Chapter 3 - Borrowed Bliss
October 6, 2003
The Andrade Manor
Costas Andrade’s voice boomed across the hallway to the library. Cassia immediately jumped and then stood up when her grandfather entered the room. She folded her book and placed it neatly on top of the table. Then she waited for the yelling that always ensued when her grandfather sought her out.
Costas’ secretary meekly followed behind him and then handed Cassia a beautiful gown made of blue silk.
“Another party, grandfather? Where am I supposed to go this time?” Cassia whispered softly.
“You are going to this party with Nikos Demakis. Now get dressed.”
“N-Nikos Demakis?” Cassia parroted.
“Are you deaf, girl? I just said that. Now hurry!”
Cassia remained rooted to the spot while she clutched the beautiful dress to her chest. Did she just truly hear her grandfather say that she was going with Nikos Demakis?
It was a dream come true!
Cassia smiled and then moved out of the room with lighter steps. She felt like floating. She even pinched herself to check that this was truly real and not a dream. After thinking about him constantly for every day since she met him, this was like a gift from the gods. She just couldn’t wait to see him again!
“Stop,” her grandfather commanded.
Cassia stopped and turned around.
“You know the Demakis boy?”
“Y-yes...” she stuttered.
“Why are you still stuttering like a fool?! Have I not paid your tutors enough?! Isn’t it enough that you still cannot grasp Greek? Now, you’re also losing control of your English?!” Costas shouted and Cassia flinched.
“I’m sorry, grandfather,” she muttered and tried hard to tamp down her fear.
“Do not call me that. Not until you have done something to make me proud to call you my granddaughter.” Once more Cassia flinched in pain at the barbs in his words.
“How did you know Demakis?”
“We met at one p-party...”
“What do you think of him?”
“Err...he’s nice...” Cassia’s voice faltered as she said the words for she remembered what Nikos did for her at the ball. He was so gallant and he came charging like her knight in shining armor when she needed someone to rescue her.
Costas Andrade snorted and looked at his granddaughter.
She had love and adoration shining in her eyes. Clearly, she was besotted with the Demakis heir just like countless women around the world. Who wouldn’t like the boy? At such a young age he was already a successful businessman with his own company and own line of businesses while at the same time helping out with controlling Demakis Shipping.
Costas realized that Cassia was so besotted and so naive that she’d make a great pawn in this elaborate game.
“Go and get ready,” he instructed his granddaughter.
Cassia immediately bowed her head and ducked out of the room.
She entered her own room and was not surprised anymore when her team of hairdressers and make-up artists were there waiting for her. They had already set up their equipment and were impatiently tapping their feet on the carpet.
She knew they were the best and the most expensive team but she did not like their attitude. They always treated her as though she knew nothing. They went ahead with whatever they wanted to do even if she expressed her wishes that she did not want it.
She also knew that no matter how great their skills were, she’d never be as beautiful as the other girls.
Oh well...here I go, pitying myself once more.
Cassia shook her head and tried to empty it of those negative thoughts. What was important today was that she was going to meet Nikos Demakis. That would be enough to get her through the ordeal of being poked and prodded by the set of people who used every opportunity to point out all of her flaws.
“Please sit and we shall begin,” the lead stylist told her.
Cassia sat and this was the first time she welcomed their ministrations for she truly wanted to look her best for her meeting with Nikos Demakis.
“Is this a special party, then?” Cassia asked after an hour.
She faced the tall mirror in her room and twirled around. For the first time in her life, she felt beautiful. She also felt her self-confidence rising, even if she hated that they dyed her brown hair and turned it blonde. Maybe today she could shine like all those supermodels and actresses that Nikos dated. Or maybe he was the kind of man who could look past the external.
“Who am I kidding? He’s dating supermodels so how can I say he’s the kind who looks past one’s appearance?” Cassia muttered under her breath.
She snorted and then went back to inspecting herself in the beautiful, gilded mirror.
The team did a perfect job with her hair. It was coiled on top of her head with some loose curls framing her face and her nape. Pearls were also placed on her hair and they made her skin glow with every movement of her head.
She wore the blue dress that her grandfather’s secretary gave her and it was very striking. It was simple yet very elegant. It only had one strap and it was fitted in the chest and waist area and then the skirt flowed down her hips and her legs. The light and almost sheer material moved gracefully with every step she took.
Cassia knew that this dress was a traditional Greek design altered to make it look more contemporary. It was brilliant! What made it even more beautiful was the brooch encrusted with diamonds and sapphires that was placed on the bodice of her gown.
Also, her make-up was flawless as always. Her eyes looked bigger and more luminous. Her cheekbones and her nose were made to stand out and her face was set to be more angular rather than plump.
Cassia then closed her eyes for a moment and wished with all her heart that the dress, the hair and the make-up would all be enough to make Nikos notice her.
October 6, 2003
The Grand Ballroom
Andrade Shipping International
“I shall be bringing the papers for the initial proposal for the merger later during the engagement party,” Costas Andrade told Nikos Demakis over the phone.
