Chapter 4 - Engagement
“Tomorrow you get to meet the big boss, Sebastian. I’ve been bragging to him about you! So don’t disappoint me, all right?”
“I will never do that, sir.”
Sebastian’s features hardened but he looked away so that the man in front of him would not see the sudden change. He was no man’s son. He was nothing but a bastard. He and his mother were discarded by his father as if they were nothing but trash. And this caused the death of his mother.
His boss smiled obliviously as he counted the money before him.
“Sir...about that job. There’s been a change of plans. I now want another one. I just realized that I hate working there and I now want something new.”
“Pssh. I still do not know what your obsession is with these petty job requests when you already earn so much! But if it makes you happy, it is yours. I will pull strings for you and you may consider it done.”
“Thank you, sir,” he replied with excitement. He just started to lay down the puzzle pieces of his revenge. And one day, they would all come together.
One day soon...
The Great Hall
Andrade Shipping International Headquarters
Nikos took Cassia’s hand and placed it on the crook of his elbow. Carefully, he led her towards the high table that was reserved for the two of them and their families. Once she was seated comfortably, he cast a sideways glance at her.
She twisted one side of her dress in her fingers as she kept on casting nervous glances towards the crowd. She scanned the people and her eyes landed on her grandfather. Nikos was very much surprised when her gaze did not consist of love and devotion.
Her gaze held hatred, sheer and utter hatred.
But before he could comment on it or ask why, someone clapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and met his friend Antonio’s smiling face.
“Won’t you introduce me to your beautiful fiancé?” Antonio drawled.
“Of course.” Nikos grinned. He stood up and placed his arm on Antonio’s shoulder.
“Antonio this is Cassia, my soon-to-be bride. And Cassia, this is Antonio...the greatest pest of my life.”
Antonio chuckled. “Nice to meet you, Cassia. And contrary to what Nikos said, he is the pest in my life.”
The moment that Antonio arrived, a great change took place in Nikos. He smiled a real smile for the first time tonight. After Nikos introduced Antonio to her, the two started to make jokes and Cassia also found herself smiling.
“Did you know there was a time that Nikos was not able to take an exam because he got so roaring drunk?” Antonio said in his thick Spanish accent then chuckled. Cassia giggled for his voice reminded her so much of Antonio Banderas.
“It was all his fault! He was so heartbroken then that he needed some company to drink. And I went! The next thing I knew, it was midday already and the exams were done.”
“Ahh...but my friend, I was able to make it and you were not,” Antonio taunted.
“I will never forget that day, compadre. You don’t know what I had to do just to be able to pass that semester,” Nikos laughed.
Antonio glanced at Cassia and took in the warmth in her face. She stared at Nikos like he was some sort of hero. Also, he noticed the way she glanced nervously towards her grandfather as though she was waiting for some sort of tragedy to strike.
“Cassia...I apologize but I would have to borrow Nikos for a few minutes, alright? Business talks,” Antonio asked.
“Sure. Go ahead,” Cassia replied as she took her seat.
Antonio pulled Nikos to one corner of the room and both of them sat.
“I heard you trashed your office earlier,” Antonio remarked casually.
“Yes. Costas got to me,” Nikos replied in a hate-filled voice.
“It seems that I was bought, my friend. Cassia liked me because I saved her from being humiliated one night. Then she decided she’s got to have me. She then told her dear grandfather about it. And Costas, being the ever doting grandfather, decided to offer the merger instead of thoroughly destroying Demakis International.”
Antonio did not reply for a very long time. He kept staring at the decoration in the middle of the table and looked as if he was deep in thought. Nikos saw that his eyes also scanned the grand ballroom which was very elaborately decorated today.
The tables were covered with a pristine-white table cloth with gold at the center. In the middle of it were beautiful ice sculptures of Greek gods and goddesses. The center of the room now held a fountain that contained Atlas who held the world in his shoulders. Beside it was a statue of Hermes with his winged feet.
While Antonio was deep in thought, Nikos took the opportunity to scan his surroundings. Men and women who were dressed expensively mingled with each other. If this were an ordinary party and not his engagement party, he’d surely be on the prowl for a new conquest. Some of his old conquests like supermodels who did wicked things with him in bed were even here, along with many potential new ones. However, this was his engagement party and he should be enjoying this with his fiancé. But it felt like his funeral.
Then it hit him.
This lifestyle and everything in it was what he was giving up to save the family business.
He’d be giving up the women, the fast-paced living, the jet setting to whichever country and city he wanted, the late night parties, the countless mistresses, the gambling, the drinking and everything else.
Nikos shook his head to clear it of that line of thought and scanned the room once more. This time, his gaze flitted towards the waiters who kept on roaming the room bearing platters of hors d’oeuvres, shrimp cocktails, wine, and other drinks. His gaze also went towards the side of the room which was converted into a bar.
