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A Greek Love Story
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A Greek Love Story

The story of Alexander and Nissa



by

Kate Hofman




©Copyright 2007 by

Romance at Heart Publications E-Novels

ISBN#: 0-9754589-4-4

Edited by Karen MacLeod

Cover Art by Jennifer Mueller


Publication by Romance at Heart  ©2007
http://rahpubs.com/



All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.



PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Dedication:

          This book is dedicated to…

          Jamie Hofman, my wonderful grandson, who always said I could write.


Acknowledgements:

Many thanks to Irene Kambos, my erudite Greek-American friend, who so patiently explained Greek expressions and terms to me, corrected my mistakes and made sure the Greek words used by Alexander and Nissa were accurate.  Efharisto, Irene.

Most particularly, I want to thank my Editor, Karen MacLeod, who did so much to make this book the best it could be, with a light touch and a sense of humour.  Many thanks, Karen.

Finally, many thanks to Jennifer Mueller, whose books I love. She insisted that I start submitting my work and when, at last, I did, and this book was accepted, she designed the fabulous cover art for me.  Thank you, Jennifer.


A GREEK LOVE STORY

the story of Alexander and Nissa

Kate Hofman


Chapter 1.

North of Ocean Breeze, Florida

Louise Sinclair hastened to the ringing telephone as quickly as her sprained ankle allowed.

“Louise Sinclair.”

The whining voice of her cleaning woman filled her with misgivings. “Miz Sinclair, it’s Bernice.  I’m awful sorry, but I won’t be able to come t’day. I seem to have some kinda ‘flu or sumthin’.”

“Oh, Bernice, just when I’m trying to get the cottage ready for my brother’s arrival.  Well, if you’re ill there’s no more to be said.  Take care of yourself.  I’ll see you when you’re well again.”

“Right, Miz Sinclair.  I’m sorry— Bye for now.”

“Bye, Bernice,” sighed Louise, replacing the receiver.  Aware of a sudden shooting pain in her ankle, she hastily sat down, lifting her foot onto another chair in the kitchen’s breakfast nook. 

Today, of all days, she thought.  I wanted everything to be so nice for Xandro.  Look at that floor—   

There was a light tap at the kitchen door.  Nissa MacLean, her neighbour, entered.  She was loaded with shopping bags.  When she saw Louise, clearly in pain, her smile faded.

“Good morning, Louise – or is it a good morning?  You look not only in pain but downright upset.”

In spite of her worries, Louise smiled at Nissa.  Such a lovely young woman, she thought, taking in the willowy figure, graceful in pale blue shorts and a matching tank top.  She watched as Nissa impatiently tossed back her mane of silky, honey-blonde hair, her hazel eyes greener than usual as she glanced anxiously at her friend.

“I picked up all the groceries and deli stuff you listed.  I guess your brother is staying for several months?  The stuff you had me buy— Anyway, let me put it all away for you.  I don’t think you should give that ankle a workout, yet.”

“Thanks, Nissa, that’s a big help.  Although Bernice more than offset your helpfulness.”

“Bernice?  What’s she done?”  Nissa tried to sound surprised, although she thought Bernice unreliable and lazy, often ‘ill’ on Fridays, probably to have a longer weekend with one of her boyfriends.

Louise frowned. “She just called me, whining that she had ‘some kind of flu’ and couldn’t come today.  Just when I want things to be so nice for Xandro.  Will you look at this kitchen floor?” 

To Nissa’s surprise and dismay, she saw that Louise was near tears.  Well, her brother’s visit means so much to her.  She decided to help Louise out.  “If that’s what’s worrying you, you can stop right now.  I’ll just scrub your kitchen floor for you, with the speed of light.” 

Nissa grabbed a plastic bucket from under the sink, dumping some Oxy-Gel into it, and filling it with tepid water.  She hunted around and found a pair of bright yellow rubber gloves and a brush.  Kicking off her slides, she dragged the sudsy bucket over to the far corner, got down on hands and knees and began to scrub the floor’s Mexican tiles.  She grinned at Louise.  “Good thing I’m wearing shorts.”

