Chapter 19 - Chase
November 26, 2013 (The Next Day)
Athens General Hospital
It took one more day after Cassia left before Nikos Demakis awakened.
His body was battered and bruised, and he needed the time to recuperate. He had a broken wrist, two broken ribs, and several cuts and bruises. When he woke up, the first thing he asked for was his wife.
But she was nowhere to be found. Instead it was his personal assistant, James and Alex who sat beside his bed. He never got to talk to her after she saw him with Marietta, and they rode in separate vehicles to the hospital. When they arrived, they were treated immediately and separately. He was heavily sedated for he had more injuries than her.
“How’re you feeling?” Alex asked.
“Like I’ve been run over by a truck. Where’s Cassia?”
James and Alex looked at each other.
“Err...she’s gone back to America.”
“What?!” he roared.
He struggled to sit up and his friends helped him.
“When did she leave?”
“Yesterday. I think she misunderstood Marietta’s presence here, Nikos. I saw the look on her face. That was how she looked like ten years ago when you threw her out.”
Nikos flinched. Marietta truly brought him nothing but heartache-- along with a pounding headache.
“For years after our affair ended, she wanted to get back with me. I told her it was over. But she kept coming back. Maybe I should have asked for a temporary restraining order,” he sighed.
“I think I can have her assassinated. Say the word,” Alex teased.
Nikos rolled his eyes. He wanted to go to Cassia right now and explain. He wanted to see her smile again and know that it was him who caused it. This time around, he wouldn’t let a misunderstanding separate the two of them.
“No need, Alex.”
“I’d do it for free for Cassia. I hated how she looked when she boarded that plane. I knew what she felt was killing her and it damned near killed me too,” Alex groaned.
“Prepare the private jet, James, and prepare all necessary documents. We’re going to America.”
His assistant flinched and paled.
“Sir...I’m sorry but that’s not possible at this time. First of all, you’re not yet cleared for discharge. Second, the board of directors is already waiting for you and your report. I have already given a statement to our PR Department for damage control but the board members themselves want to see you. Then, there’s the Higeshima Deal which will commence in about a week.”
“Cancel everything, I need to go to America,” he said without preamble.
“Sir. I strongly advise against this. You would also have to release your statement to the press. Give me two weeks sir and after that I will clear your schedule.”
“Two fucking weeks?! Is there no other way?”
“I’m afraid not.”
He sighed and flopped back down on the bed.
“Call a flower shop in America. I’d like to send Cassia flowers.”
“Excellent, sir. I’ll choose one and have them sent to her right away.”
He shook his head. “Ochi, James. Call them and I’ll choose one, myself.”
Nikos didn’t know who was more shocked with his declaration: Alex or his assistant. Alex raised an eyebrow at him while his assistant hid his surprise better and proceeded to do as he was told.
A moment later, Nikos was lost in a wide selection of flowers. At first, he spoke with the shop manager who then tried to explain to him in great detail how the bouquets looked. But Nikos couldn’t choose based on words. He wanted the best for Cassia so he asked for a video call so he could see everything. He even asked the shop manager what the different colors and blooms meant.
It took him nearly an hour before he was able to make a selection.
December 23, 2013
Fifth Avenue, New York City
“Delivery for Mrs. Cassia Demakis?”
Her staff all rolled their eyes at the same time. They looked at each other to check who would be accepting the deliveries. The task fell to Anna, Cassia’s best friend and General Manager for Cassiopeia.
“When is he going to stop? It’s got to the point that it’s irritating and pathetic.”
“I’ve told him to stop but he says he won’t until I forgive him,” Cassia replied with a sigh.
For the past month, Nikos had been sending her flowers thrice a day. The first week, it was accompanied by letters. He kept on explaining that there was nothing going on with him and Marietta.
He explained to her that they’d broken up a long time ago and were only acquaintances but she refused to let him go and had been pestering him ever since. He explained that he knew he was mistaken for not setting her right and telling her they didn’t really have any future together.
Cassia ignored all of it and threw the letters in the trash. She didn’t care if Nikos was with Marietta or not. She was done with him. She’d been a fool twice and she wouldn’t open herself up for a third time.
Cassia pulled her phone out of her pocket and glanced at the screen.
Still no word from Hector.
She returned to New York as he came out of hiding just to make sure she was safe. He picked her up at the airport then drove her to her apartment. She ached to tell him about the ordeal she suffered but he was too busy talking on the phone to notice her.
She just sat there in his car as she waited for him to finish.
Then, he dropped her off at her apartment and told her he couldn’t stay. He ordered her to stay put and that he would contact her.
