The Billion-Dollar Marriage Contract

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Chapter 6 - Nightmare

“Mama...I’m here,” Sebastian whispered as he laid flowers above his mother’s grave. Today was her death anniversary and it was one of the days in the year that he hated the most. She would not be dead if not for Stavros Demakis. This was all his fault.

“I will be away for a while. I’ve decided to move on, ma. I cannot stay this way. I want another kind of life. The one we deserve. If only you were here now, I would have bought you everything your heart desired...”

Tears stung his eyes but he dashed them back with his hand.

“But I will just settle for revenge on the people who did this to us. I will stop at nothing until we get what is our due. Because of that, I would have to leave. But I promise you, mama...I will never forget you. You’re forever in my heart.”




November 15, 2003 (A few hours earlier)
Antoniou Winery
The Island of Santorini, Greece

Nikos Demakis flung open the doors of his suite and stared out into the open ocean.

The breeze blew cold air towards his face and he closed his eyes in bliss. He arched his back and tilted his head towards the sun to feel the early morning warmth on his skin. Afterwards, he stretched and opened his eyes to watch the seagulls flying around and marvelled at the freedom they had.

They could go anywhere they wanted to be and more importantly, they could pair with whichever seagull they wanted to be with.

Unlike him.

Nikos closed his eyes once more and sighed.

This was a beautiful morning. The signs were all pointing to this being a beautiful day. But not for him.

Why?

Because it was his wedding day.

Nikos snorted at the irony. Weddings were supposed to be fun things. It was when grooms looked forward to seeing their brides in that white dress as they walked down the aisle. It was the time that men were supposed to be nervous about starting a new life together with the woman they loved.

But that was not the case for him.

He did not want this wedding and he would have given anything just to escape his current situation. But giving away everything so that he wouldn’t have to marry would really leave him with nothing. Not only would he lose all he had, he would also lose his grandfather’s beloved company.

And there was no other way but to get this marriage over with.

Nikos heaved a great sigh at his inescapable reality.

He entered his room once more and glanced at the wrapped parcels placed in his table. All of those were gifts from his friends and he knew that they all contained the finest, most expensive wines and alcoholic beverages in the world. Suddenly he was transported to a few days back when his friends held his bachelor party for him.

“For your wedding, my friend.”

One of his male friends laughed as he handed over a wrapped parcel.

“What is this?” he asked teasingly.

“The finest Ouzo in all of Greece. I give you this, my friend because I think you need some liquid courage to marry Cassia Andrade,” his friend said and the entire group laughed, including him.

“I think I do. Thanks for this,” he replied while he still chuckled.

The rest of the group whipped out their own presents which consisted of different bottles of the finest wines. He raised an eyebrow in inquiry which just made their group laugh harder.

“And this is to make it through every single day after the marriage. I suggest you use Dylan’s Ouzo for the wedding night,” another one jested with a wink, and that comment brought on another round of laughter.

But the one that laughed the hardest was him. And it was at the expense of his own bride-to-be.

Nikos walked over to the table and unwrapped said Ouzo. He wanted to have maybe just one shot to calm his nerves today. His friends warned him that the Ouzo was simply lethal but he was confident in his ability and his tolerance for alcohol since he had been drinking for years already. He even considered himself a connoisseur of the finest wines.

Nikos uncorked the bottle and read the label. He let it sit on the table for a few minutes to expose it to air as he tried to find a glass from the mini-bar in his suite. He sat on the stool in front of the marble countertop of the mini-bar and began to drink. The liquor was cool on his tongue and yet burned a path down his throat.

For the second time that day, Nikos found himself laughing at his current situation. Here he was, supposed to be wed a few hours from now and he was drinking just to be able to go through with it. He definitely did not want to be drunk but he just wanted the kind of buzz to make him not care about anything anymore.

With that, he poured himself another glass.

He even grabbed some lemon from the refrigerator to act as his chaser and wash away the bitter taste in his mouth. He downed another glass and then another before he found the will to stop himself.

Nikos knew his tolerance level and the amount he just consumed would definitely give him the buzz he wanted, yet was still far enough from being flat-out drunk. He stood up and then immediately felt that something was wrong.

His head was spinning and he had to brace his body on the side of the counter to avoid falling down. The room around him continued to spin and Nikos lost his balance. His hand immediately went to his head as he started feeling faint.

