Lace II

LIST PRICE $7.99
About The Book

Four elegant, successful, and sophisticated women in their forties are called to New York’s Pierre Hotel to meet Lili—a beautiful, young, and notoriously temperamental Hollywood movie star. None of the women knows exactly why she is there; each has a reason to hate Lili and each of them is astonished to see the others. They are old friends who share a guilty secret and who have for years been doing their best to keep that secret quiet.

Their lives are changed forever, however, when Lili suddenly confronts them. When the women refuse to answer her, Lili proceeds to travel around the world through the playgrounds of the rich and famous, seeking to answer the question that has obsessed and almost destroyed her. From Paris to London, from the boardroom to the bedroom, Lace takes readers into the rarified world of five unforgettable women who are as beautiful, as complex, and as strong as...lace.

Excerpt
Lace 2 1


October 15, 1978

STANDING, DAZED, IN her hotel room, gazing at the beautiful bunch of red roses which had accompanied the kidnap letter, Judy said nothing. But she thought, this is my fault. Once again I have been responsible for a disaster in my daughter’s life. Why, oh why, doesn’t God stick up red flags when you accidentally do some little thing that’s going to lead to calamity? I persuaded Lili to come with me on this tacky trip because I never had enough time for her back home in New York; there I told myself that it wasn’t my responsibility, I hadn’t been expecting a long-lost daughter to drop in on me. I had a magazine to run and a business to run and my charity commitments, and my lover to look after. But that article on Lili in VERVE! was my idea. I should have known that article was asking for trouble—and that we’d all get it in shovelfuls. I wish I could turn the clock back to a year ago, to that first meeting at the Pierre Hotel.

*   *   *

It had been a warm October evening; nevertheless, a log fire had burned softly in the quiet, cream hotel suite, with the spectacular view across the purple dusk of Central Park. Firelight had flickered across the faces of the two women as they moved toward each other. Judy had felt the strange animal magnetism that emanated from Lili. Looking at Lili’s black, soft curls, falling to the folds of her white Grecian tunic, Judy felt a new appreciation of that world-famous oval face, with the high cheekbones that looked both innocent and predatory, the thickly lashed chestnut eyes that always glistened as if tears were about to fall. Judy found it hard to believe that her daughter, believed dead, was alive—let alone that she was Lili, the most famous professional waif since Marilyn Monroe. It was impossible to match this sensuous creature with the image that Judy had treasured, of a well-behaved six-year-old girl with braided hair.

Judy had always imagined that her long-lost daughter would look exactly like herself, but their only resemblance lay in the slim-boned frames of their bodies. The three other women in the room sat motionless—hypnotized by the drama of the moment—as Lili took a hesitant step toward Judy. Pagan, elegant in pink wool, suddenly noticed that Judy and Lili had the same doll-like hands. She leaned across to the green-eyed woman in the mulberry suit. “Do you think we should leave?” she whispered to Kate, who was sitting next to her on the apricot-silk sofa.

Kate Ryan shrugged her shoulders, unable to take her eyes off Lili. She found herself mentally taking notes, as if writing one of her articles, as Lili moved toward Judy, but Judy stood motionless and silent. Kate opened her mouth to say something but the third onlooker, an elegant blonde in blue silk, lifted her fingers to her lips, as all three women watched the mother and daughter hold each other in a nervous embrace. Sharing a natural impulse to dissolve the pain and embarrassment of the moment by reaching toward physical contact, they were hugging each other, but not kissing each other, Kate noticed.

As she held her daughter, Judy realized that this was the first time she had touched Lili since the sad moment when she had handed her three-month-old baby to her foster mother, that morning years ago, in the Swiss hospital where Judy’s illegitimate child had been born. As she held Lili close to her heart, Judy realized that, since that day, they had shared a physical need for each other that was close to hunger; their embrace was an expression of that need, rather than of warmth, of affection, even of liking; but both women realized that this was an expression of goodwill.

This is my daughter, thought Judy, as she felt the trembling warmth of Lili’s body; this voluptuous woman once came out of my body; those wild brown eyes and slanting cheekbones—once they were a part of me, I made them. She looked down at Lili’s gold-skinned forearms and thought, that is flesh of my flesh.

She does not feel like my mother, thought Lili, hugging the slender Judy, in her brown velvet suit. A mixture of resentment and relief swirled in Lili’s mind; she had built up her unknown mother’s identity into a romantic mystery because the alternative was to face her mother’s brusque rejection of her as a baby. When she finally met her mother, Lili had expected to feel as protected as a child, but when she looked into Judy’s eyes and saw pain, fear and guilt, Lili felt unexpectedly protective toward her mother.

