Chapter 2 - Sacrifice
“Sebastian. Excellent as always. I expected no less from you.”
Sebastian’s chest puffed out with pride at his boss’ words. In their world, you either lived by the rules or you died trying to fit in. It seemed as if the fates were smiling down at him. He just managed to secure police protection from a corrupt set of officials. Now, they were free to do their business in this city.
“The bosses will be pleased. For this, I will grant you a boon. Ask anything and if it is within my power, I will grant it to you.”
Sebastian grinned. This was what he was waiting for.
“I need you to get me a job. I have a specific one in mind.”
“A job? Why? You can live off your commissions!” his boss exclaimed.
“Let’s just say that I have another ulterior motive...a personal vendetta.”
His boss smiled menacingly. “Well why didn’t you just say that? I love vendettas. Tell me about it and this job you want is yours.”
September 22, 2003
The Amphitrite (Nikos’ Yacht)
Somewhere in the Greek Coast
Nikos turned and then groaned at the shrill ringing of his cell phone.
Who would dare interrupt him when he said that he didn’t want to be disturbed and that all his calls and meetings be cancelled? He picked up a pillow and placed it over his head to drown out the noise.
“I think you better get that, Cherie,” the woman beside him purred in a heavy French accent. He lifted the covers and stared at her exquisite features. She smiled at him and it was the smile of someone well-satisfied.
Her hair was tousled and her cheeks were still flushed from their recent bout of lovemaking. He smiled at her and she launched herself up his body and began kissing him eagerly. She was a renowned French supermodel and she was his latest mistress.
Nikos felt his body responding to her expert caress and he almost gave in. But they were interrupted once more by the incessant ringing of his phone.
He sighed and then placed one last kiss on her lips and stood up to retrieve his phone.
“Nikos Demakis. And this better be important,” he growled.
His grandfather’s laughter echoed in his ears.
“Nikos. I assure you that this is important,” Stavros Demakis answered his only grandson.
“Nice hearing from you, Pappou... How are you?”
“Fine, my boy, but I am afraid I need to cut your vacation short. I need you here at the office as soon as possible. You know the current state of our company and I have some things I must discuss with you.”
Nikos pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes in a gesture of exasperation. He had planned his weekend with Marietta, for a really long time now. He had pursued her relentlessly but it was a long time before she succumbed to him. He wanted to cherish this moment of triumph when she was finally his.
But his time with her would have to be cut short for his grandfather requested his presence immediately.
“All right, Pappou...I will meet you in time for dinner,” Nikos answered.
“Good. See you, son,” Stavros replied and then cut the line.
Nikos ruffled his hair and then turned back to his pouting mistress. “I’m sorry but I have to go,” he said as he reached for the drawer beside his bed and opened it. “For you.” He opened a jewelry case that nestled a beautiful emerald necklace.
“Oui! C’est beau! C’est parfait! Merci!” she squealed as she showered him with kisses. Nikos laughed and quickly flipped her onto her back, rubbing his hardening shaft against her.
“I think we still have some time for you to thank me properly before I leave.”
Several Hours Later
Demakis Corporation Headquarters
The Penthouse Suite
Stavros Demakis inspected his grandson from head to toe while he approached.
He noted the arrogant strides Nikos took and how he seemed to radiate power and authority with every step. He recognized that stance and it brought him several memories from his past when he was the same age as his grandson.
Stavros smiled in welcome while he shifted to hide the newspaper he was reading before Nikos arrived. It featured his grandson once more and the rumors that he was dating some French supermodel. Stavros knew Nikos’ lifestyle even if his grandson didn’t communicate with him often. It was not needed when he read about it in the papers almost every week.
Who could fault the boy for doing that anyway?
He was rich and he was young. Even though he was only twenty four years old, he already graduated from Harvard with a business degree. Right now, Nikos had his own money from buying and selling in the stock market. He also managed his own businesses while working for the Demakis Corporation.
Stavros then wondered how he was going to break the news to his grandson.
“Pappou,” Nikos greeted and he gave his grandfather a tight hug.
Stavros chuckled and patted Nikos’ back.
“How have you been?”
“Excellent, my boy. And you?”
“Never better,” Nikos replied with a smile.
Stavros walked towards his desk and indicated for Nikos to sit. Nikos folded his tall frame into the couch in front of the desk and awaited his grandfather’s words.
