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an excerpt from
Seduction in the Sun
How to Train a Lover
A Savage Interactive by Daire St. Denis
Tessa Savage travels the world for business…and pleasure. From the Rocky Mountains to the Greek Islands, there’s no place Tessa won’t explore and very few sexual positions she won’t try.
It’s been a year since Tessa’s rendezvous with her favorite cowboys—a year of non-stop work. Now Tessa’s off to spend some much needed R&R in the Greek Isles on the luxury yacht of playboy billionaire and sexual dominant, Alander Papadakis.
However, when Alander breaks one of her golden rules, her holiday plans take a turn and she jets off—solo—to the island of Lesvos where she happens upon a mysterious young man from her past. Built like a Greek god and with the eyes of a lion, Nicolai Kinellis is hard to resist, especially when he asks Tessa to teach him everything she knows…about sex. A holiday training session with a hot young Adonis is exactly what Tessa needs but, when Nicolai treads too far over the line of another of Tessa’s rules, she must make one of the most difficult decisions of her life.
Tessa doesn’t know what to do and she needs help. Your help. Will you help her?
Welcome to Wicked Way Interactives by Daire St. Denis where you choose the ending to the story and determine Tessa’s fate in the Greek Isles.
I catch a flight from Athens to the island of Lesvos, and the following day, I rent a car to drive from Mytilini, the capital, to the quaint seaside town of Molyvos. Memories assail me during the hour-long drive, unexpected memories of a man I’ve spent the last seven years trying to forget. I’d come to Greece a number of years ago after my failed marriage to Chase Walker. Yes, it’s true, Tessa Savage was married. Can you believe it? You heard the part where I said failed, right?
Like I said, that’s a story for another day. The point is, I took a six month sabbatical after the papers were signed, to heal, to regroup…all that shit. For the first couple of months I traveled both in Turkey and Greece, seeing some really cool places, but mostly doing the tourist thing, visiting ruins, island hopping to all the well-known spots; the white-washed villas of Santorini, Naxos, Crete, partying in Mykonos and Rhodes…
It wasn’t until I arrived on the island of Lesvos that I found any sort of peace. No. That’s not true. It’s where I managed to heal enough to go on. The person most helpful during that time was the grandmotherly Mrs. Kinellis, the owner of the Daphnis and Chloe guesthouse where I stayed for the remainder of my trip.
If there was any place that had ever felt like home, it was there, probably because Medea Kinellis and I had formed a connection—a rare one. The kind where you feel as if you’ve known the person forever. Even though her English was poor and my Greek basically non-existent, she nurtured me during my stay, taking care of my needs, giving me a motherly hug when I was feeling down, ignoring my evening exploits when I was feeling randy—which (you know me) was pretty often. I never once felt judged. She had a comforting quiet knack of knowing what I needed when I needed it and if she was too busy to provide, she’d send her young, wide-eyed grandson to help.
Such a sweet kid. In the months I stayed, I don’t think I ever heard him speak, though he often watched me with these unusual hazel eyes, always wide, as if I was a curiosity.
As I drive down the hill and Molyvos comes into sight, I see with delight that nothing’s changed. It’s what I love about the island. It has all the amenities that you could want on vacation: beaches, museums, great restaurants, live music, night life…and yet the small port town of Molyvos clings to the side of the hill like it has for millennia. The ruins of the Byzantine castle on top of the cliff welcome me as if I’m a long lost traveler come home. The streets of town are narrow and cobblestoned, not designed for vehicles, so I park my car in the lot on the outskirts of town and tow my luggage behind me, weaving my way through the narrow streets and steps to where the guest house perches.
The town is unusually quiet, particularly considering it’s spring and, in my opinion, the best time to visit. It’s just past one, so most residents are at home enjoying a large midday meal, but the decided lack of tourists is another reminder of the failing Greek economy.
Based on how quiet everything is, I guess booking the guesthouse online wasn’t necessary. But I’d wanted to because it seemed so ironic that the aged Medea Kinellis was conducting her business via the internet using twenty-first century technology while still living in a place where time stood still.
I ring the bell with a sense of giddiness. I can’t wait to see her. Of course, there’s always the possibility she doesn’t remember me. I mean, I’m only one of thousands of people who’ve traveled through these parts. The fact that she seemed to have a special place in her heart for me, well, that was probably just part of who she is, part of her charm, and a way to get tourists to come back every year.
Even with these doubts whispering around in the back of my head, I don’t care and I’m sure I’m sporting a goofy smile.
The door opens and an elderly gentleman I don’t recognize is standing there, slightly stooped, his thinning dark hair slicked back from his high forehead. “Ms. Savage?” He smiles questioningly, dark eyes watering.
I nod and he opens the door to invite me inside. When he goes to take my luggage, I assure him I can manage, but then I notice the flash of displeasure and realize my faux pas. In his eyes, I’m a young woman. He’s a man. It’s his job to help me, no matter how fragile he may look. I relinquish my bags and follow him through the entrance.
Like everything else in Molyvos, the guesthouse hasn’t changed. It’s divided into four parts: the common area: with a kitchen, dining room, sitting area and large terrace all located on the main floor, a pension style lodging for travelers on a limited budget on the lower floor, the family residence is on the third floor and the deluxe guest suite, where I’ll be staying, takes up the entire second floor. My suite includes a large bedroom with a beautifully appointed en suite, a living area with kitchenette and a large private terrace.
The exposed beams and whitewashed stone immediately comfort me, as do the gauzy white curtains that blow in the open windows. It’s all so wonderfully welcoming, the smell of the salty sea air, the feel of the cool red tile beneath my sandaled feet, the lure of the large four poster bed. Yes, I feel as if I’ve come home.
