When Helena meets her ex-husband, Andreas, again, she is unprepared for the feelings that awaken inside her. After leaving him she has made a successful career as an Interior Designer, but fate brings them close together. However, between them stands the manipulative Diane, who will do anything to keep them apart.
She had forgotten the lapis lazuli colour of his eyes. He looked vaguely older, a little more harassed than he had in the past. His body was the same, it exuded strength and a touch of the primitive that the grey mohair silk could not quite disguise.
Published by Whiskey Creek Press
Excerpt – Fortune’s Folly
The heat in the hotel lobby was melting after the ten degrees heat below temperature outside. Helena shrugged out of her cream cashmere coat and slung it over her arm. The Maitre d’ was at the desk, he smiled at her with only his mouth.
“Mr Orphanides table,” Helena said brusquely, predicting an inquisition. There was none. The Maitre d’ led her directly to a table by the window. It was set for six. Maybe there had been no trouble because Andreas, she suspected, frequently lunched with young ladies. Helena was surprised to find that the thought made her really angry. She was a little nervous too.
The waiter asked if she would like a cocktail; she ordered a cup of coffee, she thought that may steady her nerves. If she had a cocktail it would make her giddy.
There was a faint buzz from some women at a table close by. Helena looked up. Andreas was coming across the room. He was not alone. Meletsa was with him and as usual, the girl looked elegant in a navy suit and white blouse. As always, she looked utterly in control. Helena began to feel her confidence ebb away. There was someone else with them. A man. He was very tall and very slim. Andreas was as tall but he was far more muscular. The man seemed emaciated alongside the more vigorous Andreas Orphanides.
Andreas said, showing no surprise. “Hello Helena, ” so cool, almost as if he had known she was in New York. Yet it was impossible for him to know any such thing surely!
“Andreas,” she said. She had checked his diary on the computer at home, so she knew where he would be. That way she had not had to go through his office. I felt peculiar but the thought persisted that Andreas had known she was in New York! She shrugged the thought to one side, she was always a little paranoid about Andreas and the way he seemed to know everything!
“I don’t think you’ve met Ralph Stanton, Helena,” Andreas said, still cool and showing nothing of what he was feeling.
“No,” she murmured, “I haven’t.”
“Ralph, I’d like you to meet Helena, my wife.”
Helena noticed how he put her name before her position in his life. It was something he had never done before. She had always been his wife, Helena. She thought it ironic, considering why she was here but she showed no disquiet to Ralph Stanton.
“You must excuse us Helena, if Ralph and I talk business. That is what this luncheon is, a business luncheon.”
“It’s quite all right, Andreas, I can talk to you later.”
Ralph Stanton seemed to want to include Helena, but Andreas was not having any of that. Meletsa took copious notes. Helena allowed her mind to drift in and out of the conversation, picking at the prawn salad she had ordered. Stanton wanted to sell a share in a hotel he owned and still be allowed to manage it. Andreas was prepared to go along with it but on his own terms. Everything Helena reflected had to be on his terms. She could have told Ralph Stanton that he was wasting his time pushing for what Andreas would never give. Either he should back out of the deal or give him what he wanted.
Now and again Helena studied the man she had married almost two years ago. She knew him and yet she didn’t now him. She had known him all her life but she suspected that Meletsa, who had been his personal assistant, for seven years, knew him far better than she. There was an intimacy about their relationship that had nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with mutual respect and friendship. Helena wondered if they, she and Andreas, had ever been friends like that. Their families had but had they? She had been the kid that hung around when you least wanted her. The one you taught to swim and to ski and took to the cinema or for lunch when you didn’t have a proper date.
He was not handsome, somehow he just missed being that. He had a hawk like profile that gave him a very hard look. His hair was very dark blond and his eyes were very bright blue. Andreas’ mother had been Scandinavian, his eyes and hair came from her and his more savage features came from the Greek side of his family.
After all the talking, Ralph Stanton decided to go away and think about it again. Andreas gave him twenty four hours. He meant it too, when he said after that time he would not be interested in any deal whatsoever.
Meletsa stayed, as if she would be a party to what Helena wanted. Andreas did not seem to mind either.
“I want to talk to you, privately,” Helena insisted.
“I am a very busy man today,” Andreas said coolly.
“I suppose I should have made an appointment!” Helena snapped.
“It would have been helpful.. What are you doing in New York anyway?” he asked, his smoothness a contrast to her roughness.
“I wanted to see you.”
