Waverly stepped out of the Passport Control area of the Athens International Airport and was hit by a wall of sensory overload. The bustle in the waiting area was enough to make her tired brain shut down. There were layers of bodies pressed against the plastic barrier holding back the crowd, people searching for their loved ones, calling out names. A long line of private drivers held up paper placards with names typed out in large black letters, hoping to catch her eye. The colors of every shop lining the hallway down to the baggage area was designed to grab her attention: flashing lights on small toys, candy colored t-shirts, bejeweled bags, pastel plushy stuffed animals, as well as rows upon rows of Athens-themed magnets, postcards, spoons, pins, sex toys, candy, bowls, three inch bronze gladiator statues mounted on “Real Greek Marble” bases, and plastic replicas of the Parthenon.
The babble of different languages being spoken around her was also overwhelming. Her brain was hardwired to search out and decipher each language, every conversation. A hello coming from one direction was spoken in Greek, while to her left was a family greeting each other in German. She stepped out a few paces and heard Dutch (though she couldn’t totally understand it) and Australian English. Waverly closed her eyes and tried to center herself. But that was challenging…
Because all the sights and sounds had nothing on the smell.
Bodies. Lots of bodies. The smell of hot, sweaty bodies mixed with fried food and garlic. And it seemed like everyone was smoking. Couples held large bouquets of flowers, old ladies wore too much perfume, and all of that combined with the smell of the exhaust pumped in from the disorderly rows of jostling cars just a few feet away. It was enough to make Waverly feel a little faint. Her stomach turned and she was suddenly glad she’d refused the meager breakfast the airline offered, just before landing.
Waverly hefted her large hiking backpack a little higher on her slim frame and cradled her smaller backpack in her arms before pushing her way into the crowd. She knew Wynonna had to be in there somewhere, but her sister was not one to fight her way to the front. She’d be the one in tight black leather pants despite the heat of the afternoon pressing in through the open doors of the airport terminal. She’d be the one trying to swindle a few Euros out of the taxi drivers smoking in a line by the door.
Waverly shook her head and pressed forward. Just find Wynonna and get the hell out of here, she thought to herself. She knew it was a bit of a drive out of town to where she’d be staying, but she was ready to sit in a car, close the door on this chaotic scene, and give herself a tiny sliver of privacy.
She squeezed between a line of older women in long floral dresses who were partially blocking the Passport Control exit, ducked her head as a cab driver called out to her, “TAXI! TAXI? Pretty lady want a taxi? Super cheap. I drive you to Acropolis.”
Waverly shook her head and stepped around the cabbie, almost tripping over a small child running through the crowd.
To her immense relief, Waverly quickly spotted Wynonna leaning against the wall by a spinning postcard stand, in between a coffee shop and a trinket store. The cocky smile on Wynonna’s face was a welcome bit of normalcy. While Waverly was typically the one to take control of any situation, she really needed someone she trusted to take the reins and allow her to close her eyes for a second. She hadn’t slept very well on the flight over, crammed into the window seat for ten hours in a chair that only stretched back about six inches.
Waverly groaned as she stepped up to Wynonna. She dumped the backpacks between her feet and almost fell into Wynonna’s hug.
“Hey baby girl,” Wynonna greeted her. She pressed her cheek tightly against Waverly’s. “How was the flight?”
“Terrible. But over.” Waverly squeezed Wynonna tight. “All I want right now is a bath and a nap, and not necessarily in that order. I don’t want to smell, hear, or bump into another stranger for at least 24 hours.”
Wynonna laughed. “That might be a tall order in Athens. Not much of a traveler, are you?”
Waverly straightened and moved to pick up her bag, but Wynonna beat her to it. “Thanks. And I’m a perfectly fine traveler. I’m the nicest row-mate on the plane. I only got up once to go to the bathroom during the whole fight and I didn’t watch movies all night, unlike the person sitting next to me. I mean really, he started the same movie over and over again, and then fell asleep a few minutes in. And then I was stuck watching his stupid movie because the flickering lights kept me up.” She let out a soft groan and scrunched up her face in a grimace. “I sound like a real jerk, don’t I?”
“Not at all, Waves. You sound like a human, instead of your usual upbeat, happy-kitten self that you normally are. I’m glad to hear it, too. It will help you fit in better here in Athens.”
“Can you just get me home, or whatever passes for home these days?”
“I’ll do you so much better. I have a driver waiting; you can sleep in the car on the way over. It’s about an hour drive.”
“You hired a driver?”
“The house comes with a driver.” Wynonna smirked at Waverly again.
