The Billion-Dollar Marriage Contract

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Chapter 5 - Wedding

November 15, 2003 (More than one month later)
Antoniou Winery
The Island of Santorini, Greece


“You look so beautiful, Cassia,” Anna told her.

Cassia smiled at her and squeezed her hand. It was truly a good thing that her friend was here, for her nerves were eating her alive. Here she was in her room, in all her wedding finery, waiting for the moment of her wedding to come.

“Come on, do a twirl for me, my friend. I want this to stay in my memory forever,” Anna pleaded.

“Sure. By the way, thanks for being here. I don’t know what I’ll do without you,” Cassia said, and with those words, her eyes started to fill with tears.

“No! Don’t cry. You’ll ruin your perfect make-up. And it’s nothing! You paid for all of my expenses! Of course, I won’t let the opportunity to travel pass me by. I’ll never earn the fare here in my meager job back at home. And I’m really enjoying it here so far! So stop going all sentimental on me, all right?” Anna chastised.

Cassia laughed and wiped away her tears with a tissue before they could fall and ruin her make-up. Then she stood up and did a twirl for her best friend who had been with her since her parents died. They were once fostered together and stayed friends ever since.

Cassia wore a cream-colored wedding gown envisioned by one of the top international designers. She fell in love with it the moment she first set eyes upon it. The beading and the design in the bodice, where diamonds were embedded, was very intricate. The skirt of the gown fit her hips snugly and then flared out into a skirt with a very long train.

The train was a bit heavy but she still loved it. She twirled for her friend and they both laughed when she managed not to fall.

“You really look so beautiful. I never thought I’d see you like this,” Anna said, and this time she was the one who wiped away tears that threatened to fall.

“Thank you, Anna.” Cassia smiled as she hugged her tightly.

“Wait! We might wrinkle your gown!” Anna laughed.

“This is an expensive gown. I don’t think it would get wrinkled that easily,” Cassia teased.

“True,” her friend agreed.

Cassia sat on the chaise once more and willed the time to pass away so that her wedding and her life with Nikos could start.

“So...tell me about this Nikos guy that you are marrying. What’s he like? Every time I see him, he’s polite and all. He’s also really good-looking. But...I don’t know Cass...he seems cold to me. There’s something about him I can’t quite fathom,” Anna said thoughtfully.

Cassia tilted her head to the side and thought about her friend’s observation of her fiancé. During the past month after her engagement, she went to all her social obligations with Nikos as her date. They also went together to the places and events for their wedding preparations.

Nikos was always on time. He was always perfectly polite, always immaculately dressed and always a perfect gentleman.

Just like Anna said, Nikos was a great man...he just seemed cold. And there was something else about him that was different.

Maybe it was the way his eyes looked as if they were filled with rage?

Maybe it was the way he looked at everyone in a cynical and calculating manner?

Maybe it was the way he held his body rigidly?

Cassia shook her head and let go of those thoughts. Nikos was a great man. He was very smart and he had made a fortune for himself already at such a very young age. Everyone had their faults so maybe his surly attitude was his.

“Nikos is really like that. But overall he’s a great guy. Maybe he was just brought up in the kind of environment where everything’s cold and has to be perfect.” Cassia shuddered for that was how her grandfather wanted her to be, and sadly, she was far from perfect.

“Huh. Then why does it sound to me as though you are convincing yourself rather than saying it to me?”

Cassia glared at her.

“I don’t know...I am not even sure about all of this...it’s all so fast...”

“I agree that it’s all so fast. What if your grandfather had something to do with all of this?”

“I don’t know, Anna. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. I also put in the equation the fact that his company was almost ruined and that maybe this is all a business deal,” Cassia sighed.

“If you know those things then why are you still marrying him?” Anna asked as she placed Cassia’s veil in position.

Cassia didn’t reply for she did not know how to tell her friend how much she wanted Nikos Demakis, so much that she was willing to overlook the fact that her brain was screaming to her that something was definitely wrong.

“Maybe I’m just selfish when it comes to him. I’ve got him, Anna. I don’t want to let go. I believe we’d be great together. I can’t wait to start my life with him.”