“Nikos...you are aware of the situation of our company currently, right?”
Anger flashed quickly in Nikos’ eyes and his entire body seemed to grow taut.
“Yes,” he said through clenched teeth.
“It seems as if Costas Andrade has finally pushed us to our last limits,” he breathed.
Stavros sighed, leaned back in his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Let’s change the topic here first, Nikos. Have you met the Andrade girl? What do you think of her?”
“She’s different from the women in her circle. She seems naive about this kind of world. Wait... Pappou, if you are thinking about asking me to date that Andrade girl to get her grandfather to be more amenable to us, you are probably wrong. I’d just end up breaking the poor girl’s heart and Costas’ wrath will be upon us further. Nothing will be left for us, not even the clothes on our backs,” Nikos replied with humor.
Stavros sighed once more. His grandson spoke the truth. But the Andrade heiress was also their only way out of this tight mess.
“Nikos... Costas has offered us a way out.”
Nikos leaned forward in his chair and regarded his grandfather with a curious gaze.
“What do you mean?”
“Nikos there’s no easy way to say this...”
“Just say it straight to me, Pappou. You’ve never been one who beat around the bush,” Nikos chuckled.
“Alright. Costas offers a merger of Demakis and Andrade Shipping. And we’d still be able to gain control of our company.”
Nikos snorted. “That sounds like something the devil would offer in exchange for your soul.”
“Ahh...but then it is not my soul he wants, Nikos...it is yours.”
“Me? What the hell do I have to do with this? Why would he want me?” Nikos exclaimed.
There was a knock on the door and Stavros pressed a button on the side of his desk for it to open. His secretary came in with two cups of coffee. Stavros noticed the way that her eyes roamed all over Nikos and also the come-hither glances she threw his way.
Nikos just raised an eyebrow and turned the corner of his lips upwards in a smile. The secretary looked almost ready to faint.
Stavros coughed. “That would be all, Lydia. Thank you.”
The secretary flushed a deep red and quickly exited the room.
Stavros sipped his coffee slowly in an attempt to postpone the inevitable for a little bit more. Another sigh escaped his lips and he leaned forward and looked at his only grandson and heir in the eye.
“Costas offers a merger that would save our company in return for you marrying the Andrade girl.”
Nikos looked momentarily stunned. He took a deep breath and Stavros could see his hands shaking as he held his coffee cup.
“Say that again...” Nikos implored. His voice was barely a whisper.
“I apologize for this Nikos, but it is the only way. Marriage.”
“This is his revenge on you, right? You stole his bride and now he wants to curtail my freedom? And what does he even gain from this?!” Nikos stood up and began pacing the length of the room.
“I don’t know. But from what I’ve read in the contract, there must be no divorce. Or else, the one who is at fault will lose all the money. Another one of the conditions is that you have to have a child and that child will inherit everything. Costas wants the fate of the companies tied to your marriage with his granddaughter.”
“This is unbelievable!” Nikos spat.
“Right now, the entire Demakis fortune is in your hands, Nikos. What you do with that would determine our company’s future.”
Nikos ran a hand through his hair in frustration at his grandfather’s words.
“I refuse! Pappou, I have my own businesses. They are flourishing! We will never become poor. I can still maintain this lifestyle that we have! I will get everything back for you one by one. This I vow! And I will make Costas Andrade pay!” Nikos vowed solemnly.
“I know you are a very smart man Nikos. And that you are very good with this business. But Demakis Shipping has been in our family for generations. I understand why you do not want to be saddled with this marriage. It just saddens me that there’s nothing else I can do and that the whole business will become lost in my hands. I wanted you to inherit this. I wanted to see you sit at its helm and make it prosper even more...but I might not for this would be the end of our ancestors’ hardships,” Stavros whispered weakly.
He leaned back in his chair and Nikos noticed that his entire body seemed to sag. Gone was the ruthless business tycoon and in its place was just a frail old man. Nikos felt his chest tighten and he immediately regretted his words. But still, it was a huge sacrifice for him to make.
“Pappou...you cannot ask this of me,” Nikos pleaded.
“I understand, Nikos. No one should impose something this big on you. And I will not hold this against you. Just go...I will talk to Costas tonight,” he said in a defeated tone.
