Island of Dreams

an excerpt

Chapter One

The small plane began its descent into Athens airport and Kaden repeatedly swallowed to keep his ears from blocking. The trip to the Greek Islands was his holiday of a lifetime, a bucket list destination that he was eagerly anticipating. However, there was a small tinge of sadness.

It had been his hope that Darren would have been taking the holiday with him, but their relationship had broken up a few months before. Having been with Darren for a few years, Kaden felt almost naked not having his partner at his side. Just something I have to get used to. We wanted different things from life. Good luck to him.

Kaden was looking to settle down, buy a lifestyle property, and enjoy life. When Darren announced he'd spotted an opportunity to work in Australia for two years and gone for it, Kaden had felt like the bottom had fallen out of his world.

It was then they realized that, without noticing, they'd drifted steadily apart. Darren liked outdoor activities, and often went away for weekends without Kaden. In his turn, Kaden hadn't minded, preferring to take the opportunity to try new restaurants, or create dishes at home.

The disparaging way Darren had referred to them as having turned into an old married couple had really hurt Kaden. Yes, he was a homebody. He wasn't chasing promotion, didn't thrive on cut and thrust, and didn't feel that stress helped him perform better. He liked his job well enough, it paid the bills and allowed him to do things he really enjoyed. But that was no longer enough for Darren.

A couple of weeks and several long talks later, Darren had interviewed for and been offered the job, and Kaden had decided he didn't want to uproot himself to live and work in Australia. The split was amicable but painful. At least for Kaden.

Well, everyone says the holiday will make a new man of me. Let's see if I'm ready to start a new life once I get back home.

When Kaden collected his cases, and got to the pick-up zone, he wasn't surprised to find that he was going to be the only Kiwi going to Spetses. In fact, very few of any of the passengers from his plane joined him. Despite the size of the airplane he'd travelled on, those continuing onto Spetses could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Even if Kaden included himself.

Needless to say, they were both couples; a younger couple hauling large backpacks who looked as if they were probably touring Europe, and an older couple whose luggage looked state of the art. Kaden doubted he'd see much of either couple once they reached the island.

The guide holding up the placard for Spetses was a tall, tanned, leggy fake-blonde with a hyper personality. Her wide smile seemed locked into place, making Kaden's jaw ache in sympathy.

Given that he'd just spent over twenty-four hours travelling, it was the early hours of the morning in Greece, and they still had a ferry trip to make, Kaden was exhausted and wished she'd tone things down. But he guessed it was just all part of the job for her.

"Hello, I'm Sammi. Let me just check off who's here. I think you're the last going on to Spetses."

There were only another half a dozen people there which didn't surprise Kaden as he had expected Spetses to be a quiet island. He didn't mind. He felt rather past the need for going out to a club to drink and dance until four in the morning.

Going to the Greek Islands was a tick off Kaden's bucket list, and a couple of weeks with nothing more demanding than deciding whether or not to lie on the beach or do some sight-seeing seemed perfect.

Kaden confirmed his name to Sammi and showed her his passport and she nodded without losing her perma-smile.

"That's everyone. Right then. I'll get you on board the mini bus which will take you to the port at Piraeus. I'm afraid that the ferry doesn't leave until six o'clock. So it'll be a couple of hours wait, but you'll be allowed on board, so you can relax. Now, just a word of warning for those who don't already know. Toilet paper isn't to be flushed. It goes in the bin. Right, let's go."

Despite Kaden having already read about the practice online, he still winced at the thought. One piece of advice had been not to look inside. Ah, well, when in Rome, or more accurately, when in Greece... In a group, Kaden and the other travelers followed Sammi outside and along the road to a small minibus.

Even in the dim light, it was obvious the vehicle was ancient. Kaden allowed himself to be herded on board along with the others.

"Right, that's everyone. Let's go." Sammi patted the driver on the shoulder and took the nearest seat to him.

But the bus didn't move. Kaden didn't speak Greek other than the few phrases he'd learned. But even he worked out the driver was saying the bus wouldn't go. There was a little nervous laughter from behind Kaden. He just sighed and made himself as comfortable as possible.

