Dimitra, Dimi, as her best friends called her, knew she needed to get her plan to work. Being married to Miklos had been her father’s dream for her but the man was a ruthless thug, much like her father had been and she wanted no part of Lykiaos family legacy.
She needed a divorce. Preferably, she admitted to herself as she sat in her car in the long driveway of her husband’s estate, an annulment would be best, considering they’d never even consummated the marriage. However, in order to allow Miklos to continue to run the family he had to be married to the mafia princess.
She knew he took lovers. They’d been married for eight years and there was no way on earth a man who looked like him, with the raw masculine energy he exuded, was celibate waiting for the day his wife returned from university to take up role as his designated arm candy. If she hadn’t been convinced on his s*x appeal alone, the paparazzi hounding the notorious billionaire, documented his escapades at every turn.
“To hell with that,” she muttered furiously. As she sat there in the driveway contemplating how she had told her two best friends it would take her two weeks to make her husband so insane with frustration of being married to her, he would not only willingly divorce her, but she could also potentially be free of the weight of the Lykiaos family curse.
The curse, or as her father called it, the blessing. Some blessing. Everything the Lykiaos family touched turned to gold and they loved all which glimmered. It didn’t matter they were worse than dragons and hoarded it from the bones and flesh of the enemies they crushed. The blessing was one passed down from an ancient Greek king who promised so long as the bloodline of Lykiaos family continued, wealth and prosperity would follow.
To be fair, she didn’t dislike the idea of wealth and prosperity. What she disliked was every single man and woman in her family was cursed to procreate. She loved kids and would love to have them someday but not at the hands of her father’s family.
Vasili Lykiaos was a cold, hard man and if she had a male heir, he would do everything in his power to make sure her son ruled the next generation of their little Greek family. He’d be at her forever to secure the family was well taken care of until she pushed out a boy for him to mold into his perfect prodigy of terror. She knew all too well the dangers of being raised by her family.
Her father had not been one of those men who thought mafia princesses should be protected at all costs from the blood and guts of their operation. She had been five the first time she watched him snip an enemy’s fingers off. She had been twelve the first time she watched him shoot a man in the head. Not long after this, he’d made her do it too. She had been eighteen when he’d married her off ruthlessly to his protégé Miklos, the son of his best friend. There was no protection for her. Many families like theirs kept their girls away from such things. Not Vasili. He wasn’t raising a princess. He was raising a ruler, someone to work with Miklos. He was protecting his family empire.
Three months after her marriage, she had been accepted to MIT in the computer sciences program, a last-minute admission. She’d gotten in the week before school started. Her marriage had been quiet and unless you were a direct relative of the family, nobody knew. Her father’s grooming had made her capable of negotiation tactics which had secured she was able to go to university and complete her degree.
Miklos, seven years her senior, had said it would be a good idea to have an asset with computer skills in the family and so, with her new husband’s blessing, she had been permitted to attend her program in a state on the other side of the country.
A four-year program had turned into eight while she worked on her masters and did a few stints in universities abroad. She returned home when commanded by her father and for holidays, but since the honeymoon in Crete where they barely spoke to each other when they were even in the same room, she could count on one hand the number of times she had been in Miklos’ company.
Then eight weeks ago, her father had a heart attack. Dropped dead of a heart attack while screwing one of his mistresses in his home office while her mother was shopping for the ingredients of his favorite meal. The stupid nurse had given him CPR and the bastard had survived, had undergone a triple bypass, and had found a new lease on life. Now he wanted grandchildren before he died a second time. She’d rather rip her womb out and eat it in front of him.
It was of course, only half of her problem and half the reason she needed a divorce.
During her university stay, she and two of her best friends, Darya and Magda had devised an incredible computer program which was now being hunted by multiple huge companies offering billions of dollars for the rights. The idea had been Magda’s. Dimi had designed the program and Darya had used her business acumen to begin pitching it. When they originally couldn’t get the financing to back it, Dimi had drained her trust fund and using the hundred and twenty thousand dollars she had vowed never to touch, they designed their app. Now the big banks wanted it. The three of them were an unstoppable force.
But during a conversation three weeks ago when she was complaining yet again about her father’s incessant phone calls about coming home to fulfil her duties to her husband, Magda had questioned what happened to Dimi’s share of the profits. Since she’d been married for nearly eight years, would Miklos be entitled to any of it?
She didn’t know where her prenup was. It was probably locked in a safe in either her father’s or Miklos’ home offices away from her prying eyes. All she knew was, her best bet was to divorce him and fast. The sooner the better. If they could get divorced in a couple of weeks, better yet annulled, then when the sale potentially went through in a few weeks at most, her money could be hers.
