When international scholarship recipient Brooke Townsend arrived in Greece, the last person she expected to see was her old high school flame, Panos Kratos. During his time as a foreign exchange student in Dallas, he and Brooke shared a brief interlude which left her broken-hearted and forever fascinated by the ancient world he came from.
Although she vowed never to speak of Panos again, now that she’s face to face with the sexy Greek, can Brooke forget the past and trust him with her most prized possessions―her virginity and, more important, her heart?
Brooke Townsend couldn’t believe her luck. She’d left her home in Dallas, Texas, less than twenty-four hours ago and now she stood in the center of the Parthenon, gazing through the Doric columns at the dusty grounds of the Acropolis and into the city of Athens, Greece. Years of preparation, papers, and exams all culminated in this moment she thought might never happen―her life’s dream about to come true at long last.
Formally dressed staff milled through the crowd serving a wide array of appetizers and drinks to the guests. Parched and jetlagged, Brooke stepped forward to retrieve a champagne flute from a tray and accidentally brushed against a young man with jet black hair and tanned skin dressed in a blue linen suit. She only saw his profile, but from what she could tell, he was a stunner. “Excuse me.”
Obviously in a hurry, he mumbled something under his breath and kept walking.
“Welcome.” A well-dressed man with a pencil thin moustache and thinning black hair stood in the center of the ancient stage. “Today the people of Greece are pleased to welcome scholars from around the globe to one of the most magnificent archeological wonders of the ancient world, the Acropolis.”
Brooke applauded, and a swell of immense gratitude and awe filled her heart as she surveyed the Parthenon and other remnants of antiquity scattered on the arid cliffs. The overwhelming sight caused her to feel a constricting tension in her center, and she squeezed her lips together and held her breath to fight back tears of pure joy. The only thing that would make the moment better would be having her brother Tim by her side. His cerebral palsy made it impossible for him to travel with her this summer and if not for the help of family friends, she would not be able to be here.
The announcer continued, “And now please help me welcome our distinguished benefactor, Mr. Baltsaros Kratos.”
The audience erupted in applause as a handsome older gentleman approached center stage wearing a dark blue blazer over a starched white shirt. A gold ascot was wrapped tight around his neck, while thick white hair and bushy black eyebrows framed his handsome yet weathered complexion. “We are honored to host such prestigious scholars from around the world to enjoy our beautiful country. Welcome to Athens."
Brooke tried listening to the speech, but her attention strayed to the gorgeous specimen standing by his side. The man in the blue linen suit she’d spotted a moment ago stood next to the older gentleman. Young and virile, with thick dark curls and olive skin, he reminded her of someone she hadn't thought about in years. A slight chill swept over her despite the balmy breeze warming her skin.
"In addition to the notable prize each of you won, I am pleased to announce a special grant will be awarded to one lucky recipient at a reception we are hosting this evening. My grandson, Panos,” he gestured to the young man by his side, “will oversee this project, which we will unveil later this evening. Thank you, and we look forward to seeing everyone tonight. ”
Panos? Surely not. It couldn't be. Brooke discreetly pulled her glasses out of her purse, put them on, and brought her vision into focus. She studied the near-perfect face of the man who’d caught her eye and her elbow earlier. To her stunned amazement, the very last person she ever expected to see again in her life stood to the right of the older gentleman. She knew that smile, the chiseled features and bronzed skin anywhere. He had matured since they’d last seen each other, of course, but his beauty remained unmistakable. The thick black curls atop his gorgeous head and the rounded lips that curled up at the ends in a permanent smile hadn’t changed a bit. How was this possible, to come half way around the world and run into someone it took her years to forget?
One by one, the announcer called the names of each Parthenon Prize recipient. The procession descended the stony steps and crossed the theater stage below. There were people from as far away as China and Japan, India, and different parts of Europe. Most were far older and already firmly established in their careers, unlike Brooke, who would soon graduate with her master’s degree.
One by one they strolled across the stage and shook hands with their host, Mr. Kratos, and him. She tried to tell herself this couldn’t be the same Panos Kratos, but then again, how many people could possibly have that name or those stellar looks? Dear God she didn’t want to have to see him and make eye contact with him, let alone shake his hand. She wasn’t sure she was strong enough to withstand the shock of emotion touching him was sure to evoke.
Then again, he probably wouldn’t remember her anyway. High school had been long ago. She hadn’t seen Panos since her teens, and after high school, she’d moved on to the university and two years of grad school. She was fooling herself if she thought he would remember her. She knew for a fact he hadn’t ever felt the same way about her as she had once felt about him so she would need to play this cool, continue to be thankful to be here, count her blessings, and try and get through this moment and move on.
That seemed easier said than done though. She slipped her glasses back in her purse and waited anxiously as each scholar’s name was called. Watching the congregation shrink, the thought of facing Panos threatened to pop her swift-beating heart right out of her chest. She considered avoiding eye contact with him. Maybe that could help.
“Brooke Townsend from Dallas, Texas,” the man announced.