Stranded with Her Greek Husband by Michelle Smart




THECALM AEGEANWATERS that Keren Burridge was sailing her thirty-four-foot cutter The Sophia through were in complete contrast to the tempest happening beneath her skin. The storm inside her had been growing since the island of Agon appeared on the horizon.

Habit had her release the tiller to grab her sunscreen and smear her face and as much of her body with it as she could reach. She’d suffered sunburn in Bermuda, a painful enough experience for her to ensure she always had a month’s supply of sunscreen on board. In this respect, Keren was a quick learner. She only needed to suffer pain once for her to do anything to stop it afflicting her a second time.

Pain was coming her way today though. It was unavoidable.

A breeze swirled around her and caught the sails. The Sophia responded by increasing its speed. The beats of Keren’s heart increased with it.

Familiar landmarks came into clearer focus. There was Agon’s royal palace. There were the ruins of a once majestic temple dating back three millenia. Landmarks she’d once visited and explored at a time when she’d believed this island would be her home for ever.

The imposing crisp white villa set back in the cove she was steering towards came into clearer focus too. The rising sun danced over it, making it gleam enticingly. Fraudulently.

There was nothing enticing about it. If she could spend the rest of her life never setting eyes on that villa again then she would spend her life content, but choices made in grief were choices you lived with for the rest of your life.

The left side of the cove, a sheer circular wall of rock, had a small, seemingly natural jetty. She recognised the yacht already moored there. It was slightly larger than her cutter and used purely for the purpose of transporting its owner to his superyacht moored in Agon’s main marina.

Once she’d sailed into her mooring space and secured her boat, Keren clipped her mini grab-bag around her waist then carefully snipped the base of the pink lilies she’d been lovingly growing in pots.

Holding the lilies, she stepped barefoot onto the jetty.

It was time.

The jetty merged onto a pristine white beach as beautiful as any beach her fifteen months as a sea-wanderer had taken her. Fine, warm sand sank between her toes as she treaded through it to the gently inclining pebbled steps that led up to the villa. The closer she got to the steps, the heavier the weight of her legs and the heavier the weight in her chest.

At the top of the steps was a wide metal gate connecting a high wall designed to keep intruders out.

The gate opened automatically for her, just as she knew it would. Every move she’d made since sailing into the cove had been watched by an army of security cameras. The faceless people watching them knew to admit her at any time without question or intrusion. Yannis had kept his word on that score, if nothing else.

The villa’s grounds were vast and immaculately maintained. She followed the path that snaked the swimming pool and entertaining space, refusing to let memories pierce her or slow her pace.

The peach tree was in a secluded part of the grounds, the only area not under surveillance. It had grown a lot in the almost two years since they’d planted it and was now old enough to bear fruit. The masses of fruit on it were beginning to ripen. Close to the foot of its trunk sat a granite headstone carved in the shape of an angel. The words Sophia Filipidis were engraved into it in English and Greek. It was to the side of this headstone that Keren sank to her knees.

Fresh flowers had recently been placed in the headstone’s vase. She added the lilies to it then bowed her head and whispered a prayer for her daughter’s soul. And then she talked to her. Told her the places she’d been. The people she’d met. The flowers she’d sniffed. The new foods she’d tried. Talking to her here came so naturally even though Sophia experienced everything with her from the wide space in Keren’s heart she occupied.

When she’d finished talking, she looked again at the peach tree. They’d chosen it together. In Chinese culture, the peach tree is considered the tree of life, the peaches a symbol of immortality. Their daughter had never taken a breath of her own but in this tree her memory would live on.

‘I knew you would come today.’

Her bruised heart thumped and she closed her eyes.

Keren hadn’t seen her estranged husband in eighteen months. Their only communications came via their lawyers.

If he’d approached her on any of her other visits here, she would have reminded him of their agreement, reminded him of his promise to let her come here whenever she wanted to mourn in peace and solitude.

Taking a long, deep breath, she got to her feet then turned her face to him.

‘Hello, Yannis.’

Startlingly blue eyes met hers. Her heart thumped again. Expanded and rose up her throat.

His broad shoulders rose and fell heavily, a gesture that lanced her chest, and then he stepped forward to stand beside her.

