memories of midnight-Page 6

The plane was scheduled to leave from Hellenikon Airport at 9:00 A.M. It was a Hawker Siddeley, and, to Catherine's surprise, she was the only passenger. The pilot, a pleasant-faced middle-aged Greek named Pantelis, saw to it that Catherine was comfortably seated and buckled in.

"We'll be taking off in just a few minutes," he informed her.

"Thank you."

Catherine watched him walk into the cockpit to join the co-pilot, and her heart suddenly began to beat faster. This is the plane that Larry flew. Had Noelle Page sat in the seat I am now sitting in? Catherine suddenly felt as though she were going to faint; the walls began to close in on her. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath. That's all over, she thought. Demiris is right. That's the past and nothing can change it.

She heard the roar of the engines, and opened her eyes. The plane was lifting off, heading northwest toward London. How many times had Larry made this flight? Larry. She was shaken by the mixture of emotions that his name brought. And the memories. The wonderful, terrible memories...

It was the summer of 1940, the year before America got into the war. She had been fresh out of Northwestern University, and had gone from Chicago to Washington, D.C., for her first job.

Her roommate had said: "Hey, I heard about a job opening that might interest you. One of the girls at the party said she's quitting to go back to Texas. She works for Bill Fraser. He's in charge of public relations for the State Department. I just heard about it last night, so if you get over there now, you should beat all the other girls to it."

Catherine had raced over, only to find Fraser's reception office already packed with dozens of applicants for the job. I haven't a chance, Catherine thought. The door to the inner office opened and William Fraser emerged. He was a tall, attractive man, with curly blond hair graying at the temples, bright blue eyes, and a strong, rather forbidding jawline.

He said to the receptionist, "I need a copy of Life. The issue that came out three or four weeks ago. It has a picture of Stalin on the cover."

"I'll order it, Mr. Fraser," the receptionist said.

"Sally, I have Senator Borah on the line. I want to read him a paragraph from that issue. You have two minutes to find a copy for me." He went into his office and closed the door.

The applicants looked at one another and shrugged.

Catherine stood there, thinking hard. She turned and pushed her way out of the office. She heard one of the women say, "Good. That's one down."

Three minutes later, Catherine returned to the office with the old copy of Life with a picture of Stalin on the cover. She handed it to the receptionist. Five minutes later Catherine found herself seated in William Fraser's office.

"Sally tells me that you came up with the Life magazine."

"Yes, sir."

"I assume you didn't just happen to have a three-week-old issue in your purse."

"No, sir."

"How did you find it so quickly?"

"I went down to the barber shop. Barber shops and dentists' offices always have old issues lying around."

"Are you that bright about everything?"

"No, sir."

"We'll find out," William Fraser said. She was hired.

Catherine enjoyed the excitement of working for Fraser. He was a bachelor, wealthy and social, and he seemed to know everyone in Washington. Time magazine had called him "The most eligible bachelor of the year."

Six months after Catherine started to work for William Fraser, they fell in love.

In his bedroom, Catherine said, "I have to tell you something. I'm a virgin."

Fraser shook his head in wonder. "That's incredible. How did I wind up with the only virgin in the city of Washington?"

One day William Fraser said to Catherine, "They've asked our office to supervise an Army Air Corps recruiting film they're shooting at MGM studios in Hollywood. I'd like you to handle the picture while I'm in London."

"Me? Bill, I can't even load a Brownie. What do I know about making a training film?"

Fraser grinned. "About as much as anyone else. You don't have to worry. They have a director. His name is Allan Benjamin. The army plans to use actors in the film."

"Why?"

"I guess they feel that soldiers won't be convincing enough to play soldiers."

"That sounds like the army."

And Catherine had flown to Hollywood to supervise the training film.

The soundstage was filled with extras, most of them in ill-fitting army uniforms.

"Excuse me," Catherine said to a man passing by. "Is Mr. Allan Benjamin here?"

