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Phelix had not wanted to come. Oh, she loved Switzerland, but her previous visits had always been in winter when the skiing was good.
Yet now it was September and, apart from the remains of winter's snow on some of the highest peaks, there was no snow. In fact the weather was sunny and beautiful. And here she was in Davos Platz, having arrived last nightand still feeling very annoyed because, in her view, there was no earthly reason for her to be there.
It was 'business' her father said. What business? She was a corporate lawyer working for Edward Bradbury Systems, her father's company. But she could not for the life of her see why any lawyer, corporate of otherwise, would need to attend a week-long scientific, electronic, electrical and mechanical engineering conference!
'I can't see why I have to go,' she had protested when her father had informed her of the arrangements he had made.
'Because I say so!' Edward Bradbury had replied harshly.
At one time she would have accepted that. Would have had to accept it, she knew. But not any longer. Not blindly, and certainly not without question. In the past she had been forced to accept every edict her control-freak father uttered. But not now. So, 'Why?' she challenged. It had taken a long while for her to get where she was, to get to be the person she now was. There was nothing left now of the weak and pathetic creature she had been eight years ago. 'If it's work related, I could understand a need. But for me to spend a week in Switzerland with a load of scientists who'
'Networking!' Edward Bradbury chopped her off, but unbent sufficiently to explain that there had been whispers for some while that JEPC Holdings, one of the biggest names in the industry, were about to outsource a vast amount of their engineering. He had now, personally, along with the top brass from other competing companies, been invited to make the same Swiss trip next week, when the top men from JEPC would be flying in for a round of exploratory talks, give a general outline, and chat with the various highest of executives. 'It will mean millions to whichever company gets the contract,' he stated, money signs flashing in his eyes. Phelix still did not see, since as yet there was not a sign of any contract, why she had to go. 'I'm sending Ward and Watson with you. I want you all to keep an ear to the ground; listen for anything else going on that I need to know about.'
Duncan Ward and Christopher Watson were both scientists and wizards when it came to electronics. But Phelix doubted that there would be anything going on apart from a load of boring old speeches. It made her feel a little better, though, that the two scientists, both men she liked, would be there too.
'I've booked you into one of the very best hotels,' her father statedas if that was an inducement!
'Duncan Ward and Chris Watson too?' she asked.
'Of course,' he replied stiffly. And that, as far as he was concerned, was that.
It was not that, as far as Phelix was concerned. The very next day she went to see Henry Scott, her friend and mentor, and who was also the company's most senior corporate lawyer. Henry was nearing sixty and, through their various conversations over the years, she had learned he had been a very good friend to her mother.
He must have been an excellent friend, Phelix had long since realised. Because it had been Henry that her mother had called on the night she had died. The night she had taken all the cruelty she could take from her domineering husband and had attempted to run away from him.
Phelix's thoughts drifted back to that dreadful time. Back to that awful night. It had been a foul night when, pausing only to make that phone call and to throw some clothes on, Felicity Bradbury had fled her home. When she pieced everything together afterwards, Phelix thought that her mother must have seen car headlights coming towards her in the storm thrashing about overhead, and had run out into the road in the blinding rain. It had not been Henry, and the car driver had stood no chance of not hitting her. Henry had been held up by a tree that had crashed over in the storm and which had blocked the road. By the time he had found another route and reached her home, he had been acquainted with the news he had arrived too late. The police had waved him on.
But while he had not been in time to help Felicity, he had made sure that her daughter would not ask for his help in vain.
It had been Henry who, almost eight years ago now, had aided Phelix when she had decided that she wanted a career of some sort. He had taken her seriously to suggest, 'Being a corporate lawyer is really not as dull as it may sound.'
'You think I could become a lawyer?' she'd asked, for one of the few times in her listless life feeling a surge of excitement at the thought.
'I know you couldif that is what you want. You're bright, Phelix. It will mean a tremendous amount of hard work, but we'll get you there, if indeed law is what you fancy doing.'
And she had rather thought she did fancy a career in law. She had recentlyno thanks to her fatherhad quite a lot to do with lawyers. She had found them upright and trustworthy which, having discovered the duplicity of her father's nature at first hand, was more than she could say for him.
He, needless to say, had not cared for the idea of her taking up legal trainingmost probably because it was not his idea. But by then she'd been on the way to receiving ten percent of the very substantial sum of money her grandfatherthe same type of hard nut as her fatherhad left her.
'I said no!' Edward Bradbury Junior had declared vociferously. 'I forbid it!'
She had still been in awe of her father in those days. But, having only a short while ago been party to the biggest untruth of all time, she had again felt the stirrings of breaking free from the chains of his life-long dictatorship over her.
'Actually, Father, I'm eighteen now, and no longer require your permission,' she had dared.
He had taken a step nearer and, purple with rage, had looked as though he might strike her. And it had taken every scrap of her courage not to cower back from him, but to stand her ground.
'I'm not paying for your years of training!' he had spat at her, enraged.
'You don't need to,'' she had answered, still watching out for his clenching and unclenching fists at his side. 'I've been to see Grandfather Bradbury's solicitors. They tell me'
'You've done what?'
He had heard, she was not going to repeat it. 'They were most surprised to learn that the letters they had sent me had gone astray.' Not half as surprised as she had been to hear the full contents of her grandfather's bequests to hernor the conditions imposed. 'But what happened to my private and confidential mail is no longer important. I now know I have sufficient money to fund my own studies.'
Edward Bradbury had thrown her an evil look. She'd always been aware that he had no love or liking for her, and in the days when it had mattered to her she had wondered if it would have been different had she been the son he had so desperately wanted. But his love and liking had never been there, and had he ever loved her mother that love had died stone cold dead when she had failed to produce the male heir he'd so badly wanted.
