The Beautiful Widow - By Helen Brooks


STEEL LANDRY WAS running out of patience. A man who suffered fools badly, he’d spent most of the morning sorting out what he termed as a ‘pig’s ear’ of a mess. Since his property business had mushroomed into a multimillion-pound operation with tentacles reaching into a dozen major cities in the UK, out of necessity he’d been forced to rely on the personnel he employed in the various offices he had all over the country. He couldn’t be everywhere at once—much as he would have liked to have been. And one of his managers had let him down badly, ignoring contractual obligations and placing the name of Landry Enterprises in disrepute. The morning had been a damage control exercise and although the matter was now resolved it had left a nasty taste in his mouth. Add to that the fact he hadn’t slept well the night before—his brother-in-law had phoned an hour ago to say Steel’s sister was in hospital with a threatened miscarriage, and his very able and reliable secretary had given in her notice due to her husband’s job moving to the States—and it summed up the perfect Monday.

He glared at the smoked salmon sandwiches his secretary had fetched for his lunch and called the hospital for the second time in twenty minutes. The answer was still the same: Mrs Wood was as comfortable as could be expected, which in hospital jargon probably meant she was suffering the torments of the damned.

As soon as Jeff, his brother-in-law, had phoned, Steel had contacted the hospital and arranged for a private room and the top consultant. Now he resolved he’d put all further business for the day on hold and go across London to the hospital himself to make sure Annie was having the best treatment available. Jeff was a great guy and devoted to Annie, but a typical high-brow academic who was so absorbed in his job as an astronomer, researching satellite communication systems and space agency work at a top avionic company, that he barely saw what was in front of him on planet earth.

Decision made, he checked his diary. Nothing that couldn’t wait. And then he frowned. Although there was that woman he was interviewing at the end of the day for the post of interior designer, the one James had personally recommended. What was her name? Oh, yeah, Toni George. He glanced at the gold Rolex on one tanned wrist. Getting on for three o’clock, and Mrs George was due to arrive at five-thirty.

Steel flexed his muscled shoulders, rotating his head to ease the tension in his neck. The hospital was only a stone’s throw from his apartment; he didn’t particularly fancy battling back to the office after he’d left there only to retrace the journey once the interview was over. Flicking the switch on the intercom on his desk, he said, ‘Joy, this interview later with Toni George. See if you can contact her and arrange for her to call at my apartment instead of here. I’m going to be leaving the hospital about that time. Do it now, would you?’

Less than two minutes later his secretary tapped on the door and put her sleek blonde head into the room. ‘All arranged,’ she said briskly, ‘although I did mention you were visiting your sister in hospital close to your apartment when she seemed a little … wary about the change of location. She was fine after that.’

He surveyed Joy through amused eyes. He hadn’t thought this Mrs George might think he had ulterior motives; perhaps he should have. Reaching for his suit jacket on the back of his chair, he stood up. ‘Thanks,’ he said briefly. ‘Oh, and give Stuart my congratulations on the promotion.’

‘Will do.’ Joy regarded him sympathetically. She knew Steel thought the world of his sister and this news had knocked him for six, although as ever the hard, handsome face showed little emotion. She had worked for him for four years and not only was he the most generous boss she’d ever had, but the most attractive too. If she wasn’t so in love with her husband she could have fallen for Steel in a big way, she thought—for possibly the thousandth time. Perhaps she was in love with him a little, but he’d always been so businesslike and correct in his dealings with her it had been easy to conceal it.

Outside, the warm June air carried city dust and fumes in its embrace, but once in his black Aston Martin