“You’ll see.” Wynonna spun away and walked out the door of the airport. Waverly had to run to keep up with her. Wynonna was waving at someone, but Waverly couldn’t tell who, until they got to the end of the arrivals area and Waverly saw a long line of black Mercedes. Wynonna walked up to one and said something to the driver. He looked like he was about their age, maybe mid-twenties, tall, slender. He wore dark sunglasses and a black suit with a skinny black tie. He nodded at Wynonna and popped open the trunk of the car with the press of a button on his key fob. As Waverly approached, he smiled at her and held out his hand.
“Good afternoon.” He took Waverly’s hand gently. “My name is Alec. I’ll be your driver during your stay.”
Waverly blushed as Alec shook her hand. She wasn’t used to getting this kind of attention, and her tired state made her feel shy.
“Thank you. It’s nice to meet you,” she said softly.
“May I take your bag?” Alec indicated her smaller backpack. “Or would you prefer to have it with you in the car?”
“Oh, this old thing.” Waverly lifted the worn, red pack off her shoulder. “I’ll probably just keep it with me.”
“No problem.” He held open the back door of the polished car and held out his palm, directing her to the backseat. “Make yourself comfortable. We should be arriving in an hour’s time.”
Wynonna was already in the backseat on the other side. She leaned over, sliding her dark sunglasses down her nose, and looked up at Waverly. “Get in, baby girl. I don’t want to sit here all day.”
Waverly slid into the plush leather seat and Alec closed the door beside her.
“Isn’t this the shit?” Wynonna asked. Her smile was so wide, both of her dimples threatened to swallow her cheeks. “Lap of luxury…” She slid her hand along the black, stitched leather. “Nothing but the best.”
Alec climbed into the driver’s seat and started the car.
“Hey sexy,” Wynonna spoke over the front seat, leaning up a bit. “Do you mind putting up the divide?”
Waverly had no idea what Wynonna was asking for until a dark panel slowly crept up with a soft mechanical whine, effectively cutting off the front seat from the rear.
“That’s better. Now we can talk privately,” Wynonna said, leaning back into her seat. The car started with a jump, and they sped off down the road toward the airport exit. Waverly quickly buckled her seatbelt but noticed that Wynonna didn’t bother with hers.
“Don’t worry. Alec is a great driver. The best in Athens, which is really saying something, since people here are shit drivers.” She looked out her side window as she said it. Waverly turned to look out her own window and take in the first real sights of Athens.
A row of dirty, derelict looking buildings lined the highway leaving the airport. Grass and weeds grew up along the side of the road, and on the backside of most of the buildings was graffiti.
Waverly furrowed her brow in confusion as something struck her as very odd.
“All the graffiti is in English,” she commented.
“Huh. Never noticed.” Wynonna shook her head.
Waverly shook off her comment and turned back to Wynonna. “So how did you end up with a driver for the week?” Waverly asked, as she felt herself start to relax a bit. The ride was smooth and the privacy of the car interior was exactly what she craved.
“It’s not just for the week. Adonis up there,” she pointed in Alec’s direction, “has been driving me around since I moved into the villa.”
“Did he lose a bet to you?”
“No. Let’s just say I have a very generous benefactor.”
“Wynonna, please don’t tell me you’re shacking up with some rich dude that I’ll have to pretend to like so you don’t get kicked out.” Waverly paused a moment, then continued on. “I can’t do that again.”
“Ok,” Wynonna cleared her throat and settled into her seat, like she had a very important story to tell.
This ought to be good, Waverly thought. She fought to keep her eyes open.
“So, I did meet an old rich dude. And he did put me up, but this is totally different. This isn’t a sex for security type thing. I help him as an image consultant. He loves me, if you can believe it. He says I tell it to him like it is. My word is fucking gospel to him, it’s completely crazy, but I love it. It suits me.”
“So, some old rich dude pays you to make him look good?”
“Pretty much. Sweet gig, right?”
“No!” Waverly tried and failed to keep the frustration from her voice. “What about your future? What about when you get old and wrinkly, and this guy doesn’t want you to play image consultant for him anymore?”
Wynonna blew out a raspberry. “I’ll probably be dead long before then. And until that time, I’m living it up.” She stretched out again in the car seat and closed her eyes.
Waverly shook her head and looked out the window. As tired as she felt, the chance to see this new city kept her mind alert. They were passing through downtown on their way to the suburbs on the Aegean Sea.
The car jerked suddenly as Alec swerved into the oncoming lane to get around a tiny, three wheeled truck. Waverly gripped the seat as she watched the cars in the opposite lane make room on the two-lane road for the swerving car. The truck drifted onto the shoulder a bit and made a third “passing” lane for Alec.
“Holy crap,” Waverly muttered, as she watched Alec pass a second car in the same way. Nobody honked or got angry. It just seemed to be understood, if you were a slower driver in either direction, you drove on the shoulder to create a third, passing lane between the others.
The closer they got to the city center, the more traffic there was. Mopeds, bikes, Vespas and motorcycles were all weaving in and around the cars in every direction. At one point, a three-lane road held about five lanes of traffic, all trying to navigate their way through.