Louise stared at her friend as if she had sprouted wings and a halo. 

Nissa, how can I ever thank you for helping me out?  Now I can go upstairs to check Xandro’s suite — I’ve this nagging feeling I forgot to put towels in his bathroom.”

Nissa looked up from her scrubbing.  “You shouldn’t walk on that ankle, Louise.  Let me do it later?”

“I’ll be careful, Nissa, I’ll hang on to the banister and sort of hop on my good foot.  Thanks, so very much.”

“De nada,” said Nissa and went back to scrubbing.

She was over halfway through when the kitchen door opened and she found herself gazing at a pair of long, elegant feet in Gucci loafers, topped by impeccable trouser legs that seemed to go on forever.  Alexander, she thought.  That purring sound I heard must’ve been his car engine.

She looked up, way up.  Louise’s brother is very tall.  And gorgeous.  Nissa thought she had never seen a more stunning man in her life — the epitome of tall, dark and handsome.  As he looked down to her, his eyes were dark pools, half-hidden by long, luxuriant lashes.  His nose was straight, with thin, sensitive nostrils and his mouth was pure seduction. 

He lifted his hand to tame the heavy, blue-black hair ruffled by the wind.  At last, Nissa found her voice.

“I meant to get the floor scrubbed before you came— you are Louise’s brother?”

“Yes, I am.”  One slim, winged brow lifted.  The sound of his voice, deep, cultured and slightly impatient, brought Nissa back to the here and now.

“I’m sorry. Let me put down some paper towels for you, so the still wet floor won’t damage those elegant Guccis,” she smiled.

Alexander raised one black brow a tad higher.  “Thank you.”  He waited patiently for her to make a path for him with paper towels.

Trying to sound helpful, Nissa said, “Louise will be down in a minute.  There’s fresh coffee.  Would you like a cup?”

Alexander halted in his progress along the paper towel road, glancing back at Nissa.  “Yes, thank you,” he said, continuing toward the living room.

Nissa had expected him to get his own coffee, but when she saw him walk on, she quickly got up from the floor, ripped off the yellow gloves, swiped at her dirty knees, washed her hands.  Straightening her shorts, she poured a cup of coffee for him.  Nissa found a tray, adding a small sugar bowl and jug of cream, and entered the living room. 

Alexander stood by the window, gazing out to the ocean.  He thought how much he liked this small community of maybe a dozen cottages, right by the ocean and the beach.  He remembered only two were occupied year-round — his sister’s and her neighbour’s, a writer, he recalled.  He was brought out of his rêverie by the soft voice of the cleaning woman. 

“Here’s your coffee.”  

He turned, glancing at her. “Thank you.”  She nodded in his direction and hurried out.

When Nissa got back to the kitchen, she bent double with suppressed laughter.  Clearly, Alexander thought she was Louise’s maid.  Nissa found this hilariously amusing.  On the other hand, who could blame him for thinking that?  He found her on hands and knees, scrubbing.  Looking decidedly dilapidated in a tank top and a pair of shorts that had seen better days. 

Smiling to herself, she quickly finished the kitchen floor and left through the back door.

After lunch, Louise called Nissa, inviting her to come to tea at four. 

“Are you sure, Louise?  I know how you’ve looked forward to having your brother with you.”

“That I have, but I want you to meet him.  Please do come to tea.”

“If you’re sure, I will,” said Nissa.  “Would you like me to bring some of those madeleines you like so much?”

Nissa, you’re playing my song.  Yes, please.” Louise disconnected.

A few minutes after four, Nissa knocked at the kitchen door and entered.  When Louise heard her friend, she called out, “Nissa?  We’re in the living room.”

