Novel Name : Masters & Lovers Box Set Three

Chapter 16

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After Finchby and Yakovlevski leave, Bech still wears that ‘just sucked a lemon’ expression.

“Something to say, Bech?”

He scowls and looks down. “No, sir.”

“Good. Remember who's in charge here. And who's already made you a rich man.”

“Yes, sir.”

I turn to the girl where she cowers at my feet. “Tell her she can write a letter. Make sure her family know
it’s her.” Luuk translates.

“Thank you, sir.” She launches herself at me, wrapping her arms around my ankles, weeping
incessantly. “Thank you.”

Bech lashes out with a foot. “Get back, you little bitch!”

Disentangling myself from her grasp, I stoop, looking her in the face. “Remember, they have to pay for
you. And they have to outbid the others. I’m a businessman, not a charity.”

“They will, sir. They will,” says Luuk.



Sleep escapes me. My green-eyed Love lying next to me, my friend beyond her, I toss and turn in the
dark, my mind churning.


Family matters…

Michael was right to pull me away that day. He enjoys a drink as much as anyone but doesn’t normally
overdo it.

When did I last see him drunk?


When he believed he was losing Charlotte…

… to me…

He’s right, partially at least. It helps blot out the worst for a few hours. And he went there with me.
Stayed with me.

But it’s only sticking-plaster over the wound…

… and there’s a chasm inside me.

As pale fingers creep through the panes, I give up on sleep and moving as quietly as I can, pull on
some clothes and head for the kitchen. Then, coffee in hand, I go outside to sit and stare.

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare…

This spot, this view, normally calms me. The long slide of grassy slopes down the mountain, the lake

Soul food…

But inside, I am unquiet. I cannot settle.

It’s early enough that the sun has not risen, the world bathed in the grey light of the predawn, but
Venus, hanging low, heralds the dawn and is already fading against the rising glare on the horizon.

Inhaling steam, warming my fingers on the mug, I wait and I watch as the rim of the world begins to

Pull yourself together man…

The sun rises, casting blood-red across the low mist writhing over the waters.

You’d not seen her for years…

Thought you’d never see her…

The blood seeps into the clouds, a gash in the sky.

You have everything…

Everything else…


“Charlotte.” I turn, twisting my lips to a smile.

She’s wearing slippers and a robe. “Are you alright?”

“Couldn’t sleep. So I’m just watching the sunrise.”

“Would you like company?”

“Of course I would. Come and join me. But put some proper clothes on. It’s chilly.”


Kirstie catches my eye. And of course, I know what she wants to ask.

Anyone else around?

But no, the lobby is quiet. We have a few moments of what passes for privacy in a spot like this.

“Yes, Kirstie?”

“James, about….”

Mrs Gillis appears from the back office with a file. “Am I interrupting you, Mr Alexanders?”

“Not at all. I was just chatting with Kirstie here.”

She beams up at me. “Here’s the visitor list for today, Kirstie. There’s a couple more confirmations to
come in, but that’s most of it.”

“Thank you. I’ll put them in the daybook right away.”

Mrs Gillis nods to me. “Mr Alexanders.” Then she waddles off back to her office.

Kirstie watches her ‘til the door closes behind her then, “She’s um… she’s got a bit of a thing for you,

God save me…

“A thing? Kirstie, please. Tell me that’s a joke.”

A smile twitches around her mouth and eyes. “Not a joke. She’s awfully sweet don’t you think?”

I lean down, lowering my voice. “I hate to break this to you, but she’s not my type.”

She chuckles, then turns serious again. “James, did you…”

“I’m sorry, Kirstie. I’ve not spoken with him yet. Not about… your concerns anyway. It’s not been a good
week for me. If I’d tried to act the agony-aunt, it might have come off badly. But I’ve not forgotten about
you. I promise I will speak with him for you.”

“Thank you, James.”


Klempner - Twenty-Six Years Ago

“Sir…” Bech wears a cautious expression.


“I wished to express concern at your… lack of focus just now. It is not your normal behaviour and I
wonder if you are perhaps being misled.”

“What are you talking about, Bech?”

“You are a businessman, sir. A good one. But recently… you have, in my opinion, made

I turn to face him. Bech takes a step back. “What misjudgements?”

“I went to some trouble to set up Finchby and Yakovlevski in competition against each other. There is
good potential for a lot of business from both of them. Your abrupt change of terms was a distraction.”

“You don’t have to agree with every decision I make Bech. If we can get a better price by ransoming
them back to their families, you’ll still have plenty in your bank account at the end of it.”

“The families concerned are not usually in a position to pay that kind of money. As often as not, for
example in the case of that specific girl, it was their families who sold them to us in the first place. I
could hardly say so at the time and your interference in the process may have damaged our credibility
with Yakovlevski.”

“So, next time, tell me in advance what you’ve cooked up. If I see an opportunity for an extra profit, I’ll
go for it.”

“Was that your reason, sir?”

“What other reason do you think I might have?”

He looks down, then up. Arms folded, legs braced, he faces me. “I wonder if this woman you have
become involved with is distracting you?” He sounds waspish, looks sour.

What the fuck?

I step forward. “How could she distract me, Bech? And what is my private life to do with you?”

He backs away, looking down. In a more moderate tone. “If you choose to have a private woman sir
that is, of course, your privilege. I'm just a little surprised you would choose this woman.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have made some enquiries, very cursory enquiries I have to say, but even at the most basic level of
information, it is clear that this woman who has entangled you is a common prostitute.”

I move closer again, deliberately invading his space. “I am well aware of who and what she is, Bech,
and it’s none of your fucking business.”

“May I ask, sir, how you came to meet her? How you became involved with her? I believe she is having
a most unhealthy effect on your state of mind.”

“My state of mind has never been better, Bech. And you’d do well to remember who is in charge here.
This is my operation, and I have made you a very rich man for your efforts in it.” I jab a finger into his
chest. “Don’t forget that.”

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