Waverly closed her eyes. She didn’t want to watch as another Vespa squeezed close enough to her side window that she could lift the scarf from the driver’s neck.
“Pretty wild, huh? This is why Alec is driving and not me. I’d go fucking ballistic here.”
Waverly opened her eyes again and looked at her sister. She was totally right; Waverly was immensely glad that Alec was driving and not Wynonna.
“So, what’s the plan with the wedding?” Waverly asked, as she rested her head back.
“My job is to make sure this is a see and be seen event. I’m keeping it real for the younger crowd who’ll be showing up.”
“What does that mean?”
“I picked the DJ, picked out a good nightclub for the bachelorette party, designed a signature cocktail…”
“You designed a cocktail?”
“Well, I personally tested out several drinks from this total hottie I found in a hotel bar downtown. I plucked him out of obscurity and the mind-numbing job of serving aperol spritzes to senior citizens waiting to get on a cruise ship.”
“That’s you, always looking out for the little guy.” Waverly smirked at her sister.
“He wasn’t that little.”
Waverly coughed and shook her head. “Will I have any duties at this wedding?” She changed the subject.
“Nope, I invited you because I want you to sit back in the lap of luxury for a few days, enjoy yourself a little, and see why I love this country so much. I know Gus has got to be bugging you to bring me home, but I want you to see why I’m perfectly happy where I am.”
“She has been bugging me a little, but that’s only because you won’t return any of her emails, or phone calls, or texts, or…”
“I get it. I get it. Geez. I’ll text her when we get home. You can even supervise me.”
“When we get in, the first thing I’m doing is finding a bed. You can handle your own family relationships.”
“No problem. Your room is ready for you.”
“MY room? I’m not staying with you? I thought we’re staying in someone’s home.”
“We are, and just wait until you see it. You’ll have your own room and butler. There are maids and servants.”
“Wynonna, I don’t need all that.” Waverly cringed at the thought of being served.
“Well, that’s what you’re getting, baby girl. Lap of luxury.”
“Can I just tell them that I’ll be fine. I don’t want anyone waiting on me. That’s embarrassing.”
“Too bad. I think you’d insult them if you refuse.”
Waverly groaned. A week on the beach in Greece sounded wonderful when Wynonna invited her to join as a guest at the wedding of her employer, but being served and waited on, that felt less like a vacation and more like an obligation to pretend to be someone she wasn’t.
Maybe she could slip away, stay on the beach and out of the house, she thought, or wander the ancient ruins of the Acropolis and the Roman Forum. Even just sitting in an outdoor café with a coffee or a chilled glass of Greek wine and people watching sounded like more fun than being waited on hand and foot by a total stranger.
“I can hear you thinking, Waverly. Trust me, you’ll love it. The villa is so relaxing. It’s just what you need.”
When the car slowed down, the momentum change woke up Waverly. She didn’t even realize that she’d drifted off. She rubbed her eyes as the car pulled into a large main gate and came to a stop in the middle of a semi-circle drive. Before them stood a large, two story stucco house. Actually, Waverly felt like calling it a house was a misnomer. It was really more of a palace, stretching out in two wings in both directions from the center of the home. The front façade sat atop a long porch was that elevated by several steps and decorated with marble pillars and two enormous urns with small palm trees growing in the middle.
Alec opened Waverly’s door and she stepped out of the car, nearly falling back as she looked up to take in the large front entry of the house.
“It looks more like a bank than a house,” Waverly said, shielding her eyes from the bright sun shining down over the roof of the house.
“Absolutely,” said Alec. “Your modern American banks were copied from Classical Greek architecture.”
“I know, it’s just strange to see it in person.”
Alec walked around to the rear of the car and pulled out Waverly’s hiking pack from the trunk. “I’ll make sure this is delivered up to your bedroom. Why don’t you step inside and out of the sun.”
Waverly felt weird watching Alec carry her bag off into a side entrance to the house, but Wynonna wrapped an arm through Waverly’s and pulled her up the small flight of steps to the front door.
Inside, a soft breeze blew through the interior and carried with it a hint of flowers. An older woman in a black dress walked up and held out a tray with two tightly wrapped white cloths. She smiled sweetly at Waverly and offered her a towelette.
“Welcome. I hope your travels were pleasant,” the maid spoke in perfect English.
She smiled at the woman and nodded her head, suddenly feeling very shy. When Waverly picked up the cloth, she expected it to be warm, but instead it was ice cold. She watched as Wynonna ran the cloth over her face and across the back of her neck. Waverly did the same thing with her own and was surprised at how wonderful it felt. The coolness of the slightly damp cloth invigorated her and made her feel more refreshed.
The maid held out the same tray a second time and Wynonna dropped her used towel onto it. Waverly followed her example, and the maid walked off into a side room.
