The Stars Shine Down(15)

by Sidney Sheldon

Lara was suddenly panicky. "I'm not wearing anything," she said. "I mean...I could get pregnant."

"Don't worry," MacAllister promised her, "I won't come inside you."

An instant later Lara felt him pushing inside her, hurting her.

"Wait!" she cried. "I..."

MacAllister was past the waiting. He rammed himself into her, and the pain was excruciating. He was pounding into her body now, harder and harder, and Lara put her hand to her mouth to keep from screaming. It will be over in a minute, she thought, and I'll own a building. And I can put up a second building. And another...

The pain was becoming unbearable.

"Move your ass," MacAllister cried. "Don't just lay there. Move it!"

She tried to move, but it was impossible. She was in too much pain.

Suddenly MacAllister gave a gasp, and Lara felt his body jerk. He let out a satisfied sigh and lay limp against her.

She was horrified. "You said you wouldn't..."

He lifted himself up on his elbows and said earnestly, "Darling, I couldn't help it, you're just so beautiful. But don't worry. If you get pregnant, I know a doctor who'll take care of you."

Lara turned her face away so he could not see her revulsion. She limped into the bathroom, sore and bleeding. She stood in the shower, letting the warm water wash over her body, and she thought, It's over with. I've done it. I own the land. I'm going to be rich.

Now all she had to do was get dressed and go back to Glace Bay and get her building started.

She walked out of the bathroom, and Sean MacAllister said, "That was so good we're going to do it again."

Chapter Six

Charles Cohn had inspected five buildings erected by the Nova Scotia Construction Company.

"They're a first-rate outfit," he had told Lara. "You shouldn't have any problem with them."

Now Lara, Charles Cohn, and Buzz Steele were inspecting the new site.

"It's perfect," Buzz Steele said. "The measurements come to forty-three thousand five hundred sixty square feet. That will give you the twenty-thousand-square-foot building you want."

Charles Cohn asked, "Can you have the building finished by December thirty-first?" He was determined to protect Lara.

"Sooner," Steele said. "I can promise it to you by Christmas Eve."

Lara was beaming. "How soon can you get started?"

"I'll have my crew here by the middle of next week."

Watching the new building going up was the most exciting thing Lara had ever experienced. She was there every day. "I want to learn," she told Charles Cohn. "This is just the beginning for me. Before I'm through, I'm going to put up a hundred buildings."

Cohn wondered whether Lara really knew what she was getting into.

The first men to set foot on the project site were members of the survey team. They established the legal geometric borders of the property and drove hubs into the ground at each corner, every hub painted with a fluorescent color for easy identification. The survey work was finished in two days, and early the following morning, heavy earth-moving equipment - a truck-mounted Caterpillar front-end loader - arrived at the site.

Lara was there, waiting. "What happens now?" she asked Buzz Steele.

"We clear and grub."

Lara looked at him. "What does that mean?"

"The Caterpillar is gonna dig up tree stumps and do some rough grading."

The next piece of equipment that came in was a backhoe to dig the trenches for foundations, utility conduits, and drainage piping.

By now the boarders at the house had all heard what was happening, and it became the main topic of conversation at breakfast and supper. They were all cheering for Lara.

"What happens next?" they would ask.

She was becoming an expert. "This morning they put the underground piping in place. Tomorrow they start to put in the wood and concrete formwork, so they can wire-tie the steel bars into the skeletal gridiron." She grinned. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Pouring the concrete was the next step, and when the concrete foundation was cured, large truckloads of lumber rolled in, and crews of carpenters began to assemble the wooden frames. The noise was horrendous, but to Lara it was music. The place was filled with the sounds of rhythmic hammers and whining power saws. After two weeks the wall panels, punctuated with window and door openings, were stood upright as if the building had suddenly been inflated.

To passersby, the building was a maze of wood and steel, but to Lara it was something else. It was her dream come to life. Every morning and every evening she went downtown and stared at what was being built. I own this, Lara thought. This belongs to me.

After the episode with MacAllister, Lara had been terrified that she might become pregnant. The thought of it made her sick to her stomach. When her period came, she was weak with relief. Now all I have to worry about is my building.

She continued to collect the rents for Sean MacAllister because she needed a place to live, but she had to steel herself to go into his office and face him.

"We had a good time in Halifax, didn't we, honey? Why don't we do it again?"

"I'm busy with my building," Lara said firmly.

The level of activity began to heighten as the sheet metal crews, roofers, and carpenters worked simultaneously, the number of men, materials, and trucks tripling.

Charles Cohn had left Glace Bay, but he telephoned Lara once a week.

"How is the building going?" he had asked the last time he called.

"Great!" Lara said enthusiastically.

"Is it on schedule?"

"It's ahead of schedule."

"That's wonderful. I can tell you now that I wasn't really sure you could do it."

"But you gave me a chance anyway. Thank you, Charles."

"One good turn deserves another. Remember, if it hadn't been for you, I might have starved to death."

From time to time Sean MacAllister would join Lara at the building site.

"It's coming along just fine, isn't it?"

"Yes," Lara said.

MacAllister seemed genuinely pleased. Lara thought: Mr. Cohn was wrong about him. He's not trying to take advantage of me.

By the end of November the building was progressing rapidly. The windows and doors were in place, and the exterior walls were set. The structure was ready to accept the network of nerves and arteries.