Chapter 11 - Auction
Later that night...
The MGM Grand Hotel
Las Vegas, Nevada
Was it true or was it all a figment of his imagination?
Nikos watched Cassia walk away with all his muscles locked in place. His jaw would have dropped had he not controlled himself.
When she laughed it was like a punch to his gut. The first thought that popped into his mind was that it was not really her. But upon looking more closely, indeed it was her. Now he knew why he thought he recognized her the first time he saw her on stage.
She had the same beautiful brown eyes and the same facial features. But now, all the fat in her body melted into perfect curves; the kind that made a man want to hold on forever.
Another thing that changed was that she was no longer blonde. Instead, she was now a brunette. And it looked even better! Nikos’ stomach clenched and so did the hand holding the champagne glass. He shook his head and turned around to lean against one of the marble pillars.
He could not believe that he had just been flirting with his own wife!
He definitely needed a stronger drink.
He walked towards the bar and sat on one of the stools.
“Give me your best scotch,” he told the bartender who quickly went to work on his drink. While he was waiting, his eyes roamed the room.
Now that his shock has faded, his logic was back.
For the first time tonight, he realized that the famous designer that owned the fashion line Cassiopeia was none other than his wife. He took one more look around the room and noted the success of the event. If she organized this herself, then he had to admit that she was good. If not, then she had a good set of staff to do this for her.
The bartender slid his drink towards him and he took a long swig.
She was his wife yet why did he not know about this? Is this where all the money that he gave her every year as her allowance went? Were the houses she bought with his money the locations where she built her shops?
With this train of thought, he took another hefty swig of his drink. It burned a path down his throat but he welcomed it for he now knew that this was reality and he was definitely not dreaming.
Antonio had raised some valid points and he tried to tell him about Cassia’s life now but he did not let his friend talk. Why? It was because he did not care. He did not want anything to do with her because to him, she would forever be the woman who stole his freedom and built a web of lies around their marriage.
Over the years he reasoned that, because of her, he could not find the woman for him. She took his choice away and now he was stuck with her. Especially since his family prided itself on never having any divorce. Once they married, it was for life and divorce was certainly out of the equation.
But then again, Antonio argued that Cassia was not in his life for ten years and that they only saw each other once in a while. Cassia basically had no influence on his life and he was free to do whatever he pleased and date whoever he wanted; which was what he did.
But over the course of ten years, he never even had a serious relationship. He never found a woman he could give his heart to; never found one he wanted to marry. Because of that, he carried on with his life and still searched. Then there came a point that he simply gave up. Maybe he was not suited for a family life and maybe he was just incapable of feeling an emotion as deep as love.
Nikos ordered himself another drink before he went back to his thoughts.
He stared at the ice cubes in his scotch as he pondered the recent events of the night.
In two days, it would be his and Cassia’s tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years of marriage and they were no closer to each other than the day they were wed. He loathed her and she loathed him. He decided that he would take Antonio’s advice and to try and make Cassia agree that it was time they both settled down.
Why the change of heart when just a few days ago he was convinced that he would never want her?
Well, it was due to the fact that he thought he would never find the woman for him anyway. Time was running out. He refused to wait some more for someone that may never come. Plus, he had a duty to his family. He had to have an heir with Cassia or everything he and his ancestors worked hard for would all go to waste.
Demakis International had been with his family for generations and he refused to let it end with him. No matter what, it must stay in his family and the only way to do that was to pass it on to a child that was from both Cassia and him as stipulated by their contract.
And since he gave up the notion of falling in love, he might as well do his duty. He may not love his wife but he sure as hell would love his son or daughter. Maybe when he was holding his own child in his arms, he’d stop being so gods-damned jealous of Antonio and his perfect family life. For a long time, he felt as though there was this huge void in his life and maybe, just maybe, it was what he needed to fill it.
He needed an end to this kind of playboy life and he was finally ready to settle down. He was willing to sacrifice it all again just so he could have that. He was even willing to make peace with his wife. Maybe they could even have a civilized relationship once they got past all the hate.
With that thought in mind, he flew to Vegas from Greece two days early with the intent of scheduling a dinner with Cassia on their wedding anniversary which was on November 15th, two days from now. During that dinner, he planned on discussing his plans with her. He believed that she would agree quickly. If not, he’d apologize for his behavior ten years ago and ask for a chance.
But why would she not agree? She was the one who wanted him in the first place. Maybe the idea of them living together and her having his child would even make her faint with joy.
“One Gin and Tonic please.”
A man slid into the stool beside Nikos thereby pulling him out of his thoughts. He looked to his left and then his whole body clenched and he frowned.
“Petrides,” he hissed.