Nissa walked in, her eyes on Louise, peripheral vision taking note of Alexander getting to his feet, staring at her.  Nissa was glad she had taken a little extra care getting dressed.  She knew the soft green dress did wonders for her eyes, hinting at her slim, willowy figure without showcasing it.  She thought that a man as sought-after as Alexander would get lots of come-ons.  She was damned if she would join the club, however gorgeous he was.

Louise tried to rise, but Nissa forestalled her.  “Don’t get up, Louise.”   Louise sank back into her chair, indicating her brother with one hand.

“Nissa, my brother — my half-brother actually — Alexander Karagiannis.  Xandro, this is my friend Nissa MacLean.”

Still staring at Nissa, Alexander said, “We’ve already met this morning, Louise, and—” he turned to Nissa, his deep voice dismayed, “I realize now that I was unforgivably rude to you.”

Nissa shook her head at him, smiling.  “No, you weren’t.  When you saw me scrubbing the kitchen floor, you understandably assumed that I was Louise’s cleaning woman.  But you were scrupulously polite to me.”

“No, I wasn’t.  I should’ve introduced myself.”  Louise regarded her brother pensively.  Xandro seemed discomfited, tense, perhaps for the first time in his life.  He was probably upset at having offended her friend.

Nissa smiled again.  “I’m sure you would’ve introduced yourself if you’d realized I’m Louise’s friend, not the cleaning woman.  Please don’t give it another thought.”  She held out her hand, and he hastened to bring it to his lips. 

He gazed into her eyes, which seemed to change color from brownish gold to green.  He slowly took in her heart-shaped face, her straight little nose, her generous mouth.  She has the face of a mischievous angel, he thought, frowning at himself for this flight of fancy.  He went on to notice her figure, discreetly hinted at by the deceptively simple dress with shoelace straps, under which she definitely couldn’t wear a bra.  He thought her breasts were lovely.  Silently, he reprimanded himself, Don’t look at her breasts, what’s the matter with you?

When Nissa smiled, showing even, white teeth, he wished they had started off on a better footing.  She was bound to be offended by his attitude this morning.   He frowned, surprisingly troubled.  Ruefully, he reflected that it was exceedingly rare for him to feel that way, particularly about a woman.    This woman intrigued him.  Ah, yes. She surely did.

Nissa thought she could guess some of his thoughts, and decided to remedy the situation.  She had felt an instant liking for him, much to her surprise, and didn’t want his embarrassment over this morning to prevent him from liking her, perhaps becoming a friend.

She smiled again.  “All right, let’s start over.”

Alexander was surprised.  “Start over?”

“Why, yes, Alexander.  We’ll do a replay of this morning.”  She knelt on the living room floor by his feet and made scrubbing movements with her left hand.  She gazed at his shoes, let her eyes slowly travel up his tall, rangy length and said, “Uh— You’re Louise’s brother?  I’m Nissa MacLean, her neighbour.  Louise’s cleaning woman can’t come today, so I’m helping out.” She smiled up at him and rose.  Hastily he extended a hand, which she accepted, with a pleased little nod.  After helping her to her feet, he seemed to be unaware that he continued to hold her hand.  Nissa decided not to notice.

“Now you,” she said. 

“Me?  Oh, yes, of course.  May I introduce myself?  I’m Alexander Karagiannis, Louise’s half-brother.  As you will have guessed from our surnames, we have different fathers, but the same mother.  I’ve come here for a long weekend on my way to a conference in Palm Beach.  I remember Louise telling me that she had become friends with her neighbour, a writer of serious fiction.  Would that be you?  I don’t seem to recognize your name?”

Nissa nodded, then smiled.  “Small wonder. I write under my married name of Nissa Devereaux.”

“Your married name?  You’re a married lady?”   Alexander felt a pang of dismay, regret.  Instantly, he chided himself for it.  What did it matter whether she was married or not, a woman he had just met and would probably never see again.  Strangely, it did matter. 

Nissa shook her head.  “No, I’m a widowed lady.”  He knew it was ridiculous to feel his heart lift at this information, but it did. 

