The heiress of santorini, p.1
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       The Heiress of Santorini, p.1
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           Angel Sefer
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The Heiress of Santorini


  The Heiress of Santorini

  A novel of

  The Greek Isles Series

  Angel Sefer

  Booktrope Editions

  Seattle WA 2014

  Copyright 2014 Angel Sefer

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

  Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

  Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

  No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

  Inquiries about additional permissions

  should be directed to: info@booktrope.com

  Cover Design by Shari Ryan

  Edited by Jacy Mackin

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.

  Print ISBN 978-1-62015-501-1

  EPUB ISBN 978-1-62015-540-0

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2014918429

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedications

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Epilogue

  Note from the Author

  More from Angel Sefer & Booktrope

  Dedications

  In memory of my late mother, Helen, a wonderful mother and my best friend. She will always be remembered for her love, kindness, and wisdom, and will live in my heart forever…

  In memory of my late grandmother, Lili, whose unconditional love and encouragement inspired me throughout the years.

  Dedicated to my beloved family in Greece and the USA for all their love, guidance, and support; and especially, to my wonderful husband Bill, my loving father Dimitris, my amazing Aunt Angie, and my adorable son Dimitris.

  Many thanks to my publisher Booktrope and my wonderful team: my editor, Jacy Mackin; my proofreader, Jessica Reyes; my cover designer, Shari Ryan; and last but not least, my amazing book manager, Sarka-Jonae Miller.

  Chapter One

  THE HAUNTING HEADLINE of the newspaper article stirred emotional turmoil that threatened to engulf Alexandra. Mixed feelings of anxiety and rage shot her pulse into overdrive. What if they find out about me? She shuddered at the thought. Clenching her teeth, she slammed her fist against the desk, making her mug bounce and spilling a few drops of coffee. “Why won’t they leave me alone?” she burst out. Drawing a deep breath, she exhaled slowly, struggling in vain to restrain her fury. She’d tried for so long to conceal her real identity, and now…

  Lifting her eyes, she gazed outside her office window as well-buried memories rushed to the surface. She thought of her father—Detective James Stewart—who had been fatally wounded during a raid. She remembered the heartache and devastation when John showed up at the campus of University of Georgia in Athens bearing the shattering news—her father and two other policemen were executed by the powerful people they were trying to expose. Ever since, she was painfully aware of a threat hovering over her head. However, Alexandra was a fighter; undeterred, she stood her ground and went on with her life, keeping the promise she’d made to her father. I didn’t need them then, and sure as hell, I don’t need them now.

  Turning her attention to her desk, she lifted the newspaper and held it in the light, staring at the man in the picture. The photographer had caught him stepping out of a black limo in front of a high rise in New York City. From his dark gray designer suit to his arrogance and untouchable demeanor, he appeared no older than sixty, though Alexandra knew he was seventy-five now.

  Peering at the photo, she could barely discern his eyes. However, her memory reminded her that they were green—not the emerald shade of her own, but a jade hue similar to her mother’s. In bold letters above the snapshot, Alexandra read aloud the title of the article one more time: ”Looking for the Heiress of Santorini”. Her eyes flickered as locked away memories of impressive lunar landscapes and breathtaking red and black sand beaches flooded to the surface. Stop that! she reprimanded herself. You’re entering dangerous territory.

  “Alexandra! Pick up the phone!” The snappy voice of her assistant, Holly, startled her back to reality.

  She shot a glance at Holly, who was standing at her office door. “What?” she queried, shaking her head and sliding a folder over the article to hide it.

  “I said, pick up the phone!” Holly urged her. “It’s the president!”

  Alexandra straightened her back and grabbed the phone anxiously. “Alex Stewart!” she managed to say before she was bombarded with questions and demands.

  Benjamin Hughes—a powerful and arrogant man in his early fifties— was the president of Guarantee Insurance, one of the largest Insurance Groups in the World.

  Alexandra had only talked to him once in the past and then only for a few minutes. What could be so important that Hughes would call me himself? She wondered and swallowed hard, feeling her mouth dry.

  Still a little disoriented, she made an effort to concentrate on what Hughes was saying on the phone.

  “Yes, sir, I’ll do that,” she said finally, and putting the phone down, she sat gazing at it. What was that all about?

  All of a sudden, she realized Holly was still standing at the door with a puzzled expression on her face.

  “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear the phone ringing,” Alexandra apologized and, noticing the spilled coffee, she wiped it with a tissue.

  “I know,” Holly replied. “I called a couple of times, and when you didn’t answer, I was worried. Sorry for barging in like this.”

  “It’s okay!” Alexandra reassured her. “I’ve no idea what I was thinking,” she lied and clenched her fists. That article had thrown her off balance.

  “So, what did he want?” Holly asked, curiously.

  “Who?” Alexandra inquired, lost in her thoughts.

  “Are you okay?” Holly queried, and the concern was obvious in her voice. “You’re acting kind of strange.”

  “I’m fine,” Alexandra replied, trying to sound reassuring. “I’m just not sleeping well lately.”

