Xenakis's Convenient Bride

By: Dani Collins

His expression blanked into what must be a winning poker face. Which had to mean he was lying when he said, “I was born here.”

“In Greece or on this island?” She knew most of the locals by sight, if not by name. “I don’t recognize you. What’s your name?”

A flash of something came and went in his gaze. Annoyance? “Stavros. I’ve lived abroad since I was twelve. I’m back for a working vacation.”

She might have latched on to his lack of a surname if she hadn’t just realized what colored his fluid Greek.

“You’re American.” On vacation.

Her blood stuttered to a halt in her veins, sending ice penetrating to her bones. No. Never again. No and no. She didn’t care how good-looking he was. No.

As if he heard the indictment in her tone, he threw his head back, expression offended. “I’m Greek.”

She knew her prejudice was exactly that. It wasn’t even a real prejudice. She quite enjoyed chatting with rotund, married American tourists or any American woman. She wanted to go to America. New York, to be precise.

No, the only people she truly held in contempt were straight men who thought they could treat the local women like amusement-park rides. It didn’t matter where they came from. Been there, done that, and her wounds were still open to prove it.

But the man who had left her with nothing, not even her reputation, happened to be American, so that was the crime she accused this one of committing.

“You’re here to fix the pool,” she reminded with a sharpness honed by life’s hardest knocks. “You only have two weeks. Better get to it.”


DAY THREE AND Stavros was sore. He worked out regularly, but not like this. After ten hours of physically breaking tiles with a sledgehammer and wheelbarrowing them up a flight of stairs, he had exchanged a few texts with Antonio. His friend’s conglomerate built some of the world’s tallest buildings.

Can I use a jackhammer?

He had included a photo.

I wouldn’t. Could damage the integrity of the pool.

Stavros didn’t have the cash to rent one anyway. If he rented anything, it would be a car. He had had to catch a lift with the coffee truck this morning and walk the rest of the way. What the hell did Sebastien think he would learn from this exercise?

Hell, it wasn’t exercise. It was back-breaking labor. Which was allowing him to work out pent-up frustrations, but not the one eating a hole through him.

He wanted that woman. “Calli,” she had informed him stiffly when he had asked for her name. She had pointed out the tiles that had been cracked by the roots of a tree. Since those tiles and that tree had to come out, they were redoing the entire surface surrounding the pool. He was.

She had disappeared into the house and had been a teasing peripheral presence ever since, flitting behind the screened door, playing music now and again, occasionally talking on the phone and cooking things that sent aromas out to further sharpen an appetite made ravenous by hard work.

He’d eaten well the first night, then did the math and realized he would have to make his own sandwiches the rest of his time here. It made the scent of garlic and oregano, lamb and peppers all the more maddening.

Who was she cooking for? It was ten o’clock in the morning and no one else was here, not even the man who kept her tucked away on the Aegean like a holiday cottage. A married man, presumably.

Stavros couldn’t quit thinking about that. Or the way she’d looked as she had risen like a goddess from the water. The physical attraction in that moment had been beyond his experience. He’d been compelled to move closer, had physically ached to touch her. His body still hummed with want and he had this nagging need to get back to that moment and pursue her.

But she had wished him dead on the spot. For being American.

It had been a slap in the face, not least because he had been working through mixed feelings over his identity for most of his life, ever since his father’s father had yanked him from this paradisiacal island to the concrete one of Manhattan.

He’d always been too Greek for his grandfather’s tastes and not Greek enough for his own. Having Calli draw attention to that stung.

Which left him even more determined to get back to that moment when she had revealed she desired him—him. Woman for man, all other considerations forgotten, most especially the man who kept her.

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