Oblivious of the three seated women who watched, Lili was also near to tears as she remembered her deep-rooted restlessness, the profound anxiety and uncertainty that had shadowed her adult life. Now she instinctively recognized it as a sense of loss—sad and constant—even though it was for a woman that Lili had never known, her vraie maman, as Lili used to think of her mother, in the little Swiss village where she had been raised by the local seamstress. “Mother?” Lili said the word softly, as if forming it for the first time, and then tried it again. “Mother.”

The two women drew back, gave tearful laughs and simultaneously said, “You’re not what I expected!” Then Judy added, “How did you find us?”

“It wasn’t difficult,” said Lili. “I hired a detective. He discovered that my mother had been one of four teen-age girlfriends who had been students in Switzerland, and then he followed the trails until he identified you.” She turned to the green-eyed woman in the mulberry suit. “You were the most difficult to track down, Kate, because the world is full of Katherine Ryans. But, once he did find you, my detective couldn’t discover which of you four was that teen-age mother, which is why I arranged this confrontation.” She hesitated, and nervously bit her lower lip. “I hope you’ll forgive me; I do so hope you’ll understand why I had to know who my parents are, why I had to know who I am.”

The last thing Kate had expected to feel for this sex goddess was a sudden rush of affection and pity. Gently she said, “We do so hope, Lili, that you will understand why Judy couldn’t keep her baby. In 1949, a sixteen-year-old girl from a poor family, who had to earn her own living, couldn’t also look after a baby.”

Anxiously, Judy said, “Did you … were you … did your foster mother look after you?” She added in a rush, “I can never forgive her for taking you to Hungary, after the Russians occupied it.”

Lili said, “I shall always love Angelina. She loved me and she never lied to me; she always told me that one day my vraie maman would come for me.”

“She did come for you.” The elegant blonde in the blue silk dress spoke, for the first time, in an unmistakable French accent. “We knew you were on holiday in Hungary and when we heard there’d been a revolution, Judy flew over to Europe and we went straight to the Hungarian border. The situation was chaotic: a hundred and fifty thousand Hungarian refugees were pouring over the Austrian border into camps for displaced persons. We visited every one of them. But nobody could trace you.” Maxine remembered Judy’s frenzy and self-accusation as they stood in the snow outside hut after hut, waiting to see yet another refugee committee official.

As Judy remembered her constant self-accusation for having abandoned Lili, for not having done enough to find her, she sat down heavily on the apricot-silk sofa and buried her face in her hands; her little gulps, splutters and sniffs were the only sounds to break the silence.

Kate picked up the ivory telephone, and said, “Champagne is what you celebrate a new baby with, isn’t it? D’you think they have any Krug ’49?”

“I would prefer you to order our champagne,” said Maxine firmly. “Ask for a magnum of Chazalle ’74.”

After a great deal of emotion and champagne, Pagan suddenly said, “How is the press going to react to this news? Do you think we should keep it secret?”

“It’s bound to get out somehow,” said Maxine, “we’re all public personalities as we all live our lives in the spotlight. Why, within a week, someone would have overheard a telephone conversation, stolen a letter, and sold the story to the National Enquirer for a meager fifty dollars.” She turned to Kate. “You’re a journalist, right?”

Judy remembered the cruel descriptions that she had quite enjoyed reading about Lili, as maliciously enjoyable as any tidbit about Elizabeth Taylor, Farrah Fawcett or Joan Collins. “We’ll be able to set the record straight, Lili, we’ll print your true life story, as told by you.”

“No!” Lili looked frightened and anxious. “You know the lies, the filth that’s published about me, they’ll all just dredge it up from their files again.”

“Don’t worry, Lili,” said Kate. “I’m the editor of VERVE! magazine, so you can control the story. We’ll print whatever you want. She turned to Judy for confirmation. “If we get in first with an exclusive story and splash it big enough, we’ll have scooped the rest of the world; nobody will want to run it after that.”

Lili said, “It’s quite a story.”

As Maxine poured champagne, all four women listened to the quiet voice of Lili reciting the tale of her life since 1956, the success story of the Paris porn model who became an international movie star, the sad story of an exploited, lonely girl as incapable of controlling her own destiny as the autumn leaves that fluttered from the trees below them in darkened Central Park.

