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For the Love of a Woman
S. Anne Gardner

Chapter One


Raisa Andieta was the most infuriating, egotistical, arrogant, rude woman she had ever had the misfortune to meet. From the very first moment they met, they had sparked instant combustion. She had never reacted to another human being as she did with Raisa. The woman just knew how to push all of her buttons. And now they were on opposing sides…again. The dislike between them was without disguise, revealed for all to see and comment on.


Carolyn first met Raisa two years earlier when she and her husband, Matt, brought their family to Venezuela. The oil company he worked for had hosted a party for all their new executives. Raisa Andieta was the president and the major stockholder of Copeco Oil. Carolyn remembered the moment as if it were yesterday. Matt had been introducing her to some of his colleagues, when she turned around and met the bluest eyes she had ever seen. For one brief moment, she felt suspended in time. A sense of awakening filled every pore of her being. She could only stare, finding herself pulled into something real and yet unreal. All she could think of was that the woman in front of her was breathtakingly beautiful. She must have seemed in a spell when she first met the woman, and later on Raisa confirmed it to her.


Matt introduced Carolyn to Raisa with male pride in something that he owned. Nothing could have prepared him for what was to come. Carolyn watched him lick his lips when he noticed that Raisa was openly admiring her. When the women shook hands, Carolyn’s whole body jolted to life. The reaction was mutual; Carolyn saw it in Raisa’s eyes. At that moment, the strangest connection between them began. Like vinegar and oil. Carolyn could tell that this surprised Matt, since she seemed to get along with everyone. Yet, whenever one of them was in the room, the other one knew and reacted. At first, Carolyn tried to talk to the aloof Ms. Andieta. But after a few ungracious and downright rude reactions from Raisa, Carolyn just stopped trying. They had both drawn an invisible, antagonistic line. Matt had tried to discuss it with her but she refused to talk about it.


Carolyn was somehow not surprised when Esther Curbelo, the wife of one of Matt’s associates, reported that Raisa had come to the country club that night to voice her disapproval of the proposal they would vote on during that evening’s meeting. Carolyn was furious, and as usual, the reason was Ms. Andieta. Carolyn had been working on this proposal for over three months, and she was sure that Raisa knew. There seemed to be nothing that Raisa did not know. She reigned in this part of the country, with an iron hand. If she wanted something done, it got done. If she wanted something to cease, it would halt within minutes of her voicing her desire. Carolyn raised her chin in silent defiance. This thought made her suddenly sad and wanting to run away from the place. She had poured all her energy into a project that the club had been sponsoring for the past ten years. The plan to help the needy was initially put in place by Raisa’s father but had been left to the ladies who, from time to time, took an interest after his death.


The project would bring much needed resources to the poor of the city of Caracas. Carolyn believed her different way of allocating resources would be more efficient. Those who really needed help would receive that aid all the more quickly. The population had changed, needs had changed, and the money was being mismanaged. If Raisa Andieta were at all approachable, Carolyn felt sure she would have convinced her. She had actually tried to set up an appointment, and Raisa had agreed to meet with her. Carolyn still remembered the humiliating way that she had been treated.



Carolyn arrived ten minutes early. She waited for fifty minutes, before she was ushered into the mighty Ms. Andieta’s office. At this point, Carolyn found it hard to hide her annoyance.


She stood in front of the woman’s desk, waiting forever to be acknowledged. Raisa continued to look at the papers in front of her, ignoring Carolyn’s presence completely. After a few minutes, Carolyn’s temper got the better of her and she simply sat in one of the two chairs in front of the desk. She could play the silent game as well. The air simply sizzled, like every time they were in close proximity.


Raisa eventually sat back in her chair, crossed her legs, and looked at Carolyn with a very pleased smile on her face. “Please, do sit down.” The sarcastic tone wasn’t lost on Carolyn.


“Thank you, I think I will,” Carolyn answered with a smile, hardly able to hold back her anger.


Raisa stood and walked around the room, silently, while staring at Carolyn. She finally stood behind her and asked seductively, “What do you want?”


Carolyn said nothing for a moment. She could feel Raisa looming above her. She could swear she heard the beating of Raisa’s heart. Or was that her own? She wasn’t quite sure. For a brief moment, they shared the silence. The air suddenly became very charged—almost electrifying—there was a sizzling sound in her ears, and giddiness filled her being. She could feel the heat of Raisa’s body behind her, and her senses were bombarded with the woman’s fragrance, with a warmth that she could swear at that moment was palatable.


