Authors: Aleka Nakis
Alexandros smiled and started to speak in Greek. “How far back to you want me to go?”
“When your parents met.”
“How about we climb down here, sit on the beach and enjoy the sunset while we talk?”
“Sure.” She took his outstretched hand for balance as they climbed down the
, a narrow little dirt path littered with stones, on the steep cliff. He wrapped his long fingers around her hand and put his body ahead of hers. Almost immediately, she regretted not wearing her sneakers and stopped talking in order to concentrate on her footing.
Without saying a word, Alexandros guided her over the well-worn path. When they were on the beach, he turned, placed one arm behind her knees and carried her. She looked into his dark brooding eyes as he took matters—and her—into his own protective hands.
“There are many loose rocks in this area. I don’t need you to fall or sprain an ankle,” he remarked, as if he did this sort of thing every day. She was about to protest when he added, “I should have realized you weren’t wearing sneakers.”
“Well thanks for the concern, but I think I’m a little too big to be carried.”
“I’m bigger, and this seems to be a perfect fit,” he argued, continuing across the expanse of black sand.
Alexandros balanced her on his knee and took off her sandals. He then placed her feet on the sand. Athena decided to let it go and change the subject.
“It’s so warm,” she said. “The weather has begun to cool off, but this sand is just a pinch off hot.”
“It’s black volcanic sand. It demands the sun’s attention all day long, so it’s always warm. However, the breeze from the sea which is at a much lower temperature, and has cooled considerably since noon,” he replied, unbuttoning his shirt in a sensual motion that had her concentrating on every movement.
Athena’s eyes burned as he pulled the shirt open and slid his arms from the sleeves.
Not again, please
His tanned sculpted chest was broader from this angle. His jeans rested perfectly on his hips, and were worn in all the right places. Her mouth went dry and she found it hard to concentrate.
He flicked the shirt and laid it on the sand. “Come, have a seat.”
Athena hesitated, staring at him as if she was looking at an alien, but she took his hand and allowed him to guide her to his makeshift blanket. He sat behind her, stretching out a long muscular leg on either side of her body. Alexandros wrapped an arm around her waist, entwining the other in her curls as he guided her head to rest on his chest.
His clean male scent intoxicated her. Turning to face him, she felt dizzy as her cheek brushed against his chest. It took her a moment to remember what she needed to say.
“I may have given you the wrong impression,” she said quietly. “But I have a rule, and I don’t do this.”
“Do what? What rule?” he asked, smoothing her hair behind her ear.
“I don’t get romantically involved with Greeks on my summer vacation. I never have, and I don’t plan on becoming a notch in someone’s belt this year.”
“You could never be a simple notch in anyone’s belt, especially not my belt.” His lyrical voice almost lulled her nerves to a gentle hum. “Just relax,
and enjoy the sunset. I promise I won’t do anything you don’t want.”
That was the problem. She wanted to lose control with him, to let her sensible, responsible side take a break so she could join the party.
She laid her head back against his sculpted chest in silent turmoil. They watched the concert the sun put on for them, and she felt him relax against her.
Red and orange flames danced across the sky in harmony with the large ball of fire. As the ball touched the water’s edge, the flames began to sizzle and the sky took on a magenta hue. When the sun dipped beneath the horizon for the night, the smoldering embers continued to float about the dark blue sky.
“This is surreal. It feels like we are suspended in time,” she said.
A groan came from low in Alexandros’ throat. “It means we can leave everything behind and begin again tomorrow. We can choose to start fresh, or we can build on what we have. I want to begin something new.” With his fingers, he lifted her face to his and grinned. “Do you really think I’m smart and handsome, as you said earlier?”
“I said that?” Her ears rang in alarm.
“Yes, you did. You said you had two really smart and handsome brothers, just like Costa and me.”
She made a quick decision. “Yes, you are.”
His strong-bronzed thumb lifted her chin to him. She could feel his breath on her lips.
“In that case, you should finish kissing me.”
“Finish? I never kissed you.” Her tongue flicked nervously on her upper lip as he dropped his gaze to her mouth.
“You certainly did, right before you slept in my bed.” He was playing with words, she knew it, but a tingle traveled up her spine nonetheless.
“You kissed me.”
“So don’t you think it would be rude if you didn’t kiss me back?”
When she didn’t respond, he lowered his mouth to hers. Her lips parted in acceptance, taking him in. His tongue traced every corner of her mouth like a boy enjoying his ice cream, stirring heat deep within her core. Passionate lips traveled down her neck.
For all it was worth, time stopped and she was suspended in this beautiful scene. Alexandros locked his arms tightly around her, lay back and pulled her onto him. He took her face in his hands, and placed a slow kiss on each eyelid. Kissing her nose, the dimple on her chin, he covered every inch of her face before his lips caressed the sensitive spot behind her ear.
She heard a wave crash on the surf. Her mind cleared for a single moment, and she pulled away.
“No, I will not be a notch in your belt.”
He stopped and looked at her closely. His eyes narrowed, and she wanted to shrink into her skin. He would think she was a tease. Why did she even come here with him?
“What do you mean?” he asked. A tear escaped her eyes and dropped on his cheek. “Don’t cry,
, no tears. I will not hurt you. You can’t possibly think I would?”
“I believe you don’t want to intentionally hurt me, but you could.”
“I know good things are worth waiting for.” He held her close, stroking her hair in slow, gentle motions. “I don’t want you to be scared to be with me, I want you to be happy and proud of being with me. We will take this slow, but if we don’t risk, we will never know what we could have.”