  “Maybe you should see a doctor.”

  “No,” Alexandra insisted. “I’ll be fine. All I need is a couple of days off.”

  Holly gave her a worried look and left the office without another word.

  I need to pull myself together, Alexandra decided and massaged her temples to relieve some pressure. I’ve worked too hard to accomplish my goals, and I’m not going to blow it now. I have nothing to do with those people, and I intend to go on with my life as if they never existed.

  Trying to occupy her mind with something else, she thought about the weekend coming up. John was taking her to his cabin in the mountains. Images of lush greenery and a rainbow of glowing pastel clouds stretching across the sky at dawn and dusk brought a longing smile to her face. They both needed to relax and escape from the stress and pressure of their everyday lives.

  At twenty-seven, Alexandra was the marketing and sales manager for the Atlanta office o
f Guarantee Insurance. She made a fantastic salary, had a beautiful apartment in Dunwoody, and drove an expensive convertible. Not bad for the daughter of a homicide detective living on a police salary. Despite their difficult financial situation, her father had put Alexandra through college. She was sure he would have done even more if he’d lived long enough.

  Her father was the only parent Alexandra had. Her mother—Anastasia Vassiliou—had died when Alexandra was only eight years old.

  “I miss you, Mom,” Alexandra whispered, as cherished images of her mother’s kind face flashed before her eyes. They used to be so happy until Anastasia fell ill and faded away months later. It was the first time that Alexandra heard her father desperately urging her mother to contact her family. Apparently, they had the means to fund the cancer treatment she needed. However, Anastasia stubbornly refused.

  That refusal puzzled Alexandra. For years after her mother’s death, Alexandra felt angry at her. She thought her mother didn’t love them enough to do everything in her power to stay with them. I was only a child… I didn’t know any better, she reminded herself bitterly, feeling a lump in her throat.

  After her mother passed away, Alexandra became closer to her father. Despite his line of work and his exhausting work hours, he always spent time with her, guiding and encouraging her throughout her life. His death had been a mortal blow. She wouldn’t have made it if not for John Harrison, a rookie beat cop working with her father. John was there for her, comforting and supporting her through all the hard times.

  With John’s help, she completed a degree in Marketing. He even persuaded her to continue in order to get her MBA. Now, she was finally compensated for all the hard work and was able to pay off the student loan she had accepted to continue her studies.

  John had also advanced and was now a promising homicide detective for the Atlanta Police Department.

  Alexandra smiled thinking of him. John had grown up a poor boy in the back streets of West Atlanta, without a mother and with a drunk for a father. From his early teens, he butted heads with the law. Luckily, Alexandra’s father had pulled him off the streets and pointed him in the right direction. His influence had persuaded John to join the police force, and he’d come a long way since then.

  Dad would have been so proud of John, Alexandra contemplated, and a smile appeared on her lips. She adored John. He was the brother she never had. Kind and understanding, he always offered her a shoulder when she needed a good cry.

  The ringing of the phone made her jump. She answered it on the second ring, to avoid giving Holly any further reasons to worry.

  Her assistant was a sweet and bright young girl. During the last six months she’d been working for Alexandra, she had turned out to be a valuable colleague. Just out of college, the girl hungered for knowledge and was learning fast.

  “Alex Stewart!” Alexandra answered the phone.

  “Hi, Alex.”

  Her shoulders sagged in relief at the sound of John’s voice. “John!” she cried out, happily. “I was just thinking about how much I’m anticipating our weekend in the mountains.”

  The silence on the line was loud. “Well, that’s why I’m calling…” He hesitated.

  “What’s wrong?” Alarm coursed through her. He always dithered around bad news.

  “Another murder,” he replied. “I’m afraid I can’t leave right now.”

  Alexandra let out a deep breath and glanced out the window. The city down below seemed so beautiful and peaceful, but she knew it wasn’t that way at all. A lot of ugliness and violence hid down there, and John had to deal with it every day.

  Her thoughts flew back to her father once more. He used to come home every night with that distant expression on his face, as if he’d been on another planet. Sometimes, he would hardly say a word. He would just kiss her on the forehead and sit in front of the TV, speechless and lost in his thoughts. And then, the phone would ring in the middle of the night, and he would have to go out there, again.

  “Alex?” John’s voice brought her back from her trip down memory lane. “Are you there?”

  “Yes, I’m here.”

  “I’m so sorry… I know you were looking forward to this.”

  “Oh! Don’t be silly!” she reassured him, feeling a hollow in her stomach. “I understand. Besides, I have a lot of work to do. Only this morning, I was assigned an important account by the Big Guy himself.”

  “Really?” John sounded excited. “You have to tell me all about it tonight.”

  “I will,” Alexandra promised, trying to sound excited, too.

  “Sorry, honey, but I have to go now,” John said. “And, by the way, charge your cell. The battery must be dead, again,” he added and hung up abruptly.

