DISCLAIMER: These are all original characters and are ©copyright devlin@xenafan.com. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies may be made for private use only and I'd appreciate if you included all copyright notices and this disclaimer. If you have a fanfic site, please drop me an email before putting this on your site (I like to keep track).

VIOLENCE WARNING: More talk than action, but it is here (come on it's Uber Warrior Princess). If you're a guy, however, you may feel the need to cross your legs and groan every once in a while!

SEX: Oh, please...you people should know me by now! Yup…it's here! Hey, it's Uber Xena and Gabrielle, for cryin' out loud! It's quite explicit once it gets rolling, but it's not gratuitous. If the thought of two women in a loving/sexual relationship bothers you…well, as Xena said, "Bite me!"

HIGH ANGST WARNING: I was threatened within an inch of my life if I didn't start putting this disclaimer on some (all?) of my work. I will henceforth rate the angst content with sad faces, one being the lowest and four being the highest. This story earns: L L L (3 sad faces for those without TT Fonts)

UNDERAGE WARNING: Hey, the Supreme Court said in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997) that laws against making available, online, certain "indecent" materials for those under 18 was unconstitutional…look it up! Besides, this is perfectly "decent." J

You may not only walk on the grass; you may also feed the bard here! I only know how others feel about my stories from feedback. Let me know what you think about it. Homophobes need not apply, however. I'm at: devlin@xenafan.com


Special thanks go to:

Laura, my research assistant. Her hard work in researching anything and everything about Greece makes me look like a better author than I am. Thanks, L. see ya in Florida!

To my x-mas misfits who seem to like everything I write & the Merwolf pack...a bunch of pups that have been more than flattering with their praise.

Finally, to that ever faithful one I have at home...the dark warrior of my own soul.

New Original Fiction by LJ Maas


Tessa watched their reflections move behind her as she peered pensively out the window. The images cast back in the window were of a burly man being ushered into the office between Stefano and Alex. They pushed him into a chair and he sat there obediently. The tall, dark-haired woman waved her hand in a dismissive gesture at her two large henchman, but still she gazed out the window, her eyes the color of the Aegean Sea that lay below. The two assistants left her in the room alone with the rugged fellow and although her back faced the man, even he knew he was still lucky to be alive. Attacking her didn't enter into the picture.

She sighed deeply as she looked out onto the beautiful vista. The sunset was indescribable. The yellow-orange glow turned the blue-green sea below the same soft color and the muted hues bounced back at her from the whitewashed houses along the edge of the sea.

She pinched the bridge of her nose and wished she were anywhere else at this moment, perhaps at sea on her catamaran, nestled in the arms of a beautiful woman. She closed her eyes and could feel the setting sun on her shoulders as the Meltémi blew strongly from the north. She could almost feel the woman in her arms. She shook her head slightly and opened her eyes. This wasn't the time for dreaming. Besides, her business didn't exactly afford her the kind of relationships with the type of women who might enjoy fine wine and Milton on the sea.

She needed to focus to the task at hand. Running the slender fingers of one hand through her ebony hair, she swallowed down the longing and the melancholy, they would only make her weak. She needed strength for this business of Mr. Meridio's. After all, he paid her well to do what she was best at, enforcing Mr. Meridio's will.

Another deep breath and the woman with the soulful gaze disappeared. As she turned, the burly man looked into her face and what he saw there caused him to swallow hard. Her perfectly chiseled features spoke highly of her pure Greek heritage, but it was her eyes that had the man mesmerized. Moments ago she looked out onto the world with deep blue cerulean orbs, now she turned her gaze on the seated man and her eyes were as cold and pale as ice.

"Mr. Stefanopoulos...my name is Tessa Nikolaidis." She said in a low alto voice devoid of any emotion.

He swallowed again. He knew who she was. The corners of her lips curled upward slightly, watching as he crossed himself, hoping to ward off what he thought was surely the evil eye.

She couldn't stop the indifferent smile. The Greeks always considered women with blue eyes more capable than any of being able to curse someone with the evil eye. Besides that, there was only one thing that thrilled her more than seeing the look on a man's face once he realized who she was, and that was his fear.

"Miss. Meridio?" The flight attendant addressed the young blonde who had her eyes closed.

The attendant hated bothering first class passengers; they could get very testy, but this one seemed genuinely nice when she had come around to serve brunch.

"Miss. Meridio?" She repeated.

The petite blonde opened her eyes to reveal dark green irises, the color of a lush forest. She pulled herself up slightly; seemingly surprised she had fallen so deeply asleep. Wisps of golden wheat colored hair fell across her eyes and, as was her habit, she shook them away with a quick toss of her head. Quickly running her hands through her short locks she focused on the attendant.

"Yes?" She asked, looking up expectantly at the attendant who bent toward her.

"Miss. Meridio, the pilots have taken a message for you." The attendant held out a piece of paper. "Do you read Greek?"

"Yes, thank you." The blonde replied, opening the folded note and smiling.

Only her father would have the audacity to make the pilots deliver an emergency message to her when she was only fifteen minutes from landing in Athens. He told her his Karê would be at the airport to meet her. Casey folded the note closed again and wondered who his new right-hand man was. She never liked the man everyone called Tusky, but she remembered the sadness to her father's letter when he told her the large man she had grown up in fear of, had been killed in an unfortunate car bomb attack. That was five years ago. They blamed it on the Turks or the Albanians, much like they blamed everything bad that happened in Greece.

Casey stretched and leaned her elbow on the armrest of the seat, her chin resting comfortably in the palm of her hand. She looked out the airplane window and lost herself in the billowy white clouds. It felt strange to be going home again, although most people would not consider Greece her homeland, nor would they, at first glance, take her as a native. When she told the attendant she did indeed speak Greek, she answered with a very short, nai. The woman looked surprised, but said nothing.

Greece was Casey's home, in an eccentric sort of way. As the story was told to her, her mother was born to a Greek father and French mother. Her father went against family tradition by not marrying a woman of full Greek blood. The story got a little muddled after that. Neither her mother nor her father would ever explain much to her, but from what she could gather, when young Cassandra Meridio was only five years old, her mother took her daughter and left Greece for the United States, never to return. Casey now held dual citizenship in both countries.

It was always very civilized between her mother and father. Casey spent every summer of her life at her father's estate on the island of Mýkonos. The rest of the year she lived with her mother on Long Island. For the past six summers, Casey hadn't been to the Greek Island. College life had been too time consuming and every summer she traveled around the globe on an archeological dig. Finally with her Master's Degree in Ancient Civilizations in hand and the funding of the University of California behind her, she was returning to her father's home. She had been placed second in command of the dig, mostly because of her heritage and command of the language and area. It was a joint effort between the United States and Greece, and young Casey was going to make the most of her first opportunity.

She was a little nervous about seeing her father after so much time, but she really had nothing to worry about. Andreas Meridio cherished his daughter like a Goddess. His young daughter wanted for nothing growing up and on the day she graduated, she had a royal blue, BMW M3 convertible waiting in the driveway. When she told her father of her assignment in Chóra at the Archeological Museum, he insisted she come home to the estate to live. Casey's first thought was to make up some excuse to live on her own in an apartment, but since it had been six years since she visited the island, she decided to be pampered for a while at the estate and look for an apartment once she was there. A few weeks of vacation couldn't hurt, she thought.

The blinking of the cabin lights brought her out of her reminiscing and she refastened her seat belt. Hopefully, her father's Karê would at least be someone she could get along with while she lived there. She shuddered slightly as she remembered the unfeeling stares she always received from Tusky. Let's hope this one is a little more on the friendly side.


"What are you trying to do, get us killed?" The dark-haired woman hissed and grabbed the card that said Meridio from the chauffeur driver's hands. Turning it over so the name was hidden, she slammed it into his chest. "Vlákas," she cursed the man's stupidity.

"But, I don't know what she looks like." He stammered with a heavy accent.

"Don't worry...I do." She said.

Every day for the last five years she looked at the picture on her employer's large oak desk. The girl was all of about twelve with long blonde hair and braces gleaming on her teeth. She was a tiny thing, looking even smaller sitting atop a large black stallion. Tessa wouldn't have needed the picture to remember, anyway. She had the image of Meridio's daughter as a child burned into her brain.

After all, How much could one girl have changed?


Casey stood and stretched muscles that had grown tight during the seventeen-hour flight from California. She'd had a little bit of a jog rushing to catch the connecting flight in Amsterdam, but she fell asleep and barely moved since then. Making her way from the airplane, she was dreading the wait in customs, that coupled with the fact that she had no idea who she was supposed to be looking for, was already beginning to make for a stressful afternoon. Laptop case in hand, she moved through the busy airport like a seasoned traveler, unaware of the eyes that followed her every move. She was able to move swiftly through the East terminal to where the baggage reclaim area was.

She stopped a young man working as a skycap and surprised him by speaking in Greek, explaining it would be worth a large tip if he obtained all her bags and directed them to customs for her. The young man tilted his hat back and leered at the small blonde. When she held up a ten thousand Drachmas bank note invitingly, his eyes went wide, but suddenly his face froze, not on the money, but at something over Casey's left shoulder. His face went pale and he shook his head at the small blonde, trying to move away from her. Casey took hold of his arm to pull him back to face her.

"Ochi," the young man said forcefully and he pushed the hand away that still held the crisp bank note. As if Casey didn't understand the language, he repeated himself in English.

"No!" he looked up behind Casey and began to back up.

The young woman was quite surprised at the man's frightened behavior. He bowed slightly, turning and all but running away. Suddenly, Casey felt a presence behind her. She remembered the look on the young man's face and turned with one of her best American back off glares.

Neither woman would ever remember afterward if any words were exchanged in those first few seconds. It was as if every bad movie cliché came to pass and time simply stopped its progress for a few precious heartbeats. It felt much longer to the two women who stood staring at one another.

