The truth could destroy them, or bind them together forever...

To honor a dying wish, billionaire real estate developer, Rapheus Giannopoulos, travels to the Caribbean Island of Akilina to scatter his grandparents’ ashes and deliver a letter to a young woman he doesn’t know. The moment they meet, Raph is enamored by her beauty and envisions her as the perfect playmate during his week-long stay. However, his plan to seduce her loses priority when he discovers his family’s centuries-old link to the island and a shocking secret that would challenge everything he thought he knew about the Giannopoulos bloodline.

Hotelier, Xiomara Davenport, is in hot water. To save the resort that has been in her family for generations, she accepted help from someone she thought she could trust. But when the loan is unexpectedly called in, Xio fears she will lose everything if she rejects her creditor’s terms. As she weighs her options, a young man, to whom she’s instantly and inexplicably drawn, walks into her office, and hands her a letter from a godfather she barely remembers, pressing her to make a decision that could change the trajectory of her life forever.

As they work to honor the old man’s wishes, Rapheus, the infamous playboy with no plans to settle down, and twice-jilted Xiomara, who has placed her heart on ice, try hard to resist the relentless desires blazing between them. But a yearning as deep as theirs cannot be ignored, and eventually they find themselves helplessly yielding to the passion and seduction of Akilina's magical nights.

Will their newfound love survive once the truth about their families’ connection finally comes to light?

Seduced by Passion


Raph gazed down at the one-hundred-and-eight-year-old patriarch of the Giannopoulos family, sleeping in the middle of the bed. His wraithlike body was propped up by pillows on each side and his skin was so pallid, he was almost indistinguishable from the white linen sheet on which he lay.

His name was Andris Sebastian Giannopoulos, and he was Raph’s beloved pappoús.

Raph eased his body down into the chair at the side of the bed and, reaching out, he methodically brushed the wrinkled brow of his grandfather, just as Andris used to brush his when he was a little boy in need of comfort. And God knows, he and his brothers had needed a whole lot of tender loving care back then.

If felt like a lifetime, but it was only a week ago that Raph had received the delightful news that his grandfather, who’d lost his ability to speak and mobility on the right side of his body after suffering a stroke, had miraculously regained his speech and partial use of his arm. Raph had spared no cost in hiring the best doctors and therapists money could buy. And after two years of small incremental improvements, he’d finally made a huge breakthrough.

Even though they’d seen him two weeks prior to the call, Raph and his brothers had been so excited about his recuperation, they had immediately hopped a company jet to be by his side. For the past few days, Andris had been very talkative as he visited with his grandsons and his four-year-old great-granddaughter, Petra. Everyone thought he was surely on his way back to a full recovery, but early this morning, the doctor informed them that his internal organs had begun to shut down. She’d told them to be prepared because he might not make it through the night. He’d lost some of the motion he’d regained, but his ability to speak had remained strong and steady. It seemed he had fought his way out of his prison of silence and immobility, just to bid his family farewell.

Raph’s brothers, his niece, and the descendants of Andris’ sister, Illaria, had said their final goodbyes this afternoon. Raph’s mother, Jordan, was expected to fly in from New York this evening. She would have traveled with her sons last week, but she was in the middle of conducting a Sommelier conference and couldn’t get away. When Raph called her this morning, she’d immediately dropped everything and hooped on the private jet he had waiting for her at JFK. He hoped she made it in time to say her goodbyes.

After expressing his love for his family, Andris had ordered everyone to leave, except his favorite grandson with whom he wanted to spend his last moments on earth. That was an hour ago, and the old man, who was likely worn out from the flurry of relatives coming and going all day, had been napping since then.

Even though they’d traveled back and forth between the US and Santorini for family visits over the years, Raph wished he’d spent more quality time with his pappoús—getting to know him better, learning about his life’s experiences, learn about his family background. But he’d been too busy turning G3 into the giant it was, and had instead postponed his grandfather’s numerous requests to sit and chat for a while. He always thought he had time. It was only after Andris’ stoke that Raph realized the importance of family over business. By then it was too late. He’d been so stupid and misguided—focused on the wrong things in life.