“Excuse me,” I say to the older gentleman as he deposits my suitcase on the rack next to the wardrobe in the bedroom. “Is Mrs. Kinellis at home?”
His brow furrows and he shakes his head. He holds up his finger and mumbles something in Greek, as if asking me to wait. He departs before I have an opportunity to give him a tip for carrying my luggage and I vow to leave extra upon my departure.
Making my way across the room, I go to the curtains and spread them wide, smiling as I take in the red tile roofs leading down to the port at the base of the hill. The azure blue of the Aegean Sea sparkles in the late afternoon sun.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of my best holidays yet.
A knock sounds on my door and my heart flips as I anticipate coming face to face with dear Mrs. Kinellis after so many years. “Come in,” I call, still standing by the French doors, not wanting to betray how anxious I am to see her again.
Except, it’s not her.
Standing in the open door is someone who is as opposite to Medea Kinellis as you can get.
First of all he’s a ‘he’ not a ‘she’. Secondly, he’s young. Late twenties, maybe? Thirdly, where Medea was barely five feet tall, this man is enormous. Six foot three at least. He’s too tall. Too big. He has to duck in order to clear the doorway.
He’s wearing an open-neck cotton shirt, rolled up at the sleeves, and loose linen trousers like he’s just come from a photo shoot on the beach. His hair is a mass of dark curls and his face is tanned with a wide jaw and the kind of nose sculptors take great care to reproduce in stone.
But it’s his eyes that captivate me. They’re tawny colored—I think, it’s hard to tell from this far away—anyway, the color contrasts with his dark skin tone and dark lashes making him look like a tall, delicious, god with king-of-the-jungle eyes.
There’s something familiar about him too, like I’ve seen him on TV. Or, like he’s made a guest appearance in one of my many illicit dreams.
Yes. That last one.
“Ms. Savage. Welcome to the Daphnis and Chloe Guesthouse.” He looks around the room. “I hope you find everything to your liking.” His voice rumbles like a volcano about to erupt, and I feel the wonderful resonance of it in my chest. Even though he has the coloring of a Greek man, he’s got this beautiful British accent.
I’ve got a partiality to accents, British accents in particular. Probably because they sound so proper. Given the right partner in the bedroom, that proper accent creates a tantalizing dichotomy when coupled with completely improper requests and the sound of his accent prompts my imagination to take me there…with him.
“Would you kindly shed your garments, Ms. Savage? Yes. Lovely. Lie on the bed. Ah, that’s it. Beautiful. Now, will you permit me to tell you exactly what I’m going to do to you…?”
“Is everything all right? Is the room to your satisfaction?”
I clear my throat and glance around. “Yes, everything looks lovely.”
What is wrong with me? Two minutes in his presence and I’m imagining inappropriate scenes with the poor man.
Fickle, fickle Tessa.
What was it? Less than twenty-four hours ago I was with Alander?
I know, terrible, isn’t it?
Now I only have eyes for the tall Adonis with the lion eyes and the sexy accent who has barely made it inside my doorway. If he doesn’t leave my room soon, I’m going to jump him and it won’t be pretty.
“We normally serve breakfast downstairs between seven and nine, but as you’re our only guest…we can make other arrangements if you like.”
My warped brain takes his words and twists them as if he’s suggesting illicit arrangements.
I give my head a little shake and rub my eyes. But when I open them, I swear I catch him checking me out. His gaze starts somewhere mid-calf and up it goes with a leisurely browse. Then back down. Only to shimmy back up, even more slowly, giving me the shivers.
My hand flutters to my throat and I fight the urge to undo the top button on my blouse.
“I can bring your breakfast up here, if you like.”
To my one-track mind, it’s like he’s suggesting that he, himself, is on the menu.
“What? Sorry. What?”
“Is that all right with you?”
“Yes. Yes of course.” I nod even though I have no idea what I’ve agreed to. I think it’s something about breakfast. Not sure. Doesn’t matter. “Thank you.” I say, trying to politely wave him out before I do something insane. “Everything is lovely. Perfect. Really. Thank you.”
He smiles as he backs out the door. It’s an interesting smile. Secretive. Like he can read my dirty mind.
No. That’s just my overactive imagination.
There’s something wrong with me.
“If you need anything, anything at all…my name is Nicolai and I’d be happy to serve you.”
With that, he closes the door and I am left to deal with my insanely naughty thoughts. I lean against the door and press a hand to my feverish forehead. My reaction to Nicolai—what a nice name—might be understandable given his striking physical presence, but is no less unacceptable. I just met the man. Good lord. My reaction is over the top, even for me. I’m sure it’s because I’ve had my arousal prematurely squelched with the whole Alander-being-married thing.
There’s only one remedy. A cold shower.
Of course, once I’m ensconced in the shower cubicle, my imagination takes me back to the elevator…with Alander. In my new version, his body guards aren’t there, it’s just us. I’m facing the mirror at the back and Alander is behind me, being his bossy self…
“You shouldn’t have made me wait, Tessa Savage.”
“I had no choice.”
“Is that right?”
He nuzzles my neck while caressing my hip with one hand and burying the other in my hair. It feels nice. So nice. When he tilts my head to kiss me, properly, I let him. Gladly. He’s such a good kisser and I’ve anticipated our visit for so long. His hands roam freely over my body when I remember the truth about him.
Damn. Even in my imagination, I won’t go down the path of infidelity with Alander.
I pull away to tell him to stop. That’s when I catch his reflection in the mirrored wall of the elevator. It’s not Alander whose lips are swollen with kisses…it’s another man, a much younger man. One with dark curls and incredible hazel eyes.
Water sprays in all direction as I shake the unexpected image of my young host out of my head. I finish showering, determined to control my wayward imagination. I’m pretty sure I know what my problem is. I’ve gone without sex longer than I should have. The little interlude with Alander yesterday only served to aggravate my libido, so now I’m reacting to the first attractive, red-blooded male I see. There’s only one solution. I need to find a lover. Quick.