“I’ll be home at the weekend you knew that.”
“There isn’t that much time,” Helena insisted.
“Oh? Since when has time pressed on you, Helena?”
“Since I…since I…”
“Since you met Diane,” he added for her. He had targeted in part, the reason for her visit. He was no fool, Helena had always known that, she had just conveniently allowed herself to forget it.
“I would like to talk to you alone. Surely you can give me ten minutes?” she said, conscious of the desperation in her voice.
He smiled across at Meletsa. “What do you say, Meletsa, can I spare ten minutes for my wife?”
While Helena seethed, Meletsa checked her diary. “We have to be at the Rosemont Building for four. I don’t see why you can’t spare some time. It’s only three fifteen and the Rosemont is only two blocks away.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you there.”
After Meletsa had gone there was silence at the table. The ogling women were still there. Helena supposed they thought him attractive. A lot of women did, but they didn’t have to live with him! She wasn’t feeling in the right frame of mind to challenge him now either. She was furious because it had been down to Meletsa that she got to see her husband alone.
“Come on, out with it,” he said irritably.
“You don’t make things easy,” she protested.
“Helena, if you knew…” he paused, then took a deep breath, the breath eased a pearl button on his shirt out of its hole. Ridiculously it made her blush. “Now what?” he saw the blush of course, he missed nothing.
Without thinking of trying to be subtle the words seemed to fall off her tongue. “I want a divorce.”
It was as if everyone was holding their breath. The room was silent, she was she of it. She could not hear anything, no clattering of dishes, no sound of a waiter gliding across the deep carpet. The chattering women were silenced at last.
It was all in her mind. There was sound, lots of sounds, sounds that smothered the growl at the back of Andreas; throat.
“You want a divorce! What you mean is that Diane wants you to get a divorce,” he said at last.
“No…it’s me. Do you think I am so weak that I would let anyone persuade me to do something so drastic.”
“Diane isn’t anyone. And I don’t think you are weak. I think you are very vulnerable.”
She put up her fingers to cover her mouth, wanting to stop the words from flooding out. His words had brought tears to her eyes. He sounded so…so…and the word tore her apart…tender. But he would do that, he would do that just to keep her. It wasn’t what Andreas wanted and he would use any methods to have his own way. She knew that and Diane had said so as well. Diane had warned her to be on her guard. Andreas was ruthless, he did not like to lose anything.
“I haven’t had a chance to make my own way in the world.”
“I haven’t stopped you from doing anything,” he said but softly.
“I know but, it was all arranged. From the beginning, from my being a child. It was expected of me and expected of you, we were pushed together, we would be married one day. It was what our parents wanted and we went along with it.”
He smiled. “Pawns of our parents will? You and I? Your father would have done anything for you and as for me? Do you really think I would let anyone, parent or not, push me around. Do I give the impression of being a…what? Ah yes, a victim, that’s a good word for how you make it sound. We are victims of our backgrounds. Rubbish!”
She met his hard eyed stare. He was cold now and haughty. The momentary flash of anger brought under control.
“I’ll tell you what. It is Diane. She is the one behind it all. She is the one who has put the idea in your head and she is the one you will listen to. Well I will tell you Helena, if you want a divorce, then find yourself a lawyer.”
He stood, a fluid controlled movement. “Is that all?” Helena asked.
“What more? I will tell you something, if I wanted to I could take you upstairs now and persuade you not to do this and you know it…but if I did, what then? In a month Diane would be pulling your strings again. I would demand that you cut her from your life, I demand that now, so what do you say?”
“It has nothing to do with Diane. It’s me!” she protested weakly. “I want a life of my own, I was barely seventeen when we married, just out of school.”
“And you didn’t want it?” he asked.
She blushed. The colour spreading like a stain up her neck, over her cheeks, into the very roots of her hair.
“I seem to remember you couldn’t wait for it, didn’t even want to wait…” he was alluding to something other than their marriage, she knew it. She felt a hot, steamy vapour creep over her body. Her hand trembled.
“Andreas please…” she moved uncomfortably in her seat. She remembered those hot Cyprus nights, too. The scent of lemon, the hiss of the sea and the soft warm sand beneath her bare feet.
“I’ve told you what you can do, Helena. There is nothing else to say. It is Diane or it is me. I hate to give you the ultimatum but it has to be.”
He turned and walked away. She watched him, aware that she had achieved what she had come for and yet the very idea of it gave her no satisfaction at all.