FREE ONLINE READ: A Peek into Not Just the Greek’s Wife
by Lucy Monroe
For my compassionate and patient readers, and particularly those who have asked over the years: What ever happened to so-and-so, was their baby a boy or a girl, will their children grow up and get their own stories?” These vignettes peeking into the lives of past characters are for you!
These vignettes are not intended to be books, or even novellas. They do not follow typical story structure with a beginning, a middle, a story climax and an ending. The beginning for each vignette was the book it’s based on. Simply put, these are codas, the asked-for glimpses into the lives of favorite characters.
Each of those glimpses is different. Some are very short, others are near novella length and the rest fall somewhere in between. A few are sexy and sensual, all are a bit emotional, but a couple will take you on a new heart-wrenching journey with the characters.
All answer the question “What happened after the HEA?”
I’ll be releasing a new vignette every couple of weeks so be sure to keep an eye on the Harlequin blog as there will be seven in total. It is my sincere hope that you will find as much joy reading these peeks into the lives of the characters as I had writing them.
Love and hugs,
Ariston & Chloe Spiradakou from Not Just the Greek’s Wife (2012)
Four years after the birth of their first child
Chloe leaned into Ariston, their steps silent on the high-end carpet covering the hallway outside the behavioral specialist’s office. His arm slipped around her waist, offering unspoken support as Chloe held tightly to the hand of their four-year-old daughter, Helena, the reason for their visit. Despite Chloe and Ariston’s best efforts, Helena had grown increasingly more volatile and challenging with each passing year.
She’d spoken late, but not so late her pediatrician had been worried. She still preferred body language to words, but Chloe didn’t always know what her daughter meant with her gestures and nonverbal demands.
So they’d sought help, taking Helena to a doctor who specialized in childhood behavior and development.
The results hadn’t been unexpected, but Chloe still wanted to talk with Ariston, to process what the specialist had said. Only not in front of the little girl they’d named for the beloved wife of her favorite grandfather. Though she was only four and wasn’t anything like a chatterbox, Helena understood so much. Too much for them to discuss in her hearing what the specialist had said.
Chloe knew her grief would come through and she didn’t want her daughter to think she was the cause. Because no matter how difficult life ahead for them might be, Helena was still perfect in her mother’s eyes.
“It will be okay.” Ariston tugged her closer so their hips rubbed as they walked. “She’s smart. She’s no less amazing today than the moment she was born. We’ll get her the help she needs.”
Chloe nodded, looking down at her daughter who played with the tiny toy in her free hand, oblivious to her parents’ concern. Helena spent much of the day in her own head, living in a world where her tiny toy figurines were alive to her in a way the people around her often were not.
She was a loving little girl, though she offered hugs to only four people. Her beloved papa, her mother, her pappous (her great-grandfather), Takis, and her two-year-old brother, Mateo. She enjoyed the company of Chloe’s father, and her sister and her family when they visited, but retained a reserve with them that had always been a part of Helena’s nature. Even as a small baby.
Mateo, who was two years younger, already spoke nearly as much as the older sister he idolized. And though he was going through the challenging transition so common at age two, he had fewer than half the tantrums of his older sister. It was as her son grew and matured that Chloe had been forced to face the truth that her precious daughter was not developing apace with her age.
Helena had a hard time controlling her urge to lash out physically when she got frustrated, though she did try. She was loving, but life was harder for her than it was for Mateo. Helena got upset easily, but craved the approval and companionship of her family.
It broke Chloe’s heart to watch her daughter struggle and she was determined to make it better, however she could.
Ariston had not argued when she suggested the behavioral specialist. He’d supported her whole-heartedly and made the effort to arrange with his pappous, his great-grandfather, to watch Mateo, with the help of the villa staff, while they were gone at the appointment.
A car was waiting for them when they stepped outside the clinic doors. Ariston had started using drivers more frequently when Chloe got pregnant the first time, so he could focus his attention on her and her needs. It had been terribly sweet, as she’d suffered badly from morning sickness that had turned into all-day sickness.
He’d never broken the habit after Helena’s birth, choosing instead to be the doting father who often entertained his children on the drive.
The driver had the back door of the limousine open and Chloe slipped inside with Helena, Ariston following them. Helena got into her car seat and buckled herself without complaint. This time. However, when she couldn’t find one of her tiny toys, a now-familiar wail sounded throughout the car.
