Win Liberte has it all. He prides himself on never having worked a day in his life. He has everything he wants-fast cars, beautiful women, a racing yacht, a penthouse in Manhattan. Orphaned at eleven, Win inherited an international diamond business that is managed by his uncle.
Then Win loses it all when his uncle commits suicide after investing all of Win's money in a scheme that fails. His single remaining asset is a bankrupt diamond mine in Angola, a steaming, war-ravaged country in equatorial Africa.
In the blood and muck of central Africa, Win experiences the "Diamond Curse" first hand. Battles over Angola's vast wealth in gems occur daily, and fights for control of the diamond industry have wiped out generations. Thriving on the challenge, Win founds an international diamond business that challenges a powerful cartel's stranglehold on the market.
Loved by two women-a movie goddess who sears men's souls and a dedicated UN worker who risks her life in Africa-Win doesn't find anything worth living for until he loses love.
From the tunnels of the diamond mine to the stage at the Academy Awards, from the beds of beautiful women to a battle with warlords, Win has to fight to get back everything he ever wanted.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Born in 1916 in New York City, Harold Robbins was a millionaire by the time he was twenty. He lost his fortune by speculating on the price of sugar before the outbreak of World War II. Later, his fabulously successful career as a novelist, with many of his books turned into movies, would once again make him incredibly wealthy. For many years, Robbins enjoyed the high life among the rich and famous; he owned a huge yacht and had houses on the French Riviera and in Beverly Hills. His novels often mirrored his own experiences and were often people with the characters he had met. He died at the age of eighty-one, survived by his wife, Jann, and his two daughters, Caryn and Andreana.
Read an Excerpt
Heat of Passion
By Harold Robbins
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2003 Jann Robbins
All rights reserved.
Win Liberte, Beverly Hills, 1997
The phone next to the bed rang and Jonny stirred beside me, her bare leg cocked over my thigh, her knee warm pressed against my groin. I had the Heart of the World in my hand and I wasn't in any hurry to answer the phone. I knew who was calling. It was the front desk informing me I had a visitor.
I held the walnut-size diamond between my thumb and fingers, letting it catch the morning light from the window. Pieces of stars, that's what diamonds were, the hardest substance on earth with fire a billion years old trapped inside. And no diamond on earth had more fire than the one I was holding—a forty-one-carat blood diamond. Not the "blood" of conflict diamonds that fueled African civil wars, but a rare fire-red diamond. It was a gem with a history. Murder, lust, greed—the worst of the deadly sins—were part of its pedigree.
There was no other diamond like it in the world.
Vanity and greed, that's what they say the diamond industry is based upon. And that the human race could be relied upon for an endless supply of both. The stone I held in my hand was able to fuel explosive levels of both vices.
My visitor wanted the diamond. She was part of the history. Not the part where kings who possessed it lost their thrones, but war, murder, lust were contributions she made to the diamond's bloody history.
The phone rang again and Jonny pushed her knee harder against my groin, sending a shot of desire through me.
"Answer it," she said.
"It's your mother."
"Send her up," I told the caller.
Jonny rolled over onto her other side. Her name in Portugal was Juana, but at the Sacred Heart Academy in Beverly Hills, she was known as Jonny. At eighteen, her body was taut, skintight, golden brown, kissed by the Lisbon sun. Her breasts were small and firm, honey melons with rosy nipples that always looked like they were excited. Young, beautiful, wild. She reminded me of a young lionesses cub I saw once in Africa, big enough to rip with teeth and claws but who needed a warm stomach to snuggle up to at night.
I started to get up and Jonny grabbed my cock and pulled me back down.
"Fuck me before she comes up. I want her to smell my cunt on you."
I pushed her away. "Jonny, you're too much for me, I need a grown woman who isn't going to wear the point off my pecker."