"The little corporal?" He pointed. "Over there."

Catherine turned and saw a slight, frail-looking man in uniform with corporal's stripes. He was screaming at a man wearing a general's stars.

"Fuck what the casting director said. I'm up to my ass in generals. I need noncoms." He raised his hands in despair. "Everybody wants to be a chief, nobody wants to be an Indian."

"Excuse me," Catherine said. "I'm Catherine Alexander."

"Thank God!" the little man said. "You take over. I don't know what I'm doing here. I had a thirty-five-hun-dred-dollar-a-year job in Dearborn editing a furniture trade magazine, and I was drafted into the Signal Corps and sent to write training films. What do I know about producing or directing? This is all yours." He turned and hurried toward the exit, leaving Catherine standing there.

A lean, gray-haired man in a sweater moved toward her, an amused smile on his face. "Need any help?"

"I need a miracle," Catherine said. "I'm in charge of this, and I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing."

He grinned at her. "Welcome to Hollywood. I'm Tom O'Brien, the assistant director."

"Do you think you could direct this?"

She saw the corner of his lips twist. "I could try. I've done six pictures with Willie Wyler. The situation isn't as bad as it looks. All it needs is a little organization. The script's written, and the set's ready."

Catherine looked around the soundstage. "Some of these uniforms look terrible. Let's see if we can't do better."

O'Brien nodded approvingly. "Right."

Catherine and O'Brien walked over to the group of extras. The din of conversation on the enormous stage was deafening.

"Let's hold it down, boys," O'Brien yelled. "This is Miss Alexander. She's going to be in charge here."

Catherine said, "Let's line up, so we can take a good look at you, please."

O'Brien formed the men into a ragged line. Catherine heard laughter and voices nearby and turned in annoyance. One of the men in uniform stood in a corner, paying no attention, talking to some girls who were hanging on his every word and giggling. The man's manner irritated Catherine.

"Excuse me. Would you mind joining the rest of us?"

He turned and asked, lazily, "Are you talking to me?"

"Yes. We'd like to go to work."

He was extraordinarily handsome, tall and wiry, with blue-black hair and stormy dark eyes. His uniform fitted perfectly. On his shoulders were the bars of a captain, and across his breast he had pinned on a splash of brightly colored ribbons. Catherine stared at them. "Those medals...?"

"Are they impressive enough, boss?" His voice was deep and filled with insolent amusement.

"Take them off."

"Why? I thought I'd give this film a little color."

"There's one little thing you forgot. America's not at war yet. You would have had to have won those at a carnival."

"You're right," he admitted sheepishly. "I didn't think of that. I'll take some of them off."

"Take them all off," Catherine snapped.

After the morning's shooting, while Catherine was having lunch at the commissary, he walked up to her table. "I wanted to ask you how I did this morning? Was I convincing?"

His manner infuriated her. "You enjoy wearing that uniform and strutting around the girls, but have you thought about enlisting?"

He looked shocked. "And get shot at? That's for suckers."

Catherine was ready to explode. "I think you're contemptible."

"Why?"

"If you don't know why, I could never explain it to you."

"Why don't you try? At dinner tonight. Your place. Do you cook?"

"Don't bother coming back to the set," Catherine snapped. "I'll tell Mr. O'Brien to send you your check for this morning's work. What's your name?"

"Douglas. Larry Douglas."

The experience with the arrogant young actor rankled Catherine, and she was determined to put it out of her mind. For some reason, she found it difficult to forget him.

When Catherine returned to Washington, William Fraser said, "I missed you. I've been doing a lot of thinking about you. Do you love me?"

"Very much, Bill."

"I love you too. Why don't we go out tonight and celebrate?"

Catherine knew that that was the night he was going to propose.

They went to the exclusive Jefferson Club. In the middle of dinner, Larry Douglas walked in, still wearing his Army Air Corps uniform with all the medals. Catherine watched unbelievingly as he walked over to their table and greeted not her but Fraser.