Casey stood looking up into the bluest eyes an artist could have ever imagined. The woman in front of her was easily six inches taller than the petite blonde was. She had long ebony hair that cascaded across broad shoulders and down her back, her dark bangs swept casually to one side. One eyebrow arched up under those bangs and Casey thought she saw a definite look of amusement, or was it surprise, in the stranger's contemplative glance. The woman looked suspiciously like an American Federal agent in a tailored black suit and white silk blouse. She seemed perfectly at ease as she held her hands, pensively folded, in front of her.

Tessa watched as the small blonde walked through the airport, ordering the others to stay behind. She saw her opportunity when the skycap attempted to hit on her. Once the young woman turned around, it took every bit of the taller woman's self-restraint not to laugh out loud at the look she was being given. Then Tessa found herself caught in a gaze that swirled with all the colors of the ocean. This was definitely not the twelve-year-old in that picture. This woman must be someone else entirely. The top of her head only came up to Tessa's chin, but her body was a work of art. All sleek muscle covered by skin that looked so soft, the dark-haired woman had to clasp her hands together to keep herself from reaching out and touching it. Then Tessa remembered who this woman was and as suddenly as her eyes had softened, her expression slipped back into its cold pretension.

"Cassandra Meridio, I presume?"

The voice startled Casey out of her haze. The taller woman's expression went from quiet contemplation to severe impassivity in the blink of an eye.

"Yes?" The blonde replied.

"My name is Tessa Nikolaidis, I work for your father."

Casey took the offered hand and for a second thought about not letting go. She couldn't understand the feeling when it was obvious from the dark-haired woman's indifferent stare that it was only a perfunctory handshake, Casey simply couldn't explain it. The funny thing was that the taller woman seemed reluctant to end the contact too.

"Please follow me, Ms. Meridio," the taller woman asked, then promptly turned and began walking, fully expecting the small blonde to follow.

"But...my bags..." Casey started,

"I've already taken care of your bags, Ms. Meridio." Tessa replied.

"Shouldn't I be in Customs?" Casey responded, slightly breathless from keeping up with the woman's long strides.

"Already taken care of." Tessa replied once again.

"Hold it!" Casey stopped and finally realized she was practically running to keep up. "How about we ease it down to a slow jog, huh?"

For the first time since the two met a small hint of a smile played at the corners of Tessa's lips.

"Sorry," Were the only words Tessa spoke as she indicated the door to the car.

The limousine pulled to the curb seconds before the two women walked out into the heat of the afternoon. Swiftly pulling open the door, Tessa let Casey enter and sat across from her next to a muscular young man in his thirties.

"This is Alex, also in the employ of your father. He doesn't speak English very well." She indicated the man seated next to her.

The beefy young man smiled shyly at the small blonde as Casey introduced herself in Greek. He shook the small hand and pulled away quickly, shooting nervous glances at the woman seated next to him.

Casey watched and listened to the dark-haired woman's English, but couldn't place the very slight accent. The inflection of her voice when she used English was just a bit off, as if she had learned English in England or Australia. She couldn't be American; she spoke the language too perfectly. Tessa looked over her shoulder and spoke to the driver in Greek, asking him to drive by the port road to the airfield. That's when Casey realized the woman was Greek. The throaty way she rolled her R's, a technique that had always been difficult for Casey seemed to roll off of the dark-haired woman's tongue with a natural ease.

Tessa picked up the phone on the first ring. She proceeded to conduct business, speaking sometimes in Greek, then in English. She held a black leather portfolio in her lap and constantly scribbled on the legal pad inside. All the while the dark-haired woman kept one eye trained casually on the petite woman seated across from her. The blonde seemed to take business dealings in stride and looked out the window, her chin resting nonchalantly in the palm of her hand. Tessa wondered how many of these rides the girl had gone on with her father, being ignored just like this, business always coming first. Suddenly the dark-haired woman caught an unguarded moment of pain in the small blonde's features. Then, just as quickly it was gone.

Tessa closed her notebook and turned off the phone.

"May I offer you a drink, Ms. Meridio?" Tessa asked, gesturing to the small bar.

"Actually, my friends call me Casey. I'd love a vodka if you have it."

"Indeed we do, Ms. Meridio. Ice...tonic?" Tessa replied.

Casey realized with that one response how it was to be between she and this woman. Extremely beautiful, but cold and distant, Casey understood that she would always be Meridio's daughter to the stranger who hid her emotions so carefully. She shook her head at the offer of additional amenities.

Tessa watched the woman's expression as the Karê poured the both of them a drink, purposely ignoring the offer to call her employer's daughter by her first name. She's a beauty, that's for sure, but this is the last thing you need in your life right now. No complications, that's what you promised yourself. And this one...Meridio's daughter...she could definitely make life complicated.

Casey took the offered drink from the dark-haired woman's grasp and a spark jumped between their fingers. The young woman pulled back her hand and looked at her fingers as though she'd been burned.

"It's dry this time of year," was the Karê's only explanation, but even she felt it.

It was more than static electricity; it was scintillation borne of a fire that burned deeply within each woman, but always kept in control. Neither recognized the cause, but each of them, quite suddenly, felt the incompleteness of their lives.

Tessa was tempted to smile and tell the young woman she would love to call her Casey and for a moment, she felt her lips part as if to speak the words. Gahmóh Toh!

What the hell has gotten into you, Niko...are you out of your fucking mind? What are you going to do...fuck the girl? You do and you'll be under the cornerstone of one of Meridio's new buildings. Get it together woman!

Casey watched the dark-haired woman's face as she sipped the refrigerated vodka. It was ice cold with a citrus flavor, yet it still burned slightly as it slid down her throat. The woman's blue eyes darkened and she appeared to be about to speak, the frown lines in her facing relaxing a bit. Just as quickly, the woman's tanned features hardened and the open look on her face slammed shut. She grabbed the phone once more and angrily flipped open the notebook in her lap, ignoring the small blonde completely.

The short flight to Mýkonos was uneventful and Casey found another car was soon taking them up the small hill to her father's estate. Overlooking Tourlos Bay, the medieval house had been situated on this modest bluff, looking out onto the bay for centuries. Casey remembered when she was a child always running away to escape for a few moments of solitude to the beach at San Stefanos.

There was an enormous amount of activity once they exited the vehicle. Some of the confusion was simply due to the fact that Andreas Meridio's only child hadn't been home in nearly six years. Much of the ensuing activity, however, surrounded around the tall, dark-haired woman. She answered questions as she walked and gave directions to workers, staff, and gardeners, while always seeming to keep one eye trained on the horizon, scanning the area for what, Casey didn't know. Finally it hit the small blonde.

Casey stopped and stood only a couple of feet from the taller woman. She fixed and incredulous look on the older woman and Tessa returned the frank gaze with one of her own.

"You...you're my father's Karê?" Casey asked in amazement.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Meridio, I thought I made that clear." Tessa replied flatly.

"You most certainly did not, but I think you already knew that. Did you enjoy taking me for a fool, Ms. Nikolaidis?" Casey asked with a hot edge to her voice.

For only the second time that day, Casey watched as the dark-haired woman came close to smiling.

"Miss Meridio!"

Casey turned and a bright smile lit up her face, her anger immediately vanishing.


An older woman, gray beginning to streak through her hair, rushed up to the two women. She wrapped strong arms around the small blonde and hugged her tightly.

"I've missed you in my kitchen." The plump woman laughed. "I have no one to steal Dolmádes from underneath my very nose."

Casey laughed and remembered the times she would help in the kitchen simply to sneak bites of the stuffed grape leaves the older woman made to perfection.

"Hey, I learned to cook, stealing food in your kitchen." Casey put on what she hoped was an affronted expression.

"Well, at least some girls learned how to cook," Olympia chided in Tessa's direction. "This one would burn water if you gave her a chance." She pointed in the dark-haired woman's direction.

For the very first time Casey watched as a small smile replaced the Karê's customary scowl. Tessa leaned down closer to the cook who was nearly as tall as the dark-haired woman.

"Why should I bother to learn when I can get beautiful women to do it for me?" She grinned.

Olympia laughed at the tall woman. "Someday you'll be sorry you didn't learn more."

Tessa leaned even closer to the older woman and grinned. "If I learned any more I'd be dangerous." She finished with a wink.


Casey knew the voice even before she turned around. "Pappa," she whirled and flew the half dozen steps to where Andreas Meridio's tall frame stood.

He hugged the girl and practically lifted her off the ground. The handsome man kissed his daughter's forehead and whispered something in her ear, to which the small blonde smiled and nodded, tears filling her green eyes.

Tessa and Olympia watched the exchange and the cook couldn't help but notice the change in the Karê's expression. For a moment the dark-haired woman let down her guard and smiled as the father and daughter embraced. She seemed to be a million miles away in her own memories, but it only lasted for a moment then her impassive facade was slipped into place again.

"Mrs. Karoubas, I hope you're planning something special for tonight, you know how my Máhtia Mou eats." He said with a smile, slipping an arm around the young woman's waist and pulling her closer.

"Oh, I see everyone has my number, eh?" Casey laughed good naturedly at the tall man, secretly enjoying the pet name her father bestowed on her as a small girl. He always told her she was his Máhtia Mou, his darling.

"Indeed I do, sir, all Miss Meridio's favorites."

"Excellent, thank you, Mrs. Karoubas." He dismissed the older woman. "I see you and Tessa have met. Tessa, join us for dinner, won't you? I'm having a few guests in. I'd like to welcome this one back home properly."

"Of course, Mr. Meridio." Tessa commented, realizing this wasn't a request, but a command. "If you'll excuse me, I have some work to attend to before then." The tall woman walked away toward the back of the estate without another glance at Casey.

Casey was only half listening to her father, her eyes following the uncommunicative Karê until the beautiful woman was out of sight.


Tessa watched the boats sail into Tourlos Bay, her back to the two seated men. They had been going over this report for the past hour. Andreas Meridio sat behind an antique Mahogany desk that, Tessa mused, must have taken ten men to carry in. Alex sat in a chair across from him. They were grooming Alex to be second in command, but he just wasn't a leader. If anything happened to her, Alex would be in charge, and Meridio would most probably be a dead man.

"Tessa, what do you think?" Meridio asked.