He mused, “Devereaux— But of course, I’ve read your books.”

“Have you really?”  Nissa was surprised.  She was a reasonably successful writer, under no illusion as to the magnitude of her fame among the reading public.

Alexander gave her a brilliant smile, showing dazzling white teeth. 

“Yes.  You wrote DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT — I loved that book.”

“You did?”  Nissa was deeply pleased.  “I’m so glad.  It’s my own favourite.”

“It was on the USA TODAY best-sellers list for a long time,” he added.

“Two weeks — the only book of mine ever to make it.”  She gave a slight, deprecating shrug.

Alexander bent his dark head toward her.  “If you’ll forgive me, there’s something I don’t understand.  You write under your married name, but after you were widowed you took back your maiden name in private life?”

Nissa nodded.  “You see, when my first book was accepted by Swanage & DeVilliers. I was just married, so I used Devereaux.  Then, when I was widowed, I took back my maiden name.  That’s a lot easier in private life than in the book-world.  So I have to continue writing as Nissa Devereaux.”

He wondered why she had taken back her maiden name, but realized this was not something he could ask.  Perhaps Louise knew. 

Louise coughed theatrically.  “Xandro?  Nissa?  You’re here to have tea.  Wouldn’t you both be more comfortable sitting down and having a cup?”

Alexander grinned at his sister, slowly becoming aware that he was still holding Nissa’s hand.  He was surprised at his reluctance to let go of it. 

Nissa said, “Louise, please forgive my rudeness?  It was just that— when we were talking—”

Louise smiled at her.  “Nothing to forgive, Nissa.”  She thought it was the first time she had seen her friend talking to a man in more than a few polite words, before ducking out quietly.  Well, of course Xandro had read her books.  Even so— 

Alexander gestured to his sister’s sofa, and Nissa seated herself.  He sat down beside her, but not so close that she could feel his presence as disturbing.  

That’s the first time I’ve taken care not to sit too close to a woman so I wouldn’t spook her.  Usually I seat myself well away to prevent a woman coming on to me. 

Louise poured tea; Alexander hastened to take Nissa’s cup over to her.  When Louise offered Nissa’s madeleines, he shook his head, too interested in pursuing his conversation with Nissa to waste time eating.

He turned to Nissa.  “When I read “DAWN,” I was intrigued by your first name, Nissa.  It’s Greek for ‘a new beginning’ — how did you come by it?  I thought it so unusual for an American woman with a French surname.”

“Ah, but that was only my married name.  As I said, I go by my own name, MacLean — Scottish.  That’s what my ancestry is, except for a Greek maternal grandmother, for whom I was named.”

He was intrigued.  “Tell me, do you speak any Greek?”

Nissa shrugged delicately.  “When I was small, and spent a lot of time with my grandmother, yes.  But, you know how that is.  Once she died, I lost my fluency, although I can still understand Greek fairly well.   Of course I can neither write nor read it.  My grandmother died when I was five.”  She sighed. 

Alexander was astonished to hear himself say, “I’d like to invite you to Asteraki, my island in Greece, the next time Louise visits there?  You’d soon pick up the language again.”  Peripherally, he was aware that Louise was staring at him.  To his pleased surprise, Nissa gave him a dreamy look from under her long lashes. 

She sighed, “GreeceYou have a whole island?   Asteraki — little star.  Oh, I’d love to, some time—if you’re sure it wouldn’t be an inconvenience, having me along with Louise?”

He smiled, delighted with her response.  “It’s a very small island,” he said.  “And you couldn’t possibly be an inconvenience.  It will be a great pleasure for me to show you Asteraki.  A very great pleasure.”

Close to five o’clock, Nissa decided to take her leave.  “Louise, thank you for inviting me.  I’ve had a most enjoyable afternoon.” 

Louise teased, “Why the hurry?  You’ve got a hot date tonight?”

Nissa smiled.  “Yes, with my laptop.” 