She could live without the threat of Lykiaos family breathing down her neck. The last bid had been two-point-four billion dollars. Split three ways between the women, they could do anything they wanted in the world.
They had sat for hours devising multiple plans to try to get out of the marriage. Magda suggested a hit man just to shoot Miklos and be done with it. Dimi didn’t like him, but she didn’t want him dead either. She’d grown up with him standing over her like a big brother most of her life.
In fact, if she were honest, and typically she was brutally so, when he had told her by the pool on her eighteenth birthday, they were getting married, she had, for a brief moment, felt overjoyed because he’d been her childhood crush. Then he’d stomped all over her joyous feelings with a reminder she was just a child, and it would be a formality only to ensure their families were joined so the Lykiaos business was run according to her father’s desires. From the day on, her puppy dog eyes following him around were no more and as he had more than once been photographed in the tabloids with one lover or another her crush had completely disintegrated into intense dislike.
Still, though, she couldn’t kill him. With her luck, her father would force her to marry someone else or worse, head the family herself. She gave a shudder. She did not want to be the one giving commands to take someone’s life.
They had plotted to perhaps frame him for something. Dimi had enough computer hacking skills she could have found a way to get him imprisoned for years. However, it would still mean they’d be married even if he were in prison. He would still have right to her money.
Then, while they had hit the bottom of the bottle of prosecco they had been drinking to celebrate, Dimi said she could simply move back home and make his life a living hell. She told them of the way she had once put itching powder in his socks when she was seven and he was fourteen right before his first date with the prettiest girl in school. Then she revealed how she had heard him talking to a girl on the phone when he was sixteen about having s*x in the cabana and she’d made sure to tell his mother exactly where he was when she had come looking for him. He’d been ready to murder her then, but her mother had been dragging the girl out of the house by the hair calling her all kinds of names and he had been too busy to deal with Dimi.
Her favorite story however had been when he was twenty and he had brought a beautiful buxom brunette home from college. Dimi knew he had not told the girl he dated when he was home, he’d come home for the weekend. A discrete little message to the girl’s younger sister had created fireworks unlike anything Dimi had expected. The brunette and the blonde had gotten into such a fantastic cat fight resulting in one of the brunette’s breast implants rupturing and her breast visibly deflating.
Her friends had been howling at the stories, but it had given them an idea. She could make it work. All she had to do was move home as her father had instructed. She could work from anywhere. Her life was wrapped up in a couple of laptops. In fact, unknown to her family or her husband, the three women had been living right under their noses in LA for the last eighteen months.
They had left Massachusetts with the intention of living life on the sunny coast. They shared a rented house on the beach. They surfed, swam, and worked together while they plotted world domination. Well, in actuality, all three of them plotted on how to take back their lives from their crazy families.
Magda’s family had gotten in the way of her high-school crush and had offered him a huge payday to leave her. He’d taken the money and ran like a little b***h. She wanted revenge on him, and her father and she was going to have it.
Darya’s family on the other hand had been kind and supportive so long as she did everything, they told her to do for the first eighteen years of her life. It had all changed when she had refused to marry the boy, they handpicked for her. They had kicked her out of the house and cut her off from her inheritance. They’d even took her dog away from her. She applied for and got scholarships, told the Dean of Admissions the truth on why she was relying on scholarships and had a full ride for four years through her business program. She didn’t need her family’s money and she was going to prove it to them. She’d succeed on her own. Rather, she succeeded with the help of her two best friends and her dog Jinx, which they had gone and retrieved one night at Dimi’s insistence. Years of being part of the criminal underworld had allowed her to sneak in and out of the mansion belonging to Darya’s family without being caught.
The shih-tzu was living her best life on the beaches in Santa Monica with her mom, aunties Dimi and Magda. They were family.
Family, unlike the man who about an hour ago, had arrived at his house with his current lover in tow. Dimi wasn’t supposed to arrive until Monday, and it was only Saturday. Had he known she was coming today, he would have left the country. It was his method of operation where she was concerned. She had let her father know who assured her he had told Miklos she was coming home for good, and he’d apparently been thrilled with the news. “I bet,” she muttered as she sighed deeply. The spying she and the girls had done over the last two weeks told her he brought the girl to his house every other night without fail. They had exactly two drinks each and then headed upstairs.
His housekeeper would tidy up and then let herself out of the house by nine pm at which time it was presumed the man began the mating dance of whatever primate family he belonged to. It was now eight-forty-five.
Her phone rang in her handbag, and she pulled out it.
“Hello, my pretties,” she grinned as the faces of her two best friends appeared on her screen.