Nikos looked at Hector Petrides from head to foot and noted the expensively tailored Italian suit, the gold Rolex watch studded with diamonds and his shiny leather shoes. Every inch of him screamed wealth and Nikos could not believe that the man started out as a waiter somewhere in Greece, according to reports.
The man’s brown head whipped towards him and surprise registered in his eyes.
“Demakis,” the man replied in an equally nasty tone. “What a pleasant surprise! Didn’t think you liked these kinds of things.”
Nikos shrugged at his best competition in the hotel and restaurant industry.
“I know the host,” he replied. “And you? Didn’t think this was your kind of thing either.”
“Well, I know the designer,” Hector replied as he grabbed his drink from the bar.
He slid off his stool and winked at Nikos. Then, he walked away without another word.
His brows furrowed in confusion as he watched Hector disappear in the crowd. He couldn’t help but be suspicious about Hector’s last statement.
“Good evening everybody!” Marietta greeted.
Immediately, the people started to go to their tables to be seated since the auction was about to start. Nikos slid off his stool and went towards his table near the front of the stage.
He smiled and nodded politely to the people seated at the same table. He also listened to their polite conversation and answered some of their questions. Then, the auction went on and Nikos bought most of the things at an outrageously high price just so he could please Cassia.
Marietta beamed at him all the while for she thought it was for her.
Nikos noticed it and made a mental note to sever all ties with her before he would go and talk to Cassia. Since he had known Marietta for a long time now, he couldn’t help thinking that the French supermodel-turned-actress believed that she was going to be a permanent fixture in his life someday.
But that was never going to happen.
He had to get things straight.
Nikos lifted his head and watched as several jewelry pieces were paraded for the auction. This time, he let the men who came here with their wives win the bidding. He thought that it will be more appreciated by the wives of his colleagues as a sweet gesture rather than let those beautiful gems just sit in his vault.
Nikos eyes darted towards the side of the stage and he saw Cassia smiling with tears in her eyes. Earlier that night, the charities where the proceeds of this auction would go to were introduced. An amount was set as a target. But because of the generosity of the men here, his own high bids and Cassia’s excellent designs, the target amount was met and even tripled.
The sight of the smile on her face moved something inside him but he quickly shook the feeling away.
“Thank you everyone for your generosity! Our target of five hundred thousand dollars has now been achieved! What’s more is that we now have one million and five hundred eighty thousand dollars! Now, can’t we close this at one million six hundred thousand dollars?” Marietta’s voice rang clear across the room. “How about a kiss from our beloved designer, Miss Cassiopeia for that twenty thousand dollars?” she suggested.
The guests chuckled and so did the designer herself. She threw her head back, exposing the long column of her neck, and then laughed.
The sound was like a soothing balm to his fractured spirit.
He was about to raise his hand and bid for that kiss when a voice beat him to it.
“I’ll take that kiss!”
Nikos’ turned towards the sound of the voice and he saw Hector Petrides with his hand raised in the air.
Rage blazed inside of him along with a surge of possessiveness. His earlier suspicion was pretty much confirmed: Hector and Cassia had some kind of relationship. His vision turned red and his hands clenched at his side. All his self-control went towards stopping himself from standing up and hitting the bastard in the face.
That was his wife Petrides is bidding a kiss for!
Nikos raised his hand. “One hundred thousand dollars.”
Marietta laughed and so did the entire crowd. They thought it was a joke and that he was simply being very charitable. It was true. But behind that reason, he did not want anyone else kissing Cassia. They may not have the perfect marriage but she was still his wife.
Besides, he hated Hector Petrides and didn’t want him to win.
Hector turned towards him and one corner of his lips turned upwards in a smile.
“One hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
Hector just sealed his fate even further. There’d be no mercy for him now. Nikos would make sure his business went down.
“Three hundred,” Nikos retorted
“Wow. This is some sizzling competition. But I understand for Miss Cassiopeia is truly stunning in her gown. I thank her for also designing the gown that I am wearing. And to Mr. Demakis and Mr. Petrides, thank you so much for your kindness. That’s one hell of an expensive kiss, huh?” Marietta quipped.
She also winked at Nikos and he just ignored her.
People laughed some more but Nikos did not care. He’d even give a hundred million dollars just so that Hector could not kiss Cassia.
“Four hundred,” Hector said quickly.
Nikos decided to bid double.
“Eight hundred thousand dollars.”
Nikos noticed that Petrides looked uncomfortable now. He sat back in his chair and just smiled around at the people and even for the media who leapt into action and took several pictures.
He knew the headline for tomorrow’s gossip columns would be that he was interested in the famous designer of Cassiopeia. But what they did not know was that she was already his wife. A fact he also did not know when this night started.