Ariston squeezed Chloe’s hand, reminding her what the behavior specialist had said, that they needed to ignore the outburst, but as soon as Helena calmed down they should give her positive affirmation and encourage her to use her words. So Chloe did her best, though the urge to comfort her crying child was strong.
As soon as Helena’s voice dropped to normal levels, Chloe smiled at her oldest child. “I’m glad you’re feeling calmer. Do you think you can use your words to tell Papa and I what has you so upset?”
“It’s gone.” Tears welled up, but Helena didn’t start yelling again.
Chloe counted that as a win. “Do you mind if I look in your safety seat?”
Helena nodded her head, dark curls bouncing. “Look, Mama. I want Puppy.”
Chloe searched around her daughter and found the miniature puppy figurine tucked under the lip of the safety seat. “Here he is. Back all safe and sound.”
Her daughter flashed her a smile that was both brief and not as common as Chloe would have liked, but all was clearly right in Helena’s world again.
“What do we say now that Mama found our toy, hmm?” Ariston prompted.
Helena looked up from the gibberish discussion she was having with her toy. “Thank you.”
“Nicely done,” Ariston approved.
“You’re welcome. I love you, poppet.”
“I no poppet. I Helena.”
Chloe smiled at the familiar refrain. Her daughter liked the nickname, but her pragmatic nature wouldn’t allow it to pass without comment. She needed always to point out what she considered to be truth.
“And your mama and I love you very much,” Ariston said.
“Love you, too.” Helena looked at both her parents before returning to her toy.
Chloe took that as another win and flashed her husband a smile she knew the Greek billionaire would understand.
Her own heart warmed when he returned it, his love shining in his cerulean gaze.
Chloe and Ariston didn’t have the chance to talk until after they’d tucked Helena and Mateo into bed that night. They’d moved to Greece to live with Takis after Helena’s birth and Chloe had never regretted that.
The old man needed them. Though his medication was helping with his Parkinson’s, Takis Spiradakou deserved to have his family around him in his declining years. He’d been the one truly caring parent Ariston had known, teaching the Greek tycoon how to love, if not how to say the words.
He’d gone to bed early with the children, as was his habit these days. So it was just Chloe and Ariston on the balcony overlooking the sea.
“Are you doing okay, yineka mou?” Ariston asked, sliding his arms around her from behind, settling his chin on top of her head and rubbing in the way he liked to do.
“I know it’s going to be all right. The speech therapist will help Helena with her verbal and language skills, the counselor will help her learn to deal with emotions that are too big for her.”
“Despite your words of assurance, I sense a but.”
He was right. Chloe felt nothing resembling equanimity right then, no matter what pep talks she gave herself. None of this fit her view of the way things were supposed to be if she just avoided the trap her mother had and if Ariston loved her in a way her father had only discovered very late in life.
“Ariston…” She settled back against him, seeking the comfort of his presence. “I thought if I did it right, if I loved my children and married a man who didn’t neglect them like my father, they wouldn’t suffer pain in their childhood like I did.”
He squeezed her, kissing the top of her head. “We cannot protect our children from the happenstance of genetics or even every circumstance that might harm them, no matter how much we might wish it.”
Yeah, right. That’s why their children had their own bodyguard detail, the giant villa had been childproofed like no mansion before it and even the swimming pool now had an attractive fence surrounding it that the children could not get through except in the company of an adult programmed into the biometric lock on the gate.
Still, she knew what he meant. As much as it genuinely pained her tycoon husband when their children fell, skinned their knees and did the myriad other things usual for childhood, he forced himself to stand back and let them play, let them run. Mr. Control Freak himself did everything in his power to give their children as normal a childhood as possible.
“But I wasn’t expecting this. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but not…” Not her child hurting. Not her beautiful daughter struggling to contain the urge to smack her baby brother when she wanted a toy he was playing with. “It was supposed to be…” She let her words trail off, unsure what she wanted to say.
“Happily-ever-after once I admitted how much and how deeply I loved you?”
“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to go?”
Ariston laughed, the sound warm and amused but not condescending. “Maybe in Disney movies. But in real life? That was just the beginning for us.” He leaned down and kissed the side of her face. “And it was a fantastic beginning. We have two wonderful, beautiful children. Yes, Helena needs a little extra help, but that is okay, too. We’ll make sure she gets it.”
The tension that had filled Chloe since the visit to the specialist began to seep away. “Yes, we will.”
She turned in her husband’s arms and smiled up at him. “I’m pretty sure she gets her reserved emotions from you,” she teased.
