Chapter 10 - Reunion
“What do you mean ‘he screwed up’?!?” Sebastian shouted.
“Something went wrong with one of the shipments. One of the cops smelled it and I think the entire mission was discovered and all the drugs were confiscated. Several of our people were arrested.”
“What do you mean by ‘something’? I want concrete answers! Our jobs and our lives are at stake when we commit errors! Do you know what this will cost us?!”
Sebastian stood up from his desk and towered over the man who stood in fear in front of him.
“I want answers and I want them now! Find me the person who made this mistake and we will make him pay!” he hissed.
“Right away, sir.” The terrified man backed away from Sebastian and made his way towards the door.
“Return here without the answers I am looking for and you are a dead man.”
November 8, 2013
The Bellagio, Las Vegas
The deep sultry voice of the singer at the lounge accompanied by the beautiful chords of the piano and the violin made Cassia Andrade close her eyes and hum to one of her favorite songs: When I Fall in Love by Celine Dion.
“Would you like another glass of champagne, mademoiselle?” the waiter inquired.
Just like that, the serenity of the moment was shattered.
“I’m fine,” Cassia replied with a smile. She lost count of how many glasses of champagne she’d already had while waiting for Hector, who was already two hours late.
Cassia glanced at her watch and then sighed. She’d known Hector for almost ten years now. He was really a great guy. However there was one thing about him that she couldn’t categorize as good or bad: his workaholic attitude.
She understood him for she herself came from poverty. Cassia knew that Hector just wanted to make his mark in the world and to never be poor and an outcast again, but sometimes, he was just pushing it too much. Like today, he was late again because something came up at work.
This was one of the things she disliked about Hector. He was always late, always busy. When he was with her, he’d frequently get a call and then he’d drop everything and go. Oftentimes, he promised that they’d just reschedule but that usually never happened.
Cassia loved Hector.
She really did.
But this was one of his least endearing qualities. Sometimes she didn’t know where she stood in his life. If they ever created a family, would Hector lessen his work hours so he could be with them?
Or were they going to continue to live a life like this and she’d just be adding children that would also beg for scraps of attention from their father?
Again Cassia closed her eyes and tried to let go of her negative feelings. She just focused on trying to listen to the song.
Instantly, she was taken back through time by her memories. In her mind’s eye, she saw her parents. Her mother and her father were both smiling at each other as they both danced around the kitchen while her father hummed this beautiful melody...
When her father saw that she was looking, he scooped her up into his arms and also danced with her.
“Do you know that this was the song that was playing when I first saw your mother?” her father whispered to her.
“It’s beautiful, daddy,” she giggled.
“Not as beautiful as you, princess.”
When Cassia opened her eyes again, she was back to reality – a reality wherein she wanted what her parents had but was almost sure that she was not going to find it.
Hector really tested her patience sometimes. However perfect he may seem to others, she always felt there was something lacking, something she was looking for that she couldn’t find in him.
“Daydreaming without me, princess?”
Cassia opened her eyes and saw Hector standing in front of her. He looked very handsome in a suit and with the ambient lights of the restaurant, he looked even more breathtaking.
“Hi, handsome,” she greeted.
Hector leaned down and placed a kiss on her lips.
Cassia stopped him from apologizing by placing her finger on his lips.
“No worries. I understand. It’s work,” she told him.
He nodded and exhaled very loudly. He leaned back in his chair and began rubbing his neck in a tired way.
“Got problems?” she asked.
“Yes. Competition is a hard game,” Hector replied.
Hector’s primary competition in his business was none other than her estranged husband, Nikos Demakis. Though Hector was cunning in business, Nikos was ruthless. He was called the Einstein of the Corporate World for a reason.
“I’m not worried. I know you got this.” Cassia smiled sweetly.
Hector returned her smile and then took her hand. He kissed the back of her hand.
“You realize you’re the cause of my success, right? You’re the first person who believed in me, and because of that belief I’m where I am today.”
“I do understand that because that’s how I feel about you too.”
Hector’s entire face softened. His tiredness even seemed to fade away from his body at those words. He leaned forward again and there was this twinkle in his eyes.
“Cass...I know I’ve asked this a million times already. I know that your answer is always the same. But today, I am still hoping that it would be different. Cassia...would you want to be with me, in every sense of the way?”