Raph stilled as his grandfather’s hand stirred against his thigh, and his eyes fluttered opened.

“Raph… Raph…” he whispered, looking around the room until his gazed zeroed in on Raph’s face.

“I’m here, Pappoús.” Raph resumed caressing his brow.

“The clock. You’ll take it with you.”

“Yes, Pappoús, I will take the clock with me.” Raph grimaced at the thought that he would soon be the unenthusiastic owner of that monstrosity, but a promise was a promise. He was surprised that of all things, the clock was the first the old man spoke about upon awakening. It were as if he’d been dreaming about it.

Raph took a swift glance at the clock, ticking away in a corner of the bedroom where it had been since Raph was twelve years old. That year, Andris had requested that Raph spend time in Santorini with him instead of immediately heading to Brant Lake Camp in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Their mother had recently remarried, and in a last ditch effort to spend alone time with her new husband, she had sent her boys away to summer camp for seven long weeks.

In an attempt to escape their summer fate, Tele and Neo had begged Pappoús to take them, too. But he had insisted that Raph come alone, with a promise to take each of them for one week every summer from then on—a promise he’d kept until his teenage grandsons got too busy with girls and friends, and began spending less and less time with the old man.

That summer, Raph had had an exciting time traveling all over the mainland, Europe, and parts of east Africa with his pappoús. It had been nice not to have to split his attention with his siblings for three whole weeks. Then two days before he was due to head back to the US, and camp, his pappoús had brought him into this room and introduced him to the clock he had kept hidden away in a locked room for years.

Raph remembered recoiling in fear and anxiety at the sight of the monstrous chunk of black wood with an eagle standing guard on top of it. He remembered the firm grip of his grandfather’s hands on his shoulders, and the urgency in his voice while he made him promise to take the clock to California if anything should happen to him.

That night, Raph had had the strangest dream, or more precisely, a terrifying nightmare of being pushed…

“It’s my fault, to mikró mou gio.”

Raph’s hand stilled on his forehead. He gazed into the fading brown eyes. “You’re fault for what, Pappoús?”

His grandfather swallowed and took a few shallow breaths. “Everything. Cleon. GiannPort. Your patéras and giagiá. They died because of me.”

Raph stared at him, baffled. Why was his grandfather blaming himself for something that happened over two decades ago? Had he suddenly become delirious in his last moments on earth? Or had he asked to be alone with Raph so he could make a deathbed confession? Was it the reason he’d fought his way back from two years of silence and paralysis? Alarm quickened his pulse at each speculation.

Pulling a tissue from a box on the nightstand, he wiped the tears that slid from the corners of the old man’s eyes. “Pappoús, Giagiá and Baba died in an accident. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. As for GiannPort… you gave it to Cleon after they died because—”

Óchi. Óchi.“ Andris shook his head in frustration. “He knew something. He took it.”

“You mean by force?“ Anger churned in Raph’s stomach at the thought that Cleon, his distant and estranged cousin, had blackmailed his grandfather into abdicating his position as CEO of GiannPort Vineyard & Wineries that he’d been managing for forty-plus-years, only to watch it sold off vineyard-by-vineyard, until it ceased to exist. All that remained was one dilapidated ampelona in Aetos, the launching pad for the Giannopoulos wine-producing empire that was once the most successful in all of Europe.

“If your father had lived, he would run GiannPort. Pass it to you, Neo, and Tele.”

Raph could not argue with the fact that his father, Xander, who’d loved the wine making business, would have taken over GiannPort years ago. Raph’s mother, who was one of the few female sommelier in the world, would have helped him run it.

But as fate would have it, Xander and his mother perished in a car crash in Athens when Raph and his brothers were only six-years old. If things were different, yes, he would have been coached and prepped to take over GVW, but he doubted he would have liked it since he was very happy with G3, the multi-billionaire-dollar real estate development empire that he and his siblings had build. However…

“If Cleon had anything to do with my father and grandmother’s deaths, I will make him pay, Pappoús. I swear on—”

“Óchi! Leave it alone. Doesn’t matter now. Waste of time. Yposchésou mou!”