They stood in silence until she felt a flash of warm pressure on her hand, and she stretched her fingers so he could lace his through them and, for that brief moment, unify their grief.

It was the first touch they’d shared since they’d first stood at this spot and said goodbye to their child. If Sophia had survived her birth, today would have been her second birthday.

Returning the squeeze of Yannis’s fingers, she then gently tugged her hand from his and hugged her arms around herself. ‘How have you been?’

His head rocked forward. ‘Good. You?’



More silence passed.

Conversation had once flowed so easily between them.

But that had been a long time ago.

She took a step back. ‘I should get back to my boat.’

‘Stay for a drink?’

Her fingers tightened on her biceps. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’

‘There are things I want to talk to you about.’

‘Do it through our lawyers.’ Like they had done since she’d left him.

‘Not everything can go through them.’ He rammed his hands into his trousers and rolled his shoulders. ‘Stay for a drink. Share lunch with me. Let us talk. And then I’ll sign the papers.’

She turned her face sharply back to him. Keren had been waiting for three months for Yannis to sign the papers that would finalise their divorce and cast in iron the financial settlement.

‘You have them here?’ she asked.

‘Locked in my safe.’

Could it really be that easy? One conversation and then they would finally be officially over?

Either the solemnity of the day had softened him or he’d got bored with toying with her.

In the eighteen months since she’d left him, all the magnanimous generosity Yannis had initially declared he wanted to lavish her with had been stripped away to the bare bones.

She’d accepted his initial settlement offer without countering it only for him to change his mind and halve it. And then halve it again. And again.

The chateau in Provence and the town house in Milan, the Aston Martin, the Maserati...all had been dangled before her then snatched away.

Now all that was left was a fraction of his initial settlement offer and she wouldn’t care if he revoked that too.

She hadn’t fought back. Not on any of it. Not even when her lawyer had begged, telling her she was settling for a fraction of what she was entitled to by law.

Keren didn’t want to fight. She didn’t care if Yannis got the satisfaction of believing he’d won. She didn’t care what the law said. They’d been married only fourteen months. She wanted nothing from Yannis but the right to visit their daughter’s grave.

‘Okay. We can talk.’ She gazed at their daughter’s headstone. ‘But not today,’ she added softly. She would not fight on a day of mourning. Today was Sophia’s day.

Yannis either felt the same way or understood for he bowed his head and said, ‘Stay in the cove for the night and we’ll meet for breakfast on the poolside terrace.’


‘Do you have food on your boat or shall I have lunch and dinner brought to you?’

‘I have provisions. But thank you.’ Maybe he really had softened towards her. Maybe the conversation he wanted to have was a peace offering. Maybe he wanted to apologise...

A sad smile curved her lips. Yannis had never apologised for anything in his life.

He bowed his head again. ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’

Keren waited until he’d disappeared from view before returning to the cove.

Keren was on the deck at the stern of The Sophia, draining the water of her makeshift washing machine, when a figure on the beach caught her eye.

He couldn’t be coming to see her, she reasoned. They’d agreed to meet in the morning.

But this was Yannis, she reminded herself. A man who’d proved his word was as stable as a chocolate teapot.

He waded into the water. She did her best to ignore his presence.

Screwing the base tap of the barrel back in place, she lifted her wet clothes out and placed them in a clean plastic basket.

Although he was a good distance from her, she felt exposed. Since she’d returned to her boat, she’d changed from the simple summer dress she’d been wearing into a yellow bikini and tiny blue sarong that she’d tied around her waist and which hardly skimmed her bottom.

Stubbornness fisted in her. She’d changed her ‘that’s not very suitable for where we’re going, glyko mou’ clothing too many times for Yannis in the fourteen months of their marriage.

‘What are you doing?’

Why his voice made her jump when she’d been pretending not to watch him swim to within a few meters of her, she didn’t know.

‘Hanging my washing.’

‘You have a washing machine?’

She tapped her repurposed barrel.

‘That’s your washing machine?’

‘Yep. There’s rocks in the bottom of it. Add clothes, washing powder and water and set sail. The motion of the waves makes it all act as a washing machine and my clothes come out all clean and fresh.’ She didn’t mean to babble. Nerves and a need to prove his second unexpected appearance that day didn’t bother her in the slightest had loosened her tongue.