“Well, we’re here. Do you want a quick tour before heading up to your room?”
“Actually, what I really want is a nap. I’m so tired even my hair hurts,” Waverly replied.
“Gotcha. Leave it to me.” Wynonna walked off. She couldn’t tell if Wynonna was disappointed, but she couldn’t bring herself to care just then. She’d care after a long nap. Then she could put on a good face and figure out what was going on.
Wynonna led Waverly to a second-floor bedroom. Inside, the walls were painted a robin’s egg blue and had white embellishments painted around the room, from faux pillars and crown molding to even a small fake window that looked out onto an imaginary green garden. Waverly smiled as she ran a finger over the contemporary fresco. “I like this.”
“Yeah, whatever, it’s pretty, but the most important part is this…” Wynonna pointed down at the phone that sat on a small bedside table next what looked like the biggest and fluffiest bed Waverly had ever seen. The sight almost brought tears to her eyes. Nothing looked better than that bed at that moment. “If you press one, it will put you through to the butler’s office, which is like reception at a hotel. They can help you with anything you need. I’ll be floating around the house today, the butler will know where to find me when you wake up.”
“Thanks Wy. I know you’re excited to hang out, but I really need to sleep for a bit, first.”
“No worries. Rest up because you’re going to need it. You have a date tonight with me and my friend, ouzo.”
Waverly rolled her eyes. She’d heard tales about the infamous Greek liquor. “Isn’t that the anise flavored drink?”
Wynonna smiled wickedly.
“I’m not sure that’s my jam.”
“I got you, baby girl. That’s only the beginning of your cultural exploration of the finer aspects of Greece. There’s Tsipouro, Metaxa, Mastika…”
“I get it,” Waverly chuckled, as she pushed Wynonna toward the door to the bedroom. “Now let me sleep or I won’t be good for anything tonight.”
Once she was alone, Waverly stripped out of her clothes and walked into the attached bathroom. She splashed some water on her face then made a beeline for the bed.
Sinking in between the silky, soft cotton sheets, Waverly thought that maybe the lap of luxury wasn’t so bad…
Waverly was startled awake by a soft knock on her door. She didn’t want to open her eyes, so she rolled over and stretched out a bit. Her whole body felt stiff and sore; she had slept so hard she felt like she had run a marathon.
Groggily, she let out a low, “yeah?”
The bedroom door opened a crack and a nose poked its way in. “Is it ok if I come in? I have some American coffee for you.”
The voice was unfamiliar to her, but soft and clearly feminine.
“What time is it?” Waverly asked, still trying to get her bearings.
“It’s seven o’clock. I thought you might appreciate a coffee to help wake you up as you get ready for dinner. Is it ok if I enter the room?”
Waverly pulled her sheet up a bit to make sure her naked body was fully covered. “Yes, of course,” she quickly said, then added, “Is it dinner already?” It felt like breakfast time to Waverly.
In stepped a beautiful woman. She was tall, slender, and had deep red hair. Not at all the image of a Greek that Waverly was expecting. Self-consciously, Waverly drew her sheets up to her chin, and she suddenly wished she had on at least a pair of underwear.
The exquisite woman had a soft smile and her eyes sparkled with a dark warmth. “Wynonna wanted you to join her for dinner. The cook has prepared a special welcome meal for you of local favorites.”
“Oh, you don’t need to do that.” Waverly felt her cheeks grow uncomfortably warm under the woman’s gaze. “I’m sure I can find a little café or something.” She gave the woman an apologetic smile. “I don’t want to be a pest.”
The woman smiled even more and a soft dimple appeared on her cheek.
Oh hell, thought Waverly, clutching the cloth a little tighter by her chin. She felt very naked under the sheet.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I’ll just leave the coffee for you on the table. My name is Nicole and if you need anything, you can dial one on your phone and ask for me. Dinner is at eight.”
She set down a small, white coffee cup in a saucer on the bedside table and gave her one last smile before gently closing the door behind her.
When Waverly heard the door click shut, she pushed back the cover and quietly ran into the bathroom. Surveying herself in the mirror, she was horrified to see she had a serious case of bedhead and the outline of drool on the left side of her mouth.
Double hell, she thought.
After a quick shower, Waverly walked back into the bedroom where her large pack was sitting next to the bed. She pulled out a clean outfit and got dressed, leaving her slightly damp hair to dry naturally over one shoulder.
Waverly slipped out of her room, and immediately regretted not taking Wynonna up on her offer of a house tour. She could find her way back to the front door but had no idea where the dining room was in the massive house.
