Authors: Aleka Nakis
Yiayia was the first to place a little gold icon between the two pillows.
, I wish for you a life like the one I’ve had with my Alex.” Yiayia took Heather’s pale hands with her weathered knowing ones, raising them to her lips speaking with tenderness. “You hold your husband’s heart in your hands. Let love guide you in keeping it sacred, allow it to flourish and your efforts will return rewards beyond your dreams.”
“Thank you, Yiayia.” Tears formed in Heather’s eyes and some tissues magically appeared for her to dab away the moisture.
Yiayia moved aside, allowing each of the other women to have their say, and came to stand beside Athena.
Motioning her closer, she stroked Athena’s hair and laid a tender kiss on her cheek. “One day soon, we’ll be making your bed,
,” Yiayia whispered.
Stunned, Athena didn’t know how to reply. She smiled and stared at the women placing gifts on the bed. Catching her breath, Athena saw, from the corner of her eye, Eleni coming toward her. She sighed in relief.
“I’m so glad for my cousin. They will make each other very happy. I’ve arranged a car to take us to Asteri, the island’s newest dance club. John’s wife, Maria, will be joining us as well.” Eleni’s eyes twinkled as she turned and walked back toward the bed.
The dance club was the trendiest on the island. The women followed the
, and made their way between crammed squirming bodies on the dance floor. Four unescorted women entering the club turned many heads as they were shown to their table. Champagne on ice awaited them, together with a bowl of fresh strawberries.
The islanders came to offer their good wishes as the night progressed. It was a fun and relaxed atmosphere with dancing, pleasant recollections with friends, and plans for the future.
Athena was returning from the ladies’ room when she saw a man sitting at the table. The fine hairs on her body prickled a warning. There was something wrong, something she didn’t like about the guy. She just didn’t know what.
Obviously, her friends had invited him to their table and seemed to be enjoying his company. He had the same handsome appearance as Alexandros. Dark wavy hair that rested above his collar, strong Greek facial features, and broad muscular shoulders were obvious traits, but that was where the similarities ended. When he raised his eyes, she looked into cold darkness.
“These are the types of friends you should introduce me to,” he said to Eleni. An icy shiver ran down her spine as he stood to greet her. His eyes skimmed over her dress and nodded.
“Athena, this is my brother, Giorgios,” Eleni said, unaware of the devious curl forming on the man’s lips.
How could this be? Giorgios was supposed to be in Athens. He was supposed to be in rehab. Did the other women know what he had done?
“Finally, we meet.” Smiling wickedly, he moved toward her like a slimy snake.
Giorgios pulled out her chair and Athena lowered herself to the edge of the seat, her eyes searching the other faces for answers. Giorgios sat beside his sister and ordered more champagne. He charmed the other women, relating news from Athens and old family stories. Heather and Eleni laughed at his jokes, but Athena could not relax. The darkness his eyes belied his apparent sincerity. He may talk sweet, but he felt dangerous.
Inching his chair closer to Athena, Giorgios placed his arm across her back and tried to engage her in conversation. Apparently, he didn’t realize how much she knew about him and continued as if he were a welcomed member of the party.
Giorgios kept the champagne flowing with a heavy-hand, so she sipped her glass, but refused refills. Forty-five minutes passed before Athena could excuse herself again. She walked across the dance floor and out to the club’s balcony. She needed time to think.
Her friend thought Giorgios was a beloved cousin, when in reality he had accused her future husband of theft. Athena should tell Heather who Giorgios really was. He had embezzled company funds, and had lied to save his own sleazy hide from Alexandros’s wrath. Why was the serpent here now? Did he want to infuriate his cousins further, or was this some type of payback?
“Athena, is something wrong?” Heather joined her on the patio, obviously aware that all was not fine.
“No, it’s nothing. I guess I’m a bit more tired than I initially thought. I just came out for some fresh air.”
She could not put a damper on the evening. She would try to keep her friend away from Giorgios, minimizing contact until it was time to go home.
Grabbing Heather’s hand, she guided her friend to the dance floor, hoping to put distance between them and Giorgios. Maria joined them for the next song, leaving brother and sister at the table.
The club was very crowded, and the friends danced amongst the tourists for a good while. Traditional Greek music began, and the women joined the long circles winding around the whole dance floor. When they passed their table, Eleni joined them, but Giorgios went to sit with some friends at the bar.
Returning to the table, Eleni raised her glass to the other women. “I want to make a toast. To Costa, the man who has brought us Heather, a friend we can grow old with!”
The women clinked their glasses. Giorgio’s dark gaze stretched across the club, locking on Athena as she brought the glass to her lips. She finished her glass and saw him stand, shaking his friend’s hand. He walked towards the exit and she finally relaxed.
Everything would be okay, she reasoned. Giorgios had left, and she would not ruin Heather’s party. Settling into her chair, she leaned comfortably on the table with her elbows.
“No, no special man in my life right now. I better put on my sneakers to catch that bouquet for luck then,” Eleni said, pretending to lace her shoes and push up her sleeves. The women laughed and raised their glasses for a toast again.
Athena’s fatigue rapidly increased and the loud music was starting to annoy her. Heather and the others went to dance, but Athena sat at the table feeling every bit of energy drain from her body. Ordering some mineral water, she hoped her head would feel better soon. The heat and noise of the club were making her dizzy. She’d wait for the water and then go out on the balcony for some more fresh air.
Alexandros stormed into Asteri. He scanned the room finding three of the women on the dance floor. Athena was not there. Fear ripped through him.
