His Temporary Mistress(2)

By: Cathy Williams

‘The cancer might be more widespread than they originally feared. She’s going to have a battery of tests and then surgery to consolidate their findings. After that, they’ll discuss the appropriate treatment.’

Martha whipped out a handkerchief which she had stored in the sleeve of her blouse and dabbed her eyes. ‘Poor Eleanor. She must be scared stiff.’

‘She’s coping.’

‘And what about Dominic?’

The name hung in the air between them, an accusatory reminder of why his mother was so frantic with worry, so upset that she was ill and he, Damien, was still free, single and unattached, still playing the field with a series of beautiful but spectacularly unsuitable airheads, still, in her eyes, ill equipped to handle the responsibility that would one day be his.

‘I shall go down and see him.’

Most people would have taken the hint at the abrupt tone of his voice. Most people would have backed away from pursuing a conversation he patently did not want to pursue. Most people were not Martha Hall.

‘So have you considered what will happen to him should your mother’s condition be worse than expected? I can see from your face that you don’t want to talk about this, honey, but you can’t hide from it either.’

‘I’m not hiding from anything,’ Damien enunciated with great forbearance.

‘Well, I’ll leave you to ponder that, shall I? I’ll pop in and see your mother when I leave work.’

Damien attempted a smile.

‘Oh, and there’s something else.’

‘I can’t think what,’ Damien muttered under his breath as he inclined his head to one side and prayed that there wouldn’t be a further attack on his already overwrought conscience.

‘There’s a Miss Drew downstairs insisting on seeing you. Would you like me to show her up?’

Damien stilled. The little matter of Phillipa Drew was just something else on his plate, but at least this was something he would be able to sort out. Had it not been for the emergency with his mother, it would have been sorted out by now, but...

‘Show her up.’

Martha knew nothing of Phillipa Drew. Why would she? Phillipa Drew worked in the bowels of IT, the place where creativity was at its height and the skills of his highly talented programmers were tested to the limit. As a lowly secretary to the head of the department, he had not been aware of her existence until, a week previously, a series of company infringements had come to light and the trails had all led back to her.

The department head had had the sternest possible warning, meetings had been called, everyone had had to stand up and be counted. Sensitive material could not be stolen, forwarded to competitors... The process of questioning had been rigorous and, eventually, Damien had concluded that the woman had acted without assistance from any other member of staff.

But he hadn’t followed up on the case. The patent on the software had limited the damage but punishment would have to be duly meted out. He had had a preliminary interview with the woman but it had been rushed, just long enough for her to be escorted out of the building with a price on her head. He had more time now.

After a stressful ten days, culminating in the phone call with his mother’s consultant, Damien could think of a no more satisfying way of venting than by doling out just deserts to someone who had stolen from his company and could have cost millions in lost profits.

He returned to his chair and gave his mind over completely to the matter in hand.

Jail, of course. An example would have to be set.

He thought back to his brief interview with the woman, the way she had sobbed, begged and then, when neither appeared to have been working, offered herself to him as a last resort.

His mouth curled in distaste at the recollection. She might have been a five foot ten blonde but he had found the cheap, ugly working of the situation repulsive.

He was in the perfect mood to inform her, in a leisurely and thorough fashion, that the rigours of the British justice system would be waiting for her. He was in the perfect mood to unleash the full force of his frustration and stress on the truly deserving head of a petty criminal who had had the temerity to think that she could steal from him.

He pulled up all the evidence of her ill-conceived attempts at company fraud on his computer and then relaxed back in his chair to wait for her.

* * *

Downstairs, in the posh lobby of the most scarily impressive building she had ever entered, Violet waited for Damien Carver’s secretary to come and fetch her. She was a little surprised that getting in to see the man in the hallowed halls of his own office had been so easy. For a few misguided seconds she nurtured the improbable fantasy that perhaps Damien Carver wasn’t quite the monster Phillipa had made him out to be.