MILLS & BOON
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Table of Contents
‘SO, MY clever little brother has succeeded where our late father could not and has persuaded the Americans to cede manufacturing control of our medicines to us. And how did you manage that? By employing the same means you used to persuade our father to change his will in your favour?’
Beneath Wilhelm’s sneering contempt, Leo could hear the bitterness in his elder brother’s voice.
There was no point in reminding Wilhelm that he himself had been just as stunned, if not more so, to learn that their father had left outright control of the Hessler pharmaceutical corporation to him and not, as everyone had expected, to Wilhelm.
Leo relaxed his grip on the telephone receiver. He had flown in to Hamburg from New York earlier this morning and had gone straight to the Hessler Chemie offices from the airport, to report briefly to the board meeting he had had his assistant convene.
Wilhelm had not attended that meeting, but he had obviously heard what had happened.
Leo knew he had every right to be pleased with what he had achieved in New York, and every right to be annoyed with Wilhelm. Before he left his office to come home he had informed his assistant that he was not to be disturbed—by anyone.
So Wilhelm’s call was not welcome.
‘Father must have been out of his mind when he made that will,’ he heard Wilhelm claiming furiously now. ‘I was the one he wanted to take over from him. He always said so … I was always his favourite.’
Leo gritted his teeth, letting his brother’s vitriol pour viciously out of him.
His favourite. How many times when he was growing up had he heard those words from his brother? Leo wondered, when Wilhelm had finally hung up. How many times had he suffered the pain of paternal criticism and rejection, until he had finally realised that he had a right to define his own view of life; that there were other worlds, other values than those to which his father had laid claim?
He glanced tiredly at the telephone. He and Wilhelm had never really got on. There had always been rivalry and resentment between them; divisions which it had sometimes seemed to Leo their father had deliberately fostered. Wilhelm was obsessively, compulsively possessive. Perhaps it came from being the eldest child and from believing that he would always be an only child.
After all, with fourteen years between them, he had for the majority of his formative years been an only child. And certainly while he was growing up Leo had never been in any doubt as to who was their father’s favourite.
A weakling, his father had once called him as a child, although now, with his six-foot frame, Leo could hardly be regarded as weak. With his amber-gold eyes that matched the thick texture of his gold-brown hair, one of his lovers had once likened him to a lion. He possessed the same powerful fluidity of muscle and tone, she had said, the same sleek goldness, but, as she had also laughingly noted, without the lion’s desire to hunt and maim.
Certainly physically he took after his mother’s family, Leo acknowledged. Physically and, he sincerely hoped, mentally and emotionally as well. He wanted no part of any genetic heritage from his father. And no part of any material inheritance either?
He moved uncomfortably to the window, staring out towards the river. This was a quiet, affluent part of Hamburg, his tall, narrow and relatively small house squashed in between its much grander neighbours. It was an old house with creaking timbers and awkwardly shaped rooms.
Wilhelm had tried to get their father’s will overset on the grounds that he could only have made it if he had either gone insane or somehow Leo had blackmailed him into doing so.
The corporation’s lawyers had warned Wilhelm that it was a court case he could only lose, reminding him that right up until he had had his fatal heart attack their father had remained omnipotently in control of Hessler’s and his sanity.
Of course, it hadn’t helped that Leo had been the one to find him, collapsed on the floor of his study, but still alive … just. None of them had known he had a heart condition. He had kept it a secret. Leo had rung for an ambulance immediately, but seconds after he had replaced the receiver his father had suffered a second and fatal attack.
In those few seconds his father had spoken to him.
‘My son …’ he had said thickly. ‘My son.’
But there had been no love in the words. No love, only the same furious, bitter rejection Leo remembered so well from his childhood.
On the floor beside his father had been a small, battered locked deed box. The safe in the wall was unlocked, and the doctor had suggested that maybe the effort of removing