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Home > The Stars Shine Down(15)

The Stars Shine Down(15)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

"I...no." She could feel the deal slipping away from her. "What does that have...?"

MacAllister leaned forward. "I'm going to be frank with you, Lara. I find you very attractive. I'd like to go to bed with you. Quid pro quo. That means..."

"I know what it means." Her face had turned to stone.

"Look at it this way. This is your chance to make something of yourself, isn't it? To own something, to be somebody. To prove to yourself that you're not like your father."

Lara's mind was spinning.

"You'll probably never have another chance like this again, Lara. Perhaps you'd like some time to think it over, and..."

"No." Her voice sounded hollow in her own ears. "I can give you my answer now." She pressed her arms tightly against her sides to stop her body from trembling. Her whole future, her very life, hung on her next words.

"I'll go to bed with you." Grinning, MacAllister rose and moved toward her, his fat arms outstretched.

"Not now," Lara said. "After I see the contract."

The following day Sean MacAllister handed Lara a contract for the bank loan.

"It's a very simple contract, my dear. It's a ten-year two-hundred-thousand-dollar loan at eight percent." He gave her a pen. "You can just sign here on the last page."

"If you don't mind, I'd like to read it first," Lara said. She looked at her watch. "But I don't have time now. May I take it with me? I'll bring it back tomorrow."

Sean MacAllister shrugged. "Very well." He lowered his voice. "About our little date. Next Saturday I have to go into Halifax. I thought we might go there together."

Lara looked at his leering smile and felt sick to her stomach. "All right." It was a whisper.

"Good. You sign the contract and bring it back and we're in business." He was thoughtful for a moment. "You're going to need a good builder. Are you familiar with the Nova Scotia Construction Company?"

Lara's face lit up. "Yes. I know their foreman, Buzz Steele."

He had put up some of the biggest buildings in Glace Bay.

"Good. It's a fine outfit. I would recommend them."

"I'll talk to Buzz tomorrow."

That evening Lara showed the contract to Charles Cohn. She did not dare tell him about the private deal she had made with MacAllister. She was too ashamed. Cohn read the contract carefully, and when he finished, he handed it back to Lara. "I would advise you not to sign this."

She was dismayed. "Why?"

"There's a clause in there that stipulates that the building must be completed by December thirty-first, or title reverts to the bank. In other words, the building will belong to MacAllister, and my company will become his tenant. You forfeit the deal and are still obligated to repay the loan with interest. Ask him to change that."

MacAllister's words rang in Lara's ears. "I'm really in no hurry to sell that lot. The longer I hold on to it, the more valuable it will become."

Lara shook her head. "He won't."

"Then you're taking a big gamble, Lara. You could wind up with nothing, and a debt of two hundred thousand dollars plus interest."

"But if I bring the building in on time..."

"That's a big 'if.' When you put up a building, you're at the mercy of a lot of other people. You'd be surprised at the number of things that can go wrong."

"There's a very good construction company in Sydney. They've put up a lot of buildings around here. I know the foreman. If he says he can have the building up in time, I want to go ahead."

It was the desperate eagerness in Lara's voice that made him put aside his doubts. "All right," he finally said, "talk to him."

Lara found Buzz Steele walking the girders of a five-story building he was erecting in Sydney. Steele was a grizzled, weather-beaten man in his forties. He greeted Lara warmly. "This is a nice surprise," he said. "How did they let a pretty girl like you get out of Glace Bay?"

"I sneaked out," Lara told him. "I have a job for you, Mr. Steele."

He smiled. "You do? What are we building - a doll-house?"

"No." She pulled out the blueprints Charles Cohn had given her. "This is the building."

Buzz Steele studied it a moment. He looked up, surprised. "This is a pretty big job. What does it have to do with you?"

"I put the deal together," Lara said proudly. "I'm going to own the building."

Steele whistled softly. "Well, good for you, honey."

"There are two catches."

"Oh?"

"The building has to be finished by December thirty-first or it reverts to the bank, and the building can't cost more than one hundred seventy thousand dollars. Can it be done?"

Steele looked at the blueprints again. Lara watched him silently calculating.

Finally he spoke. "It can be done."

It was all Lara could do not to shout out loud.

"Then you've got a deal."

They shook hands. "You're the prettiest boss I've ever had," Buzz Steele said.

"Thank you. How soon can you get started?"

"Tell you what. I'll go into Glace Bay tomorrow to look over the lot. I'm going to give you a building you'll be proud of."

When Lara left, she felt that she had wings.

Lara returned to Glace Bay and told Charles Cohn the news.

"Are you sure this company is reliable, Lara?"

"I know it is," Lara assured him. "They've put up buildings here and in Sydney and Halifax and..."

Her enthusiasm was contagious.

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