"Don't you just love these things?"
Cassandra Hunt internally rolled her eyes as another stranger asked her the same question she'd been asked a hundred times. She gave her boilerplate response. "Yes, they're amazing."
Truthfully, she couldn't stand the glitzy cocktail parties she was forced to attend for the sake of her father and their business. But even she had to admit, the view over the Caldera in Santorini was spectacular. Especially now, at sunset, when the blazing heat of the sun softened into a bright red hue.
She sipped her champagne, allowing the bubbles to burst over her tongue. The tangy, sweet taste slid down her throat and eased the knot of tension in her stomach. God, she really hated these things. Too many fake people trying to climb the success ladder. She never fit in with that set. Despite her wealth, she felt uncomfortable around wealthy people.
The woman continued on about how many famous people she'd seen. Which movie stars had smiled at her. Which ones hadn't. Cassie shut off. She tilted her face towards the sunset and allowed the warm breeze to soothe her.
She didn't want to be here, dressed in an expensive long, emerald cocktail dress and gold high-heeled sandals. She loved the dress, and the sandals, but hated the reason she was here. Theo Archer. The man who was buying into her father's company.
Rage that she'd kept hidden since finding out about his take-over bid bubbled to the surface. The Santorini heat became oppressive. Her dress clung to her skin and sweat beaded at the base of her spine.
She smiled at the woman who'd been chatting to her. "Would you excuse me?"
Without waiting for answer she weaved through the throng of people at the Gatsbyesque party thrown by Archer. Anticipation and excitement hung in the air.
Theo Archer was a reclusive billionaire. There were no photographs of him on the Internet. The few interviews he'd given revealed very little about his personal life or upbringing. Few people had seen him in the flesh. Only two things were certain—he was self-made and he threw lavish parties every few months in various locations around the globe. Parties he rarely showed up at.
This party was special. It was rumored Theo Archer was going to make an appearance. That was why Cassie was here, dressed to kill and making small talk.
She wanted to confront Archer in a neutral setting before facing him in the boardroom a few weeks from now. As COO of her father's cyber defense company, she wanted to talk to Archer as equals, not when he was in conquering overlord mode.
She signaled a passing waitress, put down her empty glass on a tray and swiped another champagne. "Is there somewhere I can go that's a little more private?" She hoped so, one more minute out here in the open, in the midst of the bold and beautiful, and she'd explode...or pass out.
"Of course. The private garden is straight to the end of the path on your right. There is still a beautiful view over the Caldera, but no people." The girl gave her a knowing smile, as though she understood Cassie's deep seated need to be alone.
She flashed the young woman a genuine smile. "Efharisto." Thank you.
Back in London she'd be at the theatre, or attending book signings, or just sitting in her pyjamas chatting with her girlfriends. She dated here and there, but nothing special. She occasionally attended glitzy gala things like this. Her work was her passion.
Despite her wealth, Cassie hated the trappings of a jet set lifestyle. Her grandfather instilled a grueling work ethic in her father, one he'd passed on to her.
You work hard and earn what you have. You didn't walk around like you own the world just because you have money.
Only complete arseholes did that. That's why she hated these gatherings—full of people up their own arses.
She sighed in relief at seeing the blue, wooden door at the end of the path. Pushing it open, she peeked inside at the lush, empty paradise. Mimosa trees lined the landscaped space. A white path weaved around into a secret space she couldn't see. The waitress had been right, there were no people.
Cassie stepped inside and closed the door behind her. For a brief moment, she leaned back against the sturdy structure and took a few steadying, deep breaths. Her heart rate slowed. Sweat cooled on her skin as the warm Caldera breeze washed over her. This part of the world really was stunning. She had to hand it to Theo Archer—he had exquisite taste in party locations.
She pushed off the door and meandered around the secret garden. Birds chirped in the gloaming. Trees and flowers cast pretty shadows on the floor which she traced with her feet as she moved deeper into the garden that seemed to go on forever. Floral scents of bougainvillea and peonies tickled her senses. She could hear the faint din of people and music, but it didn't impede on her moment of calm. Whoever designed this garden had pure privacy in mind. She made a mental note to get the designer's name and number. She definitely wanted something like this back in England.
Her heels started to pinch. She wished she could take them off.
Then do it.
She laughed to herself. No one would see her. There was no one here to judge her. Throwing caution to the wind, she slipped off her heels, picked them up with one hand before taking another sip of champagne. The heat of the path seeped into the soles of her feet. It felt good to breathe—not just her feet, but her soul.
Out here, alone, she felt more like herself than she had done for months. The worry and anger slipped away, loosening her muscles, calming her nerves.
Or maybe that was just the champagne.
Cassie rounded a corner, enjoyed the setting sun beating down on her face. A stone bench overlooking the Caldera called to her. She sat down and lifted her head to the sun, smiled and let her eyes close. The scent of the ocean was stronger here. She licked her lips and tasted salt on her tongue. Absolutely perfect.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
YOU ARE READING
An enemies-to-lover romance! COO Cassie Hunt loathes the mysterious, reclusive tech industry billionaire, Theo Archer. Her arch nemesis has just purchased a majority share in her father's cyber tech company and she wants to know why. On the glitzy i...