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Authors: Danielle Steel

The Ring (6 page)

BOOK: The Ring
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Nothing, dammit ' nothing ' And then as tears streamed down his cheeks for his lost friend, he pulled her tightly into his arms as he sobbed. Oh, God ' Kassandra ' oh, God' .

She held him that way for an hour, holding him close, as she would have her son. It's all right ' it's all right, darling ' I love you ' That was really all that was left to say, but the finger of fear that she had been avoiding began to crawl up her spine now, too. What if it were Dolff who was dragged screaming into the night? What if it had been she in the shoes of Helmut's hysterical girl friend? But that couldn't happen to her ' or to him ' those things didn't happen ' and it wouldn't happen to them.

When she got home late that afternoon, Walmar was waiting for her, not in his study, but in the main salon. He motioned her to join him and quietly closed the double French doors.

Kassandra, this is becoming impossible.

I don't want to discuss it. She turned her back to him, staring into the roaring fire beneath the portrait of his grandfather, whose eyes always seemed to follow everyone in the room. This isn't the right time.

There will never be a right time. And then, If you don't do as I ask you, will send you away.

I won't go. I can't leave him now. It was madness to be discussing this with Walmar, but she had no choice. It had been out in the open for almost two months now, and whatever it cost her, she was going to stand her ground. She had given up too many things in her life already. Her dreams of the theater, her children she would not give up Dolff.

She turned to face him. Walmar, I don't know what to do. It's very hard to believe what I'm hearing these days. What's happening to us? To Germany? Is it all because of that silly little man?

It would seem to be. Or perhaps he has aroused some incipient insanity we had somewhere in our soul all along. Perhaps all of these people who have welcomed him have simply been waiting for someone to lead them on.

Can't somebody stop him before it's too late?

It may already be too late. He excites the people. He promises them progress and riches and success. For those who've never tasted that, it's hypnotic. They can't resist.

And what about the rest of us?

We wait and see. But not your friend, Kassandra. If things go on as they are, he won't have the luxury of waiting. Oh, God, please listen to me, you must. Go and stay with my mother for a few days. Think it over. It'll give you time away from us both. But she didn't want time away from them. And she didn't want to leave Dolff.

I'll think about it. But he knew from the tone of her voice that she would not. There was nothing more he could do. For the first time in the almost sixty years of his lifetime, Walmar von Gotthard felt like a beaten man. She watched him stand up and walk to the doorway, and then quietly stretched out a hand. Walmar ' don't look like that ' I'm ' I'm sorry' ' But he only turned to look at her from the door.

You're sorry, Kassandra. And so am I. And will the children be before this is over. What you are doing will destroy you, and perhaps in the long run destroy all of us.

But Kassandra von Gotthard didn't believe that.

Chapter 5

It was in February that Walmar and Kassandra attended the Spring Ball. The weather was still icy, but it was cheering to celebrate the prospect of spring. She wore her full-length ermine over a starkly simple white velvet gown. The top was cut halter fashion, and the skirt fell in total perfection from her waist to her white satin-clad feet. Her hair was an upswept mass of delicate tendrils, and she looked lovelier than ever and as though she had not a care in the world. The fact that Dolff had been testy all day again over the unpublished manuscript and that Walmar and she were barely speaking as their battle raged on didn't show. Trained from the cradle to show nothing but graciousness beyond the sanctum of her own bedroom, she smiled benevolently at every introduction and danced willingly with all of Walmar's friends. As always their entrance had caused a small sensation, as much for the clothes that she wore as for the face with its striking beauty, which outshone even her clothes.

You look ravishing, Frau Gotthard. Like a snow princess. The compliment came from the man she had just met, some banker or other. Walmar had greeted him with a curt, friendly nod and quick assent when he had asked his permission to escort Kassandra to the floor. They were waltzing slowly as Kassandra watched Walmar chat with some friends.

Thank you. I take it you know my husband?

Only slightly. We have had the pleasure of doing business once or twice. But my ' activities have been a little less commercial in nature during the past year.

Ah? Enjoying a sabbatical? Kassandra smiled pleasantly as they waltzed.