Bill Fraser rose. "Cathy, this is Captain Lawrence Douglas. Larry, this is Miss Alexander - Catherine. Larry's been flying with the RAF. He was the leader of the American squadron over there. They talked him into heading up a fighter base in Virginia to get some of our boys ready for combat."

Like the rerun of an old movie, Catherine remembered how she had ordered him to take off his bars and his medals, and how he had cheerfully obliged. She had been smug, overbearing - and she had called him a coward! She wanted to crawl under the table.

The next day, Larry Douglas telephoned Catherine at her office. She refused to take his calls. When she finished work he was outside, waiting for her. He had taken off his medals and ribbons and was wearing the bars of a second lieutenant.

He smiled and walked up to her. "Is this better?"

Catherine stared at him. "Isn't - isn't wearing the wrong insignia against regulations?"

"I don't know. I thought you were in charge of all that."

She looked into his eyes and knew that she was lost. There was a magnetic force about him that was irresistible.

"What do you want from me?"

"Everything. I want you."

They had gone to his apartment and made love. And it was an exquisite joy that Catherine had never dreamed possible, a fantastic coming together that rocked the room and the universe - until there was an explosion that became a delirious ecstasy, an unbelievable shattering journey, an arriving and a departing, an ending and a beginning. And she had lain there, spent and numb, holding him tightly, never wanting to let him go, never wanting this feeling to stop.

They were married five hours later in Maryland.

Now, seated in the plane, on her way to London to begin a new life, Catherine thought: We were so happy. Where did it all go wrong? The romantic movies and the love songs tricked us all into believing in happy endings and knights in shining armor and love that never, never died. We really believed that James Stewart and Donna Reed had A Wonderful Life, and we knew that Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert would be together forever after It Happened One Night, and we shed tears when Frederick March returned to Myrna Loy for The Best Years of Our Lives, and we were sure that Joan Fontaine found happiness in the arms of Laurence Olivier in Rebecca. And they were lies. All lies. And the songs. I'll Be Loving You, Always. How do men figure always? With an egg timer? How Deep Is the Ocean? What did Irving Berlin have in mind? One foot? Two feet? And...Forever and a Day. I'm leaving. I want a divorce. Some Enchanted Evening. We're going to climb Mount Tzoumerka...You and the Night and the Music. The hotel manager told me about some caves near here...(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons. No one will ever...now, while she's asleep. Be My Love. And we listened to the songs and we watched the movies and really thought that was what life was going to be like. I believed in my husband so much. Can I ever believe in anyone again? What did I do to make him want to murder me?

"Miss Alexander..."

Catherine looked up, startled, unfocused.

The pilot was standing over her. "We've landed. Welcome to London."

There was a limousine waiting for Catherine at the airport. The chauffeur said, "I'll arrange for your luggage, Miss Alexander. My name is Alfred. Would you like to go directly to your flat?"

My flat. "Yes, that will be fine."

Catherine sank back in her seat. Unbelievable. Constantin Demiris had arranged a private plane for her, and a place to live. He was either the most generous man in the world, or...She simply could not think of any alternative. No. He's the most generous man in the world. I'll have to find a suitable way to show my appreciation.

The flat, on Elizabeth Street off Eaton Square, was utterly luxurious. It consisted of a large entrance hall, a beautifully furnished drawing room with a crystal chandelier, a paneled library, a kitchen stocked with food, three attractively furnished bedrooms, and servants' quarters.

Catherine was greeted at the door by a woman in her forties wearing a black dress. "Good afternoon, Miss Alexander. I am Anna. I am your housekeeper."

Of course. My housekeeper. Catherine was beginning to take it all in stride. "How do you do?"

The chauffeur brought Catherine's suitcases in and placed them in her bedroom. "The limousine is at your disposal," he told her. "Just tell Anna when you're ready to go to the office, and I will pick you up."

