The tycoon's new hire
Zoe owes her life to the Giannopolous Foundation. Now she wants to pay them back by working for them! She hasn't bargained on millionaire Vasso Giannopolous offering her a job. Soon she's smitten not just with the beautiful Greek island she's working on, but also the gorgeous tycoon who inhabits it
Vasso has kept his heart on lockdown after suffering the ultimate betrayal. But beautiful, courageous Zoe reminds him that some things are worth risking everything for especially walking down the aisle!
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August 9, New York City
The bearded older doctor looked at Zoe. "Young woman. You've been cancer-free for eight months. Today I can say without reservation that it's definitely in remission. We've already talked about the life span for recovering patients like you. But no one can predict the end of life for any of us."
"I know," she said as he continued to explain the survival expectancy statistics for patients like her. But she'd read about it all before and didn't really listen. The adage to take it one day at a time and rejoice for another day of life was the motto around the hospital.
Zoe's physical exam had gone without incident. Her labs looked great. But she would never outgrow her nervousness. Fear lurked in her that the next time she had to have a checkup, the cancer would have come back. She couldn't throw it off.
The therapist at the center had given her a book to read about dealing with the disease once it had gone into remission. Depression bothered many patients who feared a recurrence and that was a problem they needed to deal with. Since Zoe was a prime example, she could have written that section of the book herself.
But for today she was filled with relief over the lab results. In fact she was so overjoyed with the news she had difficulty believing it. A year ago she'd been told she had a terminal case, but now She looked at the doctor. "So what you're saying isit's really gone."
His brows furrowed. "Believe it, girl."
She believed it for today, but it would come back.
"I'm pleased that the terrible fatigue you felt for so long is now gone. You seem much stronger physically and emotionally. Your therapist and I believe you're ready to leave the center today if you wish."
That was the news she'd been waiting for. She had plans and there was no time to lose.
"Here's hoping that from now on you can live a normal life."
Normal It would never be normal when she knew the cancer would return. But she smiled at him. "How can I thank you for everything you've done for me?"
"You already have by working so hard to get well. You have a beautiful spirit and are an inspiration to the other patients here in the hospital. All the friends you've made here will miss you."
Tears stung her eyes. "I'll miss them more." With this checkup behind her, she could put her plan into action.
"I doubt that."
Zoe folded her arms to her waist. "My bill has to be astronomical. If it takes me the rest of my life, I'm going to pay back every cent of it."
"It's been taken care of by the generosity of the Giannopoulos Foundation Charity."
"I'm aware of that." So aware, in fact, she needed to thank the members of the Gian-nopoulos family personally and one day she would. "But everyone who works here is an angel, especially you. I don't know what I ever did to deserve such care."
When she'd been admitted to the hospital, she'd read the material given to every patient. The first time she'd gone to the chapel inside the hospital she'd read the plaque. It had been named for the Church of Agii Apostoli in Greece.
In honor of Patroklos Giannopoulos and his wife Irana Manos who survived the malaria outbreak on Paxos in the early 1960s.
In honor of her brother Kristos Manos who survived the malaria outbreak and emigrated to New York to build a new life.
In honor of Patroklos Giannopoulos who died from lymphoma.
"I'm here by the grace of the foundation here in New York too," the doctor reminded her. "It was established for Greek Americans with lymphoma who have no living family or means for the kind of help you've needed.
There are some wonderful, generous people in this world. Do you have a place to go?"
"Yes. Father Debakis at the Sacred Trinity Greek Orthodox Church has taken care of everything. I've known him since I was young. Throughout my ordeal he's been in constant contact with me. I owe him so much, and Iris Themis too. She's from the humanitarian council at Sacred Trinity and has arranged to take me to their homeless shelter where I can stay until I find a job and a place to live. All I have to do is phone her at her office."
"Splendid. As you know, you'll need another checkup in six weeks, either here or at another hospital depending on what's convenient. It will include a blood test and physical exam for lumps. But you can contact me at any time if you have concerns."
Zoe dreaded her next checkup, but she couldn't think about that right now. Instead she stood up to give him a hug. "Thank you for helping me get my life back. You'll never know what it means."
After she left his office, she hurried through the hospital and walked along the corridor that led to the convalescent center. She had a room on the second floor. Having lost her family, this had been her home for twelve months.
