Chapter 18 - Escape
“What do you mean they escaped?!” Sebastian roared.
He was on a plane to Greece. He’d anticipated finally getting his revenge but now he was being told that the man he hated the most was gone.
“They knocked two guards out and ran. We did not find them right away because most of the men were busy down on the docks for the latest shipment and recruits.”
“They couldn’t have escaped on their own. There’s a traitor within us. Find him and make him pay.”
“Find Demakis and his wife. Now!”
November 23, 2013
A stream near Elise’s cabin
An unknown island in Greece
“God, I am the stupidest human being alive!” Cassia shouted.
She woke up today naked in Nikos’ arms. And she wasn’t even cold!
The moment she opened her eyes, the events of last night came crashing down. She carefully extracted herself from his arms, looked for pen and paper and left a note as to where she was going. Then, she ran all the way to the stream. She screamed and cried, kicked some rocks and cursed herself.
How could she sleep with Nikos Demakis?
Cassia laughed bitterly. Sleep wasn’t really the technical word.
Cassia smacked herself on the forehead. How could she let that happen? How could she sleep with the person who hurt her most? Hadn’t once been enough? Hadn’t she been hurt enough to last her a lifetime?
She cursed and stomped on the muddy ground. Then she cringed when she remembered telling Nikos that she was his.
“I’m yours, Nikos...”
“I want you like I’ve always wanted you.”
“I’m stupid! I’ve gone officially insane!” she laughed hysterically and kicked another rock down the stream.
She pulled at her hair and considered hitting her head on one of the trees if only that would make her forget.
But another part of her brain kept on telling her that last night was perfect.
She’d dreamt about making love with Nikos Demakis. In her dreams, they’d made love hundreds of times in a hundred different ways. But that was all they were: dreams, her innermost fantasies.
But last night, it was all real.
And it was perfect.
She couldn’t have dreamed a better scenario.
Still it was wrong though.
She just betrayed Hector after agreeing to marry him!
But technically, she didn’t betray Hector, for Nikos was really her husband. In fact, she was betraying Nikos with Hector.
Cassia gave another sarcastic laugh. Now, even her conscience was reasoning out with her and it was taking Nikos’ side!
No. This insanity must end. There simply was no future for both of them. Everything that happened last night was a mistake; nothing more.
Cassia was snapped out of her thoughts when she heard men’s voices and footsteps. Her heart raced and she immediately hid herself behind one of the large rocks. She waited for them to pass, and as quietly as she could, she ran back to the cabin.
Nikos woke up with a smile on his face.
Last night was perfect.
It was better than his dreams, better than any other night he spent with a woman before. He opened his eyes and frowned when Cassia was nowhere to be seen. It would’ve been better if he woke up with her in his arms and maybe he could’ve made love to her again this morning.
Her place in the bed was still warm. He saw a note beside the bed. She wrote that she just went to the stream.
He sent a silent prayer willing her to be safe.
Now, back to business.
He looked outside and noticed that the sun was already high in the sky. It was noon! He overslept again. Why was it that when he was with Cassia, he didn’t have those nightmares? Why could he sleep like a baby when she was near?
He sighed and went to the table. He was distracted when he recalled what happened last night at that particular table. But then he forced himself to concentrate.
The solar panels had been fixed yesterday and he hoped that the satellite phone would be charging by now. He checked the wires and saw that they were fine. Joy surged through him when he saw that it was already charging!
“Come on, open please,” he muttered as he punched in some buttons. When the screen lit up, he wanted to jump up and down with joy.
He immediately dialed Alex’s number.
“Alex, it’s me—“
“Nikos?!” Alex exclaimed.
“Yes. It’s me—“
“Where the hell are you?!”
“I don’t really know the name of the island. I was mostly unconscious when we were here. Ask Antonio. Elise will know. I’m on the same island where we were first kidnapped.”
“I’ll assemble my team and we’ll be there as soon as possible. Are you and Cassia alright?”
“Yes, we are. Just minor injuries.”
“Good! I will also send medics. Your yacht was found in the middle of the ocean after the bodyguards I sent with you were able to radio for help to the mainland. Antonio and I have been going crazy ever since. I flew here as soon as I heard.”
Nikos heard Alex cursing.
“I’ve locked on to the signal of this phone. We’re coming for you as soon as we can. Stay off the beach or the docks, that’s the first place they’ll look. Stay hidden and we’ll come find you.”
Suddenly there were two beeps. The line was cut for the phone went dead. Nikos stared at it and tried to turn it on again but the battery was drained. Well, their fate was all in Alex’s hands now.
“Nikos!” the door flew open and Cassia ran to him.
“What happened? Are you all right?”