'Would you like me to leave home?' Phelix had been brave enough to volunteer, more than hoping he would say yes.
She supposed she had known in advance that he would say noshe was the buffer between him and their housekeeper, Grace Roberts. In actual fact Phelix knew that Grace had only stayed on after her mother, the gentle Felicity, had been killed, for her sake. Edward Bradbury was under no illusion that if his daughter left then Grace, who was only a few years away from retirement anyway, would leave too. He enjoyed Grace's cooking, enjoyed the fact that his shirts were laundered exactly as he liked them, enjoyed that his home was run on oiled wheelshe had not the smallest interest in spending his time trying to find a new housekeeper who would only measure halfway up to Grace's standards.
'No, I wouldn't!' he had reported bluntly, and stormed out of the room.
Phelix came out of her reverie and supposed she ought to make tracks for the Kongresszentrum. But she had little enthusiasm for the day's events: a general introduction and getting to know some of the people. 'Networking' as her father called it.
She was more than a little off him at the moment. Had she not made that phone call to Henry from the airport before she had left yesterday she would probably not have known until today exactly why her father was so insistent that she attend.
'Do I really have to go, Henry?' she had asked the senior lawyer.
'Your father will play hell if you don't,' he'd answered gently. 'Though ' He'd paused.
'What?' Phelix had asked quickly, sensing something was coming that she might not be too happy about.
'Umyou're coming back a week tomorrow, right?'
'I'll come back as soon as I can. Though I suppose I'd better stick it out until then. My father and all the big chiefs will be there from a week Wednesdaythank goodness I don't have to be!'
'Ernot all the bigwigs are leaving it until next week,' Henry informed her kindlyand suddenly her heart lurched.
There was a roaring in her ears. No, she definitely wasn't going! Though, hold on a minute, her father would never send her on this mission if he thought for a single moment that he would be there.
'Who?' she asked faintly, wanting confirmation and urgently.
'Ross Dawson,' Henry supplied, and a whole welter of relief surged through her.
To be followed a few seconds later by a spurt of annoyance at yet another sign of her father's underhandedness. Ross Dawson was a few years older that her own twenty-six years. He was the son of the chairman of Dawson and Cross and, it had to be said, had a 'thing' for her despite Phelix telling him frequently and often that he was wasting his time.
'Do me a favour, Henry?'
'I've already done it.' He laughed, and she laughed too. All too plainly Henry Scott had known that she would check in with him before she left London.
'Where am I staying?' she asked, loving Henry that, without waiting to ask, he had transferred her hotel booking.
'A lovely hotel half a mile or so from the conference centre,' he replied. 'You'll be more than comfortable there.'
'You've cancelled my other reservation?'
'Everything's taken care of,' Henry assured her.
She rang off a few minutes later, knowing that her father would go up the wall if he ever found out. But she did not care. It went without saying that Ross Dawson would be staying at the hotel she had previously been booked intoher father would have got that piece of information to him somehow.
Deciding she had better be going, Phelix checked her appearance in the full length mirror. She'd had her usual early-morning swim, in the hotel's swimming pool this time, and was glowing with health. She stared at the elegant and sophisticated unsmiling woman who looked back at her, with black shiny hair that curved inwards just below her dainty chin. She used little make-up, and did not need to. She wore an immaculate trouser suit of a shade of green that brought out to perfection the green of her eyes.
Phelix gave a small nod of approval to the female she had become. There was nothing about her nowoutwardly, at any rateof the shy, long hair all over the place, gauche apology for a woman she had been eight years ago. And she was glad of itit had been a hard road.
Having hired a car in Zurich and driven to Davos, she opted to walk to the conference centre, and left her hotel quietly seething that her father so wanted an 'in' with Dawson and Cross that he was fully prepared to make full use of Ross Dawson's interest in, not to say pursuit of her to that end. He was obviously hoping that by spending a week in close proximity of each other, with limited chance of her avoiding Ross, something might come of it!
She wouldn't put it past her father to even have telephoned in the first instance on some business pretext, and then casually let Ross, a director of Dawson and Cross, know that his daughter would be in Davos for a whole week.
She felt hurt as well as angry that her father, having sold her once, cared so little for her he was fully prepared to do it again. Over her dead body!
But, thanks to Henry having got wind of what was going on, he had been able to forewarn her, and at least do a little something to limit the time she had to spend with Ross. Not that she didn't like Ross. She did. She just had an extreme aversion to being manipulated. And, in the light of past events, who could blame her?
She knew that her father had been having a liaison with his PA, Anna Fry, for years. She wished he would concentrate his attentions more on Anna, and leave his daughter out of his scheming.
As Phelix neared the Kongresszentrum she saw other smartly dressed representatives making their way towards the entrance. She would be glad to see Chris and Duncan, she realised, and hoped nobody else would wonder, as she had before Henry had tipped her off, what possible reason she could have for being there. At least she had been spared the surprise of seeing Ross Dawson unexpectedly.
She made her way inside the building, hoping there were no other unexpected surprises waiting for her on this trip.
'Where did you get to?' She turned to find that Duncan Ward and Chris Watson had spotted her coming in and had come over to her. 'We looked high and low for you last night. Reception said you hadn't checked in.'
It was gratifying to know that they had been concerned about her. 'I should have let you know,' she apologised. 'I'm sorry. I thought I'd prefer a hotel a bit further away.'
'As in I might have to put up with you two talking shop during the day, but I want some rest from it in the evenings?' Chris grinned.