In the beginning, Zoe didn't dream that she'd ever leave this place alive. At first the man she'd been dating had called her often, but the technology company Chad worked for transferred him to Boston and the calls grew fewer and fewer. She understood, but it hurt her to the core. Even if he'd told her he was crazy about her, if he could leave at the darkest moment of her life, then she couldn't expect any man to accept her situation.
Though there were family friends from her old neighborhood who phoned her every so often, the inmates had become her choice friends. With all of them being Greek American, they shared stories of their family histories and had developed a camaraderie so strong she didn't want to leave them. It was here that her whole life had passed before her.
Once inside her room, she sat down on the side of the bed and phoned Iris. They planned to meet in front of the convalescent center in a half hour. One day Iris and the priest would receive their crowns in heaven.
Zoe had emerged from her illness wanting to help people the way they'd helped her. College could wait. If she could go to work for the Giannopoulos Foundation, that was what she wanted to do. Of necessity Zoe would have to approach Alexandra Kallistos, the woman who managed this center, but any experiences with her were unsettling. The other woman was standoffish. Whether that was her nature, or if she just didn't care for Zoe, she didn't know.
Earlier today when they'd passed each other in the hall, Ms. Kallistos hadn't even acknowledged her. Maybe it was because Zoe was taking up a bed someone else needed, but the therapist had insisted she still needed to be here. Because she'd lost her parents and required more time to heal mentally, the arrangements had been made for which Zoe would be eternally grateful.
Ms. Kallistos had an office at the hospital and was officially in charge. All the staff, doctors, nurses, therapists, lab workers, X-ray technicians, orderlies, kitchen help, volunteers and housekeeping people reported to her. She was a model of efficiency, but Zoe felt she lacked the bedside manner needed to make the inmates comfortable enough to confide in her.
Alexandra was a striking, brown-eyed, single Greek American woman probably in her early thirties. Her dark brown hair flounced around her shoulders. She wore fashionable clothes that made the most of her figure. But she seemed cold. Maybe that wasn't a fair judgment, but the thought of approaching her for a position made Zoe feel uneasy.
If there was a problem, maybe Father De-bakis would have better luck in bringing up the subject of Zoe working here.
August 10, Athens, Greece
Vasso Giannopoulos was nearing the end of the audits on the Giannopoulos Complex in Athens, Greece he co-owned with Akis, his younger married brother, when he heard his private secretary buzz him. He'd been looking over the latest inventories from their convenience stores in Alexandroupolis.
"Yes, Kyria Spiros?"
"Ms. Kallistos is on the line from New York. She's calling from the hospital in New York, asking to speak to you or your brother. Do you want to take it, or shall I tell her you'll call her back later? I know you didn't want to be disturbed."
"No, no. You did the right thing." The Giannopoulos Hospital and Convalescent Center were located in Astoria. But why she would be calling when he was scheduled to meet with her tomorrow seemed odd. His head lifted. "I'll speak to her."
He picked up the phone. "Alexandra? This is Vasso."
"I'm sorry to bother you, Vasso. I thought I could catch you before you fly here. You're very kind to take my call."
"Not at all."
"Everyone knows that you and your brother established the Giannopoulos Greek American Lymphoma Center here in New York several years ago. This is the fourth time that I've been contacted by a major television network to devote a piece to your lives.
"The managing director of the network wants to send a crew here to film the facility and interview some of the staff. More importantly they want to interview you and your brother for the featured documentary. I told him I would pass this along to you. I know you've turned them down before, but since you'll be here tomorrow, would you be interested in setting up an appointment?"
Vasso didn't have to think. "Tell the man we're not interested."
"All right. When can I expect you to arrive?"
"By two at the latest. I appreciate the call. Yassou." As he rang off, Akis walked in the office. "Hey, bro. I'm glad you're back. Alexandra just phoned. One of the networks in New York wants to do a documentary on us."
"Again?" Akis shook his head. "They never give up."
"Nope. I told her to tell them no."
"Good. How soon are you leaving for New York?"
"I'm ready to head out now. I plan to meet with some of our East Coast distributors early in the morning. Then I'll go over to the hospital and take a look at the books."
