Aetos Zenos smiled into the mirror as he straightened his tie. Today was going to be one of the best days of his life and he had his wife to thank for it. Without her presence in his life, old man Tucker would never have agreed to the deal he’d proposed. A deal worth millions.
Nai. His wife deserved a hell of a lot of credit.
He turned around to his walk-in closet and chose the steel-blue Armani jacket that matched his pants. Slipping it on, he adjusted the sleeves and the gold, eagle-encrusted cufflinks. He smiled at his image once more, a sly twinkle in his eye.
Not only had his perfect wife secured this contract for him, she also had many other sterling qualities to admire. She never nagged. She never quarreled.
She was never disappointed in him, demanding of him.
She didn’t require his time or emotions or attention.
She never spent a penny of his vast fortune.
What more could a man want in a woman?
There was the issue of sex. In this one area, she fell short. Not that he cared. He’d found other avenues to take care of that particular need. He didn’t blame his wife for not providing him satisfaction. He knew going into the marriage sex wasn’t in the cards. She wasn’t capable of it. And really, what was the saying?
Variety was the spice of life.
He chuckled. Looking down at his left hand, he eyed the plain gold band on his ring finger. He hadn’t taken it off since he’d put it on two years ago. The ring had saved him countless hassles. When confronted by a determined woman, all he had to do was wave the thing in her face and tell her no. He liked variety, true, but he was the one to choose and chase. When he did indicate interest, each woman he picked invariably came to his bed.
The ring was never mentioned. Neither was marriage or commitment.
A wife was very useful to have in many situations.
Glancing at his watch, he walked out of his bedroom, across the Persian rugs blanketing the long hall, and down the wide stairs to the foyer of his elegant, Upper East Side brownstone. He’d purchased the property right before his marriage. No longer had he wanted to project the image of a man-about-town. The image had been fine and well when he’d first started building his business seventeen years ago. It had garnered him attention, brought him connections, solidified his presence as a mover and shaker. The image the world saw had served his purpose as he rose in stature.
But two years ago? Well, let’s just say Tucker had been only one catalyst for his marriage. The existence of a wife had been important to show he was a solid, established citizen. However, the marriage had provided him more than a business deal.
The marriage had provided him cover.
Slipping on his black leather jacket while opening the front door, he nodded to his chauffeur. “Let’s go.”
He spent the ride into Manhattan fielding several calls from his PA. Scrolling through a dozen text messages and emails from his bond traders in London and Singapore, he jotted down a couple of notes on new acquisitions. Not until he was mere minutes from his meeting with the old man did he have a chance to open his laptop and review his final proposal. The review truly wasn’t needed. The proposal had played in his head for years.
He knew what he had to do. He always did.
The limo door opened and Aetos stepped out into a biting November wind. Looking at the imposing stone building he was about to acquire, he smiled one more time. Who would have dreamed a young kid from Athens would ever accomplish so much and come so far? Who could have imagined that one Aetos Zenos—a nobody, a nothing—with not a penny to his name when he landed on America’s shores, would soon own one of the best properties in New York City? Who would have predicted the rejected heir of one of Greece’s most prominent families would now be the proud owner of more businesses, land, and power than the Zenos clan had accumulated over hundreds of years?
Certainly not his father. Certainly none of the aristocratic Zenos family.
They’d been wrong. All wrong.
He’d dreamed of this at the tender age of nine when he’d been discarded. He’d imagined this when he’d left his father’s home at the age of fifteen. This need for success had been branded into him with every sneer and every putdown.
Now, here he was. Making it all come true.
Nodding to the doorman, he walked through the open door into his future.
The future his wife had helped him obtain.
His perfect, pretend wife.
* * *
Natalie Globenko sat in the darkest corner of the bar. She’d chosen the place specifically because it was in the Upper East Side, far from her own Brooklyn neighborhood, as far as one could get without falling off Manhattan Island. The place was as shadowy and nondescript as a person could hope. The dusky oak paneling and dark-red paint created a sense of safety. A cave cocooning her in its dark embrace.