*   *   *

It was two o’clock in the morning before Kate let herself into her apartment. She stood in the doorway of her huge living room, rubbing her tired eyes as she looked across at the man who lay asleep on the thirty-foot-long, beige suede sofa that ran along one wall. Above the sofa hung a collection of antique paintings and engravings of tigers. On the floor below the man lay a pair of loafers, a pair of socks, a crumpled copy of the Wall Street Journal, and a silver salver upon which was a slice of cold, leftover pizza and a half-empty glass of beer. Tom would never be a gourmet, no matter how many elegant meals she served him, thought Kate, as she tiptoed over to her husband and gently shook him awake. “Bedtime, darling,” she whispered, as he leaned against her, blinking, then suddenly hugged her in a hard grip. “How’d it go, darling? Did you reach an agreement with Tiger-Lili?”

“Tell you in the morning. Everything’s fine, but right now I’m exhausted and I just want to be in bed. How I wish that someone would invent a machine with a button that you press and suddenly you find yourself undressed, showered and in bed with your teeth cleaned.”

“With me.”

“You’d be an optional accessory. Very expensive.”

*   *   *

In her softly lit bathroom at the Plaza Hotel, Maxine carefully broke open three glass ampoules, mixed the clear liquids together, then patted the solution carefully around the delicate skin of her eye socket. She used a pink cream to remove her makeup, a clear solution to exfoliate her skin and a white preparation to stimulate cell renewal while she slept. Along the fine lines of her forehead, no more definite than the veins on a leaf since her face-lift, she traced a tiny paintbrush dipped in a solution of synthetic collagen. Finally, her generously rounded right buttock, smooth as a peach thanks to regular treatments to dispel la cellulite, received a slimming injection. Carefully, she hung up her blue silk dress, then Maxine wrapped herself in an oyster-silk peignoir edged with point-de-Chazalle lace. She brushed her hair with a hundred strokes, then climbed into bed, opened her maroon leather traveling office and dictated half a dozen memos to be telexed to her secretary on the following day. Then, in her large, loopy handwriting, she thanked Judy for making her so welcome in New York and wrote an encouraging note to Lili. She always wrote her thank-you notes at night, when she was still feeling grateful, no matter how late the hour. Maxine never considered it an excuse to neglect her body, her business, or her gift for expedient politeness.

*   *   *

Pagan sprawled across her old-fashioned brass bed in her room at the Algonquin and again tried to direct-dial her husband.

It was two in the morning in New York, which meant seven in the morning in London, so with luck she’d catch Christopher just before breakfast, she thought, as she looked around the small pretty room. Her Jean Muir pink coat was thrown carelessly over the rose-velvet armchair and her discarded underwear was scattered over the malachite-green carpet.

“Darling, that you? How are the dogs? Is Sophia doing her homework directly when she comes home from school? Are you helping her with geometry? … Sorry, it doesn’t seem like twenty-four hours, it seems weeks since I saw you last, darling.… Yes, I’ve met Lili, but I don’t want to talk about it on the telephone.… No, we didn’t discuss the possibility of a donation to your laboratory, darling, you’re even more tactless than I am.… No, there simply wasn’t a chance to discuss the importance of cancer research.” She pushed her heavy, wavy mahogany hair away from her face and wriggled her long-legged, lean, naked body into a more comfortable position on the lace blanket cover. “…Yes, I know I forgot to pack my nightclothes, but nobody’s noticed, darling, I’ll hide in the loo when they bring breakfast up.… Oh, damn, did I really forget the grocer order again? Thank heaven for Harrods and Globe Car Service.…” Eventually, in a carefully casual voice, Pagan said, “How are you feeling, darling?” After his heart attack, she always worried when she was away from Christopher.

“…No, I hardly slept at all last night, you know I mustn’t take sleeping pills or anything addictive. But tonight I’m prepared to enjoy a sleepless night. I’ve bought this absolutely gripping book called Scruples.…”

*   *   *

Judy had also spent a sleepless night. Huddled under the red-fox spread of her big, luxurious, peaceful bedroom, she restlessly gazed at the peach-colored walls and matching wild-silk curtains, at the pretty Victorian oil paintings of peaches and grapes, apples and apricots that hung from the walls. She was almost glad that Griffin wasn’t here; he’d had to fly to the West Coast for a couple of days to launch a new decorating magazine, the first of his many publishing ventures to be based in San Francisco. Only the previous evening, Griffin had asked Judy the question that she’d been waiting to hear from him for ten years. Although Griffin was a major shareholder of VERVE! and although they’d been lovers for over ten years, there had always been a subject that she was forbidden to discuss. That subject was Griffin’s home life. Everyone in the media world knew that it had been clearly established years ago, before he’d met Judy, when that tough, clever bastard, Griffin Lowe, was still being seen around town with the best-looking models and young actresses in New York, that none of them stood a chance: Griffin would never leave his wife and three children, because he’d fought too hard to climb his way up the ladder of success and he wanted all of it, the successful, respectable life that he’d established as well as his notorious, amorous adventures.