Alexander sighed, aware he had held his breath when his sister asked if Nissa had a hot date.  He frowned.  What was the matter with him?  Perhaps he should not have refused that actress—what was her name again?  Monique?  Yes, Monique Desbois. Of course, he was as interested in sex as the next man, but she was far too blatant for his taste when, within minutes of meeting him at that charity dinner, she casually proposed a night of unbridled sex.  He recalled her outrage when he said he never did one-night-stands.

He remembered with derision her dismay when he spoke French to her.  And the cutting tone of the fat, balding man on Monique’s other side, who informed him — and the rest of the table — that Monique’s birth name was Dulcie Potts.  

Alexander became aware that Nissa was getting up, and immediately got to his feet. 

“Will you allow me to see you home?” he asked. 

Surprised and pleased, Nissa said, “Thank you, but I live nearby—”

“Then, I’ll be back here very quickly,” he said, lifting a slim, winged brow.  She said goodbye to Louise and walked to the back door, which he held open for her. 

Nissa was deeply conscious of Alexander’s hand at her waist, his long fingers spread out over her spine, guiding her ahead of him.  Once they were outside, he did not remove his hand, and its warmth felt soothing to her.  She thought it was the first time since before she was married that a man’s touch had soothed and pleased her. 

“Where to?” he asked, and Nissa indicated a clapboard cottage some distance away.  Its wood had naturally weathered over time to an attractive silvery-pewter.

When they were closer, she said, “It’s much smaller than Louise’s, but it’s enough for my needs.  Of course I’ve had to give up my guestroom, which I made into a small library-workroom for me.”

“That sounds interesting.”  Alexander hoped she did not feel his words as pressure to invite him in and show him her cottage.

She glanced at him, her expression so guileless it touched his heart.  “If you’d like to see, I’d be glad to show you.”

It was all he could do to sound casual. “Yes, I’d like that.”

They arrived at her back door, and he held out his hand for her key.  She shook her head, explaining, “It isn’t locked.  We mostly lock our doors here only at night.  Admittedly, when I first lived here, it meant a lot of interruptions by friendly neighbours — not Louise; she’s far too sensitive to drop in on a writer — but the others….  Anyway, they now understand that when I put my “I’m writing” sign in the door’s window, I need to remain undisturbed.”   

Alexander opened the door for her and Nissa took him to her living room.  She gestured forspan>Only then did he seat himself in the opposite corner. 

He’s got very nice manners.

With a little frown of concern, he said, “All the same, I’d feel better if you made a habit of locking your door.  I’ve made the same plea to Louise.  Both of you are living alone — you’re beautiful — Louise is still attractive.  You need only turn on the TV news to hear how often some deranged man has beaten up some helpless woman—” He stopped, astonished to see her small face turn deathly pale, her body trembling uncontrollably.

Troubled, he said, “Nissa?  What have I said, or done, to distress you so terribly?”  Instinctively, he reached out a hand, touching her shoulder, dismayed to see her eyes brimming with tears. 

She tried to smile for him, and sighed, her soft voice shaking, “I was abused.  A long time ago.  Please, let’s never talk about that.”

He hastened to agree.  “Of course, Nissa.  Forgive me for causing you pain, no matter how inadvertent.”  He glanced at her, wondering if his words were helping her over the anguish of remembering the abuse committed against her.  By whom, he wondered.  Her husband?  Would Louise know?

“Perhaps we should leave the cottage-viewing to another time. You’ve clearly been deeply upset by my thoughtless remark, for which I ask your forgiveness,” Alexander said formally.  Slowly he got to his feet.  Nissa immediately rose, but he gently touched her shoulder, saying, “Please don’t disturb yourself.  I’ll let myself out.  Promise me to lock your door?  Please?”

She smiled then.  “You don’t have to hurry away, Alexander.  I’ll be glad to show you my small cottage.  I bet it could dance around in one of your reception rooms.”

