Despite all the bravado she had demonstrated before Nikolas, Gia began to feel a sense of apprehension deep in the pit of her taut, toned stomach. Maybe it was the unshakable sensation that she had been shadowed by an unseen person all the way from the cottage she shared with Nikolas to the docks housing the Cassadine launch. Or perhaps it was the sight of the somber and disapproving expressions gracing the faces of the Cassadine guards manning the launch. Or just maybe, Gia acknowledged silently, it was the grudging admission that without Nikolas protectively at her side, she felt vulnerable and afraid.
The launch bumped to a stop drawing Gia from her thoughts. Apprehension became nausea at the imposing sight of Nikolas' father Stavros standing rigidly on the lower steps leading to Wyndemere. There was nothing welcoming in the Prince's stance or his expression.
“Miss Campbell.” Stavros nodded curtly and turned away to lead them up the steps. Gia felt the sting of his impersonal greeting. Automatically, she stiffened her spine in defiance. If Nikolas' father thought that treating her with disrespect would be enough to make her abandon his son, then he was in for a rude awakening.
In silence Gia followed Prince Stavros to the conservatory. She had been there once or twice with Nikolas. It was a beautiful place, full of light and surrounded by a breathtaking view. Time and familiarity had dulled Nikolas to the room's appeal.
“Sit.” Nikolas' father took a seat. It was no coincidence, Gia thought, that the Prince chose a chair that allowed the soft morning sunlight to fall around him like a golden shroud.
“If you force Nikolas to choose between me and his old life,” Gia blurted out, “then you will lose! And Nikolas will hate you more than he does now!”
Stavros was unfazed by the outburst. “That,” he pointed out dryly, “is why you are unsuitable for my son. You truly believe Nikolas has a choice…or that his feelings are of any consequence to me.”
The prince leaned back in his chair and allowed his gaze to leisurely sweep Gia from head to toe. The young woman felt suddenly naked before him. “Do not worry, Miss Campbell. I will not erase you from my son's life at this time. He has found some… pleasure in your talents.” A cruel smile curved Stavros' lips. “Quite loudly and enthusiastically, if I am to believe the reports of my investigators.”
Gia's mouth gaped open. Her disbelief amused Stavros momentarily. “We are through here, Miss Campbell.” He stood and headed for the door. “Enjoy your place as Nikolas' mistress,” Stavros paused in the doorway to add. “I will ensure that you are nothing more.”