I felt sorry for kids her age, kids who are light years away from their parents and anyone else over thirty. Older people have nostalgia for the good old days, but there are no good old days for people nurtured in a culture of sex and drugs. What do they talk about when they meet up with old friends? The times they were getting high together? Getting laid? The first rave party they attended? Raised in an era when Baywatch plastic sexiness was confused with sensuality, Jonny's generation was one in which a good-night kiss often started with the guy unzipping his pants, a generation that didn't believe in Santa Claus and whose dreams were all digital.
She came to me last night, in pain from being young. I put her to bed on the couch. In the middle of the night, she snuck in my room and crawled into bed with me, needing a warm stomach to snuggle against. Sometime during the night she slipped under the covers and down between my legs, cuddling my penis, slipping it into her mouth while it was still asleep, letting it wake up and get excited as she sucked on it.
I slipped on a robe and went into the suite's living room. I pulled the door to the hallway corridor open a few inches. I had already opened the drapes and was calling room service for coffee when Simone pushed the door open.
She stood at the doorway for a moment while we looked at each other. She hadn't changed in the three years since I'd last seen her. Neither had I. She still made my blood pound.
Unlike Jonny's thin, hard body, Simone's body was fleshy, padded succulently so a man could get something in his teeth. She aroused me infinitely more than her daughter. Simone's body was a fine wine, to be savored and enjoyed for hours. She stirred prurient thoughts in me that Jonny never could. When Jonny's tight body clamped onto my cock with her cunt, it was like being squeezed by a vise. She was exciting, but making love to her mother was provocative and memorable—if you survived the foreplay.
While Juana was an overgrown kitten, her mother was definitely a full-grown lioness, able to hunt and kill on her own. She was a few years older than me, in her late thirties, a time in a woman's life when she's the sexiest and the most desirable, when she's replaced the thin brightness of youth with plush sensuality.
Her Latin blood was hot enough to fuel cars at the Indy 500. She was dangerous, but not in a crazy way. Her crimes were always cool and premeditated. When she wanted something, she took it. And you had to count your fingers afterward if you were holding it when she grabbed because she would take them, too.
"You look good," she said, stepping in, closing the door behind her. "Rich, successful, not at all the boy I once seduced."
"Life has been good. I've got money, health, envy—everything but a good woman. Good ones who will tolerate me are rare."
"You're probably looking in the wrong places. The gossip magazines call you a Hollywood playboy."
I laughed. "I think you have to be a movie star or at least buy a studio before that label sticks."
"You forgot to say good-bye," she said, moving by me, toward the open doors to the balcony.
"I was too busy running from the Portuguese Mafia."
She stepped out onto the balcony. My Bel Air hotel suite looked out onto a tropical garden lush with shaded dark green ferns and sun-loving purple bougainvillea, the kind of stuff that grew well in the Southern California desert climate. The sunlight glowed through her white dress, outlining her body.
"White's a deceptive color for you to wear," I said.
"I could take the dress off if you prefer."
She knew me. That's the trouble with being a man—women know we think more with our testosterone than brain juices.
"Last time we tried that you took off everything but a gun."
She came closer, near enough for me to feel her body heat, to smell the sex in her perfume. Women didn't wear perfume to make them smell sweet, but to stimulate a man's sex drive. Wasn't some guy named Odysseus held captive by a sweet-smelling woman? He wasn't the first or last guy to get bowled over by the scent of a woman.
I knew this woman was trouble—she'd tried to kill me once—but I guess it was like the fascination some people got playing with deadly snakes—the danger just made it more exciting.
"I've missed you, Win," she said.
"You know where I've been. You stayed in Lisbon."
"You don't understand loyalty," she said. "You were an only child, then an orphan; you've never had anyone to be loyal to. João took me off the streets, away from selling my body for food and drugs when I was younger than Jonny."
"He's old enough to be your grandfather. And you've fucked everyone around him, from his lawyer to his chauffeur and friends."
"I have a woman's needs, but I've always been there for him. When he dies, I'll cry at his grave. He knows that."
"That makes you a regular Mother Theresa. Congratulations—now what do you want?"
"Do you have it? I'd like to see it, see what all the fuss is about."
