SANTORINI.GREECE , 1990
COMPLETELY MOTIONLESS, MEGEARA SAATSAKIS STOOD ON the edge of a cliff looking out on waters so perfectly blue they were almost painful to behold. The air was fragrant with sea salt, olive oil from the merchant carts, and bright sunlight in a homey scent that was completely unique to this region. The hot sun caressed her tanned skin while the fierce breeze whipped her plain white dress against her body. Boats glided over the gentle waves in a surreal manner that took her back to the days of her childhood when she'd walked these cliffs and shore with her father and mother while they'd done their best to instill in her what it meant to be Greek.
It was truly one of the most beautiful scenes in all the world, and any other twenty-four-year-old would love to be here.
She only wished she were one of them.
Instead she hated this place with an unreasoning fervor. To her,Greece was death and sorrow, utter misery, and she would rather have fishhooks pounded into her body than ever step foot on this land again.
Her long blond hair that she had swept back in a ponytail slapped against her skin as she sought some peace for her troubled thoughts. But there was none to be had.
Only bottled-up rage met her.
Her estranged father was dead. He'd died as he'd lived... in pursuit of a stupid, reckless dream that had taken not only his life but also that of her mother, her brother, her aunt, and her uncle.
" Atlantis is real, Geary. I can feel it radiating out to me even as I speak. It sits in theAegeanjust below us, like a lost, glittering gem, waiting for us to find it and show the world what beauty it once held." Even now she could hear her father's hypnotic voice as he held her hand on top of the water for her to feel the softness of the waves as they whispered against her tiny palm. She could still see his handsome, enthusiastic face as he first told her why they spent so much time inGreece .
"We're going to find Atlantis and show the wonder of it to everyone else. Mark my words, babe.
It's there and our family is the one that's been chosen to uncover its magic."
That had been his lunatic dream. One he'd spent a lifetime trying to give to her, but unlike the rest of her kookie family, she wasn't stupid enough to buy into it.
Atlantis was a bogus myth made up by Plato as a metaphor for what happened when man turned against the gods. Like Lovecraft's Necronomicon, it was only a fictional invention that people wanted to believe in so badly they were willing to sacrifice everything to find it.
Now her father lay in his grave on the island he'd loved so much. He'd died broken and bitter, a shell of a man who'd buried his beloved brother, his son, his wife...
And for what? Everyone had laughed at him. Ridiculed him. He'd lost his job, along with his respectability, as a professor years ago, and the only way he'd been able to have his research published was in vanity presses.
Hell, even the vanity publishers had laughed at him and several had turned him down, refusing to even take his money to publish his ridiculous work. Still he'd carried on in his feverish desire to give people even more reason to laugh at him, which they'd done with relish.
But even with that, at least she'd seen him one more time before he passed and he hadn't died alone as he'd feared. Somehow, against the doctor's prognosis, her father had managed to hold on until she caught a plane from theU.S. and made it to his hospital room to see him. Though their meeting was brief, it had been enough to make peace with him so that he could die without guilt over abandoning her for his search.
If only she could have found a bit of that peace for herself. There still was no such forgiveness inside her where he was concerned. No matter how much her grandfather had tried to explain her father to her, she knew the truth. The only thing that man had ever loved had been his dream, and he had sacrificed his entire family... her entire family for it.
Now at twenty-four, because of him, she had no brother and no parents.
She was utterly alone in the world.
And her deathbed promise to her father to carry on his work burned inside her like a rampaging fire. It was one of the few times in her life that she'd been weak. But the sight of him as a frail, troubled man lying on a cold hospital bed while he desperately clung to life had torn her apart, and even though they'd barely spoken these last eight years, she hadn't had the heart to hurt him when all he wanted was to die
She curled her lip as she watched the waves roll against the white shore. "Find Atlantis, my ass. I won't ruin myself like you did, Dad. I'm not that stupid."
She turned at the sound of a heavily accented Greek voice to find a short, rotund man in his mid-fifties staring at her. A cousin to her father, Cosmo Tsiaris had been their family attorney here inGreece . A pseudo-partner in her father's salvage company, Cosmo had been instrumental in helping her father gain permits and investors for his antediluvian quest.
Although she'd known Cosmo all her life, she cringed at his greeting. Kafieri had been her father's name-one she'd cast off years ago after her applications to college had been rejected even though she more than met the requirements for admission. No self-respecting classics, history, or anthropology department would ever accept a Kafieri into its ranks for fear of the taint. So she'd learned to use her mother's maiden name to save her credibility and reputation.
Like the rest of her immediate family, Geary Kafieri had died on these shores.
"I'm Dr. Megeara Saatsakis."
A bright smile curved his lips. "You married!"
"No," she said simply, which made him literally deflate before her eyes. "I legally changed my name from Kafieri eight years ago when I went back to the States and sued for emancipation from my father."
She could tell by Cosmo's face that he didn't understand her reasoning, and that was fine by her. With his patriarchal mind-set, he'd never comprehend it.
Frowning, he didn't comment on her words as he held a small box toward her. "I told Eneas that in the event of his death, I would make sure this was given to his daughter. That would still be you, yes?"
"Yes," she said, ignoring his sarcasm. Who else would be dumb enough to claim a laughingstock as her progenitor?
Megeara flinched at that thought. In all honesty, she loved her father. Even when his grief and quest had robbed him of everything, even his sanity and health, she'd still loved him. How could she not? He'd been a kind, caring father to her when she'd been a girl. It'd only been after she'd hit her teens and started questioning his research and fervor that they'd grown apart.