Authors: Aleka Nakis
Stella appeared with a tray of fresh bread, cheeses, olives and coffee for each woman to enjoy. They sat and chatted like lifelong friends losing track of time.
“I wish my mother was here with us,” Athena said to the older woman. “I’ve been working so much lately and I don’t see her as much as I should. I’d like to take time just chatting together over some coffee. She would enjoy your company.”
“I hope to meet her soon. Perhaps in Crete later this summer?” Anna suggested. “What are your parents’ names?”
“Maria and Nikos. Dad is from Chania, and Mom from a little village outside Rethymno.”
How did Anna know her parents were from Crete? Athena had not told her. Alexandros must have discussed her with his family. He was the only one that knew. She had never even mentioned it to Costa or Heather.
Athena felt like a heel. She wanted to tell the other women her news about the resort. Such developments were supposed to be celebrated, not hidden. She wanted to share her joy. But at what expense? She had won the bidding against Alexandros. Was she being two-faced by enjoying his family’s company?
“We have the equivalent of the Greek Bridal Shower today,” Heather said, her words laced with happiness. “At seven, all the single women will come to the house and make the wedding bed. They will ‘shower’ it with gold coins for prosperity, sugar for a sweet life, and wheat for fertility. Isn’t it a great custom? Make sure you fluff my pillows well. Friday we have a pre-wedding party to meet the rest of the family, the male part. Tonight it is only women.”
Anna nodded. “Now let us talk about the family. I warn you ladies, our family is quite large. Do not worry if you cannot remember their names, simply address them as ‘cousin’ and you are sure to delight them.”
The sound of a helicopter landing behind the villa startled Athena.
“They’re back,” exclaimed Heather. “They had some dealings in Athens this morning and left at daybreak. I’m glad they were able to finish early. Costa and I want to show you
Father and sons strode into sight, looking very handsome as they smiled at the women at the table.
“Hey, look at these three beauties sitting on our balcony.” Costa strolled over with a large grin on his face.
“I think we’ll be the talk of the town if we take them out for a drink,” Alexandros added.
“We will definitely grow two inches taller in everyone’s eyes if we are seen with these mermaids,” Spiro continued.
The women laughed. Anna puckered her lips. “Come here and greet me properly,
,” she called out to her husband.
Spiro obliged, and gave his wife a tender kiss. It was such a pleasure to watch a couple so affectionate, and clearly in love, after so many years together. It warmed Athena’s heart and inspired similar aspirations for her life. She wanted a love like theirs, like her parents’. She didn’t believe in the convenience of marriage, but in the love for it.
Athena feared it would be impossible to find, because she also wanted a man that would consider her a true partner. She needed to be self-sufficient, wanted to work, and knew these kind of men didn’t appreciate a working woman.
Yet, she was surrounded by strong, passionate, and most of all, enigmatic men. They were so much more than she’d expected, and frankly, she did not understand them.
Amidst her thoughts, she smiled as Costa walked over to Heather, pulled her off her seat, lavished her with a big hug, and kissed her passionately.
“I hope you got enough rest last night because I have plans for us this afternoon.” Alexandros looked at Athena and winked. “I need to meet some friends in town. I would really like it if you join me.”
“It sounds great.” She felt happy to spend time with him and away from Giardetti business. “Heather wants to show me
, and we are making the Bridal Bed tonight. Will we have the time for both your plans and the bride’s bed?”
“Leave it to me. We’ll be back.”
“As for tonight, everything is arranged,” Anna interjected. “All you have to do is be there. Spiro and I are meeting with the caterers and staff at one to finalize everything for tomorrow. Costa and Heather want to discuss the wedding menu with the caterers. So you have plenty of time.”
Alexandros smiled at his mother before turning back to Athena. “Great, grab a swimsuit, and I have the rest. We’ll go by
before we set out.”
Athena went to her room, bypassed her bikini, thinking of what he had said yesterday, and grabbed her blue Speedo one piece. She liked being with him, she liked the way the family was together, but she was not ready to admit that she liked the idea of being on his arm.
Ten minutes later, each couple mounted a motorcycle and set off toward
. Alexandros took a sharp turn and Athena spread her fingers in a tight hold over his muscular chest.
He groaned. “All I want is you in my arms and to taste the sweetness of your lips.”
“You’ll have to wait on that, but right now I’ve got you in my arms.” Athena was shocked by her own voice.
“That you do,
,” Alexandros replied, taking another turn.
How things changed in a mere span of a few days. Now, she loved it when he called her his
. Resting her chin on his shoulder, they arrived at
two minutes later. The villa was all it had promised to be.
When the friends gathered outside to part ways, Heather spoke privately to Athena. “It seems I have spent my pre-wedding days finding you the most eligible bachelor in Greece.”
Athena felt the instantaneous blush and asked her best friend to stop teasing her.
“Alexandros is perfect for you!” Heather laughed and continued. “Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.”
She kissed her friend good-bye. As she followed the subject of their discussion to the bike, indecision danced in Athena’s head. She’d decided to have fun and forget about everything but the here and now. No work, no rules, nothing. She’d chosen to vacation on a Greek island like so many other tourists did annually. Of course, she hadn’t planned to fall for Alexandros. Now the question was: was she falling too fast? Could she control it?
“The first thing we do is coffee. Okay?” Alexandros asked, as he moved forward to allow her room on the bike.