I hesitated. I was expecting this, thinking about it since I got the call. I wasn't afraid she would grab it and run. Simone wasn't stupid or amateurish—she'd be more likely to pull a gun out of her bra and shoot me between the eyes. Something else bothered me—the simple truth was that I had a hard time sharing the stone because of plain, old-fashioned greed. Maybe the gem carried a greed virus and infected everyone who touched it. Whatever it was, the fire diamond affected everyone that way. Like a sorcerer's stone, its mysterious magic cast spells.
Ask the people who had killed for it—or died because of it.
I took the Heart of the World out of my robe pocket and gave it to her.
She held it up to the light. "My God, it's a piece of fire."
"Fire of the gods, hurled down from a star. It's almost as old as the earth itself. It took a billion years to make and a billion more to find."
"I've never seen a ruby-red diamond before," she said.
"They're rare. They have one sitting near the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian, but it's smaller and not as brilliant as the Heart. There's no other diamond like it."
"I heard that computer billionaire who bought a Hawaiian island has offered you a fortune for it. Are you going to sell it?"
She was cloaked in innocence, as if we both didn't know she'd come to Los Angeles for the stone. If she was in town, João was here, too. And he would never give up until he had the fire diamond—or one of us was dead.
"I don't know."
But I did know. I couldn't sell it, any more than I could chop off an arm or leg and put it on the market. It wasn't like money to me, money was meant to be spent; it was something I've done without and can do without again. Diamonds are like sex: you never forget and never stop regretting good sex if you give it up. And this one was like owning the Mona Lisa. There was nothing comparable.
"João thought of you as a son, you've hurt him very much."
"I'm sorry, it must have been the bullets flying by from his thugs that caused me to be ungrateful."
"You don't understand, you never did. João was trying to protect you. He still wants to do something for you."
"He can. He can die soon. That would help us both, wouldn't it?"
I took the diamond from her and she came closer. She pulled open my robe and wrapped her cold fingers around my cock. My blood pounded. Her lips brushed mine. My blood ignited and I felt the lead rising in my pencil. I wanted to push her away, but I was weak.
"I missed you," she whispered.
Jonny stood in the bedroom doorway, naked.
Simone's eyes came back to me.
I shrugged. "She dropped by on her way home from school for cookies and milk."
* * *
Simone and Jonny left, bickering, bitching at each other about times and places and things that meant nothing to me. And without the diamond. But the game had just begun—again. Simone would be back. She knew how to please a man, stroking his cock like it was her best friend. Until she got what she wanted. Then she'd bite it off.
The coffee came. I stood on the balcony and drank the steaming hot liquid, thinking about the past. New York. Lisbon. Africa.
There was something alien to me now about those times and places, like "past lives" the Buddhists talked about, and there was a surreal quality to my memories.
Christ, if that past-life stuff was true, I must have been an ax murderer in a prior life to deserve what I've been handed in this one.
A woman wearing a tennis outfit came by and gave me the look. But I wasn't in a mood for women in white today.
LIFE'S A BITCH AND THEN YOU DIE, some bumper-strip wit once said. I never thought of life as a struggle, not even when the chips were down and my luck was running south. But I had learned something about myself, something that would sound strange to the people who'd been around me. I had been running scared most of my life. That's why I always went for the gold with everything I'd ever done, why it had always been all or nothing with me—Win wasn't just my name, it was how I lived.
I'd spent my whole life living like there was no tomorrow.
Maybe there wasn't.CHAPTER 2
Win Liberte, Long Island, 1971
When I was a kid, there was this quirky thing about the JFK assassination. People always knew exactly where they had been when they heard the news that Kennedy was killed. My father told me he was bending over a diamond at his office at West Forty-seventh and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, studying it with a jeweler's loupe, when one of his associates ran into the room and told him Kennedy had been shot. Uncle Bernie claimed he was on the pot reading good news on the racing page—Last Chance had come in the money in the third at Belmont—when his secretary threw open the door and screamed that the president was dead.
