‘They said she was sick—’

‘Sick?’

‘I don’t know, Tino. I couldn’t find out any more. I don’t think it’s serious, headache perhaps, women’s problems— who the hell knows?’

‘Find out for me, will you? And get back to me right away.’

‘I’ll do the best I can.’

Tino’s voice hardened. ‘That’s not good enough, Andreas.’

‘OK, leave it with me.’

‘And, Andreas…’

‘Yes?’

‘Start making overtures to Clifton Steel, will you?’

‘Clifton? But I thought you wanted Bond—’

Tino’s voice was uncompromising. ‘Just do as I ask, Andreas.’

‘Yes, boss.’

He couldn’t afford to feel like this about anyone, let alone Lisa Bond. Have her occupy his thoughts to the exclusion of everything else? Was he mad? After what had happened between them, professionally, he’d bury her. He would buy out Clifton and Bond. That would solve the problem—permanently. By the time he had finished with her she would never want to hear his name again.

Cutting the connection, Tino eased back in the leather armchair he used when he wasn’t flying the jet himself. His eyes narrowed as he thought over the events of the past forty-eight hours. He had never met anyone like Lisa Bond. She had blind-sided him, slipped beneath his control. She had led him on, and then pulled back at the last moment.

But she was a woman in her late twenties, and grown women didn’t behave that way. The signals they gave off were always clear. Why were Lisa’s signals so misleading? Her behaviour puzzled him, and he didn’t like puzzles. She was acting like a kid, a virgin, even, rather than the ball- breaking bitch everyone said she was.

And why was he still thinking about her at all? Had Lisa Bond turned his shrew-capping tactic on its head, and squirrelled her way into his limited bank of caring instincts? He had always imagined those instincts had been beaten out of him in his youth, but she had made him look at her as more than a business adversary.

He couldn’t afford to go soft. With a gust of exasperation, Tino released his seat belt before the jet touched down. He was impatient to breathe the fresh clean air of Stellamaris. When Lisa Bond came back into his life he would be ready for her. And she would come back, they all did. She wanted the same thing everyone else did—his money. It always came down to that in the end.


* * *

‘What do you mean, he didn’t turn up?’ Lisa demanded, rolling over onto her stomach in bed so that she could rest her chin on her hand.

‘Just that,’ Mike, her PA, assured her. ‘Everyone else was here, of course—just you two were missing.’

‘Don’t bracket me with that man. I have no idea where Constantine Zagorakis is, but, I can assure you, he’s not here with me. Make certain everyone else knows that too, will you, Mike?’

‘So, what’s up? You never take time off.’

That was true. Like her father, only a stretcher carting her off to hospital could get in the way of her work. Mike knew that as well as she did. But her one-to-one with Tino had left Lisa more shaken than she had expected.

‘Lisa, what’s happened?’

She refocused. ‘Don’t worry, Mike. I have a sore throat, that’s all.’

‘A sore throat?’ He sounded unconvinced. ‘I’m sorry.’

Lisa had known Mike since they were at school together. She hated lying to him. He had already brought her up to speed with what she’d missed at the meeting, and yet she felt he was holding something back. ‘So, what’s the gossip on the street?’

‘It’s more than gossip. But there’s good news as well as bad.’

‘Just give me the bad.’ She steeled herself.

‘I got a call.’

All the humour had just leached from Mike’s voice, Lisa realised. ‘Go on,’ she pressed grimly.

‘From my pal at Clifton.’

‘Clifton Steel?’ Mike’s silence confirmed it. ‘And?’

‘Zagorakis Inc have asked for an initial meeting with Clifton. Apparently they’re considering—’

‘Their small engineering plant?’ Lisa’s stomach clenched with dread as she cut across him.

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