Xenakis's Convenient Bride

By: Dani Collins

Last year, Sebastien had nearly died during one of their challenges. Stavros still woke from nightmares of reliving those dark minutes. He’d wound up with frostbite burns on his fingers, but he’d been frantic to save Sebastien, unable to watch a man die again. A man whose life he valued. He felt sick recollecting it and took a sip of his whiskey to sear away the nausea.

“Are you serious?” Alejandro charged. “That’s, what? Five billion?”

“You can’t take it with you.” Sebastien’s shrug was nonchalant. “Monika is on board with it, but I’m still debating. I’ll tell you what.” He leaned forward, mouth curling into the wicked grin he always wore when he proposed cliff diving or some other outrageous act. “You three go two weeks without your credit cards and I’ll do it.”

“Starting when? We all have responsibilities,” Alejandro reminded.

After a considering pause, Sebastien canted his head. “Fair enough. Clear the decks at home. But be prepared for word from me—and two weeks in the real world.”

“You’re really going to wager half your fortune on a cakewalk of a challenge?” Alejandro said.

“If you’ll put up your island. Your favorite toys?” He took in all three men. “I say where and when.”

They all snorted with confidence.

“Easy,” Stavros said, already anticipating the break from his grandfather’s badgering. “Count me in.”


Four and a half months later...

SHE FLOATED IN the pool on a giant ivory-colored clamshell, the pattern on her one-piece bathing suit a stark contrast of pink and green geometry against her golden, supple limbs. Her black hair spilled away from her face, a few tendrils drifting in the water. She wore sunglasses and red toe polish.

She was fast asleep.

As Stavros took in the way her suit painted her breasts and cut high over her hips, then smoothed over her mound to dip into the fork of her thighs, he stirred with desire. A detailed fantasy played out in his mind of diving in and coming up next to her, rolling her into his arms like an ancient god stealing a nymph and having her on that wicker sofa in the shade, behind the curtain of water on the far side of the pool.

The only sound in the high-walled courtyard was the patter of the thin waterfall. It poured off the edge of the ivy-entwined trellis that formed a roof over the lounge area and bar. The raining noise muffled his exhale as he set down the box containing power tools, a sledgehammer, trowels and adhesive compounds.

He stood and drank in another eyeful.

Perhaps being cast as a pool boy wasn’t so bad after all.

Last night, he’d stood in a tiny, stuffy, not air-conditioned bachelor apartment cursing Sebastien with sincere vehemence.

His two-week challenge had started and his new “home” was a walk-up over a coffee-roasting operation. The smell was appalling. He couldn’t decide which was worse: window open or closed. He had left it open while he compared his inventory of supplies with Antonio’s photo from two weeks ago.

At least he’d had a heads-up from his friend as to what this challenge entailed. Given Antonio had been sent to Milan, Stavros had suspected he would be sent to Greece, and here he was.

Which had given Stavros a moment of pause. He didn’t care if he lost the boat, and even Sebastien’s grand gesture was one he could make himself if it came right down to it. He had stepped off so many cliffs and platforms and airplanes at twenty-thousand feet, he shouldn’t have hesitated to step off a ferry onto the island of his birth.

But he had.

Which made him feel like a coward.

He had forced himself to disembark and walk to his flat where he had discovered that, like Antonio, he had been provided a prehistoric cell phone and a stack of cash—two hundred euros. Lunch money. But where Antonio had been given a set of coveralls, Stavros had been given board shorts.

They were supposed to go two weeks without their wealth and reputation, but apparently his dignity had to be checked at the door, as well. At least his costume wasn’t one of those banana hammocks so popular on European beaches. The uniform was tacky as hell regardless, pairing yellow-and-white-striped shorts with a yellow T-shirt.

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