Chapter 20 - Falling
“I cannot believe that it’s been a month and we still do not have them! How many times must you fools fail before we finally get Demakis so we can stop hiding?” Sebastian growled.
“Boss, his security is tighter. Even his wife’s. If we try, we are going to lose more men and only risk exposing ourselves.”
“I have trusted you for too long now and all you did was fail. I’ll just do things myself!” He turned and grabbed his phone.
“Get everyone ready, we’re flying to Greece. It’s time I took things in my own hands.”
December 23, 2013
Near Fifth Avenue
“Had fun, agapimeni?”
Nikos took her hand and lifted it to his lips as he waited for the light to change.
“Lots and lots,” Cassia tried to keep her voice from breaking.
She shuddered as Nikos kissed her wrist.
“Good. I’ve asked your assistant to pack your things. They are waiting for you at the airport. I asked regarding your schedule and so far you do not have anything. But if you need to work or something comes up, the jet is at your disposal.”
Nikos ran his hand through his hair and placed it back on the shift as the light changed. “I want to take you somewhere you’ve never been. But the 100th anniversary for Demakis Shipping Corporation is in a few days and we have to be there.”
“Okay,” she replied with a shrug.
Nikos looked dumbfounded. “What? No argument?”
She rolled her eyes. “None. Would you like me to give you one?”
“No! It’s just new. That’s all. I quite like it,” he grinned.
“One month, Nikos. I am giving you one month. I am putting my full trust in you and willing to give whatever we have a try. If by the end of one month we still don’t work out, you have to let me go.”
Nikos’ smile widened.
“One month? You’re mine by that time, glikia mou. I accept your challenge.”
He turned those green eyes and their full ferocity bore into her. She saw his joy reflected in them and her heart skipped a beat.
“You better not hurt me, Nikos. This is the last chance.”
He sealed his promise with a kiss.
December 25, 2013
Island of Skorpios, Greece
“Wake up, Cassia...it’s Christmas!”
Cassia groaned and rolled over. She was not really feeling well this morning. Her stomach churned and she was nauseated. It was definitely something she ate last night at the Christmas Party they attended. Or maybe she caught some kind of stomach bug?
“Come on, glikia mou. You’ll miss all the presents I have for you.”
She felt the bed dip and Nikos was sprawled beside her. Then, she felt his lips trail a path across her neck while his finger drew lazy patterns on her hip. Her cheeks flamed when she recalled what they did last night.
She groaned and tried to cover her face with a pillow. The pillow had Nikos’ scent and it was enough to set her blood on fire. He nibbled on her earlobe and she shivered with desire.
“All right, I’m up,” she sighed. She moved slowly to keep the nausea at bay.
“Great!” Nikos sped off across the room and brought back several items which he dumped on the bed.
“First things first.”
He handed her an envelope. When she opened it, it was filled with different cheques addressed to the charities she sponsored. The amount on the cheque made her eyes wide and knocked the breath out of her lungs.
“Nikos...this is...I have no words! Thank you!” she stammered.
Before she could stop herself, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. The world tilted to the side and bile rose in her throat but she didn’t care.
He laughed at her enthusiasm. “There’s more.”
He gave her a small box. She tore the wrapping paper and opened it. Inside was a key.
“That’s the key to your new car. It’s a Hummer and it’s in the garage downstairs. I got sales-talked into buying it because of how safe it is. It’s practically built like a tank and your safety matters to me a lot.”
She had the urge to roll her eyes. Nikos was so paranoid about these things that it was sometimes funny. What was she going to do with a car the size of a truck? How was she going to drive and park something that big?
Oh well, it was the thought that counted.
“Do you like it? If not, I could have that replaced.”
“No! I love it.”
The uneasiness faded from his face and it was replaced with that heart-stopping smile. Cassia moved past him on the bed so she could reach for the gift she bought for him. She only had one day to shop here in Greece and she spent it trying to find something for him. It was hard for she didn’t know much about what he liked and if there was something he needed.
She grabbed it but he handed her another box before she could give him his. She looked into his eyes as she tugged the ribbon and she saw hope and sincerity in them. There was also a hint of fear and vulnerability. She snapped the lid open and was greeted by the sight of her wedding and engagement rings.
“The engagement ring belonged to my grandmother. She gave it to my grandfather for him to give their son’s bride when the day came. But my mother didn’t like it so my father bought her a new one. Pappou gave it to me and I gave it to you.”
