The Andreou Marriage Arrangement(3)

By: Helen Bianchin

She stood and indicated the consultation had reached a conclusion. The lawyer accompanied her into the lobby and pressed the call button to summon a lift.

Alesha gritted her teeth together in a need to prevent the urge to scream as the lift transported her to ground. Why had her father conspired to do what he had?

Except she knew precisely why.

Hadn’t Dimitri’s own marriage to her mother been deemed a satisfactory liaison benefitting both families?

Love? If it happened, well and good. If it didn’t, affection, family was enough to make a contented life.

Surprisingly, her parents had shared a good marriage. A little volatile at times, she reflected, remembering Dimitri’s voice raised in anger over some relatively minor conflict with her mother. A woman who’d stood her own ground and given back as much in kind. Had they shared a grand passion? Perhaps. Great affection, certainly.

Alesha had wanted the grand passion, the love generated by two souls in perfect accord. She’d thought she’d found it with Seth Armitage…only to discover he’d very cleverly played a cruel game, and her marriage was nothing more than a travesty. One she escaped from almost as soon as the ink had dried on their marriage certificate.

Dimitri, to give him his due, hadn’t vented with I told you so. He’d been supportive, caring.

Yet it hurt unbearably that behind the scenes he’d been conspiring to cement her future and the future of Karsouli. Worse, somehow, was Loukas Andreou’s complicity.

To think she’d accepted his condolences, shared his presence during the funeral service, suffered his silent watchfulness…and he knew.

Dear Lord in heaven.

Was she the only one who’d been in ignorance?

At this very moment, was Loukas Andreou already putting plans in motion to assume prime position within Karsouli?

Or had he already done that, skilfully lining everything up to ensure any hiccups would be only minor? And if he had, how could she have missed seeing it? Surely there should have been something, even subtle, that would have alerted her attention?

Yet even on brief reflection, she failed to pinpoint any one thing.

The Sydney skyline was slightly hazy in the prelude to evening dusk, the harbour assuming a darker hue as ferries left a white churning tail as they transported some of the city’s workers to the northern suburb of Manly. Her apartment formed part of a large old double-storeyed home in fashionable Double Bay, whose interior had been completely restructured into four self-contained two-bedroom apartments. Modern state-of-the-art appliances blended beautifully with the deliberate styling of the previous century.

It had given Alesha immense pleasure to add furnishings to complement the era…large comfortable sofas, antique furniture, exquisite lamps and beautiful Oriental rugs, large squares and runners providing an attractive foil for the stained wooden floors.

Home, for the past two years. Hers, alone.

Something completely different from the modern house gifted to her on her wedding day. A home she’d legally tussled over with Seth, along with his claim for a half share, together with a half share of the assets she’d brought to the marriage.

A slight shudder scudded down the length of her spine as she garaged her car.

Seth, the handsome charmer who’d played so skilfully into her hands…and who, once vows legalized their union        , with his ring on her finger, had dropped the pretence he’d so carefully fostered.

Even now with hindsight, she had trouble relating the charmer to the hard, calculating monster he became.

It’s gone, done and dusted, Alesha dismissed as she entered the spacious foyer and trod the stairs to her apartment.

She was whole again, mentally and physically. Dating wasn’t on her agenda…hadn’t been since she’d walked out on her marriage. She had friends…a trusted few whose company she valued.

Life, until her father’s death a week ago, had become settled, predictable, comfortable.

Now it was about to take a backwards flip into the uncertain, and instinct warned she’d need all her wits to cope with whatever lay ahead.

Marriage to Loukas Andreou?

If it happened, it would be on her terms.

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