Tessa never turned away from the window. It seemed she spent a lot of time daydreaming out of windows lately. She tried to focus on the conversation at hand, but the vision of a pair of deep green eyes kept jumping to the forefront of her thoughts.

"I think it's her first day and you're pushing." She finally answered.

Andreas nodded and leaned back in the large leather chair. Tessa was the only person alive he would allow to speak to him in this manner. Her assessments were usually brutal, but always honest. He looked at the report the American investigator had faxed him. If his daughter saw the papers he held in his hand, she would probably be on the first plane back to America. He couldn't take chances and needed to know what his daughter had truly been up to in the last few years.

Again he perused the papers. She had a number of roommates in college, thank the Holy virgin they were all female. She didn't party to excess; rather she was more of a workaholic, like her father.

"Tessa, what does this mean when he writes about her orientation towards sex?" Andreas asked the silent woman.

The Karê allowed a smile to play at the corners of her lips. Personally, she thought this little tidbit was too good to be true. It means she eats pussy, you morons!

She waved her hand at the men behind her. "It just means she doesn't sleep around," she lied.

"Of course she doesn't." Meridio looked offended at the thought. "She's only twenty-five years old, for God's sake!"

Tessa's grin, hidden from their view, grew wider.

"She's a good Catholic girl, Mr. Meridio," Alex stated. "Says here she goes to Mass at least once a month and see, she even goes to confession. You know a lot of those American girls don't even bother anymore."

Yea, I bet the priests drop their teeth when that ball of fire comes in, Tessa laughed to herself.

"Alex. My daughter is Greek, not American." Andreas responded coldly.

Tessa could hear the edge to Meridio's voice.

"Oh, of course, Mr. Meridio. I was just saying--"

"Shut up, Alex." Tessa warned before the young man let his tongue get him in real trouble.

"Mr. Meridio, if you want my opinion, why don't you just let things lie for a while where Cassandra is concerned. Let her get used to being here again and see how she acts once she gets settled into her position at the museum. The family business need not concern her for a while yet. Take it nice and slow," Tessa continued, turning around to finally face her employer and putting on one of her most charming smiles. "No sense anyone getting hurt needlessly."

Tessa smiled at the older man as he nodded his agreement. He never noticed that her smile looked more serpentine than caring.


Perhaps two dozen people showed up to Andreas Meridio's dinner party. Casey was oohed and ahhed over until she escaped to the balcony for a much needed breath of air. She leaned over the parapet that overlooked the swimming pool and sighed deeply.

"What's the matter, you don't like being the heir apparent?" The low alto voice came at her from the shadows and she recognized whom the seductive sound belonged to immediately.

She turned away from the voice and looked out onto the lights of the bay.

"It has all the thrill of being a prized mare, put on display to be sold to the highest bidder." Casey responded.

"Ah, but good horseflesh," Tessa emerged from the shadows, a glass of wine in hand. "The ones with the breeding, they command a high price. One wants to know what they're getting for their money."

"And what do they do once they've invested time and money in her and she's not all they thought she would be?" Casey asked.

Tessa walked up behind the young woman, so close Casey could feel the taller woman's warm breath on her neck.

"Usually, they think it's all in the genes. They figure if they didn't hit it with this one...well, they just put her out to breed. Nothing to do all day but decide which stallion she'll let mount her today."

Tessa's moist breath on the back of her neck was doing some dangerous things to the rest of the young woman's body. Casey felt as if the dark-haired woman's voice had lowered to a whisper. She shook her head and put some distance between the sensuous voice and herself.

"Stallions mounting her, eh? Well, Karê," Casey arched an eyebrow at the tall woman, "therein lies the rub."

Before Casey could continue her explanation a young serving girl opened the balcony door and addressed Casey. "Dinner is being prepared to serve, Miss Meridio."

"Thank you, I'm on my way in." Casey responded, moving toward the door.

Tessa followed the small blonde, enjoying the cat and mouse respite. "You are aware as lady of the house, you will be expected to bless the evening." Tessa said to the girl's back.

Casey stopped and turned to look up into clear blue eyes, but she couldn't figure out if they were serious or mocking.

"And, I suppose you have been filling that position for the last five years?" Casey asked.

Tessa simply tilted her head to the side, bowing slightly in acquiescence.

"Ms. Nikolaidis, do you want to be the lady of the Meridio house?" The young woman continued.

Tessa laughed. Not only was the deep throaty laughter extremely sexy, but it was the first time Casey heard the genuine sound from the Karê.

"That, Ms. Meridio, is perhaps the farthest thing in the world from my mind." Tessa answered truthfully.

"Well then, I guess I'll just have to muddle through somehow." Casey said sharply and returned to the dining room.


Andreas Meridio sat at the head of a long table. Tessa was seated to his right, Casey to his left. The Karê watched with mild amusement, as the young woman stood to begin the dinner. The group fell silent and watched the young woman. The dark-haired woman was perhaps the only one in the room who noticed how the petite blonde's hands shook slightly.

Casey said a quick Hail Mary that she wouldn't embarrass herself, her father, or give Tessa Nikolaidis even the tiniest reason to say I told you so. She may have been raised in America, but her mother never let her forget where she came from nor the tradition surrounding her birthplace.

She reached down and lifted her fluted champagne glass, while at the same time gently picking up a brand new twenty drachmae piece that was placed face down on a small plate. She held up the shiny piece and dropped it in her champagne glass. When it floated to the bottom she held her glass high.

"To good fortune, good health, and to the sea." Casey said strongly. "Yamas!"

She finished and drank the bubbly liquid until the glass was empty. With a grin in Tessa's direction, the small blonde produced the coin between her teeth. Everyone at the table held their own glasses up and the familiar toast of Yamas, or to us, was heard all around the table. From Tessa, Casey was sure she heard a muttered, "Touché."


"You surprise me, Pappa. You hired a female Karê?" Casey teased her father slightly.

The small blonde sipped on her almond cordial, kicking off her shoes, she tucked her bare feet underneath her and relaxed on the large leather sofa in her father's den. Actually, Casey was hoping her father would tell her a little more about this mysterious, withdrawn woman.

"No giving Tessa a hard time, young lady." Andreas answered. "Another glass of sournáda?" He asked.

Casey shook her head at the offer of another glass of liqueur. She was already flying from the wine she'd consumed with dinner. "What do you mean a hard time?"

"I know you, Cassandra. You have your mother's temper as well as her eyes. I may have to ask Tessa to go along with you when you go into town or down to the Baka. Now, before you get all indignant," Andreas held up a hand to silence his daughter. "There's been more trouble in Greece than when you were here last. Trust me, Máhtia Mou, Tessa is the person you want around if any trouble should happen. Katalavaynés?"

"Yes, Pater, I understand." Casey answered with an evil grin, which her father couldn't keep from chuckling over.

"Know this, my Máhtia Mou, Tessa is not a woman to be played for a fool. You won't have her chasing after you like poor Tusky did. You almost gave the man heart failure a few times do you realize that? I'm giving Tessa free reign around you my dear daughter. She can tie you up if she has to." Andreas finished as he turned to pour himself another almond cordial.

Casey's eyes narrowed at that last bit and she was thankful her father had turned his back to her.

Tie me up, eh? Hhmmm, how very interesting.

"Just remember, no acting like a teenager or Tessa's likely to turn you over her knee. Katalavaynés?"

Oh this gets better and better!

"Yes, Pappa...of course."

Casey mustered up the kind of innocent smile that used to have the good sisters at Sacred Heart School for Girls believing that there was no way on earth this small innocent creature could possibly have been engaging in perverted acts with other female students.


"Nikki...Nikki," Alex was still pounding on the door when the Karê pulled it open, her body barely covered by the red silk robe she hastily threw on.

"The island better be on fire!" She hissed.

"We got trouble." was all Alex said.

Tessa ushered him in to explain.

"It's the girl, she--"

"What happened?" Tessa's voice was immediately tinged with concern.

"No, it's not like that. She's swimming in the pool."

Tessa just stared at the nervous young man. "You're waking me up at fucking midnight to tell me she's swimming in the goddamn pool?!" Tessa's voice grew louder with each word.

"Naked." Alex finished flatly.

Tessa stopped moving and suddenly laughed softly. "Alex, go get a free look, just make sure Meridio doesn't catch you." Wouldn't mind taking a look at that myself.

"Nikki, it's not just me that knows. Every guy on the estate is hanging out a window just to get a look. It don't look so good, her being an innocent kid and all."

Tessa laughed silently to herself. Innocent is the last thing this one is.

"Look, she's Meridio's daughter, go tell him."

"Aw, Nikki, don't make me do that. He'll want to know how I know and what do I say? That I was watching too?"

Tessa stood there and ran her fingers through her long hair. A low growl escaped from the dark-haired woman's throat as she ripped off her robe, moving into the bedroom. She quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and sneakers and walked into the living area to find the shirt she'd tossed off earlier.

Inserting her hand into one arm of the cotton shirt she looked up to see Alex staring hard at her chest.

"Oh, for Christ's sake, Alex it's not like you've never seen a pair of tits before!" She spat as she pulled the shirt over her broad shoulders.

"Never a pair that looked that good." Alex joked nervously.

Tessa paused and looked up from her task of buttoning up the garment, fixing an icy stare at her underling.

"You won't think they look so good when you're dead!"

"Sorry, Nikki," Alex mumbled apologetically.

"Come on, let's go save the princess." Tessa growled, striding off in the direction of the pool.


Casey hated to admit it, but she was getting, correction, she was, drunk. Feeling a little buzzed and not being able to sleep, she opened a bottle of wine and consumed a third of it when she realized that she wanted to go for a swim.

A little voice inside her brain told her this wasn't exactly the way to start off on the right foot in her father's house, but that tiny voice was swimming upstream against a wave of alcohol and Casey completely ignored the muffled sound inside her head. She floated on the pool's surface, her eyes partially closed and a dreamy expression on her face. She let her mind roam as she imagined fantasies of varying natures being played out. Finally the lover of her fantasies took on a familiar dark-haired, blue-eyed look, thoughts of muscular arms and bronze skin putting Casey's body into a most pleasing state.

