For the readers of Olivia Goldsmith and Susan Isaacs comes a dramatic - and fun - thriller with an over-the-top ending that will leave readers gasping.
For twenty-five years Emily Childs has been the perfect wife. She has devoted herself completely to her successful husband, Walter, on his climb to the top of the banking world, kept his home, raised his children, and entertained his clients. Now he is about to dump her for the younger, more beautiful Angela Hilliard, the perfect trophy for his life of conspicuous achievement.
But suddenly Emily vanishes from her home amidst clear evidence of violence. The kidnapper - demanding an enormous ransom - is known only by his mysterious computerized voice. Is this Walter's sick plan to get rid of his wife without the scandal that might ruin his career? Is it his mistress's way of moving Emily aside? Or is it one of Walter's business rivals, determined to beat him in the race to the chairman's office? From her basement prison, Emily pleads with her husband to save her. But as her captors panic, she realizes that she will have to save herself.
In a thriller that spans the financial towers of the world's money centers and the underworld markets of the Caribbean, Detective Andrew Hogan races against the ransom deadline to discover the identity of Emily's kidnapper. The ending to this novel of marriages, mistresses, and money is a shocker that serves as a warning to men who are reaching for that one final trophy.
|Publisher:||St. Martin''s Publishing Group|
|File size:||308 KB|
About the Author
Diana Diamond is the pseudonym of a critically acclaimed mystery and thriller writer.
Diana Diamond is the pseudonym of a critically acclaimed mystery and thriller writer. She is also the author of The Trophy Wife, The Babysitter, The Good Sister, The Daughter-In-Law, The First Wife, and The Stepmother.
Read an Excerpt
The Trophy Wife
By Diana Diamond
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2000 Diana Diamond
All rights reserved.
Angela lay beside him, a frost of sweat covering her breasts, her flat stomach heaving with her heavy breath.
"Incredible," Walter gasped.
She smiled. "You're the one who's incredible"
"I can't believe ... I'm still alive." His words were labored. "You're dangerous!"
She rose up on an elbow and tossed her head to swing her long, light hair away from her face. "You seem to like living dangerously."
Walter managed the beginning of a laugh. "You bring out the best in me." He glanced at his watch.
"I hate it when you do that," Angela said. She let herself fall away from him, back onto her pillow.
"When you look at your watch. It's like you're, saying, 'Time's up, Angela. On to my next conquest.' As if you have something more important to do."
"You know I have to get back for the limo."
"Let the damn limo wait." She turned her back to him. "The drivers get paid the same for waiting as for driving."
Walter lifted her hair and kissed the back of her neck. "When they wait, they talk. I don't want them talking about us."
He rolled out of the bed and walked into the bathroom, pausing for an instant before the full-length mirror. His stomach muscles tightened instantly, in a reflex action that didn't even bother to check with his conscious brain. Walter was proud of his physique even if the onset of fifty-something sag was showing. His pectorals, while still prominent, were no longer sharply etched. There was a pleasant softness around his waist. His buns were flattening and his legs were thinning. But overall, he had survived the onset of middle age quite well. He was in decent shape for any age and in excellent condition for his sedentary lifestyle. True, his sandy hair was thinning and there was puffiness around his deep brown eyes. But he flattered himself that the overall effect was character and maturity, which fitted perfectly on a better-than-decent body.
He closed the glass shower door behind him, turned the faucets absently, and jumped away from the blast of icy water. "Christ," he cursed. But the anger had nothing to do with the shock of cold. Walter was always angry when he had to leave Angela and go back to the lie that his life had become.
He lied to his wife, Emily, at the beginning of the day when he told her he would be working very late. Lied to Joanne, his secretary, when he asked her to arrange for a late limo to his home in New Jersey horse country. Lied to the other officers at the bank when he lingered until they had all left. Lied to the limo driver whom he met in the bank lobby. And then ended his day with still another lie to his wife as he slipped quietly into bed beside her. Walter hated the lies. They put him at the mercy of small and insignificant people who relished his discomfort and were always a threat to expose him. Lying to inferiors made him feel small.