Cassia’s breath caught in her throat again, just like every time Hector asked that question. All those times before she always told him no. She had several reasons and each of them was different every time: she was busy with college, she was just launching her career in the fashion industry, she wanted Hector to concentrate with his business first, she just launched her shop Cassiopeia, she wasn’t ready yet.
But another reason aside from those already mentioned was the fact that she just couldn’t let Nikos have his freedom and all of the money before. She promised to make his life a living hell but the only thing she has done so far was to be absent in his life, which didn’t really make a big difference.
When she fled Greece, she promised to herself that she’d have her revenge for all those times she was humiliated. But as time passed, she found herself less and less inclined towards that revenge. Her time and concentration went to her studies and then further on to her business.
Like all wounds, hers was healed by time.
Now, she realized that she had placed her life on hold for a long time just to spite Nikos. But it had no effect for the man had skin as tough as iron. For all she knew, he might’ve forgotten her already like the other women who came and went from his life.
Now, she was twenty-nine years old...
She had a successful career and she could already say that she reached her dreams. Now, she wanted a change in her life. She wanted to settle down with the man she loved and take a chance at happiness with him. She wanted to have a family. She wanted to have a child whom she would love as much as her parents loved her.
She was finally ready to let go of her need for vengeance, her hatred for Nikos Demakis and her life as the Andrade heiress.
She was ready to move on and take another giant leap of faith.
“I’m ready, Hector...and I want to be with you.”
Those were the words that Cassia wanted to tell Hector. But the man had waited too long for her already. She wanted to make it special for him also.
But she was nervous and she wasn’t good at these kinds of things and the only thing she was able to blurt out was: “Yes.”
The smile on Hector’s face disappeared and for a full minute, he sat there speechless with his jaw hanging open. Then, he shook his head and stared at her.
“S-say that again...Cass...I don’t think I heard you right.”
“I said yes, Hector,” she repeated.
Hector stood up so fast that the water before him spilled on the table and the glass rolled towards one side. In a reflex movement, Cassia also stood up to avoid getting wet. Before she could blink, she was enveloped in Hector’s arms and his lips were on hers.
She laughed while her eyes started to fill with tears of joy at Hector’s reaction.
“I’m going to make you happy, Cass. And for starters, I’ll try not to spend too much time at the office. I promise,” Hector whispered.
Cassia laughed and kissed Hector on the lips. “I’ll hold you to that promise, okay? Please don’t be late for the fashion show!”
“I’ll never miss it for the world.”
Hector turned around and faced the other people on the lounge.
“This wonderful woman has just agreed to marry me!” he shouted just as the beautiful song ended.
He smiled widely and gave her a kiss on the lips. The room erupted into applause and shouted their congratulations and best wishes for the newly-engaged couple.
Cassia stared lovingly into Hector’s beautiful eyes and wished that she would find whatever it was that she thought was missing from their relationship. Or that she could forget whatever it was so that nothing would impede their happiness anymore.
November 13, 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada
“Nikos Demakis speaking,” he answered curtly.
“Daaaarling...” a seductive voice replied.
His mouth twitched as he recognized the voice of his former French mistress, Marietta, on the other line.
“Hello. I haven’t heard from you in a while,” he replied with a lack of interest.
“I became busy. There was this movie I had to do. And I knew you were busy as well. How are you?”
“I’m good. Yourself?”
“Never better. Especially now that I am talking to you. I know this is totally random, but are you in Vegas by any chance?” Marietta purred.
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Perfect!” his mistress screeched.
He was in Las Vegas because of a business venture. His casino was losing profit because of his competition’s newest gimmicks. He had to retake the market so he was here personally to oversee the running of the casino. Aside from that, his personal assistant reminded him that in two days time, it was his tenth wedding anniversary with his wife.
He flinched as he remembered the word, like he did every time that her name was mentioned. He also sighed. He would have to get used to it now.
He also made a mental note to ask his personal assistant to call her secretary and schedule for lunch or dinner on their anniversary day. That will be the time he would tell her of his plans.
Those plans were settling down with her, trying to coexist in peace, getting to know each other, being in each other’s lives more often, and finally trying to build a family. He did not know how she would react to that but surely she would like the idea? It was she who wanted to marry him in the first place.
Yes, she was mad at him for what he did to her on their wedding. But surely, ten years was a long enough time to forgive and forget, right? Especially when he himself was willing to throw away their past, along with all the lies, and start anew?
