When wealthy socialite Raina Maywood attends her best friend's wedding, the last thing she's expecting is her own romance! Since her marriage imploded, she's learned to keep her distance until she meets gorgeous best man Akis!
Self-made millionaire Akis mistrusts women who only have eyes for his wallet, but the beautiful stranger he meets at the wedding doesn't even know he's rich. Their connection is instant and profound. Has Akis finally found a woman who loves the man behind the millionaire?
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"Chloe? I'm sorry I can't be your maid of honor, but you know why."
Following that statement there was a long silence on Chloe's part. But Raina had her job plus the many responsibilities thrown onto her shoulders since the death of her grandfather. She was now heiress to the Maywood billion-dollar fortune and was constantly in the news. When she went out in public, the paparazzi were right on her heels.
Chloe's family were high-profile Greek industrialists, a favorite target of the European paparazzi. Her marriage would be the top story in Athens. "If I were your maid of honor, the media would make a circus out of your special day." Raina feared it would take the spotlight off her dear friend. For Chloe's sake, she couldn't risk it.
Too much had happened in the intervening years. It had been eight years, in fact, since Chloe had lived with Raina and her grandparents during her senior year of high school. But they'd stayed in touch by phone and the internet.
Three years ago Raina's grandmother had died and Chloe had come to California with her parents for the funeral. Just nine months ago Raina's grandfather had died and once again Chloe and her family had flown over to be with her for his funeral. Their close friendship had helped her get through her grief, and Chloe's family had begged Raina to come back to Greece with them.
"Please tell me you understand, Chloe. I have no desire to intrude on your joy."
"I don't care about me."
"But I do."
After a resigned sigh Chloe said, "Then at least stay at the house with me and my family. After all you did for me when I lived with you, my parents are anxious to do everything they can for you."
"Tell you what. After you've left on your honeymoon I'll be thrilled to spend time with them before I fly back to California."
"They'll want you to stay for several months.
Think about it. We could have such a wonderful time together."
"I will think about it. As for right now I can't wait to be at your reception. The photos you sent me in your wedding dress are fabulous!"
"But you won't get to see me married at the church."
"Much as I'm sorry about that, it's better this way. I've already booked a room at the Diethnes Hotel. You can reach me on the phone there or on my cell phone. Chloe? You promise you haven't told your fiancé my plans?"
"I swear it. Of course he knows all about you, but he doesn't have any idea that you are coming to Greece."
"Good. That's how I want things to stay. This is going to be your day! If the press finds out I'm there, I'm afraid it will ruin things for you. Later this year I'll fly over to meet him, or you can fly to California."
"I promise. He's so wonderful, I can't eat or sleep."
"That doesn't surprise me. Ta le-me, Chloe," she said, using one of the few Greek expressions she still remembered, before hanging up.
Six years ago Raina had been in the same excited condition as her friend. Halfway through college she'd met Byron Wallace, a writer. After a whirlwind romance they were married. But it didn't take long to see his selfish nature and suspect her new husband of being unfaithful. Armed with proof of his infidelity even before their two-year marriage anniversary, she'd divorced him, only to lose her grandmother to heart failure.
In her pain she vowed never to marry again. She'd told as much to her beloved, ailing grandfather who'd passed away from stomach cancer.
Chloe's phone call a month ago about her impending marriage had come as a wonderful surprise. Since the death of Raina's grandfather, it was the one piece of news that put some excitement back into her life.
The head of her team at the lab was aware she hadn't taken a vacation in several years. He urged her to take the time off for as long as she wanted. "Go to Greece and be with your friend," he'd said. "We'll still be here when you get back."
Raina thought about it. A change of scene to enjoy Chloe's nuptials might be exactly what she needed.
* * *
Maybe it was the stress of everything she'd had to do before her flight to Athens, Greece. All Raina knew was that she had developed a splitting headache. She needed a strong painkiller. After filing out of the coach section to clear customs wearing jeans and a T-shirt, she retrieved her medium-sized suitcase and left the terminal late morning to find a taxi.
"The Diethnes Hotel, please," she told the driver. The man at the travel agency in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, had booked the budget hotel for her. From there she could walk to Syntagma Square and the city center without problem.
Chloe had phoned her from Athens yesterday to exclaim over the gorgeous seventy-eight-degree temperature, perfect for her June wedding that would take place tomorrow. Considering the prominence of the Milonis and Chiotis families, it promised to be one of the country's major society events of the summer.
Raina, a strawberry blonde with wavy hair cut neck length, looked at the clear blue Greek sky, a good omen for the impending festivities. Chloe was the sweetest girl in the world. Raina hoped she was marrying an honorable man who'd be true to her.
Raina hadn't been so lucky in that department, but four years had passed since the divorce and she refused to let any remaining clouds dampen the excitement for her friend. Every woman went into marriage praying it would last forever. A woman had that right, didn't she?
Once she'd been shown to her room and had unpacked, Raina went back downstairs for directions to the nearest pharmacy for headache medicine. The concierge told her there was a convenience store in the next block many of the American tourists frequented.
Raina thanked him and made her way down the street.
Akis Giannopoulos smiled at his best friend. "Are you ready to take the big plunge?"
Theo grinned. "You already know the answer to that question. If I'd had my way, I would have kidnapped Chloe and married her in private several months ago. But her mother and mine have had an agenda since the engagement. Wouldn't you know the guest list includes a cast of thousands?"
"You're a lucky man." Akis was happy for him. Theo and Chloe seemed to be a perfect match. "Can I do any last-minute service for you before you become a married man?"
"You did more than enough helping me make all the hotel arrangements for our out-of-town guests. I suggest you go back to the penthouse. I need my best man relaxed before the big day tomorrow. Will your brother be there?"
"Vasso phoned me earlier. He'll make it to the wedding, but then he has to get back to the grand opening so he'll miss the reception."
"Understood. So, I'll see you at the church in the morning?"
Akis hugged him. "Try to keep me away."
The two men had been friends for a long time. Naturally Akis was thrilled for Theo, but he was surprised to discover just how much he would miss the camaraderie they'd shared as bachelors. Having done so many things together, Akis was feeling a real sense of loss.
Theo's life would now be swept up with Chloe's. Falling in love with her had changed his friend. He was excited for this marriage. Akis marveled that Theo wanted it so much.
How could he feel so certain that marrying Chloe was the right thing for him?
Marriage meant a lifelong commitment. The woman would have to be so sensational. Akis couldn't fathom finding such a woman.
Aware he was in a despondent mood that wasn't like him, he left the bank Theo's family had owned for several decades and decided to walk to the penthouse in order to shake it off. After the wedding rehearsal that had taken place this morning, exercise was what he needed.
Tourists had flooded into Athens. He saw every kind and description as he made his way to the Giannopoulos complex. After turning a corner, he almost bumped into a beautiful female in a T-shirt and jeans coming in his direction.
"Me seen xo rees, thespinis," he apologized, getting out of her way just in time.
She murmured something he didn't quite hear. For a moment their eyes locked. He felt like he'd suddenly come in contact with an electric current. She must have felt it, too, because he saw little bursts of violet coming from those velvety depths before she walked on. By the way she moved, she had a definite destination in mind. The last thing he saw was her blondish-red hair gleaming in the sun before she rounded the corner behind him.