“Okay.” Raph frowned. Why would his pappoús say that his cousin had taken the company away from him by force in one breath and then in the next say that it didn’t matter anymore? Of course it mattered. What was he afraid of? What was he hiding? “I promise, Pappoús,” he said to ease the old man’s mind, even as he knew in his heart that he could not just forget it.

His grandfather expelled a deep breath and relaxed into the mattress again as Raph continued to soothe his brow with long gentle strokes of his thumb.

“You are head of the family now, Raph. Take care of your brothers and your mother and little Petra. Find the right woman, and fall in love.”

“You know me, Pappoús, I wouldn’t know the right woman if she punched me in the nose.” Raph chuckled to lighten the grim aura in the room, and to keep himself from telling the old man the truth.

“You’ll know her when you feel her in your heart.”

“You mean when I see her?” Raph asked with a dubious frown.

“Óchi. You don’t see love. You feel love. Experience love,” he whispered on a smile. “She might not be the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, but you will know she’s right when you feel her in your heart, when you dream of her, mikró mou gio. You must find her, marry her, and carry on the Giannopoulos bloodline,” he said, before closing his eyes and lapsing into silence.

Raph was only older than Neo by five minutes and Tele by seven, yet his brothers had always looked up to him, and had allowed him to lead the pack even when they were children. Since he was the oldest direct male descendant, once his grandfather made his earthly exit, Raph would become the de facto patriarch of the Giannopoulos family.

As for carrying on the family line, Tele had already extended his little branch, and he was sure that at some point Neo would plant a few seeds, too. As for him, marriage and procreation were not in his life’s plan for so many reasons. He’d seen too many of his friends and acquaintances who thought they’d found the perfect mate end up in divorce court fighting over vacation homes, pensions, family pets, and offspring. It was never pretty, then there was the…

Neró,” Andris whispered in a voice, much weaker than it was a few minutes ago.

Raph grabbed the glass of water from the nightstand and helped him take a few sips through the straw. When he motioned that he’d had enough, Raph replaced the glass then held his waning gaze. “I love you, Pappoús,“ he said in a choked voice, needing him to hear it one last time. “I wish we’d spent more time together, getting to know each other better. All those times you asked me to sit and talk and smoke with you, walk with you…”

“You did, sometime.”

“Yes, but not often enough, and not for long enough.” He was always in a hurry to get back to business—the other reason he knew he was not cut out for married life. He liked his freedom, and didn’t fancy the idea of giving up control of any area of his life to another person. The closest he’d come to marriage was living together with a woman he cared about, and that had quickly turned to an unpleasant experience for both of them. “I should have done more, Pappoús.”

His grandfather mustered up enough energy to smile at him. “I know your heart, mikró agóri.” He squeezed Raph’s hand. “You were always my favorite.”

Raph grinned. He knew his grandfather often told Neo and Tele that they were his favorite, too, but he also knew that the old man held a tad more fondness in his heart for him, simply because he was the oldest. He tightened his fingers around his grandfather’s. “I know, Pappoús. I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“I want you to do some… something for me.” Andris said.

“Anything for you, Pappoús. Anything.” He fought to suppress the grief mounting in his belly by the second.

Andris’ brow knitted, and he beckoned Raph closer. “Take us to Aki—Aki—li—na, Rapheus. Dance with us one last time under the full moon at Aetós Caye, and then release us to the wind.”

Raph did a double take. “What? Where?”

“Will you take us?”

“Yes. I will take you and Giagiá to Akilina.”

“No one else is to know. Only you must go. Promise?”

“Yes, Pappoús. I won’t say a word. But where is Akilina?” he asked at the unexpected and strange request. He told himself that his grandfather could not be talking about the island in the South Caribbean.

