The Secret Beneath the Veil(3)By: Dani Collins
Viveka had learned the hard way to be terrified of Grigor. Even in London his cloud of intolerance had hung like a poison cloud, making her careful about when she contacted Trina, never setting Trina against him by confiding her suspicions, always aware he could hurt Viveka through her sister.
She had sworn she wouldn’t return to Greece, certainly not with plans that would make Grigor hate her more than he already did, but she was confident he wouldn’t do more than yell in front of all these wedding guests. There were media moguls in the assemblage and paparazzi circling the air and water. The risk in coming here was a tall round of embarrassed confusion, nothing more.
She sincerely hoped.
The moment of truth approached. Her voice thinned and cracked, making her vows a credible imitation of Trina’s as she spoke fraudulently in her sister’s place, nullifying the marriage—and merger—that Grigor wanted so badly. It wasn’t anything that could truly balance the loss of her mother, but it was a small retribution. Viveka wore a grim inner smile as she did it.
Her bouquet shook as she handed it off and her fingers felt clumsy and nerveless as she exchanged rings with Mikolas, keeping up the ruse right to the last minute. She wouldn’t sign any papers, of course, and she would have to return these rings. Darn, she hadn’t thought about that.
Even his hands were compelling, so well shaped and strong, so sure. One of his nails looked... She wasn’t sure. Like he’d injured it once. If this were a real wedding, she would know that intimate detail about him.
Silly tears struck behind her eyes. She had the same girlish dreams for a fairy-tale wedding as any woman. She wished this were the beginning of her life with the man she loved. But it wasn’t. Nothing about this was legal or real.
Everyone was about to realize that.
“You may kiss the bride.”
* * *
Mikolas Petrides had agreed to this marriage for one reason only: his grandfather. He wasn’t a sentimental man or one who allowed himself to be manipulated. He sure as hell wasn’t marrying for love. That word was an immature excuse for sex and didn’t exist in the real world.
No, he felt nothing toward his bride. He felt nothing toward anyone, quite by conscious decision.
Even his loyalty to his grandfather was provisional. Pappoús had saved his life. He’d given Mikolas this life once their blood connection had been verified. He had recognized Mikolas as his grandson, pulling him from the powerless side of a brutal world to the powerful one.
Mikolas repaid him with duty and legitimacy. His grandfather had been born into a good family during hard times. Erebus Petrides hadn’t stayed on the right side of the law as he’d done what he’d seen as necessary to survive. Living a corrupt life had cost the old man his son and Mikolas had been Erebus’s second chance at an heir. He had given his grandson full rein with his ill-gotten empire on the condition Mikolas turn it into a legal—yet still lucrative—enterprise.
No small task, but this marriage merger was the final step. To the outside observer, Grigor’s world-renowned conglomerate was absorbing a second-tier corporation with a questionable pedigree. In reality, Grigor was being paid well for a company logo. Mikolas would eventually run the entire operation.
Was it irony that his mother had been a laundress? Or appropriate?
Either way, this marriage had been Grigor’s condition. He wanted his own blood to inherit his wealth. Mikolas had accepted to make good on his debt to his grandfather. Marriage would work for him in other ways and it was only another type of contract. This ceremony was more elaborate than most business meetings, but it was still just a date to fix signatures upon dotted lines followed by the requisite photo op.
Mikolas had met his bride—a girl, really—twice. She was young and extremely shy. Pretty enough, but no sparks of attraction had flared in him. He’d resigned himself to affairs while she grew up and they got to know one another. Therein might be another advantage to marriage, he had been thinking distantly, while he waited for her to walk down the aisle. Other women wouldn’t wheedle for marriage if he already wore a ring.
Then her approach had transfixed him. Something happened. Lust.