“Yes. But we have to go! I saw men by the stream and they are coming this way. We have to leave!”
He was immediately spurred into action. He grabbed their blankets along with the medical supplies. Then he grabbed her hand and they exited the cabin through the back door. They ran as silently as they could deeper into the woods.
“Where are we going?” Cassia asked him after they walked for several hours.
“We just have to find a place to hide. The solar panels were fixed and the phone was charged. While you were out, I got through to Alex. He’s coming for us.”
“That’s great! When do you think will they arrive?”
“Maybe in a couple of hours.”
“So we just have to sit and wait?”
“Yes. Preferably in a safe location,” Nikos answered with a grin and her heart jumped.
They continued their search for a safe place. The sun nearly set when they found a small cave near the mountain. Nikos spread one of the blankets on the damp ground. They sat together and wrapped the other blanket around both of them.
He noticed that instead of curling against him, Cassia leaned against the wall. He gritted his teeth, for he was sure what was running through her mind: regrets over what happened last night.
“Talk to me, Cassia.”
“We’ve been over this before. When you kissed me by the stream I already told you that we couldn’t be together. But I know that it takes two to tango so it’s a huge fault of mine too.”
Nikos cupped her jaw and forced her to look at him.
“You just admitted that you’re mine, Cassia. I won’t let you go. Whatever we had in the past, we’ll sort it out and start anew.”
“You think it’s that easy? And how can you say that we are going to sort through all of our issues when you won’t believe a word I say?”
“I’m willing to listen now. We’ve been married for ten years, Cassia. But we’ve barely begun this marriage. Give us another shot.”
“You were the one who ruined it!”
“I am not arguing with you about whose fault it is, alright? It’s not important. What’s important is that both of us move on.”
“You know, if this is all about the contract and about us having an heir...it’s not needed. Grant me the divorce and I’ll say I am to blame. I’ll say I took a lover so that everything will go to you. You’ll also gain control of the Andrade side of the company. You don’t need to sacrifice yourself again.”
“It’s not that. I want you. I want a family. I believe we can become happy together. I want to be with you, and I want you to be the mother of my children.”
Cassia’s heart melted at his words.
But she’d been on the receiving end of his sweet words before only for him to take it all back and replace it with bad memories the morning after.
“I can’t. I have Hector now.”
“If you really loved him, Cassia...you wouldn’t have responded to me the way you did last night. We can keep arguing about this and it will never end. I won’t let you go.”
Cassia sighed and turned away from him.
“Say whatever you want, Nikos. When we get off this island, we’ll return to our normal lives and you will know what all this is - it’s just a mistake.”
“Never,” he sighed before he pulled her in his arms and turned her to face him.
“I’m sure you will return to your mistresses and your crazy lifestyle the moment we are free of this island. How’s Marietta by the way? The woman you slept with after you came straight from our wedding bed.”
“I did not sleep with her that morning,” he responded in a flat tone.
Cassia whirled, “What?!”
“I didn’t. Believe it or not, during our marriage, however recent that may be, I was completely faithful to you.”
“So you were just casually coming out of the shower in her suite and she was naked on the bed?”
“No. I went there to shower before my flight. I went there after I spoke with your grandfather. He told me several things. Basically, he told me that you didn’t want to be my wife and that you only wanted money and your freedom. He said you didn’t even want to live with me. I didn’t return to our suite because I was so angry at you so I decided to bathe in one of my friends’ suites. I saw her coming out of hers and she told me she was headed to breakfast. She granted me access to her room and I went there and bathed. I didn’t know that she came back on the bed naked. I found out the same time as you.”
“You lie,” Cassia spat.
“I have never lied to you, Cassia. You can ask Alex about it. He was the first one I asked to lend me the shower in his suite. He saw Marietta offer hers,” he answered in a sincere tone.
Cassia stilled as she processed what she just heard. Was Nikos telling her the truth? He really did not sleep with Marietta that morning?
“Why didn’t you correct me when I thought wrong? Why didn’t you throw her instead of asking her to stay? You chose her over me, Nikos!”
“I was wrong about that...I apologize...but I was so angry with you and your grandfather that day. I thought that you both lied to me and played me for a fool again. You dented my pride and I wanted to retaliate.”
“What exactly did my grandfather tell you that day?”
Nikos ran his fingers through his hair.
He tried to recall the conversation in his mind and then told her everything. He had this suspicion that it was all Costas’ fault. That old man manipulated everything. Maybe he also did it to his granddaughter’s marriage.
“He lied!” she shouted.
“I realize that after everything you told me.”
She frowned and clenched her fists.