Every window down the long hallway in which her room was located held either a pot with ivy or a vase with fresh cut flowers, perched on the deep sill. Most of the windows were open, letting in a cool breeze. Out the window was the backside of the house spilling down a hillside dotted with trees. Off in the distance, at least a mile or two, and nestled within the saddle of the hillside, was the blue of the sea. The sight took Waverly’s breath away. The water was a deep cobalt and appeared to be quite calm from her distance. There were no visible whitecaps or waves breaking up the blue. A small town sat comfortably within the curving edge of the sea. Several small boats were tied off to a dock jutting out into the water.
Waverly let her eyes wander over the upper hillside. It was mostly vineyards with a handful of large mansions spread out, and behind each one was a long, white patio broken up by differently shaped pools and hot tubs.
There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky and the sun still shone brightly despite the late hour of the evening. It made the white stone of the buildings seemingly glow against the green vegetation.
This really did look like paradise.
Waverly was still studying the view when she heard footsteps behind her. She turned to find Nicole. She was wearing a flowing, white linen shirt that hung loose around tighter black slacks.
“Ms. Waverly, it’s nice to see you up. I wasn’t sure if you’d need a second wake up call.”
Waverly brought a hand up to her loose hair draped over her right side and twisted it around in her fingers. “Oh yeah,” she laughed a little too easily, “I was pretty tired when I arrived. I slept so hard it hurt.” Then Waverly’s eyes shot open as she realized how that might sound to her… maid? Servant? Butler? Waverly suddenly realized she had no idea what Nicole’s precise role was in the household. “I don’t mean the bed hurt. The bed was amazeballs.” She flinched again.
Amazeballs? Who the fuck says amazeballs?
She gave Nicole another apologetic look. “It was amazing. The best bed I’ve ever slept in. Not that I sleep around much. And not like I just made that sound. I don’t sleep around.” Waverly could feel her brain quickly digging a deep hole for herself to fall into. “I mean, I sleep, but I don’t sleep around. And I don’t sleep in many different beds.” She nervously clapped her hands together and tried to give Nicole a cool wink. She could feel herself breaking out into a nervous sweat.
Nicole just smiled at Waverly with an adorable grin and didn’t say anything.
“Well, anyway. I actually have a question for you.” Waverly was desperate to change the subject. “I don’t know where the dining room is. Or Wynonna. Or her room. Or pretty much anything.” Waverly laughed good-naturedly. “Any chance you can steer me in the right direction?”
“Of course, follow me.” Nicole waited for Waverly to take a step in her direction before she turned to lead her away. “How was your flight?”
“Oh, it was very nice. Perfect. But I’m glad to be here.”
“Of course. I hope the home is comfortable for you.”
“It’s more than that. It’s gorgeous. Do you know any of the history of the house? When it was built or what it was used for?”
Nicole looked back at Waverly and smiled again. “I know some things. It’s always been used as a summer home for aristocratic families from Athens. It was built in the mid eighteenth century but has been expanded a little since that time. A pool was added more recently, along with a hot tub and cabana. The stables were converted into a garage, but if you ever have a chance to sneak in, there are still two horse stalls in the back, where the owner used to keep his prized stallions. They are almost apartments in themselves. Very posh.”
Waverly giggled at the thought of a posh apartment for a horse. From the look of the place, she imagined that the horse stalls were probably nicer than her own apartment back home. “At least they treat their animals well.”
Nicole gave a non-committal shake of her head. “It hasn’t always been that way, but we try to help with positive changes. Like recycling or environmentally friendly landscaping.”
Waverly looked at Nicole. Who was this woman? Did she step out of her dream world?
“How long have you been working here?”
Nicole gave Waverly a soft smile over her shoulder. “Since I was young. My grandfather worked here since he was just a boy and I have followed in his footsteps. It’s a wonderful home.”
“How nice, that sounds a little like my own family. I come from a LONG line of police officers. Is your grandfather still alive?”
“Unfortunately, no. He passed away a few years ago, which both fortunately and unfortunately, opened up some doors for me.”
“I’m sorry. That must be difficult.”
“Well, this is the way of the world, right? The young generation takes over for the older. So, tell me, Ms. Waverly…”
“Just Waverly is fine,” she cut in.
“So, tell me, Waverly…” There was an extra twinkle in Nicole’s eye as she said her name. “Are you a police officer, too? Following in the family footsteps.”
“Me, no!” Waverly laughed. “No. I’m not a police officer. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a police officer. It’s a very noble profession,” she quickly amended. “But I’m studying languages at college. I want to become an expert in ancient languages and cultures.”
“And what do you do as an expert in ancient languages and cultures?” Nicole asked. She seemed genuinely curious.
Waverly laughed to herself. “Mostly, train others to be the next generation of experts in ancient languages and cultures. It’s entirely an academic career.”
“Ah.” Nicole nodded. “Well, here we are in the dining room. If I’m not mistaken, Wynonna should be up soon. She might be late for many things, but never for a meal.”
Waverly looked around her. She’d almost forgotten she was following Nicole and realized that she had no idea how to get back to her room. She wondered if the place came with a map, or maybe had an app she could use.
“Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you a drink, or some water?” Nicole turned to fully face Waverly.
Waverly wondered if she should admit that Nicole had been too distracting and that she didn’t know how to get back to her room, if needed. She decided that she didn’t want to admit that.
Instead, she looked around the dining room. It appeared to be decorated in a gothic style with two pointed arched windows that held small stained glass windows behind a long wooden table set for WAY more people than just her and Wynonna. The room looked like it was set for a party.
“Should I sit somewhere in particular? It looks like you’re expecting a lot of people for dinner.” Again, Waverly felt a little self-conscious. It would be just like Wynonna to bring her to a fancy dinner party, but not tell her anything about it beforehand. “Am I even dressed appropriately?”
“You look wonderful, if you don’t mind my saying so. And it will just be you and Wynonna for dinner. The master of the house is out on business for the next could days. Finishing details of his wedding. You’ll mostly have the run of the home. For a couple days, at least.”
“What about you? Where do you eat dinner?” Waverly imagined Nicole eating a meal in some dark servants quarters or a corner of the kitchen. “Could you join us for dinner, or is that even appropriate?” Waverly blushed hard, she had no idea how to handle the situation. “I’m not... I’m not used to having anyone waiting on me.”
“What about at a restaurant?” Nicole questioned her.
Good point. Waverly hadn’t thought about that. “True, but this feels different. And you’ve been so nice. I was just thinking that it would be fun to keep talking to you.”
Nicole winked at Waverly. “Since you asked so nicely. I’m sure I can take my meal with you tonight.”
Waverly felt her chest lighten and grow with Nicole’s smile. How was she able to make her feel so safe, so quickly? “I’d like that.”
“Well then, if a guest requests it, how can the house refuse?”
Waverly blushed again. She didn’t want to sound like she was ordering Nicole around. “I don’t want to tell you what to do, Nicole. God, I’m so sorry. I must sound like a selfish idiot. You probably have plans of your own. Or family you need to get back to…”
“Waverly.” Nicole held up her hand to quiet her. “I’d love to join you for dinner, and it’s no problem at all. As long as Wynonna doesn’t have a problem with it.”
“Oh, just leave her to me…”
Just then they both heard a booming voice roll down the hallway and into the dining room. “Leave what to you, baby girl?” Wynonna strode into the room like she owned it. She plopped down sideways into a chair and leaned an elbow on the table. “You ordering people around already? I didn’t think you had it in you. At least not this early,” she quipped and smirked at Nicole.
Nicole turned away from Wynonna and walked out of the room.
Waverly rounded on Wynonna as soon as Nicole was out of earshot. “You know, you COULD treat others a little better. Just because Nicole works here, doesn’t mean you can treat her like shit.”
“Is that what she told you?”
“Well, she hasn’t told me much, just that she’s following in her grandfather’s footsteps, which is incredibly sweet, if you think about it, and here you are treating her like a whipping boy.” Waverly folded her arms tightly across her chest. “I should remind you that you work here, too, just like Nicole.”
Wynonna nodded her head. “True.”
“And just to let you know, I invited her to dinner, so you better treat her kindly.”
Wynonna held up her hands in compliance. “Ok. No worries. Sounds fun. Nicole’s not too bad. I actually like her.”
“Ok then.” Waverly looked appeased. “Is this where we’re sitting?”
“It’s usually where I sit.”
“Do you eat here often?”
“Most days. It’s easier than going into the town. We’re far enough away from any restaurants that eating here makes the most sense. Plus, the food is deelishh.” She dragged out the last word.
Nicole walked back in, pushing a small cart that held several dishes and small bowls. She set out the plates, some in front of Wynonna and the others on either side. She placed a basket with homemade bread and a bowl with olives in a small amount of oil. In front of Wynonna, she set out a dark green bottle of olive oil.
Over dinner, Waverly grilled Nicole on local customs and Wynonna grilled Waverly on what was going on back home. Nicole didn’t grill anyone on anything. She sat back and watched the two sisters.
“Is Gus still harping on Curtis about his tomato plants taking up too much time?” Wynonna popped an olive in her mouth and leaned over her plate to spit out the pit.
“Of course,” Waverly started, watching Wynonna toss another olive in her mouth. She leaned in and launched the pit toward the plate. “Why do you keep doing that?”
“What?” she said around another olive. “What am I supposed to do with the pit?
Nicole snickered and looked up at Waverly. “It’s fine. That’s how we handle the pits here. Have you tried the olives? It’s an old family recipe.”
“Do you have more members of your family working here?” Waverly asked. “Is that how they got your family recipe?”
“Actually, it’s more of a town recipe. It’s a part of how we define ourselves, how we marinate the olives, or which type of olive we grow, how we process them, what we do with them.”