“Good. Then we can look them over and finalize everything before the wedding in a month.”
“Yes,” came the reply.
“All right. If there’s nothing else, I’ll be going. I still have to prepare for my own engagement party,” Nikos said dryly.
His tone did not escape Costas who took it as a chance to spread further lies and start his vengeance both on his granddaughter and the grandson of the man who stole his betrothed.
“Nikos, I have something more to talk to you about.” Costas tried to soften his tone so that it would sound as though he was a concerned grandfather. “Why do you think I offered your grandfather this merger when I was so close to ruining your entire family?” Costas asked in a concerned tone.
Nikos’ hand tightened on the phone and he resisted the urge to hurl it across the room.
“Why?” he asked. His voice was barely a whisper as he tried to restrain his temper.
“My granddaughter likes you,” Costas said in an affectionate tone.
“Cassia...she told me so much about you. She told me how she met you at a ball and how you rescued her from a terrible experience. And since that day, she could not stop talking about you anymore. She wanted you and when my granddaughter wants something, I move heaven and earth to give it to her. Please do not break her heart.”
Costas wanted to laugh at himself at how he sounded. Judging from the harsh breathing on the other line, Nikos was clearly buying it.
“So what are you saying here, Costas?” Nikos asked in a challenging tone. His temper already got the best of him after hearing Costas’ words.
Now, it seemed as if a spoiled little girl had gotten her fancy on him and asked her dear grandfather to get him for her. Instead of looking at it from a point of view wherein Costas’ main agenda was revenge, Nikos now saw that he was a bought husband for a spoiled heiress.
And that fact injured his pride even more.
“All I am saying here is that my granddaughter is smitten with you. And somehow, I err...I apologize for this but...somehow I made it look as though you wanted her too. She’s a great girl. She’ll never agree to an arranged marriage...so...make it look real. If my granddaughter sheds a single tear due to you, your family will pay, Demakis,” Costas threatened.
“I hear you,” Nikos replied through clenched teeth.
“If there is nothing else, Costas, I really have to go and prepare for my own engagement party.”
“There’s nothing else. Just remember this conversation Demakis,” Costas finished and then he pressed the button on his phone and ended the call.
As soon as the line went dead, Nikos flew into a rage.
He sat up from his chair and swept his arm across his desk sending all of the things there crashing into the floor. Papers and office supplies scattered everywhere. Glass went all over the carpet as his paperweight shattered.
His secretary entered the room and gasped at the mess she saw.
“Get out!” Nikos growled and the poor woman dashed away.
Right after she shut the door, Nikos collapsed in his chair and placed his head in his hands. He ran his fingers through his hair in both anger and frustration and resisted the compulsion to tug at the black strands.
“He will pay,” Nikos vowed.
He then crossed his room and grabbed a bottle of brandy from the liquor cabinet. He took a hefty swig and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. The liquor burned his throat just as Costas’ words burned his pride.
One day, he promised that Costas too would burn like he did.
“Costas Andrade will pay for this. And so will his spoiled little heiress. I will rebuild Demakis International and repay Costas twice or thrice the price that this merger cost him. As for Cassia, her life will be a living hell married to me.”
Another swig of alcohol and the fire reached his veins just as his anger had pierced his heart.
“I vow this: one day they will all pay.”
Costas Andrade’s Limousine
Somewhere in Athens
On the way to Andrade Shipping Corp Headquarters
Costas pushed a button and the privacy partition of the limousine slowly moved upward.
His granddaughter turned towards him and waited for him to start the conversation. Costas pushed another button and it revealed a hidden compartment with crystal glasses and a bottle of champagne. With deft fingers, he uncorked the bottle and poured two glasses.
He handed one to Cassia who took it with much surprise.
First, she did not expect that her grandfather was coming with her to this party. That had actually dampened her mood for she really wanted to have fun with Nikos and to get to know him better tonight.
Second, why were they having champagne? Was there something they should be celebrating?
“Aren’t you the least bit curious as to where we are going?” Costas asked.
“I am, grandfather,” she replied.
“Drink your champagne, girl. I am sure you’d want to be celebrating this with me.” Costas said and then held up his glass in a salute.
Cassia also held up her glass. “What is the special occasion? What are we celebrating?” She asked to humor her grandfather. He wasn’t normally in this kind of mood and she wanted to do everything she could to keep him this amiable.
“Why, your engagement of course,” Costas announced and then laughed heartily and drank his champagne all in one gulp while Cassia stared at him with her mouth open.
“What?!” Cassia screeched. Then she quickly realized the mistake of her outburst and moved farther from her grandfather.
“Watch your tone with me, girl. And close your mouth or the flies will come in,” Costas taunted.
Cassia took several deep breaths to calm herself.
When she first came to Greece to live with her grandfather, she often felt the back of Costas’ hand for what he called her fiery temper. He always called her an insolent brat who inherited her mother’s ways and hit her because of it. Now, she learned her lesson.
