Merger By Matrimony

By: Cathy Williams

‘That you were on the verge of consolidating a bid for my uncle’s company. That it all fell apart when he died.’

‘That all?’ He cocked his head to one side, as though listening for something she couldn’t hear.

‘What more is there?’ she asked politely.

‘No character assassination?’

‘I’m not in the habit of repeating other people’s personal opinions,’ she said calmly.

‘No, I can understand that. It would be a disaster in a compound of only a handful of people.’

‘How do you know…?’

‘I made it my business to find out before you came over here. Forearmed is forewarned, as the saying goes.’ Actually, he had done nothing of the sort. His mention of a compound had been an inspired guess and he wasn’t quite sure what he’d been hoping to achieve with his distortion of the truth. He suspected, darkly, that it was a desire to provoke some sort of reaction from her. He was accustomed to people responding to him, focusing on every word he had to say. He could feel niggling irritation now at his staggering lack of success in that department. She looked back at him with those amazing sea-green, utterly unreadable eyes.

‘I hadn’t expected you to have such a good grasp of English,’ he said bluntly, veering away from the topic, watching as she tucked some hair behind her ears.

Destiny hesitated, uncertain at the abrupt ceasefire. ‘My parents certainly always spoke to me in English, wherever we happened to be. They always thought that it was important for me to have a good grasp of my mother tongue. Of course, I speak Spanish fluently as well. And French, although my German’s a bit rusty.’

‘Isn’t that always the case?’ he said drily, and she glanced at him, surprised at his sudden injection of humour. With a jolt of discomfort, she realised that, although he had not chosen to display it, there was humour lurking behind the sensual lines of his mouth and she hurriedly averted her eyes.

‘There are a number of French workers on the compound, but our German colleagues have been more sporadic so I haven’t had the same opportunity to practise what I’ve learnt.’

‘You’ve studied?’

That brought her back to her senses. Just when an unwelcome nudge of confusion was beginning to slip in. Did the man think that she was thick? Just because her lifestyle had been so extraordinary?

‘From the age of two,’ she said coolly. ‘My parents were obsessive about making sure that my education didn’t suffer because of the lifestyle they had chosen. Sorry to disappoint you. Now, getting back to business, I’m not qualified to agree to anything with you. I still have to see the company, meet the directors…’

‘Do you know why Felt Pharmaceuticals has been losing money over the past five years?’ he cut in, and when she shook her head he carried on, with no attempt to spare her the details. ‘Shocking mismanagement. Cavalier and ill-thought-out overinvestment in outside interests with profits that should have been ploughed back into the company, interests that have all taken a beating…’

‘How do you know that?’

‘I made it my business to know.’

‘Just like you made it your business to find out about me before I came over here?’

He didn’t like being reminded of that little white lie and he uncomfortably shifted in his chair. ‘Unless you’ve taken a degree course in business management, you might not be aware that taking over a company requires just a touch of inside knowledge on the company you’re planning to take over.’

‘That’s common sense, not business management know-how,’ Destiny informed him, riled by the impression she got that he was patronising her.

He swept aside her input. ‘For the past five years old Abe, miserable bastard that he was, was bedridden and had more or less been forced to hand over control to his directors—who are good enough men when being told what to do, but on their own wouldn’t be able to get hold of a pint of beer in a brewery.’

‘What was the matter with him?’

‘What was the matter with whom?’ One minute mouthing off at him with cutting efficiency, the next minute looking like a vulnerable child. What the hell was this woman all about? He had known enough women in his lifetime not to be disconcerted by anything they said, did or thought, for that matter, but Destiny Felt was succeeding in throwing him off balance. How could someone be forthright and secretive at the same time? He nearly grunted in frustration. ‘He had a stroke and never really recovered,’ Callum said. ‘Of course, he remained the figurehead for the company but his finger was no longer on the button, so to speak.’

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