“Go, Nikos. I will deal with this,” Stavros said and then pressed the button that opened the door once more.
Then, he rotated his chair and stared out of the window so that he would not be able to see his grandson leave, taking all hopes for the company with him. And Nikos Demakis turned his back and left his grandfather’s office with a very heavy heart.
But before Nikos closed the door, he heard one last defeated sigh from his grandfather which tore at his heart.
A few hours later
“Where are you?”
“At the oldest bar in Athens, getting myself drunk until all this crazy bullshit disappears,” Nikos replied dryly. He perched atop one of the stools in the crowded bar while nursing a glass of brandy in his hands.
“A drink sounds nice. Mind if I come over?” his college friend Antonio Velez asked.
“Go ahead,” Nikos replied and then gave his friend the address of the bar.
“Great. I am ten minutes away, my friend. Be right there.”
Nikos ended the call and glanced one more time at the name of his friend.
Antonio Velez was one of the richest men in Spain. At a young age, he inherited and led his family’s business. In all those years, their business of exporting the best seafood in the entire world flourished. While Nikos ventured into the hotelier business, Antonio ventured into the food industry. Right now, all of Nikos’ hotels housed Antonio’s restaurants making a more profitable trade for both of them.
“Hi there! You look as if you could use some company tonight.” A blonde sidled into the recently abandoned stool beside him and slanted him a seductive look. She also leaned forward and bared her lovely breasts to his gaze.
Before Nikos could reply, she spoke again.
“You seem familiar...I think I have seen you somewhere,” the blonde whispered.
Nikos inclined his head to the side and waited for her to recognize him.
“You’re Nikos Demakis!” the blonde exclaimed and then clapped her hands together.
Her eyes lit up and Nikos could almost see the dollar signs flashing in them. All his life, women looked at him as though he was a walking bank account. They craved the things he could give them rather than the depth of a relationship, which was alright with him since he didn’t want to form any attachments.
Yet why did this bother him now all of a sudden?
“So how about a drink at my place?” the blonde moved closer to him until her breasts were pressed to his arm.
“Hmm...some other time, maybe? I am meeting a friend here tonight.”
The blonde pouted. “I could do things to you that no one has ever done before,” she whispered.
Nikos almost snorted. He doubted that this blonde could do anything he hadn’t experienced yet. At his age of twenty-four years, he had dated the most beautiful actresses, models who wrapped their long legs around him, ballerinas who were so flexible that they could take up the most outrageous positions, and many more.
“Sorry, sweetie. Not really in the mood right now,” Nikos answered and took another swig of his drink. The blonde pouted yet again and left the stool to search for another rich man she could dig her claws into.
“Ever the ladies man,” a deep voice drawled beside him.
Nikos chuckled and hugged his friend as he sat down on the stool that the blonde has just vacated.
“One brandy for my friend here, please,” Nikos told the bartender.
When Antonio’s drink arrived, he raised it in front of Nikos. “So what are we drinking to?”
“The end of Demakis International,” Nikos replied with a groan.
Antonio raised an eyebrow and waited for his friend to continue speaking. When Nikos did not, Antonio sighed and then downed his brandy in one gulp.
“So the old man Andrade has finally succeeded, has he?”
“Apparently,” Nikos replied.
“Hmm... I can sense that there is something more to this story,” Antonio prodded.
“Costas Andrade told my grandfather that he is willing to offer a merger for Demakis and Andrade Shipping.”
“No! Tell me I didn’t just hear you mention a merger!” Antonio exclaimed.
“I just did.”
“And what are the terms for this? Your grandfather’s soul?” Antonio chuckled.
“Funny. I just said the same thing. No. No souls involved. Well, actually, there is one soul dragged into all of this - mine.”
“In exchange for the merger, I have to marry Cassia Andrade.”
Nikos expected his friend to utter a string of curses, or to spit his drink or smash it onto the marble countertop after his announcement.
What he did not expect was for Antonio to say “Ahh...” like it was a very trivial thing and something that made perfect sense.
Nikos frowned and poured himself another measure of brandy.
“I can sense that you expected a different reaction from me,” Antonio said.
“Well, of course! I just told you that my grandfather wants me to marry the Andrade girl! I mean, have you seen her? Do you know her?”
