"La Signora. One of her summits with lawyers, I'm told. You might want to be there."
"Ah, well, really, I was-"
He broke off as Rene walked in.
If there was a poster girl for the trophy mistress, Sophia thought as her temper sizzled, Rene Foxx was it. Tall, curvy and blonde on blonde. The Valentino gown showcased a body ruthlessly toned, and managed to look understated and elegant.
Her hair was swept up, slicked back to leave her lovely, pampered face with its full, sensuous mouth-collagen, Sophia thought cattily-and shrewd green eyes.
She'd chosen diamonds to marry the Valentino, and they flashed and shimmered against her polished skin.
Just how much, Sophia wondered, had those rocks set her father back?
"Hello." Sophia sipped more vermouth to wash some of the bitterness off her tongue. "Rene, isn't it?"
"Yes, and it has been for nearly two years. It's still Sophia?"
"Yes, for twenty-six."
Tony cleared his throat. Nothing, in his opinion, was more dangerous than two sniping females. The man between them always took the bullet.
"Rene, Sophia's just in from New York."
"Really?" Enjoying herself, Rene took Tony's glass, sipped. "That explains why you're looking a bit travel-frayed. We're about to leave for a party. You're welcome to join us," she added, hooking her arm through Tony's. "I must have something in my closet that would work on you."
If she was going to go claw to claw with Rene, it wouldn't be after a coast-to-coast flight and in her father's apartment. Sophia would choose the time, and the place.
"That's so considerate, but I'd feel awkward wearing something so obviously too large. And," she added, coating her words with sugar, "I'm just on my way north. Family business." She set her glass down. "Enjoy your evening."
She walked to the door, where Tony caught up with her to give her shoulder a quick, placating pat. "Why don't you come along, Sophie? You're fine as you are. You're beautiful."
"No, thank you." She turned, and their eyes met. His were full of sheepish apology. It was an expression she was too accustomed to seeing for it to be effective. "I'm not feeling particularly festive."
He winced as she shut the door in his face.
"What did she want?" Rene demanded.
"She just dropped by, as I said."
"Your daughter never does anything without a reason."
He shrugged. "She may have thought we could drive up north together in the morning. Tereza's sent out a summons."
Rene's eyes narrowed. "You didn't tell me about that."
"I didn't get one." He dismissed the entire matter and thought of the party and just how he and Rene would look making their entrance. "You look fabulous, Rene. It's a shame to cover that dress, even with mink. Shall I get your wrap?"
"What do you mean you didn't get one?" Rene slapped the empty glass on a table. "Your position at Giambelli is certainly more important than your daughter's." And Rene meant to see it remained that way. "If the old woman's calling the family, you go. We'll drive up tomorrow."
"It's the perfect opportunity to take your stand, Tony, and to tell Pilar you want a divorce. We'll make it an early night, so we'll both be clearheaded." She crossed to him, slid her fingers down his cheek.
With Tony, she knew, manipulation required firm demands and physical rewards, judiciously melded.
"And when we get back tonight, I'll show you just what you can expect from me when we're married. When we get back, Tony..." She leaned in, bit teasingly at his bottom lip. "You can do anything you want."
"Let's just skip the party."
She laughed, slipped away from his hands. "It's important. And it'll give you time to think of just what you want to do to me. Get my sable for me, won't you, darling?"
Reprinted from The Villa by Nora Roberts by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Nora Roberts. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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