The limousine is at my disposal. Naturally. "Thank you."

Anna said, "I'll unpack your bags. If there's anything else you need, just let me know."

"I can't think of a thing," Catherine said honestly.

Catherine wandered around the flat until Anna had finished unpacking. She went into the bedroom and looked at the beautiful new dresses that Demiris had bought her, and thought: All this is like a wonderful dream. There was a feeling of total unreality about it. Forty-eight hours ago, she had been watering rose bushes at the convent. Now she was living the life of a duchess. She wondered what the job would be like. I'll work hard. I don't want to let him down. He's been so wonderful. She felt suddenly tired. She lay down on the soft, comfortable bed. I'll just rest a minute, she thought. She closed her eyes.

She was drowning, and screaming for help. And Larry was swimming toward her, and when he reached her he pushed her under water. And she was in a dark cave, and bats were coming at her, tearing at her hair, beating their clammy wings against her face. Catherine awakened with a shuddering start and sat up in bed, trembling.

She took deep breaths to steady herself. That's enough, she thought. It's over. That was yesterday. This is today. No one's going to hurt you. No one. Not anymore.

Outside Catherine's bedroom, Anna, the housekeeper, had been listening to the screams. She waited a moment, and when there was silence she walked down the hall and picked up the telephone to report to Constantin Demiris.

The Hellenic Trade Corporation was located at 217 Bond Street, off Piccadilly, in an old government building that had been converted years earlier to an office building. The exterior of the building was a masterpiece of architecture, elegant and graceful.

When Catherine arrived, the office staff was waiting for her. There were half a dozen people near the door to greet her.

"Welcome, Miss Alexander. I'm Evelyn Kaye. This is Carl...Tucker...Matthew...Jennie..."

The names and faces became a blur.

"How do you do?"

"Your office is ready for you. I'll show you the way."

"Thank you."

The reception room was tastefully furnished, with a large Chesterfield sofa, flanked by two Chippendale chairs and a tapestry. They walked down a long carpeted corridor and passed a conference room with heavy pine paneling and leather chairs along a highly polished table.

Catherine was ushered into an attractive office with worn, comfortable furniture and a leather couch.

"It's all yours."

"It's lovely," she murmured.

There were fresh flowers on the desk.

"From Mr. Demiris."

He's so thoughtful.

Evelyn Kaye, the woman who had shown her into the office, was a stocky middle-aged woman with a pleasant face and a comfortable manner. "It will take you a few days to get used to the place, but the operation is really quite simple. We're one of the nerve centers of the Demiris empire. We coordinate the reports from the overseas divisions, and send them on to headquarters in Athens. I'm the office manager. You'll be my assistant."

"Oh." So I'm the assistant to the office manager. Catherine had no idea what was expected of her. She had been thrown into a fantasy world. Private planes, limousines, a beautiful flat with servants...

"Wim Vandeen is our resident mathematical genius. He computes all the statements and puts them into a master financial-analysis chart. His mind works faster than most calculating machines. Come along to his office and meet him."

They walked down the corridor to an office at the end of the hall. Evelyn opened the door without knocking.

"Wim, this is my new assistant."

Catherine stepped into the office and stood there, riveted. Wim Vandeen appeared to be in his early thirties, a thin man with a slack-jawed mouth and a dull, vacant expression. He was staring out the window.

"Wim. Wim! This is Catherine Alexander."

He turned around. "Catherine the First's real name was Marta Skowronka she was a servant girl born in 1684 who was captured by the Russians she married Peter I and was empress of Russia from 1725 to 1727; Catherine the Great was the daughter of a German prince she was born in 1729 and she married Peter, who became Emperor Peter III in 1762, and she succeeded to his throne that same year after she had him murdered. Under her reign there were three divisions of Poland and two wars against Turkey..." The information poured out like a fountain, in a monotone.

Catherine was listening, stunned. "That's...that's very interesting," she managed.

