Chapter 5

"You don't pretend you've come here because you wanted to."

"I've often wasted to visit you," she said candidly, "bat you've made such a point of not having any visitors at all"

"I'll welcome anyone so long as they didn't know me when…"

He did not finish the sentence, but Kate did so for him.

"When you were fit and well," He was silent, but she refused to let it defeat her. "Are you afraid your friends might pity you, Mr. Hamilton? Don't you know that even in a wheelchair you're stronger than most ordinary men?"

He gave a short, unused laugh. "You've a peculiar idea of strength, Miss Quinn."

"I mean strength of character. It's more important man the physical kind."

"You say that because you can walk! You don't know what it's like to be tied to a chair - to be helpless and dependent on someone else for everything you need."

"I can understand how it must feel. Believe me; I know exactly the progress you're making. But you can't rush your recovery. If you do, you might do more harm than good."

"And what happens to the Hamilton Press in the meantime? It's a family company, Miss Quinn, and I'm the only family left!"

"Sir Angus can carry on for years."

"Only if he slows down. And he won't do that if I'm not at hand to take over." He swung his chair away from her and lunged for the chains above him, but this time he was unable to reach them, and after two attempts he lay back, breathing heavily.

"Well, go on," he said, not looking at her. "Why don't you say I told you so?

"I don't need to. You obviously only learn by your own experience. It shows a limited imagination."

There was a short silence, so intense that it almost had a noise of its own. Then he spoke, his voice amused. "So the little nun has a serpent's tongue! I must say I never expected it!"

"You shouldn't judge by appearances."

"How else does one judge a woman?"

"You could try talking to her!" Remembering some of the more lurid gossip she had read about him in rival newspapers, she added mischievously: "Or is talking something you've never bothered to do with your female companions?"

"The answers I would have received wouldn't have made the effort of talking worthwhile!"

"You're honest too," Kate admitted.

"Why shouldn't I be? Women are delightful creatures as long as one doesn't take them seriously."

For a split second Kate thought he was joking, but one look at his face told her this was not so.

"Your relationship with women must have been a very limited one, Mr. Hamilton."

"I wouldn't say that," he said drily. "I believe that at one time one of our rival newspapers actually listed the number of my best friends'!"

"I meant the word 'limited' as indicative of your understanding of women, not of your sexual achievements." She stopped abruptly, afraid she had gone too far. "I'm sorry; I'd no right to speak like that."

"Don't apologize for your candor. It's refreshing. If I weren't a cripple I might even be tempted to take your advice and talk to the next girl I went out with!" He gave a heavy sigh. "But that question is now purely academic so there's no point considering it."

"You mustn't think like that."

"I'm a cripple," he said harshly. "What woman in her right mind would want to be tied to a cripple?"

Impulsively she moved over and stood dose by his wheelchair. "You'll walk again - I'm sure of that - but even if you don't, you've still got more to give than most men."

"With all my worldly goods," he said sarcastically.

"Don't! That wasn't what I meant at all. I was thinking of intelligence and character, of humor and…" She turned and walked away from him, knowing she had failed in what she had come there to do, yet not knowing what else she could have done. "You equate everything on the same level and you put women on the lowest level of all."

"Not you," he said unexpectedly, his voice coming so close behind her that she knew he had propelled himself forward. "I don't equate you with the women I’ve known. You not only look different, Miss Quinn, but I actually believe you are! And that's meant as a compliment in case you think it wasn't. Now for heaven's sake turn round and look at me."

The words were so like his father's that she obeyed him automatically. "Now then," he said, "you came here to tell me to make haste slowly, didn't you?"


"And what do I do with the time I don't spend exercising? Haven't you considered the possibility that I need to let off excess steam?"

"I'm sure there are other less harmful ways of doing it I"

"Like playing snap?" he rejoined, the words giving clear indication that despite his desire to mollify her his irritability and temper still lay very close to the surface.

"You could try learning more about the Company," she suggested.

"Learning more!" he exploded. "What do you think I've been doing with my life for the past ten years? Don't be too misled by the gossip columns, Miss Quinn. My trips abroad weren't only jet set jaunts. I made contacts, discovered sources we could use… damn it, I practically created the whole network that's made our foreign correspondents the best informed in the world!"

"That's what I mean," she said exactly. "You've been so busy travelling you hasn’t had time to get to know the people you'll eventually have to work with. And that's what you should be doing now - learning all you can about everyone on your Board of Directors and your senior editors. Then you'll know their strength as well as their weakness."

"For such an innocent-looking girl you've a positively Machiavellian turn of mind!" He tilted his head to look directly at her, and as he stared at her face his sardonic amusement was replaced by thoughtfulness. "You have a point there, Miss Quinn. Apply psychology to the Boardroom and divide and conquer by courtesy of Freud!" His hands, large and strong, gripped the arms of his chair. "How do you suggest I set about it?"

"That's easy." She smiled with relief. "It's all on record."

"Then have them brought here. From tomorrow the weakness of my legs will be compensated for by the strength of my knowledge!"

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