“What if he’s wrong for you?” Anna prodded.

“It’s him for me. If this is wrong, I don’t ever want to be right.”

Anna sighed and when Cassia looked around, she saw that her friend had tears in her eyes.

“Now I know why you want to marry him, Cass. You’ve got it bad for him,” she stated.

Cassia sighed. “I do.”

“Then I wish you all the best on this marriage.”

“Thank you, Anna. You’re the best!” Cassia replied and hugged the other woman tightly.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.

Anna hurried to open it and Costas and his personal assistant rushed inside the room.

“Let’s go,” he barked. He wore a black tuxedo and his hair was slicked back. He also “brandished” an elegant wooden cane today.

She saw Anna roll her eyes before they turned and followed Costas out of the room. Cassia flipped her veil over her face and smoothed the skirts of her gown as they ascended the staircase and moved towards the open balcony with a beautiful view of the sea.

The view was truly breathtaking. The Greek coast was such a beautiful sight! The first moment that Cassia arrived and she was able to see the view, she was truly dazed. That was the second time she knew that it was possible to fall in love at first sight.

“This is it, princess. It’s your time to shine,” Anna whispered as she fixed the train of Cassia’s gown on the floor.

She also handed Cassia her bouquet and the moment that her fingers touched it, her heart started to beat erratically.

Any moment now, the doors to the balcony would open. Then the music would sound and she would walk down that aisle. She’d say some words, exchange rings...

...And then she’d truly be married to Nikos Demakis.

Mrs. Cassia Demakis...

She stifled a giggle at the thought and concentrated on staring ahead of her while her grandfather bristled with impatience at her side. They were still maintaining the act that they were a happy family and Costas was going to give her away at her own wedding.

Cassia waited and waited but the doors still did not open. A few more minutes passed and a shiver of unease slid down her spine.

Suddenly, Cassia saw Antonio exit the room. He looked flushed and his face was pale. And by his frazzled appearance, Cassia immediately knew that something was wrong. Nikos’ friend never lost control and he was always as immaculate as possible.

Yet right now, he looked as if he was on the verge of panic.

“What happened, Velez?” Costas hissed.

Antonio looked up and, for a moment, his gaze landed on Cassia. For a moment, he appeared stunned. Costas repeated the question but Antonio acted as if he did not hear it. Costas repeated the question for the third time and this time he was shouting. That seemed to snap Antonio out of whatever trance he was in.

He ran his fingers through his hair.

“There’s a problem. But I am already taking care of it,” Antonio answered. But when he said this, he was looking at Cassia and not at Costas who asked the question.

“What is it?!” Costas bellowed.

Antonio shrugged and then moved closer to Cassia. “I don’t know what happened but someone might have spiked Nikos’ drink before the wedding. He is now very intoxicated. Please give me some time to fix this,” he answered.

Before Costas could reply or ask more questions, Antonio was gone.

“This is your entire fault!” Costas hissed at Cassia.

“How is this my fault?!” Cassia cried out in despair before she was able to stop herself. Her hands shook too much because of her wedding jitters. Furthermore, to find out that her groom was drunk was like a big blow to her ego.

“You insolent brat! Lower your tone! This is your fault! It’s because of you that your groom has got himself drunk! He does not want to marry someone like you! A half-greek, half American bastard who grew up in the slums!”

Anna gasped and Costas glared at her and then inclined his head to the side.

“You want to know the truth? Nikos never wanted to marry you! I got him to do it so that they will not lose their company! I offered them the merger in exchange for marrying you! And I did it because I wanted revenge on his family. I want him to suffer. A man like him will definitely suffer with a bride like you! One day maybe he’ll hit you because of his anger or maybe he’d go to his mistresses! Either way, that’s grounds for divorce and he’ll be at fault! Then Stavros Demakis will surely die knowing that it was his precious grandson who lost him everything!”

“WHAT?!” Cassia shouted.