Carolyn took in a large breath and stood quickly, unable to understand all the emotions flooding her being. She turned, facing Raisa, and froze. She became disoriented and confused. All of a sudden, the room began to spin, and she reached for the back of the chair in front of her.


Raisa reacted quickly and closed the distance between them before holding Carolyn closely to her. The room seemed to close in on them, and all Carolyn could feel was the warmth of Raisa’s arms as her head fell back and her knees gave way.


“Sit down,” Raisa said softly, guiding Carolyn back onto the chair. She gently brushed Carolyn’s hair away from her face. Her touch was softness itself. All that Carolyn saw were those blue eyes. Eyes that were now hovering over her face, touching her, making her skin burn. The heat was unbearable. Her tongue came out and wet her lips to placate the fire inside, and her ears filled with the loud pounding of her heart as Raisa’s face came even closer to hers.


Carolyn’s eyes closed as she whispered an anguished, “No.” When she opened them again, she saw Raisa walking over to the bar on one side of her office and bringing back a glass of water with her.


“Drink this, cara,” she whispered. She sat down in the chair next to Carolyn. Watching. Waiting.


Carolyn held the glass with a shaky hand.


Raisa seemed to notice her nervousness and placed her hand over Carolyn’s and guided the glass to her mouth. “Try to drink most of it.”


She drank most of the water as instructed. Following the directions seemed to kick her brain in, and she sought the eyes of the woman next to her. Raisa’s voice was gentle now, as was her demeanor.


For a moment, they both just looked at each other in silence. No words were needed; just breathing was enough. To Carolyn, that moment seemed to last forever. She was about to speak when the silence was broken by a distant ringing.


“Excuse me. Damn!” Raisa exclaimed in irritation. She got up and grabbed her phone. “I said no calls,” she barked into the receiver. “Tell them to wait, or better yet, give this call to Alberto. Let him handle this matter.” She hung up and walked back to sit next to Carolyn and covered Carolyn’s hand with her own.


“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened to me.” Carolyn quickly tried to fill in her discomfort with words. Her eyes looked down to the two hands holding the glass. She looked away, but she knew it wasn’t quick enough. There was no doubt Raisa had seen the fear and the confusion in her eyes. Carolyn felt the wall rise between them almost instantly. The connection gone.


Raisa curtly released her hand and stood. She walked away. “Don’t you?” she asked just loud enough for Carolyn to hear. In a matter of moments, she was behind her large desk assuming her power once more. Disdain was visible in her eyes, making her look like a distant and cruel queen.


The distance between them was tangible and growing.


Carolyn looked up in confusion, knowing that it was visible on her face. She could see that Raisa’s eyes, unlike the eyes of only moments before, were now glacial. This was something new. Something cold and new.


“What do you want?” she asked impatiently.


The aggressiveness of the statement took Carolyn by surprise. Just a moment ago this same woman had been tender and caring. Carolyn had seen it; she had not imagined it. Her surprise must have shown in her expression, because Raisa reacted right away.


“I don’t have all day, Mrs. Stenbeck.” She made an attempt to meet Carolyn’s eyes but failed miserably.


Carolyn just stared for a moment, watching Raisa become visibly agitated and fidgety, before she said, “I wanted to discuss a project I have been working—” Her eyes widened at the interruption.


“Mrs. Stenbeck, what do you think I do here all day? Now, run along to one of your lunches and don’t take up any more of my valuable time. I don’t have time to listen to your little projects. Talk to Alberto about all this, he can better assist you.” Raisa’s glare effectively dismissed her.


Surprise was quickly replaced with rage. Just like every other encounter between them, something uncontrollable was preventing reasoning of any kind. Shaking, Carolyn stood, not quite sure if she was still in a daze or if it was pure rage making her body quiver. She opened her mouth to say something but felt the glass in her hand and looked down. She threw the remains of the water on Raisa.


The woman stood in stunned shock.


“There! Maybe that will cool you off a bit!” On that note, Carolyn turned and walked out of the office.


For days after, Carolyn expected Matt to come home and tell her he had been fired. She still could not believe what she had done. Never had she reacted to another person as she always seemed to whenever she and Raisa were in the same room. Carolyn realized she had gone too far that day. Yes, Raisa had been rude, but dousing her was definitely out of line. She did not like the person she became when she was in the presence of Raisa Andieta. She dumped a glass of water on Matt’s boss. The memory still caused her to shudder in disbelief, for it was so out of character for her. Carolyn shook her head. Why did I do it? She never told Matt what happened that afternoon and, apparently, neither did Raisa Andieta. Whatever the reason, the axe never came, but that one moment between them seemed to hover within Carolyn.