However, when I head out that evening with plans to go to the nearest taverna for supper and hopefully meet someone of like mind, I run into the very man I’m trying to avoid. He’s carrying a cloth bag filled with fresh vegetables and he’s wearing a perplexed expression on his handsome face.
I was hoping my lust-logged brain had embellished his attributes. Unfortunately, it did not. In fact, if anything he is even more attractive. He seems somehow bigger outside in the narrow alleyway. His eyes shine brighter, his shoulders appear broader and the smile on his face hints at even naughtier secrets.
The mere sight of him triggers a tingling sensation in the pit of my stomach.
Not good. This is not good.
“Ms. Savage,” he says with a frown. “You are eating at the guesthouse this evening, aren’t you? My cousin’s grilling fresh mackerel and the spanakopita’s already in the oven.”
“Oh,” I say, covering my mouth. So that’s what he’d asked me about earlier while I was immersed in my wicked fantasy. I clear my throat. “I did say I was eating in tonight, didn’t I?”
“Yes.” He gives me an odd look.
“Right. Well, let’s go back to the guesthouse then, shall we?” Oh no. I wonder if he can hear that I’m putting on a little bit of a British accent. I do that sometimes, I unconsciously adopt the accent of others around me. Perhaps it’s because I have no home but make my home wherever I am at the moment.
“Good.” He furrows his brow before continuing down the lane to the guesthouse.
I follow so close that I catch a whiff of his personal scent; citrus, cardamom and fresh air. He smells like a beach party. It’s a little slice of heaven and instantly brings on more vivid fantasies starring…him. My naughty gaze drops to the mound of taut flesh covered by loose linen, moving directly in front of me.
I try to tear my eyes away, but I’m not having much luck.
It’s not until he stops and I nearly run straight into him that I lift my gaze. Is he smiling that sort of half-smile because he caught me staring at his ass?
“I hope you’re hungry.”
“Please.” With a sweep of his hand, he indicates the open door to the guesthouse. I precede him inside and he ushers me to the terrace where a table has been set for two. Pulling out my chair, he gets me settled before disappearing inside again to drop off his purchases.
He returns with a bottle of ouzo and two small glasses which he promptly fills. He hands me one and takes the other, lifting it in a toast. “Yasou,” he says.
We drink and he refills our glasses.
“Is it too presumptuous to ask to join you?”
“Of course not,” I indicate the empty chair. “I was hoping you would.”
Ah, shit. I wonder if I should warn him that spending time with me in this intimate—I glance around—romantic setting is going to result in only one thing. Me jumping him.
He’s smiles and I start to think that perhaps the man is amenable to me making an advance, despite our obvious age difference. I tilt my head and smile back.
His response is to continue to regard me over the lip of his ouzo glass.
“So, Nicolai, are you the property manager here?”
He sets his glass down and leans back in his chair, crossing his arms over his wonderfully broad chest. “No. I own the guesthouse.”
“You do?” I frown, realizing I’ve been so enamored of him I’ve forgotten to ask after Mrs. Kinellis. She must have sold it. Considering she was in her late seventies when I was here last, that would put her in her eighties now. Running a guesthouse on her own was probably getting too difficult at her age.
“The property has been in my family for three generations.”
I blink. I tilt my head. I blink again. “Really? I thought this place belonged to the Kinellis family. You see, I stayed here before. About six years ago. Medea Kinellis and I became quite close. That’s why I came back.”
“You know? How do you know?”
“I know because I am Medea’s grandson. I’m Nicolai Kinellis. And, it wasn’t six years ago that you were here, it was seven.”
He stands and dips his head in my direction. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see to the food.”
I’m stunned. I’m completely gob-smacked, confounded, blown-away, dumbfounded. Stunned. It’s not possible.
Medea’s grandson is a boy.
The person I’ve been interacting with, Nicolai, is a man.
The two are not the same.
Although, now that I think about it, there was something about him that seemed familiar when we first met this afternoon.
When he returns, a moment later, carrying a steaming platter of fresh spanakopita, I realize what it was that I recognized. What I now recognize.
I remember how he used to watch me, always with a semi-perplexed expression, as if I was a curiosity. And, I remember how striking his eyes were, even then.
But, to say this man sitting across from me is one and the same as that shy young boy? Well, it’s impossible for me to put the two together. Everything about him has changed. It’s like some Greek god swooped down from the heavens and took over his body, leaving only his eyes intact.
I’m so stupefied, not only am I running out of adjectives to describe my shock, but I don’t know what to say to him. I’ve been entertaining erotic fantasies about him all day and now I feel like the biggest pervert around. I mean, I knew he was younger than me, but that much younger?
I cover my discomfort by stuffing my mouth with spanakopita. But the pastry is obviously fresh out of the oven and I burn the inside of my mouth.
“Ach!” I spit the spinach and pastry back onto my plate, waving my hand in front of my mouth.
“Are you okay?”
I grab ice out of my glass and suck on it, pressing the cube against the sensitive skin on the roof of my mouth.
“I’m sorry. I should have warned you it was hot.”
I mumble something about it not being his fault while I continue to suck the ice. However, images from my most recent fantasies plague me as I nurse my burned mouth and I’m appalled with myself.
How could I have been fantasizing about him? He’s barely more than a kid! And all that stuff I’ve been picturing…it’s immoral.
The problem is, how do I shut all that stuff off? I don’t want to think about him but that’s not how my twisted brain operates.
It doesn’t matter how wrong it is, how young he is, he’s still got the body of a lion god and the face of a dark angel.
“Are you sure you’re okay? Can I get you something?”
