Part Eleven

Alexandra stepped hesitantly into the enormous room that was used as a breakfast room for the Prince and his immediate family. The size of a small ballroom, it housed a twenty-foot long table made of pure carved teak. She had originally wondered about the excessive length; it seemed like overkill. But after three days in Stavros' presence Alexandra realized that ‘excess' and the Cassadines went hand in hand.

She breathed a sigh of relief as she noted that the table was unoccupied. Alexandra knew that she would have to become acquainted with her new family sooner or later, but she still did not feel quite prepared.

“Good morning, Princess,” a smooth, cultured voice said.

Alexandra's head whipped toward the sound. Her new brother-in-law Stefan stood near the wall where tables of chafing dishes sat awaiting the family's arrival. “Good morning,” she replied.

Fervently Alexandra hoped that the tremor in her voice was not as obvious to him as it seemed to her. She had resolved before leaving her suite that she would not reveal any vulnerability before her new husband's family.

A nervous wedding guest had whispered a warning to her before disappearing into the throng. ‘Protect yourself,' he'd said. ‘The Cassadines eat their own young for breakfast.' She had thought it an exaggeration of the family's eccentricities. Until time alone with Stavros.

Stefan abandoned his perusal of the breakfast dishes and moved to stand behind a chair just to the right of the table's head. “May I?” He pulled the chair from beneath the table.

“I thought that I would join you .” Alexandra gestured toward the breakfast spread.

A wry smile turned up one corner of Stefan's mouth. “Serve yourself?” he mused. “I am afraid my brother would never understand it if I allowed the Princess Cassadine to do such a thing. No,” Stefan smiled, “for the sake of family peace, please come and sit.”

Alexandra accepted the proffered chair. Her new brother seemed charming and genuine. And unless he hid it well, she did not sense the cruel streak that Stavros possessed.

Gently Stefan pushed Alexandra's chair closer to the table. His observant green eyes had not missed the slow careful manner in which Stavros' new bride lowered herself onto the chair. It made him just that much more determined to get to know the young woman seated before him, and to find out what terrible weight held her bound to his older brother.