Sidney Sheldon's Chasing Tomorrow(3)By: Sidney Sheldon&Tilly Bagshawe
Tracy had long since taken her revenge on Joe Romano. But her hatred of corporate raiders never left her. As far as she was concerned, there was a special corner of hell reserved for the Maximilian Pierponts of this world.
You won’t get away this time, you bastard.
THE FLIGHT WAS LONG. Tracy chatted amiably with Pierpont for almost two hours before he fell asleep, snoring loudly like a beached walrus. It was enough time for her to embellish her alter ego a little. Tracy had played the Countess Valentina Di Sorrenti before and knew her history well. (She’d written the countess’s Wikipedia page, after all.) Valentina was a widow (Poor Marco! He died so young and so needlessly. A Jet Ski accident in Sardinia. Valentina witnessed it all from the upper deck of their yacht, El Paradiso) and came from an ancient, aristocratic family. She had recently lost her father and hinted at a large inheritance, without being drawn into details. Details were best avoided, in Tracy’s experience, especially while a con was still being formulated. She also made sure to display a charmingly feminine lack of understanding about financial matters and the ways of the world that made Maximilian Pierpont’s greedy eyes shine almost as much as they did when he looked at her breasts, something he did frequently and with no hint of embarrassment. By the end of the conversation, Countess Valentina had agreed to meet him for dinner the following evening at one of Rio’s finest restaurants.
Relieved that the odious Pierpont was finally asleep, Tracy picked up an in-flight magazine. The first article she read was about the soaring value of beachside property in Brazil. One featured estate boasted an Olympic-size infinity pool and formal gardens that could have rivaled those at the palace of Versailles. Tracy ran a finger over the pictures in awe. Jeff and I could be happy in a place like that. Our children could swim in the pool. They’ll all be amazing swimmers. And one day our daughter could get married in the gardens, with a line of flower girls in front of her, carpeting the lawn with rose petals . . .
She laughed at herself. Perhaps they should get married themselves first. One fantasy at a time.
The second article was about the environment, and the devastating effects of erosion on communities south of Rio. Tracy read about farmers who’d lost everything, of entire villages that had been abandoned, reclaimed by the sea. She read about terrible accidents, in which slum dwellers by the coast had drowned, and those inland had been buried alive under rivers of wet mud. What a terrible way to die, thought Tracy. In Brazil, more than anywhere else in the world, there was one country for the rich and another for the poor.
It wasn’t until the seat-belt signs were switched back on and the plane began its descent into Rio that it came to her. As the images rolled through her consciousness one by one—of her and Jeff at an altar, getting married; of infinity pools and mansions and slums and mudslides; of Maximilian Pierpont pressing his revolting wet lips to her skin; of her mother, eyes shut tight, holding the revolver up to her temple—she suddenly murmured the word “Yes!”
“You all right, little lady?”
Pierpont, awake again now, leaned in closer. His breath smelled of stale onions.
“Oh, sorry. Yes, I’m fine.” The Countess Valentina collected herself. “I love to visit Brazil. I always get excited when I’m going down.”
“So do I, baby.” Maximilian Pierpont squeezed her thigh and winked suggestively. “So do I.”
MAXIMILIAN PIERPONT TOOK TRACY to Quadrifoglio, a Michelin three-star restaurant in the quaint, backstreet neighborhood of the Jardim Botânico.
“This is really too generous of you, Mr. Pierpont.”
“Please, call me Max.”
“Max.” Countess Valentina Di Sorrenti smiled.