Antonio raised another eyebrow. “As a matter of fact, I do. I know she is not accepted into the social circle because of her social awkwardness and her appearance. Which reminds me, where has Costas been hiding his granddaughter all these years? It’s only now that I’ve heard of an Andrade heiress.”
“Maybe she was raised in another country,” Nikos snorted
“Maybe. What I can say is she is a sweet girl. She is like a breath of fresh air from all the women who wanted to have a look at your bank account before they would pay you any notice.”
Nikos downed another drink when he realized that his friend was correct. There was truly something about Cassia Andrade that was different. She was not like the shallow girls who spent their life partying. There was meekness in her posture but there was intelligence in her gaze. Beneath all that, he could sense a strong spirit which was being overshadowed by her insecurities.
“Hell. I do not care,” Nikos spat and gulped another drink. The bar started to spin and his head started to throb but he did not want to stop now. Besides, getting drunk tonight was the plan.
“What is truly so wrong about marrying her? She may not be as beautiful as the others but at least she’s different.”
“I don’t want her. I want the ability to choose my bride for myself. If I had the choice, I won’t be choosing for another ten or fifteen years! Most certainly not someone like her! I love my life too much! And I would not give it up for a wife that I did not even pick! I can’t be forced to settle down right now!” Nikos exclaimed.
“I understand. But if this is the only way to save your family business...one that your ancestors worked so hard for! Is that not a small sacrifice to pay for your grandfather who raised you when your parents left?”
As usual, Antonio was right.
Nikos did not speak for a long while and proceeded to run his fingers through his hair.
“I do not know what to do,” he finally admitted.
“Drink on it tonight and then think about it in the morning. I think that is best for everyone. Do not make hasty decisions, my friend, especially if there is a lot that depends on that one decision.”
“And that is another fact I hate. I hate how the fate of Demakis International is on my shoulders. I hate how I am being forced into these circumstances.”
Antonio placed his palm on Nikos’ shoulder and squeezed. Then, he grabbed the bottle of brandy and poured them both another round.
“For now, let’s drink to that.” Nikos clinked his glass with his friend and they both downed their drinks in one gulp.
Suddenly, their drinking spree was interrupted when Nikos’ cell phone rang. He quickly retrieved it from his pocket and glared at it as if it offended him so. However, his irritation was replaced by fear when he saw that it was his grandfather’s personal assistant that was calling him.
“Nikos Demakis speaking.”
“Mr. Demakis! Thank you so much for answering!” the personal assistant who had been with his grandfather for over twenty years now and had been like a mother to Nikos sounded very frantic. Dread filled Nikos’ gut as he heard her.
“What happened?” he growled.
“Your grandfather suffered a heart attack! We are currently in the hospital right now. I found him passed out on the floor a while ago right after he talked to Costas Andrade and called the merger off. Do not worry too much. Everything’s been taken care of and doctors told me that he is stable right now.”
He used his shoulder to hold his phone to his ear while he retrieved his wallet and placed a wad of notes under his empty glass. Antonio sensed the urgency and grabbed the jacket he draped over the back of his chair.
“Has he woken up?” he asked.
“Not yet, Mr. Demakis. But the doctors say that he will be fine. They just advised us not to stress him out too much or he may have another heart attack,” Maria told him.
Nikos clenched his jaw as he walked to his car.
“I will be there in about thirty minutes,” he told Maria then ended the call. He explained the situation to Antonio as he walked back to his car.
He pulled out his keys but Antonio grabbed it from him. “You’re drunk, Nikos. I’m not. I’ll drive.”
“This is all my fault,” he groaned.
“What makes you say that?” his friend asked.
“He wouldn’t be in this condition if I wasn’t selfish enough to put my own needs before the company’s. If my grandfather never recovers from this, I will never forgive myself...”
Nikos took a deep breath. “...Even if he recovers, I will never forgive Andrade.”
While Antonio drove to the hospital, Nikos came to a solid conclusion...
For his grandfather, he could do this.
He could marry the Andrade girl and settle down so that they would have their company back. Then, he would work hard to rebuild Demakis International and repay Costas for every cent his family owed. It was time to stop being selfish and own up to his responsibilities.
If that responsibility was to throw away his lavish playboy lifestyle in return for a lifetime of hard work and a bride he did not want, then so be it.