"Christ," he cursed again as he adjusted the temperature and stepped under the stream to wash himself clean.
He knew he had to put an end to it. He had to confront the truth. Angela was perfect for him. She shared all of his interests, was enlivened by the same challenges, breathed deeply in the intoxicating air of his success, and aroused passion that he hadn't felt in years. Perhaps Emily had been just as right for him when they had begun their life together. But the fire of their passion had burned down to warm, comfortable embers. His new life with Angela was just beginning to fuel itself with oxygen. There was no limit to how high the flames might climb.
Emily would have to be made to understand. With Angela at his side, there was nothing beyond his reach; no success that he couldn't achieve. He could face challenges that Emily might once have found exhilarating, but now probably would find frightening, and go to places where she once would have been intrigued, but now would feel hopelessly lost. All she could do was hold him back and that was something that she would never want to do.
His children, too, would have to understand. Their mother was a wonderful woman, intelligent, boundlessly cheerful, physically attractive, generous to a fault. But she could no longer keep pace with him. They would recognize that there were miles on her odometer and while she had all the grace and beauty of a fine sedan, she simply wouldn't be safe traveling in the fast lane where he was now moving. It would be unfair to expect him to slow down so that she could stay by his side.
The shower door clicked open behind him.
"I'm sorry." Angela's hand reached past him for the washcloth. She moved close to him in the shower and began washing his back. "I keep promising you that I won't be a bitch. And then ... I hear myself say something bitchy. I know this isn't easy for you, either."
"No," Walter protested, "it's my fault." He started to turn to her.
She held his shoulder. "Don't. If you turn around you'll never get out of here."
"I have to tell her. I have to tell her what's happened and explain exactly how I feel. And then I can get my things together, move out, and we can all get on with our lives. I can't keep living a lie. It's not fair to anyone ... least of all you."
"Will you tell her about me?" She wondered.
"What will you tell her? That I'm a great lay? She'll hate me."
He turned on her abruptly. "Don't say that, dammit. I loved you before ..."
"Before you got into my pants ..."
"Stop it!" Walter pushed past her and reached for a towel. "You make me sound like all I'm after is a young piece of ass."
She followed him into the bedroom, dripping water onto the carpet. "What will you tell her?" Angela persisted.
He dried himself furiously, trying to work off his anger. "I'll tell her that you're wonderful. That you've brought me new life and I can't take another breath without you."
She looked at him and then slowly shook her head in despair. "Then she'll really hate me." Angela turned back into the bathroom and stepped into the shower. "It will be easier on her if you just tell her I'm a great lay."
Walter talked over the hiss of the water as he buttoned his shirt. "She'll understand. She'll want the truth."
"She'll want me tarred and feathered."
He stepped in front of the bathroom mirror while he adjusted his tie. "Of course she'll be angry at first. But not at you. I started this. I hit on you. You didn't want anything to do with me."
Her hand reached out, feeling for a towel along the empty towel bar. Walter took one out of the linen closet and gave it to her. "It was no one's fault," he went on. "These things happen. We're all sophisticated people."
Suddenly modest, Angela secured the towel around her before she stepped out from behind the shower door.
"When will you tell her? Tonight, when you get home?"
He shook his head angrily.
"Tomorrow, over breakfast?"
"Damm it, Angela, why are you doing this? You know that I can't tell her now. You know what's at stake."
She sagged against the wall. "Hollcroft might not step down for another century," she said mournfully.
"He'll announce it in the next few months," he told her. "Year end at the latest. I know what I'm talking about. I meet with the man every day. And then I'm heir to the throne. Unless I do something stupid to fuck up ... like bringing a marital scandal into the boardroom."
"It means that much to you?" she asked, sounding as if she already knew the answer.
"To us!" he corrected. "It will affect our whole life together. Isn't that worth waiting a few more months?"
Angela moved into his embrace. "I know, I know," she admitted. "It's just that even an hour seems too long to me."
"How do you think I feel? You are my life, Angela, and I want to begin living it. When we're married, it will seem like such a short time to have waited."
