Mistress Arrangements

By: Helen Bianchin


He was furiously angry; the whiplash of his words tore at her defences, ripping them to shreds. ‘Damn you,’ he swore softly. ‘Damn you to hell.’

He looked capable of anything, and she took an involuntary step backwards from the sheer forcefield of his rage. ‘Right at this moment, it would give me the utmost pleasure to wring your slender neck.’ He appeared to rein in his temper with visible effort. ‘What surgical procedure?’ he demanded grimly. ‘What’s wrong with her?’

With a voice that shook slightly she relayed the details, watching with detached fascination as he scrawled a series of letters and numbers with firm, swift strokes on to a notepad.

‘Your address and telephone number.’ The underlying threat of anger was almost a palpable force. She could sense it, almost feel its intensity, and she felt impossibly afraid.

It took considerable effort to maintain an aura of calm, but she managed it. ‘Your assurance that Ann-Marie’s medical expenses will be met is all that’s necessary.’

His eyes caught hers and held them captive, and she shivered at the ruthlessness apparent in their depths. ‘You can’t believe I’ll hand over a cheque and let you walk out of here?’ he said with deadly softness, and a cold hand suddenly clutched at her heart and squeezed hard.

‘I’ll make every attempt to pay you back,’ Carly ventured stiffly, and saw his eyes harden.

‘I intend that you shall.’ His voice was velvet-encased steel, and caused the blood in her veins to chill.

A knock at the door provided an unexpected intrusion, and Carly cast him a startled glance as his secretary entered the room and placed a laden tray down on to the coffee-table. It said much for the secretary’s demeanour that she gave no visible indication of having seen the deposed picture frame or the glass that lay scattered on the carpet.

Carly watched the woman’s movements as she poured aromatic coffee from a steaming pot into two cups and removed clear plastic film from a plate of delectable sandwiches.

‘Contact Bryan Thorpe, Renate,’ Stefano instructed smoothly. ‘Extend my apologies and reschedule our meeting for Monday.’

Renate didn’t blink. ‘Yes, of course.’ She straightened from her task, her smile practised and polite as she turned and left the room.

Carly eyed the sandwiches with longing, aware that the last meal she’d eaten was breakfast. The coffee was tempting, and she lifted the cup to her lips with both hands, took a savouring sip, then shakily replaced it down on to the saucer.

The need to escape this room was almost as imperative as her desire to escape the man who occupied it, for despite her resolve his presence had an alarming effect on her equilibrium, stirring alive an entire gamut of emotions, the foremost of which was fear. The feeling was so intense that all her senses seemed elevated, heightened to a degree where she felt her entire body was a finely tuned instrument awaiting the maestro’s touch. Which was crazy—insane.

‘There’s no need to cancel your appointment,’ she told him with more courage than she felt, and she collected her bag and slid the strap over one shoulder in a silent indication of her intention to leave.

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ Stefano said in a deadly soft voice, and she looked at him carefully, aware of the aura of strength, the indomitable power apparent, and experienced a stirring of alarm.

‘Home.’

‘I intend to see her.’

The words threw her off balance, and she went suddenly still. ‘No,’ she denied, stricken by the image of father and daughter meeting for the first time, the effect it would have on Ann-Marie. ‘I don’t want the disruption your presence will have on her life,’ she offered shakily.

‘Or yours,’ he declared with uncanny perception. His eyes were hard, his expression inexorable. ‘Yet you must have known that once I was aware of the facts there could be no way I’d allow you to escape unscathed?’

A shiver shook her slim frame; she was all too aware that she was dealing with a man whose power was both extensive and far-reaching. Only a fool would underestimate him, and right now he looked as if he’d like to shake her until she begged for mercy.

‘There is nothing you can do to prevent me from walking out of here,’ she said stiltedly.

‘I want my daughter, Carly,’ he declared in a voice that was implacable, emotionless, and totally without pity. ‘Either we effect a reconciliation and resume our marriage, or I’ll seek legal custody through court action. The decision is yours.’

A well of anger rose to the surface at his temerity. ‘You have no right,’ Carly retaliated fiercely. ‘No—’

‘You have until tomorrow to make up your mind.’ He stroked a series of digits on to paper, tore it from its block, and handed it to her. ‘You can reach me on this number.’

‘Blackmail is a criminal offence!’

‘I have stated my intention and given you a choice,’ he said hardly, and her eyes glittered with rage.

‘I refuse to consider a mockery of a marriage, with a husband who divides his time between a wife and a mistress!’

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