Suddenly the lights in the pool went out and Casey was left in darkness until her eyes adjusted to the dim light surrounding the patio. In that instant, when darkness surrounded her, it felt as if her heart stopped beating until the deck lights came into view. She cautiously swam to the edge and when she looked up she was staring into the cerulean gaze that, moments ago, was doing unspeakable things in her fantasies.

Casey folded her arms on the top ledge of the pool and rested her chin on a forearm. "Hello, there Karê." She said with a seductive smile.

Tessa eased her tall frame down to one knee in front of the smiling young woman. The dark-haired woman was trying as hard as she could not to grin back at the beautiful girl, nor let her eyes roam below the water's surface. Just don't look down, Nikki...whatever you do, don't look down.

She reached up a hand and rubbed her own face, realizing that having this woman around could eventually get her killed. She felt a peculiar desire run through her, one that she hadn't felt in a very long time and knew that sooner or later she would be sorely tempted to give in to the young woman's charms. The odd thing was, that she didn't know why. She was certainly no stranger to the pleasures of a woman, but she'd never had trouble resisting one before. This one, however, this one affected her and she couldn't understand how that could be.

"Ms. Meridio," Tessa began softly, "having trouble sleeping are we?"

"Not exactly trouble. I suddenly had the urge to take a swim." Casey answered.

"Without a bathing suit?"

"Feels better this way," the blonde grinned. "Besides, I thought it might help me sleep."

Might I suggest a glass of warm milk as an alternative?" The dark woman responded. "Ms. Meridio, might I also remind you that there are a great number of men on this estate and as we speak, at least half of them are ogling you in the pool?"

Casey looked up at the windows of the large mansion that surrounded the lower patio area where the pool was set. "Really, I didn't even realize." She said with a mock sincerity that the Karê wasn't falling for.

Actually, Casey did realize. She wasn't much of an exhibitionist, but the alcohol helped lower her inhibitions to the point that it didn't matter. After the talk with her father, Casey knew there was only one thing that would bring the Karê out and that was if she thought Andreas Meridio's daughter was in trouble. Of course, Casey had no idea what she was going to do now that she'd gotten this far. The idea of flirting with this forbidding woman was one thing; actually thinking she could seduce such a beauty was terrifying.

"Think you're sleepy yet?" Tessa asked in a bored tone.

Standing up, she moved over to where the young woman's terry cloth robe lay across a patio chair. Tessa walked to the other side of the pool, by the steps at the shallow end and held up the robe in her hands, indicating that Casey's swim was over. The dark-haired woman had a look on her face that said she wasn't used to being disobeyed, especially not by this tiny slip of a girl.

Casey noticed the expression and immediately bristled at the older woman's superior attitude. She took one look at the Karê's face and grabbed the metal handrails at her side and began pulling her naked form from the pool. All the while watching the dark-haired woman's eyes for some hint of a reaction. What she received satisfied her to the core.

Tessa was sure her eyes went wide as she watched the small blonde's sleek body emerge from the semi darkness of the water. She was caught up in the vision of muscles bunching and flexing in the young woman's arms as she pulled her weight from the water. Casey's dripping wet form stood in the shadows as Tessa stood rooted to the spot at the other end of the pool. The blonde reached up to run her fingers through her short hair, wringing some of the water away in the process. The Karê looked on and felt her stomach flip slightly. She couldn't see everything, but she could notice how the young woman's breast were lifted sensuously, the moonlight gleaming against the wet skin, when Casey lifted her arms.

Tessa began to feel an intense heat settle between her legs and she shifted her feet to ease the pressure the tight jeans were placing on her center. She didn't like losing control of a situation and she had most certainly lost control of this one. This woman was standing there like this was the most ordinary thing in the world and when Casey tilted her head back slightly, Tessa saw the smirk on the young woman's face. Oh, I don't think you're quite ready to play with the big girls, my dear.

The Karê turned to face the woman full on and held the cloth robe up, a shoulder in each hand. She gave a little smirk of her own and arched an eyebrow in the girl's direction. You come to me, little one, the gesture said.

There was a slight moment of panic for Casey as she stood feeling the warm night air surrounding her naked body, watching in surprise as the dark-haired woman stood her ground, preparing to see if Casey would give in.

In each woman's mind, the first one to lower her eyes would lose. Tessa played at control and was determined to act as if this woman's body wasn't affecting her in the least. Casey, on the other hand, knew that if she lowered her eyes it would be a display of subservience and she wasn't about to give in. The young woman took a deep breath and walked as nonchalantly as she could to where the Karê stood.

That's it, Nikki, make her come to you. For the virgin's sake, just don't look down. You can always take care of that ache between your legs with your own hand once you get back into your room, just don't look down...don't look down...don't----

Oh my God...Théh Mou!

Tessa did look down. It was nothing more than the flicker of an eye, but Casey caught it. The dark-haired woman cursed herself, but it was too late, she already had the image burned in her brain. Curves in all the right places, hard muscle in all the right places, and most definitely a natural blonde.

They both knew who won this round and when Casey stood in front of the Karê, she paused before turning around to allow the dark-haired woman to help her put her robe on. Tessa figured she might as well be slaughtered for a sheep as a lamb, so she felt no guilt in taking a good long look at the small blonde's shapely backside. She turned the young woman around by her shoulders to face her.

"Sleepy yet?" The Karê asked.

"I don't feel too good...I think--" Casey began, then she got the oddest look on her face.

Tessa had seen the look plenty. It was the distinctive expression one has just before they unexpectedly lose their dinner all over your shoes.

The Karê raised an eyebrow menacingly. "Don't you da--"

Tessa could only watch as the young woman did what no other person could have possibly done and still have hoped to be alive the next morning.


Tessa sat on a high stool, leaning one elbow on the ceramic countertop of the kitchen. The Karê liked to enjoy her midmorning meal in the quiet of the kitchen with only Olympia, the cook, as company. The long counter was set up much like the kafeneía or the American cafés. The older woman didn't try to engage Tessa into any inane conversation and the Karê was always respectful and cleaned up after herself.

The dark-haired woman sat sipping on her Greek coffee while perusing the weekend edition of the Ta Nea. It was printed in Athens, and usually arrived a day late at the local kiosk, where everyone else bought their newspapers and magazines, but this was the Meridio household. Her employer waited for nothing and the paper was ferried in daily.

Tessa occasionally popped a bit of food in her mouth from the plate in front of her, chewing slowly and reading at the same time. Olympia poured more of the strong, steaming coffee into the Karê's cup and the dark-haired woman offered a slight smile in thanks. Tessa's hearing was remarkable and she turned immediately at the soft sound near the entrance to the kitchen, just in time to see Casey turning around and attempting to leave the way she'd come. Olympia noticed the retreating figure and called out.

"Good Morning, Miss." The old woman said cheerily.

Casey was caught now. She'd tried to turn around and slink out of the kitchen before anyone caught a glimpse of her. She really didn't feel like talking to anyone and the Karê ranked number one on that list. After she had been sick one more time this morning and could feel anything beyond the pounding pain in her head, she began to remember the events of the previous evening. She truly did not think she would ever be able to look the woman in the eye again for as long as she lived. Of course, who should be the first person she should run into this miserable morning, but her father's Karê.

Casey mumbled a good morning without raising her bloodshot eyes from the floor. She gently eased her body onto the stool next to Tessa, praying the tall woman had a shred of decency in her heart. Casey was so wrong.

"Bet your head kind of hurts." Tessa leaned over and said loudly in the small blonde's ear.

Casey could only whimper in reply, her hand going up to her temple.

"Would you like a meal, Miss?" Olympia asked, unaware of the small woman's condition.

Casey looked up and to Tessa's great satisfaction, the blonde turned a few shades of green right before their eyes. Quickly shaking her head, Casey looked down at the plate the Karê had in front of her, then looked up into the blue gaze.

"Sardellés," the dark-haired woman responded in answer to the unasked question. "Here, try one," Tessa cruelly held up the small grilled sardine wrapped in a grape leaf and wiggled it under the small blonde's nose.

Casey leaped from her seat and bolted from the kitchen as if the room was on fire. Tessa laughed loudly, a satisfied grin breaking across her face.

"You should be ashamed, Tessa. What did you do to that girl?" Olympia said sternly.

"Me?" Tessa asked in disbelief.

"You didn't--" Olympia began to ask.

"Are you crazy? Do I look like I have a death wish?" Then Tessa revealed to the older woman the drunken girl's exploits of the previous evening.

"She may really be ill...perhaps you should go see to her." Olympia pressed.

"I should?"

Tessa was about to argue with the older woman, but she saw the truth in it and if anything happened to the girl on her watch, there would hell to pay with her employer. The Karê growled in frustration as she stood up and went to find the young girl.

The dark-haired woman stopped abruptly as the downstairs bathroom door opened up and the blonde walked out looking a little shaky. Even though the taller woman was concerned, she couldn't help the laughter that bubbled to the surface.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything this small move that fast!" Tessa chuckled.

Casey was about at her limit and she looked up into the dark-haired woman's amused expression while tears filled her own eyes.

"You can be a very horrible woman, did you know that?" Casey asked as she abruptly brushed by the Karê, leaving the taller woman standing there, wondering what just happened.

Tessa could barely react, thinking only of the young woman's words. Of course, I'm a horrible woman...ask anyone on the island, they'll tell you that! Looking at the stairs up which Casey just fled; she ran the fingers of one hand through her hair and rubbed her neck. Funny thing was, she didn't really want to be horrible to Casey. She was taking great pains to be a bitch to this sweet girl and for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why. Was she jealous? That was always a possibility. No, when it came right down to it, this gentle young woman could end up getting hurt in all of this and Tessa didn't want to see that happen. For some unexplainable reason she felt very protective of her employer's daughter, again a feeling she couldn't fathom. She knew she was being paid extra to see that no harm came the girl's way, but it was something more, a feeling, deep inside that told her she would probably do it for nothing.

The Karê realized that this new lady of the house complicated her plans, and Tessa didn't like complications.