From that day on, Carolyn avoided all type of contact with Raisa. She figured it was better to just steer away from her and try to avoid another incident that might again get out of control. Whether she liked it or not, Raisa was Matt’s boss, and Carolyn would act accordingly no matter what. She was careful to come up with some excuse to avoid any dinner or event that Raisa was to attend.



Two weeks later, she received a call from Gloria, Raisa’s secretary. All the executive’s wives were being invited to see where their husbands worked. The reasoning behind the event was so that the husbands would have things to share with them, and they could be supportive of their husbands’ positions and responsibilities to Copeco. Attendance was not mandatory but was highly recommended. In other words, it was mandatory. The invite consisted of a seminar in the morning, and a lunch, followed by a focus of one of Copeco’s rigs. For the rest of the afternoon, Carolyn answered calls from many of the wives that she knew from the company. At the next club meeting, they were all cackling like hens in a pen.


A week later, all the information for the upcoming event for the Copeco wives was hand delivered. It even included the lunch menu, giving them the opportunity to make changes if they did not like what was on offer. With the way the women were acting, it felt to Carolyn that it was going to be the event of the year. Having no other choice, she reluctantly called in her acceptance and thought nothing more about it till the day before when Esther Cubelo called her, seemingly overcome with excitement.


“Carolyn, what are you wearing tomorrow?”


“My yellow sundress and you?”


“My new Channel with those Manolos we bought together last week, remember?”


“You are going to make some of those wives green with envy.” Carolyn giggled.


“It’s important to…he really wants that promotion he is being considered for right now, and according to him, wives are important.” Esther gasped. “I’m sorry.”


“That’s what Matt always says too,” Carolyn replied.


“I didn’t mean anything. You know that right? Everyone loves you Carolyn, you are the kindest woman I know,” Esther said reassuringly.


“I know that, Esther, and perhaps you are right; I should try harder for Matt’s sake. I am going to go and buy a new dress. Want to come?”


“Absolutely. I am almost out my door. I will pick you up.”


“Let’s go shopping then.” Carolyn smiled, excited by the shopping trip.



The next day, Esther and Carolyn walked into the room at the Caracas Hilton reserved for their luncheon. Heads turned as both women entered. Esther was dark and exotic in contrast to Carolyn, who was blonde and alluring. Both were the envy of every woman in the room, as they were escorted to their table toward the front. All the women were dressed to the nines in their designer dresses, with their hair done to perfection. The day began with information about Copeco and a few speeches, as well as some demonstrations given by several executives of the company. There was a short break before the extravagant luncheon began in the grand ballroom of the hotel. No money was spared. The wives were given extravagant pieces of jewelry, not only for the support they gave to their husbands but for their involvement in the charities that Copeco assisted with.


After the gifts to the wives were distributed, all the lights in the ballroom went out, and waiters with flaming swords entered the room. Exuberant oohs and aahs from the wives greeted the huge baked Alaska centered around a large oil well. Time and effort had obviously been put into all the pomp and circumstance meant to impress everyone there. The oil tower was lit, and only its flames were visible. Suddenly, spotlights began to spin across the room accompanied by music, and clapping began to fill the room. The spotlights stopped, focusing on a lone figure appearing on the platform just behind the large oil rig. Loud applause filled the room, as the woman that all eyes were focused on raised her arms. Carolyn ceased to clap when she recognized the figure as Raisa Andieta.


When Raisa walked toward the podium and some of the lights came on, the applause began to die down. She gestured to the waiters to begin serving the baked Alaska and waited a few minutes before speaking. “I hope that you have all enjoyed the presentations and the speeches about all that your husbands are involved in and do for Copeco on a daily basis. This is a great company; we are one of the largest producers of oil in the world. We work hand in hand with various charities, supporting organizations who provide relief to many in need throughout the world. This company is not only a part of my family for generations but a part of my very soul. It is Venezuela’s greatest asset, but it is only as great as the people who make it that way.”


All the wives stood, and again the applause was deafening.


Raisa motioned for them to sit down. “I am so glad that you, like myself, understand this by your generous applause. That is why I want to share an additional event today. I have reserved a ship to take us all out to rig fifty-eight. There you will all truly see what we at Copeco do each and every day. I will accompany you and partake in each thing that we will be showing all of you. Thank you and please eat the lovely dessert so that we can be on our way.” Raisa stepped away from the podium with a smile on her face. The wives’ happy expressions began to shatter almost instantly, and the wives sitting near Carolyn and Esther began to truly express how they felt about being taken out to a rig dressed in their finery.