“I’m fine. Really. I’m totally fine.” I’m lying, of course. But, it’s not like I can tell him what’s really wrong. That I’ve been having fantasies about him from the first moment we met and that I am now officially a cougar. It’s downright humiliating.
Thank God his cousin appears at the open door with another platter of food. She carries it to the table and sets everything out, providing a moment of distraction.
However, she’s gone too soon, leaving Nicolai and me alone again. He opens a bottle of white wine to accompany the meal and I busy myself with heaping aromatic food onto my plate. I have no idea how I’m going to eat it, with my burned mouth and troubled stomach, but I’m going to do my best to pretend everything is normal. Totally normal.
The first thing I do to try to encourage normalcy is to ask about his grandmother. In retrospect, I should have asked him about her before. I’d meant to. I really did. But my philandering thoughts took over. Remember?
“I was hoping to see your grandmother when I arrived. I’ve thought of her often over the years.”
I know what’s coming before he opens his mouth. It’s apparent in his expressive eyes and the serious set of his mouth. “Grandmother passed away a year ago.”
“Oh no.” My lapse in judgement over Nicolai is completely forgotten by my shock at this news. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you.” He stands. “I have something for you. I’ll be right back.”
Nicolai returns within minutes and places two books on the table in front of me. They are tied together with yellow ribbon. I undo the bow carefully, as if I’m diffusing a bomb, and then stare transfixed at the titles. The first is The Love Songs of Sappho. The second is Daphnis and Chloe.
I open the covers to see my name printed there. I’d left these books behind when I’d departed seven years ago. Having no fixed address, it’s what I do. I leave things I don’t need anymore, hoping others will make use of whatever it is.
I never expect to get these things back.
Seeing my own handwriting in books that once belonged to me makes me feel something strange and unnamed and the melancholy I thought I had under control as I drove into Molyvos, returns.
“She saved these for you. In case you should ever return.”
I’m overcome. I glance up at Nicolai and find him watching me with an expression that is completely indecipherable.
“She saved my books,” I whisper.
“She told you she had them?”
“Yes. You were…special to her.”
There is an enormous lump in my throat that is making it impossible to swallow. “I should have come back sooner. I should have—” I cover up the fact my lips are quivering by taking a drink.
“You’re here now,” he says and his hand moves as if to touch my arm, but he stops himself and quickly pulls his hand back.
The seriousness of his news and my feelings subdues my rampant lust, allowing the two of us to catch up like we’re old friends. After he tells me a bit about his grandmother’s illness and passing, I am struck by how fluent he is and on the fact that he doesn’t sound Greek.
“Your English is excellent,” I say. “But, why do you have a British accent?”
“My mother died when I was ten. Afterwards, Grandmother sent me to boarding school in London. The summer you were here was the first time I’d been home in four years.”
I think back to the gangly teenager who is now barely recognizable in the man sitting across from me. I suppose his English would have been excellent even back then, but he was so shy and quiet, I don’t know if I ever heard him speak.
I ask him about what it’s been like running the guesthouse this past year in his grandmother’s absence and then we discuss the recession and austerity measures taken by the Greek government. I tell him what I do for a living and propose that I look at his books and business plan, offering to do anything I can to help.
“I’m afraid no amount of planning can help, Ms. Savage. All of Europe is suffering. Tourism is non-essential and is the first thing people give up when times are tough.”
“How are you surviving?”
“The last three summers we’ve earned just enough to get by. In the winter months I take on odd jobs, labor, construction, anything I can to earn extra income to keep the guesthouse running. I keep the costs down by only hiring part-time staff, mostly family, when I can’t manage on my own.”
I look around. The guesthouse is in beautiful condition. There’re no chinks in the stonework, no cracked tiles, everything is clean and welcoming. I’m impressed by what I see, so much so that my next question pops out of my mouth before I have a chance to stop it. “Nicolai, how old are you?”
His hazel eyes flash. “Old enough.”
“Come on. You can’t be more than twenty, maybe twenty-one.”
Looking away, he says. “I’ll be twenty-two next month.”
I sigh. Oh, to be twenty-two again. I’d snap Nicolai up in a heartbeat, he is divinity personified. Despite my best intentions, my wicked imagination takes me back down that road of immorality, imagining his youthful strength and endurance.
And I was doing so well.
“Ms. Savage,” Nico says, breaking into my fantasy of youth revisited. “I don’t know what your plans are for the evening but there’s a play tonight up at the castle that I thought you might be interested in.”
I love the castle. I’d attended a number of performances up there when I was here last. Musicals, plays, even rock concerts, I loved the dichotomy of old and new melding together. “What is it?”
He points to one of the books on the table. “Daphnis and Chloe.”
“What time does it start?”
“Perfect.” I begin to gather our empty plates.
“Please, Ms. Savage. You’re my guest. Leave the cleaning to me.”
“But aren’t you coming to the play?”
His movements appear as if in slow motion. He stops what he’s doing and slowly turns his head, meeting my gaze. There is a conversation going on between our subconscious selves, I feel the tingle of it in the back of my skull. I’m afraid I know what my subconscious is telling him. I’m not sure I trust what I think his is telling mine.
“Would you like the company?” he asks softly.
“Yes.” I answer, just as softly.
“Then, I would love to join you.”
I’m a wee bit tipsy and a whole lot turned on during the walk back to the guesthouse after the play. Based on how quiet the town had seemed earlier, I didn’t expect there to be such a large turnout for the production. However, the performance was just one of the many events going on in celebration of the weeklong International Women’s Festival. Busloads of women who are staying down the road at Skala Eressos, the hub of the festival, came to watch the play. Based on the party atmosphere, they may not have come to watch so much as they came to drink, talk, laugh, and make-out on blankets on the grounds of an ancient fortification.