And then, a few days ago, Griffin’s wife had left him for another man; they were going to Israel together, to start a new life on a kibbutz. The long-suffering Mrs. Lowe had walked out on her handsome, rich, debonair, double-crossing husband.

What was equally surprising was that Griffin had immediately asked Judy to marry him. What was even more surprising was that, after hearing the words for which she’d waited ten years, Judy found that she didn’t want to marry Griffin. Griffin had developed a habit of cheating on his wife and therefore she wasn’t too sure that she wanted to become his wife. Old habits die hard.

*   *   *

Silhouetted against the russet shade of the bedside light, the slim naked figure looked like an alabaster Praxiteles; slowly his fox-shaped face broke into an intimate smile. “No, darling, it’s absolutely safe; Lili’s out there playing the biggest role of her life.” Softly he laughed into the ivory telephone. “I’ll be back in Paris on Saturday … promise, darling … you can save it for another couple of days … you’d better.…” The man’s head jerked up as the door was flung open and Lili stood there smiling. Hastily, the man said to the telephone, “Sorry, this is suite 1719. I think you’ve got the wrong number.” He replaced the telephone and held out both his arms to Lili, who hurled herself into them. “You were right, Simon! It worked just as you said it would!” She threw her arms round his neck and kissed him full on the lips. “At last I know who I really am, at last I know who my mother is!”

Simon Pont was an actor. A good stage actor who needed an audience to produce his best work, who hated movies and only occasionally made one, strictly for the money. He and Lili had lived together for two years and it was Simon who had originally persuaded Lili to search for her mother. A quiet, intelligent, thirty-five-year-old, he seemed secure enough to handle Lili with firm indulgence, seemed to understand that she needed more protection and attention than most men are prepared to give a woman. It was Simon who had given Lili the reassurance she had needed, and it was he who had realized that Lili needed to trace her mother in order to firmly establish her own identity. Simon had pointed out that if Lili found her real parents, then she might stop looking for substitute parents to love in almost everyone with whom she became involved—which is why she was so vulnerable to the exploiters, the con men and the con women that the rich and the famous invariably attracted.

Now Simon held Lili to his handsome naked body and licked her ear with his long, curly tongue. “Tell me who your mother is, darling. Lady Swann?”

“No, not Pagan Swann; it’s Judy Jordan. She admitted it almost at once, but I remembered what you’d said—that they’d be bound to pin it on the only woman who wasn’t married and didn’t have to explain me to a husband!”

He pushed the white silk from her shoulder, and nipped the golden flesh with his little wide-spaced teeth. Lili wriggled. “So I suddenly asked Judy who my father was and—just as you said—the other three all snapped round to look at Judy, so I knew that she was telling the truth, that she really is my mother.”

Simon pushed Lili’s dress from both shoulders, and gently flicked one sandalwood nipple with his finger and thumb. Lili wriggled again, “Listen, Simon, she wasn’t some rich bitch who’d just dumped me because she couldn’t get an abortion.” Simon tugged at Lili’s white belt as she continued. “Judy was poor, from one of those grim Baptist families in West Virginia, a scholarship student in Switzerland, working her way through college by waiting on tables. And she was only sixteen when it happened.”

“And who helped it to happen?” Simon’s voice was gentle. “What about your father? Who’s he?” He tugged again at Lili’s belt, and the white Grecian tunic slithered to the floor. Simon pressed her naked body against his and stroked Lili’s hair.

“That part’s sad,” said Lili, sorrowfully. “He’s dead. He was an English student that she met in Switzerland, but he was drafted into the British army and died fighting the communists in Malaya. He never even knew she was pregnant.”

“Do you believe that?” Simon put his arms round Lili and grasped her buttocks.

Lili thought for a moment. “There was something odd about the way she told me. Pagan Swann started to say something, then thought better of it.”

“What about the rest of his family?”

“I haven’t asked Judy yet. There was so much to talk about. It’s a really strange story. Apparently all four girls paid Angelina for my keep. Judy didn’t dare to tell her parents, you see. Judy intended to come to Switzerland for me as soon as she was able to support me by herself. But she was only a twenty-two-year-old secretary when I disappeared.”

“I’m glad she didn’t get an abortion.” He rubbed himself against Lili’s big soft breasts.