But it had been nearly a month and still there was nothing from him.
She was snapped out of her thoughts when Anna handed her another wooden case for her to stack on the shelves.
“I’m just curious, you know. He wants to apologize but he’s never been here and it’s been a month. If it was me, I’d have come here in the flesh.”
“He’s busy. There are a lot of things that have been going on with the company. There’s this deal that’s been falling apart and then he had to handle the media after our kidnapping.”
“Why are you even defending him?” Anna glared at her.
Cassia shrugged, “I’m not. I’m just stating facts.”
The doorbell rang again.
“I’ll get it,” Anna said as she ran towards the door.
Cassia finished placing the boxes back on the shelves and dusted her hands. She was so tired and she just wanted to return home and buy herself take-out dinner.
“Err...Cassia, speaking of the devil.”
“What?” Cassia grabbed her purse and followed her friend to the front of the shop. There, she saw Anna glaring at Nikos.
Her breath caught in her throat as she saw him in the flesh. He was still as handsome as ever. He wore a finely-tailored gray suit and was holding another bouquet of flowers in front of him. This was the biggest and most elaborate one yet.
“What are you doing here?” Cassia spat.
“I came to see you. I would’ve come sooner but there were a lot of things I had to do.”
He handed her the bouquet of roses and Anna took it from her.
“Okay. You saw her. Now you can go.”
Anna shooed Nikos away and the two glared at each other.
“I was hoping we could talk.”
“There’s nothing for us to talk about, Nikos.”
“There’s a lot for us to talk about. Hear me out, Cassia. Please?”
Cassia grabbed Anna’s purse from the table near the register and handed it to her. She tugged her friend outside the door and both of them locked-up the shop as quickly as they could.
She grabbed Anna’s hand and went to the other side of the street where her car was parked.
Suddenly, she was lifted off her feet and carried over Nikos’ shoulder.
“Put me down you brute!” she shrieked.
“Hey!” Anna shouted.
The people in the vicinity all turned to look at them with curiosity. Some looked at Nikos warily.
Nikos smiled that charming smile of his at everyone who turned to look. “Just settling a domestic dispute with my wife. She’s being stubborn,” he told them. The others turned away and continued what they were doing.
“Miss, is this man really your husband?” one man shouted. Nikos heard the man’s companion order him to call the cops.
“No need! He’s my husband. Unfortunately.”
Some laughed. The man and his companion turned and walked away. When no one else paid attention, Cassia pinched Nikos’ arm.
“Put me down now! You’re causing a scene!”
“Ochi. I’m kidnapping you so we can talk and you can’t do anything about it,” Nikos told her as he brought her to his car.
He nodded to his bodyguards and they opened the door. Their faces remained completely blank to what Nikos was doing. One of them even held Anna back.
“We’re going to talk, you and I. And you can’t run away this time. I refuse to have another misunderstanding keep us apart.”
He gently placed her inside the car and climbed in after her.
She tried to get out but the doors were immediately locked and only the driver could unlock them.
“Let me out of here!” she screeched.
“My hotel. Drive,” Nikos told the driver who quickly sped off.
December 23, 2013
New York City
Nikos dumped Cassia on the bed and sat beside her.
He pinned her arms by her sides so she couldn’t escape and looked straight into her hazel eyes.
“What’s the matter with you?” he hissed.
“Me? It’s you who kidnapped me here!”
“I mean what happened to you? I thought that we were okay back on the island and then you suddenly disappear on me! You didn’t reply to any of my letters or emails and did not answer any of my calls.”
“Well, I thought that since you already have Marietta with you, you have everything you need.”
Nikos stiffened and then he sighed. He finally realized what was going on here. Alex was right.
“That day back at the docks...it was nothing. Alex told me she wanted to come see for herself that I was fine. She thinks we’re still together but we’ve broken up a long time ago. She keeps on thinking there’s still something else between us. There’s nothing, Cassia.”
“Lies! From the looks of that, she’s still your mistress—“
“After I was kidnapped, I didn’t sleep with anyone for two years!” he cut her off.
Nikos took several deep breaths to calm himself. He stood up and faced away from her.
“I told you I am a broken man, Cassia. I’ve never even slept peacefully after I was kidnapped. I can’t because every time I close my eyes, I am drowned by nightmares. I haven’t been with anyone else because I can’t trust them to look at my scars...I can’t trust them enough to fall asleep and let them hear what torments me. If you want, I can contact all the doctors I’ve seen and ask for my medical records.”
“N-no...” She remembered waking him up from his nightmares well enough.