Nicolai and I shared a bottle ourselves. Hence the tipsiness.
The arousal? Well, that’s sort of my perpetual state of being of late. But the play didn’t help matters. The story of Daphnis and Chloe is a romance written in antiquity and set on the island of Lesvos. It’s about a young man and woman who were abandoned as babies and raised by shepherds. They fall in love and are overcome with physical passion, but don’t know how to follow through…if you know what I mean. So neighbors, friends and the odd Greek god help them figure things out. There’s even an older woman who takes the two under her wing and tutors them.
Now that scene was a feast for the senses!
If the intent was titillation, it worked because my whole body is throbbing right now. The nudity alone could have put me over the top. But, what didn’t help was that I was cozied up on a blanket beside young Nicolai with the lion-eyes. We sat close, so very close that I could smell his virile scent, hear each breath he took, feel the heat emanate off his big body. But we never touched. By the end of the night I was so hyper aware of him, I ended up drinking way more wine than I should have and now my wicked thoughts are ten times worse than before.
I look up to find Nicolai waiting for me a few steps ahead. “Are you okay?”
I’m so caught up in my naughty daydreams, I find myself leaning up against a wall instead of walking toward the guesthouse.
“I’m fine,” I say, hurrying to catch up but stumbling in the process.
Miraculously, I manage to keep from falling. “Okay, I’m a little unstable. Give me your arm.”
He stands completely still as I thread my arm through his. The man is not only tall, he’s ramrod straight. Of course, that could all be an illusion because I’m so floppy at the moment.
Looking up, I try to pretend I’m more sober than I am. “Sssooo, what did you think?” Unfortunately, my slurred words give me away.
“What did I think of what?”
I give him a playful hip check. “The performance, silly.”
He glances down at me with one of those expressions I find hard to read. “I enjoyed it. I always like to see modern adaptations of the guesthouse’s namesake.”
He’s not slurring. This bothers me. How can I be drunk when he isn’t? It’s not fair.
I form my next words carefully, committed to sounding as sober as him. “So, how was this one different?”
“For one thing, in the original story the older woman, Lycaenion, doesn’t teach both Daphnis and Chloe about sex, she only teaches Daphnis. She’s in love with him and wants him for herself. In fact, she tells him he shouldn’t be with Chloe because he’ll hurt her.”
“Hmm,” I say, thinking about the erotic, threesome sex scene—again. I clear my throat and try to sound scholarly instead of overly aroused. “What do you think of the premise? I mean, I have a hard time believing that the two main characters wouldn’t be able to figure out sex. They were shepherds for God’s sake. I’m pretty sure they witnessed copulation before.” That’s how the sentence sounds in my head. But apparently I got my words confused.
“Capitulation?” Nicolai gives me one of those odd looks.
“Did I say capitulation? No. Copulation. Cop-u-lation.”
Nicolai clears his throat. “It’s a romance written in the second century. It’s not meant to be taken literally. I’m sure it was meant to be a story about the rite of passage from youth into adulthood.”
“Can you imagine?” I persist. “Having these feelings and not knowing how to act on them?” I try to imagine, but I can’t and it’s not just because I’m tipsy. It’s because it’s been so long since I didn’t know what to do in the sex department.
When I look up, I’m startled by the expression on Nicolai’s face. It’s heated and piercing. “What?” I ask, wondering if I’ve somehow offended him in my drunken ramblings.
He shakes his head and opens the gate of the guesthouse, holding it so I can pass through first. Damn. The kid’s a real gentleman. I think I want to kiss him. I turn and give him my I-think-I-want-to-kiss-you smile.
He furrows his brow.
What is wrong with me? Besides being drunk and horny? I’m not twenty, far from it. I’ve got to stop flirting with him. He is not Daphnis and I am definitely not Chloe. Lycaenion, maybe. But I don’t want to be the older woman in this scenario.
Once we’re inside, I look up at him, resolved to behave myself. “Tonight’s been lovely. Thank you.”
I can tell he wants to say something, so I wait. I see his eyes move to the stairs behind me. “Let me escort you to your room.”
He must realize I’m drunk and is afraid I’m going to fall down the stairs.
My legs are more unsteady than I expect as I lead the way upstairs to the door of my suite, overly aware of the man—no, not man, boy, dammit! Boy—following behind me, smelling deliciously of sweet grass and ocean air. I unlock the door and stand in the opening. “Thanks again. Good night, Nicolai.”
He is staring at me with this weird expression like he’s going to say something really serious, I don’t know, like he has a terminal disease or something. That’s how serious he looks.
“May I kiss you?”
What? Don’t tell me the I-want-to-kiss-you smile, worked?
I am not prepared for this and unfortunately my head bobs up and down giving assent before I mean to.
Even in my drunken state, I know this is a mistake. I know I shouldn’t allow this to happen. But I can’t help it. Nicolai is exuding pheromones and, in my uninhibited state, I’m exuding them right back. His question, stated in his marvellously accented voice, fans my arousal to unbearable proportions. Not to mention, he has this killer serious look in his tawny eyes that tugs on some warm part of me deep in my abdomen.
I want him.
I need him.
It is impossible to say no.
I don’t want to say no.
I should say no…
“Yes,” I whisper. “Yes.”
His head moves down and his lips find mine and…
It’s all wrong.
His mouth is stiff and unmoving. When I go to hold onto him, because quite frankly, I’m about to topple over, his body is hard and unyielding. He doesn’t reach for me, he doesn’t wrap his arms around me, he doesn’t lift me up or press himself against me.
Confused, I look up and realize we’re standing in the doorway—the doorway that is too low for him.
Of course, he’s uncomfortable, so I grab the front of his shirt and pull him inside the room toward the bedroom. It takes me a moment to realize he’s saying something. I think it’s Greek. The saying, “It’s all Greek to me,” flashes through my mind and I giggle like I’m a teenager.