“I didn’t know that. That’s actually quite interesting. A town’s identity being defined by cooking, or flavors. That makes so much sense.”
“I think it’s true no matter where you go. Like your bar-b-que in America. It’s defined by where you live.”
“That’s so true.” Waverly beamed at her.
“Here.” Nicole picked up and held out the bowl of small green olives to Waverly.
Keeping her eyes focused on Nicole, she took one of the small fruits and popped it in her mouth. The warm flavor melted right through her mouth. It wasn’t briny like the olives in America, instead it was herbal, almost floral, and salty with a little bit of garlic. It tasted the way a hug feels.
She carefully bit halfway through and peeled the flesh of the olive back with her tongue. The two halves fell away from the pit easily, which popped to the tip of her tongue.
She felt a little silly doing it with both Wynonna and Nicole watching, but she leaned forward, opened her mouth, and let the pit fall to the small plate with a clink.
“Very good. Now you’ve tasted a part of me,” Nicole said, with a smile.
Waverly choked on the olive flesh still in her mouth and blushed furiously. Wynonna snorted and laughed out loud, hitting Waverly hard on the back.
“I’m sorry, I meant that you’ve tasted my home.” Nicole corrected herself. Waverly tentatively glanced up at her, and she was glad to see that Nicole was blushing, too.
After dinner, Wynonna and Nicole led Waverly on a tour of the house. They took turns telling the stories associated with the various rooms. Wynonna was much more proficient on the gossip, while Nicole enjoyed talking about the history.
“Did you have to study the history of the mansion when you started working here?” Waverly asked Nicole.
“Yes and no. I find that I pick things up the more time I spend here.”
“That makes sense.” She followed closely behind Nicole as she ascended a small flight of stone stairs to a balcony overlooking the interior courtyard. “Wow. I can’t imagine living here,” Waverly said wistfully, her eyes scanning the outdoor patio that was built to be a part of the home.
“There is actually a fun story about this balcony. It is said that whomever you kiss standing here instantly becomes your family.” Nicole chuckled. “So, grandfathers like to kiss their grandchildren on the balcony to ensure that we are family. But it also works for lovers. If you kiss a boyfriend on this balcony, you instantly become family, meaning you are going to get married someday.”
“I don’t know about boyfriends.” Waverly let her comment drift off unexplained.
“Anyway, it’s just a story they say about this balcony. A fun legend.” Nicole looked out as if recalling a memory.
The ambient light of the late day sun filtered into the courtyard and illuminated Nicole’s face. Her red hair glowed, and her brown eyes took on a honeyed tone.
“So where do you live?” She couldn’t look away from Nicole.
Nicole gave her a shy smile. “I have an apartment in a building off to the side of the estate.”
“Of course,” Waverly shook her head. For just a moment, she was imagining a toddler Nicole running her way through the courtyard and into the waiting arms of her grandfather. The reverence with which she talked about the history of the house made Waverly forget that she was a servant there.
Waverly wondered if she would ever feel that type of kinship to her future places of employment. She assumed not.
“Thank you for the tour. I really enjoyed it, but I’m worried that I’m taking up all of your time.” She placed her hand on the back of Nicole’s arm. She could feel the warmth of Nicole’s skin radiating out through the thin linen of her shirt.
Waverly let her hand drift farther up Nicole’s arm, feeling the curve of the muscles under the fabric. Wynonna cleared her throat.
Waverly quickly withdrew her hand.
“Anyhoo. I’m still pretty tired.” She laughed lightly. “I should probably head back to bed.” Waverly cleared her throat, trying to wrestle her imagination back under control.
“Well, if you’re being boring tonight, I’m going to head out and find some trouble for the evening.” Wynonna hugged Waverly. “Be good,” she said as she pulled back from Waverly. “And I’ll see you in the morning.” Wynonna patted Nicole on the shoulder as she walked behind her.
Waverly watched her sister disappear down the corridor, and she realized that she was standing alone with Nicole on the kissing balcony.
Waverly looked down and kicked her feet.
“Do you need anything for tonight?” Nicole asked her.
A kiss doesn’t sound so bad, Waverly thought. Her mind, electrified by the stories of the house, caused a current of attraction to race down her spine. How could she feel so attracted to this stranger? Was she just being swept up in the romance of the setting, the culture of the country? Whatever it was, it was singularly focused on the woman standing next to her, who had spent the evening entertaining and beguiling her.
Waverly didn’t trust herself to talk. What she most wanted to do was to lean in toward Nicole and place a soft kiss to her lips.
“I could bring an ouzo or a Greek coffee to your room, if you’d like. Just a little nightcap before bed?” She gave Waverly a half smile. “And then I’ll leave you alone for the night. I promise.”
Waverly nodded. “Sure. That sounds wonderful.” She stared at Nicole, who was also not breaking her eye contact. Those brown eyes were the sea and Waverly wanted to swim.