Shaking her head, she moved back toward the koozéna to face Olympia, realizing an apology to the small blonde would definitely be in order. Entering the sunlit room she opened a cabinet and pulled an olive wood bowl from the shelf that contained a number of tiny herb-filled bags. Tessa had no idea how complicated her life was about to become.


Tessa knocked gently on the door to Casey's room. She could hear the muffled sound of the girl crying and the noise tugged painfully at her heart. She had really only meant to tease the young woman. She had no idea it would affect Casey the way it had. Olympia told the Karê that Cassandra hadn't been home for nearly six years and this must all be rather frightening for her too, living in another country and preparing to start a new job. Tessa knocked again.

"Ms. Meridio," she called out.

"Go away!" Casey cried.

Tessa took a deep breath and fought the response to just go back the way she'd come. Attempting to turn the doorknob and finding it locked; she reached in her pocket for a set of keys.

"I hope you're decent because I'm coming in whether you like it or not."

Tessa opened the door to find Casey lying on her bed, her arms hugging an oversized pillow to her body. The small blonde whipped her head around and quickly wiped her eyes when she saw the dark-haired woman enter her room.

"How did you-- Oh, great! Don't tell me you have a key to my room too." Casey muttered as she sat up and reached for a bottle of aspirin on the bedside stand.

"I have a key to every room on the estate," Tessa replied dryly and set the tray in her hands down on the table. She plucked the bottle of aspirin from the young woman's hands and tossed it in the wastebasket.

"Hey!" Casey cried out.

"Those things will kill you." The Karê said. "I have something that will work better anyway."

Casey leaned back against her pillows and watched in disbelief as the tall woman sat down on the edge of the bed and began to place tiny amounts of powders into the palm of her hand. She would reach into the small bags tucked in a wooden bowl and take the tiniest pinch of the herb, allowing the grains of powder to fall into her outstretched palm. Casey watched as a design began to take shape in the older woman's hand. When Tessa was finished the small circle of herbs in her palm was no more than two inches across. They formed a design comprised of a circle and two progressively smaller circles and inside the smallest one was an X.

Tessa looked up, but a strange look crossed her face.

"I, uhm, I think I should have done this in your hand." She uncharacteristically stammered.

"Why, what do I have to do with it?" Casey asked suspiciously.

"You, uhm..." For some odd reason Tessa was finding it hard to describe to the young woman. She demonstrated by sticking out her tongue and pretending to swipe it against her palm.

"I have to lick it out of your hand?" Casey asked with a bit of skepticism.

"Well, it's more like you just press the flat of your tongue against the powder to coat your tongue with the mixture. The design is more than a picture; it's done this way because the taste buds on your tongue will react to the different herbs and the areas of your tongue that they touch. Sorry, I've just never done this for anyone else before." Tessa explained.

Casey smiled through her headache and looked up into the azure gaze that looked more human than at any other time since the two women met. She reached out and pulled the Karê's hand closer to her.

"I guess after what you saw last night I shouldn't be embarrassed about this, huh?" Casey watched as the dark-haired woman's eyes sparkled.

"After what I saw last night, you still don't have much to be embarrassed about." Tessa replied.

Casey blushed slightly and realized that was probably as close to a compliment as she would ever come with this unusually stoic woman. She leaned her face close to Tessa's hand.

"Remember, just let it coat your tongue and don't swallow until I tell you." Tessa reminded.

Casey paused and looked up one last time at the beautiful Karê. "You do know if you poison me, you'll never get away with it." She deadpanned.

Tessa couldn't keep from chuckling at the small blonde's comment. It was then that the Karê realized, what a huge mistake it had been, to put the herbs within her own hand. She felt the warm wetness of the young woman's tongue press against her skin and her eyes closed to the intense pleasure she derived from the feeling. Behind the closed lids she envisioned the small blonde's tongue against a part of her body much further south and she had to stiffen her muscles to curb the shiver that was tingling along her spine.

"Gross," Casey said and Tessa's eyes opened quickly.

"Don't swallow yet." The Karê repeated her instruction and reached for a small white cube from the wooden bowl. She held the porous cube up in front of the girl. "Open," she commanded.

Casey opened her mouth and the dark-haired woman placed the object on her tongue. Enjoying the warm feel of Tessa's fingertips against her lips, Casey's smile was immediate.

"Sugar." The blonde said.

The taste had been equal parts bitter and salty, but when the sugar cube began to melt on her tongue and the Karê told her to swallow, Casey's mouth exploded into sensory delight. By the time the entire mixture slid down her throat, her mouth felt like, she could barely describe it. It felt like...flowers.

"My mouth feels like a flower garden." She smiled at the Karê.

Tessa smiled as she poured some more herbs into a small piece of cheesecloth and tied some string around it to hold it closed. Then she placed the bag in a mug and poured some steaming water over the herbs. She tossed a couple more sugar cubes in the mug and handed it to Casey.

"Drink this." Tessa said.

The tall woman stood, opening the French doors and allowing a warm, gentle breeze into the room. She pulled the heavy draperies, plunging the room into semi darkness. Tessa picked up the tray and moved toward the door.

"Tessa?" Casey called out.

The Karê turned and looked at the woman, her green eyes a little less pained. She looked fragile sitting there in the darkness on her bed, more like the little girl Tessa remembered from their childhood.

"Are you coming back?" Casey asked in a small soft voice.

Tessa gave the young woman a wry grin. "I'll be back in a few minutes, drink your tea."

The dark-haired woman closed the door gently and Casey leaned back into the softness of the pillows and sipped on the mug of tea. She closed her eyes and let the liquid's warmth ease its way into her body. Her stomach already felt better and she wondered if it was merely coincidence that the pounding in her head had eased up a bit. She smiled as she remembered the taste of the dark-haired woman's skin and the way it lingered on her tongue still, long after the sweetness of the herbs and sugar disappeared.


Tessa slowly opened the door to Casey's room and the sight that met her would have made it impossible for even the hardest heart to turn away. The young woman had literally fallen asleep with a smile on her face, wisps of golden hair fell across her closed eyes and her arms still hugged the pillow tightly. The Karê's brow furrowed and as she took a step closer to stand beside the sleeping figure, she remembered an Easter morning so long ago.

She bent down and brushed the hair back from the sleeping woman's eyes, the backs of her fingers lingering momentarily on the young woman's cheek. Tessa pulled up a soft leather chair and placed it at the foot of the small blonde's bed. She eased her tall frame into the seat and crossed her legs, resting her chin in the palm of her hand.

She had an incredible urge to hold the small woman in her arms. These feelings were new and they worried her a little. Tessa could deal with the feelings of physical desire the woman evoked in her body, but emotions such as unconditional love would only get the both of them in trouble. Too many complications, she thought to herself as she rubbed her fingers against her forehead. So what if we could hook up...what then? Hiding and slinking around from any eyes that might tell? She wondered how her boss would take the news that his only child was a lesbian. If Meridio found out that his daughter was mia lesveea, he'd have her in a convent so fast her American head would spin. Tessa didn't even want to picture in her mind, the things that would be done to her, right before Meridio slit her throat.

Oh, what the hell does any of it matter. There is no way a woman like this will ever love you, what are you dreaming for, Niko? Once she finds out what you're really doing here, working for her father, she'll either narc on you or she'll hate you. Tessa's heart thought that one would be as bad as the other would. She could be useful...help me get closer, Tessa tried to justify her possible actions. Sto dheáhvalo! She silently cursed. The dark haired woman could only hope that involving the girl wouldn't become necessary.

Finally, Tessa relaxed her mind and absently watched the easy rise and fall of the small blonde's chest as she slept.


Tessa's mind snapped sharply to the here and now, as she heard someone stop in front of Casey's door and turn the knob to enter the room. Her hands tensed on the arms of the chair until she recognized the figure of Andreas Meridio walking into the room.

Tessa quickly held up her finger to her mouth, requesting the man remain silent and she rose and stood by the door to speak to him.

"She had a bit of a headache, probably just all the excitement of being back yesterday." Tessa whispered in answer to her employer's questioning look.

"Should I call the giatró?" He asked with a concerned expression.

"No, I don't think a doctor is really necessary, Mr. Meridio. I made her a tea." Tessa answered.

Meridio looked at the small blonde on the bed and accepted his Karê's answer. Her way with herbs was known around the household and the older man considered his daughter in good hands.

"I just came around to see if she wanted to go to Mass this evening. Better let her rest." He whispered to the tall woman.

"If you're going to town I'd better go along." Tessa replied, slipping easily into the hard demeanor of her position.

"No, Tessa, you're my Karê not my bodyguard. I'll have Peter with me. I think it's important that you stay with Cassandra, just in case she feels worse later. Katalavaynés?"

"Yes, I understand, Mr. Meridio." Tessa answered.

The Karê watched the man bend down and lightly kiss his daughter's cheek, then he was gone. Tessa crossed the room and sat back in the leather chair, resuming her protective vigil.


"Yea?" Tessa quickly grabbed the ringing phone and mumbled sleepily into the receiver.

"Tessa, get dressed, I want you to take Cassandra to Mass this morning." Andreas' Meridio's voice commanded.

"Yes, Mr. Meridio." Tessa answered, hanging up the telephone and rolling over in her bed.

The sun was barely up and Tessa had gone out to the Kástro, a gay bar overlooking the Kástro district in Mýkonos Town, last night after her vigil at Casey's bedside. The dark-haired woman had every intention of finding an extremely willing young woman, preferably a small blonde, and simply getting laid. After the weekend she had, she felt she had not only earned it, but also deserved it. She started out at the younger clubs, Anemoi and Pierro's, but for some reason couldn't get hot and bothered about any of the women that approached her. She'd briefly entertained the notion of a professional, but by that time she just didn't care any more.

The management at the Kástro knew her as the Meridio Karê and so she was shown to a table outside on the patio where she sat with her back to the wall, able to see the patrons outside as well as inside. The local customers knew her as well and she returned their stares, watching the gay couples as well as the straight tourists enjoy their evening. A few of the local women eyed her invitingly, but once their friends whispered in their ear who the dark-haired woman was, they lowered their gazes and pretended not to be interested.