When he raised an inquiring brow, she explained, “The Architectural Digest once had an article with photographs of your— duplex?  Park Avenue?  And your house on Long Island.  Anyway, it was impressive.  So subtle, understated, and the space used so wonderfully.”

“If you remember an article about my house and my condo that well, perhaps you’d like to see the real thing for yourself one day?”  Thinking that she might wonder if he had an ulterior motive – which, of course, he had – he added hastily, “I’d ask Louise as well, so you’d be properly chaperoned.” 

To his great relief, Nissa gave him a dazzling smile. “Alexander, I’m a thirty-two-year old widow, not a virginal eighteen-year old.  But thank you for being so considerate.  I know Louise loves visiting you.”

“And you, Nissa?  Would you like to come?”  He tried his best to look casual, friendly, non-threatening — and apparently he succeeded.

“Thank you. I should like that very much,” she said softly.

“Then I will leave you now, and hope you haven’t a hot date for Saturday.”  He hoped he looked nonchalant, waiting for her answer.

“I don’t date, Alexander, so I’m not doing anything on Saturday,” she said quietly.  He wondered what lay behind that simple statement, realizing that asking her wasn’t an option.  He had a lot to ask Louise, later. 

“Will you come out with Louise and me to dinner at the Café de Paris in the Hilton?” he invited.  He held his face tranquil.

“Thank you, Alexander.  I’d love to.”  Her voice was very soft.  He felt elated — there was no other word for it.  Later, tonight, when he was lying in bed, waiting for sleep, he would try to examine these most unusual feelings. 

Now, all that remained was telling her how delighted he was that she would dine with him.

“Shall I come for you around seven?  Drinks on the Hilton’s terrace?  I’ll order a table for eight-thirty, if that isn’t too late for you?”

“Oh, no.  I rather like the Mediterranean habit of eating later than we do here usually,” Nissa said.  “Why don’t you and Louise come here for seven?  I’ll have some wine and appetizers.  Oh, I’ve just remembered.  I made spanakopitakia and tiropetakia when Lydia and Raphael Thalassinos were here to dinner, and I made a lot so I could freeze some.  Tell me, would you like me to do Greek mezethakia?”

“I’d love it,” Alexander said, genuinely pleased.  “You’re friends with Lydia and Raphael?  They’re friends of mine, too.  And you still remember the Greek for ‘appetizers’ — you’d be fluent again in no time, I’m sure of it.

“And now I really must go.  We’ll see you tomorrow then, around seven?” 

“Yes, until then.  Kali nihta, Alexander.”

Surprised, he gazed into her eyes, taking her hand in his, and again bringing her fingers to his lips.

Kali nihta, glika oneira” good night, sweet dreams, he said, and was gone. 

 

When Alexander opened Louise’s door, he found her in the kitchen, getting something out of the refrigerator.  He hastened to help her.

“Let me do that.  Where do you want it?”
        “In the oven.
  I made a lamb casserole.  Sound okay to you?”

“Of course it does, Louise, you know I’m not hard to feed.”  He smiled at her.

“That’s true,” she smiled back.  “You’re the most undemanding Greek tycoon I’ve ever met.”

“I’m only half a Greek tycoon.  That probably accounts for it.”  They grinned at each other.

When Alexander had placed the casserole in the oven, Louise said, “I’d prefer to let this heat slowly.  Unless, of course, you’re starving?”

“No, not at all.  Let’s have a glass of wine and talk.” 

“Yes, that sounds good.”  She gestured to the living room.  When she was seated again, her ankle on an ottoman, she waved to the drinks tray. 

“I’ve a red and a white open.  Serve whichever you like.”  Alexander poured two reds, bringing one over to his sister, who gave him a slow glance from under her lashes. 

Alexander was relieved he didn’t have to open the conversational gambit with a question about Nissa, because Louise said calmly, “I’ve rarely seen you as interested in a woman as you were in Nissa.” 