“I…a…sure it’s not as bad as all that,” Esther said to a young executive’s wife sitting beside her.


“Esther, it’s September and it’s in the middle of the ocean; this is hurricane season.”


“Juliana, there is no hurricane spotted in the news. Calm down, sweetie.” Esther patted the woman’s hand.


“I just got this dress,” the woman lamented.


Esther turned toward Carolyn who had been silent since Raisa appeared on stage. “Carolyn, are you okay? You have not uttered a word, and it’s not like you.” Esther shook her shoulder. “Carolyn, snap out of it. What’s going on?”


Carolyn looked at her friend. “Nothing surprises me about her, Esther, nothing,” she said through gritted teeth.



The boat was a comfortable one, but the ocean was choppy. The swells began to affect the boat and some of its passengers began to moan. They complained of dizziness and ultimately fled to the bathroom when sea sickness overcame them.


Carolyn watched Raisa. Seemingly undaunted by the rough sea, she stood at the bow of the boat with the wind wrapping itself around her and making her hair flow like a wild and defiant black mane. Raisa turned and looked back, and her eyes locked with Carolyn’s. At that moment, Carolyn knew that whatever that it was they shared had just truly begun. She shook her head, and Raisa began to laugh before turning back toward the expanse of the ocean in front of her.


By the time they arrived at the rig, most of the women looked disheveled and ill. Raisa again found Carolyn and smiled before she turned toward the other women. “We are here in front of rig fifty-eight. Welcome. This is one of Copeco’s highest producing rigs, and I want to invite you to come with me and visit her.” Some brave souls agreed and began to walk toward Raisa. Carolyn was not one of them. She refused to go anywhere near Raisa.


“Are you going?” Esther whispered.


“Are you crazy? No.” She didn’t take her eyes off Raisa for one moment.


“I’m going to try, I promised….that…I was really going to try to be supportive”


“Are you crazy, Esther?” Carolyn turned toward her friend. “Look at that ocean out there. We are not dressed to be out on a rig.” She did this on purpose. I know it. That bitch.


“I have to try, for—”


“Damn, damn,” Carolyn said under her breath.


“You stay here.”


“Shut up and let’s go. You’re going to owe me big time.” Carolyn took her friend by the hand and pulled her along.


Raisa was the first onto the rig; she walked the gangplank and looked back for the others to follow. Some of the women held back in fear, as if expecting some miracle to spare them. Raisa waved for them to join her, and they slowly began to walk across the narrow expanse with the aid of some of the men from the rig.


The wind was so harsh, it was difficult to hear what was being said. There were times Raisa took them into places on the rig that offered some form of distance and relief from the elements outside. In those moments, Raisa spoke to the women, edging them into further exploration of the rig itself. Many of the women chose to stay behind and wait in the relative shelter for the group to return and head back to the boat. Esther was not one of those women, so Carolyn pushed forward alongside her friend, not wanting to abandon her.


The higher on the rig they climbed, the windier it became. The danger grew very real, and more of the women chose not to continue.


“This is as far as I can go,” Esther said.


“I don’t blame you.” Carolyn looked down at the churning waters below before looking at Raisa. The woman was looking at her with a victorious smile. As always, something made Carolyn react. “No way I’m giving up.” When Raisa went out again, Carolyn followed behind her.


At one point, it was obvious the weather had taken an unexpected turn. Sirens sounding off could be heard throughout the rig. Carolyn looked down and saw that the women who had stayed behind were being taken back to the boat. She was right behind Raisa, who looked back at her. Carolyn’s carefully done, off-the-shoulders hairdo was long gone, her golden hair blowing all around her. She lost her footing on the metal staircase and was almost knocked off by a gust of wind. Raisa reached out and grabbed her by the arm, and Carolyn hung onto Raisa’s hand for dear life.


“Enough now?” Carolyn growled only for Raisa to hear.


Raisa released her, and Carolyn fell back a step. Raisa’s voice rose above the wind. “You don’t have to follow…head back if you can’t take it!” She turned around and climbed higher up the rig. The other women just stared, too frightened to follow. When Carolyn took a step forward, Carmen Vargas, wife of one of the vice presidents, pulled her back. “Are you crazy? You could get killed. If she is crazy, let her die. Don’t you go with her.”


Carolyn looked toward the back of Raisa, who was still climbing. Carolyn went up a few steps and decided she had done enough. As the rest of the group began to head back toward the ship, Carolyn took another look back and saw Raisa on the highest platform, hanging on to the rails so as not to be blown away. She stood there as if daring the wind to knock her off. That was the sight Carolyn stared at, as the boat took the wives back to shore.


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