Wim Vandeen looked away.

Evelyn said, "Wim is shy when he meets people."

Shy? Catherine thought. The man is weird. And he's a genius? What kind of job is this going to be?

In Athens, in his offices on Aghiou Geronda Street, Constantin Demiris was listening to a telephone report from Alfred in London.

"I drove Miss Alexander directly from the airport to the flat, Mr. Demiris. I asked her if she wished me to take her anywhere else, as you suggested, and she said no.

"She's had no outside contacts at all?"

"No, sir. Not unless she made some telephone calls from the flat, sir."

Constantin Demiris was not worried about that. Anna, the housekeeper, would report to him. He replaced the receiver, satisfied. She presented no immediate danger to him and he would see that she was watched. She was alone in the world. She had no one to turn to except her benefactor, Constantin Demiris. I must make arrangements to go to London soon, Demiris thought happily. Very soon.

Catherine Alexander found her new job interesting. Daily reports came in from Constantin Demiris's far-flung empire. There were bills of lading from a steel mill in Indiana, audits from an automobile factory in Italy, invoices from a newspaper chain in Australia, a gold mine, an insurance company. Catherine collated the reports and saw to it that the information went directly to Wim Vandeen. Wim glanced at the reports once, put them through the incredible computer that was his brain, and almost instantly calculated the percentages of profit or loss to the company.

Catherine enjoyed getting to know her new colleagues, and she was awed by the beauty of the old building she worked in.

She mentioned it to Evelyn Kaye once in front of Wim and Wim said, "This was a government customhouse designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1721. After the great fire of London, Christopher Wren redesigned fifty churches, including St. Paul's, St. Michael's, and St. Bride's. He designed the Royal Exchange and Buckingham House. He died in 1723 and is buried in St. Paul's. This house was converted to an office building in 1907, and in the Second World War during the Blitz, the government declared it an official air-raid shelter."

The air-raid shelter was a large bomb-proof room located through a heavy iron door adjoining the basement. Catherine looked into the heavily fortified room, and thought about the brave British men and women and children who had found shelter there during the terrible bombing by Hitler's Luftwaffe.

The basement itself was huge, running the entire length of the building. It had a large boiler for heating the building, and was filled with electronic and telephone equipment. The boiler was a problem. Several times Catherine had escorted a repairman down to the basement to take a look at it. Each one would tinker with it, pronounce it cured of whatever had ailed it, and leave.

"It looks so dangerous," Catherine said. "Is there any chance that it might explode?"

"Bless your heart, miss, of course not. See this safety valve here? Well, if the boiler should ever get too hot, the safety valve releases all the excess steam, and Bob's your uncle. No problem."

After the work day was over, there was London. London...a cornucopia of wonderful theater, ballet, and music concerts. There were interesting old bookstores like Hatchard's and Foyle's - and dozens of museums, little antique shops, and restaurants. Catherine visited the lithograph shops in Cecil Court and shopped at Harrods, and Fortnum and Mason, and Marks and Spencer, and had Sunday tea at the Savoy.

From time to time, unbidden thoughts came into Catherine's mind. There were so many things to remind her of Larry. A voice...a phrase...a cologne...a song. No. The past is finished. The future is what's important. And each day she became stronger.

Catherine and Evelyn Kaye became friends and occasionally went out together. One Sunday they visited the open-air art exhibition on the Thames embankment. There were dozens of artists there, young and old, displaying their paintings, and they all had one thing in common: They were failures who had been unable to have their works exhibited in any gallery. The paintings were terrible. Catherine bought one out of sympathy.

"Where are you going to put it?" Evelyn asked.

"In the boiler room," Catherine said.

As they walked along the London streets, they came across the pavement artists, men who used colored chalks to paint on the stone of the pavement. Some of their work was amazing. Passersby would stop to admire them and then toss a few coins to the artists. One afternoon on her way back from lunch, Catherine stopped to watch an elderly man work on a beautiful landscape in chalk. As he was finishing it, it began to rain, and the old man stood there watching his work being washed away. That's a lot like my past life, Catherine thought.

