Sidney Sheldon's Chasing Tomorrow(4)

By: Sidney Sheldon&Tilly Bagshawe

She was looking particularly ravishing tonight, in a white lace Chanel blouse and floor-length black skirt from Ralph Lauren that emphasized her tiny waist. The diamonds at her ears and neck were flawlessly cut, perfect enough to convey serious wealth, yet small enough to mark her out as “old money.” Max Pierpont was a vulgar man, but he despised vulgarity in others, especially women. No danger of that with this lady. Max had Googled the Countess Di Sorrenti as soon as they landed. Her family was one of the oldest and grandest in South America.

Max wondered how long it would take him to get her out of her couture clothes and into his bed.

“So, Valentina. What brings you to Rio?” He filled Tracy’s glass to the brim with red wine from the bottle of vintage Quinta de la Rosa he’d just ordered.

The Countess Di Sorrenti’s beautiful face fell. “Business.” She looked up at Pierpont with sad, soulful eyes. “And tragedy. My father recently passed away, as I told you.”

Maximilian Pierpont reached across the table and closed his clammy hand over hers.

“He left me a beautiful property. Almost a mile of land along the coast. I thought of building a home there. It could be an exquisite estate. I have all the permissions to build and the views . . . Well, you have to see it to believe it. But”—she sighed heavily—“it was not to be.”

“Why not?” Like a hound picking up the scent of a fox, Maximilian Pierpont’s business instincts stirred to life. Coastal property in Brazil was going through the roof.

“It would make too sad. Always to be thinking of Papa.” The Countess Di Sorrenti gave a heartfelt sigh.

“That’s a shame. So what will you do with the land?”

Maximilian Pierpont framed the question casually. But Tracy could see the naked greed flickering in his piggy little eyes. She sipped at her wine.

“I thought about keeping it as is. But in the end I decided it was too much of a waste to let it just sit there. Someone should enjoy the beauty of that spot, even if I can’t.”

“That’s a very generous way of looking at it. I can see you’re a real giving person, Valentina.”

“Thank you, Max.”

Their food arrived. With typical arrogance, Max had ordered for both of them, although Tracy had to admit that the food was delicious. The gema caipiri—polenta caviar with egg yolk—was a highlight. Tracy could see why the likes of Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro had chosen to dine here, along with all of Rio’s business elite.

“Perhaps we could help each other out, Countess.” Maximilian Pierpont shoveled food into his mouth as if he were eating at a McDonald’s.

“Valentina,” Tracy purred.

“Well, Valentina, it just so happens that real estate is one of my passions. I could take the land off your hands and build something beautiful there. If I sell it for a good price, we could split the profits. How does that sound? That way the land wouldn’t be wasted, and everybody would gain.”

“It’s a lovely idea.” Tracy sighed again, leaning back in her chair. “If only I’d met you sooner, Max. But I’m afraid it’s too late.”

“What do you mean?”

“I already agreed to sell the land to the Church. It’s six acres, the perfect site for a small monastic community. Monsignor Cunardi showed me his plans for the chapel he wants to erect there. Very simple and elegant. I think Papa would have approved.”

Maximilian Pierpont experienced a stabbing pain in his chest. Forget Papa. Who builds a church on prime beachfront land in Rio?

“May I ask how much the monsignor has offered you?”

“Five million Brazilian reals. He’s been very generous.”

Maximilian Pierpont almost choked on his Quinta de la Rosa. Five million reals was a little more than $2 million. Six acres of land on the coast, with planning permission, was worth ten times that amount at least! The stupid bitch clearly hadn’t even had the property appraised.

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