“I just want you to know I have wanted to come here since the day you left me at the hospital. They asked me to stay for three more days before they cleared me for discharge. Then there was the media frenzy because of our kidnapping. Then I had to fix the Higeshima deal.”
“I am aware what happened with that and I am happy that it pulled through.”
“Ne. But it took me almost a month before I could come here. So I sent you flowers and letters in my stead.”
Cassia scoffed, “Your assistant did, you mean?”
“No. I remembered what you told me when we were in that island. This time, it was me who chose all of that.”
Her jaw dropped.
“I am serious about wanting another shot at our marriage, Cassia.”
For the first time tonight, she was speechless.
“I am never letting you go. You are going back to Greece with me.”
Her ire came back in a snap just like that. “What?!”
Nikos just raised an eyebrow for he was sure she perfectly heard him.
“We are not going back to Greece! It was a disaster last time! And I could not leave my shop just like that!”
“It’s final, Cassia. We are going to Greece. I hired more security this time. We are going to Athens by plane and then we are going to take a helicopter to go to my island. I am not taking any chances with our safety now.”
“We’ve had this argument before, Nikos. I have a life here. I can’t just take off on a whim.”
“You can. And does that life still include Hector Petrides?” he snarled.
Cassia lifted her chin.
“I heard he was hiding from the drug cartel. Alex told me he lost an entire shipment worth about a billion dollars. There’s no going back from that Cassia. Either he finds the shipment or he’s a dead man. He’ll never be with you. Have you spoken to him in the last few days?”
That struck something deep inside of her. Hector hadn’t talked to her for more than a month already. During that time, over and over, she had thought about their relationship. They were great friends but they never really had much when it came to a romantic relationship.
Hector was never there.
When he was, he was busy and preoccupied. He was never open to her and she lately found out about the dark secrets he harbored - secrets which nearly cost her life.
How were they going to have the family she wished for when he was never going to be free of a drug cartel?
They never released their people. Once you were in, you were in for life.
She glanced down at the ring she wore. She slid it off her finger and placed it in her bag. She was waiting for Hector to talk to her so they could end their relationship. Once she spoke with him face to face, she would be returning his ring.
They were really better off as friends; they would never work as lovers. She had to talk to him and end it all before it got even more complicated. It wasn’t something easy and it hurt, for he’d been there for her for the longest time.
But it had to be done.
“He’s not in my life anymore,” she whispered.
“Good. It will never work between the two of you,” Nikos said as he knelt in front of her and took her hand.
“And you think it will work out between us, Nikos?”
“I know it would. I’ll do everything,” he vowed.
“This is all going so fast. Can’t you give me some time to think about it instead of forcing me to Greece?”
“I can’t. I’ve waited for a month already,” he groaned.
“Then at least give me tonight, I have a night out with my friends. I’ll take as many bodyguards as you want. Just let me go.”
“Tell me where you’ll go and I’ll drop you there and pick you up myself. And you must always be within the line of sight of your bodyguards.”
She nodded but sighed and rolled her eyes, “Fair enough.”
“So what time are you supposed to be there?”
“Around two hours from now.”
He grinned and took her hand.
“Where are we going?”
“Dinner, of course.”
Nikos didn’t let go of her hand as they made their way from the penthouse suite to one of the most elegant restaurants in his hotel. It was always full and you had to have reservations a long time prior to eating there. Unless of course, like Nikos you owned the hotel.
Like a perfect gentleman, he helped her to her seat. The waiter introduced himself and they were handed their menus.
“I’ve heard of this restaurant for a long time now but it’s the first time I’ve actually been here.”
“This is a great place. It is owned by Antonio, by the way. His restaurants are in all of my hotels. Antonio is an excellent chef and a businessman. We started this when we were fresh out of college.”
“Wow. I never knew Antonio was a chef.”
They placed their orders and resumed talking. Nikos told Cassia all about Antonio, his wife and their newest addition to the family. He told her how adorable baby Anton was and how he drove his parents crazy.
Cassia laughed and she realized she was really enjoying herself tonight. Nikos kept on entertaining her with his brilliant stories about his travels, the business and almost everything else under the sun.
She was never bored and she found herself wanting to visit the places he’s been. He told his stories so vividly that it was as if she was experiencing it firsthand.
She also marveled at how fun it was to eat dinner and talk. Usually, when she was with Hector, she was silent as he had to talk to somebody on the phone. If he was not on the phone, he was busy checking his emails. They never really talked.
Cassia glanced at her watch and saw that it was almost time to go to her friends.
It was true what they said: time really flew when you were enjoying yourself.
December 23, 2013
New York City
“I’ll pick you up at exactly 2AM. Would that be all right?”
