Chapter 1

For a whole f**king year I hear nothing.

She flies out of Heathrow with her mother, lands in Tehran and then… The trail goes stone cold. That still shocks me. The ease with which a woman can enter Iran, don a drab, loose-fitting garment, and simply disappear, become totally invisible. Without the powerful tentacles of a central bank in that country I have no way of tracking her financially either. The only connection left was the Swiss bank account, but that registered no activity, until recently, when the account was emptied and closed on the same day.

Then there was nothing left of her, but memories and hurt. Hurt like I had never imagined possible.

Sometimes, especially in the beginning when I didn’t yet hate her, I used to imagine her veiled and in the desert. She always wanted to go there. My dreams were romantic then. Telescoped without reality or reason we traveled in slow motion upon shifting sands, untroubled by the blazing sun, sharing a camel, only one goatskin water bag between us. In my dreams everything was perfect: the rocking of the camel, perfect. Her, perfect. Us, perfect.

And then I would wake up and feel like shit.

In the day I throw myself into work. At night I trawl the city’s night scene looking for the same thing anyone who crawls into the underbelly of cities finds—moments of forgetfulness between the legs of strangers. But nothing would fill the void or the terrible longing for her.

I wanted us on one camel.

In my recurring fantasy, she comes to my office, talks her away around Laura, and opens my door. I am too shocked to stand. She comes towards me hips swaying, a slut. Dressed as I had found her that first night we met, she comes around the desk, swipes all my papers to the floor and sits on the table facing me. With one shoe she pushes my chair a little away. Then she lifts her legs, knees together, the way a girl who has been to finishing school is supposed to get out of a car, and pushes her butt deeper into the desk. I look at her. Her gaze is greedy, the way I know her eyes can be. She leans back so that both the palms of her hands are on the desk behind her, and spreads her legs wide open. My eyes slip down. There it is. Open: running with sweet juices.

‘Get your mouth on it,’ her red lips command. ‘I’ve been dying for a good suck.’

But it is absolutely true what the philosophers say: love and hate are just two ends of the same string. You love someone, they lie to you, and you love them less; then they cheat on you, and you love them even less, and you keep going down that string until you hate them. So I traveled down that string.

I hate that woman, that is as obvious as hell to me, but it is also as clear as day that I cannot let her go. She cheated me. Kicked me when I was down. Brought me to my knees. No one has ever done that. Ever. If I do not punish her… Betrayal then, forever. I will know myself to be a weak man pretending to be strong. I must have my pound of flesh.

Then three days ago a little light on my computer screen flashed. For a moment my mind went blank. Then hot blood began to pulse again in my veins and my cheek muscles moved, my lips curved. I was smiling again.


I hear footsteps approaching in the corridor and my heart begins to race. The excitement of seeing her again is so uncontrollably strong that it startles me. But I hate her guts. Immensely. This is purely about revenge. This is about me getting what I am owed. I lay my palms flat on the desk. I want to be cold and controlled. I don’t want the bitch to have the satisfaction of knowing that she has affected me at all. The footsteps pause outside the door. I take a deep breath. She is nothing, I tell myself. She just wanted to count my money.

My face becomes an unfeeling mask.

I cease my wild thoughts.

A brief knock, and the door opens.

And… All the ugly words that had kept me sane—whore, slut, gold-digger, bitch—become empty balloons that are floating away. I cannot keep a single one. She may be a whore, a slut and a gold-digger, but she is mine. My slut, my bitch, my gold-digger.

Fuck, already I am itching to see her naked. I want to strip off that ugly suit she’s wearing, pop her on the table and f**k her until she screams. That’s the second part of the fantasy.

She walked in with a smile—big, false, irritating. That hurt. Obviously, she has not suffered as I have. Fortunately for her, the smile doesn’t last long. Dies on contact with my person. Her face drains of color and her mouth hangs open. That’s more like it, darling. Papa’s here to get back what he is owed. You forgot—nobody cheats Papa. While she is doing a better than average impression of a goldfish, I study her. How thin she has become. Starving-African-children thin. Nobody should be that thin.

The employee who showed her in closes the door. Time to take control.

‘Hello, Lana,’ I say, remaining seated behind the desk. My voice comes out… Good. Encouraged, I add more words. ‘Have a seat,’ I invite. That, too, I am pleased to note, comes out smooth.

But she does not move. She keeps doing the goldfish thing, but doesn’t find her voice. I see her swallow and try again.

‘What are you doing here?’ It is barely a hoarse whisper.

‘Processing your loan application.’

She frowns. ‘What?’

‘I’m here to process your loan application,’ I repeat with deliberate patience. I am enjoying this head f**k. The element of surprise has completely worked in my favor.

She shakes her head. ‘You don’t work here. You don’t process tiny little loans.’

‘I’m here to process yours.’

‘Why?’ Some thought crosses her mind and she is suddenly galvanized into action. ‘So you can turn me down? Don’t bother. I’ll show myself out,’ she cries hotly and begins to turn.

I am on my feet instantly, the chair wheeling away behind me. ‘Lana, wait.’

She hesitates, looks up at me blankly.

‘I am the one in the entire banking industry most likely to extend you this loan.’

She continues to stare at me.

‘Please,’ I continue, more carefully this time, ‘take a seat.’

Dazed she looks at the two chairs facing me, but she does not move. ‘How did you know I would be here today?

I tell her about the nifty little software that flags her name and date of birth if it comes up in the banking system.

She frowns, but says nothing.

I need to engage with her. The shock has dazed her. ‘Is all the money in the Swiss account gone?’

She nods distractedly. ‘But why are you here?’

‘Same reason as before.’

Tags: Georgia Le Carre The Billionaire Banker Young Adult