“Nikos! Are you there?” Marietta’s heavily accented voice snapped him out of his musings.
“I said will you meet me at MGM Grand later tonight? I am hosting this charity fashion show auction...then maybe we could grab some drinks afterwards?”
Nikos checked his watch and tried to remember if he had any meetings scheduled tonight. When none came to mind, he decided that he also needed some company. Maybe Marietta was exactly what he needed to get his mind off things. If not, then this would be the perfect time to rid her of the notion that she’s going to be the next Mrs. Demakis.
“What time?” he asked her.
“The show starts at eight. Around ten, the auction will be done and it’s just the after-party.”
“I’ll be there at eight. I don’t have anything to do so I think I’d rather watch.”
“Perfect, darling! I’ll get you front stage tickets. I have to go. Call me when you’re there and I’ll meet you to give you tickets. Oh, and if you want to stay for the after party, bring a mask. It’s a masquerade ball. Till later, baby!”
And the line went dead.
Nikos placed his phone down, took off his diamond cuff links, his suit and then unbuttoned his shirt and removed his pants and shoes. He entered the bathroom and let the hot water slide down his skin as he placed his hands on the cold tiles of the wall.
He’d gone without socializing for quite some time now. This charity auction may be just what he needed to meet his friends once more and gain some new contacts for his business.
One hour later...
The MGM Grand Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada
Nikos Demakis sat in the front row of the catwalk as various skinny models in lingerie paraded before him.
He smiled with satisfaction as he realized he had dated some of them. Some looked at him with flirtatious expressions while some looked at him with anger. Those were the ones who wanted more and were bitter when he ended the relationship because he couldn’t give them the ‘more’ they were searching for.
Aside from eyeing the models, he also took in the details of the designs. Actually, he was a connoisseur of beautiful things and this set of designs really caught his eye. He often bought his mistresses expensive clothing to placate them and to not have things so complicated when he broke things off. Those were nothing compared to this.
Now, he made a mental note to ask his personal assistant to buy the clothing he sent out as gifts in this shop instead.
The parade went on and on and he grabbed his pen and noted the designs he wanted to buy later. Earlier, it was explained that the proceeds would go to the numerous orphanages that the owner of the shop sponsored.
Then, he focused back on the show. Overall, it was very organized and he found himself enjoying his night, something he hadn’t really done for a long time. He made another mental note to meet the designer and congratulate him or her on a very successful event.
He loved everything about it.
He loved how the ambiance and the music complemented the theme of the show. He loved the designs, the models chosen and the way they were asked to parade the clothing. He also loved the fact that this show was for a good cause.
But all good things come to an end.
Time flew so fast that Nikos was surprised when they announced that the show was already over. For the last part, all the models came out wearing evening gowns with their masks on. All their evening gowns were designed by the owner of the fashion line and he concluded that this was what all of them would be wearing for the after party.
Finally, the designer exited the stage and everyone stood up and clapped. He also clapped and he was even more amazed when he saw that it was a woman. His heart skipped inside his chest and for some reason, he felt as if he knew her.
He studied her and looked at her from head to toe. She had gorgeous brown hair that fell down her back in a mass of beautiful curls. Her skin looked so soft and it was a bit toned as if she spent some time under the sun. But what he noticed most about her was that she had curves that could make any man’s mouth water. He couldn’t see her eyes through the mask but he could see her lips which made him want to kiss them all night long.
All those were just physical characteristics.
He also counted in the fact that she had a brilliant mind for her designs were absolutely exquisite. Her gaze fell towards him for a moment, and he saw her stop. The instant their eyes connected, he felt a jolt of electricity go through his entire body. Again, he couldn’t help but feel that tingle of recognition.
Her lips parted and he knew she must’ve felt the same way too...or maybe it was just his imagination for she quickly looked away.
Her reaction to him made him all the more certain; he just had to meet her.
“Hi! Are you enjoying your night?” Cassia asked her guests. All of them nodded and began to chat with her enthusiastically about her designs. They also told her that they were sure that they were going to bid for a lot of her designs tonight.
Cassia smiled and marveled at her success. Overall, this night was perfect! It was everything she envisioned it to be. The show and her designs were a success! She was sure she would gather a lot of profit for her numerous charities later tonight.
There were just two things that dampened her spirits: the first one was that Nikos Demakis was here.