“I know we’re still in that trial period but nothing would make me happier than if you wore them again. I want people to see those when we go to the Demakis Shipping International anniversary party.”
He held up his hand and gave a nervous laugh. There was a glint of gold; he was wearing his own wedding ring.
Her heart melted. He was really trying and doing his best to make this work. She held out her hand to him.
“Put it on me, then.”
He pulled her closer and enveloped her hand in his.
“The first time I did this, I was too drunk to know what I was doing. I just wanted to find a place where I could lie down and sleep. Now, I do know what I am doing. With this ring comes a promise. I promise to give you all of me: my fidelity, my trust, my love...”
He placed both rings on her finger and bent his head to kiss her knuckles. Her breath caught at his words and she felt a blush heat her cheeks. All her life, she’d never heard words more romantic. She’d read them in books and heard them in movies but she never had them being spoken to her...
“Am I winning your heart yet?” he whispered.
It had become a habit of his to ask her those words. It had been three days now and every time he told her something sweet, a gesture or a gift, he jokingly asked her that.
In truth, he was getting there but she didn’t want to answer his question right away. He had a lot to make up for and she refused to concede at once. She also refused to acknowledge that she was falling fast for her own husband.
January 8, 2013
The Andrade-Demakis Shipping Corporation
“Have I told you that you look exquisite tonight?”
“Nope. I believe you haven’t,” Cassia replied.
Nikos smiled and patted her arm which was wrapped around his as they waited to be announced into the grand ballroom.
“Well, dear wife, you look absolutely ravishing. All of them pale in comparison,” Nikos told her sweetly as he gestured towards the women scattered around the foyer.
Cassia snorted as he pointed towards tall, svelte models that she thought she really didn’t compare to.
“I should only have eyes for you, remember?” Nikos teased and Cassia slapped his arm and rolled her eyes. She was feeling a bit queasy again but she attributed it to nerves.
This was a grand party for the 100-year celebration of the Demakis side of the corporation. It was a lavish event and there were several notable people in the crowd. Cassia fanned herself to chase away the nausea.
She also felt a bit tired and this she blamed on jet lag. After Christmas, they flew to Barcelona to be with Antonio, his wife and their son. She enjoyed meeting them, and holding little Anton in her arms made her long for a baby of her own.
During the past few days, Nikos toured her around Barcelona. He relayed her stories that Antonio told him about his home. She enjoyed herself too much. When Nikos set his mind to being a charmer, he really pulled out the big guns and she couldn’t help but be swept away.
“Mr. Nikos Demakis and his wife Mrs. Cassia Andrade-Demakis, CEO and major shareholders of the Andrade-Demakis Shipping Corporation!”
The two of them were announced and they descended the wide staircase towards the grand ballroom. All eyes were on them for this was the first time they were seen together after them being kidnapped. Both of them painted smiles on their faces and waved at the crowd.
Cassia was decked out in a beautiful flowing lavender gown. It was wide at the sleeves and tight on the waist. The cleavage was so low that she thought Nikos’ eyes were going to pop the first time he saw her in it.
Truth be told, she really chose this dress to vex him. She designed it herself and she knew he would feel all possessive over it and ask her to change. But he took one look at her and his eyes clouded with desire. She still remembered the look of pure need that he gave her and shivers of desire slid down her spine.
“You like it? Aren’t you going to ask me to change? What will people think?” she teased.
“They will think that you are the most beautiful woman there and I am the luckiest man. They will see you and they will envy what I have because they can only look. But I can touch and all of it is mine,” he rasped in that deep baritone of his.
She shook her head to clear it of those thoughts and focused on walking towards their table. She and Nikos were in the middle of the raised table and on either side of them were the board members and the company’s major stockholders with their wives.
Nikos stood up and started his speech:
“Thank you, everyone, for coming. First of all, a pleasant evening to all of you. Welcome to the celebration of the one hundredth year of Demakis Shipping Corporation! Of course, this is now merged with Andrade International. Yet another great feat for us,” Nikos began. “We have encountered many threats: competition, the changing economy, global modernization, challenges of the weather and so much more. But we are still here one hundred years later. We not only have ships but also planes, cars, trucks, and hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe. What started as one small ship is now an empire. We are stronger than ever! For this we are very thankful. So everyone, please raise your glasses to the continued strength of our company and may good fortune continue to smile upon us.”
The room erupted into a round of applause and everyone raised their glasses and toasted the continued success of the company.
