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The Millionaire's True Worth

By:Rebecca Winters

CHAPTER ONE

"CHLOE? I'M SORRY I can't be your maid of honor, but you know why."

Following that statement there was a long silence on Chloe's part. But  Raina had her job plus the many responsibilities thrown onto her  shoulders since the death of her grandfather. She was now heiress to the  Maywood billion-dollar fortune and was constantly in the news. When she  went out in public, the paparazzi were right on her heels.

Chloe's family were high-profile Greek industrialists, a favorite target  of the European paparazzi. Her marriage would be the top story in  Athens. "If I were your maid of honor, the media would make a circus out  of your special day." Raina feared it would take the spotlight off her  dear friend. For Chloe's sake, she couldn't risk it.

Too much had happened in the intervening years. It had been eight years,  in fact, since Chloe had lived with Raina and her grandparents during  her senior year of high school. But they'd stayed in touch by phone and  the internet.

Three years ago Raina's grandmother had died and Chloe had come to  California with her parents for the funeral. Just nine months ago  Raina's grandfather had died and once again Chloe and her family had  flown over to be with her for his funeral. Their close friendship had  helped her get through her grief, and Chloe's family had begged Raina to  come back to Greece with them.

"Please tell me you understand, Chloe. I have no desire to intrude on your joy."

"I don't care about me."

"But I do."

After a resigned sigh Chloe said, "Then at least stay at the house with  me and my family. After all you did for me when I lived with you, my  parents are anxious to do everything they can for you."

"Tell you what. After you've left on your honeymoon I'll be thrilled to spend time with them before I fly back to California."

"They'll want you to stay for several months. Think about it. We could have such a wonderful time together."

"I will think about it. As for right now I can't wait to be at your  reception. The photos you sent me in your wedding dress are fabulous!"

"But you won't get to see me married at the church."

"Much as I'm sorry about that, it's better this way. I've already booked  a room at the Diethnes Hotel. You can reach me on the phone there or on  my cell phone. Chloe? You promise you haven't told your fiancé my  plans?"

"I swear it. Of course he knows all about you, but he doesn't have any idea that you are coming to Greece."

"Good. That's how I want things to stay. This is going to be your day!  If the press finds out I'm there, I'm afraid it will ruin things for  you. Later this year I'll fly over to meet him, or you can fly to  California."

"I promise. He's so wonderful, I can't eat or sleep."

"That doesn't surprise me. Ta le-me, Chloe," she said, using one of the  few Greek expressions she still remembered, before hanging up.

Six years ago Raina had been in the same excited condition as her  friend. Halfway through college she'd met Byron Wallace, a writer. After  a whirlwind romance they were married. But it didn't take long to see  his selfish nature and suspect her new husband of being unfaithful.  Armed with proof of his infidelity even before their two-year marriage  anniversary, she'd divorced him, only to lose her grandmother to heart  failure.

In her pain she vowed never to marry again. She'd told as much to her  beloved, ailing grandfather who'd passed away from stomach cancer.

Chloe's phone call a month ago about her impending marriage had come as a  wonderful surprise. Since the death of Raina's grandfather, it was the  one piece of news that put some excitement back into her life.

The head of her team at the lab was aware she hadn't taken a vacation in  several years. He urged her to take the time off for as long as she  wanted. "Go to Greece and be with your friend," he'd said. "We'll still  be here when you get back."

Raina thought about it. A change of scene to enjoy Chloe's nuptials might be exactly what she needed.



Maybe it was the stress of everything she'd had to do before her flight  to Athens, Greece. All Raina knew was that she had developed a splitting  headache. She needed a strong painkiller. After filing out of the coach  section to clear customs wearing jeans and a T-shirt, she retrieved her  medium-sized suitcase and left the terminal late morning to find a  taxi.

"The Diethnes Hotel, please," she told the driver. The man at the travel  agency in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, had booked the budget hotel  for her. From there she could walk to Syntagma Square and the city  center without problem.         