Tessa laughed ironically at herself. She was worried about a woman like Cassandra being able to love her. She couldn't even get the respectable women of Mýkonos to look at her. Sure, if she requested it, they would be brought to her table, if she demanded, they would be delivered to her bed, but somehow that just wasn't enough anymore. She desired a woman in her bed that wanted to be there, not just because she thought you'd let her father live.

And, so the Karê ended up listening to Vivaldi and sipping retsína, a wine flavored with pine resin, through most of the night. Drinking to ease the pain from the hurtful glares of those around her, and to forget the pair of deep green eyes that, in their innocence, seemed to mock her.

Tessa looked at the clock by her bed and jumped up, moving into the bathroom for a hot shower. Her head felt heavy and as she looked into the mirror at her haggard reflection, she knew she would have to use her hangover cure on herself today.


"I keep telling my father that it really isn't necessary to have you take me everywhere, Karê." Casey said quietly to the dark-haired woman who sat next to her in the back of the dark colored auto.

"It's no trouble, Ms. Meridio," Tessa murmured, "Besides, Greece has changed since you lived here."

"It certainly has. Who is that Peter that follows my father around? He's got the most unpleasant scowl on his face most of the time."

Tessa smiled at the small blonde's assessment of Peter Tsigaris. "He's your father's bodyguard and that look on his face is a warning to people who might find it tempting to hurt your father." The Karê replied.

"Hurt my father?" Casey turned from the open window to look at the dark-haired woman seated next to her. "My father grows olives for a living, who could possibly want to hurt him?" Casey questioned.

Tessa hoped she would have had more time before the young woman brought up this line of questioning, but here she was faced with making a lie sound plausible to an intelligent woman.

"Your father grows olives, yes, but he is a very wealthy and influential man. Many politicians see him as a threat because of the power that he wields. His holdings are vast, Ms. Meridio. I don't think you realize what a wealthy woman you really are."

The answer silenced the small blonde as she resumed her pose, staring out the window as they took the rode up to the Paraportianí church. Suddenly, she gave a little half-smile and whispered dreamily; "When I was a little girl, here for the summer, I used to ride my bicycle to Mass."

I know; the Karê wanted to say. I used to watch you.


It was like night and day entering the Greek Orthodox Church. Casey couldn't help but smile at the pleasant memories she had of her visits here, so different from American churches. First there was the quiet of the vestibule. Casey had to admit to herself that she was surprised when the Karê led the way into the busy church. The taller woman never let more than a handswidth of distance separate the two of them, her eyes always searching the faces around them. The small blonde was even more surprised as she watched the dark-haired woman bless herself with the holy water and pull out a medium weight crucifix on a golden chain, from around her neck. Tessa touched the piece of jewelry to her lips and turned to wait for Casey.

In complete contrast to the quiet of the vestibule was the seeming discord of the inner sanctuary. The priest began to chant the liturgy while parishioners stood rather than sat or kneeled. Some women to the side visited with one another as young children ran and played with one another. The atmosphere reminded Casey of so many good things when she spent her summers in Greece that she wanted to cry.

A young boy of perhaps five ran into the dark-haired woman's legs and she scooped him up grinning as he laughed at the strong woman.

"Forgive me, Karê." A woman who was obviously the boy's mother held out her arms to the taller woman.

Casey watched as Tessa's face returned to its customary impassive air. She nodded at the younger woman and gently placed the boy in her arms.

"They know you here?" The small blonde asked.

Tessa never took her eyes off the priest as she replied. "Are you surprised that people actually know me or that the people who do, go to church?" Tessa said, turning and finally fixing her gaze on the smaller woman at her side.

Casey didn't know how to reply to the taller woman, suddenly fearing she had offended her. Opening her mouth to stammer some sort of an apology, she caught the Karê's small grin as the woman turned her head back to the priest. Did she actually just tease me? Casey was beginning to find the Karê an interesting paradox.

As they prepared to leave the sanctuary, Casey tugged on the Karê's arm turning left into a small sort of chapel. The altar was much smaller than the one in the main cathedral, but dozens of candles in blue and red votives burned brightly.

Tessa watched with her arms folded across her chest as the small blonde placed some bills in a basket and lit a candle. She proceeded to kneel at the small altar, then crossed herself and began to pray. The standing woman continued to stare, feeling a twinge of envy that Casey could look so at peace as she prayed. The Karê smiled slightly as she considered her envious thoughts and crossed herself, warding off the power of the evil eye. No sense taking chances.

Tessa felt the silence surround her and found herself walking up beside the kneeling woman. Casey felt the weight shift on the kneeler and looked out of the corner of her eye. She spied the Karê, crossing herself, and then once again removing the crucifix from it's hiding spot underneath her shirt, to gently press it to her lips. The dark-haired woman's brow furrowed as she neither bowed her head nor closed her eyes, but stared intently up at the adornment hanging on the wall.

Tessa felt the weight of Casey's gaze and she began speaking without looking over at the young woman kneeling beside her.

"When you pray, do you think he hears you?" She asked quietly.

Casey looked up at the crucifix and wondered how to respond. "If you're asking me if I've ever seen the proof of an answered prayer, I think the answer is no, but it helps me to think that he does. I'm sorry I can't give you a better answer."

Tessa's look of worry was quickly replaced with a wry smile. "That's okay. It doesn't really matter."

The tall woman stood and held out a hand as Casey accepted the assistance and rose also. The small blonde turned back and watched as the Karê threw a handful of 10,000 drachma bank notes into the basket and lit two candles. Turning back toward Casey, Tessa never met the young woman's eyes as she led them from the church.

Once they were standing out in the bright sunlight in front of the cathedral, Tessa nodded to Demetrios, the driver, to get the car. The young man moved quickly and Tessa and Casey stood waiting on the side of the small side street bustling with early morning churchgoers.

"Do you think it actually does any good...going to church." Tessa asked introspectively.

"Hey, it certainly can't hurt." Casey smiled back, "I, for one, want to cover all my bases." Which made the Karê laugh out loud.

"It was so different, going to Mass in the States." Casey began. "They were so quiet it used to scare me. I would spend three months here then go back to America and be completely out of sorts for weeks. I always liked the casual atmosphere here. It was always so much more...I don't know, like family.

Casey blinked as a bright glare hit her in the eye. The blonde realized it was a passing car as the sunlight hit their windshield. She lifted her hand to ward of the glare and Tessa caught the car's motion from the corner of her eye. A dark sedan was moving by, but now it began to slow down. Way too slow, Tessa thought. Instantly, every one of the Karê's nerves was standing on end and a spurt of adrenaline was released into the tall woman's system.

"Casey!" Tessa cried out.

The dark-haired woman reached out and grabbed the hand that the small blonde was using to shade her eyes. The Karê jerked hard, pulling the young woman into her arms. As their bodies came together, Tessa wrapped her arms around the smaller figure, pressed protectively against her, and turned her back to the street.

They sounded like small pops, not even as loud as fireworks. Tessa felt a bullet ricochet by her ear just before she dropped to the ground, her body covering Casey's smaller one. She heard the window shatter in the car parked next to them and the Karê felt a burning sensation in her left forearm.

As suddenly as it started, it was over. Tires squealed as the car picked up speed, but not before Tessa looked up to see at least two of the passengers in the dark sedan. Demetrios pulled in front of where the Karê knelt, his brakes sounding sharply. He reached over the back of the seat and pushed the door open from the inside. Tessa literally picked Casey up and tossed her in through the open door, diving in herself.

"Move, now! Veáhsou!" She shouted at the driver.

"Are you hurt?" Tessa grabbed Casey by the shoulders.

The small blonde was shivering uncontrollably, but words seemed to be impossible at the moment. She looked into the Karê's eyes and the dark-haired woman saw the terror within the green depths.

"Cassandra," Tessa took the young woman's face in her hands, "are you hurt?"

Casey shook her head and tears filled her eyes, spilling down her tanned cheeks. Tessa pulled the woman close to her. "Sssh, everything is allright. It's all over now."

The dark-haired woman soothed the small blonde while pulling a cell phone from her inside pocket. She dialed 100 and began to speak rapidly in Greek. Ending the call, she placed two more calls in rapid succession and Casey knew the last was to her father. She could hear Andreas Meridio's shouts through the small phone. The young woman allowed herself to be held in the Karê's protective embrace and when the final phone call had ended, Tessa squeezed the small blonde's shoulder affectionately.

Casey looked down at the Karê's hand and noticed that blood had soaked through the older woman shirt at the wrist. The crimson stain turned larger and began to fall in tiny drops onto Tessa's slacks.

"Tessa, you're hurt!" Casey cried out.

The Karê looked down and gave the girl a lopsided smile. "Just a scratch." Then she winked.

The small blonde turned an incredulous look on the woman, but then she saw the wink. Casey couldn't help it; she laughed nervously and wiped the tears from her face. She grabbed her shawl from the seat where she'd left it before they entered the cathedral and held the Karê's hand in her lap as she wrapped the shawl around the woman's bleeding arm.

Driving at breakneck speed, they were at the estate in minutes. Small white police cars with blue lights flashing on their roofs surrounded the estate. Andreas Meridio was waiting on the front steps when the car pulled up. Tessa leapt from the car and began giving directions to a group of young men in black suits. In a matter of moments it was as if the chaos the household had been thrown into, was restored by the Karê's presence and direction.

Andreas hugged his daughter closely and began calling for a doctor before the young woman interrupted him.

"Pappa, the blood isn't mine, I'm allright. Tessa is hurt, though." Casey explained.

By the time the estate settled down it was evening. Olympia began unveiling a large selection of mezédes, or appetizers, that had been made earlier in the day, for the men that lingered. Plate after plate of food was set out for the men to snack on during the night, along with oúzo and gentilini, a white wine from Crete.

Tessa was now seated in one of the open-air sitting rooms, her shirt off, wearing only a white tank top. The giatró had just cleaned the wound in the Karê's arm and was preparing to sew closed the gash caused by a deeply embedded piece of glass, not a bullet as Casey had thought earlier.