“She couldn’t have done that in Switzerland in 1949. It was illegal and dangerous.”

He trickled his finger up her spine. “So now, can we start a family of our own?”

“What, right now?”

“Right now.” Gently he pushed her backwards onto the gray-silk bedcover. She always felt safe with Simon, Lili thought as he began to kiss her. She trusted him. There was no need for him to dominate her, envy her or exploit her, because he was a successful actor in his own right. And she knew that he had her interests at heart. Why else should he have encouraged her search for her mother?

*   *   *

After her sleepless night, Judy didn’t feel tired. She felt contented and apprehensive. A fizz of anticipation colored all the chores of planning future issues of her magazine, because the future was now the future for both Judy and her daughter. She picked up the telephone. “Dick?” she said, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice as she spoke to New York’s most famous portrait photographer, “I want you to take a very special picture for me.…”

Next, she called her florist. “Do you have tiger lilies?” she asked, her voice quivering. “Then please send every single one to Mademoiselle Lili at the Pierre, and put a card with it saying … “With all my love, Mother.” As she hung up, she savored that word. All her life she had thought of a mother as someone like her own mother—disappointed and inwardly desperate. The picture of that ineffectual woman, setting out for Chapel every Sunday, flashed into Judy’s mind. Sin and its avoidance were the only things in which her mother had seemed interested, and when Judy’s father had plodded home from the grocery store to break the news that he had lost everything, all her mother had done was to kneel and pray; she had merely accepted the disaster, and hadn’t tried to fight it. Motherhood, to Judy, meant drudgery, dependence and the sublimation of all the joy of living into faith in an unforgiving God. But now that Judy herself was a mother—truly a mother—with a living daughter to prove it, the notion of motherhood began to become exciting. Her morning rushed by in a froth of delight.

“D’you suppose there’s a new man in Mrs. Jordan’s life?” wondered the junior secretary as, one after another, the magazine’s senior staff came out of the pastel-painted office looking startled, but pleased, because for once their proposals had been received with uncritical enthusiasm. “Did you know that Griffin Lowe’s wife walked out on him last week?” the senior assistant whispered as she stood up to take in Judy’s morning mail. “I think that’s why she’s lit up. When your lover’s wife finally concedes after ten years, it must feel pretty good.”

*   *   *

Every Friday, Kate the editor and Judy the publisher of VERVE! had a weekly editorial conference for all staff. It always took place over lunch in Judy’s office. The ten men and women who created the magazine pulled up lucite chairs and hurled ideas at each other for an hour and a half over the long table, cold meats, cheese and sodas. Judy found the Friday conference an excellent way to channel the thoughts of her staff for the weekend, and Monday always produced a satisfying stack of memos which crystalized the ideas that had been thrown about during the Friday brainstorming session.

Today, Kate’s green eyes flicked over her agenda, as she tried to work up the necessary enthusiasm to motivate her staff. Thank heaven, next week she’d be away from the highly polished, shallow world, where, at the end of the day, nothing could happen without the lipstick advertisements. It had been eleven years since her last best seller, eleven years since she’d done something worthwhile on her own, and now she was itching for the end of the month, when she was to start her first sabbatical—a year on her own.

Suddenly, Kate was startled to hear Judy ask, “What do we think about working mothers?” She picked up a stick of celery and nipped off the end. “I’m concerned that our feature coverage is getting too heavy on emotional and sexual issues; we didn’t get two million readers by treating them as if they had nothing more important to think about than multiple orgasms. I want some solid feature ideas about the basics of our readers’ lives.”

The team couldn’t believe it. Family life was a no-no on the magazine. Few principles were written on tablets of stone in that office, but one of the unbreakable commandments was that children should never be mentioned between those assertive, glossy covers. Both Judy and Kate were childless.

The youngest assistant editor tentatively said, “The last readership survey showed that the majority of VERVE! readers planned on working again after they had started their families.” She picked up a celery stick with the same gesture as Judy; she was editing an article on body-language-in-the-workplace, which advised that mirroring a superior’s movements was a good way to establish subliminal empathy.

“Let’s have a breakdown of those figures.” Judy snapped the celery stick. “I want to know everything we can find out about our readers’ attitudes toward children, childcare, stepparents—that whole important area.”

There was an astounded silence as Judy continued, “And I’d like to see us become a little less parochial, a little more international. How about a regular feature on successful European women? Starting, of course, with internationally known actresses.”

