Billionaire Without a PastBy: Carol Marinelli
NIKOLAI ERISTOV HAD dealt with his difficult past.
Or rather he had been quite sure that he had.
Yet this morning, after his preferred strong tea had been poured by his butler, Nikolai did not reach for the cup as he usually would—he could not be sure that his hand would not shake, and he had long ago decided to never let another person glimpse his weakness.
It was how he had come to survive.
With breakfast served, his butler went to leave the sumptuous master suite on the bridge deck of the superyacht but Nikolai called him back.
‘I need you to take care of something for me this morning.’
‘I need a new a suit.’
‘Savile Row and Jermyn Street are—’
‘No,’ Nikolai interrupted. The butler had misunderstood his request. Nikolai did not want one of London’s finest tailors to be brought to the yacht, neither did he want to go and visit them. ‘I want you to go to a department store and purchase a suit for me. You have my measurements.’
‘I do, but—’
Nikolai gave a brief, impatient shake of his head. He did not need to explain his thinking to his butler so instead he stated his requirements. ‘I want you to purchase a charcoal suit and I also need a shirt and tie that would be suitable to wear to a church wedding. Oh, and I shall need shoes too.’
‘You want me to buy you clothes off the peg?’ his butler carefully checked, and well he might—Nikolai was tall and broad shouldered and dressed exquisitely. His outfits came from top designers—all of whom wanted him wearing their name, just for the chance that his dark, brooding good looks would be photographed in one of their creations. Why on earth would he send his butler to a department store when his dressing room was lined with the best of the best?
‘Yes,’ Nikolai said, ‘and I need you to go soon. The wedding is at two.’
Nikolai then told him the price range that he had in mind for his outfit and he saw his usually impassive butler blink—after all, the champagne that had been in the empty bottle he had removed from the bedside that morning had cost only a little less than had been allocated for today. That said, Nikolai spent thousands on champagne. Still, for him, it was a modest budget indeed.
‘I wasn’t aware that it was that time again and so soon!’ The butler made a small joke and, given it was late spring, Nikolai conceded a small smile.
For a couple of months each year his life of luxury living aboard a superyacht ceased and Nikolai worked on the huge icebreakers in the Atlantic. He had recently returned. There he wore thick layers and an ushanka. The rest of the time he wore his wealth well. He was rich, successful in many endeavours and, Nikolai had been sure, the ghosts of yesteryear had long since been laid to rest. No one could have guessed his dirt-poor origins or the shame and fear that had used to wake him at night in a drench of cold sweat.
‘Am I to purchase a wedding gift?’ The butler asked.
Only when his somewhat bemused butler had left to carry out his instructions did Nikolai pick up the cup from the saucer. He had been right to wait for his butler to leave for, yes, his hand shook slightly as he pondered how best to face this difficult day in what had once been a difficult life.
It was a good life now.
He had fought hard for it to be just that.
Nikolai had battled against the odds and had refused to become another statistic. Instead of allowing his abuser to break him, he had fought not just to survive but to thrive. Instead of turning to drink or drugs to dim the pain of the past, he had faced it.
Dealt with it.
Of course he had, Nikolai told himself.
Now he owned a fleet of superyachts and his presence was regularly requested at A-list events—a party on his yacht was the place to be.
He had it all, thanks to Yuri, who had been both his mentor and his saviour.
How Nikolai would kill for one more conversation with that man. How badly he needed his advice today.
The only person who knew the truth about his past had been Yuri.
‘Beris druzhno ne budet gruzno,’ he had told Nikolai. It was an old Russian saying—if you share the burden it won’t feel so heavy.
Nikolai had only told the truth so that Yuri would not alert the authorities who would have sent him back to destky dom, the orphanage from where he had run. But, as it had turned out, Yuri had been right—with the burden shared he had felt lighter.