Evelyn took Catherine to Shepherd Market. "This is an interesting area," Evelyn promised.

It was certainly colorful. There was a three-hundred-year-old restaurant called Tiddy Dols, a magazine stand, a market, a beauty parlor, a bakery, antique shops, and several two- and three-story residences.

The name plates on the mailboxes were odd. One read "Helen," and below it "French lessons." Another read "Rosie," and below that "Greek taught here."

"Is this an educational area?" Catherine asked.

Evelyn laughed aloud. "In a way I guess it is. Only the kind of education these girls give can't be taught in school."

Evelyn laughed even louder when Catherine blushed.

Catherine was alone most of the time, but she kept herself too busy to be lonely. She plunged into her days as though trying to make up for the precious moments of her life that had been stolen from her. She refused to worry about the past or the future. She visited Windsor Castle, and Canterbury with its beautiful cathedral, and Hampton Court. On weekends, she went into the country and stayed at quaint little inns, and took long walks through the countryside.

I'm alive, she thought. No one is born happy. Everyone has to make his own happiness. I'm a survivor. I'm young and I'm healthy and wonderful things are going to happen.

On Monday she would go back to work. Back to Evelyn and the girls and Wim Vandeen.

Wim Vandeen was an enigma.

Catherine had never met anyone like him. There were twenty employees in the office, and without even bothering to use a calculator, Wim Vandeen remembered every employee's salary, national insurance number, and deductions. Although all of this was on file, he kept all the company records in his head. He knew the monthly cash flow from each division and how it compared with the previous months, going back five years, when he had started with the company.

Wim Vandeen remembered everything he had ever seen or heard or read. The range of his knowledge was incredible. The simplest questions on any subject would trigger a stream of information, yet he was antisocial.

Catherine discussed him with Evelyn. "I don't understand Wim at all."

"Wim is an eccentric," Evelyn said. "You just have to take him as he is. All he's interested in is numbers. I don't think he cares about people."

"Does he have friends?" "No."

"Does he ever date? I mean - go out with girls?" "No."

It seemed to Catherine that Wim was isolated and lonely, and she felt a kinship with him.

Wim's range of knowledge amazed Catherine. One morning, she developed an earache.

Wim said gruffly, "This weather's not going to help it any. You'd better go see an ear doctor."

"Thanks, Wim. I..."

"The parts of the ear are the auricle, auditory meatus, tympanic membrane, the chain of ossicles - hammer, anvil, and stirrup - tympanic cavity, the semicircular duct, oval window, and eustachian tube, auditory nerve, and the cochlear duct." And he walked away.

On another day, Catherine and Evelyn took Wim to lunch at the Ram's Head, a local pub. In the back room, customers were throwing darts.

"Are you interested in sports, Wim?" Catherine asked. "Have you ever seen a baseball game?"

"Baseball," Wim said. "A baseball is nine and a quarter inches in circumference. It's made of yarn wound on a hard rubber cone and covered with white leather. The bat is usually made of ash, not more than two and three quarter inches in the greatest diameter, and not more than forty-two inches in length."

He knows all the statistics, Catherine thought, but has he ever felt the excitement of actually doing it?

"Have you ever played any sports? Basketball, for instance?"

"Basketball is played on a wooden or concrete floor. The ball has a spherical leather cover thirty-one inches in circumference, inflated by a rubber bladder to thirteen pounds of pressure. It weighs twenty to twenty-two ounces. Basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891." Catherine had her answer.

Sometimes Wim could be an embarrassment in public. One Sunday, Catherine and Evelyn took Wim to Maidenhead, on the Thames. They stopped at the Compleat Angler for lunch. The waiter came up to their table. "We have fresh clams today."

Catherine turned to Wim. "Do you like clams?"

