“Are you sure you want to do this, boy? Once you’re in, there’s no going back,” an expensively dressed businessman asked the scrawny lad who was trying to look brave in front of him.
“Yes. I am sure. And I will do everything in my power to serve you well. There’s no going back for me. I want this and I will see this through the end.” The young man looked thin but his voice held so much resolve.
“Your name?” the man asked the boy.
“I have no name. I left everything behind before I set foot on this island.”
“Good. Right now, you are our property. You have no past and we are your future.”
“And it is a great honor.”
“Very well, then. You did what was asked?” Instead of looking at him for the answer, the man looked at the guards standing behind the bastard.
“He did as he was told. He has managed to meet up with the buyers and the transactions all went smoothly. By the time the cops were alerted, he was already out of there,” one of the senior syndicate members replied.
The young man reached for the bag containing the money from the transaction that served as his initiation. He handed it carefully and with pride to the man before him who then counted it with a huge grin on his face.
“You did great, boy! This is one of the biggest first takes I have ever counted! Welcome to the cartel.”
The man grinned and pointed to one of his assistants who instantly walked towards the young man with a blazing coin held in a pair of tongs in front of him.
“This would hurt a bit. You can still back out now,” the boss taunted.
“No. I want this. I will proudly wear the mark on my skin.”
“Good. Hold out your arm.” The young man did as he was told and then the red-hot coin was seared into his skin on the upper, innermost part of his arm. The pain brought him to his knees and tears to his eyes but he refused to cry out like the other initiates.
“From now on, you will be known as Sebastian Roman. Embrace your new identity. Embrace your new life. Now, go back to the city. We will call you when your services are needed. For now, enjoy the fruits of your initiation.”
The boss then handed out the young man’s share of the money. He used that money to secure him a ride back to the mainland and then towards the towering building of the Demakis Corporation. He committed to memory every inch of the structure and started envisioning his plans.
His vision was interrupted when he saw Stavros Demakis, CEO of the multi-billion corporation emerge from the building and quickly go inside his car. This was one of the men he hated most and the one he wanted to get his revenge on. Stavros’ life was so different from his. The man was filthy rich and lived in excess while he had nothing. He didn’t even have his family for his mother died because of the Demakis family.
The young man glanced at the burned mark on his skin. This was the start of it all. This was the instrument of his revenge on the people who hurt him most. He knew it would still be a long time, but he would get his hands on what was his due.
The young man felt rage searing his veins, and he tightly clenched his fists. He still couldn’t do anything about it now...but he would...
One day soon...
September 15, 2003 (Later that Day)
Office of the CEO
Andrade Shipping International
“Stavros Demakis is here to request a meeting.”
Costas Andrade of Andrade Shipping International turned his chair around and pressed a button on his intercom.
“Show him in,” he replied to his personal assistant. The corner of his lips turned up in a sneer and his blood sang with triumph and delight.
He had waited for this meeting for a long time now. His arch nemesis would finally come to him grovelling.
Costas personally set out to ruin his competitor's shipping business. He just didn’t expect Stavros would be able to hold out this long but it didn’t matter. Everything he worked for was now in the palm of his hands.
Why did he do this?
Because forty years ago, Stavros Demakis stole Costas' intended bride. Yes, it was an arranged marriage but she was the most beautiful girl and Costas truly wanted her to be his. The girl, however, fell in love with Stavros and eloped with him, thereby crushing all of Costas' plans.
“Come in,” Costas said when he heard a knock on the door.
His personal assistant opened it and nervously ushered Stavros Demakis inside. He felt a flash of annoyance when he saw Stavros. The man he hated most looked the same even after all these years, aside from his grey hair and the lines around his eyes. It seemed as though time had treated him more kindly than it had Costas.
“Please sit,” Costas gestured to the couch in front of his desk.
Stavros folded his tall frame in the seat and glared at the man who ruined his company. He looked like a man who was only here because he had no other choice.
“Now, to what do I owe this pleasure?” Costas asked.
“You damn well know what this is about, Andrade! Every chance you got, you ruined me. Now, the bank and the board are pestering me because I am losing my company! I came here to tell you about it so that you could start gloating. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? Now, tell me: are you happy now? In your own twisted version of justice, does this pay what I did years ago when I took your intended bride?” Stavros snarled.