“Let the party begin! Please do enjoy yourselves!” Nikos said with a smile before he sat down.
The music resumed and the waiters started serving the food.
Nikos was busy with the board members who kept on engaging him in conversation. He kept on glancing apologetically to Cassia. Even if he was busy talking, he took her hand from under the table and never let go.
“I’m so sorry,” he mouthed.
“It’s okay,” she whispered with a smile.
“You should go with your friends for now. I am very bad company because they all want to speak to me.”
“I’ll go and do that. I think I’ll get myself drunk too so that I can finally have payback for what you did on our wedding.”
Nikos groaned and shook his head.
“I’m kidding,” she laughed. “Find me when you’re done. You owe me a dance.”
She winked and then stood up and crossed the room towards the bar.
Cassia spent the time glancing around the room and looking for her friends who were also attending. She found Isobel perched atop one of the bar stools and drinking shots like there was no tomorrow.
“Whoah, Izzy. Slow down.”
“I don’t want to slow down. He’s here, Cassia.”
“Who? The one I told you about. The man who made me hate the rest of his species.” That got Cassia’s attention and her eyes quickly scanned the room.
Isobel sighed, “It doesn’t matter.”
“Tell me, please! I am dying of curiosity about him!” Cassia tugged on Isobel’s hand.
Isobel rolled her eyes and cursed under her breath when she saw the Senator who her father forced her to date walking towards her.
She mustered a fake smile and glanced at Cassia apologetically when the Senator asked her to dance.
Cassia instantly pitied her friend. There couldn’t be any girl who hated the male species more than her friend Isobel. She hated men and sworn herself off dating but her father, the President of the United States, was forcing her to.
“She’s here,” Alex told his friends.
Both Antonio and Nikos straightened and they quickly scanned the room. Their eyes locked on one specific woman. Cassia and Isobel were totally oblivious about the conversation between the three men and how three pairs of eyes were on them.
“It seems like Cassia knows your old flame,” Antonio told Alex as they watched Cassia and Isobel on the bar. He nodded quietly and continued to sip his drink.
“She’s grown more beautiful with the years. I still remember the two of you back in college,” Nikos commented. He was glad at being granted a reprieve from all the people who wanted to speak to him. Now he could kick back and enjoy the party with his friends.
Alex sighed and took another glass of champagne from a passing waiter.
“Too bad for me then that she thinks I’ve been the villain all along.”
“Then maybe it’s time you tell her the truth of what happened. It’s clear to me that you still want her even after all these years. You’ve not maintained a serious relationship since the two of you broke up.”
“Whoa there. Maybe it’s because of the fact that I’ve been in the military and then the mercenary business that’s why there’s no time for me to chase a relationship?” Alex snorted.
“Keep telling yourself that, buddy. It’s clear that you’re still smitten with her just like you were in college,” Nikos teased and Antonio nodded his agreement.
“Why don’t you just tell her the truth? Maybe she’d give you another chance.”
“It isn’t that easy. Besides, she hates my guts. But I promise you...I’ll get her back. I’ve just seen an offer for a job as her head of security. I think I’ll take it.” Alex’s grin was filled with so much mischief.
“I do not think I like that smile,” Nikos groaned.
“Of course. It’s clear that he’s plotting something,” Antonio agreed.
Alex just continued grinning.
“Please don’t do anything stupid,” Nikos pleaded.
Alex turned around and winked then he disappeared amongst the crowd. Antonio and Elise also made their way towards the dance floor and started dancing.
Nikos was left alone so he went in search of his wife. He found her with her friends, and excused them so they could also spend some time dancing.
“Enjoying your night?” Nikos asked her.
“Hmm...let’s see. During the brief time I was away from you, I’ve already been cornered by about three of your exes. It’s the usual thing, nothing serious,” Cassia told Nikos as they swayed to the slow melody.
“How did you handle yourself, agapimeni?”
“I handled myself well, I suppose. The days when they can put me down are so over.”
Nikos threw back his head and laughed.
“I am, so you better be sure that you understand my worth before I slip through your fingers.”
“Ahh...that already happened once, glikia mou. I won’t let it happen again,” Nikos vowed as he pulled her closer to his chest.
He knew the truth now and he would never let her go. A man was only given one shot at happiness when it came to a woman. He believed she was that shot for him.
Cassia laughed and the sound slid through him like silk.
“You better not be thinking about any of them. Because if you are, I’ll cut your balls out and feed them to you.”
Nikos raised an eyebrow. “My wife is pure evil,” he laughed.
