‘The mother might be favourably impressed,’ he commented. ‘Her name is Helen and she is a widow. It might help if you and Mama pay her some kind attention at the wedding.’
His father nodded. ‘Naturally we will do so. As a grandparent she should be sympathetic to those who wish to be. I will make my feelings on the subject known.’
‘She is Greek. So was her husband. The two daughters were born and brought up in Australia, but she would be familiar with the old ways … arranged marriages between families. If she understands it could be best for Christina and Theo to have the support and security our family can give them.’
‘Leave it to me. I shall win over the mother. You win over the daughter and your son. It is intolerable that we be left out of the boy’s life.’
That was the crux of it, Ari thought.
Whatever had to be done he would do to be a proper father to his son.
Ten hours was a long ferry ride from Athens to Santorini. Theo was fascinated by the wake of the boat so Tina spent most of the time on the outer rear deck with him while her mother relaxed inside with a book. They passed many islands, most of them looking quite barren and unattractive, and to Tina’s mind, not the least bit alluring like the tropical islands back home. It was disappointing. She had expected more magic. However, these islands were obviously not the main tourist drawcards like Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, and most especially Santorini.
When the ferry finally entered the harbour of their destination, she easily understood the stunning attraction of the landscape created from the volcanic eruption that had devastated ancient civilisations. The water in what had been the crater was a gorgeous blue, the semicircle of high cliffs was dramatic, and perched on top of them the classic white Greek island townships glistened in the late afternoon sunshine.
She wished Ari Zavros did not live on this island. She had looked forward to enjoying it, wanted to enjoy it, and decided she would do so in spite of him. If he had any decency at all, he would let the paternity issue drop, realizing he didn’t fit into the life she’d made for herself and Theo, and they were not about to fit into his with his obvious bent for a continual stream of charming episodes.
Transport was waiting for them at the ferry terminal. Theo was agog with how the mini-bus would negotiate the amazing zig-zag road which would take them from the bottom of the cliff to the top. As it turned out, the trip was not really hair-raising and the view from the bus-window was beautiful.
The El Greco resort faced the other side of the island, built in terraces down the hillside with rooms built around the swimming pools on each terrace. The buildings were all painted blue and white and the gardens looked very tropical with masses of colourful bougainvillea and hibiscus trees. The reception area was cool and spacious, elegantly furnished and with a view of the sea at the far end. A very attractive place, Tina thought. A place to relax. Except relaxation switched instantly to tension when they started to check in at the reception desk.
‘Ah, Mrs Savalas, just a minute please!’ the receptionist said quickly, beaming a rather unctuous smile at them. ‘I must inform the manager of your arrival.’ He ducked away to call through a doorway, ‘The Savalas party has arrived.’
A suited man emerged from a back office, beaming a similar smile at them as he approached the desk.
‘Is there a problem with our booking?’ her mother asked anxiously.
‘Not at all, Mrs Savalas. We have put you in rooms on the first terrace which is most convenient to the restaurant and the pool snack-bar. If there is anything that would make you more comfortable, you have only to ask and it will be done.’
‘Well, that’s very hospitable,’ her mother said with an air of relief.
‘I have had instructions from Mr Zavros to make you most welcome, Mrs Savalas. I understand you are here for a family wedding.’
‘Yes, but …’ She threw a puzzled look at Tina whose fists had instinctively clenched at the name that spelled danger all over this situation. ‘It’s very kind of Ari Zavros to.’
‘No, no, it is Maximus Zavros who has given the orders,’ the manager corrected her. ‘It is his nephew marrying your daughter. Family is family and you are not to pay for anything during your stay at El Greco. All is to be charged to him, so put away your credit card, Mrs Savalas. You will not need it here.’
Her mother shook her head in stunned disbelief. ‘I haven’t even met this Maximus Zavros.’
It did not concern the manager one bit. ‘No doubt you will at the wedding, Mrs Savalas.’
‘I’m not sure I should accept this … this arrangement.’
‘Oh, but you must!’ The manager looked horrified at the thought of refusal. ‘Mr Zavros is a very wealthy, powerful man. He owns much of the real estate on Santorini. He would be offended if you did not accept his hospitality and I would be at fault if I did not persuade you to do so. Please, Mrs Savalas. I beg you to enjoy. It is what he wishes.’
‘Well …’ Her mother looked confused and undecided until a helpful thought struck. She shot Tina a determined look. ‘We can talk to Ari about this tomorrow.’
Tina nodded, struggling with the death of any hope that Ari might disappear from her life again. She couldn’t believe this was simply a case of a rich powerful Greek extending hospitality. The words—family is family—had been like a punch in the stomach. She couldn’t dismiss the sickening suspicion that Ari had blabbed to his father. It was the only thing that made sense of this extraordinary move.
‘Let me show you to your rooms. A porter will bring your luggage.’ The manager bustled out from behind the reception desk. ‘I want to assure myself that all is as it should be for you.’
Their adjoining rooms were charming, each one with a walled outside area containing a table and chairs for enjoying the ambience of the resort. Complimentary platters of fresh fruit and a selection of wines were provided. The gorgeous floral arrangements were obvious extras, too. Her mother was delighted with everything. Tina viewed it all with jaundiced eyes and Theo was only interested in how soon he could get into the children’s swimming pool.
Their luggage arrived. Tina left her mother in the room Cassandra would share with her the night before the wedding and took Theo into theirs. Within a few minutes she had found their swimsuits in her big suitcase, and feeling driven to get out of the Zavros-permeated room, she and Theo quickly changed their clothes and headed for the water.