"While you do that, I'll finish up the rest of the inventories for the northern region. Raina will help. She's a genius with accounts. You won't have anything to worry about."
"How's her morning sickness?"
"It hardly ever bothers her now."
"Glad to hear it."
"Before you leave, I have a question." Akis eyed him with curiosity. "How did your evening go with Maris the other night?"
"That doesn't sound good. We were hoping she might be the one who brings an end to your bachelor existence."
"Afraid not. She's nice and interesting, but she's not the one." He patted Akis's shoulder. "See you in a couple of days."
Vasso hadn't been dating Maris that long, but already he knew he needed to end it with her. He didn't want to lead her on. But Akis's comment had hit a nerve. Both of them had been bachelors for a long time. Now that Akis was married, Vasso felt an emptiness in his life he'd never felt before. His brother was so happy these days with his new wife and a baby on the way, Vasso hardly recognized him.
August 12, New York City
"How are you, Alexandra?"
The manager got to her feet. "It's good to see you."
"I walked through the hospital and convalescent center first. Everything seems to be in perfect order. My congratulations for running an efficient center we can be proud of."
"Thank you. I know you're busy. If you want to go over the books in here, I can order lunch to be brought in."
"I've already eaten. Why don't I look at the figures while you're out to lunch? If I see anything wrong, we'll discuss it when you get back."
"All right. Before I leave, I wanted to tell you about a young woman who applied here for a job yesterday. I told her she didn't have the education or background necessary for the kind of work we do at the center.
"Later in the day I received a phone call from Father Debakis at the Sacred Trinity Church here in Astoria. He knows this woman and finds her a very capable person. He wanted to know if he could go to someone higher to arrange for an interview. I wrote the priest's number on my sticky note in case you want to deal with him."
"I'll take care of it now. Thanks for telling me."
"Then I'll leave and be back in an hour."
"Take your time." Vasso's curiosity had been aroused by the mention of the priest. As she reached the door he said, "I want you to know my brother and I are very pleased and grateful for the work you do to keep this center running so smoothly."
He heard a whispered thank-you before she left the office. Vasso phoned the number she'd left and asked to speak to Father Debakis. Then he sat back in the chair.
"It's an honor to speak with you, Kyrie Giannopoulos. I'm glad Ms. Kallistos passed my message along. Since I don't wish to waste your time, I'll come straight to the point." Vasso smiled. He liked brevity. "A very special twenty-four-year-old Greek American woman named Zoe Zachos here in Queens would like to work for your charity. I've taken it upon myself to approach you about it."
"I understand Ms. Kallistos had reservations about hiring her."
"When I spoke to her on Zoe's behalf, she said this young woman doesn't have the credentials and flatly refused to consider interviewing her for a position. I disagree strongly with her assessment and hoped to prevail on you to intercede in this matter."
Vasso and Akis had flown to New York ten months ago to find a new manager after the old one had to give it up due to ill health. Alexandra had come to them with outstanding references and was the most qualified of all the applicants because she'd had experience working in hospital administration.
Akis, who'd been in business with Vasso from childhood, had flown to New York five months later to check on her. So far neither he nor Vasso had a problem with the way she'd been doing her work. She must have had good reason not to take the other person's application.
"Obviously this is important to you."
"Very." Vasso blinked in surprise at the priest's sobriety. "Perhaps she could be interviewed by you?"
He sat forward. "That isn't our normal procedure."
"Ah " The disappointment in the priest's voice wasn't lost on Vasso, who'd been taught by his deceased father to revere a priest.
His black brows furrowed. "May I ask why you have such strong reasons for making this call?"
"It's a matter of some urgency."
The hairs lifted on the back of Vasso's neck. After the priest put it that way, Vasso didn't feel he could refuse him. "Tell me about her background."
"I think it would be better for you to discover that information yourself."
At this point Vasso was more than a little intrigued. In all honesty he found himself curious about the unusual request. "How soon could she be at Ms. Kallistos's office?"
"Within two hours."
"Then I'll be expecting her."
"Bless you, my son." The priest clicked off while a perplexed Vasso still held the phone in his hand. For the next hour and a half he pored over the books. When Alexandra returned, he told her everything looked in order and listened to some of her suggestions to do with the running of the hospital.