She’d spent years breaking free and now, just as her life and freedom were hers and hers alone, she found she was pledging herself to a man with the same controlling instinct she had spent so long kicking back from.
Christian had over-protectiveness down to an art.
He hadn’t merely employed a bodyguard for her, he’d employed an elite squad of hardened ex-soldiers.
Unfortunately they didn’t come with personalities, all having been highly trained never to crack a smile or share banter. In the safety of her apartment building she could forget all about them, but the second she stepped outside they would materialise.
As much as she found their presence stifling, she was grateful. She’d never imagined the paparazzi could be any worse than when she’d been seventeen. She’d been wrong. Eight years ago it had been mostly the Italian press with a handful of Brits thrown in. This time their number included Greeks—lots of them—Americans, French... She swore she’d even heard a Japanese voice throw questions at her. She’d known her engagement to Christian would generate a frenzy but had not been prepared for such madness.
The granddaughter of the great Giovanni Mondelli, a man of such stature he was regarded like royalty; the sister of Rocco Mondelli, the man credited with dragging the House of Mondelli kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, a man who’d recently married one of the most famous supermodels in the world; Alessandra Mondelli, the former scandal-hit teenager who’d become one of the world’s leading fashion photographers: for such a woman to be marrying the self-made Greek billionaire, the whizz of the financial world with the movie-star looks... For the press it was a dream combination.
For Alessandra it was a nightmare. She consoled herself that at least she wasn’t being called a slut any more. She’d kept her dark sunglasses on and answered only one of the hundreds of questions that had been thrown her way over the past week.
‘Are you looking forward to the wedding?’ someone had asked.
‘Of course,’ she’d replied with what she hoped was an enigmatic smile.
She hadn’t been the only target. Christian, his sunglasses permanently attached to his face too, had also been mobbed. As had Rocco, who ignored every single question. Rumours had started circulating in the past few days about the punch, a new frenzy ensuing.
Relieved to be away from the madness, she leaned back in the leather seat and gazed out at Athens, the city that would play a huge part of her life from this moment on.
She’d heard it referred to as ‘the cradle of Western civilisation.’ Even if she’d been unaware of its history, she would have recognised it. It had seeped into the walls, some pristine, some falling apart at the seams. With ugly apartment blocks and majestic buildings, it was a city that managed to be cosmopolitan yet obviously ancient and historic. A city of contradictions.
For the first time she felt something akin to excitement bubble in her veins.
She had six days in this city before she exchanged her vows. From worrying that she would be bored stuck in a place where she knew no one, she now saw a huge opportunity. If she could ever get anywhere. At this rate, she would be lucky to make it to the hotel before the sun set. She’d thought the traffic in Milan was bad...
Eventually, they came to a road with manned security gates that opened slowly and led to an enormous white building with pillars either side of the huge entrance. It was as though she was staring at a palace that had been home to the Greek gods themselves.
A fleet of staff was by her side within seconds of the car coming to a stop, her luggage whisked away while she was taken through to the marble foyer.
‘Don’t I need to sign in?’ she asked when a woman, who identified herself as the general manager, offered to take her straight to her room.
‘No, despinis,’ the woman replied. ‘Everything is taken care of.’
Christian’s work, Alessandra told herself, her belly tightening at the thought of seeing him again. She’d been so busy over the past week that she’d hardly had the time to think of him on anything other than a practical level. Her dreams, though, had been...disturbing. Enough that merely to think of him made her bones feel as if they’d been through a blender.