The dark-haired woman noticed the small blonde holding a plate loaded with food, eating and watching the doctor treat the Karê's wound. She sat alone and still looked a little shell-shocked by the morning's events.

"I am amazed that you can eat like that and still remain so tiny." The dark-haired woman said, calling Casey over to her.

Casey sat on a chair a little closer to the table where the woman and the giatró sat. She blushed slightly at Tessa's words.

"I eat when I'm nervous." Casey responded.

"I'm just the opposite...Ow," She shot a look full of daggers at the giatró who had begun sewing the wound closed. "I can't eat a thing when I'm nervous. Not that I'm ever nervous," she finished the statement with the tiniest of grins.

Casey was rather astonished at their conversation, given the fact that this was the most cordial the Karê had ever been to her and it was while the woman was getting her arm sewn up without an anesthetic.

"Hey, how about sharing?" Tessa said, opening her mouth widely.

Casey laughed. "Which do you fancy? I have a little bit of everything."

"Uhm, the tsirosaláta." Tessa indicated the thin strips of smoked fish.

Casey speared a piece of the fish with a fork and gave it a squeeze of lemon juice and then dipped it in olive oil. She fed the mezés to the woman until it was gone.

"Sorry I ate it all, but that was the first food I've had today. I was starving." The Karê said.

"A Greek only eating once in a day? Sacrilege!" Casey said in a tone of mock disbelief.

Tessa raised her eyes to the figure that now stood behind the small blonde. Andreas Meridio kissed the top of his daughter's head.

"How are you, Máhtia Mou?" Meridio asked, his large hands resting on his daughter's shoulders.

"I'm allright, Pappa." Casey answered, raising her head to smile tiredly at the man.

The giatró finished the fine line of sutures and placed a dry bandage over the wound. He began tying a sling around the dark-haired woman's neck.

"Keep your arm elevated for a few days, like this." He indicated the position in which he wanted Tessa's arm to remain.

"Yea, yea." The Karê growled.

"Tessa, when you're through here we need to have a few words." Meridio said.

"Ready now, Mr. Meridio," the tall woman replied, standing to follow her employer.

"You," Meridio leaned down again to kiss the top of his daughter's head, "get some rest."

"I'm too wired to sleep." She complained, but by that time her father had already walked away.

"You," Tessa pointed a finger as she made her way to follow Andreas Meridio, "No late night swimming."

Casey giggled as the Karê turned and walked away.

My God, tell me I didn't just giggle like a schoolgirl. She's being so nice, what's up with that? Okay, maybe she feels sorry for you. Maybe you look like you've had the shit scared out of you today. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Allright tall, dark, and wonderful...how do I find out about the real you?


"My daughter!" Meridio screamed at the top of his voice. "In front of the Holy Church!"

Everyone in the room hung their head with the exception of Tessa. The tall woman stood in her customary pose, facing the window, seemingly lost in her own thoughts. It was as if she were split in two. There was a part of her that couldn't erase the fear that clutched at her heart when she thought of losing Cassandra, the way the girl felt in the Karê's arms, and the gentle way in which the young woman wrapped her shawl around her injured arm. The feelings went beyond mere desire and the Karê knew it. She realized that there was something more happening between the two women, something that ran so deep. Hadn't she felt the bond begin all those years ago?

Then there was the anger. The darkness pushed its way up and nearly threatened to take control of her very being. In the past, when she was younger and more reckless, the darkness drove her. It brought her to the position and wealth she now held, the older she grew, the more she learned how to control the blackness that would overtake her. She had obviously grown complacent with her newfound position. Ten years ago, no one on the streets surrounding the Piraeus would have dared to shoot at her. She controlled the money they made and the way they spent it. If a man had taken exception to her back then he kept it to himself or he was liable to show up in an Athens hospital without his arkheedias.

That was Tessa's trademark in the old days. The old boys, if you crossed them, they were likely to cut off your penis and stuff it down your throat after you were dead. Tessa knew the only way to command absolute loyalty, was through fear. When her dark side ruled her judgment, she had a man held down and she sliced off his balls, stuffed a towel between his legs and dropped him off at the closest emergency room. No man wanted to live that way and so the punishment became the perfect motivator. She tried without much success to push the feelings of rage back down.

"Tessa," Meridio said to her back. "I want the man responsible for this. I want his arkhédias in a sack on my desk."

Tessa turned around slowly. There wasn't a man in the room who didn't feel a tightening in his groin at the feral smile that pulled back the woman's lips, displaying her perfect white teeth.

"It will be my pleasure, Mr. Meridio."


The older man handed a glass of sournada to the dark-haired woman who sat in the chair across from his desk.

"Veeva." They both said in unison, taking a long sip of the almond flavored cordial.

Andreas Meridio slid open the top drawer of his desk, pulling his chequebook from within. He flipped open to the precise spot and began writing. He folded the cheque in half and held it out to Tessa. The brilliant blue eyes darkened in confusion.

"This is for you, Tessa. You saved my daughter's life today."

The corners of her mouth curled upward, halfway between a sneer and a smile, at the man's gesture. "You already pay me for what I do. I don't want to put a price on something like this."

"I'm not asking you to take it. This is payment for a hahré."

Tessa looked into the man's eyes and listened as he placed the emphasis on the word's first syllable. He was making payment on a favor or a debt and the money could not be refused. The Karê simply shrugged and accepted the note, casually slipping it into her pocket without bothering to look at the amount. If this truly were hahré then it would be rude to question the sum.

"Go buy a new boat or something." He laughed. "Go on, go rest that arm. And, Tessa?" He asked as the Karê stood to leave. "Thank you."

"You're welcome Mr. Meridio."

Tessa walked across the lawn and stood under the olive trees by the guesthouse where she made her home. She unfolded the cheque and swallowed hard. It was made out for a little over three million drachmas.

In essence, Tessa had told her employer that she wouldn't put a price tag on Cassandra's life. According to her father, Meridio's daughter was worth roughly the equivalent of one hundred thousand American dollars.


Tessa's arm began to throb painfully, but she didn't even feel like getting up to take anything. She knew a tea concoction or a few hits of oúzo would do the trick, but she suddenly felt bone tired. She came in earlier and undressed, leaving her clothes in a heap by the door. After changing into an old pair of worn jeans and a white tank top, she simply collapsed on the sofa.

A knock at the door brought her, groaning, to her feet.

"The island better be on fire!" Was the Karê's customary growl as she swung open the door.

"Oh," was all she could say when she saw Casey's stunned face.

"Well, you have an interesting way of keeping the solicitors at bay." Casey responded. "Hey, weren't you supposed to keep that sling on your arm?" She said sharply.

Tessa leaned her good arm high up on the doorjamb and let an eyebrow disappear up under her ebony bangs.

"Did you come over to my house just to yell at me, Mom?" The Karê asked with a mischievous sparkle in her blue eyes.

"Excuse me, Karê? Your house?"

Suddenly Tessa lost her expression of mock superiority and displayed a sheepish grin. "Touché." She said as she pushed the door wider, inviting the young woman in.

The Karê scooped her clothes from the floor and tossed them in a chair while the young woman's back was turned. Then the dark-haired woman allowed herself the luxury of taking in the small blonde's tanned legs, which were displayed admirably by the crisp white shorts she wore.

"I figured you might be hurting so I had a couple Percodan left and thought--"

Tessa plucked the bottle from the young woman's fingers and tossed it in the nearest wastebasket, much the same as she had with Casey's aspirin.

"Hey! You know if you keep throwing my drugs away--"

"You'll live longer," the taller woman finished. "What else have you got under there?" Tessa asked, indicating the large plate covered by a cloth napkin.

"Well, I'm just not sure I feel like sharing now." Casey replied; one hand placed on a slim hip.

Tessa could smell the sweet aroma coming from the plate and her mouth watered at the smell of fresh figs, her favorite. She tried to muster up a look that would induce the young woman to have pity on her.

"Oh, wait...is that actually a pout? Let me get a camera." Casey teased.

"Well," the Karê started, rubbing her injured arm gingerly. "I did practically save your life, but I guess I don't want that to influence you."

"Oh, don't even go there, Karê." Casey laughed.

"I could whine a little if that would help." Tessa joked.

"I don't think my heart could take it." Casey replied, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. "Here."

The young woman pulled the napkin from the top of the plate and presented the platter to Tessa. Most of the plate was filled with fresh figs, sliced in half. The other portion of the plate held mizýthra, a cheese made from féta whey.

"Ahh, nóstimo!" The Karê slipped into her native tongue to exclaim the word, delicious. "How did you know that sýka me tyrí is my favorite mezés?" She asked as she motioned the small blonde into a seat in the living area.

"Pure deduction, my dear Watson. It just so happens that it's my favorite appetizer too. Besides, Olympia told me." She finally put on a sheepish grin upon admission of her informant.

Tessa opened a bottle of Gentilini and the women sat on the floor in front of the coffee table, enjoying their white wine and late night snack.

"Tessa, do you mind if I ask where you learned your English?"

"No, I don't mind. I went to school in England when I was eleven, then I went to the University at Oxford before I came home to live. You see we have a lot in common. I used to come home for the summers also"

"Your parents must have missed you terribly, being away all those months during the year." Casey responded.

Tessa suddenly looked extremely uncomfortable and Casey realized she must have landed on sensitive ground as the dark-haired woman jumped up and walked over to the stereo.

"Do you like opera?" The Karê asked.

"Absolutely! What have you got?"

"How about Puccini?"

"Madame Butterfly?" The blonde's eyes lit up.

"Let me guess...Un bel di?" Tessa said with a wry smile.

"How did you guess, I love that scene!"

Laughter rumbled seductively from the dark-haired woman's chest. "I had a feeling. You seem like the hopeless romantic type."

"It's an incredibly beautiful scene, it has such impact." Casey looked slightly wounded.

"She wanted to kill herself!" Tessa countered. "She should have blown them all off and went back home with her maid."

"Oh, you." Casey slapped the Karê in her good arm once she started the music and returned to her seat on the floor.

