The Stars Shine Down(2)


by Sidney Sheldon

"You're late."

"Sorry, Miss Cameron. My alarm didn't go off and..."

"I have a busy day. Let's get started."

"Right."

They did stretches for half an hour and then switched to energetic aerobics.

She's got the body of a twenty-one-year-old, Ken thought. I'd sure love to get that into my bed. He enjoyed coming here every morning just to look at her, to be near her. People constantly asked him what Lara Cameron was like. He would answer, "The lady's a ten."

Lara went through the strenuous routine easily, but her mind was not on it this morning.

When the session was finally over, Ken said, "I'm going to watch you on Good Morning America."

"What?" For a moment Lara had forgotten about it. She had been thinking about the meeting with the Japanese bankers.

"See you tomorrow, Miss Cameron."

"Don't be late again, Ken."

Lara showered and changed and had breakfast alone on the terrace of the penthouse, a breakfast of grapefruit, cereal, and green tea. When she had finished, she went into her study.

Lara buzzed her secretary. "I'll do the overseas calls from the office," Lara said. "I have to be at ABC at seven. Have Max bring the car around."

The segment on Good Morning America went well. Joan Lunden did the interview and was gracious, as always.

"The last time you were on this program," Joan Lunden said, "you had just broken ground for the tallest skyscraper in the world. That was almost four years ago."

Lara nodded. "That's right. Cameron Towers will be finished next year."

"How does it feel to be in your position - to have accomplished all the incredible things you've done and to still be so young and beautiful? You're a role model for so many women."

"You're very flattering," Lara laughed. "I don't have time to think about myself as a role model. I'm much too busy."

"You're one of the most successful real estate developers in a business that's usually considered a man's domain. How do you operate? How do you decide, for instance, where to put up a building?"

"I don't choose the site," Lara said. "The site chooses me. I'll be driving along and I'll pass a vacant field - but that's not what I see. I see a beautiful office building or a lovely apartment building filled with people living comfortably in a nice atmosphere. I dream."

"And you make those dreams come true. We'll be right back after this commercial."

The Japanese bankers were due at seven forty-five. They had arrived from Tokyo the evening before, and Lara had arranged the meeting at that early-morning hour so they would still be jet-lagged after their twelve-hour and ten-minute flight. When they had protested, Lara had said, "I'm so sorry, gentlemen, but I'm afraid it's the only time I have. I'm leaving for South America immediately after our meeting."

And they had reluctantly agreed. There were four of them, diminutive and polite, with minds as sharp as the edges of samurai swords. In an earlier decade the financial community had wildly underestimated the Japanese. It no longer made that mistake.

The meeting was held at Cameron Center on Avenue of the Americas. The men were there to invest a hundred million dollars in a new hotel complex Lara was developing. They were ushered into the large conference room. Each of the men carried a gift. Lara thanked them and in turn gave each of them a gift. She had instructed her secretary to make certain the presents were wrapped in plain brown or gray paper. White, to the Japanese, represented death, and gaudy wrapping paper was unacceptable.

Lara's assistant, Tricia, brought in tea for the Japanese and coffee for Lara. The Japanese would have preferred coffee, but they were too polite to say so. When they had finished their tea, Lara made sure their cups were replenished.

Howard Keller, Lara's associate, came into the room. He was in his fifties, pale and thin, with sandy hair, wearing a rumpled suit and managing to look as though he had just gotten out of bed. Lara made the introductions. Keller passed around copies of the investment proposal.

"As you can see, gentlemen," Lara said, "we already have a first mortgage commitment. The complex will contain seven hundred and twenty guest units, approximately thirty thousand square feet of meeting space, and a one-thousand-car parking garage...."

Lara's voice was charged with energy. The Japanese bankers were studying the investment proposal, fighting to stay awake.

The meeting was over in less than two hours, and it was a complete success. Lara had learned long ago that it was easier to make a hundred-million-dollar deal than it was to try to borrow fifty thousand dollars.

As soon as the Japanese delegation left, Lara had her meeting with Jerry Townsend. The tall, hyper ex-Hollywood publicity man was in charge of public relations for Cameron Enterprises.

"That was a great interview on Good Morning America this morning. I've been getting a lot of calls."

"What about Forbes?"

"All set. People has you on the cover next week. Did you see The New Yorker article on you? Wasn't it great?"

Lara walked over to her desk. "Not bad."

"The Fortune interview is set for this afternoon."

"I changed it."

He looked surprised. "Why?"

"I'm having their reporter here for lunch."

"Soften him up a little?"

Lara pressed down the intercom button. "Come in, Kathy."

A disembodied voice said, "Yes, Miss Cameron."

Lara Cameron looked up. "That's all, Jerry. I want you and your staff to concentrate on Cameron Towers."

"We're already doing..."

"Let's do more. I want it written about in every newspaper and magazine there is. For God's sake, it's going to be the tallest building in the world. In the world! I want people talking about it. By the time we open, I want people to be begging to get into those apartments and shops."

Jerry Townsend got to his feet. "Right."

Kathy, Lara's executive assistant, came into the office. She was an attractive, neatly dressed black woman in her early thirties.

"Did you find out what he likes to eat?"

"The man's a gourmet. He likes French food. I called Le Cirque and asked Sirio to cater a lunch here for two."

"Good. We'll eat in my private dining room."