“Hi. Are you in position?”
“Yes, but I wonder if he is?” they cackled at her dirty innuendo. “I’m going to go let myself in. Wish me luck. I’ll talk to you both in a bit.”
She hung up on their chortles of glee, pulled her overnight bag off the front seat and then made her way into the house. She punched in the code to the house alarm system and let herself in. Whenever she came to visit her father, she stayed her, at Miklos’ home. He assumed she was with her husband, but Miklos always vacated the premises and let her have the house while he went wherever it was, philandering men went while their wives were home.
She could hear music playing upstairs and she grinned. Someone was feeling lucky tonight as the sultry sounds of whatever sexy-time playlist he’d downloaded were blaring from upstairs. “Dude, she doesn’t need to hear Marvin Gaye. You need music to which she can dance. Give her some calypso beats or reggae,” she whispered to herself grinning as she made her way to the kitchen.
She stood in the doorway watching Mrs. Kyriakos, the housekeeper who had been with Mr. Laskaris for years. The woman was clearly annoyed as she loaded the dishwasher. Dimi grinned with unbridled glee when the woman muttered under her breath about gold-digging whores. Mrs. K jumped and grabbed her chest as she took in the silhouette of the woman standing in the dimly lit kitchen doorway. Dimi’s grin grew wider as the woman’s face grew paler looking in the direction of the ceiling.
“Shh,” she winked, “our little secret.”
“I expected you for Monday.”
“I came early,” at the loud vocals of a woman screaming upstairs, Dimi grinned, “so did someone else it seems.”
The elderly woman blushed, and Dimi crossed the kitchen and hugged her tight. “I missed you Mrs. K.” She kissed her cheek noisily. “I know you’re ready to go home but would you mind helping me set up one of the guest rooms on this floor? The master suites upstairs are occupied and a menage a trois is not my thing.”
The woman slapped at her. “You are rude.”
“I know but it’s why I’m your favorite,” she draped her arm over the rounded woman’s shoulders. “Don’t tell him I’m here tonight. Let him have his fun.”
“Surely you don’t want to stay here and listen to that?” She pointed to the ceiling. “You can come stay in my cottage with me if you like.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” She saw the woman’s surprised eyes and grinned and held up her bag, “kidding, noise-cancelling headphones. I’ll sleep like a baby. I promise. Does my husband still get up at six in the morning on Sundays? Even if he has guests?”
“He does. He gets up at six, swims his laps and then breakfast for him and his guest at seven.”
“Excellent. I’ll make pancakes.”
The woman slapped at her again, “Dimitra, you are toying with him.”
“I am indeed.” Her eyes danced with mirth. They both paused in the middle of the wide-open foyer as the creak of a door opening overhead caught their ear.
“Mrs. Kyriakos, are you still here?” Miklos warm voice carried down the stairs.
Dimi shot her a warning glance and put her finger to her lips.
“Yes, sir. I am. I broke a glass, and it took me a moment to clean up.” The woman panicked and lied.
“Not one of the crystal tumblers I brought back from home?” he called closer to the top of the stairs.
Dimi backed towards the hall where the guest rooms were and shook her head warningly at the older woman who was drowning in her sea of lies.
“No, sir. I had grabbed a quick glass of water with one of the other glasses. It’s all cleaned now. I’ll be leaving shortly. Just finishing my round downstairs and I’ll be gone.”
“Okay. Be careful on the patio stones to the cottage.” The pounding of his footsteps heading back into suite of rooms on the third floor echoed down before the music started up again.
Dimi raced to the kitchen and grabbed a glass, a dishtowel, and a rolling pin.
“What are you doing?”
“Covering your ass,” she grinned at the woman. “He will check for broken glass. He’s as anal as my father.” She broke the glass, shook the tea towel into the trash bin and then deposited the towel with it and then replaced the rolling pin.
“I didn’t even think.”
“Because you, my saintly darling, are as pure as the driven snow. I’m a Lykiaos. No scruples at all.”
“Not true. You are lovely.”
“Remember you believe this when over the next two weeks I cause chaos.”
“Why would you cause chaos?”
“Because I need a divorce.”
“You can’t just ask for one?” the woman followed her to the guest bedroom whispering furiously.
“Have you met my husband and my father? My wants do not equate into anything of value. Right now, my father is hellbent on me coming home and giving him an heir to the throne,” she shivered as disgust raced down her spine. “I’d sooner mate with a gorilla.” She made a face as the woman upstairs screaming at the top of her lungs about how she was coming echoed around them. “She apparently is having an orgasm. He’s strangely quiet. Maybe it’s not as good for him? He is in his thirties now. Perhaps he needs to concentrate more.”
