CHAPTER FOURTEEN

TINA was determined not to regret marrying Ari Zavros but to view her time with him—regardless of what happened in the end—as an experience worth having. In any event, she would not lose Theo or any other children they might have. The signed prenuptial agreement was in her keeping.

Everyone was happy that a wedding would soon take place. The Zavros family seemed particularly pleased to welcome her into their clan and Theo was over the moon at belonging to so many more people. Plans were quickly made. Her mother had no hesitation in deciding that Athens would be the best place for her to live—much closer to her daughters—and Maximus immediately offered to find the best property for her while they dealt with winding up their lives in Australia.

Ari accompanied them back to Sydney. He organised the sale of the restaurant to the head chef and the head waiter. Tina suspected he financed the deal. Everything in their apartment was packed up by professionals—also organised by Ari—and stored in a container which would be shipped to Athens. He was a whirlwind of activity, determined on moving them out with the least amount of stress. Her mother thought he was wonderful.

Tina couldn’t fault him, either. He was attentive to their needs, carried out their wishes, and to Tina’s surprise, even purchased an extremely expensive three-bedroom apartment overlooking Bondi Beach.

‘To Theo it’s the best beach in the world,’ he explained. ‘He might get homesick for it. You, too, Christina. We can always take time out to come back here for a while.’

His caring for their son was so evident, so constant, it continually bolstered her decision to marry him. Theo adored him. Her reservations about his constancy where she was concerned remained in her mind but were slowly being whittled away in her heart. He was so good to her, showing consideration for whatever she wanted in every respect.

Within a month they were back on Santorini. Her mother was to be a guest in the Zavros villa until her furniture arrived for her new apartment in Athens. Maximus, of course, had found the perfect place for her. She quickly became fast friends with Ari’s mother who had been organising the wedding in their absence. It was almost the end of the tourist season when most places closed down on the island. They only had a week to finalise arrangements—a week before Tina’s life began as Ari’s wife.

Cass had been informed of the situation via email and was delighted that everything seemed to be working out well. She insisted on buying Tina’s wedding dress and kept sending photographs of glorious gowns until Tina chose one. She let Cass select her own bridesmaid dress. George was to be best man—a reversal of their previous roles.

The same church was to be used for the marriage service and the same reception centre. Both places had also been chosen for the weddings of Ari’s sisters. Apparently it was customary for the Zavros family and Tina didn’t raise any objection although privately she would have preferred not to be following in her sister’s footsteps, being reminded of the real love Cass and George had declared for each other.

She didn’t feel like a bride. She looked like one on the day. And despite the lateness of the season, the sun was shining. It made her wonder if Ari had arranged that, too, everything right for the Golden Greek. It was a weird feeling, walking down the aisle to him—more like a dream than reality. Everything had happened so fast. But her feet didn’t falter and she gave him her hand at the end of the walk, accepting there was no turning back from this moment.

Her ears were acutely tuned to the tone of Ari’s voice as he spoke his marriage vows. It was clear and firm, as though he meant them very seriously. Which Tina found comforting. She had to swallow hard to get her own voice working at all, and the words came out in jerky fashion which she couldn’t control. But they were said. It was done. They were declared man and wife.

To Tina, the reception was a blur of happy faces congratulating her and Ari and wishing them well. Everyone from both families was there, along with Ari’s close business connections and friends. Tina couldn’t remember all their names. She just kept smiling, as a bride should. Ari carried off the evening with great panache and he carried her along with him—his wife.

He took her to Odessa for a honeymoon. It was a beautiful city, called The Pearl of The Black Sea, and for the first time since her future with Ari had been decided, Tina could really relax and enjoy herself. There was nothing that had to be done. Theo was undoubtedly having a great time with his doting grandparents. She was free of all responsibility. And Ari was intent on filling their days—and nights—with pleasure.

The weather was still hot and they lazed away mornings on the beach, had lunch in coffee shops or restaurants beside lovely parks, browsed around the shops that featured crafts of the region—marvellous cashmere shawls, beautifully embroidered blouses, and very different costume jewellery.

They went to a ballet performance at the incredibly opulent opera house—totally different architecture and interior decoration to the amazing hotel in Dubai but just as mind-boggling in its richness.

When she commented on this to Ari he laughed and said, ‘Europe is full of such marvels, Christina, and I shall enjoy showing them to you. When we go to Paris, I’ll take you to Versailles. You’ll be totally stunned by it.’

He was as good as his word. In the first six months of their marriage, she accompanied him on many trips around Europe—Spain, Italy, England, France, Germany. All of them were related to business but Ari made time to play tourist with her. He was the perfect companion, so knowledgeable about everything and apparently happy to spend his free time with her.

There were business dinners they had to attend, and parties they were invited to which invariably made Tina nervous, but Ari never strayed from her side whenever they were socialising. He bought her beautiful clothes so that she always felt confident of her appearance on these occasions and he constantly told her she was beautiful, which eased her anxiety about other women.

They had decided on Athens as their home base. Tina wanted to be close to her mother and it was easier for Theo to be enrolled in the same private English-speaking school as his cousins. He accompanied them on trips which didn’t interfere with his schooling but at other times he was happy to stay with family while they were away.

However, when Tina fell pregnant, as happy as she was about having a baby, the morning sickness in the first trimester was so bad she couldn’t face travelling anywhere and she couldn’t help fretting when Ari had to leave her behind to attend to business. Each time he returned she searched for signs that he was growing tired of her, finding her less attractive, but he always seemed pleased to be home again and eager to take her to bed.

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