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Bryony Easton shut her Gucci briefcase aggressively and eyed the man across the gleaming boardroom table. Yes, he was handsome enough to make a nun hyperventilate. But no way could his blatant sex appeal deflect Bryony Easton from her purpose. This company belonged to her, and she refused to allow the City’s darling Alastair Ross Fleming even the slightest chance of winning his hostile takeover of HBT.
‘Thank you for laying your cards on my table, Mr Fleming.’ Her ice-blue eyes lanced. ‘The Board will discuss your offer.’ Dismissal.
Levelling his own blue eyes on her, Fleming smiled thinly. ‘Don’t keep me waiting too long.’
Anger flushed her cheeks. Yet disconcertingly his look also sent a pleasurable shiver through her. His eyes lowered under her penetrating gaze. She was startled to realise that she actually desired him.
Leaving the tall HBT building, Fleming believed Bryony was one of those power-women who liked to dominate men, especially those in commercial conflict. His own appetites were as keen and he reckoned she would be an interesting challenge.
At least she was attractive and young, unlike some business conquests. Financial pundits often pondered the mystery of how she’d climbed so high to become so powerful at a young age. Maybe he would find out.
Gazing out the penthouse office window at the Thames, Bryony listened to Saunders on the phone: ‘Report’s half-done, Miss Easton.’
She bit back the instinctive retort that half isn’t good enough by half. Truth was, she wasn’t in a good mood even though the board had thrown out Fleming’s proposal. Bryony astutely calculated that two members were wavering and would cave-in if the bidding was to hot up. God, what a cowardly shower those men were! Of course she only had herself to blame – she’d promoted them, after all. But that was ages ago – now they’d changed and wanted a quiet comfortable life. Well, they were in for a shock. HBT was not going to fall prey to any asset-stripper. And, besides, she liked the power. An insidious knot twisted in her stomach. Surely Fleming didn’t know the truth? Perhaps he was after the power too...
‘Fine,’ she replied. ‘Well done, Mr Saunders. Send me what you’ve got now. And get the rest to me soon.’
Fleming was forty-two, married with two sons and adored by the City. He advocated quality time for families. And he was a liar.
Bryony read the first instalment of the report from Saunders in her bubble bath.
Saunders was a good private detective: he’d unearthed considerable dirt. Fleming played around – which labelled him a liar, a cheat and a hypocrite. Traits found in abundance in the business world. But these days powerful shareholders may take strong exception to a director’s dishonesty and dubious morals and effectively dump him. However, if he’d been a politician, they’d probably vote for him as Prime Minister.
Bryony smiled, sponging scented lather over her faultless skin. This knowledge could seriously damage Fleming and his bid for HBT. She liked that.
Facing him across the restaurant meal, Bryony thought Fleming had controlled the conversation with accomplished ease – a man after her own heart. She smiled at the phrase, only too aware of the frisson his nearness gave her.
He looked younger tonight. Stress and deceit obviously agreed with him.
She smiled, her full red lips lingering over the strawberry. ‘Would you like to come back to my penthouse?’ She bit into the fruit and juice dribbled. She licked her lip but some drooled onto her chin.
He leaned over and wiped her mouth with his napkin. ‘Yes, I’d like to come.’
It was rather blatant innuendo, but she let it pass. She would enjoy seducing him then revealing her knowledge about his other infidelities.
Sunlight beamed into her bedroom, disclosing Calvin Klein entwined with Janet Raeger on the thick fitted carpet.
Bryony awoke and stretched languorously, letting the silk sheet fall away from her naked body.
Careful not to disturb Fleming’s sleeping form, she sat up in the king-size bed. He was lying face down. Despite herself, she smiled. It had been one hell of a night. He was a superb lover. But she’d proven more than equal to his needs, and that fact alone vindicated her: she must keep HBT for herself, at all costs. His was the sleep of the exhausted, she thought with satisfaction. Power in the boardroom, power in the bedroom; she had both, and it pleased her.
Bryony quietly opened the bedside drawer and withdrew a slim blue folder.
Saunders had excelled himself. The report’s second half was waiting for her when she returned home with Fleming last night. Opening the file now she felt an exquisite thrill: it seemed daring to read about the man as he lay there.
But, after a few moments of reading, her blood ran cold. Stunned, she read on, shaking her head in disbelief. For the briefest of moments she reached out and stroked his head. And tears welled.
On the morning after, Fleming spread marmalade on toast and gave her a puzzled look. ‘Why should I back down?’
Bryony dropped the two Saunders Detective Agency files onto the breakfast table. She sipped her coffee then sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy. But he had a right to know. ‘I was fourteen and gave birth to an illegitimate son,’ she said. ‘He was adopted. Our family left town and I changed my name. The past was forgotten and when I had enough power I saw to it that no records of my pre-Bryony Easton past survived.’
He bit into a finger of marmalade-covered toast. ‘Why’re you telling me this?’
‘Because that was in 1964...’
‘That’s hard to believe, Bryony.’ He laughed. ‘I’d say you’re no more than thirty – and that was forty-five years ago – as it happens, I was born then...’ His smile froze and he stared.
‘Actually, I’m fifty-nine. Hold Back Time isn’t just a lucrative anti-ageing cream business to add to your portfolio. Though not for public consumption, one of HBT’s products actually arrests ageing. The discrete rich pay well for the secret and the privilege. I discovered the cream and make use of it.’ She forced a smile, despite the situation. ‘And I’m living proof that it works.’
‘Oh, my God...’ he said, his toast forgotten. ‘Last night, we – we–’
She nodded. ‘I know... How do you think I feel?’
He stared in disbelief at his mother.
Previously published in Beat to a Pulp webzine, 2010.
Copyright Nik Morton, 2014
More exotic tales can be found in my book Spanish Eye,
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