“Our readers don’t relate to these European stars.” Judy’s business partner, Tom Schwartz, raised his eyes from the hot dog he’d had sent up. He winked across the table at his wife, Kate, and Kate knew that the idea was about to get firmly kicked at, as Tom continued. “My instinct is that our readers are interested in the new identity that women are creating for themselves and these sexy actresses from over the ocean merely represent everything they want to reject. They aren’t relevant to a girl who’s focused on getting her qualifications and her business skills in shape.”

Judy was about to protest when she realized she was overreacting. Twenty-four hours ago, she, too, had also considered Lili a glamorous, irrelevant, continental pain in the ass.

Kate wished that Tom hadn’t taken a stand on European stars, since she was about to do as Judy asked and propose the feature on Lili, without telling the magazine staff the full significance of the story. Now she was forced to override her husband’s opinion in public and, despite Tom’s unsinkable self-esteem, she felt ungracious as she announced, “There’s always an element of risk when we’re trying a new idea. But I’ve decided that we’re going to run a major interview with Lili in the December issue.”

The production editor looked as if she’d swallowed a toad instead of a caviar canapé. “It’s already too late. Unless we put it in the Hither and Yon section, it’ll cost us a fortune. The printers will probably need to replate.”

“It’ll be the cover story, so whatever it costs we’re going to do it,” said Kate. “I want it run over two spreads and we’re getting a special cover picture from Avedon. Tomorrow.” Kate raised her eyebrows at Judy, who nodded behind her tortoise-shell spectacles. The rest of the staff, who respected Kate’s sure judgment and professionalism, were irritated, but not surprised. Kate’s background in newspapers had given her what the staff called a “hold-the-front-page, I’m-changing-the-comic-strip” mentality. Correctly, they felt that she rather enjoyed wrecking editorial plans at the last moment, for the sake of squeezing in the most up-to-the-minute material.

“We’re going to tell Lili’s story right from the beginning,” Kate went on. “She’s agreed to tell us everything about her early days, even that blue-movie stuff when she was thirteen. Things she’s never talked about before.”

“Small wonder,” somebody muttered (but very quietly). “Can we dig up one of those classic tire-calendar shots of her?” the art director wondered, from the far end of the table. “Maybe that one with a sunflower in the navel?”

Judy shook her head. “No early shots. Only the Avedon portrait.” Kate threw a warning glance at Judy, catching the protective, emotional tone of her voice.

“What about the men in Lili’s life?” Tom reached for another prawn, wondering what his wife was up to. This morning over breakfast, Kate had been oddly reticent about her meeting with Lili.

“All of them,” Kate explained, “the photographer who put her in dirty movies and ripped her off until…”

“Until she had a nervous breakdown on the promotional tour I managed for her first straight film. I’ll never forget that.” Judy found that the memory of that television tour—previously nominated as the worst fuckup of Judy’s career—now seemed less painful; but she tried to sound correctly resentful in front of the staff.

“We all know about her relationships. What we’re dying to know is more about some of them. That Greek shipping millionaire, Jo Stiarkoz and then after he died, King Abdullah. And what’s it like with Simon Pont. And are they going to marry?”

Kate gave her tight smile. “If they are, she’ll tell us. Lili’s promised to tell us the whole truth and I think you’ll find it’s quite a story.”

*   *   *

After lunch, as they all left Judy’s pretty cream-and-green office, Kate felt a hand on her shoulder. “Wait a minute, Kate,” said Judy, “I want a word with you.…”

Kate threw herself onto the cream art deco sofa. “It’s no use. You can’t stop me. I’m off,” she said, her British accent still distinct in the clipped short “o” sound. “It’s been terrific, Judy, but I feel smothered under equal opportunities programs and contraceptive sponges. I want to get back to hard news”

“Kate, for heaven’s sake—the goddamn magazine was your idea in the first place.”

“You can run it with Pat Rogers for a year—she should have been promoted long ago. I’m going to Chittagong.”

“But Kate, who needs a book about settlement wars in the Hill Tracts of Chittagong. It won’t sell two thousand copies.”

“That’s not the point. And anyway, I’ve a feeling that the situation’s going to escalate.”

“Where the hell is Chittagong anyway?” Judy’s new maternal euphoria started to disperse. Sure, Judy and Kate’s deputy could run the magazine while she took a sabbatical, but Judy’s plans for 1979 had included launching a new magazine, aimed at the generation of readers who had grown up with VERVE! and now had mature lifestyles, families and spending power to match. Unless she made a last-ditch attempt to stop Kate leaving, she’d have to postpone the new magazine.