Not at all. My efforts have been engaged in assisting our leader in establishing the finances of the Third Reich. He said it with such force that Kassandra was startled and looked into his eyes.

I see. That must keep you busy.

Decidedly so. And you?

My children and my husband keep me busy most of the time.

And the rest of the time?

I beg your pardon? Kassandra felt herself growing uncomfortable in this bold stranger's arms.

I understand that you're something of a patron of the arts.

Really? Kassandra found herself praying for the dance to end.

Indeed. , He smiled pleasantly at her, but there was a glint of something chilling lurking in his eyes. I wouldn't waste a great deal of my time on that though. You see, our concept of the arts is going to change greatly with the assistance of the Third Reich.

Is it? For a moment she felt faint. Was this man warning her about Dolff? Or was she growing as crazy as he was, fearing threats at every turn.

Yes, it is. You see, we've had such ' such inadequate artists, such sick minds holding the pen. Then it was Dolff he meant All of that will have to change.

But suddenly she was angry. Perhaps it already has. They don't seem to be publishing the same people anymore, do they? Oh, God, what was she doing? What would Walmar say if he could hear? But the dance was coming to an end. She was about to be free of this evil stranger. But now she wanted to say more.

Don't worry about all of this nonsense, Frau Gotthard.

I wasn't planning to.

That's encouraging to hear. What was? What did he mean? But he was leading her back to Walmar now. It was all over. And she didn't see the man again that night. On the way home she wanted to tell Walmar, but she was afraid of making him angry or worse, afraid. And the next day Dolff was back in such good spirits that she didn't tell him what had happened either. And after all, what did it mean? Some moron banker who was in love with Hitler and the Third Reich? So what?

Dolff had come to a decision. He was going to write whether they published him or not. And he was going to go on trying to publish. But if he starved to death, he was going to stay. No one was going to drive him out of his homeland. He had a right to be there, and to prosper, even if he was a Jew.

Can I interest you in a walk near the castle? She smiled at him. It would be the first time they had gone out for a walk in two weeks.

I'd love that.

They walked for almost two hours, near the schloss and next to the lake, watching the few children who had come to play there, and smiling at other strollers passing by. It felt at long last like their first winter, when they had met by chance there time and time again, anxiously seeking each other, yet afraid of what might lie ahead.

Do you know what I used to think when I looked for you here? He was smiling down at her, his hand tightly clasping hers as they walked.

What?

I used to think that you were the most elusive, mysterious woman I had ever known, and if I could only spend one day with you,? d be happy for the rest of my life.

And now? Are you happy? She drew closer to him, her short fur jacket a ball of fluff over a long tweed skirt and dark brown suede shoes.

I've never been happier. And you? Has the last year been too hard on you? He still worried about that much of the time. She was one with the pressures, with Walmar and the children, especially now that Walmar knew. She had told him of Walmar's warning.

It hasn't been hard. It's been lovely, She looked up at him with the fullness of their loving in her eyes, It's all I ever wanted and always thought I couldn't have. And she still couldn't have it Not really. Not all the time. But even this was enough. Just these precious afternoons that she shared with Dolff.

You'll always have me, Kassandra, Always. Even long after I'm dead and gone.

But she looked up at him unhappily. Don't say things like that.

I meant when I was eighty, silly lady, I'm not going anywhere without you. She smiled then, and they found themselves running hand in hand along the lake. Without explaining or asking, they made their way home and wandered happily upstairs after making tea. But they drank it quickly, they had other things on their minds, and their lovemaking was passionate and urgent, as though each of them needed the other desperately and more than anything on earth. At the end of the afternoon they lay sleeping, Kassandra curled tightly in her lover's arms.

It was Dolff who stirred first, aware of someone pounding on his door on the floor below them, and then there was the sudden battering of feet on the steps leading up from the main floor He lay listening for an instant and then came fully awake and sat straight up in bed. Feeling the motion of his body, Kassandra stirred, and then, as though sensing danger, her eyes went wide. Without saying anything at all to her, he flung the covers over her and sprang from the bed, standing naked in the center of the large bedroom just as they pressed through the door. At first glance it looked like an army of brown uniforms and red armbands, but there were only four.