  Duty calls, Alexandra thought bitterly. Just like her father! Well, that’s the life of a policeman and I, of all people, should understand that.

  As soon as she hung up the phone with John, she checked her cell phone. He knows me too well, she realized, smiling. She plugged it in to charge and then picked up the receiver to call Holly.

  “Yes?” her assistant’s lively voice answered the intercom.

  “Do we have a file for Imperial Resorts Corporation?” Alexandra inquired.

  Holly was silent for a moment, probably thinking.

  “No,” she said, finally. “I don’t believe we do.”

  “Well, call Headquarters and request a copy of that file,” Alexandra said and hung up the phone.

  I have a lot of work to do, she thought frustrated. The deal had to be big for Mr. Hughes to call her himself. It seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity… and it was assigned to her.

  Alexandra spent the rest of the day reviewing all the projects she had going at the time. She wanted to make sure everything was under control so she could give one hundred percent to this new assignment. A client like this, with dozens of luxury resorts around the world and thousands of employees, was a big deal. She had to exceed her personal best. The president required her to do everything in her power to acquire the account, even if she had to travel to New York, where Imperial Resorts Corporation’s main offices were.

  ***

  The sun was setting when Holly knocked on Alexandra’s door. “It’s almost seven o’clock,” she said.

  Alexandra glanced at her watch and rubbed her stiff neck. “What are you still doing here? You should have left hours ago.”

  “Well, I had a lot of work to do. Besides, I thought you might need some help.”

  “No, I’m fine,” Alexandra replied. “Go home!”

  “Are you sure?” Holly hesitated for a moment.

  “Yes, I’m sure,” Alexandra reassured her and stretched out her arms while straightening her back; she felt rigid from sitting in that same position for so long.

  “Is John picking you up?” Holly inquired, trying to sound indifferent.

  Alexandra smiled, as she was well aware of how fond her sassy assistant, with the blazing red hair and the huge green eyes, was of John. She’d seen the look in Holly’s eyes every time John came by the office. It amazed her how this girl, who had broken lots of hearts since she had come to this office, would lose her calm and act like a shy, little girl whenever John was around. And the feelings were mutual. Alexandra was sure of that, though John wouldn’t admit it. She had seen how the tough, handsome detective stared at Holly every time he dropped by their office.

  “No, John isn’t picking me up,” Alexandra replied and almost felt sorry for Holly, seeing the disappointed expression on her face.

  John needed a sweet girl, who would brighten his life and make him forget all the ugliness he had to face every day. And she believed Holly could be that girl. But Alexandra had to let things take their course. She loved John so much; he’d been there for her as a brother all these years. However, he was a person who valued his privacy immensely and would never allow anyone to interfere with his love life.

  “Well,” Holly said. “If you’re sure you don’t need anyt
hing, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

  “Take care,” Alexandra replied. “Try to stay out of trouble.”

  “Oh, well!” Holly smiled. “How am I going to have any fun then?” She laughed and closed the door behind her.

  As soon as Holly left, Alexandra stood up to stretch her legs. I need to go, too, she thought. John is going to get there before I do. Not that this was a problem, since he had keys to her apartment.

  With a pair of scissors, Alexandra cut the article out of the newspaper. She slipped it into her purse, and the rest of the newspaper landed in recycling. She turned off her desk lamp and headed for the door, grabbing her jacket and purse along the way. No other light shone in any of the offices. I’m probably the only one left in the building, she realized, feeling a shiver caress her spine. Though sometimes it couldn’t be helped, she never liked being in the huge building alone.

  On that thought, she increased her pace as she made a direct line towards the elevator doors. Her heart thundered in her chest while she waited for them to open. Don’t be silly, she reprimanded herself. There’s nothing to worry about. You’ve been watching too many scary movies. But she couldn’t help being anxious. It’s probably that stupid article. It dug up long-buried memories she wished to forget.

  The elevator stopped on her floor, and the doors opened. Stepping inside, she pushed the button to the basement. As the doors were closing, she thought she heard a noise coming from down the hall. On an impulse, she pressed the button for the doors to reopen. Could someone else be left in the office? She peered down the hallway with her finger on the elevator button, keeping the doors from closing. Holding her breath, she tried to pick up the slightest noise… but there was nothing. All she could hear was the pounding of her heart. You’re acting ridiculous, she thought and released the button. As the doors closed and the elevator started going down, she exhaled loudly.

  In the basement parking garage, she walked to her car, parked a little farther from the doors. Being the daughter of a policeman, Alexandra had learned to be cautious and pay attention to minor details other people normally ignored. Her conscious noted the lights were out across the majority of the parking deck. That’s strange. The lights normally stay on all night. The hair stood up on the back of her neck, and she glanced around warily. Damn! The feeling that someone was watching her sent her rushing to her car. Trying hard to control her trembling, she managed to unlock the door on the third try. She climbed in, locked the doors, and turned the ignition on. The sound of the convertible’s powerful engine coming to life gave her a sense of relief. Thank God, I never leave the car with the top down, she thought and drew a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

 
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