“You’re right,” he nodded.  “I can’t explain it.  It can’t be merely my libido, I’ve gone without for much longer than the three months since I threw Cassandra out.”

“Yes, that was splashed all over TV and the gossipy press.  I wonder how many people who avidly read all those lies also noticed the groveling retractions?

Alexander shrugged.  “Good point, Louise.  Actually, I threw Cassandra out because, when I’m in a liaison, I’m faithful for the duration.  She was not.  Out she went.  At the time, did you get the impression that Nissa thought I was some ghastly womanizer?” 

Louise was intrigued that Xandro should care what Nissa thought of him.  Perhaps he felt something more than mere libidinous interest in Nissa?  But that was not something she could ask her brother, however close they were.  Slowly shaking her head, she said, “No, Xandro.  Now I come to think about it, Nissa said it was the usual hatchet job by a sleazy muckraker masquerading as a journalist.  If anything, she was sorry for me having to read such drivel about my own brother.”  Louise took another sip of her wine and waited for Xandro’s next question, for it was obvious he wanted to know more about Nissa.

Alexander took a big sip, realized his glass was nearly empty and went to the drinks tray for a refill.  He held the bottle up enquiringly to Louise, who shook her head. 

When he was seated again, he said, “Louise?  Something most puzzling happened while I was seeing Nissa home.  I was dismayed to find she had left her door unlocked.  When I mentioned how easy it would be for some deranged creep to beat her up, she went deathly white, tears in her eyes.  I was aghast, and wondered what I had done to bring this on.  Anyway, she made an effort to smile, and said she’d been abused once.  Of course, I dropped the subject.  What else could I do?  But I hoped you could throw some light on Nissa’s behaviour?”

Louise nodded.  “Yes, I can,” she said slowly.  “Nissa never dates, and that made people speculate that her marriage had been so exceptionally wonderful that no other man would do.  She never corrected them.  In fact, her marriage was no bed of roses.  Once she was Lawton Devereaux’s wife, he showed himself to be a paranoid, obsessively jealous creep, who made her life hell.  If a stranger asked her the time in a supermarket, he would accuse her of an affair.  She told me once, very quietly, that she had never given him reason to be jealous, and I believed her absolutely. 

Lawton was a master of the vicious putdown, and his psychological abuse of her got worse and worse.  Only her best friends knew.  Later, when she and I had become good friends, she told me some of it. 

“About two years into the marriage, he decided to escalate things and added vicious, violent physical abuse to the psychological brutality.  Fortunately, Lawton was also drunk at the time, he fell down in a stupor, and Nissa hurried to her friend and lawyer Marcella Mellis, who immediately called a doctor friend of hers.  He examined Nissa, gave a full report of her many injuries, taking photographs of all the bruises— I vividly recall the imprint of a man’s shoe or boot on her ribcage.”  Louise stopped speaking when she saw Alexander lean forward, his face in his hands.

“Xandro?  I’m so sorry I upset you by telling you this.”   Louise limped from her chair to the sofa, seating herself beside her brother, gently stroking his back.

Alexander turned a stricken face to his sister.  “Tell me the rest. I have to know.”

“There’s not much more, I’m glad to say,” said Louise, still gently stroking her brother’s back.  “Marcella had the bastard charged not merely with assault, but with attempted murder on the strength of the photographs, the medical report, and particularly the sole appearance of the victim in Court.  She was in a wheelchair, attended by a nurse, an IV going, one arm in a sling, bandages around her head, other arm, knee, and ankle.  In any case, the Judge refused bail and remanded Lawton in custody until the case was heard.