When she deemed that she was calm enough, Cassia spoke:
“What do you mean by saying that we’re celebrating my engagement, grandfather?”
“Exactly that. You are not a stupid girl, are you? I just said that it’s your engagement. It’s as simple as that,” Costas answered with a wry smile.
“And who might the groom be? And how come I do not know that I am about to be engaged?” Cassia snorted.
“Do not use that insolent tone with me, girl. Nikos Demakis asked for your hand in marriage. I think you have made a huge impression on him for he came to me and asked for you. In return, I decided to merge Demakis Shipping with our company. Sounds like a great deal, ne?” Costas said with amusement twinkling in his eyes.
Cassia knew that look. She knew it when her grandfather was mocking her. She also saw that look whenever he made a ruthless business deal or crushed his enemy. Right now, he had that look in his eyes along with another malicious gleam.
Yet at the same time, as Cassia went over the words in her mind, her heart started to beat a frantic rhythm. Only one phrase stood out: Nikos asked for her hand in marriage.
“Yes. Nikos Demakis. I did not know that you had it in you to catch yourself a husband. And for that, I congratulate you. Nikos is a very intelligent man. He is cunning and extremely good in business. I think he will do well for our company.”
Cassia remained silent for she still refused to believe any of this. She knew that Costas was cruel and this may all be some kind of a sick joke.
“I have to warn you, though. Nikos used to date actresses and supermodels. Of course, as his wife you will have a higher status. But men like that would tend to stray... If you can handle it, good. If you cannot, then just divorce him,” Costas advised. He said it in a tone so casual that he sounded as if he was just discussing the weather.
Yet again, Cassia was forced to reel in her temper. She stared straight ahead and glared at the leather seats instead of glaring at her grandfather.
A few minutes of silence passed before Costas spoke once more.
“Now let’s get a few things straight. And look at me when I am talking to you!” Costas shouted.
Cassia fought the urge to roll her eyes and inclined her head to the side to look at her only remaining family, who also happened to be the man she hated the most.
“Yes, grandfather.” Costas allowed her to call him grandfather now for he was now in high spirits. He’s finally getting what he wanted so he decided to be a bit more amiable to his granddaughter. He drank some more champagne and smiled as he prepared to deliver his lie.
“Good. I want this marriage to push through. Merging Demakis Shipping with Andrade Shipping would mean greater business for us—“
“Why? Isn’t Demakis Shipping already about to close? I read in the newspapers that they are nearing bankruptcy and that there are a lot of controversies about their current business,” Cassia interrupted.
“That is none of your concern! Your concern now would be your marriage to the Demakis boy. This merger is my concern and I am not asking for your opinion!” Costas snarled.
“Silence!” Costas shouted and raised his hand to strike his granddaughter. However, at the last moment, he was able to control himself. He could not hit her now for it was her engagement party. If he marked her face somehow, people would talk. With that, he was forced to keep his temper in check.
“Now. As I was saying... Do everything you can to make people believe that this is real. There will be rumors that the marriage is just for the merger. But that is not true. Nikos met you and he asked me for your hand in marriage,” Costas lied once more.
“Yes,” Cassia replied in a very low tone. She still refused to believe her grandfather and she promised herself that she would get to the bottom of this mystery.
She finished the champagne in her glass in one gulp. Right on time they arrived at the driveway of Andrade Shipping International Headquarters. It was a tall skyscraper in the heart of the metropolis. Right now, the whole building had been transformed from a drab gray corporate headquarters and into a glittering hall filled with decorations and festivities.
Hundreds of lanterns lit the driveway and a red carpet was rolled out in the center. Cassia watched her grandfather exit the limousine and then waited for him to open the door for her.
Once the door opened, she was forced to play the part of being Costas Andrade’s dutiful granddaughter once more.
She placed her hand on her grandfather’s arm and let him escort her. She also smiled to the media and forced a smile for him. She answered him politely when he made small talk, laughed at his jokes, and all other things.
Costas steered them into the heart of the crowded function hall which has been transformed into a grand ball room.
And that was when Cassia saw him.
He had his back turned towards her but her eyes immediately zeroed in on him. She noticed his tall frame and that he stood about a head taller than the crowd. She also noticed the rigid set of his shoulders and his defeated stance as he leaned against a marble pillar.
“Nikos!” Costas Andrade greeted.
Cassia noticed Nikos’ body stiffen further before he turned around. And then he relaxed and smiled at them. And with that smile, Cassia was lost. Nikos strode towards them and Cassia thought that she must’ve just imagined the whole thing about his rigid and defeated stance.
He walked towards her and lifted her hand and kissed it. After that, the whole room erupted into whispers.
“Never mind them, glikia mou,” Nikos said as he pulled her to his side.
For the first time since her grandfather announced that she was getting engaged to Nikos Demakis, she found herself believing that it was all real.
Nikos looked at her and smiled. Cassia looked up into his green eyes and sighed... He was just so handsome.
But she frowned a bit when she saw something different in his eyes.
His smile was warm, his voice was soft...yet his eyes were very cold.