Merger By Matrimony

By: Cathy Williams

‘Why don’t I just sell to this Callum man? Wouldn’t that be the easiest thing to do?’ She tore her miserable eyes away from her prospective neighbourhood and looked at Derek.

‘If you do, there’s a good chance he’ll split the company up to maximise his profits if he decides to sell. The other thing is this—there’s almost no way that he’s going to invest in the work your father’s doing.’

‘But wouldn’t I be able to fund it all myself? With whatever I make from the company?’

‘After all debts have been cleared? Without the backup of the facilities over here in the Felt labs? Unlikely. Anyway—’ he assumed a tone of bonhomie ‘—enough of all that. You’ll be meeting the man himself soon enough. Here’s your place! Number twelve. Lucky twelve. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s no number thirteen. Superstition. Guess there’s a lot of that from where you come? Folklore, superstition, etc?’ He pushed open his door as soon as the car had stopped, then skipped around to open hers before bounding merrily up three steps to black door number twelve.

‘Meeting the man soon enough?’ Destiny repeated, as he opened the front door and stepped back to let her pass. ‘When?’ The driver had followed them with her cases which, on the highly polished black and white flagged entrance hall, looked even sadder and more forlorn than they had on the conveyor belt at the airport.

‘Shall I do the guided tour?’

‘When am I going to be meeting this man, Derek?’

‘Ah, yes. Tomorrow, actually.’

‘You mean with all the other…directors?’

‘Not quite. Tomorrow morning. After you’ve seen me, as a matter of fact. Thought it might be best to size up the enemy, so to speak, before you meet the rest…’

The enemy. The enemy, the enemy, the enemy.

She hoped that Derek Wilson had been exaggerating when he’d said that, but somehow, she doubted it. Whoever Callum Ross was, he was obviously good at instilling fear. It was a talent for which she had no respect. In the compound, she’d become accustomed to working alongside everyone else to achieve the maximum. How could they ever hope to help anyone else if they were too busy playing power games with one another? Only the big cats in the jungle inspired fear, and that was all part of nature’s glorious cycle.

For a man to stride around thinking that he could command other people into obedience was anathema to her.

By the time she’d explored the house, unpacked and investigated the contents of the superbly stocked fridge and larder, she had managed to distil some of her apprehension at what lay ahead.

If her father could see her now, she thought, he would probably faint. Before she left to return to Panama, she would make sure that he did see her. In these grand surroundings. It would give them something to chuckle about on those sultry, whispering evenings, with the sounds of wildlife all around.

And if Henri could see her, sitting at the kitchen table, with a delicate china cup of coffee in front of her—proper milk! Proper coffee! She smiled. Dear Henri, her soul-mate, just a handful of years older than her, who still flirted with her and jokingly proposed marriage every so often.

Her mind was still sabotaging all her attempts to concentrate on what had to be done before travelling back to Panama, when there was a sharp buzz of the doorbell.

It took a few seconds for her to realise that the buzz corresponded to someone at her door, then several seconds more to find herself at the door. Derek, who obviously now saw himself as her surrogate father, had warned her of sharks in the big city which were more lethal than the fishy variety, but she pulled open the door anyway.

It was an impulse which she instantly regretted.

The man standing in front of her, angled in shadows, was taller than she was. Tall and powerful with a sharply contoured, unsmiling face. He was wearing a lightweight suit in a dark colour, appropriate for the mild summer weather, but even his suit did little to conceal the aggressive, muscular lines of his body. She felt her pulses begin to race.

She should have looked through the peephole in the door, a small device pointed out to her through which she could determine whether any unexpected visitors were welcome or not. Despite security, not all visitors were welcome, Derek had told her. Naturally she’d forgotten all about the wretched thing.

‘Yes?’ She placed her body squarely in the entrance so that the man couldn’t brush past her, although, judging from his size, he would have had little difficulty in doing just that if he wanted to.

For a few disconcerting seconds, the man didn’t say a word. He just looked at her very thoroughly, lounging indolently against the doorframe, one hand tucked into his trouser pocket.

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