“Yes, dear girl. So you be good today. Nikos needs to marry you so he could gain back Demakis International. He needs you and his family needs you. Maybe he just wanted to drink some brandy to steel his nerves for the ordeal he has to go through today. Then got himself blindingly drunk!” Costas roared with laughter. “I would too if I had to marry someone like you.”

Cassia reeled as if she’d been slapped. She looked at her grandfather and he shook his head at her and left. She could still hear his curses along with his laughter echoing across the narrow corridor.

She was so stunned that her bouquet slipped from her fingers at the same moment that tears fell from her eyes. Her entire body felt numb and she wished that the floor could open up and swallow her right at that moment.

“No...sweetie, don’t. He did not mean that...you know that’s not true. He’s just a bitter old man,” Anna whispered as she hugged her.

But even Anna knew that Costas’ words already did their damage.

“Cassia...please...just allow some time...and then all of this would be well. It might have just been a prank by Nikos’ friends or something. I think it was not his intention to get drunk at his own wedding.”

“I think it’s all true,” she whispered.

“No! Don’t say that! Come on, let’s go somewhere you can sit,” Anna said and tugged on Cassia’s gloved hand and led her towards an empty function room.

“I knew it was too good to be true...”

“Stop this right now, Cassia! Get a hold of yourself! You know your grandfather hates you. He just said those things to ruin your day! You should not let him do that!” Anna screeched as she started pacing the room in frustration.

Cassia walked towards one of the couches and then sat. She stared at the floor and started to cry silently. A thousand thoughts flitted through her mind at the moment but the one taking the forefront was that all that her grandfather said was true.

Maybe Nikos was truly coerced with this marriage so he would be able to save his family’s company. Maybe he just couldn’t think of marrying her that he drank and drank until he got so wasted he couldn’t even attend his own wedding.

Cassia sighed and tried to stop more tears from falling. There were hundreds of guests all waiting at the balcony. All of them were rich and famous. Most of them were Nikos’ friends and the people who humiliated her before when she tried to fit in with this kind of lifestyle. By now they must’ve known what truly happened.

She was sure that by now their voices were hoarse from laughing at her.

“Cass! Stop it already! You’ll ruin your make-up! And I am sure that this wedding is going to push through! Your grandfather is wrong, okay? Let’s just trust that Antonio will be able to fix this. I’m just going to go and check out the status of things. Maybe he needs some help to get Nikos settled. Stay here, okay? I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Anna instructed.

Cassia heard the words of her friend but she was too numb to answer or to even nod. She just stared straight ahead and wished for her humiliation to end.

After what felt like an eternity later, the door opened and she looked up.

A young man with sandy-blonde hair and the bluest eyes she’s ever seen entered the room. He was so tall and he looked incredibly handsome. He was wearing a waiter’s uniform and held a tray in those two hands. When Cassia looked at him, he did a double take and almost dropped the tray of used glasses that he was carrying.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know this room was occupied,” he told her.

“It’s fine. Do you need me to leave?” Cassia sniffled.

“No ma’am...it’s fine...you are welcome to stay here and I’ll be the one leaving,” he replied.

Cassia heard his footsteps and then assumed he was gone so she let her tears fall once more.

What surprised her was when a shadow loomed over her. She looked up and saw the waiter with his hand held out as he offered her a handkerchief.

“T-thanks...” Cassia stammered.

She accepted the item and then used it to wipe away her tears.

“You can also blow your nose if you want to,” the waiter said in a teasing tone.

Cassia couldn’t help it and a bubble of laughter spilled from her lips.

“There, that’s the smile I’ve been waiting for. You know, brides should smile on their wedding day...not cry like their heart is broken.”

“Not this bride,” Cassia whispered under her breath.

Indeed, her heart truly was broken. The waiter seemed to have read her thoughts somehow and sighed.

“I heard what happened and I am sorry for it,” he told her.

“Thank you,” Cassia replied curtly.

“Would you mind if I sit here?” the waiter asked as he indicated the opposite edge of the sofa.

Cassia shook her head and she felt the other side of the sofa depress as he sat down.

“My name is Hector, by the way. Would you mind if I asked for your name?”