“Bangladesh, east of the Ganges delta. It hasn’t changed location since I told you about it last month, Judy. The Bengalis have been fighting the hill tribes there ever since the state of Bangladesh was created seven years ago, and it virtually amounts to jungle genocide. Thousands of people have died, but because the war area is so remote, nobody knows what’s going on.” Kate was becoming irritated. “It’s a terrific assignment, Judy. You bullied me into becoming a writer. I wouldn’t have written my first book if you hadn’t pushed me into it. Now be a pal and let me bug out.”

After leaving Judy’s office, Kate poked her head back around the door. “There’s an enormous Tarzan figure out here waiting to see you. Who’s he?”

“Our new exercise instructor,” said Judy. “I’ve decided we can all work out for an hour.”

Kate laughed. “It’s the mean Irish in you. You don’t want the staff to even leave for lunch.”

*   *   *

Under their continental quilt, Tom’s elbow gently prodded Kate. “Sure you want to go?”

“Sure. Judy won’t really miss me, once I’m gone; she’s more identified than I am with the magazine. That’s one of the reasons I want to get out and do something on my own.” Kate turned on her back and watched a little wink of light from a passing 747 travel from one corner of the window to the other. “I’ll be on that shooting star next week.”

“How do you know I’ll be here when you come back?”

Kate gently prodded Tom. “You’d better be.” The reason she hadn’t gone off earlier was that she couldn’t bear to leave this wonderful man, who loved her without wanting to own her, encouraged her without patronizing her, and admired her talent without exploiting it. “I’ll miss you, too. Be careful.”

“Come over here, woman.”

“What’s on your side of the bed that isn’t on my side?”

“Me.”

*   *   *

Judy handed Griffin his vodka martini with olive on-the-rocks and sat down in her living room, which had just been restyled by David Laurance in soft turquoise, an excellent background color for blondes. Judy drove her decorator crazy by decorating one room at a time instead of having the whole apartment done over.

Griffin said, “So when are we doing it?”

“I’m not sure, Griffin.”

“Not sure about what?” He ate his olive. “Tell me about it while you get dressed. We’re due at the Sherry Netherland in twenty-five minutes.”

Judy hurried to her dressing room, not because she was late but because she wanted to put off the discussion. But, as she started to select her clothes, Griffin followed her, and leaning against the door he repeated, “Have you decided when you want to get married?”

“Not yet.” She turned away from him and selected a black sequinned jacket, then thought, better get it over with and gently said, “Maybe not ever, Griffin. I don’t really want to share the whole of my life with you or anyone.” She carefully avoided looking at him. “I think we should face the fact that we’re both independent people—and that’s why I suited you as a lover. I didn’t pester you to get divorced and marry me.…”

“But we’ve waited so long! I always thought…”

“I’ve waited so long, is what you mean, Griffin. I’ve waited too long. It’s become a way of life with me. I’ve had to make too many excuses for you; I’ve had to spend too many Thanksgivings without you, too many Christmases, too many holidays and too many Sundays—they’re the loneliest days of the week, Griffin.”

She looked at Griffin and a hundred tall, dark, astounded Griffins looked back. The entire dressing room, including the ceiling, was covered in mirror glass. Judy could stand in the middle of the room and see herself from every angle without craning her neck. She could also, in a playful mood, give a high kick and see herself reflected to infinity, like a onewoman Busby Berkeley chorus.

“Do you really mean you don’t want to marry me?” Didn’t all women want to get married? Was she really turning down one of the most successful publishers in the country, whose empire included some of the best magazines in America? Was she turning down the maroon Rolls Royce, the money, the servants, the old-English manor house in Scarsdale, the social position, the sensational times in bed? Griffin’s forehead wrinkled in perplexity. “What’s got into you tonight? Is it the wrong time of the month?”

“Griffin, it isn’t premenstrual tension, it’s common sense.” Judy thought she’d better be firm or she’d duck out. “After all, what do I really know about you except that you’re in the habit of cheating on your wife? How do I know that when I’m your wife you won’t want the same surreptitious excitement?”

Carefully, Griffin put his drink on one of the glass shelves that lined a complete mirror wall but did not interrupt the reflected perspective into infinity. “That’s a cheap shot after all these years. You didn’t complain when you were getting your share.”

Judy looked at him. He thinks he’s a great lover and he’s right, she thought. But, for him, the satisfaction is being seen to be a great lover, not simply enjoying himself with me. His constant craving for admiration will always make him flirt with other women, because his ego is insatiable.

Griffin rubbed the scar on his left hand, a sure sign of irritation. “So where do we go from here?”