A few long strides and he saw her at the far side of the club at the champagne tables, Giorgios’s arm wrapped around her. Her head rested on his cousin’s shoulder, her eyes shut. Giorgios caressed the side of Athena’s exposed neck as his mouth lowered to the smooth skin above her chest.
Alexandros did not think. He lurched forward, quickening his steps. Barely breathing, he closed the distance before his brother and the rest of the bachelor party even entered the room. His fingers wrapped around his cousin’s collar pulling him out of his seat.
Maintaining a tight hold on Giorgio’s shirt, Alexandros nudged Athena back down onto the chair.
Turning his attention back to his cousin, his eyes burned and he cursed in Greek.
“Don’t touch what is mine,” Alexandros growled, bringing his fist to split Giorgio’s lip.
Costa pulled him off before he could get another punch in. “Alexandros, don’t do this now. I’ll handle it.”
“It’s already handled,” Alexandros spat as his fingers tightened around Athena’s arm and pulled her possessively against him. “Make sure he never walks on my side of the street again.”
“He is not in rehab,” Costa stated. “The authorities are on their way to take him in.” He then gestured to Athena. “She doesn’t look good. Should we call a doctor?”
Alexandros looked down and saw Athena’s eyes flutter closed again. He loosened his grip and she slouched. Damn, she couldn’t even stand.
“Next time there will be no authorities, just the priest and the grave diggers!” Alexandros warned Giorgio. He glared at his bloodied cousin as he gathered her limp body into his arms and carried Athena out to the car.
Keeping her on his lap as the driver closed the door, he cradled her against his body.
“What happened?” she whispered, her hand coming to rest on his heaving chest.
nothing.” Alexandros ran his fingers through her hair. “Sleep. I have you now,” he said, kissing her head and pressing her closer to his heart.
Athena felt like home to him. She was a perfect fit. She was his unwinding. When he was with her, when he touched her, he felt complete. How could he have left her exposed like that?
He vowed that from that moment forward, he would not allow anything to hurt her again.
Alexandros opened his eyes as the first morning rays of light danced into the bedroom. He pulled Athena a little bit closer. Her hair sprawled across his chest and her soft breath caressed his skin. She slept soundly, safe in his arms, making a small noise with each breath escaping her lips.
He gently traced the outline of her neck as she dozed. His fingertips relished the journey on the smooth golden surface of her skin and ached to explore further. Painfully aware of her warmth settling against his abdomen, her leg cradling his thigh, and her female scent in his nostrils, all setting his loins aflame, he shifted away from her.
If circumstances were different, he would be waking her at this moment, making real the images of heated lovemaking that tortured him as he watched her sleep.
He pictured her opening her eyes as he entered her soft and sweet body. He would kiss the morning sleep from her mouth, taste those rising nipples that taunted him through the white undershirt he had dressed her in, and make her undeniably his. He wanted her to awaken just as he possessed her, for her eyes to fill with desire for him. Her pupils would grow wide, her breathing would be fierce, and her fingers would bury themselves in his back.
This was absurd. She needed him as much as he did her. He would not fantasize about her any further. She must realize, as soon as possible, that her rule was not meant for him.
He was the exception.
Brushing his lips over hers, he removed her golden arm from his chest and slowly stepped out of bed.
Alexandros turned on the shower and let the cold water soothe his skin. Hitting the wall with his fist, he let some explicit Greek words escape his lips.
He should have anticipated last night. He should have remained in Athens until Giorgios was locked behind bars. Athena had paid the price for his lack of foresight, and he did not want to think about what could have happened if he had not found her when he did.
When the water turned from cold to frigid, Alexandros decided to end the shower. Knotting a towel around his middle, he took out a bottle of water from the room’s fridge and went to sit beside Athena on the bed. He stroked her cheek until her eyes opened to his.
Kalimera, agape mou
Pulling the sheet up around her, she moved away. He watched realization dawn in Athena’s eyes as she noticed that she was in his undershirt and that he was on her bed in a towel. Her eyes asked him what her mouth could not.
“Don’t worry. You would remember if I had made love to you last night,” he assured her.
“What happened? Why are you here?” she asked, sitting up and rubbing her forehead with stiff fingers.
“He drugged you,” Alexandros said, fighting to maintain his control. Pushing the water into her hands, he motioned for her to drink as he explained. “
! I should have known he would come after you, I should’ve been with you.”
“Please, Alexandros, I don’t understand. Tell me again what happened.”
He raked his fingers through his hair. “Last night, Giorgios came into Asteri looking to take something from me. He wanted to find my Achilles heel and strike. He knew of you because I’d stupidly told him about you when I’d returned form Naples. Being a fool, I confided in him. That was before I knew what he was doing. Giorgios knew how I feel about you and figured he would get to me through you.”
Athena nodded, indicating that he should continue.
“Eleni told him about the bachelorette party she planned, and luckily, she told me too. I asked my friend Takis, the club’s manager, to watch out for you. Thank God I did that at least.”
“But how did I— did we, get here?”
! Do you not see?” Smacking his thighs, he stood, shook his head, and paced around the bed. “Takis thought he saw Giorgio drop something in one of the drinks, your drink. He realized that after you returned from dancing, before Giorgio went to sit by the bar, you never got up from your seat. He called me.”
“Eleni and Heather had no clue what he did to you, so when you said you wanted to rest, the others went ahead to the dance floor. I found you in his arms.”
!” she cried. Scalding tears rolled down her cheeks. The site of them burned a hole in his heart.