“When I woke up, the first thing I did was to look for you. A maid told me you were in another suite so I went there to get you. I encountered my grandfather and he told me about you and your mistress. He told me I had to understand for men have needs and tend to stray...” Her voice wobbled, betraying the emotion she tried to kept bottled. “He really set out to ruin us before our marriage even began.”
She was silent for a long time and he could almost see the gears in her mind turning.
“I think he wanted you to be the cause of our marriage falling apart. I think he wanted me to find you with Marietta and file for divorce. That leaves you nothing and he gains everything through me. I was his puppet then and he was the one who pulled my strings. Besides, if the merger fell apart because of you, your grandfather would have been devastated.”
Nikos’ jaw clenched.
She was right.
He felt a pang in his chest as it was now truly clear that what happened before was all a misunderstanding. It was all caused by a bitter old man who wanted to play God and wreak havoc with their lives.
He was ready to give their marriage a chance ten years ago. If Costas hadn’t ruined everything, their lives would be totally different now. Maybe they’d be happy. Maybe his Greek island would have been filled with laughter from their children; perhaps a boy who inherited his business acumen and a girl who had Cassia’s passion for art and her beauty.
The anger fled from her eyes and instead they misted with tears. Maybe because, like him, she also felt regret for the time that was wasted?
She reached for him.
He was about to kiss her but the moment was ruined when they heard heavy, running footsteps.
Both of them immediately stood up and hid behind the larger rocks. Nikos shoved her behind him and they stayed silent as they waited for the men to pass. But the sound of their footsteps lingered.
Cassia cursed under her breath when she saw that they left one of the blankets. It was out in the open and the men would immediately see it. She was about to reach forward and grab it but a beam of light was shone across the cave and directly onto the blanket.
Then the footsteps stopped.
“They’re in here!” one of the men shouted.
They heard Kristoff’s laugh and saw him pick up the blanket.
“Mr. and Mrs. Demakis...you may come out now. Let’s do this the easy way so nobody gets hurt,” he called out in a menacing tone.
His laughter echoed across the dark cave again. Fear struck Cassia and she squeezed Nikos’ hand. She saw the promise in his eyes. His look promised that he wouldn’t let anything happen to her.
Cassia feared so much for him. If they get caught, she knew he would suffer the beating he received two nights ago, maybe more. They’d be merciless this time. Maybe they’d even carry out their threat of raping her.
If they got caught, there’d be no chance of an escape.
The men entered the cave and their heavy footsteps nearly drove her insane with fright. Nikos pushed her against a wall and covered her body with his. When one of the men reached them, Nikos kicked him and sent him scrambling backwards. He tugged on her hand and they sprinted towards the entrance of the cave.
But it was no use for there was more men waiting outside. Hands grabbed at her and she tried to fight them off as best as she could. Cassia kicked and clawed her way out but there was just too many of them. Her heart beat faster with fear and at the same time, she was filled with a sense of hopelessness. She was terrified about being captured again for she knew what awaited them.
She saw Nikos fighting but he, too, was overpowered.
Once more, their hands were bound. She heard Nikos’ cry of pain as his broken wrist was tied behind his back.
Kristoff emerged from the mouth of the cave with a huge grin. He headed straight for Nikos and kicked his ribs. Nikos fell down sideways and the men laughed.
“Not so tough now, huh?” the leader taunted.
Another man punched him in the face. Cassia recognized it as one of the guards they knocked out. Nikos said nothing and just spat out blood on their feet.
“No! Stop it, please!” she shouted.
The leader cupped her jaw painfully and forced her to look at him.
“Tonight you are ours,” he declared in a lewd tone.
He forced her to her feet and they began the long walk back to their facility.
The sun was about to set when the woods thinned and they were able to see familiar path to the beach again.
“I’m sorry, Cassia,” Nikos whispered to her before they were forced back to enter the cold, dark place that served as their prison.
“It’s not your fault,” she told him.
Suddenly, the man beside Cassia fell. She screamed when she saw their eyes stare sightlessly ahead. She screamed again the moment she saw that there were bullet holes in their heads. But she didn’t hear any sound of gunfire so what was used could have been silenced weapons.
Two more of their kidnappers fell. Those were the ones holding Nikos. When the rest of their kidnappers saw their fallen comrades, they immediately went into alert. The men around her crouched and Kristoff started to shout orders in Greek. Nikos crawled towards her and forced her head down.
“Trust Alex to come in the nick of time,” he told her and there was hope in his voice.
More shots were fired and the men were all shouting. Cassia barely understood a word they said.
“When I say run, we run to the other side of the bushes. We’re not safe here. Got it?”