“You mean this difficulty she has expressing her emotions is all down to how hard I found it to say I loved you the first time?” he teased back, clearly not offended.
But still the words struck Chloe in her heart. “No, oh, Ariston, no. I was just kidding.”
His thousand-watt smile sent familiar and welcome warmth cascading through her body. “I knew that, pethi mou. When we met, I was broken emotionally, incapable of seeing what had developed between us, much less give voice to it. Our daughter? She’s not broken. She simply has a harder time with life than a lot of other four-year-olds.”
“You don’t regret asking me to be the mother of your children, do you?” Chloe wasn’t sure where the worry came from. Except maybe she did know.
“What? Chloe, what are you saying to me?” His blue gaze burned hot and dark, insisting she listen. “I love you. I have always loved you, even when I didn’t know it. You are the only woman I want, the only woman who could be the blessed and beloved mother to my children.”
“You sounded so Greek right then.”
“That is because at my heart, I am a Greek man.”
“At your heart, you are my man.”
“Ne. That, too.”
Again with the Greek. It always came out when he was feeling things strongly and with her, thankfully, that was a lot. She’d spent more time learning Greek this time around, so she would understand him when he lost his English, particularly during the more intimate moments of their marriage.
“So, if I was pregnant again, that would be okay with you?” she asked softly, peeking up at him through her lashes.
He stared down at her, his deep blue eyes filled with wonder. “You are pregnant again? I thought we were waiting.”
“Apparently my IUD fell out and I didn’t even know it.” Her gynecologist had told her that it happened—infrequently, but it did happen. Chloe still found it difficult to believe.
But the proof was in the pregnancy test results and the ultrasound they’d done in the office to confirm the string hadn’t just gotten lost and the IUD was gone.
“How is that possible?”
“It’s rare, but my doctor said it happens.”
“Did she warn you it could happen?” Ariston frowned. “I do not remember her doing so.”
“Um, no. She doesn’t make it a habit of telling her patients about every remote possibility and side effect of the things she prescribes.”
“You’re quoting her, aren’t you?”
“We’ll be finding a different doctor for you.”
Chloe didn’t argue. She hadn’t particularly enjoyed the gynecologist’s condescending attitude in the face of Chloe’s shock. But that wasn’t important right now.
What Chloe needed to know was how her husband felt about the news. They’d agreed to wait and she’d broken that agreement.
Unwittingly, but she’d still broken it. “Are you happy about the news?”
“How can you doubt it?” His blue gaze was so warm and approving she couldn’t question his sincerity. “Another wonderful little girl like Helena or another pistol like our Mateo could be nothing but a delight for us.”
The rest of the tension Chloe had been feeling all day disappeared. She never should have worried about how he’d react to the news. Ariston loved their family, and plans to wait or not, he would always be thrilled about adding to it.
He brushed her hair behind her ears in a familiar gesture that still sent little frissons of pleasure through her. “Are you happy?” he asked.
“I am.” She nodded to emphasize her words, a smile breaking over her face as Chloe allowed herself to bask in the knowledge she was carrying Ariston’s child again. “I didn’t think I wanted another baby so soon, but Takis…he loves babies. I love being a mom.”
“You are a wonderful mother.”
She smiled, leaned up and kissed him. “Thank you. You’re not so bad in the papa department yourself.”
“I believe this news deserves celebration.”
“What do you have in mind?” she teased, knowing perfectly well he wasn’t talking about toasting with the sparkling fruit juice he plied her with during pregnancy.
“I think you know.”
She laughed joyously as he swept her into his arms and carried her upstairs to their bedroom. Their lovemaking was intense and filled with a sense of elation.
Like they’d found peace and more reasons to celebrate than her revealing they were going to have another child. They’d found answers about Helena, too. Those answers didn’t mean everything was going to be fine going forward; they meant that Chloe and Ariston would have help and their daughter would have lots of people affirming that she was wonderful just the way she was.
As it should be.
About the Author
With more than seven million copies of her books in print worldwide, award-winning and USA TODAY bestselling author Lucy Monroe has published over sixty books and had her stories translated for sale all over the world. While she writes multiple subgenres of romance, all her books are sexy, deeply emotional and adhere to the concept that love will conquer all. A passionate devotee of romance, she adores sharing her love for the genre with her readers.
Look for Lucy Monroe’s next title from Harlequin Presents:
Kostas’s Convenient Bride
Coming May 2018!