His Temporary Mistress(5)

By: Cathy Williams

‘But it didn’t. Doesn’t that count for something?’

‘What argument are you intending to use to try and save your sister?’ Damien drawled without an ounce of compassion. ‘The got-sadly-caught-up-with-the-wrong-guy one or the but-it-didn’t-work one? Because I can tell you now that I’m not buying either. She told me all about the smooth-talking banker with an eye to the main chance and a plan to take a shortcut to a career in computer software by nicking my ideas, except your sister, from the brief acquaintance I had with her, didn’t exactly strike me as one of life’s passive victims. Frankly, I put her down as a co-conspirator who just didn’t have the brains to pull it off.’

Violet looked at him with loathing. Underneath the head-turning good looks, he was as cold as a block of ice.

‘Phillipa didn’t ask me to come,’ she persisted. ‘I came because I could see how devastated she was, how much she regretted what she had done...’

‘Tough. From where I’m sitting, it’s all about crime and punishment.’

Violet paled. ‘She’s being punished already, Mr Carver. Can’t you see that? She’s been sacked from the first real job she’s ever held down...’

‘She’s twenty-two years old. I know because I’ve memorised her personnel file. So if this is the first real job she’s ever held down, then do you care to tell me what she’s been doing for the past...let’s see...six years...? Ever since she left school at sixteen? If I’m not mistaken, she led my people to believe that a vigorous training course in computers was followed by exemplary service at an IT company in Leeds... A glowing written and verbal reference was provided by one Mr Phillips...’

Violet swallowed painfully as a veritable expanse of quicksand opened up at her feet. What could she say to that? Lie? She refused to. She looked at the hatefully confident expression on his face, the look of someone who had neatly led the enemy into a carefully contrived trap. Phillipa had said nothing to her about how she had managed to secure such a highly paid job at a top-rated company. She knew how now. Andrew Phillips had been her sister’s boyfriend. She had strung him along with promises of love and marriage as he had taken up his position at an IT company in Leeds. He hadn’t been out of the door for two seconds before she had turned her attention briefly to Greg Lambert and then, fatally, to Craig Edwards.

‘Well?’ Damien prompted. ‘I’m all ears.’ A part of him was all too aware that he was being a little unfair. So this girl, clearly lacking in guile, clearly well intentioned, had plucked up the courage to approach him on her sister’s behalf. Not only was he in the process of shooting her down in flames, but he was also spearheading the arrow with poison for added measure.

The past few weeks of stress, uncertainty and unwelcome self-doubt were seeking a target for their expression and he had conveniently found one.

‘Look—’ he sighed impatiently and leaned forward ‘—it’s laudable of you to come here and ten out of ten for trying, but you clearly need to wake up to your sister’s true worth. She’s a con artist.’

‘I know Phillipa can be manipulative, Mr Carver, but she’s all I have and I can’t let her be written off because she’s made a mistake.’ Tears were gathering at the back of her eyes and thickening her voice.

‘My guess is that your sister’s made a number of mistakes in her life. She’s just always been able to talk her way out of them by flashing a smile and baring her breasts...’

‘That’s a horrible thing to say.’

Damien gave an elegant little shrug of his shoulders and continued to look at her in a way that made her whole body feel as though it was burning up. ‘I find that the truth is something best faced squarely.’ Except, he privately conceded, that was something of a half truth. He had nonchalantly refused to face the truth about his mother’s concerns over his lifestyle, preferring to stick it all on the back burner and turn a blind eye.

‘So what happens now?’ Violet slumped, defeated, in the chair. It had been a vain hope that she could appeal to his better nature.

‘I’ll take advice from my lawyers but this is a serious charge and, as such, has to be dealt with decisively.’

‘When you say decisively...’ She was mesmerised by the icy, unforgiving lines of his face. It was like staring at someone from another planet. Her friends were all laid-back and easy-going. They cared about humanitarian issues. They joined protest marches and could argue for hours over the state of the world. The majority of them did charity work. She, herself, visited an old people’s home once a week where she taught basic art. She had only ever mixed with people who thought like her. Damien Carver not only didn’t think like her, she could tell that he was vaguely contemptuous of what she stood for. Those merciless eyes held no sympathy for anything she was saying. She could have been having a conversation with a block of marble.