“My name is Cassia...”

“They say that the best thing to do when you’re feeling nervous or in an unhappy situation is to talk about it. I hope I am not overstepping any boundaries ma’am but I would really like to help. I could lend my listening ear to you,” Hector said with a warm smile.

Cassia wasn’t able to reply for a long time for she was pondering what to tell him. She was very glad that he was here to take her mind off some things but she just didn’t know what to say. It was definitely a long story and one that only seemed to happen in soap operas.

Hector mistook it for her unwillingness to talk and he stood up. Cassia quickly grabbed his hand and tugged it so that he would be forced to sit on the sofa once more.

“No! I am sorry. It’s just that I am thinking of how I should say things to you...”

“It’s alright, take your time,” Hector replied and then he leaned back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling.

“Today, I thought I’d be marrying Nikos Demakis, a man almost every woman wants. And I thought I was special because he wanted me too. I thought he was able to see through my ugly face, my half-Greek, half-American background. I thought he was able to see that I am not as shallow as those dumb blondes and that I could have a very intelligent conversation with him,” Cassia said and then more tears started to fall.

She used Hector’s handkerchief to wipe all those away.

“Hmm...may I be blunt?”

“Y-yes,” Cassia stammered.

“First, I do not think that you are ugly. You are very beautiful. I just don’t think that blonde hair suits you and I do not think that is the original color of your hair. Second, what is wrong with being half-Greek, half-American? I am half-Greek, half-American and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. Third, I see the intelligence shining through your eyes. If you were given the opportunity to do whatever you want to do, what would it be?”

“I want to become a fashion designer,” Cassia replied with all of her heart.

“Then why not go to college and make those dreams come true?”

“My grandfather won’t allow it.”

Cassia sighed. Hector was silent.

“What about you? Did you grow up here in Greece?” she asked.

“Yes. But this is actually my last day of work and my last day here in Greece. Later this day I’m going back to America and I’ll be trying to make all of my dreams come true.”

“What are those dreams?”

“I want to have my own business. I’d start with a few restaurants. I’m a really good cook, have I told you that? If there was time, I’d cook something for you and I’m sure you wouldn’t cry again,” he bragged.

Cassia laughed and something softened in Hector’s eyes. He, too, smiled and the overall mood suddenly became light.

“I hope all your dreams come true. Invite me to the grand opening of your first restaurant. Okay? I want to taste that food you are bragging about.”

“I most definitely will invite you. But I think that’s still a long time in the future. Of course, capital is hard to come by. I need a big one for my business.”

Again there was a huge amount of silence between the two of them.

“If a groom gets drunk on his wedding day, what does that mean? Be blunt please. I can handle it.”

“Maybe his friends just played a prank on him...” Hector answered first to lighten the mood.

“Or?”

“...Or maybe he needed the confidence that the alcohol brings,” Hector shrugged.

He flinched when he saw pain come back to Cassia’s eyes.

“He really needed that to marry someone like me.”

“No...don’t put yourself down like that. Never ever see yourself through other people’s eyes. If at first you do not respect and believe in yourself then other people won’t either and they’ll continue putting you down. You must show the world what you are capable of. Show them that you are better than those airheads,” Hector lectured.

Cassia smiled amidst her tears.

“If there was only a way to escape this island...” Cassia mused.

“What if there is, would you take it?” Hector asked.

He sat up a little straighter and looked at Cassia directly in the eyes.

Cassia laughed, a hollow and bitter laugh.

“Me? Escape? That’s hard. My grandfather has this whole place locked down with his security. And no one would dare drive me out towards the dock. Even then, I’d have to wait for a boat to take me to the mainland and then wait for a plane. I don’t have any ticket or money with me...”

“I have a motorcycle. And I have a small boat I use to travel to the mainland. I can get you there. Speaking of the tickets...I have two. My girlfriend was supposed to return with me to America but we broke up. I can loan the extra ticket to you. Hmm...about money? I’m sure we can sell one bauble you have on you and there’ll be plenty of money to start a life back home. If you sell all of your jewelry, I am sure you could even go to college,” Hector explained with purpose.