Wim said, "There are long clams, quahog, or round clams, razor clams, surf clams, single shells, and blood clams."

The waiter was staring at him. "Would you care to order some, sir?"

"I don't like clams," Wim snapped.

Catherine liked the people she was working with, but Wim became special to her. He was brilliant beyond her comprehension, and at the same time, he seemed withdrawn and lonely.

Catherine said to Evelyn one day: "Isn't there some chance that Wim might lead a normal life? Fall in love and get married?"

Evelyn sighed. "I told you. He has no emotions. He'll never get attached to anyone."

But Catherine did not believe it. Once or twice she had caught a flash of interest - of affection - of laughter - in Wim's eyes, and she wanted to draw him out, to help him. Or had it been her imagination?

One day, the office staff received an invitation to a charity ball being held at the Savoy.

Catherine walked into Wim's office. "Wim, do you dance?"

He stared at her. "A bar and a half of four-four-time music completes one rhythmic unit in a fox-trot. The man starts the basic step with his left foot and takes two steps forward. The woman starts with her right foot and takes two steps backward. The two slow steps are followed by a quick step at right angles to the slow steps. To dip, the man steps forward on his left foot and dips - slow - then he moves forward on his right foot - slow. Then he moves to the left with his left foot - quick. Then closes his right foot to his left foot - quick."

Catherine stood there, not knowing what to say. He knows all the words, but he doesn't understand their meaning.

Constantin Demiris telephoned. It was late at night and Catherine was preparing to go to bed.

"I hope I didn't disturb you. It's Costa."

"No, of course not." She was glad to hear his voice. She had missed talking to him, asking his advice. After all, he was the only one in the world who really knew about her past. She felt as though he were an old friend.

"I've been thinking about you, Catherine. I was concerned that you might find London a lonely place. After all, you don't know anyone there."

"I do get a little lonely sometimes," Catherine admitted. "But I'm coping. I keep remembering what you said. Forget about the past, live for the future."

"That's right. Speaking of the future, I'm going to be in London tomorrow. I would like to take you to dinner."

"I would enjoy that very much," Catherine said warmly. She was looking forward to it. She would have a chance to tell him how grateful she was to him.

When Constantin Demiris replaced the receiver, he smiled to himself. The chase is on.

They had dinner at the Ritz. The dining room was elegant and the food was delicious, but Catherine was too excited to pay attention to anything except the man who was sitting opposite her. There was so much she had to tell him.

"You have a wonderful office staff," Catherine said. "Wim is amazing. I've never seen anyone who can..."

But Demiris was not listening to the words. He was studying her, thinking how beautiful she was, and how vulnerable. But I mustn't rush her, Demiris decided. No, I'll play the game slowly and savor the victory. This one will be for you, Noelle, and for your lover.

"Are you going to be in London long?" Catherine was asking.

"Just a day or two. I had some business to take care of." That was true. But he knew he could have handled it by telephone. No, he had come to London to begin his campaign to draw Catherine closer to him, to make her emotionally dependent on him. He leaned forward. "Catherine, did I ever tell you about the time I worked in the oil fields in Saudi Arabia...?"

Demiris took Catherine to dinner the following night.

"Evelyn told me what a wonderful job you're doing at the office. I'm going to give you a raise."

"You've been so generous already," Catherine protested. "I..."

Demiris looked into her eyes. "You don't know how generous I can be."

Catherine was embarrassed. He's only being kind, she thought. I mustn't imagine things.

The following day, Demiris was ready to leave. "Would you like to ride out to the airport with me, Catherine?"

"Yes."

She found him fascinating, almost spellbinding. He was amusing and brilliant and she was flattered by his attention.

At the airport, Demiris kissed Catherine lightly on the cheek. "I'm glad we could spend some time together, Catherine."

"So am I. Thank you, Costa."

She stood there watching his plane take off. He's very special, Catherine thought. I'm going to miss him.