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Home > The Stars Shine Down(4)

The Stars Shine Down(4)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

"Fine."

That was how it had begun five years earlier. During that time Kathy had learned to love, hate, admire, and despise her boss. In the beginning Kathy's husband had asked, "What is the legend like?"

It was a difficult question. "She's larger than life," Kathy had said. "She's drop-dead beautiful. She works harder than anyone I've ever known. God only knows when she sleeps. She's a perfectionist, so she makes everyone around her miserable. In her own way, she's a genius. She can be petty and vengeful and incredibly generous."

Her husband had smiled. "In other words, she's a woman."

Kathy had looked at him and said, unsmiling, "I don't know what she is. Sometimes she scares me."

"Come on, honey, you're exaggerating."

"No. I honestly believe that if someone stood in Lara Cameron's way...she would kill."

When Lara finished with the faxes and overseas calls, she buzzed Charlie Hunter, an ambitious young man in charge of accounting. "Come in, Charlie."

"Yes, Miss Cameron."

A minute later he entered her office.

"Yes, Miss Cameron?"

"I read the interview you gave in The New York Times this morning," Lara said.

He brightened. "I haven't seen it yet. How was it?"

"You talked about Cameron Enterprises and about some of the problems we're having."

He frowned. "Well, you know, that reporter fellow probably misquoted some of my..."

"You're fired."

"What? Why? I..."

"When you were hired, you signed a paper agreeing not to give any interviews. I'll expect you out of here this morning."

"I...you can't do that. Who would take my place?"

"I've already arranged that," Lara told him.

The luncheon was almost over. The Fortune reporter, Hugh Thompson, was an intense, intellectual-looking man with sharp brown eyes behind black horn-rimmed glasses.

"It was a great lunch," he said. "All my favorite dishes. Thanks."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it."

"You really didn't have to go to all that trouble for me."

"No trouble at all." Lara smiled. "My father always told me that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach."

"And you wanted to get to my heart before we started the interview?"

Lara smiled. "Exactly."

"How much trouble is your company really in?"

Lara's smile faded. "I beg your pardon?"

"Come on. You can't keep a thing like that quiet. The word on the street is that some of your properties are on the verge of collapse because of the principal payments due on your junk bonds. You've done a lot of leveraging, and with the market down, Cameron Enterprises has to be pretty overextended."

Lara laughed. "Is that what the street says? Believe me, Mr. Thompson, you'd be wise not to listen to silly rumors. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll send you a copy of my financials to set the record straight. Fair enough?"

"Fair enough. By the way, I didn't see your husband at the opening of the new hotel."

Lara sighed. "Philip wanted so much to be there, but unfortunately he had to be away on a concert tour."

"I went to one of his recitals once about three years ago. He's brilliant. You have been married a year now, haven't you?"

"The happiest year of my life. I'm a very lucky woman. I travel a lot, and so does Philip, but when I'm away from him, I can listen to his recordings wherever I am."

Thompson smiled. "And he can see your buildings wherever he is."

Lara laughed. "You flatter me."

"It's pretty true, isn't it? You've put up buildings all over this fair country of ours. You own apartment buildings, office buildings, a hotel chain...How do you do it?"

She smiled. "With mirrors."

"You're a puzzle."

"Am I? Why?"

"At this moment you're arguably the most successful builder in New York. Your name is plastered on half the real estate in this town. You're putting up the world's tallest skyscraper. Your competitors call you the Iron Butterfly. You've made it big in a business traditionally dominated by men."

"Does that bother you, Mr. Thompson?"

"No. What bothers me, Miss Cameron, is that I can't figure out who you are. When I ask two people about you, I get three opinions. Everyone grants that you're a brilliant businesswoman. I mean...you didn't fall off a hay wagon and become a success. I know a lot about construction crews - they're a rough, tough bunch of men. How does a woman like you keep them in line?"

She smiled. "There are no women like me. Seriously, I simply hire the best people for the job, and I pay them well."

Too simplistic, Thompson thought. Much too simplistic. The real story is what she's not telling me. He decided to change the direction of the interview.

"Every magazine on the stands has written about how successful you are. I'd like to do a more personal story. There's been very little printed about your background."

"I'm very proud of my background."

"Good. Let's talk about that. How did you get started in the real estate business?"

Lara smiled, and he could see that her smile was genuine. She suddenly looked like a little girl.

"Genes."

"Your genes?"

"My father's." She pointed to a portrait on a wall behind her. It showed a handsome-looking man with a leonine head of silver hair. "That's my father - James Hugh Cameron." Her voice was soft. "He's responsible for my success. I'm an only child. My mother died when I was very young, and my father brought me up. My family left Scotland a long time ago, Mr. Thompson, and emigrated to Nova Scotia - New Scotland, Glace Bay."

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