Tracey Von Axel is a party-girl heiress, famous for shopping and socializing. But she's determined to shed her image and show she has what it takes to run her family's empire.
Old family friend and Greek billionaire Nikos Lazaridis agrees to help Tracey--but he'll do it by taking her out of the boardroom and back to basics!
In a tumbledown Greek farmhouse, working the land from dawn till dusk, Nikos tests her resolve at every opportunity. But as the sun sets over the fields Nikos begins to find it's his own resolve that's being tested.
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July 10, 2007
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Excerpt from The Lazaridis Marriage by Rebecca Winters
HE WAS HERE.
Though surrounded by the champagne-saturated party crowd aboard the Padakis yacht moored at Zea Marina in Piraeus, Tracey picked him out immediately.
Along with a bevy of exotic-looking women in elegant gowns, there were close to thirty formally attired business tycoons of various ages and nationalities talking over or gyrating to the loud music.
A portion of them were overfed and out of shape. Several stood taller and fitter than the rest. Some of that percentage still had their hair. A few had a whole head of black hair and an enviable olive skin blessed by the Mediterranean sun.
But only one man possessed all the gifts and had the shoulders of a Colossus too.
The sight of him in these surroundings sent a weakness
She'd first met him ten years ago through her grandfather, who was the head of Loretto's Mustard Company. If it hadn't been for him, she wouldn't have become acquainted with the brilliant entrepreneur from Greece. He'd been invited as a guest to the mansion in Buffalo where Tracey had always lived with her parents and grandfather.
After her father's death, from which she'd never recovered, she and her mother had tried their best to stay out of the way of her widowed grandfather who, like a bad king, demanded obedience.
If Tracey's grieving mother hadn't needed her support to deal with him, Tracey would have run away. Though he presented one face to the public, he was an evil man.
She never knew him to be intimidated by anyone, except when he talked about Nikos Lazaridis. In those moments Tracey heard envy, even jealousy, in his voice.
"In another couple of years he'll be worth more than our family ever thought of being."
"Why do you think that?"
"Have I ever told you the story of Helios, the sun god?"
"In 292 BC the Colossus was erected on the Greek island of Rhodes. It was a statue of Helios, roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World."
Tracey couldn't understand why he was telling her this. "In The Odyssey, Homer called Helios the all seeing, all hearing. Even the goddess Demeter went to him for help in locating her daughter Persephone."
"Is that why you talk about him more than anyone else? Because he knows everything?"
She pondered his answer. "I thought you said you knew everything."
"I did...until I met him."
That day she'd learned Nikos had grown up in central Greece, the child of a poor farmer. A son whose sheer grit and brains had come up with an idea that had made history along with his fortune.
A week after the conversation, she accidentally met the man her grandfather had put on a par with Hellenic myth.
She'd been calling to her little black pug, Samson, who loved chasing birds. He'd been a gift from her beloved father before he'd been killed in a car accident.
As she rounded a corner to catch up with her dog, she discovered a man who was perfection. His height and coal-black hair made him different from any other as he stood outside the mansion with her grandfather. To her delight he was cuddling Samson, talking to him in endearing terms while being licked.
Paul Loretto didn't like children or animals, so her mom had helped to keep her pet hidden. To Tracey's horror, she realized too late her grandfather had come home early from the office with a guest. In front of this man, her grandfather scolded her unconscionably hard for not restraining her dog. It brought tears to her eyes, but he'd been too angry to care or even introduce her to the stranger.
If the visitor hadn't been there, her grandfather would have dragged her back into the house by the arm and locked her in her room. But the stranger had been there to prevent him from physically lashing out at her. He mitigated the pain further by flashing her a tender smile.
"You must be Tracey."
"Yes," she murmured, fighting not to let him see how hurt and humiliated she was.
"I'm Nikos Lazaridis. I met your mother last night. This little fellow is so cute, I just might take him home with me. I used to have a dog, too."
His deep-throated laugh of pleasure while he continued to play with Samson wrapped right around her heart.
"What kind was he?"
"A black-and-white mutt. I found him on the road injured, and took him home."
"What did you call him?"
"Zeus," he said, handing the dog back to her with care.
"The head god of Olympus."
His eyes flickered, as if he was pleased she knew something about the myths. "I named him that to make him feel important."
"Zeus was lucky you found him," she whispered. Tracey's heart swelled as their eyes clung with an understanding she could feel on several levels. He'd rescued his own dog from a terrible fate as surely as he'd rescued Samson from the wrath of her grandfather.