“Of course, his family was rich and influential. It cost them a horrendous amount in lawyers’ fees to finally get the charge reduced to assault, which meant he could get out on bail, with stringent safeguards for Nissa.  Marcella was in the process of negotiating a legal separation, when Lawton committed suicide.  That’s two years ago, now.  He was obviously a most unstable man. I don’t even want to guess what Nissa suffered at his hands, or rather, his tongue.  There was, fortunately, only the one instance of physical abuse.  Just before committing suicide, he phoned Nissa, leaving messages asking her to come over to his condo — an emergency.  Of course she didn’t go.  The sick bastard probably hoped that poor Nissa would be the one to find him.  He put his shotgun into his mouth.”  Louise leant back, taking a big sip of her wine. 

Alexander’s eyes, dark as midnight, showed his outrage at this attempt to hurt Nissa one last time.  He sighed with relief that the bastard had not succeeded.

Louise smiled at her brother and continued her tale.  “Incidentally, she inherited the bulk of his fortune, but refused it contemptuously.  Even the New York papers had the story.  Didn’t you see it?”  Louise glanced unobtrusively at Xandro and was relieved to see that he seemed much calmer. 

He shook his head.  “No, I must’ve missed it.”

Louise thought for a moment then decided to say what she felt she had to say for Nissa’s sake.

“Xandro, you know you’re my favourite brother—”

“I’m your only brother, Louise.”

She nodded, and continued, “Well, you’re my favourite person, then.  Xandro, I want to ask you something I’ve no right to ask.  We’ve never intruded in each other’s personal lives — although there isn’t a whole lot for you to intrude, where I’m concerned.  For Nissa’s sake I would ask — please don’t start a flirtation unless you’re seriously interested in her.  She isn’t fling material. I’m sure you realize that yourself, and I can’t bear the thought of Nissa being hurt again.

“A man like you, so handsome, so charismatic, so intelligent and witty.    She is so vulnerable.  It would be so easy for you to make her fall in love with you, then break her heart when you end the liaison.

Astonished and dismayed, Alexander frowned. “Louise, I wouldn’t dream of offending Nissa with a proposition of the kind you suggest.  Do you think I spend my life flitting from one woman to the next?”

“Well, Xandro, you’re often photographed with gorgeous women, who are clinging to you most explicitly—”

“Louise — have you ever seen me cling to them?”  Louise was surprised to see Xandro deeply upset that she thought he would sleep around.  Evidently he didn’t.  She hastened to make amends.

“No, my dear bro, of course not.  Sorry I mentioned it.  It’s just that I feel a bit protective about Nissa, you see.  That’s why I asked.”

Alexander sighed, still frowning.  “I promise you, I would never do anything that could hurt Nissa.  All right?”  He was obscurely pleased to see sisterly concern in Louise’s blue eyes.

“Xandro, I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, Louise.”  He smiled at his sister and gestured to her empty wine glass.  She nodded gratefully, and he rose to do the refills.

When they were comfortably sipping wine next to each other, Louise asked, “Xandro — have you ever thought of getting married?  What are you, thirty-seven?”

He nodded.  “Yes, thirty-seven.  You think I’m getting too old for flings?  I agree with you.  In fact, I haven’t had a fling or even a lengthier liaison for over three months now.  Before I threw Cassandra out, I had been alone for nearly a year.”

“And you think Nissa might be suitable for an even lengthier liaison, Xandro?”

Alexander pensively shook his head.  “I wasn’t thinking of a liaison, Louise.  Not with her.  Actually, I was hoping she and I could take our time getting to know each other better.  Find out whether this unexpected surge of feeling for her is worth pursuing.  Always provided she feels something similar for me.  Which is doubtful, given what that bastard did to her.  Anyway, what’s the use?  After the kind of marriage she finally escaped from, she won’t want to give any man a chance to mistreat her ever again.  Understandable.  But, I sure wish she would make an exception for me.”

Louise said gently, “I’m sure that Nissa wouldn’t believe for even a moment that you could ever hurt or harm her in the slightest.  If you’re serious about wanting to get to know her better, I’ll do everything I can to help you.  You know that, don’t you?”

Alexander smiled at his sister.  He saluted her with his wine. 

“Yes, I know that.”



Format

A Greek Love Story
Priced at $5.50