She put on a robe so that she could see him to the door and delayed him for a moment by adjusting the handkerchief in his jacket pocket. "You look terrific," she said and then kissed him good-bye.
"I love you," he said as he slipped out and quietly closed the door behind him.
"You lying prick," Angela laughed to herself as she turned back into her apartment. All he was interested in was a young piece of ass, a trophy to flaunt in front of his friends, a woman who would be seen looking over his shoulder in the pages of Fortune.
Walter used his security card to open the lock from the side street door to the bank's lobby. Then he proceeded around the center concourse of elevators so that he stepped up behind the uniformed security guard.
"Good night, Harry."
The guard wheeled around and found him standing in front of one of the cars as if he had just ridden down from his office.
"Long day, Mr. Childs," Harry sympathized as he turned the sign-out book toward Walter.
"You don't know the half of it," Walter responded while he checked his watch and made the appropriate entries.
"Your car is waiting," the guard mentioned.
Walter nodded gratefully and then pushed through the revolving door that opened out onto Park Avenue. Omar, the limousine driver, was instantly standing beside the car, holding the back door open. He offered a sing-song "Good evening, Mr. Childs" in an accent that was either Indian or Pakistani. Then he smiled knowingly, as if he could see semen stains on the front of Walter's trousers. Walter felt his face redden.
The car moved south, crossing town below the crowded theater district, and accelerated into the cut that led into the Lincoln Tunnel. Within minutes, they were on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, looking back at a panorama of the midtown lights reflected over the water, and of the financial district skyscrapers farther to the south. New York was the most important city in the world, the center of management and finance for all the economies of the global village. Japan might build the automobiles. England might sew the suits. And maybe the Pacific Rim would eventually produce all the electronics. But it was New York that decided what would be produced and raised the money to build the factory. With a one-letter change in a bond rating, New York could turn out the lights of a shoe factory in Italy. A small drop in a stock price on a New York exchange could kill an entire company in Brazil. New York was the most important player in the world and Walter Childs was one of the most important players in New York.
He was senior vice president at InterBank, which was the financial community's shorthand for the Bank of International Trade. There were five men on his level, whose offices shared half of the Park Avenue building's fifty-second floor, the other half devoted to the offices of the chairman, president, and chief exceutive officer, Jack Hollcroft. Walter's expertise was in international monetary transactions, where he moved enormous pools of currency from bank to bank, country to country in order to keep the mark, the yen, the pound, the franc, and the dollar in some sort of logical hierarchy. Since this was the most critical and the most profitable of the bank's many roles, Walter was the logical successor to the chairman's suite of offices. He would be running the most important bank in the world's most important financial center.
That's what Angela had to understand. He was within a few board meetings of being the acknowledged leader of world finance. He would be sharing head tables with presidents and prime ministers and whispering into the ears of princes and sheiks. As president of InterBank, his life would be a tour of the financial capitals of the world. Certainly, all that was worth waiting for.
Emily, in her prime, might have enjoyed such an environment. But her prime was history. She was, Walter thought with a touch of regret, no longer up to it. Angela, on the other hand, would star on a worldwide stage. Her beauty was genuine and her poise unfailing. She exuded self-confidence, which might have reached into arrogance were it not grounded in such obvious ability. Walter was still in awe of the assurance she had brought to their first meeting.
Angela had blown away her competition at the University of Virginia, emerging as the class valedictorian, and then moving on to the Harvard Business School. Once again, she had outdistanced her class and become the target of all the campus recruiters. She had been invited to visit InterBank as part of the wooing process and had been scheduled for a half-hour interview with Walter, who was then the bank's youngest vice president and a shoo-in for an office on the fifty-second floor.
Walter remembered his annoyance at finding her on his schedule and had reluctantly decided to spare her fifteen minutes. He hadn't even taken the time to study her background folder.
When he had looked up from his work and saw her, the pen fell from his fingers. She was in a chalk-striped business suit that whispered banker, with the skirt cut high enough to say beauty queen. And when she leaned across the desk with a firm handshake, she showed just enough cleavage to suggest you might even get lucky.