“Mr. Demakis, a moment please?” one of the reporters approached him.
“Sure,” he replied with a smile. He darted one glance towards Cassia and Hector but Hector hadn’t bid yet. Maybe the bastard was still checking how much money he still had in his bank account.
“Rumors say that you are going to be racing at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix again this year after so many years of being out of the racing circuit. Is this true?”
Nikos smiled and the reporters waited with bated breaths.
“What can I say? Racing is my hobby and it shall forever be in my blood,” he replied with a smile.
At that answer, the reporters went wild and started throwing more questions left and right. Because of the noise they made, he did not hear Hector’s last bid. Because of his preoccupation, he forgot that he was bidding for a kiss from his own wife.
“One million dollars,” Hector quipped.
Cassia and Marietta both turned to look at Nikos to see if he would bid higher. The French model looked at Nikos with curiosity while Cassia looked at him with expectation in her eyes. When he did not bid further, disappointment flashed across those beautiful features.
Cassia shook her head and scolded herself for feeling this way.
Earlier tonight, she was so happy at the stunned expression on Nikos’ face. She was so happy with the scene she made. Her entire night was perfect and she couldn’t wish for anything more. The fact that Hector still made it just added to the joy that she was feeling.
But when Nikos bid for her kiss, she nearly fainted. It was as if something inside her was unlocked and she was back to the same girl that was infatuated with him years ago. It unlocked some sort of longing inside her and truthfully, she was overjoyed.
When she turned to look at him, their eyes met and she saw possession written across his features. It was the same expression she wore when he looked at her on their wedding night.
Finally, he was noticing her again.
Cassia reveled in it even though she knew it was wrong.
With each bid against Hector, she was secretly thrilled. When Nikos was interviewed by the reporters and he wasn’t able to bid anymore, she was disappointed.
Cassia laughed and gave herself a mental shake.
How could she still feel something for that man after all he did? How dare she hope for something? Cassia closed her eyes. She told herself she was incredibly stupid and naive to feel this way. Hadn’t he hurt her enough? Why was she still holding out for even crumbs of affection from him? Had she not vowed to have her revenge? Had it not been ten years and she had finally moved on?
Had she not found love with Hector and agreed to be with him?
She was done with Nikos Demakis.
He had caused her enough heartache to last her a lifetime. She would do well to remember that so that seeing him would not resurrect any old feelings. Those feelings deserved to be locked in a steel vault then buried in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean where it would never ever see the light of day again.
Feeling more composed, she looked at Hector and plastered a smile to her face. She even winked at him and the audience laughed.
“A kiss from the designer of Cassiopeia who looks really lovely tonight, by the way...for one million dollars! Going once...going twice...sold! To Mr. Hector Petrides!” Marietta announced.
Cassia laughed when Hector launched himself towards the stage to claim that kiss.
“You’re late,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry, princess...I’m trying hard. I really am. But today’s been a very unlucky day,” Hector groveled.
“Kiss me and it’ll all be better. After all, this particular kiss cost you a million dollars,” she teased.
“Ahh...such arrogance, milady,” Hector said with a small bow as he took her hand and pulled her closer towards him.
Hector then turned towards Marietta and announced loudly, “Oh and I’ll add that twenty thousand dollars too so that it’ll be closed at two million six hundred thousand dollars,” he even winked and the audience went wild.
Nikos turned his attention back to the auction when the guests started to clap and cheer. At the same time, he saw Hector Petrides race towards the stage and jump up towards Cassia.
Fuck it. He was too late.
Because he was too preoccupied with the reporters who crowded his table he forgot all about the bidding. Now he lost against his business’ best competition and one of the men in the world that he hated the most.
He saw Cassia smile at Hector and the two exchanged whispers. Something tightened inside Nikos’ chest when he realized that the two had truly known each other for a long time now. They had an intimate look when they gazed at each other.
Were they lovers?
Before he could ponder the thought further, Hector’s fingers cupped Cassia’s chin and tilted her head upwards. He decided to look away for he was feeling so much rage and possessiveness that he could barely control himself.
But he just couldn’t do it.
He watched as Hector’s head dipped and his lips claimed Cassia’s. The moment their lips touched, he saw Cassia sigh and then close her eyes. It was like their wedding kiss all those years ago. He was drunk at their wedding but he clearly remembered that first kiss and that precious sigh. He also remembered all the passionate and timid kisses she gave him on their wedding night.
Now, it was not him she was sighing for but Hector Petrides.
Nikos looked away just as he felt something inside him clench and then shatter.
Was it his heart? Maybe? Maybe not.
Perhaps it was just all his pride.