Nicole broadened her smile. Then laughed lightly. “Which one would you like, the drink or the coffee?”
“OH.” Waverly’s mind quickly caught up to the conversation. “The coffee sounds good. Thank you.” Her cheeks felt hot again.
“It would be my pleasure.” Nicole let her eyes hold Waverly for another second before turning away and heading back toward the kitchen.
When she was gone, Waverly let out a sigh and muttered, “No Nicole, it would be mine.”
Waverly paced back and forth in her room, waiting for Nicole to show up with her coffee. She had already pulled out her nightgown and set up her toiletries in the bathroom. She was mentally listing out her nighttime routine and making sure she had everything she needed when she heard a soft knock on her door.
She walked over and opened the door. Nicole was waiting on the other side, holding a tray with two very small cups on saucers and wearing a huge smile.
“Hi.” Waverly grinned back, embarrassed by how eager she was to see Nicole again. She stepped back, holding the door open.
“I hope it’s ok, I brought a second cup for myself. I had such a nice time talking to you at dinner and afterward that I wanted a chance to say good night as well.”
“Of course. That’s really sweet of you.”
“But if I’m keeping you up, please let me know and I’ll leave.”
“No, really. It’s no problem. With Wynonna out for the night and I’m here by myself, it’s nice to have the company.” Waverly pulled at her pinky and tried not to watch as Nicole bent over placing the cups on her bedside table.
“I know there aren’t many places to sit. Do you mind if I have a seat on your bed?”
Waverly gestured at the bed with her hand. “Please.”
Nicole sat down and waited for Waverly to join her. Waverly clapped her hands once and muttered, “right,” under her breath, before sitting next to Nicole. This isn’t awkward at all, she thought.
Awkward, and electric.
“I wasn’t sure how you liked your coffee, so I guessed that you would want it sweet. I hope that’s ok?” Nicole looked at her hopefully.
“That sounds great. Thanks.” Waverly turned to pick up one of the saucers. “Does it matter which one?”
“No, they’re both sweet,” Nicole answered.
She grinned back at Nicole over her shoulder before lifting both saucers and handing one over. “Does that make us both sweet ourselves, or attracted to sweet things?” Waverly joked.
“Maybe it means both.” There was a confident twinkle in Nicole’s eyes.
Waverly drank a little too much of the hot coffee in one gulp.
The coffee was very warm and very thick. It coated her tongue like a fuzzy jacket. It was also very sweet.
Secretly, Waverly was glad it was so sweet. It made the drink easier to swallow. Thick Greek coffee was going to take a little getting used to. She was also glad it came in such a tiny cup.
Nicole took a small sip that left a dark brown line across her upper lip. Waverly was tempted to run her tongue across Nicole’s lip to clean it up. Instead, she clenched her thighs together as she watched Nicole’s tongue feel its way across her lip to wipe away the coffee.
Waverly quickly clamped her mouth shut when she realized that it was hanging open. She tried to think of something to say.
“You’ve been so kind to me, today. I feel bad that I’m taking up your time. I hope you don’t think I’m some spoiled American who needs to be catered to.”
“No, that would be Wynonna.”
Waverly laughed out loud and nodded at Nicole’s observation. “Good point.”
“Do you know anything about Greek mythology?”
“Yes.” Waverly sat up a little taller in the bed. “I love reading about the myths.”
“We have a saying in Greece. ‘Treat your guests like gods.’ It comes from the myths about Zeus. He used to disguise himself as a commoner and visit earth. Often, he wanted the company of the most beautiful women,” Nicole smiled down into her lap, then looked back up at Waverly. “But sometimes he just wanted to visit a home and get a good meal. It was said that he’d knock on the door of a stranger’s home and ask to share their dinner with them. If they welcomed him in and shared their food like he was family, he would shower that home with good luck and protection. But if he was turned away because he was a stranger, then he’d hurl a mighty lightning bolt at their home, destroying them.” Nicole took another sip of coffee, licked her lip again, and continued the story.
“So now if a stranger ever knocks on our door, Greeks know to treat them as family. We assume that they are Zeus in disguise and treat them like a god, giving us good luck. So, serving you is not only a privilege, but it’s bringing me good luck as well.”
Waverly was beaming at Nicole. She wanted to hear more. “That’s lovely.” She shook her head slightly. “And I’m glad to be of service to you.” She gestured at Nicole with her chin, careful not to spill the coffee in her hands.
“Alright. I believe I’ve taken up too much of your time.” Nicole stood up from the bed and carried her cup and tray with her. “Have a good night, and I hope you rest well.” She started to walk to the door.
“Nicole,” Waverly called to her. “Thank you. For this.” She raised the cup in her hands up a few inches.
Nicole smiled and winked at her. “My pleasure.” And she let herself out of the door.