His Mistress for a Million

By: Trish Morey

The older man licked his lips, his eyes darting from side to side, and this close Andreas was almost shocked to see how much his father’s one-time friend and partner had aged. Little more than fifty years old, and yet Darius’s hair had thinned and greyed and his once wiry physique seemed to have caved in on itself, the lines on his face sucked deeper with it. The tatty cardigan he wore draped low on his bony shoulders did nothing to wipe off the years.

So time hadn’t treated him well? Tough. Sympathy soon departed as Darius turned his eyes back to him and Andreas saw that familiar feral gleam, the yellow glow that spoke of the festering soul within. And he might be afraid now, taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of his former partner’s son, but Andreas knew that any minute he could come out snarling. Not that it would do him any good.

‘How did you find me?’

‘That’s one thing I always liked about you, Darius. You never did waste your time on small talk. No “how are you?” No “have a nice day”.’

‘I get the impression you didn’t come here for small talk.’

‘Touché,’ Andreas conceded as he circled the room, absently taking inventory, enjoying the exchange much more than he’d expected. ‘I have to admit, you weren’t easy to find. You were good at covering your tracks in South America. Very good. The last we heard of you was in Mexico before the trail went cold.’ Andreas looked up at the high basement window where the sleet was leaving trails of slush down the grimy glass before he turned back. ‘And to think you could still be back there enjoying the sunshine. Nobody expected you’d be fool enough to show your face in Europe again.’

A glimmer of resentment flared in Darius’ eyes, and his lip curled into a snarl. The hungry dog was out of its kennel. ‘Maybe I got sick of beans.’

‘The way I hear it, you ran out of money. Lost most of it on bad business deals and flashy women.’ Andreas leaned over and picked up the form guide sitting on the desk. ‘Gambled away the rest. All that money, Darius. All those millions. And this—’ he waved his hand around him ‘—is what you’re reduced to.’

Darius glowered, his eyes making no apology in their assessment of his visitor’s cashmere coat and hand stitched shoes, a tinge of green now colouring his features. ‘Looks like you’ve done all right for yourself though.’

No thanks to you!

Andreas’ hands clenched and unclenched at his sides while he tried to remember his commitment not to tear the man apart. A deep breath later and he could once again manage a civil tone. ‘You’ve got a problem with that?’

‘Is that why you came here, then? To gloat?’ He sneered, swinging a hand around the shabby office. ‘To see me reduced to this? Okay, you’ve seen me. Happy now? Isn’t that what they say—success is the best revenge?’

‘Ah, now that’s where they’re wrong.’ This time Andreas didn’t restrain himself, but allowed the smile he’d been headed for ever since he’d set foot in this rat trap. ‘Success is nowhere near the best revenge.’

The old man’s eyes narrowed warily as he leaned forward in his chair, the fear back once more. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

Andreas pulled the folded sheaf of papers from inside his coat pocket. ‘This,’ he said, unfolding them so that the other man could see what he was holding. ‘This is the best revenge.’

And Andreas watched the blood drain from the other man’s face as he recognised the finance papers he’d signed barely a week ago.

‘Did you even read the small print, Darius? Didn’t you wonder why someone would offer you money on this dump you call a hotel on such easy terms?’

The older man swallowed, his eyes once more afraid.

‘Did you not suspect there would be a catch?’

Darius looked sick, his skin grey.

Andreas smiled again. ‘I’m the catch. That finance company is one of mine. I lent you that money, Darius, and I’m calling in the debt. Now.’

‘You can’t…You can’t do that. I don’t have that kind of money lying around.’

He flung the pages in Darius’ direction. ‘I can do it, all right. See for yourself. But if you can’t pay me back today, you’re in default on the loan. And you know what that means.’

‘No! You know there’s no way…’ But still Darius scrabbled through the pages, his eyes scanning the document for an out, squinting hard when they came across the clause that proved Andreas right, widening as he looked up with the knowledge that he’d been beaten. ‘You can’t do this to me. It’s no better than theft.’

‘You’d know all about theft, Darius, but whatever you call it this hotel is now mine. And it’s closing. Today.’

The shocked look on Darius’ face was his reward. The man looked as if he’d been sucker punched.

Oh, yes, Andreas thought, revenge was sweet, especially when it had been such a long time coming.

Chapter Two

R OCK bottom.

Cleo Taylor was so there.

Her head ached, her bruised shin stung where the vacuum cleaner had banged into it, and three weeks into this job she was exhausted, both mentally and physically. And at barely five o’clock in the afternoon, all she wanted to do was sleep.