'Meriel!' No question now, a command, his natural attitude to life. 'I will assume thatyou are there but if you do not intend to reply, have the courtesy to replace thereceiver. I do not have all the time in the world to listen to empty miles of space!'Meriel sank into her seat, her mouth dry. Seconds before she had been smiling, her world filled with promise, and now she was shaking, stricken, unable to breathe as thevoice of Ramon Ortiga struck out at her from half-way across the world.'I'm here.' She managed it with no stammers, no hesitation, no sign of fear. 'I wasexpecting a call from Paris; the change of direction and language stunned me for asecond. I had to re-orientate my mind from business.''I am well aware of your importance in the world of the Mackensie Press,' he saidcoldly. 'I am phoning you because it is necessary. Your call from Paris will have towait.'Her hand gripped the receiver so hard that she doubted her ability to relax her fingers.Why didn't she simply put the phone down? Why did she sit here with her hearthammering in a panic as she listened to the sound of a voice she had thought never tohear again? The arrogance of his voice came across the miles and she could imaginehis face, cold, aristocratic, handsome and unbending. She could see again the dark,dark eyes that could flash with fire and narrow to glittering points of anger. She couldsee the tall, lean, athletic frame leaning indolently against the huge shining desk in hisstudy and it took every bit of her considerable spirit to get a grip on her feelings, torealise that she was free of the Ortiga domination, had been free of it for years.'Then as you are paying for this expensive and so far pointless call, may I suggest thatyou proceed with it?' she said coolly. 'My call from Paris will no doubt be receivedwhen this line is clear, therefore, to save you expense and me irritation, please come tothe point of your call.'There was a silence and she could imagine his raised eyebrows. He had always donethat when she had answered back, not that she had answered back very often, butwhen her nerve had been up to it and she had defended herself his attitude had always been one of aloof surprise, raised black brows, a wryly amused twist to his lips.Hatred shot through her like a searing flame and she forestalled his reply.'I am waiting! I also do not have all the time in the world to listen to empty miles of space, Senor Ortiga!''Por Dios!' he snapped in an unexpected burst of temper. 'I have been Ramon to youfor many years of your life; has your lengthy stay with your own countrymen robbedyou of any little courtesy we were able to force into you? I am your stepbrother!''You are nothing.' Merial answered flatly, her voice empty of emotion. 'You are a manwho is ringing me from Venezuela, criticising me for my conduct. Your right to dothat ended long ago when you told me to get back to my own kind. I am with my ownkind, with my own countrymen, and you no longer have any right to call me to order.