I had the easiest recollection of all. On November 22, 1963, I was in a taxicab on Broadway being born. My mother had taken the cab from the family apartment on the Lower East Side, to tell my father it was time to take her to the hospital. I had bad timing in arriving late, with the meter running, a trait I'd maintained all my life.
The death of Kennedy stuck with me throughout my childhood. It seemed like no other president could live up to him, could instill the confidence that he created in people. I must have heard my father say a hundred times during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, "If Kennedy was alive ..."
I've never had an interest in politics, so I don't know if Kennedy was a great president or a Great Hope for people. But like people whose dreams of a great America died with him, dreams died hard for me, too.
When I was eight years old my father took me out of the crowded living room—by now we'd moved to Long Island—and into the small office he kept at home. He was a diamantaire. That's what people in the industry called a diamond dealer, those international close-to-the-chest backroomers, who buy and sell diamonds in the half-dozen great diamond exchanges of the world.
Most of the diamonds my father traded were roughs—uncut stones from the mines with dirt literally still on them. It was a hard business, one of the toughest in the world, a white-knuckle trade in which a bad call on a big stone could put you out on the ledge of your office building, ten stories up, looking down at the street, wondering what it was going to feel like kissing the pavement at a hundred miles an hour.
My father handled the business well, with quiet strength. He wasn't the type to get excited or angry during negotiations—he was more cerebral than most of the dealers I've seen in action. You could almost see the gears moving in his head when he was evaluating a deal. He told me that his father taught him to watch a buyer's eyes, that when they saw something they really liked, the pupils would get a little bigger. That kind of explains my father, a subtle man who could make a major decision based on an almost infinitesimal change in an eye.
As I followed my father through the living room, the conversations around us were subdued, not the laughter and loud talk you usually got when my parents had people over. My mother was Portuguese, while my father, Victoir, called himself a Gypsy because he was living in America after being born in Warsaw, raised in Marseilles, and married in Lisbon. The name Liberté was one my grandfather adopted in France after leaving the Warsaw ghettos behind, his Jewish-Polish name being a foot long. My own father dropped the accent over the "e" when he came to America. Assimilating, it was called. But he still pronounced the name "Lib-er-tay."
My mother was beautiful, with soft red hair, warm brown eyes, and pearl skin. I inherited her eyes and a red tint to my own brownish hair. I remember her as quiet and delicate. She never raised her voice but she commanded the household with the velvet iron of her will. My father never disagreed with her, at least never in my presence, and I never heard him raise his voice to her.
Kids don't really understand the love their parents have for each other. It wasn't until I grew up and loved a woman myself that I understood how much my mother meant to my father. In those days, I really only understood how much she meant to me.
My father always treated my mother with an old-fashioned gentleness and respect, almost as if she was something more than a wife to him. Maybe he treated her a little different because he was quite a bit older than she. In many ways, he handled her with the gentleness of a fragile flower that blooms for only a short time. They didn't know she had a heart condition until she became pregnant with me and was told by her doctor never to risk another pregnancy. But she had always been fragile. In his quiet, analytical way, I think he intuitively knew that some day he would lose her.
Inside his home office, my father opened an old safe that had ACME SAFE COMPANY written on the door and removed a cigar box. From the box he took a piece of white paper folded seven times to create a pocket for a gem. He turned on the desk light and had me sit on his knee as he unfolded the paper to reveal a two-carat diamond. It glistened and sparkled, fifty-eight facets turning "white" light into sparkling brilliance. Diamonds had the power to gather, bend, and throw off brilliant colors. A well-cut, clear diamond is so alive with light and color, it appears to be a blaze of glittering fire. I guess that's why diamonds are called the "flame of love." And yeah, if you're the cynical type, maybe they call it that because so many men figure they have something coming in return for dropping a rock on a woman.
Excerpted from Heat of Passion by Harold Robbins. Copyright © 2003 Jann Robbins. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part 1: The Heart of the World,
Part 2: New York,
Part 3: Lisbon,
Part 4: Africa,
Part 5: Marni,
Part 6: Africa,
Part 7: Antwerp and Paris,
Part 8: Hollywood,
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