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Home > Mistress of the Game(10)

Mistress of the Game(10)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

“He’s right as rain, Ms. Blackwell. Here, you can see for yourself.”

Eve took the white bundle. When she looked down, Eve saw a small, olive-skinned face topped with a crown of glossy blue-black hair. The nose and mouth were babylike and nondescript. But the enormous, dark brown eyes with their fringe of black lashes and steady, focused gaze; those were extraordinary. The boy looked up at her, silently scanning her face. To the rest of the world, Eve was a freak. To her baby, she was the universe.

Eve thought: He’s intelligent. Cunning, like a little gypsy.

She smiled, and though she knew it wasn’t meant to be possible, she could have sworn he smiled back.

“Have you thought of a name for him yet?”

Eve didn’t even look up.

“Max. His name is Max.”

It was a simple name, short, but to Eve it suggested strength. The boy would need strength if he was going to fulfill his purpose and avenge his mother.

Eve had conceived Keith Webster’s child for one reason and one reason only. Because she needed an accomplice. Someone she could mold in her own image, feed with her own hatred, and send out into the world to do all the things that she, a prisoner in her own home, could no longer do for herself.

Max would make Keith Webster pay for what he’d done to her.

Max would bring Kruger-Brent back to her.

Max would worship and adore and obey her, the way that men had always worshipped, adored and obeyed her, before Keith robbed her of her looks.

“Knock knock.”

Keith appeared at the door, bearing a huge bouquet of roses. Handing them to a nurse, he kissed Eve perfunctorily on the top of her head before taking his son in his arms.

“He’s…he’s beautiful.” His voice was choked. When he looked up, Eve saw that there were tears of joy streaming down his face. “Thank you, Eve. Thank you, my darling. You’ve no idea what this…what he means to me.”

Eve smiled knowingly.

“You’re welcome, Keith.”

And she sank into a contented, dreamless sleep.

THREE

ROBBIE TEMPLETON FELT A FAMILIAR, CHURNING FEELING in the pit of his stomach as he walked through the revolving doors of the Kruger-Brent building on Park Avenue.

“Good morning, Mr. Robert.”

“Nice to see you again, Mr. Robert.”

“Is your father expecting you?”

Everybody knew him. The receptionists, in their gray-flannel company uniforms, the security guards, even José, the janitor. Robert Templeton was Kate Blackwell’s great-grandson, fifteen years old, with the world at his feet. One day he would take his place as CEO and chairman.

So they said.

Robbie had been coming to this building with his mother since he was a little boy. The impressive, marble-floored atrium with its six-foot flower arrangements and walls smothered with priceless modern art, Bas-quiats and Warhols and Lucien Freuds, was Robbie’s playroom. He’d played peekaboo in the elevators and hide-and-seek down the long, corporate corridors. He’d swung his legs and spun around in Kate Blackwell’s swivel chair till he was too dizzy to stand.

All his life he’d tried to love the place. Tried to feel the passion and pride that everyone assumed he’d been born with. But it was no good. Walking through the familiar swing doors today felt the same as it always did: like walking through the gates of hell.

His mind wandered back to his seventh birthday. His great-grandmother Kate had promised him a birthday treat.

“Something wonderful, Robert. It’ll be just the two of us.”

He remembered being so overcome with excitement, he couldn’t sleep the night before. Something wonderful. A private visit to FAO Schwarz? All he could eat at Chuck E. Cheese? Disneyland?

When Kate led him through the doors of the boring office building, he assumed she’d left something behind there. An umbrella, perhaps? Or her Mickey Mouse ears?

“No, my darling,” she told him, her rheumy old eyes alight with a passion he couldn’t comprehend. “ This is your surprise. Do you know where we are?”

Robbie nodded miserably. They were at Daddy’s office. He’d been here hundreds of time with Mommy, and it always made him feel weird. It was too big. And empty. When you shouted real loud, the walls threw your voice back at you. Though he couldn’t have explained it, he’d always gotten the feeling that the office made his daddy sad, too. Neither of them really belonged here.

But his great-grandmother saw things differently.

“This is our kingdom, Robert! Our palace. One day, when I’m gone and you’re all grown up, this will all be yours. All of it.”

She squeezed his hand. Robbie wondered where she was planning on going, and how long she’d be gone. He loved his great-grandmother, even if she did have crazy ideas about boring old office buildings being palaces. He hoped she wouldn’t be gone too long.

It was a Sunday, and the building was deserted. Leading him into the elevator, Kate pressed the button for the twentieth floor. Soon they were in her office. Installing Robbie in the leather-backed swivel chair behind her desk, Kate sank into the armchair in the corner, the one usually reserved for visiting dignitaries, ambassadors, presidents and kings.

Robbie could hear her voice now.

“Close your eyes, Robert. I’m going to tell you a tale.”

It was the first time that Robbie had heard the whole story of Kruger-Brent, the company that had made his family wealthy and famous and different from everybody else’s family. Even at six, Robbie Templeton knew he was different from the other kids. Even at seven, he wished with all his heart that it weren’t so.

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