“Nikos,” a familiar voice rasped.
Nikos turned around and saw his grandfather, Stavros Demakis.
“Pappou!” he greeted as he embraced his grandfather, “I didn’t know you would be here.”
“I really did not want to go, son. It’s just that I heard you were going here with your wife. I just had to see you for you haven’t visited me for a long time,” his grandfather said in a sad tone.
“I’m so sorry, Pappou. I’ve been very busy and a lot of things have happened.”
“We have to catch up about a lot of things. Shall we?” Stavros pointed to the bar.
Cassia noticed that Stavros Demakis was pointedly ignoring her.
“Go Nikos.” She smiled at them both.
Nikos reluctantly left her and went to the bar with his grandfather.
“So, how are you, son?”
“I’m fine. Excellent. And you?”
“Never better. Nikos, I’ll get straight to the point. I am here for a reason. I heard that you are spending time with your wife. Are you back together?”
“Yes. We are giving this marriage a try,” he replied dryly.
Why was his grandfather interested in his marriage all of a sudden?
“Nikos...it’s been ten years. You have worked very hard and the company is flourishing. Costas Andrade is now weak. He won’t be able to manage anything. That’s why he depends on you. You can now repay him every cent we owe. Here’s your chance to gain your life back.”
Nikos’ entire body stiffened after hearing his grandfather’s words.
“Pay Costas Andrade and divorce his granddaughter! I know how hard this was on you ten years ago. I am sorry that marriage to her was the only way. But you’ve suffered enough, Nikos. Now, you can reap the rewards of your hard work. You can divorce her and marry someone of your choosing.”
“Listen, Nikos. That girl isn’t for you. I know she’s like her grandfather. Now, you don’t have to stay with her. You don’t have to let your life be dictated by that piece of paper that’s your marriage contract. You can now be free.”
Nikos sighed and gulped down his drink. “Pappou, I know you want what’s best for me. Cassia is the best thing in my life. She wasn’t who I first thought her to be. All Costas Andrade told me when I married her were lies. He made me believe the worst of her, made me think that she was greedy and wanted to divorce me so they’d get everything. Now that I’ve spent time with her, I’ve fallen in love.”
“Pappou...love is exactly as you told me it was. I remembered all your stories about yiayia.”
When Nikos was young, Stavros told him a lot about his grandmother, whom he loved so much. He taught Nikos a lot of things about love too.
“I can’t let her go now. She’s different. This is real, Pappou. I’m not dictated by that contract we signed anymore.”
“Do not make hasty decisions, son!”
“This is not a hasty decision. Believe me, I’ve thought about this a lot. This is our chance to be together and set everything right like we should have ten years ago.”
Stavros Demakis was silent for a long time.
“I cannot believe I am hearing these words from you, Nikos. Since what happened two years ago, you’ve changed a lot.”
“Well, kidnapping takes a lot out of you,” Nikos teased in an attempt to make the mood lighter. “Besides, she makes the nightmares go away, Pappou. When I’m with her, I dream of a future together. A family.”
Stavros’ eyes softened and he leaned back and whistled. “You’re a grown man and everything is up to you, son. I am proud that you are the kind of man that’s standing before me today. I only hope you are making the right decisions in life for I would hate to see you be hurt.”
“She won’t hurt me, Pappou. It was I who hurt her so much.”
“Well, make amends then. Get started on that family you’ve been dreaming about! I am an old man, Nikos. I can’t wait forever for you to produce a great-grandson that I could bounce on my knee,” the old man told him with an excited smile.
Nikos threw back his head and laughed. “I will, Pappou. I will.”
Nikos returned to his wife who was dancing with Antonio as Elise danced with Alex. He also noticed that while Elise and Alex were dancing, Alex’s eyes darted towards Isobel who was dancing with one of the youngest Senators of the United States. He looked at both of them as if he wanted to wring their necks.
When the song ended, he approached them and reclaimed his wife. They danced while she laughed and told him all of Antonio’s stories about their antics when they were still in college. Nikos found himself laughing and shaking his head at all the embarrassing things he did in his youth.
Throughout the rest of the night, guests of the anniversary party watched with mixed amazement and curiosity how the previously estranged husband and wife laughed and danced close to each other. Surely, tomorrow this would be the headline in the society pages and not the ball itself.
Or maybe the headline will be about how a Mr. Alex Smith punched one of the Senators of the United States and dunked his head in a bowl of fruit punch...