That’s what this man does to me, he wipes a decade and a half off my actual age and makes me feel stupidly young. I’m so busy tugging him toward the bedroom and giggling like an imbecile that I don’t pay any attention to the strange expression on Nicolai’s face.
He stops just outside the threshold of the bedroom.
“What is it?” I ask.
His eyes flick over my head to the canopied bed behind us and then he shakes his head and says, “Nothing,” before following me through.
Strangely, he avoids touching me, so there’s no frantic stripping of my clothes, like I’m doing to him. No tossing me onto the bed, either. His hands remain frustratingly chaste and he keeps watching me with this tortured look.
Forcing a smile, he licks his lips, ducks his head and once again, presses his mouth to mine. I flick my tongue along the closed seam of his lips and his body jerks. I run my hands up his oh-so-gorgeous chest and he gasps as if my touch burns him.
The problem is, I can’t tell whether my touch burns in a good way or a bad way.
If only I was a little more clearheaded, I’d be demanding that he tell me what the problem is. But I’m not clearheaded so I press on as if nothing’s wrong.
Dragging him to the side of the bed, I give him a shove so he falls back onto the mattress. I pull my shirt up and over my head, revealing my lacy, pink bra. It’s a pretty bra and I take a moment to admire it…with my hands.
Beneath lowered lashes, I watch Nicolai’s expression.
His eyes widen, but his look is more concerned than aroused.
Does that stop horny-toad-Tessa?
I crawl on top of him and spread his shirt wide open.
Oh heaven! His chest is…well…he’s beautiful. He’s so lean and strong and his skin is so warm and there’s a sweet patch of dark curls in the center of his chest and it’s all so delicious and the hair is so silky and his skin is so hot and all hard and soft at the same time and I press my lips to his sternum and move lower, kissing and tasting like I wanted to from the moment I saw him, following the delicious line of dark hair down, down and down some more.
Does Nicolai thread his hands through my hair?
Does he guide my head, telling me where to kiss him?
Do I care?
I unsnap his fly and his body goes rigid.
I go to reach an inquisitive hand inside and…
Nicolai convulses on the bed and rolls out from under me.
What the hell?
He looks tormented and angry and he’s speaking to me in Greek. No. Not speaking, yelling—I think. It’s really hard to tell with this Greek language, it all sounds like yelling to me.
“What? What did I do?”
He’s still yelling…or talking very passionately? I don’t know. I throw my hands up in the air. “Nicolai? What is wrong?”
He squeezes his eyes shut and then, with a shake of his head, he turns and strides to the en suite bathroom and slams the door.
What the hell?
There’s nothing like an outright refusal to sober a girl up. As I listen to water running in the other room, I sit in the middle of the bed and replay the events of the last few hours over in my head. Dinner, the erotic play at the fortress, the walk home, Nicolai asking to kiss me…
He did ask me, right? I didn’t force a kiss on him, did I?
An awful thought materializes.
What if…what if he was just going to give me a little goodnight air kiss, the way the Europeans always do—kiss-kiss—and in my inebriated state, I misinterpreted it? Oh God! He’d been trying to tell me all along, albeit in Greek, but judging by his body language, he was trying to tell me that he wasn’t into me. He totally wasn’t into me!
Did I listen? No. I tore at his clothes like a rabid animal. I pulled him into my bedroom and pushed him onto my bed and stripped him and jumped him. I basically didn’t give him a choice.
Covering my face, I groan because I realize that I have just acted like the cougar I swore I’d never be.
Oh. My. God!
I jump off the bed and wrestle my shirt back on. The last thing I want is to be sitting here, half-naked, looking like a dejected cougar. My stomach roils with embarrassment and my head pounds from an early-onset hangover.
I rush out to the kitchenette, pull a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and press the cool plastic to my forehead, rolling it back and forth.
When Nicolai reappears a few minutes later, I wonder if I look as awkward and embarrassed as he looks. His face is red, his hair is totally wild, as if he’s pushed his hands through multiple times and his eyes are dark and…angry? Is that what that black look means?
As if reading some bad script we both open our mouths and the words, “I’m sorry,” come tumbling out in unison.
Nicolai’s nostrils flare with some grim emotion.
How could I have screwed this up so badly? I long for a rewind button on my life. I’d take myself all the way back to meeting Nicolai on the street this evening. What did he say? “You are eating in this evening, aren’t you?”
But instead of going back with Nicolai, I’d apologize and explain that I’d changed my mind. Instead, I’d go out to Molly’s Taverna, like I’d planned. I’d have a nice meal, meet a nice, thirty to forty-something single man. A tourist probably. We’d talk, we’d laugh, we’d dance, and then…we’d either agree to meet again tomorrow or we’d go back to his hotel and I’d throw all my unspent arousal at him.
Dammit! Why didn’t I do that? Why did I have to follow Nicolai, with that fine round hiney of his, all the way back to the guesthouse? It was tempting fate and I should have known better.
“Nicolai,” I say, cringing because the simple act of uttering his name is painful. “I’m so sorry.” I take a step toward him but he hastily retreats as if I’m about to attack again.
I put my hands up to show him I mean him no harm.
He shakes his head and shoves a hand through his thick curls. “Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault.”
A cynical laugh bursts out of my chest. “Not my fault?” The laugh, that’s not really a laugh, erupts again. “I jumped you. Attacked you. I nearly made you…God! Who does that?”
I can read his expression now. He’s perplexed. And, for the first time since we’ve reconnected, I recognize Medea’s young grandson in his expression. The way he’s looking at me now is exactly the way Nico used to regard me when I was here seven years ago.
“Is that what you think?”