Nikos counted to three and then they stood up and ran. She took his arm and placed it around her shoulders again so that she could help him. Their kidnappers saw their escape and chased after them but the men were all immediately cut down in a hail of bullets. Cassia looked up as they ran and saw that there were several snipers perched above the thick branches of the trees.
When they reached the bushes, two men emerged from it and ushered them closer. They wore black turtleneck shirts with Kevlar vests over them. Then, they wore black cargo pants to which various weapons were strapped.
One of them pulled his mask off and Alex’s relieved face came into view.
Cassia and Nikos both sighed with relief.
Alex barked a couple of orders into his earpiece and then they were moving. Several men were left behind to cover their back. The others surrounded Nikos and Cassia and killed anyone who tried to follow them.
After another long walk, they were now in Alex’s boat. He sat beside them as the medic tended to them. When their wounds were treated the boat sped off to the mainland.
“Anyone hurt?” Alex asked
Both of the former captives shook their heads.
“Stay here. You’re safe here. Let me just see to my men and we’ll see if we can find any evidence or if there are any of your kidnappers left alive. I sure as hell hope there’s at least one of those assholes left for questioning.”
“Their leader is the tall, black-haired man. His hair is up to his shoulders and he has a scar on his left cheek,” Nikos told Alex
“I’ll do my best,” Alex replied with a malicious grin.
Some of Alex’s men followed him back to the forest while more stood guard in the boat. The medic quickly tended to their wounds. Afterwards, they made themselves comfortable as they waited for Alex and his men.
Cassia woke up and the boat was already moving. She did not know how much time has passed. She looked around and saw Nikos was sleeping peacefully beside her. Alex sat beside Nikos and he was leafing through a stack of papers.
“What happened?” she asked groggily.
“We went back and gathered as much as we could. We have their computers and all their files. But their leader got away,” Alex hissed. He looked so disappointed that Cassia wanted to soothe him.
She placed her hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. “Thank you for saving us, Alex. I know you did your best. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be able to catch Kristoff soon.”
Alex’s eyes softened and he covered her hand with his.
“Thank you, Cassia. Nikos is sleeping and you should too. Get some rest. I know how difficult the past few days were for you. I’ll wake you up when we’re in the docks.”
Cassia nodded and obeyed Alex’s orders.
About two hours later, they reached Athens. The moment they arrived at the docks, there was already a large crowd waiting for them. Most of them were people from the media. Immediately after they went down, there was a barrage of flashes from their cameras. Also, microphones were thrust at them from every direction.
There were so many questions thrown from left and right that Cassia couldn’t even properly hear one. Her mind reeled from the sudden noise.
“Is it true you’ve been kidnapped?”
“Please tell us what happened, Mr. Demakis!”
“Is it true that the Greek drug cartel is involved here?”
“How much did you pay as ransom?”
Alex barked an order and his men began to circle them and herd the reporters back.
Nikos turned towards them and said, “No comment for now. You’ll receive a detailed statement from our public relations team.”
After that, they were led to a waiting limousine.
The instant the doors opened, someone that Cassia recognized from the past exited and threw herself against Nikos.
“Cherie! I was so worried! It’s all over the news and I flew here as fast as I could to see for myself that you’re safe!”
She hugged Nikos tightly and rained kisses on his face. Through it all, Nikos just stood there.
Suddenly, it was as if Cassia was plunged in ice-cold water.
Maybe he slept with her. Maybe he didn’t.
But what was clear now was that they had enough of a relationship for her to fly all the way here and act this way. Nikos didn’t even push her away which just cemented all her beliefs.
How could he do this to her again?
Cassia felt her heart breaking once more.
Everything that happened between them was a mistake. They were all lies. It was just part of the elaborate game that Nikos was playing with her.
He lied when he told her he wanted her. He lied when he said he wanted another chance for their marriage.
Nikos saw her walking towards the other limousine and he was snapped out of his trance. He pushed the clinging Marietta away and grabbed her arm.
“Cassia...it’s not what you think...”
“Yes. You’re right, Nikos. I thought you were sincere with everything you said. Turns out I was wrong.”
She climbed aboard the vehicle and slammed the door. She was surprised when Alex climbed in beside her.
“Not a word, Alex. Please. Let’s just go.”
Thankfully, Alex did not push the issue further. He just patted her hand and let her be.
She faced the window and let her tears fall...
Three days later and she was on the plane back to America. Again, she left without saying goodbye.
She laughed for her situation was really nostalgic. Ten years ago, she fled Greece in the same situation. Before, her heart was broken and so was her pride. Because of that, she vowed revenge against Nikos.
Now, her heart was broken but there was no more of her pride to break. It was her own damned fault that she was in this situation. She never learned.
As the old adage went:
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.