is wonderful.”
“My grandmother is a beautiful, stubborn old lady. She has been living alone since my grandfather passed away. She refuses any live-in help, refuses to go to Athens with my parents for the winter, and refuses to admit her body is not as young as her mind.”
“She looks very capable. If she can manage, she should do as she pleases.”
“I’m surprised I didn’t get an argument about the car coming for her tonight. That was probably for your benefit.” He climbed onto the motorcycle, helped Athena on behind him, and casually stroked her thigh as he continued speaking.
“I had to resort to threats before she would allow Stella to come over daily to help with the domestic chores. Even so, she usually has everything done before Stella arrives. They spend most of their time in the garden together. At least Stella checks on her when we are not on the island. I also have two families working the vines and they report to me daily.”
“You worry about her, but I think she would ask for help if she needs it.”
“She doesn’t need to need. I can make her life easier. She turned eighty-three last Christmas. She refuses any help, and the island is secluded half the year. I wish she would stop being so mulish, but then again she is a true Strintzaris.”
“She’s lucky to have you.”
“I’m lucky to have her,” he said, waving goodbye to the smiling woman as they drove off the property.
This was getting complicated.
Athena liked what she saw—really liked it. A warm sensation spread throughout her body. It was something foreign, something unknown. It would be so much easier if he behaved like the primitive, conceited, arrogant cave dweller she had expected. Where was the man who took what he wanted, regardless the cost to others?
Alexandros Strintzaris was a ruthless executive who had doubled his father’s fortune in five years. He wasn’t a man who insisted on paying a friend fair market value for his property.
Alexandros Strintzaris was a jet-setting playboy who skimmed the Mediterranean waves with a different woman on each tide. He wasn’t the man who spent a leisurely afternoon having lunch with his grandmother.
Who was this man taking her home? Who was this man who refused to let anyone come between him and his brother? Who was this man that caressed her thigh and sent an electric current through her body?
Moreover, why did she hold him just a little bit tighter when she thought about finding the answers to those questions?
Making of the Bride’s Bed
proved to be a delightful custom. Four generations of Strintzaris women gathered to initiate the latest member into their sisterhood.
Estrogen infused the very walls at
as nieces, cousins, and aunts were introduced to the bride. The bedroom looked like a garden of womanhood. Fresh flowers graced every corner of the room. Late afternoon sunshine entered through the large windows and the heavy double doors, highlighting the women moving around the room like bees in a hive.
Cousin Eleni gracefully placed a white package on the stripped bed. She invited the bride to remove the subtle streamers of ribbons and fresh flowers, revealing a delicate set of white silk sheets, complete with stunning gold embroidery. The younger women fitted the sheets on the bed before the youngest, ten year old Annoula, ceremoniously presented them with a white lace blanket crocheted by Yiayia Maria.
Only pure women, traditionally the family’s virgins, were allowed to make the bed. The other women gathered around offering marital advice they had received from previous generations. It was a celebration of womanhood as they collectively decorated a bed fit for a fairy tale.