He frowned and then pulled himself up to a standing position. He reached for the bottle of Ouzo which was still about two thirds full. He sniffed it and his body became taut with rage as he realized what happened.

Damn those bastards for spiking my drink!

That was his last thought before the world did another spin and he crashed to the floor, taking the bottle of liquor with him as he lost consciousness.


A few hours later...


“Shit, Nikos!”

“Wake up, goddammit!”

“Nikos!”

Nikos reluctantly opened his eyes and lifted his head. However, his brain felt as though it was laden with lead. He groaned and then closed his eyes and flung his arm across his face to block out the light.

However, his agony was doubled when the owner of the persistent voice started to shake him.

“Damn it, Nikos! It’s your wedding! You should not be like this!” Antonio lectured as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration.

He loosened his bowtie and released the buttons on his cuffs so he could move more freely and help his friend. While he did this, he also cursed fluently in Spanish.

He hauled Nikos to his feet and dragged him towards the bed, muttering curses as he tried to figure out what to do. He checked his watch and knew that the groom was definitely going to be late for his own wedding.

Antonio sighed in frustration and then walked outside of the room to call for Nikos’ bodyguards. Three of them entered the room and he quickly started barking out orders.

“Strip him and then get him to the bathroom. Bathe the alcohol off him,” he instructed. The bodyguards look baffled but they quickly hid their expressions when they saw the state that Nikos was currently in. They set to work and Antonio helped them carry Nikos to the bathroom. Then, he stepped out for he was also afraid to ruin his own tux for the wedding.

“You’re going to pay for this one day, Nikos,” Antonio growled low.

He exited the room to deliver the news to Nikos’ bride and to her grandfather who was known for his ruthless temper. Antonio hated to be the bearer of bad news but there was no one else to do it.

Well, wish me luck.




Two Hours Later...


“Come on, drink a little more,” Antonio urged as he handed the barely-awake Nikos some more coffee.

“Nooo. Lemme lone,” Nikos slurred

“I can’t do that! You are very late for your own wedding!” Antonio shouted in extreme frustration.

It only heightened another notch when Nikos started to laugh.

“Zat’s the point! I don wanna go to that wedding!”

Antonio had the sudden urge to slap his best friend.

“You can’t do that! We have been over this a thousand times already! Look at me Nikos,” Antonio commanded and then tugged on the lapels of Nikos’ jacket so that he would be forced to look at him.

Nikos’ head lolled but he was able to look at his friend.

“Your grandfather’s whole company depends on your marrying this girl. Remember your plans? You were going to do it and then you were going to do your best to raise your company from the shambles it’s in. One day it can be independent from Andrade International and you can have your divorce and live the life you wanted. But for now, you have got to go through with this wedding!”

Nikos leaned back across the couch and closed his eyes.

His friend’s words finally penetrated his haze-filled mind. He remembered the things he had to do and all the responsibilities that were in his shoulders.

“How? How am I to marry like this?” Nikos asked, his voice barely a whisper.

“That’s what a best man is for,” Antonio smirked as he clapped his friend on the shoulder.

Nikos accepted the cup of coffee and began to drink. He winced at the extra strong coffee his best man prepared for him.

“You know, Cassia is really beautiful today... You should see her.”

“I know she’s beautiful...but that’ll be doubled coz I’m hammered,” he teased and both of them laughed.

“Let’s go do this, then?”

“Let’s go,” Antonio replied with a determined grin.

Two hours later, Nikos had enough coffee to be able to stand up straight. The room didn’t spin anymore but instead, he felt terribly drowsy.

“Look now, Nikos. Here she comes, your bride,” Antonio ordered.

Nikos lifted his head from his brief nap on his best man’s shoulder and tried to look as attentive as he could as his bride walked down the aisle. However, he found himself nodding off to sleep every couple of seconds or so and just woke up when Antonio nudged him in the ribs.

Nikos opened his red eyes and tried to squint to see his bride. But his vision was blurred and all he could see was the white dress and the veil she wore. He couldn’t even make out the details of the dress to compliment her on it. She walked beside her grandfather who beamed like an idiot.

That was the last thing he saw before he dozed off once more.

“Nikos!” Antonio nudged his friend on the ribs. He sighed when he saw Nikos shake his head in order to remain awake. They were standing beside the aisle and Nikos leaned heavily on him in order to stand.