“How about the Sherry Netherland? What’s wrong with business as usual, Griffin? Can’t we continue as we are? You keep that mansion in Scarsdale, I’ll stay here, and we’ll be together three or four times a week. And maybe Sunday.”

What Judy really meant to say was, “This relationship will stand or fall on how we feel for each other, moment by moment. I do not want you to take me for granted, Griffin. I do not want cozy warmth and domestic security. Or even domestic insecurity, which would be more likely.” Griffin wasn’t used to earning a woman’s affection. He wanted his mate dependent, tied, safe and always there—waiting. Workaholic Griffin needed a steady partner because his kind of insecurity meant that he needed to know that there was always someone waiting at home for him, no matter what he did or where he went.

Suddenly, Judy realized that she didn’t like having a man watch her while she got dressed. She opened the walk-in shoe closet, newly covered in jet black moiré, to match the carpet. “Griffin, I’ve got something really important to tell you.” She picked a pair of silver sandals. “Yesterday, my past caught up with me.”

“What happened?” Was that why she was acting so strangely tonight?

“You know I was a scholarship student in Switzerland. I got pregnant while I was there. The baby was adopted.”

“Well, that was a long time ago.” Now that Griffin understood, he knew when to be magnanimous. “That shouldn’t come between us. Don’t let it upset you.”

Suddenly the love affair, which had seemed overwhelmingly important to Judy for ten years, looked very insignificant beside the new fact that she had a daughter. “Griffin, will you listen? My child is alive and she’s tracked me down.”

“Huh?” He was suddenly all attention. “I’ll get the lawyers onto it first thing tomorrow. Boy, has she picked the wrong lady to touch for a few bucks!”

“Griffin, she isn’t short of a few bucks. She’s Lili—the actress, the Lili.”

“Tiger-Lili?” That was what she was called by the press

“Yes.”

Griffin thought for a moment. “There must be a reason for it. She’s after the publicity.”

“Griffin, she can get all the publicity she needs by simply appearing in public.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll fix it. She’s bound to be after something.”

Judy gave up.

*   *   *

Maxine leaned forward and sighed with pleasure, as the navy-blue Peugeot crested the gentle hill and she saw her vineyards spread below her. She always enjoyed flying Concorde on a Sunday, when it was never crowded. The car cruised quietly out of the snow-speckled forest and began the gentle descent toward the Chateau de Chazalle. Maxine’s mind was already running down the list of arrangements she needed to make for the forthcoming week, when she and Charles were to meet a rider from the French Olympic equestrian team, and Maxine’s first boyfriend, Pierre Boursal, now the trainer of an exciting young skier who had already won the European women’s slalom. Since Maxine had decided that Chazalle was going into sponsorship, they had entertained more suitors than a fairy-tale princess, she reflected with satisfaction.

The car scattered a flock of white doves on the crescentshaped gravel drive and the cooing birds bustled out of Maxine’s way as she walked happily up the wide stone steps to the imposing doorway, where the butler waited, with a footman behind him.

Eagerly, Maxine ran upstairs to her bedroom. “Honorine, have all my bags put in the dressing room,” she called over her shoulder to her maid, as she pulled off gray kid gloves. “Send the jewel box to the strong room and please run me a bath.…”

She was fully inside the bedroom before she realized that the room was not as it should have been. Instead of being smooth and perfectly in place, on the enormous boat-shaped Empire bed, the pale-blue silk bedcover was crumpled on the floor. On tousled sheets, her husband Charles lay naked on his back, and astride him sat a big, dark woman wearing the shreds of a green silk camisole. Charles clutched her breasts so tightly that flesh bulged between his fingers as, with one arm, the woman held up her mass of dark hair; her other hand was busy between her legs, helping herself to climax.

Like a stunned animal in an abattoir, Maxine buckled at the knees. Her first instinct was to step back and swing the doors shut, to blot out the sight of her bed, her husband and his mistress. She leaned against the wall of the wide corridor, shaking with shock, but then her tactician’s mind told her what to do.

Maxine pulled on her gloves, then she flung open the double doors of her bedroom and strode furiously up to the disordered bed. She grabbed the writhing woman by the hair and pulled her away from her husband’s body. “Charles, how dare you?” Maxine demanded in fury. “In our bed! Why couldn’t you keep this whore in Paris, with all your other divertissements?”
About The Author

Shirley Conran has worked as a design consultant, journalist, and editor for The Daily Mail and The Observer. Her first book, Superwoman, sold more than a million copies worldwide and was followed by eleven bestsellers. She currently lives in London.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (July 2012)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451697193

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