Page 48 of Bloodline

The white light flashed, signaling a call on Rhys's private line. Fewer than half a dozen people had the number. He picked up the telephone. "Hello."

"Good morning, darling." There was no mistaking the husky, distinctive voice.

"You shouldn't be calling me."

She laughed. "You never used to worry about things like that. Don't tell me that Elizabeth has tamed you already."

"What do you want?" Rhys asked.

"I want to see you this afternoon."

"That's impossible."

"Don't make me cross, Rhys. Shall I come to Zurich or - ?"

"No. I can't see you here." He hesitated. I'll come there."

"That's better. Our usual place, cheri."

And Helene Roffe-Martel hung up.

Rhys replaced the receiver slowly and sat thinking. As far as he was concerned, he had had a brief physical affair with an exciting woman, and it had been finished for some time. But Helene was not a woman who let go easily. She was bored with Charles, and she wanted Rhys. "You and I would make a perfeet team," she had said, and Helene Roffe-Martel could be very determined. And very dangerous. Rhys decided the trip to Paris was necessary. He had to make her understand once and for all that there could be nothing further between them.

A few moments later he walked into Elizabeth's office, and her eyes brightened. She put her arms around him and whispered, "I've been thinking about you. Let's go home and play hooky this afternoon."

He grinned. "You're becoming a sex maniac."

She held him closer. "I know. Isn't it lovely?"

"I'm afraid I have to fly to Paris this afternoon, Liz."

She tried to conceal her disappointment. "Shall I come with you?"

"No point. It's just a minor business problem. I'll be back tonight. We'll have a late supper."

When Rhys walked into the familiar small hotel on the Left Bank, Helene was already there, seated in the dining room, waiting for him. Rhys had never known her to be late. She was organized and efficient, extraordinarily beautiful, intelligent, a wonderful lover; and yet something was missing. Helene was a woman without compassion. There was a ruthlessness about her, a killer's instinct. Rhys had seen others hurt by it. He had no intention of becoming one of her victims. He sat down at the table.

She said, "You're looking well, darling. Marriage agrees with you. Is Elizabeth taking good care of you in bed?"

He smiled to take the sting out of his words. "That's none of your business."

Helene leaned forward and took one of his hands, "Ah, but it is, chert. It is our business."

She began stroking his hand, and he thought of her in bed. A tiger, wild, skilled and insatiable. He withdrew his hand.

Helene's eyes chilled. She said, "Tell me, Rhys. How does it feel to be president of Roffe and Sons?"

He had almost forgotten how ambitious she was, how greedy. He remembered the long conversations they had once had. She was obsessed by the idea of taking control of the company. You and I, Rhys. If Sam were out of the way, we could run it.

Even in the midst of their lovemaking: It's my company, darling. Samuel Roffe's blood is in me. It's mine. I want it. Fuck me, Rhys.

Power was Helene's aphrodisiac. And danger. "What did you want to see me about?" Rhys asked.

"I think it's time you and I made some plans."

"I don't know what you're talking about,"

She said maliciously, "I know you too well, darling. You're as ambitious as I am. Why did you serve as Sam's shadow all those years when you had dozens of offers to run other companies? Because you knew that one day you would be running Roffe and Sons."

"I stayed because I liked Sam."

She grinned. "Of course, cheri. And now you've married his charming little daughter." She took a thin black cigar from her purse and lit it with a platinum lighter. "Charles tells me that Elizabeth has arranged to keep control of the stock and that she refuses to sell."

"That's right, Helene."

"It's occurred to you, of course, that if she had an accident, you would inherit her estate."

Rhys stared at her for a long time.