She took a chair with her briefcase balanced on a crossed knee, admired the painting that had come with the office and which Walter scarcely noticed, commented on other works by the artist as a way of approving Walter's taste, and then asked him about his work. Walter began to describe the importance of monetary movements and she nodded her agreement. At the first opportunity she mentioned her research into the flight of hot money from the English pound that had brought down a conservative government and then asked a very pertinent question about the excessive gold holdings of several Swiss banks. How was InterBank handling the situation? It was at this point that Walter realized he was the one being interviewed and that he wasn't making a very good impression.
He had pulled out all the stops, using his working knowledge of the real market to counter her theoretical preparation, but she clung to his thinking like a pit bull. Then, when he was just about to pull away, she ended the interview, thanking him for his time, appreciating the conversation, and once again complimenting his taste in art. She had left him staring at the door she closed behind her, hoping that he had made a favorable impression. It took seconds for him to recover, realize that she was the one who should have been trying to make an impression and then get angry at her impertinence. But his momentary pique hadn't stopped him from calling personnel and ordering her hired onto the bank's fast-track program with him as her mentor. He wanted to see a great deal more of Miss Angela Hilliard.
"Beautiful!" It was Omar's voice from the front seat and for a moment Walter thought the driver had entered his thoughts and was sharing his image of Angela.
"What?" he demanded.
"The city," Omar said obviously. "It is very beautiful reflected in the river."
"Yes, it is." Walter wondered exactly how much the driver had guessed. How much others had guessed. Did Emily have any suspicion? Could his affair be a whispered joke in the executive washroom?
He closed his eyes and made a great show of catnapping in order to discourage further comments from the front seat. His mind lurched abruptly to the confrontation that he faced with Emily, the dark cloud that invaded all his dreams of rapture with Angela.
He wasn't terribly worried about the property settlement. Emily didn't care much about money, nor was she overly impressed with the status that wealth could convey. She had resisted leaving their first starter house even when he had become a bank officer. And she was furious when he had driven her from their second house, a very substantial colonial in a good suburb, to show her the estate where they now lived. "Why the hell do we need a paddock?" she had asked. "We have a dog, Walter, not a horse."
"Emily, I'm a senior vice president, for Christ's sake. The bank expects me to move in wider circles."
"And you need a paddock so you can walk in wider circles," she had taunted.
But her indifference to the trappings of success didn't mean she wouldn't clean out his accounts. Emily was a fighter, and once he put her in an adversary position, she would fight to win. She'd take his BMW 740 for the simple pleasure of parking it at a shopping center where supermarket carts could ding its doors. She'd fight for the house so that she could fill in the swimming pool and knock down the white paddock fences. Probably she wouldn't be angry with Angela. Emily would expect ambitious young women to have a run at their powerful superiors. But she would expect him to be true to his marriage and sensitive to the obvious ploys of children who pretended to find him attractive. In court, she could make his affair look tawdry and ridiculous. In the boardroom, that would very likely make him an unacceptable heir to the presidential office. Jack Hollcroft would never allow a hint of infidelity into his bank. Banks were built on faith!
No, there would be no facing the truth. The truth was overrated. He needed a plan. He had to find a way to move Emily out of his life without encouraging her to battle. He had to find a way to move here out quietly.
Better still, a way that would reflect to his credit. There had to be something that he could offer.
The limousine turned off the highway and quickly lost itself in the winding roads that linked the secluded country estates with civilization. Ironic, Walter had often thought that the greater one's success with modern economic realities, the greater the need to imitate the lifestyle of the agricultural barons. His business associates — all men of great accomplishment — housed themselves in the manors of the eighteenth-century landed gentry and relaxed aboard sailing ketches rigged for a seventeenth-century crossing. Tycoons who had mastered the electronic global markets felt the need to prove their skills as vintners, buying into wineries that would never yield a good bottle. Software geniuses, who had raised intangible property to incredible values, somehow felt the need to lapse back into animal husbandry. They not only bred their own horses but even hammered their own horseshoes.
Excerpted from The Trophy Wife by Diana Diamond. Copyright © 2000 Diana Diamond. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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