Without him, Nikos truly wouldn’t be able to attend his own wedding.

Again, he sighed as he watched Cassia walking down the aisle. She had her head down and was staring at the floor instead of staring all teary-eyed at her groom like brides were supposed to. Antonio couldn’t blame her. People were laughing at her because they had all heard about her drunken groom.

This was truly a huge jest if this was not his best friend’s wedding. He would have laughed himself hoarse. But right now, the situation did not warrant any laughter and he sure as hell could not laugh after seeing the pain in Cassia’s eyes.

Finally, she reached the aisle and her grandfather reached over to take her hand and give it to Nikos. But Nikos miscalculated and took Costas’ hand instead of his bride’s. He even had the nerve to laugh loudly. Costas laughed too and then everyone followed suit. Antonio poked Nikos’ ribs once more when he noticed that Cassia was staring at the floor as though wishing that it would just swallow her at that moment.

“We are gathered here today to witness the joining of Cassia Andrade and Nikos Demakis in holy matrimony. Marriage is a huge step in life for it brings two souls together as one. Two people enter a covenant with each other and they are bound forever. That binding starts with love. Their life together starts today.”

Again, Antonio sighed and rubbed his temple when Nikos snorted at the word love. That act alone caused some of the guests to also snicker and point their fingers at Cassia’s stony profile.

“Don’t mind him, he’s drunk,” Antonio told Cassia in an attempt to lighten the mood.

She managed a weak smile for him and answered in a soft voice, “I can clearly see that.”

And Antonio’s heart broke for her.

“If there is someone who objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Antonio saw Nikos raise his hand slightly and it was a good thing he was able to stop it. He saw Nikos’ intent before he carried it out so he was able to take hold of his friend’s arm and pin it to his side.

“Mama why can’t the man stand straight?” a child’s voice rang clearly from the audience.

It was followed by a loud “Shhh!” from the mother and more laughter from Nikos’ friends and ex-girlfriends who were also present in the wedding.

Antonio wiped his face with his hand and thought about fate playing a trick on all of them.

How could any day get worse than this?

The best man tried to pull a straight face and tried harder to listen to the priest as he recited a bible passage from the book of Corinthians which spoke all about love. While he was listening, he kept an eye on the groom who still continued to doze.

The priest droned on and on about things about marriage that Nikos could not understand. All he knew was that Antonio nudged him whenever he had to stand. And when he was supposed to sit, he used it as a perfect opportunity for a little nap. He bowed his head so that it would look as if he was solemn and deep in thought about the things the priest was saying.

But the truth was that he could not understand anything.

He barely realized the essentials of the ceremony and he functioned as if he were a robot under Antonio’s expert control. He even remembered smiling at his best man after Antonio caught him when he nearly pitched forward towards the floor.

“Do you, Nikos, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to cherish, to have and to hold; and do you promise, forsaking all others, to cleave to her and her alone, for as long as you both shall live?”

Nikos did not hear the question and he did not understand the words. He assumed that it was just a part of the things that a priest must say so he remained silent. But he felt Antonio nudge him. He looked at his friend and Antonio mouthed the words “I do” repeatedly.

The priest coughed and repeated the question. Once more, this caused their beloved guests to laugh. Nikos finally understood it and he said “I do.” But he said it in a voice which just showed everyone how drunk he was.

“Do you, Cassia, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to cherish, to have and to hold; and do you promise, forsaking all others, to cleave to him and to him alone, for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do,” Cassia replied.

Antonio’s heart broke for her once more when he heard that her voice was barely a whisper. He also heard all the heart and humiliation that Cassia kept bottled up inside of her.

“Please repeat after me,” the priest instructed and Nikos obliged. But it took them several tries before he was able to finish his vows.

“Is there something wrong with the groom? He seems drunk. This wedding should be stopped,” the priest whispered to Antonio.

“No!” he cried.

Then he coughed to right himself.

“He just had some nerves and we gave him some medication. He reacted badly to it and he became very drowsy. But he is fine. Please just bear with him. Thank you. We are almost at the end. It would be such a shame to have to reschedule,” Antonio implored.

“Very well then,” the priest agreed after a long silence which Antonio spent sweating bullets.

Nikos tried to say his vows once more.

“I, Nikos Demakis take you...err...Cassia... to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. By God’s holy ordinance I pledge to you my faith...” Nikos managed to stammer after a few tries.