When her eyes connected with his, she felt as if she was back in Greece. For a moment there, she was taken back to the time when she was still a naive girl who blindly followed her grandfather’s wishes. She was also reminded of the fact that she was so infatuated with Nikos Demakis at one point in time
Then he looked at her with desire in his eyes. During that moment, memories of their wedding night arose. He had looked at her that way as he kissed her and mastered her body. But that desire was worth nothing. The next morning, he came straight to his mistress’ bed and chose her over his own wife. Then came all the humiliation.
She steeled her resolve and looked away. She wore a mask and he’d never recognize her anyway. She would just have to avoid him for the rest of the night. He wouldn’t recognize her for they hadn’t seen each other for a couple of years. Several things had changed. One of them was that she wasn’t blonde anymore. Her hair color was back to its natural brown. Also, she wasn’t fat. It all melted away in college when she had to work and study at the same time.
As for the second reason she was not a hundred percent happy: Hector wasn’t here.
He promised her he wouldn’t miss this fashion show for the world. But he did. He said something came up in his work again and that caused him to miss his flight to Las Vegas. And then he was also running late due to traffic.
Cassia shook her head and sighed. Well, it seemed as if she had her answer: she would always come second in his life. His business would always take first place and the most room in his heart.
“All right, then. Please enjoy the rest of the night,” she told her guests and then moved away to entertain other guests.
She was stopped on her way when a man walked towards her. Her breath caught in her throat when she realized it was none other than Nikos Demakis.
“Hi.” Nikos drawled.
“Hello,” Cassia replied.
Her heart started beating a furious rhythm inside her chest but she willed herself to be calm. She would not show Nikos any fear. If possible, she’d never reveal her identity. But he would know about this sooner or later. Well then, she’d just remove her mask when the perfect opportunity came.
“I just wanted to commend you on your designs. They are excellent. Far more superior to any other I’ve ever seen. They are very unique and creative.”
“Thank you,” Cassia replied and then she tilted her head up. “I think you are a man who doesn’t give compliments easily. So your words must be true,” she added in a flat tone.
“That is true,” Nikos laughed.
He grabbed two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter and passed one to her. She took it and thanked him with a nod.
“So...what brings you here to my show, Mr. Demakis? You didn’t strike me as the man with a taste for fashion.”
“How’d you know my name?
“Everyone knows Mr. Nikos Demakis.”
The corner of his lips turned up in an arrogant smile. “Well, I was just in town. And this was a great event. I thought I’d go. This is for charity too which just makes it all the more interesting.”
“I hope you bid for some pieces later tonight for charity.”
“I’d bid for it because it’s an excellent design. It, being for charity, is just a huge bonus,” Nikos replied.
Cassia smiled and marveled at how sweet Nikos’ tongue was when it wasn’t lashing out cruel words for her. He was just like this because he didn’t even recognize her plus the fact that he was flirting with her.
“I am a direct man, Ms. Cassiopeia...so I’ll just say this straight away. Would you like to have dinner with me some time?”
Cassia laughed. Nikos truly did not recognize her. And now, what? He was planning to make her one of his conquests? One more to add to his list of successful women he dated? Another notch in his bedpost?
Well, been there, done that.
“So quick to say no? Can’t you think about it?” Without another word, Nikos grabbed her hand and inspected it.
“No rings,” Nikos pointed out.
Cassia laughed once more and snatched her hand back. She extended it in front of her face and made a point to look as curious as she could be as she studied it.
“Hmm...you’re right. But there used to be. No matter, we’ll get divorced soon,” she pointed out.
Nikos couldn’t help but feel satisfaction as she said that she was getting divorced soon. He badly wanted her.
“See...so you are getting divorced, then? Come to dinner with me. I think your husband won’t mind that now, will he?”
Cassia knew that it was the perfect opportunity to reveal herself. No other moment could be as perfect as this one.
She removed her mask and waited for comprehension to dawn on Nikos face. But it didn’t. Instead, his eyes grew heavy-lidded with desire and mild curiosity.
“You tell me if you would mind, Nikos. You are my husband, after all,” Cassia said.
She watched as his jaw dropped and recognition and shock crossed his beautiful green eyes. The two expressions warred and she saw a muscle throb in his jaw.
Before he could say another word, she laughed and then turned around and walked away from him.