Casey listened to the rest of the aria, eyes half-mast, and a slight smile tugging at the corners of her lips. The dark-haired woman couldn't resist simply watching the young woman seated across from her. She felt her own heart lift at the blonde's obvious enjoyment from something as simple as music. It was at that moment that the Karê felt her dark side to be a million miles away.

She could scarcely believe that she was sitting here enjoying food, music, and even a limited amount of conversation with this woman, with anyone. It was as if she were someone else. Tessa Nikolaidis didn't make friends and she certainly never courted a woman. Yet, here was the Meridio Karê and she was actually enjoying herself. No one would believe it, she was sure of that. Her reputation among her peers and other acquaintances was well known and well deserved. Tessa realized that no one but Casey would ever see her this way. It was the small blonde with a heart as bright and warm as sunshine that brought out this goodness in the older woman. When she stood next to Casey, she actually felt like she could be redeemed.

When the final note of the Madame Butterfly aria had ended, the soft expression on the Karê's face was more from watching the small blonde across from her that from the tempest of the music. Casey thought otherwise.

"See, you're a closet romantic." Casey teased.

Tessa chuckled in that throaty tone of hers and smiled endearingly at the young woman.

"Being a hopeless romantic is something I just don't have the time for, little one"

Casey simply stared at the dark-haired woman for a few long seconds, as if she were trying very hard to remember something. Meanwhile Tessa's smile froze on her face as she grasped the words she just uttered.

"What?" Tessa questioned, stalling for time.

"Uhm, nothing...nothing" Casey answered, shaking her head. "I just had the strangest sense of deja vu, like...I don't know, like I'd heard you call me that before. Weird, huh?"

"Yea," Tessa agreed.

The Karê was more than a little confused. She cursed herself for her mental lapse in using the pet name in the first place. Then the older woman wondered why the small blonde didn't remember that Easter, twenty years ago.


The Karê leaned back in the thickly cushioned leather chair in her office. Her eyes remained closed, even as Alex and Stefano ushered two college-aged young men into the spacious room. The melodious strains of Art Tatum's piano filtered through the stereo speakers and the dark-haired woman held up a hand requesting silence when Alex cleared his throat nervously.

Tessa had been reliving the moments she spent with Cassandra last night, not wanting to lose the feeling of contentment that flowed across her like the music that filled the room. It was almost as if she were asking forgiveness from the small blonde for the woman she would now have to become. It caused an ache in her chest, being so close to atonement, yet so far. When she sat with Casey, it was easy to think of a future that contained neither violence nor pain. Yet, here in her office, with the smell of her victim's fear hanging in the air along with the last few notes of song, she felt that familiar feeling of power clutch at her belly.

It wasn't merely a darkness; it was a feeling that coursed through her, just as the blood that flowed through her veins. It was the thrill of the chase and the rush of victory all mixed together. She breathed deeply and let the beast loose a little at a time until her demeanor barely resembled the woman that Meridio's daughter knew.

Pushing herself away from her desk, she rose and stood silently, searching their eyes, these men that were more boys than anything else. Her penetrating stare and deeply etched scowl caused them both to lower their eyes from her harsh gaze. When the Karê began to speak, her awareness of that other side of herself, the one who could still love and feel, and want, was gone, replaced by this woman. This one who raised her lip in a sneer and began to speak.

"Which one of you is Míkolo?"

"I am." The young man with the new beard replied quickly.

Tessa walked around the desk to stand before the young man who spoke. She moved with a subtle power and a grace that belied her true intent. The non-threatening way she moved put the men at ease. With a lightning speed, so fast it was almost a blur; she lashed out with her right arm and backhanded the man across the face.

"That is the last time you will be allowed to lie to me." She hissed.

"Please don't hurt him. I am George Míkolo," the young man on Tessa's right admitted.

He looked like an Athens University student, clean-shaven, wire rim glasses. Tessa wondered where a boy like this got the arkhédia's to shoot a gun at her, at the woman who was under her protection. The more she thought about it the angrier she got.

"I want to know why." She asked through clenched teeth.

She held up a hand just as the young man began to open his mouth, effectively silencing him before he said a word. She reached across her desk for something and when the object in her hand came into view, she nodded to Alex and Stefano.

Suddenly the two large men were holding Míkolo down in the chair, his friend too terrified to even move. Tessa moved over the immobilized man and unfolded the ivory handled straight razor in her hand. She lifted her leg and pressed the weight down onto the tops of his thighs, then she slowly unbuckled the belt at his waist, all the while her cold gaze watched the young man's face.

Míkolo's friend, Yannis whimpered in his chair and began to mumble a string of Hail Mary's under his breath. Míkolo's own breath was coming in audible pants that resounded throughout the room. Tessa chuckled, but it was an entirely unpleasant sound.

"I think you know she's not going to help you, don't you?" She asked the rhetorical question as she stared down at the man under her, referring to the other man's prayers.

"I can be a very forgiving woman, most people don't know that about me. You see, I'm going to give you three chances." She said as she fixed an almost reverent gaze on the blade in her hand, tilting it so the light gleamed brightly when it hit the metal, then she looked down at the young man's crotch.

"For every lie you tell me, you'll become one member short of a threesome. If you lie to me more than three times, I'll leave you to bleed to death on my nice Persian carpet and not think twice about it. Katalavaynés?"

Sweat rolled off his brow and into his eyes and he blinked to wash away the burning sensation, nodding fiercely to the dark-haired woman.

Tessa brought the razor up to her own eyes and ran her thumb lightly along its edge. She never even looked at the young man when she asked her first question.

"Who fired the shots?"

"I did." He answered truthfully.

This surprised Tessa. She didn't think this scrawny boy had the stomach for it. She halfway expected him to piss his pants in fright. Usually, the first thing the guilty did was to beg for your forgiveness, groveling and crying for mercy. She'd seen grown men in this same position that acted much worse than this one.

"Who was the target?"

"Meridio's d-daughter." His voice cracked in response.

"Now you may tell me why." She said slowly, grinding her teeth together in an attempt at control.

His response came out in a torrent of Greek and bits of English.

"We didn't mean to hurt her, we only wanted to scare her! I swear on the Virgin, it's the truth. I thought she was here to take over her father's business and I talked some friends into helping me. We thought if we scared her, she would go back to America. I was only supposed to break the glass in the car she was standing by, but...I'm such a poor shot...I-I never shot a pistol before." Tears streamed down his face by this point.

Tessa wavered, fiddling with the razor anxiously held in her right hand. The boy's words were so pathetic they had to be the truth. She stared hard into his eyes and saw the verity of it. Easing the weight of her leg off the boy, she waved Alex and Stefano to let go. She folded the razor back into its handle and tossed it absently onto the desk. Walking behind the large olive wood structure she bent to a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of oúzo and three glasses.

She poured a generous helping of the liquor into all three glasses. She was only going to pour two at first, but the throbbing pain in her arm began again and a metallic taste on her tongue, that she knew was just adrenaline, had her pouring some of the liquid in a glass of her own. She handed the two boys a drink each and leaned upon her desk, sipping the clear liquid.

"You know we have a decision to make now." Tessa began.

"We could leave Greece...no one would have to know, Karê." Yannis pleaded.

Tessa kept her eyes on Míkolo and raised an eyebrow. "I think you know better than that, don't you?"

The young man swallowed and lowered his eyes.

"I can not only be forgiving, but I can also be merciful. You see I can't just let you both walk out of here. What kind of a message would that send to the foolish boys who might do me and mine harm the next time? No," Tessa swallowed the rest of her drink and moved around the desk to seat herself.

"Someone must pay for the crime and someone must go back and tell the others what a compassionate woman the Meridio Karê can be." Tessa smiled at the irony in her own words. "I leave it to you two to decide who stays...and who goes."

Tessa leaned back. This was the part where she usually learned the most about men and human nature. For all their machismo and bravado, Greek men, no...men in general, turned out to be a pathetically weak bunch. She had watched as simple housewives walked to their deaths, wanting nothing more than to spit in the Karê's face one last time. Just as she had watched men grovel and offer up their daughters in exchange for their own lives.

"I'll stay." Míkolo said quietly.

Tessa watched as Yannis warred within himself. He wanted to be brave; she could see that. He wanted to offer himself up, but his terror got the better of him. Instead he hung his head, his silence saying more than his words could anyway. She knew Míkolo was frightened, probably not at his own death but by the methods that would bring it about. He held himself together and Tessa felt if the time had been different, he would have made a good student of hers. He seemed as if he held the potential to be as cold and ruthless as the position of the Meridio's Karê demanded. She shook her head mentally. It was not to be, for today would be the last day this young man would see, as George Míkolo.

With a nod of her head, she watched as Stefano hustled Yannis from the room, the young man refusing to even look his friend in the eye as he passed.

Alex looked at Tessa and motioned a questioning eye at Míkolo, still seated in the chair. Tessa rose and pulled a compact 9mm Glock 26 and its holster from her desk, tucking it into her waistband at the small of her back. As she put on her black suit jacket she spoke to Alex.

"No, Alex, I won't need any help. This one I do by myself." She said with a chilling tone of finality. She moved to walk away from her desk and, seemingly as an after thought, she picked up the straight razor, sliding into her pants pocket.

The young man's knees shook and they had all the strength of a newborn calf as he walked along the office halls with the Karê. There was never a question in his mind about running from the tall woman now. It seemed standing next to the powerful woman in the elevator, that there was nowhere in the world for him to hide from the Karê's all seeing gaze. And, so he obediently followed along.

Tessa stood outside in the early morning sun waiting for the valet to bring her car around to the front. She knew the young man stared at her, but she couldn't look at him, her anger was too great. She practiced a few control techniques to push the beast back down for a while. If she looked over at the man who had very nearly taken Cassandra's life, she would gut him right on the street.

Once they were settled in her silver Mercedes, Tessa gunned the vehicle down the road to the docks. She only had to wait a few minutes until the car ferry that would take them to Athens was pulling into port. Míkolo watched the dark-haired woman and hoped that she had one shred of human compassion left in her and that she would send him to the Virgin swiftly. The possibilities of what she could, and probably would, do to him filled his mind until his hands shook constantly.

Part 2

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