“No problem. I’m all yours for the next few hours,” she said, wiggling onto the seat and feeling him inhale sharply.
They rode over the rugged beauty of the island and arrived at a little café on a black sandy beach. The owner came out to greet Alexandros, shaking his hand enthusiastically and kissing him on both cheeks.
“Athena, this is Dimitri. He and Baba grew up together and have been the best of friends since they were five.”
“Pleased to meet you, young lady,” said the older man, inviting them to sit at a quaint table in the shade.
“I wasn’t expecting to see Alexandros till the wedding. He doesn’t come by often enough, and especially not with such good looking company.”
“Dimitri, if anyone can appreciate good company it’s you,” said Alexandros. “Please join us. I would like to talk to you, and I have brought the papers.”
Alexandros ordered while they walked to the table, and their
arrived quickly. The two men caught up on town news and small talk.
Finishing their iced coffees, there was a change in the casual mood, and Alexandros suggested Athena put on her bathing suit so they could enjoy a swim before lunch. She understood his masked request and went into the café’s restroom to change. She’d closed business meetings in restaurants, sporting events and even a bowling alley when the need had called for it.
She recognized this to be such a time and marveled how Alexandros was able to accomplish so many things in so little time. He multitasked like no other man she had met. First yesterday on the veranda, today business with pleasure, and he never missed a beat on what was happening around him.
It was clear that the older man loved him as a son and trusted and respected him as a businessman.
She lingered a bit longer than needed inside the restroom, giving the men a chance to finish their discussion. When she came out of the café, his eyes told her the coast was clear.
“I’m sure the papers are fine,” said Dimitri.
“Have your lawyer take a look at them. Good business makes good friends,” Alexandros said.
The other man nodded in agreement.
“Now, I believe my beautiful mermaid needs to go for a swim. Will you excuse us, Dimitri?”
“Of course, I don’t want it to be said that I stand in the way of young love. Be sure to say goodbye before you go.”
Athena tried to respond, but Alexandros silenced her with a primal possessive kiss before thanking his old friend. His hand on the small of her back, he picked up the pack and led her to the beach. Athena bit her tongue as annoyance rose within her. They continued towards the water.
“You’re very arrogant, aren’t you?”
“What has upset you,
“Stop it! I’m not your
! I’m not your mermaid! Why did you let him talk about ‘young love’ like that?”
“Because, I agree with him.” He shrugged and laid out a beach mat.
She was outraged. Who did he think he was, speaking for, about, and to her like that? She didn’t trust men like him. They were so sure of themselves, and always got what they wanted.
“I want to go back to
. Right now.”
“No, we’re going swimming— now.”
“I don’t want to swim with you.”
“Fine, how about I rub you some lotion on your back so you can suntan?”
“You are an insufferable chauvinist.” The image of the gossip paper flashed in her mind. “You think you can do what you want with women.”
She untied her wrap letting it fall at her feet, flipped her hair, and kicked sand at him as she ran into the water and away from him.
A smile formed on Alexandros’s lips. He did affect her, and she cared enough to fight with him. He’d give her time to cool off and calm down. Then he would go to her.
Folding his arms over his knees, he sat and watched Athena. She may as well be a mermaid the way she moved in the crystal water. She dove under and resurfaced thirty feet away. Then again and again. She was tireless.
Very familiar with these waters, he knew she was pretty far out. They were deep, beautiful, and cold in June. She was a strong swimmer and did not seem to mind. If she overcame her stubbornness and swam in his direction, she would discover the sunken boat he wanted to show her.
She remained in the water for over half an hour when he decided it was time. She may have the staying power of a dolphin, but he had the determination of a shark.
He dove in with two pairs of goggles in his hand. Silently swimming up behind her, he surfaced and wrapped an arm around her waist.
“I am sorry if I offended you,” he breathed, coming out of the water.
She tried to kick free, but he tightened his grip.
“Let me go.”
“Stop acting like a child, and tell me why you are so upset. What brought about this change?”
“You brought me here to show off your masculine prowess to your friends. Do you bring all your girlfriends here to seduce them?”
He laughed, realizing she was not simply angry, but jealous. He liked that. “No, I don’t. You’re the first woman I’ve ever brought to this beach.”
She remained silent and began to relax as he treaded water for both of them. She must have tired.
“Athena, I’m not going to tell you that I’ve never had a woman simply for the having, because I would be lying. But I promise you, I’ve never brought any of them to my family or to my friends.”
“Convenient for you—I brought myself. I just showed up and spared you the trouble.”
She trembled under his touch, and he felt guilty for pushing her too far. Contrary to appearances, she was too naïve and too sweet to play these games.
“Look at me.” He turned her to face him. “I don’t think of you like that. I don’t want to ‘show off’ as you put it.”
“Then why did you tell him I was yours?”
“That’s very simple. Dimitri is a good man, and he really liked you. He has many, I mean many, handsome single nephews he would love for you to meet. If he knows you are with me, he won’t think to introduce any of them to you.” He paused and pushed a long dark curl out of her eyes. “I don’t play the odds when I want something, and I don’t care if you think I fix them. No one will dare to bother you if you are with me, and that is the way I like it.”
“Please let me go,” she whispered.
He knew he couldn’t keep her with him against her will. She had to stay with him by her own choice. He released her and she moved out of arm’s reach.