His Mistress for a MillionBy: Trish Morey
REVENGE was sweet.
Andreas Xenides eyed the shabby building that proclaimed itself a hotel, its faded sign swinging violently in the bitter wind that carved its way down the canyon of the narrow London street.
How long had it taken to track down the man he knew to be inside? How many years? He shook his head, oblivious to the cold that had passers-by clutching at their collars or burrowing hands deeper into pockets. It didn’t matter how long. Not now that he had found him.
The cell phone in his pocket beeped and he growled in irritation. His lawyer had agreed to call him if there was a problem with his plan proceeding. But one look at the caller ID and Andreas had the phone slipped back in his pocket in a moment. Nothing on Santorini was more important than what was happening here in London today, didn’t Petra know that?
The wind grew teeth before he was halfway across the street, another burst of sleet sending pedestrians scampering for cover to escape the gusty onslaught, the street a running watercolour of black and grey.
He mounted the hotel’s worn steps and tested the handle. Locked as he’d expected, a buzzer and rudimentary camera mounted at the side to admit only those with keys or reservations, but he was in luck. A couple wearing matching tracksuits and money belts emerged, so disgusted with the weather that they barely looked his way. He was past them and following the handmade sign to the downstairs reception before they’d struggled into their waterproof jackets and slammed the door behind them.
Floorboards squeaked under the shoddy carpet and he had to duck his head as the stairs twisted back on themselves under the low ceiling. There was a radio crackling away somewhere in the distance and his nose twitched at a smell of decay no amount of bleach had been able to mask.
This place was barely habitable. Even if the capricious London weather was beyond his control, he had no doubt the clientele would be much happier in the alternative accommodation he’d arranged for them.
A glazed door stood ajar at the end of a short hallway, another crudely handwritten note taped to the window declaring it the office, and for a moment he was so focused on the door and the culmination of a long-held dream that he barely noticed the bedraggled shape stooping down to pick up a vacuum cleaner, an overflowing rubbish bag in the other hand. A cleaner, he realised as she straightened. For a moment he thought she was about to say something, before she pressed her lips together and flattened herself against a door to let him pass. There were dark shadows under her reddened eyes, her fringe was plastered to her face and her uniform was filthy. He flicked his eyes away again as he passed, his nose twitching at the combined scent of ammonia and stale beer. So that was the hired help. Hardly surprising in a dump like this.
Vaguely he registered the sound of her retreat behind him, her hurried steps, the thud of the machine banging against something and a muffled cry. But he didn’t turn. He was on the cusp of fulfilling the promise he’d made to his father on his deathbed.
It wasn’t a moment to rush.
It was a moment to savour.
And so he hesitated. Drank in the moment. Wishing his father could be here. Knowing he would be watching from wherever he was now.
Knowing it was time.
He jabbed at the door with two fingers and watched it swing open, letting the squeak of the hinges announce his arrival.
Then he stepped inside.
The man behind the dimly lit desk hadn’t looked up. He was too busy scribbling notes on what looked like the turf guide with one hand, holding the phone to his ear with the other, and it was all Andreas could do to bite back on the urge to cross the room and yank the man bodily from his chair. But much as he desired to tear the man to pieces as he deserved, Andreas had a much more twenty-first-century way of getting justice.
‘Take a seat,’ the man growled, removing the phone from his ear long enough to gesture to a small sofa, still busy writing down his notes. ‘I’ll be just a moment.’
One more moment when it had taken so many years to track him down? Of course he could wait. But he’d bet money he didn’t have to.
‘Kala ime orthios,’ Andreas replied through his teeth, I’m fine standing, ‘if it’s all the same to you.’
The man’s head jerked up, the blood draining from his face leaving his red-lined eyes the only patch of colour. He uttered a single word, more like a croak, before the receiver clattered back down onto the cradle, and all the while his gaze didn’t leave his visitor, even as he edged his chair back from the desk. But there was nowhere to go in the cramped office and his chair rolled into the wall with a jolt. He stiffened his back and jerked his chin up as if he hadn’t just been trying to escape, but he didn’t attempt to stand. Andreas wondered if it was because his knees were shaking too much.
‘What are you doing here?’
Andreas sauntered across the room, until he was looming over both the desk and the man cowering behind it, lazily picking up a letter opener in his long-fingered hands and testing its length through his fingers while all the time Darius watched nervously. ‘It’s been a long time, Darius. Or would you rather I called you Demetrius, or maybe even Dominic? I really can’t keep up. You seem to go through names like other people go through toilet paper.’