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Home > Mistress of the Game(3)

Mistress of the Game(3)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Eve Blackwell felt her chest tighten. How she loathed the pair of them, mother and son and their crocodile tears! If only it were Alexandra’s body being lowered into the gaping, frozen earth today. Then Eve’s happiness would truly be complete.

Beside Alexandra hovered her husband, the eminent psychiatrist Peter Templeton. Tall, dark, handsome and blue-eyed, Peter Templeton looked more like a quarterback than a psychiatrist. He and Alex made a handsome couple. Peter had once been arrogant enough to think he understood Eve. He believed he’d seen through her, through to the molten core of hatred that bubbled deep within. Alexandra, in her goodness, had never been able to see how much her twin sister hated her. But her husband knew better.

Eve smiled.

Vain fool. He thinks he knows me, but he’s barely scratched the surface.

No, the priest would find no humility in Peter Templeton.

What about her own husband, the eminent plastic surgeon Keith Webster? Many people thought of Keith Webster as humble. Eve could hear his grateful patients now: “ Dear Dr. Webster, such a gifted surgeon, but so shy and unassuming about his talents.” Eve felt her flesh creep as Keith wrapped a protective, conjugal arm around her shoulder.

Protective? He’s not protective. He’s possessive. And psychotic. He blackmailed me into marriage, then deliberately destroyed my face, carving up my beautiful features and turning me into this grotesque, this creature from a carnival freak show. All so that I wouldn’t leave him.

One day I’ll make that bastard pay for what he’s done.

Eve Blackwell was many things, but she was not stupid. She knew that the trees and bushes around St. Stephen’s Church were alive with photographers, and she knew why: they all wanted a picture of her hideously ravaged face.

Well, they could go to hell, the lot of them. From behind, you could still make out Eve’s perfect, womanly figure. But her front side was completely concealed. No lens on earth could penetrate the thick, hand-woven lace of her veil. Eve had made sure of it.

Once a renowned beauty, in recent years Eve Blackwell had become a virtual recluse in her Manhattan penthouse, terrified of showing her monstrously scarred face to the world. Indeed, she had not been seen in public for two years. The last time was at her grandmother’s ninetieth birthday party at Cedar Hill House, the Blackwell family’s private Camelot, just yards from where the old woman was now being laid to rest.

Kate Blackwell was the lucky one. She’d gone to join her beloved ghosts: Jamie, Margaret, Banda, David, the spirits of Kruger-Brent’s long and violent African past. But there was to be no such rest for Eve. With rumors already flying about her pregnancy-Eve and Alexandra Blackwell were both expecting, but the family had refused to confirm this to the press-Eve was well aware that the price on her head had doubled. There wasn’t a tabloid editor in America who wouldn’t sell his soul for a half-decent picture of the Beast of the Blackwells with child.

And to think, they call me a monster…

“Lord, hear Your people, who cry out to You in their need…”

Eve watched silently as Kate Blackwell’s coffin was lowered into the freshly dug grave. Brad Rogers, Kate’s number two at Kruger-Brent for three decades, stifled a sob. Now a very old man himself, his hair as white and thin as the dusting of February snow beneath his feet, Brad Rogers had been all but broken by Kate’s death. Secretly he had loved her for years. But it was a love she could never return.

How tiny she is! thought Eve in wonder as the pathetic wooden box disappeared into the bowels of the earth. Kate Blackwell, who had loomed so large in life, feted by presidents and kings. How insignificant she was, in the end.

Not much of a feast for the worms of your beloved Dark Harbor, are you, Granny?

For years, Kate Blackwell had been Eve’s nemesis. She’d done everything in her power to prevent her wicked granddaughter from achieving her life’s ambition-taking control of the family firm, the mighty Kruger-Brent.

But now Kate Blackwell was gone.

“Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her.”

Good riddance, you vengeful old bitch. I hope you rot in hell.

“May she rest in peace.”

Danny Corretti looked miserably at the negatives in front of him. His back was still killing him after this morning, and now he felt a migraine coming on.

“You get anything?”

His friend tried to sound hopeful. But he already knew the answer.

None of them had gotten the two-hundred-thousand-dollar picture.

Eve Blackwell had outsmarted them all.

TWO

IN THE MATERNITY UNIT AT NEW YORK’S MOUNT SINAI Medical Center, Nurse Gaynor Matthews watched the handsome, middle-aged father take his newborn child in his arms for the first time.

He was gazing at the baby girl, oblivious to everything around him. Nurse Matthews thought: He’s thinking how beautiful she is.

Nurse Matthews was pleasantly plump, with a round, open face and a ready smile that accentuated the twin fans of lines around her eyes. A midwife for more than a decade, she’d seen this moment played out thousands of times-hundreds of them in this very room-but she never tired of it. Besotted dads, their eyes lighting up with love, the purest love they would ever know. Moments like these made midwifery worthwhile. Worth the grinding hours. Worth the crappy pay. Worth the patronizing male obstetricians who thought of themselves as gods just because they had a medical degree and a penis.

Worth the rare moments of tragedy.

The father gently caressed his baby’s cheek. He was a beautiful man, Nurse Matthews decided. Tall, dark, broad-shouldered, a classic jock. Just the way she liked them.

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