Letting his head fall back, Nicolai groans at the ceiling.
Am I still drunk? Because his response to my apology is not making sense.
“It’s okay, Nicolai. You don’t have to lie. If you’re not attracted to me, I understand. I’m a lot older than you and I took advantage of—”
“Tessa.” My name shoots out of his mouth like a bullet from an assault rifle.
“It’s not you. It’s me.”
I laugh because the line is so clichéd and so overused, I can’t help it. “Nice try.”
“Jesus.” He paces the length of the room. “I’m attracted to you, okay? Very attracted to you.” By the way he cringes when he says this, it’s as if he doesn’t want to be attracted to me or he’s embarrassed by his attraction.
“Did I do something to embarrass you?”
His reply is a deep growl at the back of his throat. After pressing his hands to his temples, he gives me one last pain filled look and makes for the door.
“Wait,” I shout, running after him. “Where are you going?”
“I’m sorry. I have to leave. I should never have come up here.”
Before he can open the door to my suite, I grab his shirt tail. “Oh no you don’t. Not before you explain yourself, buddy, because I’m at a loss here. On the one hand, you’re telling me I was correctly reading your come-on signals.”
“You were,” he says to the closed door.
“But…your body language is screaming that you’re repulsed by me.”
I’m not prepared for how swiftly he turns around to face me. His face is flushed, his full lips are pulled back in a snarl and he’s breathing really hard.
“Repulsed? Are you kidding me?”
He grabs my arms and slams me against the closed door. He’s right up against me. Snatching my closed fist, he pushes it down to the front of his jeans. “Is this the reaction of a man who’s repulsed?”
“I don’t know what the hell this is.” I wrench my fist out of his grasp and try to push him away but he doesn’t budge.
His nostrils flare as he regards me as if he’s having a very hard time keeping himself in check. Though he’s clearly aroused, he doesn’t do anything about it. He doesn’t gyrate against me, he doesn’t use his knee to force my legs apart. He just stands there, pressed up against me, staring at me, breathing hard.
I’m breathing hard too.
Finally, he closes his eyes and bows his head. He whispers something, I think it’s in English, but it’s too quiet for me to make out.
“What?” I whisper back.
“Tessa, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” His beautiful eyes open and I can see some emotion, but I don’t know what it is—anger maybe?
His nostrils flare wider. His breathing becomes more labored. Little muscles tick along the side of his jaw. Suddenly, he slams his fist into the door beside me and I hear wood splinter.
He moves away, shaking what must be a very painful hand. But apparently there are other things going on with Nicolai that are more painful because his hand is soon forgotten as he paces the length of the room from the kitchen to the door and back again.
“I thought I could do it,” He mutters. “I thought it’d be okay. With you, of all people.”
He turns to look at me.
Umm, what’s that supposed to mean? With me, of all people?
“But I…I can’t do it!” He slams his hand against the kitchen cupboard and grunts in pain.
I rush over because two crushing blows with the same fist have left his knuckles split and bleeding. “You’re hurt,” I say, grabbing his hand and running it under cold water. I open the small freezer compartment and pull out a tray of ice cubes to make a cold compress.
Once I’ve got his hand wrapped in a tea towel full of ice, I grab another bottle of water out of the fridge. Indicating the French doors that lead out onto my private terrace, I say, “Let’s go sit outside, okay?”
His expression says that’s the last thing he wants to do, but I don’t care what he wants to do. I’ll lock him in, if I have to. He’s not leaving before he tells me what the hell is going on.
With obvious reluctance, he follows me out onto the terrace. Once we’re seated in a pair of comfortable lounge chairs, facing the ocean, I say, “Do you want to tell me what ‘it’ is?”
He takes a drink of water.
“You thought you could do it. You don’t know what to do about it. Nicolai, what is ‘it’?”
After a lengthy silence, he says, “It’s not important.”
I watch him as he’s staring out at the lights of the town below. “Obviously, it is.”
When he still doesn’t answer, I say, “Can I make some guesses?”
“You’re attracted to me but you don’t want to be because I’m too old for you.”
“No. You’re not too old for me.”
“Do you know how old I am?”
“How do you know that?”
He glances my way. “I Googled you.”
“I saw your name on the online registration and I wanted to make sure you were the same person who was here before.”
“Why would you do that?”
He doesn’t answer and I continue trying to figure him out when a sudden thought occurs to me. “Oh my God, are you gay?”
“I’m not gay.”
“It’s totally okay if you are. I can help you come out if—”
“No, Tessa. That’s not it.” He makes an exasperated sound.
“Then what’s wrong?”
He shakes his head and stands. “I need to go.”
Suddenly the truth dawns on me. “You’re in a relationship, aren’t you?” It’s more of a statement than a question.
He stands still. I hear him swallow so I figure I must have guessed right.
“I’m sorry,” I say, standing, putting my hand on his arm. “If I had any idea you were in a relationship, I never would have…well, I wouldn’t have attacked you like that.”
He turns to me, his face pinched as if he’s in pain. “That’s not it.”
“Then what is it?”
He looks down at me, blinking. I can practically see the wheels turning inside his mind. Finally, he sighs and sits back down, elbows on knees and head in his hands.
I sit too. Waiting. Watching.
Very softly, he says, “I’ve never been with a woman.”
His words don’t compute. “But you said you weren’t gay.”
“So you’ve never been with a man either.”
“So, you’re a…oh. Oh!” I cover my open mouth. “Oh my God. Tell me you’re not saying what I think you’re saying.”
Even in the dark, his posture says it all. “I’m a virgin, Tessa, and I need your help.”
I stare at the man sitting beside me, unable to believe what he’s telling me. “You’re lying.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not.”
“But…that’s not possible. I mean, look at you.” I wave my hand around in his general direction. “You’re all gorgeous and everything. How can you be a virgin?”