Never. That debt can never be repaid, Costas thought to himself.
He clenched his fist under the table and fought for control. He sat back in his chair, feigning innocence while he watched the other man with amusement in his eyes.
”I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he lied.
“Bastarde,” Stavros growled. Costas only raised an eyebrow. “All of this is because of Prudence. It all boils down to her. But you know what? I'd give it all up again for her. I regret nothing.” Stavros dismissed Costas’ beautifully decorated office with a wave of his hand.
Stavros’ only sadness was that she died at such a young age.
Costas' eyes flashed with fury at Stavros' words but he quickly tamped it down for he did not want to give Stavros even a bit of satisfaction.
“I repeat, I do not know what you are talking about. However, I am aware of the financial situation of Demakis Shipping. I am willing to offer you a solution,” he said with smug satisfaction. This was the moment he was waiting for.
Stavros looked as if he was going to have a heart attack after Costas' words sunk in.
“And what would this be?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper.
“A merger?!” he repeated incredulously.
“Ne. Combining the strengths of Andrade International and Demakis Shipping. I am willing to settle your debts and get the company back on its feet. But it’s never going to be separated. The two companies will forever be merged as one.”
“And what might this cost me, my soul?!” Stavros snarled incredulously.
“Contrary to popular belief, I am not a devil and this merger would not be signed with your blood. Nor will I have your soul. I have no use for it,” Costas laughed, feigning amusement. But deep inside he was boiling with rage at how his enemy could still ridicule him on a time of need such as this.
“And what must I give up to gain your help and save my company?” Stavros asked.
“My grandson?! What does Nikos have to do with anything?!”
“He will wed my granddaughter, Cassia. Think of this as my safeguard. Their wedding would secure the merger and the ownership of the company would pass on to both of them. Your Nikos is legendary in business and my only heir, my granddaughter Cassia, knows nothing about its intricacies.”
Stavros was drinking the coffee that Costas' PA gave him when Costas said the words. They caused him to choke on it so he set the cup down before the warm liquid sloshed all over him.
“That girl? Why do you need to secure a marriage for her? Are the rumors true that she's not right in the head?”
“Silence! I will not let my granddaughter be insulted like that! Cassia is a smart girl. She was just brought up by her mother in a different country and in a totally different culture. Let’s just say that she’s not yet used to this kind of life.”
Stavros Demakis picked up his cup once more and sipped his coffee while he pondered on the merger. It sounded simple enough but he knew there was truly something behind the offer. Costas Andrade was not known for being a generous man. He tried hard to look for it but he couldn't quite find what Costas would gain from this merger.
“And what are the other details for this merger?” Stavros asked.
“I have some conditions. Andrade and Demakis Shipping will be merged as one. Nikos and Cassia's son will inherit everything. They would not be able to divorce each other unless there is an heir. If they do, the one at fault will lose all the money,” Costas ticked the conditions off his fingers one by one.
“What do you mean by the one at fault?”
“Well for example, let’s just say your grandson takes a mistress and it doesn’t sit well with my granddaughter. If she chooses to divorce him because of adultery, then Nikos loses everything. Same goes if it’s my granddaughter who is at fault. They would have to stay married for them to retain the company in their hands.”
Stavros thought of Costas' words and he tried hard to find something wrong in those sentences. But no matter which angle he looked at it, it sounded like a valid offer especially when everything was placed in black and white. But he still had to be wary, for he knew Costas was a ruthless and devious man.
“Why are you doing this?” Stavros asked.
“Let’s just say that I am feeling very charitable today. And I think your Nikos and my Cassia would definitely make a good match,” Costas lied through his teeth. He knew that Nikos Demakis was a man not suited for married life. If the divorce occurred, the entire Demakis Corporation would fall into Costas’ hands. Not only that, the added humiliation and the thought that the company fell because of Stavros’ own grandson would surely kill the old man.
“Put all of your conditions in writing.”
Costas grinned. “You will receive the papers within a week. And then I'll expect your reply within three days after you have received them. The negotiations will start the moment you sign those papers and then the merger itself will commence right after the wedding.”
“Nothing is set in stone yet. Yet you sound so sure of yourself, Andrade,” Stavros bit out.
“I always get what I want.” Costas answered with a huge grin.