How could he make that puzzled look when treading water? It was a look she’d become far too familiar with and usually came about when she did something he wouldn’t do or didn’t understand.

‘Wouldn’t a washing machine be easier?’

‘Doubt it. Takes too much room and uses too much electricity. Plus there’s not many washing machine repairers out at sea if it breaks down.’

He didn’t look convinced.

‘Can I come on board?’ he asked.

She took a deep breath to keep hold of her temper. ‘We agreed to talk tomorrow.’

‘I know but I’m curious to see how you live. I won’t stay long.’

She supposed she could always push him overboard if he outstayed his unwelcome.

Smiling tightly, she threw the nearest rope ladder overboard.

He heaved himself up with supreme ease and stood on the deck, salt water dripping off him, rivulets forming over the scattering of dark hair across his hard, bronzed chest and snaking down the plane of his ripped abdomen to the band of his black swim-shorts.

Keren turned away and snatched up a T-shirt to wring overboard, doing everything she could to blot out the sight of Yannis’s almost naked body. That he had a fantastic body was nothing new. She’d been married to him, for heaven’s sake, had shared a bed with him almost every night from the day they’d met...

She wasn’t quick enough to blot those memories before a pulse of heat zinged in her pelvis. She reflexively grabbed the railing she was leaning against.

His deep voice rang out close to her ear. Too close. ‘Can I help?’

She sidestepped away. ‘No. Thank you.’ Jerking her head at the open hatch, she added, ‘Go and explore.’

Explore and go.

‘Don’t you want me to dry off first?’

‘It’s a boat. It gets wet. Just don’t sit on anything.’

He shrugged. ‘It’s your home.’

He disappeared inside.

Her chest loosened. Taking a moment to breathe and compose herself, she then got on with the job of hanging the wrung clothes on the line she’d fashioned.

Yannis’s head appeared. ‘You have an oven.’

‘I do.’

He pulled an impressed face and vanished again.

His absence didn’t last long. ‘You have a fridge too.’

‘Wow. I’d never spotted that before.’

He flashed his teeth at her and ducked down again.

Amongst the clothes that needed drying was her underwear. The thought of Yannis seeing them on a washing line shouldn’t make her skin feel all prickly and her insides all squirmy. It was underwear, that was all. Everyone—well, almost everyone—wore it. It was nothing to be ashamed of.

A deeper, squirming pulse right in her core rent through her to remember all the times he’d stripped her underwear from her. Sometimes with his teeth.

It was the knowledge that Yannis would take one look at these particular items and consider them ugly and unsexy that spurred her into hanging them instead of hiding them.

Who cared what he thought? Not her. Not any more.

By the time she’d finished hanging her clothes, Yannis was still exploring. There was no good reason it was taking him so long.

‘Are you done yet?’ she called down through the hatch. There was no way she was going down there with Yannis sucking all the oxygen out of what was already a limited space.

‘Just making us a coffee,’ he called back.

She gritted her teeth and breathed deeply. She would not allow herself to get angry today. ‘You said you wouldn’t stay long.’

If he heard that, he did an excellent job of ignoring it. Soon, his voice carried back up the steps. ‘Is instant coffee pre-sweetened?’


‘I can’t find any sugar.’

‘I said you could explore, not ransack the place.’

‘How can I find sugar if I don’t look?’ he said in a reasonable voice that made her want to set the fire extinguisher on him.

‘It’s in the cupboard next to the fridge in a blue and white packet with sugar written on it... Have you ever made coffee before?’ Yannis came from a family who could trace their ancestry all the way back to Agon’s founding, a family considered nobility, a family who counted the Kalliakis royal family as personal friends. Yannis himself had gone to the same English boarding school as the King and his two younger brothers, albeit a few years after them. Raised in unimaginable wealth he’d reached the age of thirty-four without having to do a single domestic chore.

‘It can’t be that difficult.’

If Keren gritted her teeth again she’d grind them to dust, so she busied herself with opening the canopy that provided shade over the small outside table and took a seat on one of the benches.

Horrified to find her legs were shaking, she clamped her hands on her thighs and willed her fraught nerves to settle.

