Greek Passions

By: Holly Rayner

You have no choice, Kally reminded herself testily. You either work for this asshole and pay rent this month, or end up in the street. If she didn’t earn some money soon, Kally would have to go back home to her parents'. She couldn’t allow herself to do that. Not even for Beth. She would never forgive herself if she allowed life to force her to surrender, if she allowed herself to admit that she had been beaten. So she gritted her teeth behind her false smile.

“Let’s have a few particulars,” she said in her most businesslike voice. “What did your grandfather do for a living?”

“When he was young, he was a farmer. Wheat, barley and figs. It was difficult work, but he always managed, somehow. There is no motivation like family, he always said, except trying to keep yours from starving. There was never very much, and most of whatever there was ending up being taken from him. He had seven children, and most of them managed the scarcity, but my father…my father hated him for it. My father left home as soon as he could, and went to work on the oil rigs offshore. He was so young he had to lie about his age, but he was determined to take care of himself.”

“I take it your father was a difficult man?” Kally remarked, noting the slight tightening of her client’s lips and face as he spoke about him.

“More than difficult, he was impossible,” Alexandros replied, allowing all pretense of gaiety to slide from his face. “The rigs are inhospitable, and sometimes deadly. No one can spend their youth there and come out whole. He was a cold and bitter man, with a calculating mind. He was used to being obeyed on the instant. He believed in success, hard work, and nothing else. When he founded the Kerzoil Petroleum Company, it became all he cared about in the world.”

“I’m sure that’s a bit of an exaggeration,” Kally remarked.

“It really isn’t. He only met my mother because she was his accountant. He married her knowing she would pass on her intelligence and tenacity to his successors. The only reason I am talking to you right now is because he reasoned that having multiple heirs is a better strategy than relying on just one. I actually wanted to be an athlete when I was very young.”

“Like Dmitri Liourdis?” she interjected, surprised at her sudden level of interest.

“That’s right,” Stratos replied, and his smile tried to flare back into being. “My father laughed at that idea and said that he would not support an idiot. He told me I had two choices while I lived with him: get a job in oil or get out of his house. I had no choice.”

Kally’s had to admit to herself that Alexandros was showing himself to be more than the one-dimensional villain she had imagined. When he had spoken of his grandfather, a look of longing had crossed his face, as if the man had been the only bright spot of his childhood. Ever since she had mentioned Liourdis, his lips had been struggling to form a smile. Here was a billionaire, sitting in one of New York’s fanciest restaurants, and she couldn’t help thinking that all he really seemed to want was to be fishing by a river in Greece.

She looked at him again, and he seemed to be lost in his thoughts. He was looking in her direction, but it was clear he wasn’t seeing her. His eyes were full of a heavy sadness she had not seen there before, and she noticed, in spite of herself, that her client was extremely handsome.

“And so your father sent you to work on the oil rigs?” she asked, banishing that thought from her mind at once. I have enough problems as it is, she thought bitterly.

Alexandros slowly shook his head. “He needed me to be prepared to run his company in case my older brother couldn’t handle the responsibility. There are things one needs to know in order to run a business that cannot be learned on an oil rig. So he sent me to university on the mainland. The Apolinar Institute of the Petrochemical and Gas Industry. I graduated with honors, and soon after that I found work managing a drilling platform in the Aegean Sea.

“I was twenty-two then, and I figured I knew everything. I was convinced that the hardest part of my life was over. Sure, I now had to worry about drills, flow lines, desalinators, and being responsible for a large crew, but I thought all of that seemed easier than dealing with my father. Of course, that was until the rig exploded.”

“Exploded?” Kally sputtered; he had said it casually, almost as if he'd been ordering wine.

“Yes, Ms. Jones. I had read about things like that happening, but I hadn’t expected to experience it so early in my career. There was a huge spill that lasted more than a week, and three men were killed. The injuries were staggering. When it happened I was blown into the water, and for a few seconds, I had no idea where I was. Nearly drowning fixed that right away.” His smile returned, followed by mirthful laughter. “I am a strong swimmer, fortunately, thanks to my grandfather, so I managed to pull myself and another worker into one of the rescue boats.”

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