He inhales, then exhales rather noisily before replying. “I think I mentioned that I went to boarding school in London, right?”
“It was an all-boys school.”
“Okay. But you came back when you were, what? Fifteen? Sixteen?”
“Right. Then, it was just me and my grandmother.”
Big sigh. “I was…” he shrugs again and looks my way, but his head blocks the outside light and in the darkness I can’t make out his expression. “You met me. I was shy.” He rubs his forehead and continues quietly. “Then grandmother got sick and I had to take care of her and run the guesthouse while the Greek economy fell apart. I didn’t have time for anything else, least of all women.”
Holy shit. No wonder he seems so much older than his years. I contemplate his confession. It seems completely impossible. Yet, it goes a long way to explaining what just happened inside.
“What about this past year?”
He makes a noise deep in his chest. “There are only two options for me.” He indicates the lights of the town with a sweep of his hand. “Someone local.” He shakes his head. “Bad choice. Even if I was interested in someone, which I’m not, it’d be impossible.”
“Molyvos is a very small town. I’m related to half of the people here. Then there’s the issue of my parentage. Or lack of parentage.” He pauses and rubs his jaw. “I’m the no-good-bastard-son of Medea’s slutty daughter.”
“Is that what people think?”
He nods. “What makes it even worse is my mother didn’t know her father either.” Shrugging as if growing up without a father, losing his mother and then being ostracized is no big deal, he says, “Immorality runs in my blood. No mother wants me near her daughter because they’re all convinced I’ll get her pregnant and bolt.” He laughs without humor. “I’ve been shunned for even looking at a girl the wrong way. So, I stay far away from locals.”
I’m starting to see Nicolai through a new set of eyes. Holy hell, it must have been hard growing up being an outcast in his own home. Molyvos might be quaint, but these antiquated attitudes leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
However, equally unpalatable is his explanation. “But, Molyvos is a tourist town. Surely you’ve met your share of available and willing female tourists?”
He looks at his hands. “I have no experience. Any woman I want expects that I do.”
“That’s not true.” I place my hand on his knee. “There are plenty of young girls who would give anything to have a little vacation tryst with the likes of you. With or without experience. Trust me.”
The muscle beneath my hand flexes and I notice he’s staring where my hand is resting on his leg.
“I’m not interested in young women.” His gaze sweeps up to my face. “I’m interested in experienced women. Like you.”
“Yes, Tessa. Like you.” He lifts my hand off his leg and drops it. Then he gets up and stalks off to stand at the railing of the terrace, staring into the darkness. From where I’m sitting, he looks every bit like a god of Olympus scowling upon his mortal realm below.
I give him a few moments alone before joining him at the railing. “So,” I say. “You like older women.”
“And they expect you to know stuff.”
“Yes.” He looks at me. “But I don’t, so I never make a move.”
“But you made a move tonight.”
“You’re different. At least, I thought it would be different with you.”
“Holy shit,” I whisper more to myself than to him. “You were about to lose your virginity to me.” I don’t know why this thought has taken so long to sink in, but once it does, I feel like I’ve been clocked on the back with a sledgehammer and it’s hard to breathe. “My God, Nicolai. You can’t just do that. You can’t pull something like that over on an unsuspecting victim. How did you think I’d react when I found out?”
“You weren’t supposed to find out.”
“Of course I would have found out.”
“By…I don’t know how, but I found out, didn’t I?”
He shakes his head and scowls. Staring out at the darkness, it’s obvious he’s upset. But so am I.
He turns to me, looking down at me. The outside light shines across half of his face and I can see the burning intensity in those startling eyes. “I need your help, Tessa. I need you to change this for me.”
My body—traitorous bitch—is saying, ‘hell yeah, let’s go!’ But I’m sober now and I am finally able to access the reason center of my brain. Waving my hands in front of me, I say, “Oh no. No, no, no. I’m not going to take your virginity, Nico. I can’t do it. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not asking you to take it. I’m asking you to change it.” His nostrils flare as he leans closer, still not touching, but close none the less. “Please, Tessa.”
Oh man. His body is less than an inch from mine. I can feel his warm breath on my face and smell the hot scent of his skin. It fills my senses, consuming me with desire. Overwhelming desire.
Despite everything that’s happened, I still want him.
I need him.
I want to say yes.
He wants me to say yes…
I shake my head and back away. “No. Nico. No.”
Considering how tired I was after the long day of travel, I barely sleep. Now that it’s morning, I sit out on the private terrace, enjoying the cool morning breeze, wishing that the tranquility of the setting could settle the disquiet within me. But it doesn’t. Of course I stayed up half the night thinking about what happened and thinking about Nicolai’s request.
And yes, I’ll admit it, I imagined all kinds of crazy, wonderful, x-rated scenarios involving my handsome young host. The fantasies went on and on and on. I must have eventually dozed, because the scenarios became much more dreamlike, though still excruciatingly vivid—with tastes, touch, sensations that lingered long after I woke up. I dreamed Nicolai and I were starring in the play, Daphnis and Chloe, up at the fortress. He’d forgotten his lines and the blocking for some of the more erotic scenes, so I had to coach him through it. ‘Touch me here, yes that’s right,’ I whispered in my dream. ‘Kiss me, like that…good.’
I rub my temples, trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Nicolai, a young Adonis, is basically asking me to be his own personal Lycaenion: initiator, teacher, tutor, lover. It’s been a fantasy of mine since as long as I can remember. Even if it weren’t, Nicolai’s plea for help is compelling. Completely compelling. I know I should refuse him, but…I am only human.
When I hear a firm rap on the door to my suite, I experience the strangest sensation of hot and cold coursing simultaneously through my body. It’s no secret who is standing on the other side and I know that I