Either the bus would go, or they'd have to get on another. With over a day of travelling behind him, Kaden refused to allow anything to mar his first few hours in Greece.

After several minutes of fast-fire exchange between Sammi and the driver, the driver got off the bus and shuffled over to a group of Greek men. Kaden watched, wondering what was happening. There was a small amount of talk, the driver jerked his thumb in the general direction of the bus, and yet more talk.

To Kaden's surprise, half a dozen of the men walked back to the bus with the driver who clambered aboard. This time when the driver started the engine, the men bounced and pushed the bus. From his vantage point, Kaden could see two of the men.

Dressed in shirts with the sleeves rolled up, Kaden could see their forearms, the skin a leathery, mahogany brown from years of outdoor living. Their hair was thick and dark, but he couldn't see their faces as they braced themselves against the side of the bus.

The men didn't seem at all concerned at manhandling the bus. A cheer rose up as the vehicle spluttered into life, and the driver stuck a meaty arm out of his window, giving a thumbs up gesture. The men waved before ambling back into the shadows as the bus rattled and shook its way from the airport. Kaden smiled to himself as he settled back in his seat. Welcome to Greece.

****

The ride to the port didn't take long, but by now Kaden was grateful he'd decided to keep packing to a minimum. Those with several cases had grumbled vocally about having to carry them to the bus. But other than a well-stuffed backpack, he'd brought just one case which had been easy for him to take to the bus.

When Kaden got his first look at the ferry, he stopped and stared. There hadn't been any images of the ferry when he'd looked in the travel brochure, and now he knew why. The ship before him was a commercial ferry of colossal proportions. An articulated truck could be driven on board and look like a toy.

"What do we do once on the ferry?" A disembodied voice called out, but Kaden didn't see who'd spoken.

"Oh, well, there'll be nothing open until we sail at six this morning." Sammi turned in a circle, beaming at everyone. "So just make yourselves comfortable on board. You're all going to different islands so to listen very carefully. I'll be sure to wander around to speak to everyone and give you the heads up when to disembark. Except for those going to Spetses. I'll be getting off at Hydra, but Spetses is the last island, so don't worry."

"Is there a tour operator on the island?" An elderly woman spoke up. "We don't speak Greek if there's a problem."

"Oh, that's no problem." Sammi shook her head and her blond ponytail swung back and forth. "Jed looks after Spetses. He'll be waiting to greet you when you get there. Now, if you just leave your cases at the far end over there, they'll be safe. You might as well find a nice, comfortable place to sleep for a while."

Kaden checked his watch. There were still four hours before the ship was likely to set sail. He was even more thankful he'd taken just one month's annual leave. The holiday was a special deal, three weeks for the price of two, taken toward the end of the summer season for Europe.

However, Kaden would lose almost two days either side for travel, and so end up with a little over two week's actual holiday there. Kaden was determined not to waste a minute. But even he couldn't do much on board a colossal ferry at two in the morning when it was still dark. But the sun will be rising by six, so there could be some good photo opportunities.

He put his case in the pile that Sammi indicated, Kaden ambled off on his own to find a good place to settle for a few hours' sleep.

****

Kaden jerked awake, wondering what had disturbed him, then sat up with a wide smile. The ferry was moving, and the sun was rising, turning the sea shades of red, coral, and orange. Taking time to stretch slowly, Kaden fished out his camera from his backpack.

The ferry was slow-moving out of the port and didn't pick up any more speed to speak of as it headed out into the open sea. Kaden didn't care. The adventure had begun the moment he stepped onto the plane at Auckland, and now he was in Greece.

"Hi, everything all right?" Sammi greeted Kaden with her perma-smile and Kaden nodded.

"Just fine. As a matter of interest, just when does the ferry get into Spetses?"

"Oh, five or six hours. Here, on the company." Sammi held out s small plaited loaf of bread, topped with sesame seeds.

"Oh, um, thanks." Kaden took the bread and Sammi gave him a wave.

"Enjoy the trip."

"Yeah, sure." Kaden stared after her, then down at the bread. Five or six hours. Kaden sighed and took a bite of the bread.