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Home > Mistress of the Game(2)

Mistress of the Game(2)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

“Where?”

Following his friend’s line of vision, Danny Corretti trained his zoom lens on a figure huddled in the very center of the crowd of mourners. Dressed head to toe in black, with a thick, floor-length lace mantilla covering her immaculately cut Dior suit, it was impossible to make out her face. She could have been anyone. But she wasn’t anyone.

“Are you kidding me?” Danny Corretti frowned. Below him the churchyard seemed to lurch ominously, the ancient graves rising and falling like horses on a ghoulish carousel. “I can’t see shit. Are you sure it’s her? It could be Johnny Carson under all that lace.”

His companion grinned. “Not with that ass it couldn’t. It’s her all right.”

From the tree to his left, Danny Corretti heard the low whir, whir, click of a rival camera. Refocusing his zoom, he began to shoot.

Come on, baby. Give Daddy a smile.

A clear shot of Eve Blackwell’s face would be worth a cool hundred grand to whichever photographer got there first. Anyone skilled enough to capture her elusive baby bump could expect to earn twice that.

Two hundred grand!

Not a lot of money to the Blackwells perhaps, heirs to multibillion-dollar Kruger-Brent, Ltd., the diamond empire turned vast, multinational conglomerate that had made them the richest family in America; but a fortune to Danny Corretti. It was the Blackwells who had brought Danny and his fellow paparazzi to St. Stephen’s churchyard on this chill February morning. They had come to bury their matriarch, Kate Blackwell, dead at last at the grand old age of ninety-two.

Look at them. Like bloated blackflies, swarming around the old lady’s corpse. Revolting.

Danny Corretti felt his nausea return, but tried not to think about it, or about the excruciating pain in his back from being stuck up a tree for six straight hours. He longed to stretch out, but didn’t dare move a muscle, in case he alerted the Kruger-Brent security guards to his presence. Watching the dour, black-clad figures pace the perimeter of the churchyard, pistols clutched like security blankets to their ex-Marine Corps chests, Danny Corretti felt a stab of fear. He doubted Kate Blackwell had hired any of them for their sense of humor.

You’ll be okay. Just get the shot and get out of here. Come on, Eve, baby. Say cheese.

Danny Corretti wasn’t really cut out for this sort of covert work. A tall, skinny man with preternaturally long legs and an unexpected shock of white-blond hair above his Italian olive complexion, there weren’t too many hiding places in the Maine churchyard that could accommodate his lanky, six-foot-two frame. The yew tree had been his best option, but he’d had to arrive ludicrously early this morning to beat his rivals to such a coveted vantage point. As he clung to the upper branches now, every sinew of his body felt like it was on fire, despite the numbing cold of the day. He gritted his teeth, cursing his long legs to the heavens.

Just think of the money.

Ironically, if it weren’t for his long legs, Danny wouldn’t have been on this crazy job in the first place.

If it hadn’t been for Danny’s long legs, his mistress’s husband would never have noticed his size-twelve feet sticking out from under the marital bed.

Ah, Carla. God, she was beautiful! Those breasts, as soft and succulent as two ripe peaches. No man could resist her. If only that neanderthal she married hadn’t punched out early…

It was Danny’s long legs that had gotten him beaten to a pulp and landed him (uninsured) in the local hospital. Thanks to his long legs, his wife, Loretta, had discovered his affair, divorced him, and taken the house. Now, thanks to his long legs, Loretta’s rat-faced lawyer was demanding that Danny pay alimony to the tune of a thousand bucks a month.

A thousand bucks? Who did they think he was, Donald friggin’ Trump?

Yes, Danny blamed his long legs entirely for his current predicament. Why else would he be spending his Sunday morning bent double and freezing his ass off in a four-hundred-year-old tree above a graveyard, risking his neck for one lousy picture of the woman the tabloids had dubbed “The Beast of the Blackwells”?

Danny Corretti’s long legs had a lot to answer for.

He was gonna get that shot of Eve Blackwell if it killed him.

The priest’s voice rang out through the February chill, deep and strong and powerful.

“Merciful God, you know the anguish of the sorrowful…”

Behind her thick veil, Eve Blackwell sneered. Sorrowful? To see that old witch dead and buried? Please. If I were ten years younger I’d be doing cartwheels.

Today Eve was burying one of her enemies. But she would not rest until she had buried them all.

One down, three to go.

“You are attentive to the prayers of the humble…”

Eve Blackwell glanced around at the small group of family and friends who had come to bid her grandmother Kate farewell and wondered if any of them could be described as humble.

There was her identical twin sister, Alexandra. At thirty-four, Alexandra was still a great beauty with her high cheekbones, mane of buttermilk hair and the striking gray eyes she had inherited from her great-grandfather, Kruger-Brent’s founder, Jamie McGregor.

Eve’s eyes narrowed with hatred. The same hatred she had felt for her twin since the day they emerged from the womb.

How dare she! How dare my sister still look beautiful.

Alexandra was weeping openly, clutching tightly to her son Robert’s hand. Blond, delicate and sweet-natured, ten-year-old Robert was a carbon copy of his mother. A gifted pianist, he had been Kate Blackwell’s favorite, and Kruger-Brent’s heir apparent.

Not for much longer, thought Eve. Let’s see how long the boy lasts without Kate around to protect him.

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