The rawness of Keren’s grief at their daughter’s graveside and the knowledge that Yannis must be feeling his grief more strongly that day, too, had softened the impact of his unexpected appearance there. There was no softening the impact of his visit to her boat. She’d thought she had a day to prepare herself for seeing him again but he’d caught her out and the impact his presence was having on her made her want to roll into a ball and shut the world out. She shouldn’t feel like this. She shouldn’t feel anything for him.

It’s just the surprise of it all, she valiantly assured herself. After eighteen months apart, seeing him again was bound to be a shock to her system.

Everything inside her contracted when he finally appeared out of the hatch, ducked his huge frame under the washing line and joined her at the table.

He pushed a mug of coffee to her and shook his head in bemusement. ‘How do you cope living in such a cramped space?’

‘It’s ample for my needs.’ Frightened of making eye contact, frightened at the well of disparate, painful emotions building in her stomach, she turned her face slightly and let her gaze settle on the calm, clear sea.

‘My tender is bigger than this.’ He meant the yacht moored next to The Sophia. Keren’s tender was a kayak. She could anchor at sea, get into her kayak and row it straight up a beach, no faffing.

Her right leg started shaking again. She crossed her ankles together in an effort to calm it. ‘I prefer substance over style.’

‘Do I detect a dig?’

‘Unfortunately, yes, so I think it best that you drink your coffee and leave. I don’t want to argue with you today.’ At least she had control of her voice. That was one small crumb of comfort.

‘I do not wish to argue today either, glyko mou.’

‘Then do me a favour and drink your coffee in silence.’

He leaned back and took a sip of it. His disgust was immediate. ‘Theos, that is awful.’

She clamped her trembling hand around her mug and took a sip. The coffee was a little stronger than she liked but passable. ‘It’s fine.’

‘It’s a sacrilege to coffee.’ He had another sip to convince himself of its awfulness. ‘I understand now why it’s called instant coffee. It is instantly awful.’

‘Then why don’t you go home and get one of your staff to make you a proper one?’

‘Soon. Your fridge and cupboards are almost empty. What are you going to eat for your dinner?’

‘Food from the storage cubby.’

‘Where is that?’

‘What, you mean you didn’t discover all my cramped boat’s secrets?’

‘Shall I look again?’

‘Nope. There’s a storage cubby behind the stairs at the bow. Now, if you’re not going to finish that, you can leave. If you are going to finish it, you can drink it now and leave.’

‘You want me to leave?’

‘Yes. And if you come back before the morning, I’m going to leave.’

‘And miss our talk?’

‘You’re the one who wants to talk, not me.’

‘If you don’t talk, I won’t sign the papers.’

‘Do you think I care?’

An edge came into his voice. ‘I thought you couldn’t wait for the divorce to be finalised.’

Somehow, she managed to keep control of her own voice. ‘I would prefer sooner but if it has to be later then it has to be later.’

‘I can refuse to sign it for ever.’

‘You can,’ she agreed with a coolness that totally belied the ragged heat of emotions bubbling beneath her skin. ‘But if you don’t sign it, I’ll still get my divorce under Agon law.’

‘In ten years.’

‘Eight and a half,’ she corrected. ‘We’ve already been separated eighteen months.’

They’d married on the island of Agon and spent their short married life on it and so the dissolution of their marriage was bound under its laws. The law stipulated that if one spouse refused consent to divorce then the marriage could be dissolved without it after ten years of separation.

The thought of waiting that long to be fully free of him was unbearable. Surely he wouldn’t hold out that long out of spite? Surely he had nothing left to torment her with?

‘And how have you found those eighteen months?’

‘Ask me that tomorrow.’ She got to her feet and placed a palm on the table to support the weakness in her frame. ‘Please, Yannis, just go. Your being here has made me angry and I don’t want to be angry today. We both need to grieve and we can’t do that together.’ They’d never been able to.

His features tightened. His generous mouth pulled in. The startling blue eyes held hers.

Keren braced herself but the expected barb never came. Yannis inclined his head sharply and, with an, ‘I’ll see you in the morning,’ rose from the bench and stepped off the boat and onto the jetty.

Only when he’d disappeared from sight did she sink back onto the bench and hug herself tightly.