“Have fun then. And please always stay where your bodyguards can see you.”
Cassia nodded and watched as Nikos sped off in his black Lamborghini.
She hurried inside the club and was met with the loud music and crazy lights. She went through the throng of people who were grinding at each other on the dance floor. Several men stopped her and asked her to dance, but she just smiled and shook her head.
She and her friends had a VIP booth on the second floor of the bar. Cassia evaded more men asking her to dance and quickly climbed the stairs. She entered the VIP room reserved for them and breathed a sigh of relief when the music wasn’t so loud anymore and she could hear her own thoughts.
Going to clubs and dancing wasn’t really her thing.
“Earth to Cassia,” her friend said as she waved her hand in front of Cassia’s face.
“Hmm?” she murmured distractedly.
“You’re zoning out. Repeatedly,” Arlene, another one of her friends and most loyal customers pointed out.
“Oh, sorry. It’s just that I really have a lot of things on my mind right now.”
She thought of Nikos and how much she enjoyed their dinner. She kept on telling herself they had nothing in common but it turned out that they had a lot. They never ran out of anything to say and she found herself immensely enjoying his tales.
“Humph. Maybe in your head, you’re still in bed with your handsome hunk of a husband,” Arlene giggled.
A few weeks ago, Cassia’s concerned friends called her and she told them every single detail of what happened when she and Nikos were kidnapped.
She frowned and then snorted, “I’m not.”
Arlene raised her eyebrows and then leaned closer and stared into her eyes.
“Did he finally send enough flowers to make your house and your shop collapse? What is up with you guys now? Did you forgive him?” another long-time friend named Isobel asked.
Cassia sighed and took another sip of her cocktail.
“Aha! I knew it!”
Cassia rolled her eyes heavenward.
“I don’t have anything to spill.”
“Clearly, you do,” Jenna disagreed.
“Cassia, come on! Are we not your friends? Tell us what’s bothering you! Maybe we’d be able to help. We’re also married, you know,” Arlene persisted.
“Yeah, we could give you great advice,” Isobel quipped.
“You’re not married, Isobel! How can you give her advice?” Jenna laughed.
“I’m not. But I know that men are devious little creatures. Also, I know how much pain they can bring and I’ve dealt with it. So if that’s what is happening to our friend here, I think I can give pretty good advice in that area.”
They were all silent after that for they knew Isobel’s past.
Cassia sighed. “Thanks, Izzy,” she said affectionately.
“Don’t keep us in further suspense!”
“All right, all right...” Cassia murmured under her breath. “It’s just that...I don’t know what to do with Hector anymore and Nikos just complicates everything!”
Isobel scoffed. She really hated Hector right from the start.
“What did Hector do now?” Arlene asked in an irritated tone.
“Besides never being there, you mean?” Isobel interjected.
Cassia rubbed her temples. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I thought he was the perfect guy—“
“Excuse me, Cassia. Pardon the interruption but...he’s not.”
“I agree with Isobel. You were just too blind to see all his faults.”
“We’ve told you this over and over again. You keep on telling yourself he’s great but he’s not. First of all, he’s never there for you. When you guys talk, it’s always about him.”
“Plus the fact that there’s just something evil about that man,” Isobel shuddered.
“True. When you look at his eyes, it’s like he’s hiding something deep, dark and sinister.”
For another ten minutes, her friends continued to rant about how they hated Hector and outlined his faults. For the first time, Cassia listened to them and compared what they were saying to the things she experienced when she was with him.
All of it was the truth.
She had her eyes closed during their relationship and now they were finally opened. It seemed she was wrong about everything and she kept her eyes and ears shut during the entire relationship. He stayed by her side throughout the years but he was preoccupied with his own business. He wasn’t there or he was late during her accomplishments but she was in every one of his.
Then, there was the issue of his temper.
“I swear he’s bipolar or maybe he has multiple personalities,” Isobel pointed out.
“When we’re with him, he’s like sweet and all. Then he gets this call and he flies into a rage! So scary! Then, it’s like he switches off everything, and he’s back to being sweet. It makes me feel like he’s just acting.”
Jenna was right. That always happened. There was even one time that Hector slapped her. He quickly apologized and told her that it was an accident. She believed him but since then, she did everything not to rile his temper.
Cassia sighed. She truly had to end things with Hector. There was simply no future for them and it looked like she was just convincing herself he was perfect all along.
“You all know how my marriage started, right?”
Cassia decided it was finally time to talk about Nikos. She needed some advice on what to do about him. He was the only aspect of her life wherein she couldn’t think rationally.