In a flash, Cassia was already standing. Hope surged within her and for the first time, she started to believe that she could still make all her dreams come true.

“We can go home?” she said in a voice filled with longing.

“Yes,” came Hector’s determined reply.

“Let’s go!” Cassia eagerly exclaimed.

Hector threw the door open for her and the two of them dashed down three levels of a narrow, winding staircase. Cassia’s silk gown and her veil billowed in the wind as she ran.

And she never felt freer in all her years...

Cassia and Hector laughed as they both continued to run. Cassia slipped one time and Hector offered her his hand. Then hand in hand, they ran for their freedom...

Hector climbed in his motorcycle and it took a few tries before it was able to start.

While she was waiting for the motorcycle to start, doubts crept into her mind.

Was this truly the right thing to do?

If she fled, then Costas would win. The merger would not push through; Nikos would gain nothing and lose everything. But if she married Nikos today, and divorced him tomorrow stating that she was at fault and she had a lover...then she would get back at her grandfather. Nikos would get back the Demakis Shipping Corporation as their merger contract stated and her grandfather would be the one who lost everything.

After she had set everything right, then she could leave this life behind and go back to America where she could finally have the life she wanted.

“Let’s go, princess,” Hector said with a smile as he offered Cassia his hand to help her climb onto his motorcycle.

For a moment there, Cassia stood motionless as she debated what to do.

Freedom or revenge against her grandfather?

How could she choose when freedom was this close? When freedom just meant climbing on to Hector’s motorcycle and throwing all caution to the wind?

But as always, her good heart won over and she sadly shook her head.

“I am sorry, Hector...I have to set everything right. I have to marry him today. If I do that and divorce him tomorrow, all the money will go to him and my grandfather would be left with nothing. You see, it’s all because of Costas that all this happened to Nikos’ family. I have to correct all my grandfather’s mistakes. I have the power to do it and I will.”

“Is that it then...is money truly everything?”

“For them...not for me. Wait for me in America. I’ll try and find you. Hopefully I’ll be on my way there tomorrow or within the week after I shock the world with my divorce.”

“Such a kind heart, princess. Now I know why people step all over you. Just promise me one thing: never ever allow anyone to do that ever again. Hold your head high because you are better than all of them.”

“I promise. But you have to promise me something in return...”

“Anything, princess,” Hector replied.

Cassia smiled at the endearment.

She reached over to her left wrist and unclasped her diamond and sapphire-studded gold watch. It was supposed to be her “something old and blue” for her wedding. But right now, it looked as if it was some silly superstition. Her wedding was a sham and she needed no good-luck charm in this part of her life. Besides, it would be better suited for Hector’s purpose.

“Go and fulfill your dreams, and I still want to be present in that grand opening!” Cassia said with a tender smile as she reached forward and placed the watch in Hector’s stunned fingers.

“No! I can’t possibly accept this.”

“You are the first person who’s been kind to me in Greece. I have more where that came from and I know that you’ll put the money to good use. Think of this as a loan from me. And when you’re already making it big in the restaurant industry, you can always pay me back. And I won’t take no for an answer.”

“This is too much... I thank you for this gift. I vow that I will work harder and reach my dreams. And when the time comes that I’m making it big, I’ll buy you a treasure trove filled with these,” he promised.

“I’ll hold you to that promise.”

“Last chance for freedom, princess...come with me,” Hector said as he offered his hand once more.

It was tempting - oh, so tempting to just take his hand, forget everything and start a new life. But just like before, the other side of her won and Cassia shook her head.

“I really have to do this.”

“I understand. Well...see you in America!” Hector shouted over the roar of the motorcycle’s engine.

With a last salute towards Cassia, he sped off into the driveway and then into the city.

Cassia watched him go with heaviness in her heart.

When he was gone, she steeled herself and prepared to come back to her sham of a wedding. She would do this for Nikos’ family. She would make her grandfather pay for all the times that he manipulated people’s lives.

First Costas would pay...and then she’d be free.

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