Antonio shook his head at Nikos who looked at him like a child awaiting praise for having said something so profound.

The priest turned towards Cassia this time and made her repeat the vows. And she did that in a voice that both the audience and even the priest himself barely heard.

“I, Cassia, take thee Nikos, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. By God’s holy ordinance... I pledge to you my faith.”

Yet again, Antonio’s heart broke when she heaved a great sigh filled with melancholy after she said her vows.

“The rings please?” the priest asked as he held out his hand to bless it.

A boy who served as the ring bearer approached the altar and offered Nikos the rings. Nikos bent low to receive it but almost fell towards the ground again so Antonio took it and then handed it to his friend.

Nikos fumbled with the rings before he was able to hold it steady.

He reached for Cassia’s hand a few times before he was able to grasp it. Then, he noticed the engagement ring on her finger that he unceremoniously gave her at one of their dinners. He did not even bend his knee or any of those dramatics. He just presented her the ring in the middle of their dinner. She was so happy and enthusiastic about it that he felt like a giant fool immediately afterwards.

“This was my grandmother’s ring,” he told her as he touched the engagement ring.

Then, with his hands shaking, he went back to the task at hand and tried his best to place the wedding ring on her finger. But he was shaking too much and he kept on missing. With another sigh, Cassia held his hand and guided it to her finger. Finally, the intricately carved wedding ring fit perfectly on her finger.

“This ring I give as a token of my affection, sincerity, and fidelity. Will you wear it as a symbol of your own affection, sincerity, and fidelity toward me?” he managed to say.

He did not know the words and kept on glancing towards Antonio who patiently whispered in his ear what he should say.

“I will,” Cassia whispered. Nikos frowned when he detected that she was crying.

Why would she cry at her own wedding? Or maybe they were tears of joy? But he looked closer and tried to peer at the sheer veil she wore. That was when he saw that she looked as if she was just told that this was her last day to live on earth.

He forgot that particular line of thought when Cassia reached for his hand to place the ring.

“This ring I give as a token of my affection, sincerity, and fidelity. Will you wear it as a symbol of your own affection, sincerity, and fidelity toward me?” Cassia repeated.

“I will,” Nikos answered with a frown as he noticed that her voice shook as she cried.

Shouldn’t she be ecstatic by now? She finally had the husband she wanted! She bought him and here he was, delivered straight at her feet. Shouldn’t she be jumping with joy because she owns him now? Was she sad that he was drunk?

Well then that was just tough.

The contract only indicated that he had to marry her. It did not specify what state he should be in during that marriage. She would just have to deal with it.

“By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife,” the priest announced and the audience clapped and cheered.

Nikos faced Antonio and gave him a huge grin.

“Thanks for keeping me up at my own wedding,” he told his friend and Antonio rolled his eyes.

“You may now kiss the bride,” the priest ordered.

Nikos smiled at Cassia.

A kiss...now that was something interesting.

This would be the first time he would be able to kiss his wife. How would it feel? Would her lips be as soft as it looks? Would she be passionate or would she be frigid?

Nikos thought of all these as he reached for her veil and lifted it. Slowly, he reached for her and cupped her chin with his fingers. He lifted her head and that was when he noticed her tear-stained face. He frowned when she averted her gaze but the audience was now cheering for him to kiss her. Well, he could not disappoint them.

So he bent low and placed his lips on hers.

Bliss.

He was more than right. They were soft, warm and inviting. He moved his lips over hers and she responded briefly with passion. But before he could kiss her further, he heard her sigh against his lips.

Then he stopped when he tasted her salty tears.

He frowned at her but before he could ask her if something was wrong, the crowd erupted into applause and the bridesmaids threw rose petals over their heads.

The ceremony was finally over but there was one last thing to be done.

They approached the priest and signed the copies of their marriage certificate. It took Nikos a few tries to grasp the pen but he was finally able to scrawl his signature at the document; a great feat for someone as drunk as him.

Then he pocketed the damned marriage certificate.

Costas Andrade approached him after that and clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“You have fulfilled your terms of the bargain. You have married my granddaughter. And now I fulfill my side,” Costas said and then handed him a sealed envelope.

“The merger is complete. I have signed it. And I welcome you, my new grandson as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Andrade-Demakis Shipping International...”

And now it was a bit worth it for Nikos for he finally had what he wanted.

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