“Yes, we do. Which brings us to another important topic. Have you forgiven him? Has the relationship between the two of you gone from enemies to lovers?”
“It’s not like that...I don’t really know what’s going on right now,” Cassia groaned.
“So spill the story,” Isobel said with a wave of her hand.
“On our tenth wedding anniversary, we had dinner and he told me that he wanted us to start being a true husband and wife. He wanted us to start living together and for me to provide him with an heir. I threw it back to his face and laughed. Then we got kidnapped.”
She breathed in deep before continuing
“...I’ve spent time with him on the island and found out several things from our past. All of it was a lie and a misunderstanding caused by my grandfather. He orchestrated all this and we were both victims.”
“Victims? What about what he did to you after your wedding night? He slept with another woman, remember?”
“No. He didn’t. Marietta climbed into the bed just as he was showering. It was his grandfather’s suite. He didn’t know she was there.”
Her friends looked at each other as if they did not know what to say. Some looked as though they weren’t sure if they would believe what she just said.
“When we were together it resurrected feelings I’d buried deep. I felt things I shouldn’t. When I look at him now, I see the guy I fell in love with ten years ago. Sometimes it’s also as if he’s giving me a promise of what’s to come if only I gave in and decided to stay with him for good. It freaks me out because I like it! I like how being with him feels! It’s bad because when I’m with him, I forget the past ten years and instead hope that I’d have ten, twenty, maybe even a hundred years with him if I could...”
Cassia’s words trailed off and she found that all pairs of eyes were on her. Her friends knew exactly what she was feeling, especially the married ones. They knew that when love hit, it hit hard. Love made you forget past mistakes and gave you hope for the future.
“So what’s the problem dear? What’s holding you back?”
“A lot of things! I still have Hector to consider—“
The moment she said Hector’s name, everyone else groaned.
“We’re done discussing him. He’s old news,” Arlene declared.
“You deserve someone better and I think if you open your heart. Nikos is that someone,” Jenna told her.
“Amen to that,” Isobel replied.
She raised her glass in a toast.
The others also raised their shot glasses and drank. When the alcohol was done burning a path down their throats, they turned back to Cassia.
“What do I do?” she moaned. She covered her face with her hands and wished that the ground would just swallow her right now and end her torment.
Her friends waved their hands towards a passing waiter and ordered another round of shots for all of them. When the new batch was placed on their table, Isobel leaned forward and looked her straight in the eyes.
“Life is a gamble. There are no sureties. If you want something badly, you’d have to trust your heart and your instincts and then take a leap of faith,” Isobel lectured.
“Wow, wise words, Izzy!” Arlene interjected and all of them laughed.
Isobel just rolled her eyes. “As I was saying, what I suggest is for you to give him a chance. Say, give him two weeks and lay down your rules. If by the end of two weeks, you find out that you’re really incompatible, leave and never look back. At least you tried. But if he makes you fall in love with him again and everything’s great...then it’s happily ever after for you guys.”
Isobel had a point.
But if she opened her heart and gave Nikos another chance, she’d be vulnerable to another wave of pain! Then what if it all didn’t work out? What would happen to her then?
“But...I can’t...it’s hard. I don’t want to be hurt again.”
“You know...the guy is trying and you’re putting up this wall because you’re afraid to get hurt. It’s not fair to him, Cassia,” Arlene told her.
“There’s never a constant thing in life and love and you can never predict what will happen. All you can do is give it a chance and hope that everything works out in the end. We told you to give Nikos a chance and that chance entails you removing all negative thoughts regarding your relationship. Remove your biases, my dear, and the happiness will follow,” Isobel advised.
Her friends all had a point.
After everything that happened, it was really hard to trust Nikos. She felt as though everything was too good to be true and that if she so much as blinked, all of it would change again. But Nikos was really trying while she was too afraid to give him a chance.
Could she take that blind leap of faith and hope that he was there to catch her?
“So what’s it going to be?” Isobel asked.
“You’re right girls. What else do I have to lose other than my heart which I already gave him ten years ago, anyway? So I’m thinking that I’m taking that leap of faith. You’re right; it’s time to settle down.”
The girls shouted their glee at that statement, and they congratulated their friend by downing another round of shots.
“Okay then, we have something else to celebrate tonight! Drink up, me hearties yo ho!” Isobel imitated Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean.
At this point, Cassia’s stomach hurt from laughing so much and her heart truly felt light. It was as if a huge burden had been taken off her shoulders.
“And then we go dancing!” Jenna shouted.
Her statement was met with another round of giggling and shouting. This time, Cassia giggled and shouted along with them.
She just couldn’t wait to take that leap of faith with Nikos.