     



 

Chloe had phoned her from Athens yesterday to exclaim over the gorgeous  seventy-eight-degree temperature, perfect for her June wedding that  would take place tomorrow. Considering the prominence of the Milonis and  Chiotis families, it promised to be one of the country's major society  events of the summer.

Raina, a strawberry blonde with wavy hair cut neck length, looked at the  clear blue Greek sky, a good omen for the impending festivities. Chloe  was the sweetest girl in the world. Raina hoped she was marrying an  honorable man who'd be true to her.

Raina hadn't been so lucky in that department, but four years had passed  since the divorce and she refused to let any remaining clouds dampen  the excitement for her friend. Every woman went into marriage praying it  would last forever. A woman had that right, didn't she?

Once she'd been shown to her room and had unpacked, Raina went back  downstairs for directions to the nearest pharmacy for headache medicine.  The concierge told her there was a convenience store in the next block  many of the American tourists frequented.

Raina thanked him and made her way down the street.



Akis Giannopoulos smiled at his best friend. "Are you ready to take the big plunge?"

Theo grinned. "You already know the answer to that question. If I'd had  my way, I would have kidnapped Chloe and married her in private several  months ago. But her mother and mine have had an agenda since the  engagement. Wouldn't you know the guest list includes a cast of  thousands?"

"You're a lucky man." Akis was happy for him. Theo and Chloe seemed to  be a perfect match. "Can I do any last-minute service for you before you  become a married man?"

"You did more than enough helping me make all the hotel arrangements for  our out-of-town guests. I suggest you go back to the penthouse. I need  my best man relaxed before the big day tomorrow. Will your brother be  there?"

"Vasso phoned me earlier. He'll make it to the wedding, but then he has  to get back to the grand opening so he'll miss the reception."

"Understood. So, I'll see you at the church in the morning?"

Akis hugged him. "Try to keep me away."

The two men had been friends for a long time. Naturally Akis was  thrilled for Theo, but he was surprised to discover just how much he  would miss the camaraderie they'd shared as bachelors. Having done so  many things together, Akis was feeling a real sense of loss.

Theo's life would now be swept up with Chloe's. Falling in love with her  had changed his friend. He was excited for this marriage. Akis marveled  that Theo wanted it so much.

How could he feel so certain that marrying Chloe was the right thing for him?

Marriage meant a lifelong commitment. The woman would have to be so sensational. Akis couldn't fathom finding such a woman.

Aware he was in a despondent mood that wasn't like him, he left the bank  Theo's family had owned for several decades and decided to walk to the  penthouse in order to shake it off. After the wedding rehearsal that had  taken place this morning, exercise was what he needed.

Tourists had flooded into Athens. He saw every kind and description as  he made his way to the Giannopoulos complex. After turning a corner, he  almost bumped into a beautiful female in a T-shirt and jeans coming in  his direction.

"Me seen xo rees, thespinis," he apologized, getting out of her way just in time.

She murmured something he didn't quite hear. For a moment their eyes  locked. He felt like he'd suddenly come in contact with an electric  current. She must have felt it, too, because he saw little bursts of  violet coming from those velvety depths before she walked on. By the way  she moved, she had a definite destination in mind. The last thing he  saw was her blondish-red hair gleaming in the sun before she rounded the  corner behind him.



Raina slowed down, shocked by what had just happened. Maybe it was her  bad headache that had caused her to almost walk into the most gorgeous  male she'd ever seen in her life. Not in her wildest dreams could she  have conjured such a man.

She needed medicine fast!

Luckily the sign for the convenience store was in Greek and English.  Alpha/Omega 24. Translation-everything from A to Z. That was a clever  name for the store. Its interior looked like "everywhere USA." There was  a caution sign saying Wet Floor in both languages as you walked in.

She tiptoed over the newly mopped floor in her sandals to the counter.  The male clerk, probably college age, helped her find the  over-the-counter medicine section for headaches.

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