Shortly after the inception of G3, his marketing director had presented him with a list of Caribbean islands for possible investment. Akilina had been at the top of that list. It was small and fairly unknown to the outside world. But its thriving economy and incredibly impressive infrastructure had sparked his interest, until he learned that the eastern side of the island was inhabited by the Megiri, an indigenous Amerindian tribe who still practiced their pre-Columbian way of life, while enjoying some modern-day amenities.

Even though G3’s expansion across the globe was Raph’s top priority, he could not, in good conscious, disrupt that country’s socioeconomic system, which was exactly what happened  when big companies invaded small countries in the name of progress and development, and more often than not, ended up pillaging the natural resources, exploiting the citizens and excluding them from gentrified communities.

He’d also learned that the process for any type of major development on the island was long and complicated. Furthermore, only natural-born citizens or persons who could trace an ancestor who was born on the island could own or buy land, and they did not sell citizenships, like many of the surrounding islands did.

Totally intrigued, Raph had deepened his research and found that Akilina, initially called Ynoa by the Megiri, was the only Caribbean island that was never colonized by Europeans. Today, Akilina was the most developed and economically prosperous island in the region, quantum leaps ahead of its sister islands, many of which were still struggling from the insatiable greed and paternalism of imperialists who left nothing but destruction, pain, and death in their wake.

Armed with that knowledge, Raph had made a pledge that G3 would never become a company that exploited struggling countries and communities. The local people must always benefit from any and all of G3’s projects, or they would walk away. His moral decisions had paid off, because now, G3 was one of the most sought-after land development companies in the world.

Then about ten years ago, Akilina popped back onto his horizon when Pete Greene, an American tourist, slithered away from a guided group tour through a mountainside jungle and stumbled upon a sacred Megiri burial site where he found chunks of gold and gemstones wrapped in a piece of wool cloth next to human remains inside inside a cave. The idiot tried to smuggle the bundle out of Ynoa and off the island. He was charged a hefty fine for trespassing and theft and, banned from Akilina for life, but not before he’d taken and posted photos of his booty, alerting the outside world of the gold, a variety of natural minerals, and precious gems buried deep in the heart of the three-thousand-plus-footer, Mt. Cayacáo. 

The gemstone, ayocin, that ranged in colors from pale yellow to a deep orange or burnt red—depending on the amount of light that bathed it—was named after the eight-year-old Megiri girl who’d found the first chunk while playing on the banks of the Caonabo River, centuries ago.
Since it was no longer a secret, Dacique Behechio’s, Head Chief of the Megiri Council, had admitted that they were aware of the gold and other resources all along, and that according to their oral history, it was the main reason their ancestors had fought so hard to keep the invaders away. Raph didn’t need to imagine what would have happened to the Megiri if Columbus and his cut-throat gangs and all the colonists who followed in their carnage had captured the island. The world knew what the outcome would have been. Like Larimar to the Dominican Republic, Akilina was the only place on planet earth where ayocin could be found.

Mining companies had flocked the island vying for excavation opportunities, but they’d all been turned away. The Megiri were not a people who cared about materialistic possessions. They were very happy and satisfied with their lives, and saw no reason to disturb Guabancex, the violent, Wild Mother of storms, volcanoes, and earthquakes, whose fury destroys everything, Dacique Behechio had said. However, about three years ago, they started their own mining company and began mining ayocin in a small part of the mountain. They controlled how much they mined and how much they allowed the outside world to purchase. Smart people.

As for Pete Greene, he mysteriously dropped dead in the driveway of his Floridian home exactly twelve days after he found the bundle. The doctors could find no cause of death, but the word around Akilina was that Guabancex had marked him for death the moment he decided to rob the graveside of an ancient shaman.

Was that the Akilina where his grandfather was asking him to scatter his ashes? If so, why had he never mentioned the island before? “Where is Akilina, Pappoús?” Raph repeated the question, his heart pounding with anticipation.

Andris’ eyes darted around the room with a burning faraway look, and then he muttered, “I… island. Carib… bean. My birthplace.”

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