She was confused. He didn’t sound like the piranha she envisioned a moment ago. No longer able to look at him, she lowered her eyes. “Thank you for understanding.”
“No, I wouldn’t say I understand. I just don’t want you upset. It is purely selfish. I want you happy. I want you to know you want me, the way that I want you.”
“It’s not a matter of want,” she said, in a small voice.
“I’m not going away,” he warned, smoothing her hair. “I’m just giving you a chance to get used to having me with you. I’m very hard to shake off you know.”
They sat quietly watching the stars together. When hunger became an issue, they began the walk back to the family. This time they traveled a little further down the beach and took the stairs Spiro had built up the cliff.
They reached the top, and Athena reminded him of their original conversation. “You still haven’t told me about your family and parents.”
“Dad built his own shipping lines from a single boat he won in a card game while he was in the navy. He argued with his lieutenant that the game had gotten out of hand and there was no need for him to collect any winnings, but being a man of his word, the lieutenant had insisted that Dad must collect his winnings or he would insult his honor. He did, but he has never again placed a bet on a card game.”
Alexandros placed a possessive arm over her shoulders, pulling her to him as the chilled darkness settled around them. Her skin was hot beneath his touch, despite the cool breeze. The corners of his mouth turned up in a smile. She was starting to accept him.
His obvious need for this woman astonished him, and he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t control it as he did every other aspect of his life. Frankly, he didn’t care. He just wanted her with him, needed to feel her against him.
He pulled her a little closer and continued with his story. “Baba’s service in the navy ended three months later. He found himself with a boat, a shrewd mind for business, and a heart full of ambition. He was, and still is, a workaholic. It was said he never took a holiday until he was thirty years old and had thirty boats in his fleet. He christened the first transatlantic vessel in his fleet after the lieutenant who gave him his start: Argyris I.”
“What about your mother?” she asked.
“I’m getting to that.” He laughed. “The first holiday Dad took, he came back to Santorini. His family lived in a small farming village twenty kilometers from Fira, the islands capital. The village was celebrating his visit at the square when he saw her for the first time.
“Baba swears he could not break the enchanting hold her eyes had on his and he asked permission to see her again. They were married a month later.”
“And then along came you?”
“Yes, two days after their first wedding anniversary. Costa was born two years after that.”
They entered the veranda and greeted the family.
The other two couples didn’t comment on Alexandros’s possessive hold, rather they poured everyone some wine and raised their glasses.
It was almost noon. Athena stretched her body across the bed and felt the energy flow to each of her limbs. There was a longing inside her that she had never experienced before. It grew stronger as she felt herself searching the sheets, looking across the room, and listening for Alexandros. She smiled and pictured him lying next to her, pictured giving herself to him.
A grown woman who rarely indulged in fantasies, Athena was more traditional than she cared to admit. It wasn’t that she believed she needed to be a virgin on her wedding night, but she wanted her first time to be more than simply special.
She’d seen men enjoy the chase, talk about their conquests, and forget them once they were out of sight. Too proud to have her name spoken in those conversations, Athena had never found anyone worthy of the risk.
Trust was a decision that didn’t come easily to her. Instead, she had lived the last ten years by the ‘No Summer Romance’ rule. Yesterday, she had broken her rule. And in doing so, she’d had the most amazing day in recent memory.
Emotions she didn’t know she was capable of feeling tightened around her heart. She enjoyed having Alexandros beside her on their walk, she dreamed of him all night, and she woke looking for him.
A warm flame began to grow deep within, and as it spread out from her heart, she decided that it couldn’t hurt to enjoy the week with Alexandros. She’d be friendly, but she would control her physical desires. Minimize the attraction and therefore lessen the risk, but still indulge a bit.
Besides, she was leaving on Monday, there was no time for her to fall in love and have her heart broken. No expectation, no strings attached.
Happy with her decision, she dressed and went to find the others. It took her a few minutes to find the kitchen from the inside of the house.
“Good morning,” a young woman called out in Greek when Athena arrived in the kitchen. “You must be Athena. You are as beautiful as Mr. Spiro said. My name is Stella, and I work for the Strintzarises. Mrs. Anna and Heather are on the balcony waiting for you.”
“Thank you and good morning to you, too,” replied Athena, in perfect Greek.
“I’m glad you speak Greek, it will make it easier for you to remember everybody at the party on Friday.”
“Oh, yes. The whole family is anxious to meet Costa’s bride. Mr. Spiro had to fight to keep them away yesterday so that you could rest. There is no way he could make them wait until the wedding. Besides there are so many of them and it will take some time to put the names to the faces. The party will help. Why don’t you go out to the balcony, and I’ll bring you coffee and some breakfast?”
“I can help.”
“No, please. Mrs. Anna and your friend are waiting for you. I will not be long,” Stella insisted.
“Thank you. Coffee always tastes better when someone else makes it for you.” Athena smiled and walked out to the other women. They were sitting in a shaded area, but the sun’s heat reflected back at them from the rest of the patio.
Kalimera, kori mou
,” said Anna.
” replied Athena, as she bent to kiss both women. “What are we looking at?”
Heather eagerly welcomed her friend and started to point out the family pictures in the album she held. The pictures included five-year-old Costa on a donkey led by Alexandros through the town’s cobble stoned streets, the whole family in front of a Christmas tree with the Acropolis in the background, and her absolute favorite of Costa wearing his chocolate cake on his third birthday.