His hands itched to get a drink.
“You know...I still do not think that is the case. Have you looked at Cassia, my friend? She seems to be a nice girl and not like the spoiled heiresses we are used to.”
“Well, some fruits look good on the outside but are rotten on the inside,” Nikos scoffed.
Antonio shook his head sadly. “I still do not think that this is the case, Nikos. And I have a really bad feeling about this. What’s your plan now?”
“I’ll let her see what kind of husband she bought. And I’ll make sure I drive her to another man so that I could file for divorce and all of Demakis International and Andrade Shipping will fall to my hands,” Nikos said in a very determined tone.
“Revenge is not a good thing.”
Nikos raised an eyebrow and then threw back his head and laughed.
“Since when did you get so wise? Did you get a new job as my guardian angel or something?”
Antonio rolled his eyes also and laughed.
“I just can’t shake this feeling that you’re about to do something wrong.”
“And now you have become an oracle or a soothsayer,” Nikos teased.
“I see that your tongue is still as charming as ever! You best be coming back to your future bride,” Antonio said before he stood up.
Nikos also stood up and started to follow his friend but Costas stood in his way.
“There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
“Ah, Mr. Andrade. You have the papers?”
“Yes. Here they are. You can review them and just contact my legal team for any changes. The final contract will be signed right after the wedding.”
“All right then, I will get in touch. I will read through this and also have my grandfather and our legal team review it.”
Costas then handed Nikos a thick envelope. Nikos raised his hand and motioned for his executive secretary to approach him. The man approached and retrieved the papers from him.
“If that is everything, I have to go back to my party,” Nikos said flatly.
“That is everything,” Costas replied with a smug grin.
Nikos excused himself and went back to find Cassia who was still sitting in the spot he left her in. She stared at the crowd warily and he noticed that she was twisting her skirts yet again.
“Cassia.” Nikos called. Immediately, she raised her head and her brown eyes looked straight into his.
“I want to introduce you to my grandfather,” Nikos told her.
She stood up and he took her arm and led her across the room and towards his grandfather.
“Grandfather, this is Cassia, my future bride. Cassia, this is my grandfather, Stavros Demakis,” Nikos introduced.
Stavros looked at Cassia from head-to-toe and then leaned forward and gave her a kiss on both cheeks.
“Nice to meet you, Cassia. And welcome to the family,” Stavros said.
Cassia noticed the coldness in his tone and the way his eyes hardened like Nikos’ did earlier.
She peered up at Stavros and tried to study his expression but his face remained blank. A second later, Stavros turned his back on her and continued talking to his fellow businessmen. With that, Cassia’s spirits fell. She knew she was not welcome with Nikos’ family.
“I guess that means your grandfather doesn’t like me,” she whispered in defeat.
“Pappou doesn’t like a lot of people,” Nikos replied dryly.
“What about your parents, then? Will they like me?” she asked.
“You don’t have to worry about my parents. They are too busy travelling the world to pay me any notice. If they don’t notice me then maybe they would not notice you too,” Nikos muttered.
He realized later that he’d been rude and he quickly made amends.
“And it does not matter. It’s not them who are getting married. It’s us,” he explained and even squeezed her hand to comfort her. She lifted her head once more and smiled at him.
And something tightened inside Nikos’ chest at the sight of that smile.
“Thank you, Nikos...” she whispered dreamily.
With those words, Nikos was snapped back to reality for he realized that this girl truly had a bad case of infatuation with him.
“Well, time for the big announcement,” he said as he took her hand and guided her towards the dance floor.
The moment they were in the middle, the music stopped and the entire crowd became silent.
“Good evening everyone. I know that some of you already know why we are gathered here tonight. And I also know that some are still baffled as to why. So let me announce this right now. The lovely Cassia Andrade has agreed to marry me and this is our engagement party! So tonight, help yourselves to the food, the wine and I bid you enjoy!” Nikos announced.
To make everything look real, he pulled Cassia affectionately towards his side and placed a kiss on her temple. He also felt her stiffen in surprise at first and then further melt against him.
He turned around and faced her then put his hand on her waist. With his other hand, he signalled the orchestra to play some music. Then he took her hand and they waited for the music to start so they could dance.
Nikos saw Cassia’s eyes flare with panic.
“I don’t know how to dance.”
“I seem to recall that we danced fine the first night we met,” Nikos pointed out.
Cassia shook her head nervously and bit her lip.
“Don’t worry. It’s fine. Just follow my lead,” he ordered.
Cassia nodded and with that, the couple took their first step which was followed by another and then another...
While they danced, Cassia finally realized that this was not a dream.
This was not a fairytale and that this was better than all the scenarios she came up with in her head.
This was real...
She was truly with Nikos Demakis.
She was now engaged, and in a month’s time, she would be married to the same guy who took the lead role in all of her fantasies.