“You have twenty-four hours to vacate the apartment.” He gave her one last sulfuric glare, spun on his heel and left.
Alexandra paced from one side of the living room to the other. She’d called Dimitri’s cell phone at least a dozen times and gotten his message service every time. She’d left messages with the operator, at his Paris office, at his office in Athens, even with his grandfather’s housekeeper.
Every message had said the same thing. Please call.
He hadn’t. Not all day yesterday as she vacillated between tortured tears and blazing fury. Not through a sleepless night when she had tossed and turned in a bed too big for comfort without him in it. She’d tried to rest for the baby’s sake, but every time she closed her eyes images of him telling her he planned to marry intruded, or worse…his expression of revulsion when she’d told him she was pregnant.
It was now close to one o’clock in the afternoon and she’d spent the last hour calling every contact number she had for him again. It hadn’t done any good. She couldn’t sit down. She was so strung out and edgy, she felt like she’d taken a couple of the diet pills some of her fellow models used to control their appetite.
One thought played itself over and over again in her brain. Dimitri believed she’d taken another lover. What kind of trust was that? He really did think she was some kind of slut.
The thought sent her to her knees only to hop up again at the sound of a key turning in the lock. She flew to the door. He’d come back. Relief surged through her in unstoppable waves. He’d realized how idiotic he’d been to believe she could make love to another man.
She wrenched the door open. “Dim—” Her voice choked off mid word. It wasn’t Dimitri at the door. “Who the hell are you?” she demanded in English before remembering where she was and repeating her question in French.
The stocky bald man pushed his way into the apartment, followed by an efficient looking woman and another man, this one lanky and sandy haired. The woman spoke. “I am Mr. Petronides’s facilities manager. I am here to oversee your vacation of the apartment.”
Alexandra barely made it to the bathroom before she lost the little bit of food she’d forced herself to eat that day.
When she came out, the brunette was directing the two men in the packing of Alexandra’s things with an officious looking clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. The facilities manager used her pen to point at a small Lladro figurine Dimitri had bought Alexandra when they were in Barcelona together.
The bald man picked up the statuette and began wrapping it in paper before putting it in one of the numerous boxes the moving team must have brought with them. Alexandra stood in appalled fascination as every item she could claim as her own was packed in a similarly efficient manner from the living room.
The last three days had been nightmarish, but this was beyond a nightmare. It was so horrifyingly real, she almost buckled from the pain of it.
“He sent you to evict me?” She asked the words in a bare whisper, but the other woman heard.
She turned to Alexandra, her face impassive. “I have been sent to facilitate your move, yes.”
“Have you evicted many of his ex-lovers?” Alexandra asked.
The other woman’s eyes twitched. “Your relationship with Mr. Petronides is not my business. I am simply following through on my instructions.”
“War criminals say the same thing in their defense.”
Her mouth tightening, the brunette turned away without answering. Alexandra did not push it. Instead, she marched into the bedroom she had shared with Dimitri and started packing her clothes. She didn’t want those men touching them. She already felt violated by their presence and the way they went through her home removing her things, removing traces of her.
Two hours later, the packing was done. Alexandra returned to the living room and surveyed the neatly piled boxes the two men were preparing to transport out of the apartment. Were they going to take them down to the lobby and leave them there? Out onto the street?
Suddenly emotions that had gone numb in the face of Dimitri’s cruel ejection of her from his life, came back to life and Alexandra shouted, “Stop!” as the bald man went to pick up one of the boxes.
The man stopped.
“Some of the items you packed don’t belong to me. You’ll have to wait while I sort through the boxes and take them out.”
“I had a very specific list from Mr. Petronides,” the brunette began to say.
“I don’t care.” Alexandra stood to her full five feet, nine inches and glared the other woman down. “I’m not taking his property with me.”
The movers must have read her determination on her face because they didn’t attempt to dissuade her again. It took forty-five minutes, but in the end she had removed every single thing Dimitri had ever given her. She’d gone through her clothes as well, chucking sexy lingerie from her suitcases along with designer dresses…anything and everything he had bought.
When she was done, there was a pile of objects mixed with crumpled manila newsprint on the living room floor along with two stacks of neatly folded clothes.
“There’s one more thing.”
The brunette just nodded, her eyes registering some emotion after watching Alexandra’s feverish attempt to purge her things of all items related to her ex-lover.
Alexandra picked up her purse and pulled out the white stick she’d replaced yesterday after the disastrous confrontation with Dimitri along with the jewelry case he’d left lying on the café table. She dropped them both on top of the lingerie pile. She stood up and grabbed the handle of her suitcase, slung the matching overnight case over her shoulder and exited the apartment.
Alexandra waited a week to hear from Dimitri, hoping time would calm him to the point of rationality. Seven days after she’d been evicted from their apartment, she read an article in the society column announcing his upcoming wedding to Phoebe Leonides. The girl looked about nineteen and as innocent as any virginal bride should be.
Alexandra checked out of the hotel she’d been staying in, arranged for her possessions to be shipped to the U.S., terminated her contract with her modeling agency, closed her Xandra Fortune checking account, canceled her credit cards under that name and bought a ticket back to the states in the name of Alexandra Dupree.
Xandra Fortune, fashion model and ex-lover of Greek billionaire, Dimitri Petronides, ceased to exist.
A little over two months later, Alexandra walked out of the prenatal clinic into the hot, sticky air of early autumn in New York City. She glanced down at the snapshot of her recent ultrasound. She’d put the videotape in her bag, but hadn’t been able to tuck the photo away. She was enthralled with this proof of the baby growing in her womb. The baby she could not yet feel or even see in her only slightly thickened waistline.
It was a boy. A part of Dimitri Petronides she was free to love, someone who would return her love. Even weakened by constant morning sickness and exhausted from her pregnancy, she wanted to shout for joy.
Desperately wanting to share her news with someone, she flipped open her cell phone and dialed her sister’s number. She got the answering machine and opted not to leave a message. She could tell Madeleine the news when she went home later. She considered and discarded the idea of calling her mother. Alexandra was not up to another dose of “You’ve brought shame to the family name.”
Compulsion she could not deny had her dialing the number to the Paris apartment. There had been no news of Dimitri’s wedding in the New York society pages. Fool that she was, she couldn’t stop herself from looking and even more foolishly hoping. Had he come to his senses? Called off the wedding?
Perhaps the latter was too much to hope for, but surely after two months he would have had enough time to calm down and realize Alexandra would never have been unfaithful to him.
The phone rang several times and Alexandra remembered belatedly it would be the dinner hour over there. Perhaps he was out, or not in Paris at all. She let the phone continue to ring, knowing she didn’t have the courage to call his cell. For some reason this was news she needed to tell him when he was in the apartment they had shared.
The other line picked up. “Hello?”
Alexandra almost dropped her phone. It was a woman’s voice at the other end of the line. She forced her vocal chords to work, praying the unfamiliar voice was that of a new housekeeper and not Dimitri’s newest woman. “Hello. Is Mr. Petronides available, please?”
“I’m sorry, he’s out. This is Mrs. Petronides. Can I help you or would you like to leave a message?”
Mrs. Petronides. Alexandra stopped breathing. The bastard had gone through with it. He’d married another woman while Alexandra was pregnant with his child. Funny, until that very moment, she hadn’t truly believed he would do it. And it was only in the absence of all hope that she realized how much she’d been living on the unspoken faith in a man who cared nothing for her and clearly never had.