“Can we not talk about,” Mrs. K’s face was flushed and contorted with misery as she grabbed linens from the closet under the stairs and rushed off to the spare room, “whatever disgusting thing they are doing up there? He disrespects your vows.” She brushed her hair off her reddened cheeks, “I’m so sorry you have to be here for this.”
“Pfft,” she rolled her eyes. “Our marriage is not even legal. One has to consummate a marriage for it to be legal and I was only eighteen. He was not interested in playing hide the serpent with a child.” She paused and wrinkled her nose at the woman, “thank God. Imagine having to scream so loud just to reassure a man he’s doing a good job? His ego must be in tatters.”
She took the sheets from the older woman and placed a kiss to her cheek, “Mrs. K. you have sacrificed enough for my mission. Go home and rest easy. Tomorrow, the war begins.”
The woman kissed her cheek warmly, “you know my dear Dimitra, there are always casualties in war. Someone could get hurt.”
She wiggled her eyebrows exaggeratedly, “I’m banking on it.”
“I’m concerned for your wellbeing, not his.” Mrs. K put her hands upon her hips. “You are talking the talk, but you forget I know you.”
“I have appropriately compartmentalized the way my father has taught me when conducting torture. My emotions are gone.” She winked playfully at the woman she considered more her grandmother than her own grandmothers.
As the grey-haired housekeeper huffed and made her way out of the room and the house, Dimi rifled through her bags for her noise-cancelling headphones. She shoved them onto her head and found a playlist on her phone blasting it in her ears to drown out the date-night playlist her husband had created for his girl of the week and began making her bed.
She looked around the room with a smile. This was the room she always stayed in when she came here. The wallpaper was a pattern of giant peonies of pinks and whites with green ivy trailing through it. The floor was a warm dark stained wood with a dark green plush rug extending under the bed, just peeking out enough so when you first stepped out in the morning, you weren’t stepping on cool floors.
On the main floor, it backed to the pool through wide French doors. She would have perfect view of Miklos when he dove in for his laps in the morning. He was a single-minded man so he wouldn’t even look in this direction.
She ran her hand along the warm wood of the mahogany headboard as she tucked the fresh bedsheets to the mattress. She had loved the warm richness of this bed so much she had bought one almost like it for her room at the beach house. She pulled the duvet back up after replacing the sheets and then sighed happily at the finished product.
She moved to the ensuite bath and looked at herself in the mirror and frowned at her reflection. Her eyes were too bright. Big and brown, liquid and she noted the dark circles under them. She knew their marriage wasn’t a real one. It had never been, not from the day she was told she was marrying. Yet, part of her was still the girl in her first few months of college prior to tabloids spreading the gossip of the billionaire playboys’ exploits. For three months she had prayed he would come claim her at school. She fantasized of him telling her how not seeing her for one, then two, then three months had made him realise how much she was part of his life and wanted to take her back home. When Christmas had come around and he’d begged off to Europe for the holiday season, she’d been crushed. When he’d been photographed in London New Years Eve kissing a gorgeous supermodel, she’d gone back to her new friends in Boston and vowed to put the man behind her.
It hadn’t dulled the ache in her heart. He’d been her first and only crush and love. She had adored the man from the time she was twelve and discovered boys. He had never considered her anything other than a nuisance and sisterly. Their marriage was on paper only.
They weren’t a married couple. Their marriage was not real. There was no love. He wasn’t cheating on her the way her father cheated on her mother. It was only cheating if there was a relationship and there was none. She considered as she stared in the mirror if he were to pass her on the street, he probably wouldn’t have looked twice. He wouldn’t know who she was.
The hair she’d always worn in short little pixie cuts until college now hung in a warm silky draping of deep chestnut waves. The nose she’d always thought had been pudgy and snub-tipped had rounded out as she’d gotten older and now suited her face perfectly. Her body was curvaceous, a happy size twelve which fluctuated depending on the season. In the summer when surfing and swimming were in full swing, she could easily drop to a size ten. In the winter she rounded up but wasn’t this what winter was all about? Living in Boston for winter had taught her the value of a cozy fireplace, hot toddies, and roasted marshmallows. When she’d been fitted for her wedding dress, she’d been a size eighteen in her gown and her mother had been furious at the designer for even suggesting her daughter was anything but the perfect size.
No, she considered as she turned to look at herself one more time before turning in. She was not the plump, short-haired brat he’d been forced to marry. She was going to get her freedom and give him his and then she could take her money and run as far away from the Lykiaos family as she could. It was this thought which carried her into her sleep.