Pulling his robe around him, Dolff stood firm. What is this? But they only laughed. One of them grabbed him roughly and spat in his face.

Listen to the Jew! He was suddenly pulled taut between two of them, as a third delivered a ferocious punch to his belly, and Dolff grunted with the pain and bent double toward the floor. This time the third man kicked him, and instantly blood gushed from a gash near his mouth while calmly the fourth surveyed the room.

What have we here under the covers? A Jew bitch keeping our illustrious writer warm? With a sudden motion he pulled back the covers, exposing every inch of Kassandra to their interested gaze. And a pretty one. Get up. Immobile for a moment, she did, sitting upright, and then gracefully slipping her legs onto the floor, her lithe, supple body trembling slightly, her eyes wide in terror as she stared silently at Dolff. The four men watched her, the three around Dolff questioningly gazing at the fourth to see what he would do. He surveyed her carefully, his eyes scouring her flesh, but she could only watch Dolff, still gasping, standing hunched and bleeding between the two uniformed men. And then the fourth turned to them with a sneer. Get him out of here. And then in amusement as he touched his belt, Unless he'd like to watch.

Suddenly Dolff came to his senses, his eyes frantically reaching for Kassandra and then turning furiously to the man in charge. No! Don't touch her!

Why not, Mister Famous Author? Has she got the clap? The four men laughed in unison as Kassandra gasped. The full realization of what was about to happen filled her with a terror she had never known. At a signal from their sergeant, they shoved Dolff from the room, and an instant later a resounding crash told her that Dolff had just been pushed down the stairs. There was an exchange of angry voices and Kassandra heard Dolff's above them all. He was calling her name and attempting to fight his captors, but a series of scuffling noises silenced him quickly, and then there was a dragging sound at the bottom of the stairs, and Dolff's voice did not rise to her ears again as, horrified, she turned her eyes to the man who was about to unzip his pants.

You'll kill him ' oh, my God, you'll kill him! She shrank back from him, her eyes wide, her heart pounding wildly. She could barely think of herself now, only of Dolff, who may even already have been dead.

And if we do? Her assailant looked amused. It's no great loss to our society. Perhaps even not so great a loss to you. He's only a little Jew boy. And you, my sweet? His pretty Jewish princess? But now Kassandra's eyes flashed; there was anger mixed with terror in those wild lavender-blue eyes.

How dare you! How dare you? It was an anguished scream as she ran from the wall toward him, clawing at his face. But with one deft sweep of his arm he slapped her, backhanded, across the face.

When he spoke to her, his voice was quiet, but his face was tense. That's enough. You've lost your boyfriend, little Jewess, but now you will find out what it is to be had by a better race. I am going to teach you a little lesson, dear one. And with that, the belt whipped swiftly from its loops and cracked her mightily across the breasts. Stung by biting wings of pain, she clutched her bosom and bowed her head.

Oh, God ' And then, knowing she must do it, she looked up at him with anger mixed with shame. He would kill her. He would rape her and them kill her. She had to tell him. Had to ' she had no choice. She was not as brave as Dolff was. She looked in fury at the man who had just whipped her, still holding tightly to her bleeding breasts. I am not a Jew.

Oh, no? He approached her now, the belt waiting to bite her yet again. As she stared at him, she saw the undeniable erection clawing at the front of his tr+|ugers, The calm he had sported only moments earlier was giving way to a frothing frenzy that Kassandra feared was already beyond control.

My papers are in my handbag, I am she winced at the agony of what she was doings but she had no choice "Kassandra von Gotthard. My husband is the president of the Tilden Bank.

For an Instant the man paused, eyeing her with anger and suspicion, not quite sure what to do. And then Ms eyes narrowed. And your husband doesn't know you're here.

Kassandra trembled. To tell him that Walmar knew was to doom Walmar! Into the bargain. To tell him that Walmar did not was to doom herself. My housekeeper knows precisely where I am.

BOOK: The Ring
4.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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