Page 29 of Bloodline

Paris.

Monday, November 5.

Six p.m.

The instant Charles Martel arrived home he knew he was in trouble. Helene was waiting for him, and with her was Pierre Richaud, the jeweler who had made the replicas of her stolen jewelry. Charles stood in the doorway, in shock.

"Come in, Charles," Helene said. There was an undercurrent in her voice that terrified him. "I believe that you and M. Richaud know each other."

Charles stared, knowing that whatever he said would hang him. The jeweler was studying the floor in embarassment, obviously ill at ease.

"Sit down, Charles." It was a command. Charles sat down.

Helene said, "What you're facing, mon cher mari, is a criminal charge of grand theft. You have been stealing my jewelry and replacing the pieces with clumsy imitation paste, made by M. Richaud."

To his horror Charles found himself wetting his pants, a thing he had not done since he was a small boy. He blushed. He wished desperately that he could leave the room for a moment to clean himself. No, he wanted to flee and never return.

Helene knew everything. It did not matter how she had found him out. There would be no escape and no mercy It was terrifying enough that Helene had discovered he had been stealing from her. Wait until she learned his motive! Wait until she found out that he had been planning to use the money to run away from her! Hell was going to have a new meaning. No one knew Helene as Charles did. She was une sauvage, capable of anything. She would destroy him, without a moment's thought, turn him into a clochard, one of those sad bums who sleep on the streets of Paris in rags. His life had suddenly turned into an emmerdement, a shower of shit.

"Did you really think you could get away with anything so stupid!" Helene was asking.

Charles remained miserably silent. He could feel his pants getting wetter, but he did not dare look down.

"I have persuaded M. Richaud to give me all the facts."

Persuaded. Charles dreaded to think how.

"I have photostatic copies of the receipts for the money you stole from me. I can put you in prison for the next twenty years." She paused, and added, "If I choose to."

Her words only served to increase Charles's panic. Experience had taught him that a generous Helene was a dangerous Helene. Charles was afraid to meet her glance. He wondered what it was she would demand from him. Something monstrous.

Helene turned to Pierre Richaud. "You will say nothing of this to anyone until I have made up my mind what I wish to do."

"Of course, Mme. Roffe-Martel, of course, of course." The man was babbling. He looked hopefully toward the door. "May I - ?"

Helene nodded, and Pierre Richaud scurried out.

Helene watched him go, then swung around to study her husband. She could smell his fear. And something else. Urine. She smiled. Charles had pissed himself out of fear. She had taught him well. Helene was pleased with Charles. It was a very satisfying marriage. She had broken Charles, then made him her creature. The innovations he had brought to Roffe and Sons were brilliant, for they had all come from Helene. She ruled a small part of Roffe and Sons through her husband, but now it was not enough. She was a Roffe. She was wealthy in her own right; her earlier marriages had made her even wealthier. But it was not money she was interested in. It was the control of the company. She had planned to use her stock to acquire more stock, to buy up the interest of the others. She had already discussed it with them. They were willing to go along with her, to form a minority group. First, Sam had stood in the way of her plan, and now Elizabeth. But Helene had no intention of allowing Elizabeth or anyone else to keep her from getting what she wanted. Charles was going to get it for her. If anything went wrong, he would be her scapegoat.

Now, of course, he must be punished for his petite revolte. She watched his face and said, "No one steals from me, Charles. No one. You're finished. Unless I decide to save you."

He sat there, silent, wishing her dead, terrified of her. She walked over to where he sat, her thighs brushing against his face.

She said, "Would you like me to save you, Charles?"

"Yes," he said hoarsely. She was stepping out of her skirt, her eyes vicious, and he thought, Oh, my God! Not now!

"Then listen to me. Roffe and Sons is my company. I want the controlling interest."

He looked up at her miserably and said, "You know Elizabeth won't sell."

Helene slipped out of her blouse and pants. She stood there, animal naked, her body lean and magnificent, her nipples hard. "Then you must do something about her. Or spend the next twenty years of your life in prison. Don't worry. I'll tell you what you will do. But first, come here, Charles."

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